Friday, October 9, 2015


The Daughters of Nefertiti

Valley of the Kings tomb KV63 was discovered quite by accident in 2005 by a team directed by Dr. Otto Schaden working on the tomb of Amenmesse inside and around the entrance of that king's tomb, KV10. As debris was being removed from in front of the tomb ancient workman's huts were found, and below a lip carved into the bedrock was revealed. The lip turned out to be the mouth of a shaft which descended five meters revealing a stone built door in one wall.

A few stones were taken from the top of the door revealing for the first time in more than three thousand years a small room containing many large white pots and at the back of the room seven black resin covered coffins, some with yellow faces indicating that those coffins were finished for women. There was hope that the world of ancient Egypt was about to present a number of historical personages in parched flesh.

Unfortunately no mummies were found with the exception of a shadow of where a mummy had left its impression in the bottom of a coffin. The tomb was in reality a mortuary dump of likely sacred leftovers of the mummification and reburial rites of perhaps a number of people. A clay seal was also found containing 'pa-aten' what may be part of Tutankhamun's wife Queen Ankhesenamun's Atonist name, Ankhesenpaaten.

The jars contained refuse including a funerary bed taken apart and placed in one of them. Used natron and bits of human flesh along with the remains of a funerary repast that included floral collars worn by the attendants of a long forgotten funeral. The storeroom KV63 lies near KV62, with the contents of both tombs from the reign of Tutankhamun, and more closely to the end of the Amarna heresy.  If the seal is correct and does represent Tutankhamun's queen than some of the debris may have come from Ankhesenamun's mummification, and funeral, suggesting that her death may have come quite quickly after Tutankhamun, perhaps for treason. If we are to believe it was Ankhesenamun who was writing to a foreign king for one of  his sons, so she could make him king, rather than have herself married to a servant.
It is unknown what the circumstance was during the evacuation of the royal tomb at Akhetaton and the condition of the royal family's mummies by the time they were removed from the tomb. Judging by the king discovered in Valley of the Kings tomb KV55, which appeared to be disheveled yet still wrapped when found. This may be a good sign for the royal mummies theorized as hidden behind the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb.

It must be observed however that the accouterments found on the KV55 king were in no way equally as abundant as those found on Tutankhamun. This may suggest that the mummy in question might well have been found after a robbery of the royal tomb and had been re-wrapped. This leaves open the possibility that the Amarna tomb was robbed before the move to Thebes and that those members of the family that were buried there, such as King's Akhenaton and Smenkhkare, Queen's Tiye, Nefertiti and possibly Nefertiti's oldest daughter Meritaton, as well as Princess Meketaton had all been through at least one violent robbery before the transfer to Thebes.

The assortment of coffins found at the back of tomb KV63 looked humble enough, though they were finely made. Could the Amarna dead have been transported in these simple coffins as some of the royal mummies from Amarna may no longer have had coffins left by the time the robbery was discovered? The occupants moved along with Akhenaton in his badly damaged and unwanted female royal coffin converted for his burial. More importantly sending the disgraced king back to Thebes in this converted coffin of a woman may have had meaning to all those who saw the display and knew who was in the coffin.

 The idea that the coffins in KV63 came into the valley containing the unwanted mortuary material seems unreasonable. This material would likely have been part of funerary arrangements for the daughters of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, with the mummification refuse being for Ankhesenamun. Certainly all the coffins found in KV63 could not have belonged to Ankhesenamun alone.

In particular the funerals of the two queens’ in tomb KV21, These mummies being known as KV21A who through DNA testing is the mother of the fetuses in Tutankhamun's tomb and only known queen of the boy king. KV21B found in the same tomb as Ankhesenamun may well be the deceased Meritaton whose embalming materials may have been left buried at Akhetaton. There is no evidence of Meritaton changing her name, unlike Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun leaving open that she was already among the dead moved from Amarna.

The Newberry ring is a faience ring that contains two cartouches side by side, one is of Tutankhamun's successor the Pharaoh Ay while the other is Ankhesenamun's indicating that she did outlive her husband, but not by much as Ay's reign was short. The coffins deposited in KV63 being left in the refuse as I would imagine that the royal workshops under Tutankhamun would have been busy making replacement caskets for those members of his family who left Amarna in these substitute coffins in approximately 1334 BC. How many years after the arrival and reburial at Thebes of those royals had spanned till the death and burial of the last queen of the dynasty is unknown,

Tutankhamun came to the throne at the age of nine with the move back to Thebes occurring in year four or five of his reign. Four years later Tutankhamun is dead leaving Ankhesenamun to finish the dynasty. This may mean that KV 21 and refuse room KV63 had been employed for little more than three or four years around ca.1334 BC to 1337 BC, and likely both were finally sealed and forgotten after the burial of Ankhesenamun.

Famed Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves theory that King Tutankhamun's tomb may have other chambers containing the burial of Nefertiti presents many opportunities of imagination. Mr Reeves theory may well be backed up by the number of coffins discarded in KV63 after the burials and reburials of Nefertiti and her daughters.


Study of Nefertiti by Keith Schengili-Roberts
KV-10 The Tomb of Amenmesse
KV63 Excavation site
Theban Mapping Project
Daughter of Akhanaton and Nefertiti:  fr: Photo 169 de Guillaume Blanchard (Fujifilm S6900, juillet 2004)
Daughter of Akhanaton and Nefertiti: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta
Many Thanks to Jon Bodsworth for the Nefertiti photo directly above

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Egypt Under the Pharaohs

Barbara Sewell
G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-25454

The book opens with the usual rundown of the environment along the Nile, and the divisions into which ancient Egyptian history is partitioned. This short book contains black and white images on most pages; unfortunately many of these are too dark, though nice color full page photographs are spaced throughout the book.

This volume is very much suitable for young readers ten and up. The read moves quickly onto death and the Egyptian afterlife with some very unusual images including one of all four stoppers from Tutankhamun's canopic chest. From here the writer moves to the Old Kingdom and the effective organization of manpower to create statues and stone buildings on a monumental scale.

After the fall of the Old Kingdom and its god-kings a period of anarchy followed where nomarchs vied with each other for power. The king's of the Middle Kingdom were once again effective rulers but they were no longer seen as god-like. This produced statuary in the Twelfth Dynasty of king's whose faces were now worn by the heavy burden that rested upon them.

A series of weak rulers followed creating the conditions for foreign king's to dominate Lower Egypt while intimidating the king's of Upper and Middle Egypt. The king's of Thebes Seventeenth Dynasty took up arms and fought to drive the foreigners from Egypt. It was finally the Theban King Ahmosis who unified the two lands establishing the New Kingdom, and her period of empire.

An interesting full color picture of the statuette of Queen Tetisheri owned by the British Museum appears on page 71, and on the museums website as a forgery. The great warrior Thutmosis III expanded Egypt's borders to their greatest extent, making the house of the Eighteenth Dynasty fabulously wealthy as well as the priests of the god of Thebes Amun. King's of both the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties contained rulers like the Nineteenth Dynasty King Ramesses II, and Ramesses III of the following dynasty who maintained order, but a series of weak kings living short reigns brought about the end of the empire.

Ms. Sewell presents the society and its domestic life with more amusing black and white photographs. Ancient Egypt was a barter economy where a worker was paid in food, clothes or any other producible measure in exchange. A society who's comforts could be acquired through work and the prosperous population in which their calendar year was dotted with great festivals among being the Opet festival.

The training of scribes brought with it the compositions of wisdom literature and admonitions of how to behave with consideration and good manners. These were to be written over and over again till the scribe could act on behalf of those in need of letters to be written, orders verified, tallying commodities and needs of law.

The author relates the discovery of the hieroglyphic writing by Champollion and others from the ancient monuments including the Rosetta stone.  Ms. Sewell proceeds forward with the sciences that from mathematics, astronomy, medicine and the calendar year, created an eternal people living eternal lives.

Today the world’s modern Egyptian collections are inevitably made up of objects needed for both life and contentment in the afterlife. These workshop/home crafts range from the simplest of objects to intricate productions worthy of royal workshops. In color plate 15 is presented a beautiful well painted scribe statue found in the Giza necropolis in 1951.

Barbara Sewell has put in print a manageable book for a young reader with solid tangibles about ancient Egypt. The book is suitable for an older reader though the light overview of famous discoveries will have most impact upon those who are just learning about ancient Egypt. Ms. Sewell has here presented a worthy gift for the young reader in Egypt Under the Pharaohs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Tomb of Nefertiti

Well all is set for Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves to investigate Tutankhamun's tomb hoping to find a doorway behind one of two walls or both. Mr. Reeves believes that Nefertiti's burial chamber may be behind one of them. This theory coming from such a respected man has caused great excitement not only in archaeological circles but in the mass-media as well.

In fact there are a number of candidates who could be behind the walls of Valley of the Kings tomb number sixty two. First a couple of people we are unlikely to find including Tutankhamun's mother who has through DNA been found in the famous Valley of the Kings royal cache in the tomb of Amenhotep II in 1898. 

Giovanni Belzoni discovered in the valley tomb KV 21 in 1816 two well preserved female mummies, these mummies have since been destroyed. The headless remains of one of them known as KV21 A, is also through DNA likely to be Tutankhamun's Queen Ankhesenamun, as at least one of the fetuses found in his tomb is the child of KV21 A.

In the Valley of the Kings most controversial tomb were found the remains believed by some, including myself, to be that of the heretic King Akhenaton. Again the DNA suggests that the mummy is Tutankhamun's father. So with mom, dad and wife already discovered, who are the missing.

King Smenkhkare's burial equipment occupies some of the most prestigious of objects from Tutankhamun's burial, artifacts found not only in the tomb but intermingled fragments of objects found in the fill of KV62's steps. If King Smenkhkare is behind one of those walls it might be suggested that his/her burial might be modest, that or completely ruined.

Who can say if Nefertiti in homage to the great ancestor Hatschepsut, had herself declared pharaoh ruling as Smenkhkare along-side Ankhenaton in his last years. This might have been rectified by King Aye who is painted administering the "Opening of the mouth" ceremony onTutankhamun's mummy. Aye may well have returned Nefertiti's burial to the status of queen. 

Having said that it must be remembered that the KV55 mummy did not appear to have been unwrapped when found, only its mask was removed, and perhaps restyled for king Tut. I suspect that if Nefertiti is behind one of the two walls that her burial will be modest in valuables, but providing that her mummy was not robbed in the transfer of royal burials from Tell el Amarna, I suspect that she will be intact though there will be little gold outside the mummy, and major missing pieces from her burial.

In the royal tomb at Akhenaton's capital are to be found carved reliefs showing the funeral of Akhenaton and Nefertiti's daughter Meketaton. Should Nefertiti be found I would suspect so will be found the mummy of this royal child reburied with her mother. The same rules apply to the transfer to Thebes of the royal dead except the little princess's burial is more likely to be a complete ensemble.

The lost Amarna mummies include the oldest daughter of Nefertiti, Meritaton who was a powerful queen in her own right and among those presumed addressed in the Amarna letters. Princesses Neferneferure, Setepenre, Neferneferuaten Tasherit, and Ankhesepaaten-Ta-Sherit, the daughters of Nefertiti remain to be identified, though there is a chance that one of them may be represented by the remains known as KV21 B, found with the presumed remains of Ankhesenamun. 

I would go even further that KV21 B would perhaps be most appropriate if the mummy was not a princess but a queen making KV21 the tomb of two queens including Ankhesenamun's oldest sister, and only other queen of the daughters of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, Meritaton. This would be backed up by the position the arms of both mummies were in when found.

How many ladies may be found might be foreseen by the contents of Valley of the Kings tomb KV63, an Armana period cache of embalming refuse. Mr. Reeves may be onto the burial of Nefertiti but also the mummies of her lost daughters.


Tutankhamen's tomb; Hajor, Dec.2002. Released under and/or GFDL.
Statue of Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun; Ad Merskens
Akhenaton, Nefertiti and daughters; Gerbil
National Geographic September 2010