United Kingdom – Tutankhamun

Royal Mail is marking 100 years since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, by British archaeologist Howard Carter, with a new set of 12 Special Stamps.

The main set of eight stamps include a selection of some of the most significant and well-preserved items and feature:

  • Head of the king: The head of the king emerging from a lotus flower represents part of the ancient Egyptian creation myth when the infant sun-god Re appears from a lotus flower floating on the primordial waters.
  • Inlaid Fan: Fans provided cool air and shade. Eight were found in the tomb, all beautifully decorated and originally fitted with ostrich feathers (long since perished).
  • Gold Mask: The mask of Tutankhamun is now the most iconic object from the tomb, revealed in October 1925 when the innermost coffin’s lid was opened. Covering the head, neck and upper chest of the king’s wrapped body, the mask’s face is an idealised portrait of the young Tutankhamun.
  • Falcon Pendant: This falcon pendant (or pectoral) portrays the sun-god Re-Harakhty, a merged form of the royal god Horus and the sun-god Re.
  • Lion Couch: When Carter peered into the tomb’s antechamber, the first objects he glimpsed were the “gilded couches in strange forms, lion-headed, Hathor-headed, and beast infernal”.
  • Throne: The ‘gold throne’ was referred to as “perhaps the most important item among the entire contents of the tomb”. The throne is made from gilded wood with gold sheets applied to the seat and backrest, and is lavishly carved and decorated.
  • Boat model: This unique boat model is made from calcite (Egyptian alabaster) and decorated with gold, ivory, faience (ceramic-like material) and coloured pigments.
  • Guardian statue: This imposing life-size statue of Tutankhamun, made of black painted wood with gilded details, shows the king wearing the striped Nemes headdress with the uraeus serpent at the front, the symbol of royal authority. Often referred to as a ‘guardian statue’, it is one of a pair found in the antechamber, positioned on either side of the burial chamber’s sealed doorway.

The artefacts, from the Grand Egyptian Museum were photographed by renowned professional photographer of art and architecture, Araldo De Luca.

A miniature sheet contains an additional four stamps which capture the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb through a selection of photographs taken by Harry Burton – a pioneer of archaeological photography – whose images evocatively recorded the undisturbed tomb and captivated international audiences. Harry Burton was the only photographer permitted to work inside the tomb during the excavation.

Royal Mail worked with Egyptological experts at the Griffith Institute – the centre for Egyptology at the University of Oxford – on the stamp issueThe team there helped curate the eight stamp images, pictures of which were then provided by the Grand Egyptian Museum. The Griffith Institute also provided images for the miniature sheet and wrote the supporting copy for the wider product range. 

David Gold, Director of External Affairs & Policy, Royal Mail, said: “The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by British archaeologist Howard Carter has inspired generations of people around the world. It has shaped historians’ understanding of the religion, rituals and culture of ancient Egypt to this day. We are delighted to have this opportunity to mark the centenary of that moment in these beautiful stamps.”

In early November 1922, the eyes of the world turned to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor with the announcement of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by a team led by Howard Carter and funded by Lord Carnarvon – the first intact royal burial found in Egypt. 

On 26 November 1922, Carter made a small hole in the sealed inner doorway of the tomb and peered in. He later recalled: “At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold.

“When Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’, it was all I could do to get out the words, ‘Yes, wonderful things.’” The tomb contained food and wine, clothing, jewellery and furniture – ritual items to enable the king’s journey into the afterlife. 

Tutankhamun’s body lay protected within a layered arrangement of four gilded shrines, erected around a sarcophagus containing three nested coffins. On 28 October 1925, Carter lifted the innermost coffin’s lid to reveal the king’s wrapped body; covering the head was what is now the most iconic object from the tomb – a gold mask. As well as a team of experienced Egyptian excavators, Carter and Carnarvon gathered a group of specialists to record and conserve the tomb’s objects, including the photographer Harry Burton from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, whose images evocatively recorded the undisturbed tomb and captivated international audiences. 

It would take the team ten years to clear, document and conserve over 5,000 objects packed into the small tomb. The objects are in the Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and the excavation documentation is in the archive of the Griffith Institute, the centre for Egyptology at the University of Oxford.

United Kingdom – Christmas 2022

Royal Mail today reveals its Christmas 2022 stamps, featuring scenes of the Nativity, exclusively illustrated by award-winning artist, Katie Ponder. 

The six designs reflect Kent-based Katie’s unique style, providing a fresh and contemporary feel to the classic Nativity story.

With references to art deco adding a timeless quality to the stamp images, the illustrations this year focus on key moments in the traditional Christmas story – including the journey to Bethlehem and the Magi being guided by the star. 

Royal Mail also worked with The Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James’s Church, Piccadilly on the stamp issue.

This year’s stamps will be the last Christmas issue to feature the silhouette of the Late Queen Elizabeth.

David Gold, Director of External Affairs & Policy, Royal Mail, said: “Our Christmas stamp issue is always much anticipated, and it is one we particularly look forward to. The charming style of these designs sets the perfect tone for the festive season.”

The barcodes on this year’s Christmas stamps allow customers to watch a seasonal, themed video created exclusively for Royal Mail by the award winning Aardman studio. The video features Shaun the Sheep and his friends sending some festive cheer to the Farmer’s dog. 

To choose and view the video, both the sender and recipient should download the Royal Mail App. The sender can select the Christmas video for the recipient to watch just by scanning the stamp barcode — giving that someone special something extra to smile about this Christmas.

United Kingdom – Aardman Classics

Royal Mail today reveal images of a set of stamps that celebrate Bristol based, Aardman’s most popular and beloved animated characters.

Eight stamps showcase some of British studio Aardman’s most celebrated characters. They include fan favourites: Wallace and Gromit, Feathers McGraw, Shaun the Sheep, Timmy, Robin, Morph and Chas, Frank the tortoise and Rocky and Ginger.

An exclusive miniature sheet, created especially for Royal Mail by Aardman, is also revealed. Wallace and Gromit celebrate four of their favourite ‘cracking’ moments by displaying them proudly on their wall, in their humble abode at 62 West Wallaby Street. Key moments on the stamps include memories from A Matter of Loaf and Death, The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave and A Grand Day Out.

Royal Mail worked closely with Aardman on the stamp issue.

David Gold, Director of External Affairs and Policy, Royal Mail said:  “This set of stamps will surely bring a smile to everyone’s face. These instantly recognisable, iconic animated characters have found a place in our hearts. We are certain they will add a bit of joy to any envelope.”

Sean Clarke, Managing Director at Aardman, said: “We are delighted to partner with Royal Mail to celebrate some of our most iconic characters in this colourful and fun-packed stamps series. We have had the pleasure of creating these films featuring these much loved characters over the last 40 years, so it is a real honour for the studio to receive this royal stamp of approval. It’s a true testament to all the hard work that goes into making these productions and we are sure that our fans will enjoy them.”

Aardman is the Bristol-based studio behind some of Britain’s most beloved animated characters, including Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and the plucky heroines of Chicken Run. Co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton began their animation partnership at school when they created a character called ʻAard-manʼ, which the BBC bought for its Vision On series and which marked the advent of Aardman. 

The two young animators got their big break when they created the shape-shifting clay character Morph for the BBCʼs Take Hart series. Utilising a stop-motion animation technique that involves shaping 3D figures out of modelling clay, the pair achieved international fame when Nick Park joined the company: his films would win four Academy Awards®, making Aardman a household name. The studio’s productions are global in appeal, with recent animated productions including festive holiday specials Robin Robin and Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas, CGI series Lloyd of the Flies, a new stop motion series for pre-schoolers The Very Small Creatures, and a feature length sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is coming in 2023, plus a brand new Wallace & Gromit film for 2024.