1. The fearsome god Bes is shown on the box with the fragment showing the palace (right).

Bes box is put together

National Museums Scotland (NMS) has acquired two fragments of a rare Ancient Egyptian box inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, who ruled during the 18th Dynasty, circa 1427–1400 BC.

The box, which is one of the finest examples of decorative woodwork to survive from Ancient Egypt, has been in
the museum's collection for 160 years, but a portion of it was missing and another part of it had been incorrectly restored during the 1950s. The additional fragments, recently acquired from London dealer Charles Ede, make up the missing section and give clues about the design of the box.

The decoration on one fragment features a motif that represents the façade of the palace, which confirms its royal links. Dr Margaret Maitland, Senior Curator, Ancient Mediterranean at NMS, says: 'Palace objects from ancient Egypt are extremely rare, so it's very exciting for us to be able to confirm this object's royal connections. Not only does the acquisition of the fragments fill a literal gap in the box, it fills gaps in our understanding.'

2. Dr Margaret Maitland, Senior Curator of the Ancient Mediterranean at the NMS, examines the box and the fragment.

Made of cedar, ebony, ivory and gold, the box was constructed during the reign of Amenhotep II. These exotic materials come from different areas of the ancient Mediterranean, signifying the extent of the king's empire and his wealth. This box was probably used in the royal palace to hold cosmetics or expensive perfumes and may have belonged to a member of the king's family, probably one of his granddaughters.

It is thought that the box came from a tomb (excavated in 1857) that belonged to a group of 10 princesses, including the daughters of Pharaoh Thutmose IV (circa 1400–1390 BC), the son of Amenhotep II.

The main figure shown on the box is the fiercely protective god and household guardian known as Bes, who is depicted as a dwarf (emblematic of good fortune) but with lion-like features. His protective role is evident from his fearsome appearance that was intended to scare off evil spirits.

Both the box and fragments will be on display in a new exhibition, The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial, on show at the National Museum of Scotland (nms.ac.uk) from 31 March to 3 September.
Lindsay Fulcher