Tutankhamun’s Ostriches

Ungainly but fleet of foot, the flightless bird offers insights into the life of a legendary pharaoh.

The ostrich feather fan (c.1370-52 BC) found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The ostrich feather fan (c.1370-52 BC) found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Alamy.

It was not until several months after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 that Howard Carter spotted it. By then, the antechamber had been largely cleared, the burial chamber had been opened and work had already begun on disassembling the huge golden shrines enclosing the sarcophagus. So many extraordinary objects had been found that Carter might easily have missed it. There were funeral beds in the shape of exotic animals, chariots, statues, vases, jewelled necklaces, leopard-skin cloaks and everything from food and mirrors to walking sticks and loincloths. But there, on the ground between the second and third shrines, it lay – the ostrich feather fan. 

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