I'd like to know what this is.
Simply put, this is a chair. The Ancient Egyptians invented chairs like this in the 2nd Dynasty and you can see similar seating depicted in some of the reliefs in the gallery. Animal feet--in this case lion--were popular on Ancient Egyptian chairs and the protrusions below the feet were designed to secure the chair in sockets.
Did Egyptian chairs not have arms?
Not usually! This style of chair was popular in Dynasty XVIII, at this time chairs were mostly armless and featured the back set into the seat just before the rear legs. A representation can be seen in this stela from the same time period.
Why are the legs of the chair like this?
The legs of the chair are meant to imitate the front and hind legs of a lion. Lions were a popular symbol of power in ancient Egyptian art.
What kind of wood?
A scientific test would need to be done to determine the species of wood, so we're not sure. We do know that it is a hard wood. An example of a hardwood that may have been used is cypress.
I assume the chair survived by being in a tomb?
That's right! The environment of the dark, dry tombs in Egypt is what has preserved materials like wood, paper, and textiles.
How is this chair so well preserved?
It is in wonderful condition, largely due to the consistently dry climate of Egypt and the darkness inside of tombs. That same dryness did shrink the wood a bit producing the gaps you see.
The woven fiber seat is a modern reproduction added to the chair in 1958, but other than that, it is all original. In fact, some ancient cordage was found with the chair which gave conservators and idea for how to remake it.
Fantastic! Thank you.
Tell me more.
A fine chair like this was a mark of high status in ancient Egypt. Wood was rare and expensive and most people squatted on the ground. You'll notice in reliefs around the galleries that, for those who could afford them, chairs like this with lion's feet were quite popular!
What do these paws represent?
These are meant to be lions' paws, most ancient Egyptian chairs included feet like this.
In ancient Egypt, lions were revered for their power and were believed to be tied to royal authority. Lions often represented the horizon as the desert habitat linked them with the rising and setting sun and the eastern and western margins of the universe.