The following is a description of the contents of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun when it was rediscovered by Howard Carter in 1922. This information may be useful for GMs seeking authenticity in their game.
Supplies for the Afterlife
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the items buried with the dead would manifest with them in the afterlife, so they packed the tomb with all sorts of potentially-useful items for the deceased pharaoh looking to live an afterlife of luxury. Some of the items were functional (a bed, a board game, jars of perfume, ostrich-plume fans, etc), others were merely artistic representations (a statue of a calligraphy set with no actual paper or ink, statues representing servants, several wooden boat models, etc) that would, they believed, actually become the things they represented in Aaru (the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of Heaven). Many of these items were made of, or gilt with, gold.
There were over 5,000 artifacts in the tomb when Carter found it. Many of these items were made of, or gilt with, gold, which was deemed to be the "flesh of the gods". Ancient Egypt had several gold mines within its borders.
The majority of the objects were carefully arranged within the space, but one part of the annex featured items haphazardly stacked on top of one another. This suggests that at some time a looting may have begun and been interrupted. Someone foiled a grave-robbing, but lacked the time or interest to return things carefully to their original positions.
Sarcophagus and Mummy
Inside the burial chamber stood a box-like shrine of gold-gilt wood, over 16 feet (5 meters) long and 9 feet (nearly 3 meters) tall. Inside it was another gilt-wood shrine. Inside that one was another, and inside the third was a fourth. All of these shrines were decorated with images of the gods.
Inside all of these was a rectangular red granite sarcophagus approximately 9 feet long. Inside that sarcophagus was a gold-gilt wood coffin. Inside that coffin was a second gold-covered wooden coffin, and inside it was a 300-pound (136 kg) solid gold coffin that finally held the actual mummy. The coffins were anthropomorphic and painted to look like Tutankhamun.
The mummy itself was wearing a 25-pound (11 kg) golden death mask. It was also wearing solid gold sandals, and individual metal finger and toe sheaths to protect the extremities. It was wearing over 150 necklaces and protective amulets.
In one of the other rooms was another large wooden shrine box covered in a layer of gold. Inside this shrine was a large box or cabinet carved from white alabaster. Inside that box were four alabaster canopic jars containing the internal organs that had been removed from the pharaoh during his mummification process.
King Tut died young, and his eventual successors attempted to obliterate all memory of him and his father Ankhenaten, for religious as well as political reasons. This means two contradictory things.
- His tomb may be smaller and more modestly appointed than that of a more respected Pharaoh (or one who lived a longer life).
- The attempt to erase his memory actually resulted in his tomb escaping the usual grave-robbing and predation that stripped other tombs of their treasures over the millennia. No one knew where it was.
So while the tomb is likely to have started with fewer treasures than is typical for a pharaoh's tomb, it survived to the modern era with far more intact than is to be expected. When using Tut's tomb as a model for your game or story, you have a good deal of leeway to adjust the treasure hoard up or down from what is represented here, depending on the details of your setting.
Tut's tomb courtesy of the Theban Mapping Project … including printable maps.
Game and Story Use
- As mentioned above, GMs should adjust the treasure count as fits their setting and the needs of their game. A tomb might be a rich treasure trove that lets the PCs retire, or it might be just another location, already long plundered and devoid of valuables.
- A game set in Ancient Egypt might feature scenes in a tomb, probably with grave-robbers involved (possibly as the PCs). The tombs of most pharaohs would be larger and better appointed, so the GM should adjust up from the contents listed here.
- A game set after the times of the Pharaoh (and thus beyond the era where the valley of the kings were watched by the guardians of the necropolis) will likely only involve tombs that have already been breached more than once and plundered. On average, the GM should adjust the treasure downward from what's listed here, with golden items in particular having been looted previously. The majority of what remains may be large, made of heavy stone, or otherwise difficult to plunder.
- The Pharaohs were lucky to have so many gold mines, and without such resources their burial treasures would have had to be quite different. Fantasy analogs in a place where gold is less prevalent may have to make due with less shiny treasures for the afterlife.
- Or, this could provide a convenient rationale for aggressive territorial expansion. The Big Bad Evil Guy in your campaign might be desperately trying to acquire riches not for this world, but for the next.
- In games where the Mummy can come back to life, or is cursed to unlife, King Tut's tomb gives you an idea of the resources at his disposal.
- Over 150 protective amulets! if your setting features magic items, this could well mean that the mummy has an impenetrable defensive aura, or a variety of magical answers to any challenge.
- Tons of wealth, literally. A mummy who can return in the flesh has no need of curses or personal strength of arms. With all that gold he can hire guards, bribe officials, and rig elections. A neat twist or subversion of expectations could be a mummy who adopts the rail baron or the chessmaster tropes, powered by a hidden hoard of gold.
- Hundreds of servants. If the mummy can return to life, or be cursed to never truly die, the same fate might extend to his servants. Hundreds of shabti would make a formidable network of ghostly spies, or an army of miniature immortal soldiers.
- The many layers of coffins, amulets, and gold might actually be more like a prison to the mummy.
- This could be used for flavor. You can hear it scratching at the inside of its coffin, unable to reach you. That could either be portrayed as an ominous and horrific noise (and maybe something of a timer to keep the PCs moving before it breaks free), or played for comedic effect in a much lighter game.
- It's common for undead to come in two varieties: either unnaturally slow, or supernaturally fast. A mummy could be at either end of the spectrum, or has some unique potential to occupy the middle ground. In the later case, it's location-on-the-battle-map movements are slow and it doesn't dodge very well, because it's weighed down by all that gold. The less encumbered arms, however, move more quickly allowing (once it has plodding closed to melee distance) for the multiple attacks more typical of a faster form of undead.
- The canopic jars that hold the internal organs of King Tut's mummy were stored in a different room than the rest of his body, and contained within a series of nested boxes. All sorts of investigations or puzzles could hinge on this. Players trying to find solutions to such mysteries may have to broaden their search to another part of the tomb.
- Example: The animated mummy is invulnerable, but can be destroyed or commanded if you gain access to the jars.
- Example: A great spell calls for the remains of the mummy to be used as components. But if you neglect to include the contents of the jars, it has significant side effects, or fails entirely.
- Example: One of the jars acts as a key to deactivate a trap or unlock a complex secret door.
- Note that characters without high levels in archaeology or egyptology skills may have a hard time locating the jars amongst all the thousands of objects stored throughout the tomb.