Lattice Stool Egypt

Stools would have been the most widely used pieces of household furniture. Egyptians used a number of different types of stool and the quality depended upon the rank of its owner. The lattice stool was probably the most popular with all classes of Egyptians and is widely illustrated in Theban tomb scenes.

The construction of the stool is very elegant, having four slender legs into which are jointed at the bottom a cross rail and at the top a curved seat rail. The space below the seat on all four sides was filled with vertical struts and angled braces. Some of these are tenoned into mortises in the horizontal elements while others are simply wedged into position (figure 52). The seat is always formed with a double cove construction of curved wooden slats or woven cord which pass through holes in the edge of the seat frame.

Round-legged stools were also used and are displayed in some of the more important Theban tombs. The legs were hand-carved and then finished by sandstoning. They were not turned on a primitive lathe. Examination of the many fragments of round legs reveals the irregularity

Egyptian Carpenter
51. Carpenter using a straight edge, try and mitre squares. (After Davies, The Tomb of Rekh-mi-re at Thebes, New York, 1943, plate LV.)

52. Lattice stool, New Kingdom, Thebes. (British Museum, London, 2476. Photograph: reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.)

of thfi handwork and the absence of scraping marks which would be expected if the piece were turned. Also the shoulders of the legs are not square and there is no pivot hole in the bottom of the leg.

A fine example of this type of stool is preserved in the British Museum, London (figure 53). The incised bands and lines around each leg are very uneven and imprecise. The top of each leg is inlaid with small pieces of ivory in lotus-petal and droplet shapes. The ebony stretchers are tenoned into blind mortises in each leg. A simple ivory plaque bordered with ebony indicates where the mortise would have come through. Ivory ferrules, shaped in the form of a papyrus flower, are attached to the end of each stretcher and are moulded to fit against the leg. Ivory braces and struts are placed below the seat and are used solely to embellish the stool and are not part of the load-bearing construction. Each of the seat rails was heavily plastered before a sheet of leather was laid over the wet plaster to form the seat. Unfortunately this seat has decayed but fragments of it can still be seen attached to the seat rails.

Egyptian Round Legged Stool
  1. Round-legged stool, New Kingdom, Thebes. (British Museum, London, 2472. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)
  2. Three-legged stool, New Kingdom. (National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1956.107. Photograph reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland.)

Before the New Kingdom, carpenters either squatted or sat cross-legged on the workshop floor. This is seen in a model of a carpenters' workshop that was discovered in the Eleventh Dynasty tomb of Meket-Re at Thebes. However, New Kingdom wall paintings at Thebes show us that carpenters often sat on three-legged stools: a pair of these workmen's stools were discovered in the Nineteenth Dynasty village cemetery at Deir el-Medina.

The seats of these stools were each made from a thick slab of timber which was carved to a dish shape. Three curved legs were jointed at angles into the underside of the seat. Occasionally the leg tenon would pass through the seat and in these circumstances the surface of the seat was heavily plastered to conceal the mortises and also the poor-quality timber from which it was often manufactured. The seats of some stools were made from the end offcuts of unwanted logs. Several defects such

Folding Stool British Musem

55. Folding stool, New Kingdom, Thebes. (British Museum, London, 29284. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)

56. Chair, New Kingdom, Thebes. (British Museum, London, 2479. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)

as heart and radial shakes would develop in the seat and were again covered and filled with plaster (figure 54).

The folding stool first appeared in the Middle Kingdom although the best examples come from the New Kingdom. It was designed for ease of transport, being light and convenient to handle when folded. When unfolded, the frame proves to be very rigid. Middle Kingdom folding stools were made simply from two interlocking frames held together with a pair of bronze pivots. Those from the New Kingdom are more elaborate, the vertical spindles often being finished with goose heads that are inlaid with ivory neck feathers and eyes. The beak of the goose formed the scribed shoulders of the tenon. This tenon projected as the good's tongue and was mortised into the floor rail. Both floor rails are also carved with goose-headed terminals which are inlaid with ivory eyes (figure 55).

A leather seat was fixed to both of the curved seat rails with animal glue, which has darkened with age to a brown crystalline substance. Some seats were made from cord which passes through holes along the edge of the seat rails and is then woven across to form a wide flexible webbing. Although designed to be folded, some stools were made with solid wooden seats, shaped and painted to simulate an animal skin. A number of these stools are illustrated in Theban tombs of this period and a fine example was discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Chairs would have been found only in the homes of the wealthy middle class. Many are decorated with hieroglyphs and those with straight-panelled backrests were inlaid with ivory and ebony motifs. These chairs have short, lion-shaped legs which are set on small copper drums.

Egyptians also used a plain utilitarian chair with straight, square-sectioned legs and a curved backrest (figure 56). The front pair of legs are rounded at the top while the back legs are extended to form a tapered back post. Both the front and back pairs of legs are braced with stretchers and the seat rails all lie in the same horizontal plane. This is achieved by using half-width tenons, a technique not practised until the New Kingdom. Although animal glue was available it appears that carpenters still preferred to wedge these joints.

The back posts are jointed to a curved and moulded top back rail which is braced further with a central vertical support. Two angled back-support braces run from the ends of the moulded top back rail to be jointed into both side seat rails. Within the enclosed space are set a curved bar and four inclined struts which form the backrest.

The seat, like many other New Kingdom chairs, is made from a precise rush weave which passes through holes bored along the inside edge of the seat frame.

Vases and pots were still held in slender stands that were made from thin strips of timber which were mortised, tenoned and dowelled together

British Museum Egyptian Vases Stand
57. Vase stand, New Kingdom, Thebes. (British Museum, London, 2470. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)

(figure 57). The table of this stand has a hollow centre with a thick wooden collar which prevented the bottom of round or tapered vases from toppling over. The frame was lightly gessoed and then painted with light green, dark green and red rectangles.

Apart from stools, chairs and vase stands, the homes of important officials also contained beds, tables and storage chests. A marvellous collection of private furniture was discovered in 1906 by Ernesto Schiaparelli in the Eighteenth Dynasty tomb of Kha at Deir el-Medina. Kha was an architect and belonged to the rich middle classes. His home would have been elaborately decorated and comfortably furnished. The range of furniture discovered in his tomb clearly illustrates the degree of affluence such high-ranking officials enjoyed.

His furniture, which comprises 32 pieces, is now displayed in the Museo Egizio, Turin. All of the four classes of stool discussed earlier were deposited in the tomb, together with the master's chair. Two simple rectangular wooden tables with square legs and horizontal stretchers were also discovered. They were gessoed and had bands of hieroglyphs painted across their tops. Other interesting pieces of furniture discovered in the tomb were a small table made from short poles, which gave it a rustic appearance, and two reed tables and a reed stand, all constructed in a lattice style and bound together with rush and grass.

The beds of Kha and Meryt, his wife, were like others of this period. They have long curved side rails which are supported on lion-shaped legs. The footboard was made from three panels separated by a pair of spindles. It was attached to the bed by large right-angled braces which were dowelled to each edge of the footboard and the top surface of the side rails. The weight of a sleeping person would make the bed's cord webbing droop in the middle. The braces across the long side rails are therefore curved to prevent the body coming into contact with them. This design feature is common to all New Kingdom beds.

The bed clothes and linen were stored in five painted gable-lid chests. Two were painted entirely with geometric patterns in green, yellow, black and red. The other chests each have a painted scene on one side that shows the couple receiving offerings of food.


Two boxes of similar design to the Kha chests are now preserved in the Oriental Museum, University of Durham. They come from the tomb of Perpaut, which was probably excavated during the early nineteenth century by adventurers, who sold the contents of such tombs to private European collectors.

The construction and decoration of these indicates that Perpaut was a contemporary of Kha. Another box in Bologna, together with a round-

legged stool in Leiden and a three-legged table preserved in the British Museum, London, can all certainly be attributed to Perpaut. Most probably a large number of other uninscribed objects in both public and private collections originate from this Eighteenth Dynasty Theban tomb.

The lid of the largest box is closed by sliding it into position along a pair of runners. A latch would then swing down from inside the lid and lock it. The shape of the grooves and runners ensured that the lid could not be lifted off and a backstop on the end of the lid stopped it from being pushed off its runners. This ingenious locking system could be overcome by forcing the box open. This indeed happened after its discovery but we may assume that it contained only bedding and linen (figure 58).

The lid is painted with a typical geometric pattern that is also used to decorate large areas of tomb walls of the period. Both long sides have painted scenes showing Perpaut accepting offerings made by his son and daughters. The ends are painted with scenes of rearing gazelles feeding from an ornamental tree. This design is first seen in a wall painting in the Middle Kingdom tomb of the nomarch Amenemhat at Beni Hasan.

The sides and ends are made from solid boards which butt against the rebated legs. The legs are painted with black lozenges upon a gesso foundation. Each of the scenes painted on side and end panels is framed with black and white lines which suggest stringing of ebony and ivory.

The second box is of poorer quality and again has a gable-shaped lid. This box gives side access, which is made by opening one leaf of the lid

58. Box, Eighteenth Dynasty, tomb of Perpaut, Thebes. (Durham University Oriental Museum, 1460. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)

58. Box, Eighteenth Dynasty, tomb of Perpaut, Thebes. (Durham University Oriental Museum, 1460. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)

Poor Egyptian Furniture
59. Box, Eighteenth Dynasty, tomb of Perpaut, Thebes. (Durham University Oriental Museum, 1459. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)

(figure 59). Two mushroom-shaped handles are set into the centre of the lid on each side of the ridge. No sophisticated locking system was used on this box: the lid was simply tied down by winding cord around both handles and then sealing the cord together with clay.

The construction of this box is quite rough and ready and large amounts of plaster were used to conceal its faults. The panels were painted in an ochre colour and were framed with black and white lines. The legs and edges of the gable lid are again painted with a black lozenge pattern ruled between black lines and set on a white background.

In the tomb of Any at Thebes a toilet box which belonged to his wife, Tutu, was discovered (figure 60). This fine box exhibits precise cabinet-making skills, being of a frame and panel construction with the joints glued together. The interior has been divided into four compartments which held Tutu's toilet equipment and cosmetics. Placed in each of three small compartments at the rear of the box were vases which contained perfumed oil. The long front compartment held a bronze cosmetic-mixing dish and the lady's gazelle-skin slippers. Other items commonly placed in these boxes were polished bronze mirrors, kohl containers (for eye makeup) and ivory combs.

Below the base of the box is a decorative lattice of round dowels. The foot of each leg is rounded and was probably originally encased in a bronze protective shoe. The lid is held in position by a pair of tongues projecting from under the back of the lid. These located in notches cut into the back rail of the box. The front was held down by tying papyrus

Toilet Box
60. Toilet box of the lady Tutu, New Kingdom, tomb of Any, Thebes. (British Museum, London, 24708. Photograph: Lorraine March-Killen.)

strands around a pair of mushroom-shaped handles and sealing the cord together with clay.

Theban tomb wall paintings also show that these smaller boxes were carried by porters under a pole. Lengths of cord were tied to copper hoops which were fastened into the front and back faces of the box. The centre of each length of cord was then placed over a long pole which was lifted and carried on the shoulders of two porters. Two porters could carry three suspended boxes by this method.

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  • birgit
    How to make a thebes stool?
    9 years ago
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    How to make a lattice stool tops?
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