Object type

portion of a wig

Place Associated

Egypt, Thebes (place made)


New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty (possibly) (1550-1292 BC)


hardwood, faience, hardstone


overall: 242 mm x 167 mm x 67 mm 1312 g


This fragment of a life-size wooden wig can be connected to second portion of the same object which is currently held in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The two pieces form the back half of a large, beautifully carved wooden representation of a wig fashionable for men and women during the New Kingdom. The colourful faience inlays on the Burrell part match those on the Ashmolean half with a diadem indicating that this was made for a royal statue, possibly that of a pharaoh. “Thebes” is written on a paper label on the back of this and the Ashmolean object is said to have come from the royal burial cache at the same place.

The explosion of awareness of and interest in the ancient Egyptian civilization in Europe and beyond created a demand for physical remains as museum exhibits and tourist souvenirs. During the 19th century, the looting and removal of antiquities increased dramatically with illicit looters and officially sanctioned European excavators removing objects for foreign consumption.

In order to fulfil this demand, tombs were robbed and monuments defaced as the more commercially valuable and easily transportable objects were removed to be sold in Europe and elsewhere. This looting was done by both Egyptians and foreigners fuelled by the Western demand for antiquities although tomb robbing had been taking place for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptian papyrii document the trials and punishments for stealing from tombs and even some of the craftsmen employed to create and decorate the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings were accused of taking objects. By the 21st Dynasty, around 1000 BC, the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings had been virtually completely cleared out and the mummies of the dead pharaohs were secretly reburied with a tiny fraction of their original treasures in tombs we refer to today as DB320 – the family burial vault of Pinudjem II - and KV35 – tomb of Amenophis II. One of these two is probably the cache referred to in the Ashmolean description.

In the 1870’s, an Egyptian man named Abd el-Rassul Ahmed discovered DB320 and began to secretly remove objects and sell them on the antiquities market. It took until 1881 before the authorities were able to identify the location of the tomb which was then cleared by Emile Brugsch of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. Around 6000 objects were recovered from this tomb which are now in museum collections around the world. KV35 was cleared by Victor Loret, the then head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, in 1898 but it had been extensively disturbed in antiquity and unfortunately no complete account of the finds has been published.

Although it not now possible to be absolutely certain of the provenance of this object, nor how the two parts became separated, it seems likely that the two parts of this royal wig were once part of either the burial cache in DB320 or that in KV35 and may have at one time been part of a statue of a pharaoh buried in the Valley of the Kings during the New Kingdom.

Provenance: John Hunt, Ireland; from where purchased by Sir William Burrell on 6 August 1951.

Credit Line/Donor

Gifted by Sir William and Lady Burrell to the City of Glasgow, 1944


Burrell Collection: Egyptian Items

ID Number



Burrell Collection

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