Harvard Semitic Museum
New life has been breathed into an ancient throne.
Found in the tomb of the Egyptian Queen Hetepheres (c. 2550 B.C.E.), the throne is the focal point of a new exhibit at the Harvard Semitic Museum, Recreating the Throne of Egyptian Queen Hetepheres. The beautiful chair on display in the exhibit (pictured right) is not the ancient throne itself, which was too deteriorated to salvage, but a modern reconstruction.
The replica throne was created by Rus Gant and David Hopkins, staff members of Harvard’s Giza Project, along with partners. The reconstruction is an impressive feat, especially considering that they had only fragments from the original throne and excavation notes from 90 years ago to use for guidance. The Giza Project team used the same materials to create this throne as were used in the construction of the original: cedar, gold foil, copper, bright blue faience tiles, gesso (a white paint mixture) and cordage seating.
Queen Hetepheres lived in Egypt around 2550 B.C.E. She was the wife of Pharaoh Sneferu—the founder of Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom who built the Bent Pyramid, Red Pyramid and Meidum Pyramid—and the mother of King Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid.
Along with other burial equipment and the queen’s sarcophagus, the original fragments of this throne were uncovered in a small, unfinished chamber, which was located about 100 feet below ground, in Queen Hetepheres’s tomb. The famous Egyptologist George Reisner led the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition that discovered the tomb in 1925. His team carefully collected every fragment from the tomb—sometimes lying stomach-down on mattresses and using tweezers to make sure they missed nothing. They recorded their excavation with extensive notes and photographs, both of which were instrumental to the reconstruction team.
From the queen’s tomb in Giza, Egypt, to the Harvard Semitic Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Queen Hetepheres’s throne has had quite the journey!