Cylinder sheath of Aspelta

Napatan Period, reign of Aspelta
593–568 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Nuri, Pyramid 8 (tomb of Aspelta)


Height: 12.3 cm (4 13/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Function unknown

Gold, electrum, and gilded silver objects called cylinder sheaths were found in a number of the tombs of the kings and queens of Kush at Nuri in the Sudan, but have not been recorded elsewhere. Each consists of two cylinders, the longer one closed at the base and the shorter having an internal sleeve that fits inside the longer piece. The cylinders are decorated with friezes of uraei and ram’s heads, divine figures, and royal names. Their purpose is unknown; it has been suggested that they held rolled documents, but the open end makes this unlikely.


From Nuri, pyramid 8 (tomb of Aspelta). 1916: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Sudan.

(Accession date: March 1, 1921)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition