Saturday, August 2, 2008

Vanishing Pharaoh

The guessing of who's who among Egypt's royal mummies keeps becoming more elusive as the answers are found so appear fine examples of previously missing or mutilated kings as in this presence others who's position seemed solid disappear from our view.

Grafton Smith's remarkable 1912 book "Mummies Royal" raised many questions in regards to the identities given by the ancient priests or the mummies nineteenth century unroller Gaston Maspero. Mr. Maspero though a brilliant Egyptologist had no anatomical training and thus the unrolling were little more value than the exposing of the mummies.

A quarter century later Mr. Smith' examinations pointed out problems between appearances of some of the mummies and their supposed family members or style of mummification. Mr. Smith did not have access to or permission to X-ray the mummies with the exception some years earlier when he accompanied Howard Carter on a journey to X-ray the mummy of the Pharaoh Thutmosis IV.

A favorite after dinner story of Mr. Carter.

In the "M.Royal" Mr. Smith notices that the Pharaoh of Ahmosis I does not physically look like his father or his sister.

James Harriss and Kent weeks publication in 1980 of an x-ray atlas of the royal mummies revealed that the mummy of Ahmosis does not resemble his father, sister or his son Amenhotep I who because of his fine wrappings has not been unwrapped in modern times. The Liberators mummy is sadly vanishing and is absent from the fine line of eighteenth dynasty kings in Cairo's room 52.

Mr. Smith next noticed that the mummy identified years earlier as Thutmosis I was clearly the body of a man who would have died somewhere between the ages of 18-20 years old, not old enough to have been a king who according to historical evidence came to the throne later in life. Mr. Harriss's x-rays showed that he was more than likely a brother or son of Thutmosis III.

With pendent arms and an arrow in his chest he is dismissed as not being that king or any 18th dynasty king.

Mr. Smith's examination of the next king, Thutmosis II, was comfortable with his identity. Mr. Harriss's x-rays placed this mummy as actually not the second Thutmosis but the first. This fit well since the ancient scribe had began to write the name of Thutmosis I when he stopped himself and instead wrote the name of the second Thutmosis.

To accept the scribe became confused is reasonable considering the reburial of the royal dead took place over one hundred and twenty years moving mummies from one tomb to the next with four eighteenth dynasty kings named Thutmosis and four named Amenhotep the confusion is expected.

The x-rays next showed the mummy labeled as the nineteenth dynasty king Seti II fit best as the second Thutmosis. This was not a surprise Mr. Smith and anybody with eyes could clearly see he resembled strongly the early eighteenth dynasty kings and not the later nineteenth dynasty kings.

Next Mr. Harriss x-rayed the mummy supposed to be Thutmosis III, the body laying in a coffin probably original to that kings burial. A badly damaged funerary shroud bearing passages from the book of the dead as well as the names of Thutmosis III lying on top.

Fortunately the x-rays left the mummy as being that king.

Than the real problems began.

Victor Loret's workmens discovery of the tomb of Amenhotep II in 1898 is the stuff of legends a cache of kings with Amenhotep II lying in his own quartzite sarcophagus. This seemed solid unfortunately the x-rays did not support the idea that the mummy supposed to be Thutmosis III was the father of the mummy supposed to Amenhotep II.

They also showed that the mummy identified by inscriptions on both his coffin and wrappings to be Thutmosis IV could not be the son of the Amenhotep II mummy.

There is no doubt that Thutmosis III was the father of Amenhotep II and that Amenhotep II was the father of Thutmosis IV. The historical record is not in error the inscriptions on the mummies are wrong and the second Amenhotep vanished. Mr. Harris suggested the remote possibility that the Thutmosis III mummy was the father of the Thutmosis IV mummy.

The x-rays showed that although the Thutmosis IV mummy was not the son of the Amenhotep II mummy he was probably the father of the Amenhotep II mummy.

That turned the Amenhotep II mummy into Amenhotep III "the Magnificent" a most fitting pharaoh to end up in a place of honor in any tomb including his grandfathers. The uninscribed body found in the sarcophagus of Amenhotep II. The assumption of modern observers that the body was Amenhotep II is understandable.

This leaves the battered remains identified by inscriptions as Amenhotep III the x-rays showed that this body's father was most likely the Amenhotep II mummy. That turned the remains identified as Amenhotep III into his son the heretic pharaoh Akenaten.

Ancient followers of the heretic king probably found his tomb smashed and rounded up the pieces of the king and at least two other people put them in a bundle giving the pieces the name of the heretics father to protect him from further degradation in the future.

Mr. Harriss's x-rays also showed that the Akenaten remains is not the father of the remains of probably Smenkara or Tutankhamen who in turn are either father and son or brothers their closest ancestor being the Thutmosis IV mummy.

All is not entirely well with this most precious collection but with a future of technology these document still have much to say to us unhampered by inscriptions placed on by priests who rescued some of histories most important documents.

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