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headrest

Wooden headrest in three pieces, Ninth Dynasty.

To support the head of a person whilst asleep but also placed in tombs to be used in the afterlife.

How is it used?
A headrest was attached to the end of a bed by its long neck or stem (part of this one is missing). The crescent shaped upper part was used to cup the sleepers head. They were often padded with cloth to make them more comfortable. They were important to include in tombs because the owner would need to use it again in the after life. The heads of mummies were often supported on a headrest within the coffin.

Who is it used by and why them?

Headrests are known to have been used all through the Egyptian civilisations. They were used by both rich and poor alike. The wealthy and important would own highly decorated headrests, carved from expensive imported wood or stone and inlaid with ivory or jewels. The poor would have a plain undecorated style.


The headrest was attached to one end of a wooden framed bed, usually with animal style legs and paws for the feet. The beds had a footboard and were slightly tilted so that the head was a little higher than the feet. Cloth webbing was strung across the frame to support the body weight. The headrest was often carved with protective gods such as Bes or Taweret who kept evil away during the hours of darkness. The use of the headrest also allowed air to circulate around the head, useful in a warm climate like Egypt. As well as having a practical use for the living they were also required by the dead, who were known as the sleepers, for use in the afterlife. Most surviving headrests have been found in tombs, since this protected them from the elements, alongside other tomb goods that the deceased would need in a new life. Mummies heads were also supported by headrests in their coffin and this is thought to have been done as the lifting of the head is linked to their resurrection or new awakening. Amulets in the shape of miniature headrests were also placed in the mummy wrappings to ensure them a new life. In Egyptian hieroglyphs the headrest symbol (Weres) refers to the sun, since like the sun the head was lowered in the evening and rose again in the morning.

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Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. More information on the objects listed on our website.
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