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Building a Theban Lattice Stool

I found this ancient Egyptian stool on the British Museum’s website in early 2020 and fell in love with it. A couple of things pushed me to make a copy – curiosity about the execution of its joinery and a desire to own it, sit on it, and see how it holds up over time.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

I’d planned to visit and photograph the museum display but COVID cancelled my London vacation and I had to make due with the website images. Thankfully, the object’s Museum page has excellent pictures, measurements and the image viewer allows you to zoom in quite close. The stool’s catalogue number at the British Museum is EA2476.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

EA2476 was purchased in 1835 from a sale of the estate of Henry Salt, a British painter, diplomat and collector. This sale of Egyptian tomb goods represented only one of several large hauls he’d amassed and sold off during his 47 year life. Busy guy.

I did some online image research and found a number of very closely related stools from 18th Dynasty Theban tombs. There’s a very similar stool from the Tutankhamen tomb among the Harry Burton photos archived at the Griffith Institute at Oxford University. The Institute has a number of collections documenting that excavation and many other resources worth exploring. I was amazed to find they sell contact prints made from the large format negatives in their collection and I purchased a couple of this particular stool – object 84. Compared to EA2476, it’s a little more gracile, with a woven (and gessoed) cord seat in an open frame rather than curved wooden slats but it’s nearly identical otherwise and the photo is a useful view.

© Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

There’s another stool sitting a few feet away from where object 84 was found. It appears to be made of reed and looks like the inspiration for the wooden versions. Lumber was an expensive import product, so I’m guessing this sort of reed furniture was more widely used in ancient Egypt than it’s representation in upper class tombs might suggest.

© Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

Next instalment touches upon EA2476’s influence on early/mid 20th century furniture design, then gets ready for the build.

EDIT: I’m happy to say that Fine Woodworking Magazine has published a condensed version of this blog post in their Nov/Dec 2022 issue #299.


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