Why did King Tut Have Possibly the First Three-Part Folding Camp Bed Ever Made?
Researchers have analyzed a model of King Tutankhamun's bed and they have concluded that this was the first ever three-part folding camp bed in history. Experts suggest that the bed provides an insight into King Tut's deepest desires as well.
King Tutankhamun Slept on a Sophisticated Camping Bed
A new study suggests that Tutankhamun possibly slept on the earliest version of a modern camping bed which folded up into a Z-shape thanks to an inventive mechanism. The three-fold bed was found in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter when he first entered the pharaoh's treasure-packed tomb. Researchers from Musashino University in Tokyo examined the bed and have been very impressed with how comfortable and sophisticated this bed was for its time. Ms. Naoko Nishimoto, an expert on furniture and woodworking from Musashino University in Tokyo and one of the researchers who worked on the project, told Live Science , “No detailed study has been made of this bed since Carter sketched it almost a hundred years ago. This is the only real-size camping bed that has ever been found. No other pharaohs but King Tut had such [a] bed. It is intriguing.”
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King Tut's bed folded up into a Z shape, thanks to an ingenious mechanism (Credit: Naoko Nishimoto)
First Highly-Advanced Bed in History?
Their analysis suggests that two-fold beds probably existed before King Tut's camping bed. A model of a two-fold bed from Gebelein in Egypt, dating to the 18th Dynasty, is clear evidence that two-fold beds were already designed before King Tut's camping bed came to existence. However, Tutankhamun's three-fold bed was truly innovative – most likely the first ever designed – as the researchers concluded, plus it was more comfortable and steadier, "Traces of trials and errors tell us that the artisans involved in the bed production did not have any other three-fold beds for reference," Nishimoto tells Live Science .
Especially Designed for King Tut
“The camping bed was made especially for King Tut ,” Nishimoto claims after she examined closely its technical features. The bed was created from four wooden “lion” legs (with paws), along with copper-alloy drums that bore the majority of the weight. Taking into account the elaborate wooden leg shape, folding the bed was not an easy task (as it’s with similar contemporary beds), and the designers had to use inventive hinges over the legs, “In this way, the legs took the strain off the hinges when the bed was in use,” Nishimoto told Live Science .
Furthermore, the compound folding system demanded two different types of hinges. On one hand, single hinges with stoppers were used on the middle and end pairs of legs near the footboard, while a system of double hinges was designed for the foremost pair of the auxiliary legs, "The double-hinged legs could be turned inwards simultaneously when the bed was folded," Nishimoto told Live Science . On top of the legs was a mat, woven from three thin strings of linen.
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Room containing beds and other artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb. (Harry Burton: Tutankhamun tomb photographs: a photographic record in 5 albums containing 490 original photographic prints ; representing the excavations of the tomb of Tutankhamun and its content) (Public Domain )
Trial-and-Error Process Reveals Bed’s Originality
Despite holes being seen around the double hinges, the researchers speculate that these were not used to pass the strings through, “They were made with the intention to pass strings through them, but they were not used after all,” Nishimoto says. And continues, “If the strings had been passed through here, the bed wouldn't have been able to fold. This trial-and-error process clearly shows that this three-fold bed was the first ever made,” she tells Live Science .
Ultimately, the researchers propose that the highly-advanced design of the bed doesn’t only highlight the magnificent craftsmanship in ancient Egypt, but also provides an insight into the deepest desires of King Tut, due to his club foot that prevented him from walking unaided (a previous study has suggested that King Tut suffered from malaria and had a club foot, requiring him to use a cane). “Even though the frail young king may never have participated in long-distance or strenuous expeditions, he nevertheless loved the idea of hunting and camping,” Nishimoto told Live Science , adding, “His camping bed is inherently poetic.”
Top image: Photo of camping bed found in Tutankhamun tomb. By Harry Burton ( Public Domain )