From representation to reality: ancient Egyptian wax head cones from Amarna

Anna Stevens, Corina Rogge, Jolanda Bos, Gretchen Dabbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Images of ancient Egyptians wearing distinctive, cone-shaped objects on their heads have, in the absence of physical examples, long elicited scholarly debate. Did people wear these cones, or were they a purely iconographic device? What was their function and meaning? Recent excavations at the Amarna cemeteries now provide the first material examples of head cones. Spectroscopic analyses indicate that their primary constituent is a biological wax, and not fat or incense, as sometimes speculated. The authors tentatively suggest that the Amarna cones were symbols meant to enhance the rebirth or personal fertility of the deceased in the afterlife.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1515-1533
Number of pages19
Issue number372
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Egypt
  • Amarna
  • Akhetaten
  • Akhenaten
  • head cones
  • burial rites

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