The Ostrich Feather Fan or the hand fan of Tutankhamun
The fan was a sign of royalty and carried in processions behind the pharaoh to protect him from the sun. Several were also sometimes fixed to the sides of the throne. The position of “His Majesty’s fan bearer” was one of the most sought after positions in the royal court. Moreover, in a country as hot as Egypt, the presence of fans was an utter necessity.
There were two types of fans known in ancient Egypt:
1. Private fans: to be held by the person himself.
2. Tall ceremonial fans: were made of gilded wood and had ostrich feathers. They were used in courts or wars or in royal processions and religious ceremonies held by fan bearers in order to provide the king with cool breeze.
In the tomb of Tutankhamun we found 8 fans, 7 of them tall ones and one private ostrich feather fan. They were found in between the Burial Chamber, the Annexe and the Treasury.
Description of the fan:
This one in front of us is a private fan. It was found in a small white painted box in the Treasury. It is made out of ostrich feathers. They are arranged in two layers: white or pale cream feathers and a shorter row of brown feathers.
Significance of choosing the ostrich feathers is that it used to be the symbol of goddess Maat, goddess of Truth and Justice because the hairs on both sides of the feather are equal in number which refers to justice.
The ancient Egyptians brought the ostriches from the deserts of Memphis and Heliopolis as the king was fond of hunting.
The handle is made of ivory. It was designed taking a perpendicular (right-angled) shape to minimize the effort made by the king for fanning himself. It is decorated at the end with a papyrus umbel and at the top with representation of lotus flower. Above the flower there is a semi-circular shape including names of the king sA- Ra name and Nswt-bity name.