ICONIC QUEEN HIDDEN BY GOLDEN PHARAOH?
I expect that, like me, quite a few folk interested in Egyptology decided they ought to give the TV drama Tut a chance. It tried very hard to be scrupulously PC (a black Horemheb, and Mitannian commanders of a very different caste to their rank and file), whilst presenting Tut himself as an all-action hero given to SAS-type raids behind enemy lines. I did enjoy the sly dig they got in at those who have theorised that he was infirm and inactive, but I’m afraid my impressions are based purely on Part 1 because the convoluted plot lines left me wishing for less.
That an exciting drama set at the end of the Amarna period, and based closely on evidence, could be compelling is shown in Nicholas Reeves’ new paper, ‘The Burial of Nefertiti?’ Never mind Tut, everyone would love to see the beautiful young Nefertiti rise steadily as Akhenaten’s reign progresses to become Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, to graduate from Great Royal Wife, to Supreme Royal Wife; to become co-regent, and then the sole pharaoh: Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare-djeserkheperu, following Akhenaten’s death. Then watch as this female Pharaoh – perhaps under pressure from powerful factions at court – makes the desperate gamble of writing to the King of the Hittites, ‘…send me a son…he will be King of Egypt.’ This is not to forget the new Aten religion, the new style of ‘extreme’ art, the move to Amarna, the birth of 6 beautiful daughters, the tragic death of Meketaten, the adoption of the eldest daughter, Meritaten, to be Great Royal Wife (to Nefertiti?!), and the marriage of the next king Tutankhaten, to the third girl, Ankhesenpaaten. Then, of course the change to Amunism. Forget your Tut-style bandit raids; frankly I had to loosen my tie a bit when reading Reeves’ footnotes (No.s 27-34) which reconstruct Nefertiti’s career. It doesn’t lack for incident.
It is the case that there are about as many passionately held views of the end of the Amarna period as there are commentators, and no doubt a number of other, equally convincing, models may be advanced. However, I do not propose here to challenge Reeves’ vision and will focus rather on his ideas relating to the internal architecture and decoration of KV62: the tomb of Tutankhamun. I shall refer to Reeves’ article by Page, Footnote, and Figure number, and employ the additional letter-coding added for clarity to elements of the tomb structure, as follows: Entrance Stairs (A); Entrance Passage (B); Antechamber (I); Annex (Ia); Burial Chamber (J); and Treasury (Ja).
The principal tool employed in Reeves’ study is the Factum Arte scans of the walls in the Burial Chamber (J) of KV62, and specifically the surface reliefs of the West and North walls, which are presented in both positive and negative forms.
Looking first at the West wall (in Figures 6 & 7) Reeves draws attention to his Feature 1, a long, straight, line running vertically from ceiling to floor just to the right of the amuletic niche; and also to Feature 3, another vertical line somewhat to the right of 1 which appears to stop a little over halfway down. Though both of these features appear impressively vertical (and thus parallel) Reeves believes their slightly jagged course indicates that they are natural faults in the rock. Feature 3 he compares to natural cracks seen above tomb doorways (as above the entrance to Jbb in KV22, and postulated above the Treasury (Ja) in KV62), and suggests that two somewhat soft and vague vertical lines (Features 2 & 4) descending from this point to the Burial Chamber floor outline the edges of a doorway of similar proportions to the entrance to the Annex (Ia) in KV62. Reeves points out that whilst such doorways might naturally be expected to lead to additional storage chambers, the location of this putative doorway, at the head of the sarcophagus, is in the same location as rooms Jc-Jcc-Jccc probably made for Queen Tiye in WV22, the tomb of Amenhotep III.
How subtle these marks are can be gleaned from the fact that the negative view of this wall (Figure 7) quite clearly shows the circular, sweeping motion of the plasterer’s float/trowel; indeed the line of Feature 1 below the amuletic niche appears to comprise the edge of such float sweeps. Though subtle, the proposed door jambs (Features 2 & 4) are not unconvincing. However, traces of a lintel are not really detectable, and lines seen in the appropriate area on Figures 6 & 7 are actually ‘bleed-through’ of lines from the painted scene above (as acknowledged in Page 5, Note 40). It should also be noted that there are no indications of ‘slumping’ or ‘sagging’ of the packing material between Features 2 & 4 such as would be anticipated over the course of the centuries.
Reeves proposes that KV62 was originally made for Nefertiti as queen with the Entrance Stairs (A) and Passage (B) succeeded by a right turning passage – the right-turn being an established characteristic of ‘female’ tombs, such as that of Hatshepsut as a queen and the tomb of Thutmose III’s foreign wives in the Theban Western Wadis, and the tomb of Ahmose Nefertari (AN B), on Dra Abu’l Naga. He suggests that this right-turning passage was then broadened into the antechamber (I) – to permit entrance of shrine panels. It was certainly the case that the ancient workmen found it necessary to remove part of the lower steps (A) and lintel to get the panels into the tomb; and when Carter took them out in 1923, he had to remove his own repairs at this point. It is uncertain, however, as to whether it would have been necessary to widen a corridor to the width of the antechamber (I) if the panels were able to pass through the entrance passage (B).
It should also be noted that the right-turn into the burial area of a tomb does not necessarily make it ‘female’, and WV22 (Amenhotep III); WV23 (Ay); and KV7 (Ramesses II) also embody the right-turn.
The North wall is the longest decorated surface in KV62, and shows, right-to-left: Ay opening the mouth of Tutankhamun’s mummy; Tutankhamun greeted by Nut in the afterlife; and Tutankhamun and his Ka embracing Osiris. Reeves points out that vertical lines seen on the scans, which he numbers 2 (west) and 3 (east), line up with the walls of the Antechamber (I) and suggest it once continued across, and perhaps beyond, what is now the Burial Chamber (J). It should be noted, however, that neither of these lines convincingly reaches the floor of Chamber J. A crack running diagonally from the ceiling to meet line 2 he sees as consistent with the settlement of a built partition wall at this point. However, his line 1, a natural fault in the rock a little to the west of line 2, which runs an irregular diagonal course rising eastward from floor to ceiling (across which it can be seen to travel), appears to fork to also continue across line 2 and join the aforementioned crack, suggesting that this, too, is natural. There are, in fact, considerable areas of unevenness below Reeves’ line 1, and it is quite possible to postulate another rough but quite vertical line running from the ceiling at the top of 1 to the floor about 0.85 metres to the west of line 2.
Roughly midway across Reeves’ postulated partition wall (between lines 2 & 3), but extending up from the chamber floor, is an area of discolouration, including some of the same unevenness seen under fault line 1 (above), with a short, clear vertical line at 4. This he proposes as a doorway passing through the partition wall to a chamber beyond housing the original tomb owner (Nefertiti).
In support of his case, that the north wall of Burial Chamber J had a different history to the other decorated walls, Reeves draws attention to the fact that it appears to have received a different sequence of plaster layers to the other walls, followed by decoration in a different style. Here, unlike the other walls, setting-out was done on the basis of incisions made in the plaster rather than snapped paint lines; here the Amarna-style 20 square grid layout was employed, whereas the south wall (at least) used the later 18 square grid; and this wall was alone in having been given a white, rather than yellow background, and the yellow only added subsequently by painting round the figures.
Reeves’ assertion is thus that the north wall of the burial chamber was originally intended to function as a ‘blind’, or apparent tomb-end, as in the decoration that once occupied the far side of the well shafts in KV17 (Seti I), and KV57 (Horemheb). Such scenes always show the king in the presence of the Gods, but here Reeves believes that certain ‘signature’ features show that the figure of the king, and particularly Osiris, were originally intended to depict Nefertiti, in her regal form as Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu; and that similarly the figure of Ay was originally intended to represent Tutankhamun. In this case the cartouches of Nebkheperure Tutankhamun should overlie those of Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare, and that of Kheperkheperure Ay overlie Nebkheperure Tutankhamun. It would be interesting to know if the scans give any hint of such changes.
A problem with this idea, never addressed in the text, is that a doorway on the far side of a well shaft should be at the same level as the preceding passage (in this case the Antechamber I), and thus have been cut entirely through the painted figures of king and gods. Reeves’ proposed doorway through the north wall is, however, at the level of the crypt floor in the Burial Chamber, suggesting that his partition wall must also be based at this level. A doorway here is perhaps more analogous to the well-shaft-chamber found in KV35 (Amenhotep II), KV43 (Thutmose IV), and WV22 (Amenhotep III).
It must also be the case that the Burial Chamber (J) must have been extended westwards from the line of the Antechamber (I) in order for the scene on the north wall to have been painted, and yet there seems no logical reason for this. It makes better sense if Tutankhamun had the (left turning!) burial chamber cut, and that any hidden chambers at the level of the crypt floor were (like the Treasury Ja) also made for him. The contradictions that this set of evidence presents to his case is only addressed obliquely by Reeves in his final Figure 30. Here he has Nefertiti’s right-turning passage as queen (which apparently continued northward beyond the current Burial Chamber J); widened to the width of the current Antechamber when she becomes co-regent; and then extended westwards only in the area of the current Burial Chamber (to reach the current size) when she succeeds to the throne. This final move, in particular, seems without logical explanation.
Reeves’ scenario for Tutankhamun’s reuse/adaptation of KV62 is that he died ‘a decade later. With no tomb yet dug for pharaoh’s sole use…’ How likely is that?
Reeves’ text nowhere addresses some of the complexities involved in his development of the tomb architecture. He has the corridor, turning right at the foot of the entrance passage, widened into the antechamber in order to facilitate the access of large shrine panels. It is hard to see why this was necessary when they had to negotiate the entrance passage and stairway, which remained narrow. He then postulates that the antechamber originally continued across the present burial chamber where marks may be seen to line up in the Factum scans, and then further into the rock – this part of the north wall of the burial chamber actually being a partition wall with access doorway cut through it (analogous to that which separated Tut’s antechamber from burial chamber) beyond which lay the burial chamber of Nefertiti. However, this notional partition wall and access doorway are not at the level of the antechamber but at that of the burial chamber floor, showing that the crypt must have been cut before any extension of the line of the antechamber across the current burial chamber. Reeves also considers that the scenes occupying the north wall of the burial chamber were made originally for Nefertiti, but these extend to the west (left) of the line of the antechamber (and postulated entrance to Nefertiti’s burial chamber), showing that the burial chamber must have attained it’s current proportions before she can have been buried. Though this is nowhere stated, Reeves tacitly acknowledges this through the final plan in his article (Fig. 30), where he attempts to build this into a developmental sequence of architectural phases based on Nefertiti’s rise with the westward extension of the burial chamber occurring when she became successor. At no point is it explained why this was necessary, and the deepening from antechamber level to burial chamber crypt is passed over in silence.
In conclusion it has to be said that the most convincing revelation is that there might yet be an undiscovered side chamber behind the west wall of of Tutankhamun’s Burial Chamber (J), perhaps a Jb.
You can now buy the new book: An Ancient Egyptian Case Book through the BUY BOOK page on this site using Paypal at £25 + P&P. You can also buy it there through Amazon (but at a higher price).
The earlier book: Identifying the Royal Mummies is also available through the same page at £15 (or £25 via Amazon).
A special deal offers both books via Paypal for £35. Incredibly the Postal Service charge the same for both books together as for either book separately, so P&P is the same for dual orders as for single.
See buttons at bottom of BUY BOOKs page.
To see a Chapter Guide for the material covered in An Ancient Egyptian Case Book (and also some details on Identifying the Royal Mummies) see the page:
READ MORE ABOUT PUBLICATIONS attached to the BUY BOOK page.
Copies of my new work An Ancient Egyptian Case Book are now available.
This is A4; paperback; 350pp; and illustrated in colour throughout, at £25 + £3 P&P (until January 18th when the Post Office bring in a hefty rise in postage rates, making P&P £6).
It is intended that a direct purchasing mechanism will soon be introduced on the Buy Book(s) page on this site.
It is available at Amazon.co.uk, but at a higher price owing to their margins, and poor remuneration for postage on a book of this weight and size (I think they cater for people selling paperback novels).
The Case Book comprises 14 chapters in four sections:
Section 1. Four chapters on excavation/discoveries related to the Amarna/Post-Amarna Period -
The Tomb of Akhenaten and the Golden Ring of Nefertiti*
The Enigma of Tomb KV58 and the Post Amarna Period
The Mysterious Mr. Carter and the Troubling Case of the Lotus Head
KV63 and Embalming Caches
Section 2. Six chapters on Royal Mummies and their identification -
Can the Niagara Falls Mummy Really be Ramesses I?*
The Question of Age at Death
The Resurrection of the Mummy of Ahmose Nefertari
Pharaoh’s Magic Wand – the history of DNA studies*
Pharaoh Salt Meat, and the Mummies of Old Kingdom Kings
The Strange Death of Unknown Man ‘E’ (with new theories)
Section 3. Three chapters of historical studies based on ancient texts -
The Harem Conspiracy Against Ramesses III*
The Tomb-robbers of No-Amun (power struggles under Ramesses IX)*
Death in the Nile. The Birth of Egypt’s Last God: Antinous*
Section 4. 1 Chapter: An Entertainment -
The Fury of Amun. The True Story of the Cursed Play in the Valley of the Queens.*
Several of these chapters* have been the subject of talks over the last few years.
All material has been updated to take account of recent discoveries. Chapters are written in an accessible style, but full Notes are provided for those who wish to explore further.
A special offer gives both An Ancient Egyptian Case Book and the earlier book, Identifying the Royal Mummies for £35 + £6 P&P.
Roy Bickerstaffe 1927-2014
These are some brief notes on the life of an interesting man.
Roy married Beryl (nee Daws) and had three sons, of whom I am the eldest.
He grew up in Macclesfield, Cheshire, where he won a scholarship to the local grammar school. He worked for most of his adult life as an acoustical physicist for LNER/British Rail in Derby, and gained degrees in both Physics and Maths whilst working there. The international aspects of his research work led him to learn German in order to better understand technical papers.
He combined an interest in science with a love of music, literature, poetry and history.
As children we grew up with both parents playing the piano and listening to classical music. When I became interested in the rock bands of my youth, I was surprised to find that dad was much entertained by the lyrics of the Rolling Stones and The Who (in particular), and only months before his death he was still to be heard singing Stones songs, such as Flight 505, Stupid Girl, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Street Fighting Man, some of which he cannot have heard me play in 40 years.
Some of this material appealed to his sense of humour, and the catch line, ‘He put the plane down in the sea,’ (from Flight 505) may have had something to do with his own mistrust of aircraft or boats; whilst Street Fighting Man perhaps appealed to his left wing sympathies, though again tempered by amusement, for instance in the oft quoted: ‘Cos where I live the game to play is compromise sol-oo-shon.’ Indeed when I came to compile a CD of the Stones to play at the Celebration we held of his life, I struggled to fit numbers I knew he liked on to a 70 minute CD. The same applied – perhaps to a lesser extent – to The Who, where Won’t Get Fooled Again was often to be heard. He quite liked the wry twists of Bob Dylan too, but many other bands he showed no interest in, and Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Can were largely passed over in silence.
His own interests in music tended towards the baroque composers, with perhaps Bach being the favourite. He also had a liking for some of the more Celtic folk artists like Kirsty Moore. But his tastes extended to the Brecht/Weill 3 Penny Opera, La Mystere de Voix Bulgaire (which I bought for both parents), and much else besides.
I am not really qualified to say much on his interest in poetry except to say that it was lifelong, included many writers, and that I am named after Dylan Thomas who died not long before I was born.
Another passion we inherited as children was history. Holidays in Wales prompted a love of castles, and the reading of Greek myths, legends, and histories led eventually to my life-long interest in Roman history. We were also fed a diet of Icelandic sagas (particularly Njall’s Saga – my youngest brother is named after a hero from this), and fictional works, such as The Lord of the Rings, and the Alan Garner books about Alderley Edge – near where dad grew up. Reading was always the thing, and we did not have a television until after I left home for college.
As children we loved to fight as ancient warriors and constructed shields from oil drum lids. We also took the rubber suckers off arrows and used pencil sharpeners to provide a proper point. This was put a stop to after my flight-less arrows hit my brother in the cheek, and then the leg. We found ourselves becoming properly equipped, shooting at targets, and joining clubs. Both parents became heavily involved in running local archery clubs, then the National Field Archery Society, and also, in coaching. Field archery was always the preferred activity since this simulated hunting in a natural, generally wooded, environment – rather than shooting at targets in rows.
Our dad did, however, have a strong sense of humour, and found it hard to chastise us when we decided to ‘martyr’ a rather decent and pious kid from round the corner, by tying him to the line post and surrounding him (at a little distance) with burning newspaper. We could tell he was trying not to laugh when he found it necessary to stress how dangerous it was…
He also became heavily involved in the study of Saxon/Old English literature from when he joined The English Companions in the 1990s, and liked to translate the original texts for himself. This was also combined with a great interest in Place-names studies.
Other areas of abiding interest were those of polar exploration – with the tales of Gino Watkins, Amundsen, Shackelton, and Mawson still with me today. I was thrilled when I was able to pick up a book, With Stephanson in the Arctic, as a present for my dad because I knew he was interested in Stephanson’s claim to be able to ‘live off the land’ and survive in the arctic, and he did indeed enjoy this book very much, telling me about it in detail!
His own explorations were directed mostly to Scotland where he enjoyed rock climbing and also walking in the Cairngorms. These activities were also continued in the Peak District and Lake District. Travel in Scotland as a family took us round the north coast and subsequently on memorable trips to Shetland and Orkney – where we thoroughly explored the prehistoric and Norse monuments.
He later continued his appreciation of things Scottish through membership of the Malt Whiskey Society, and support of the John Muir Trust, which maintains bothies in the cairngorms.
People who knew my dad knew that he liked to talk! He was hard to get off the phone. When I used to ring up about coming over for lunch, it was generally a good half hour before I could get a transfer over to mother to find out if it was OK. Lunch itself usually featured a blazing row between me and dad over some point of historical or scientific interest, with no quarter asked or given. Afterwards there was no rancour and it was all forgotten. He would then button-hole me as I left and try to press on me, a book that I must read…often one that I had bought him some time before, which he had only recently got round to reading. One of these, I recall, was about the American who had been acclaimed as Alexander the Great by remote peoples in the Himalayas, and provided the inspiration for Kipling’s, The Man Who Would Be King. This touched upon another of his interests: The Great Game.
In his last months he developed his interest in the International Brigade who went to fight fascism in Spain before the second World War.
He was an atheist, and we honoured his memory by not including religious elements in our celebration of a life well-lived.
I cannot put it better than did Laurie Anderson in her song, World Without End:
“When my father died, we buried him in the ground,
When my father died, it was like a whole library burned down.”
A have a few bookings for talks in the coming months.
Sept 7th 2015. 11.00 am.
Alsager U3A. The Civic Centre, 3 Lawton Road, Alsager, ST7 2AE.
Contact: Shirley Thompson; e-mail: email@example.com
Title: The Harem Conspiracy Against Ramesses III.
October 14th 2015. 19.00 pm.
St. Botolph’s Church, Shepshed, Leicestershire.
Title: An Egyptian Journey – Another View
October 24th 2015. 13.30 pm
Sussex Egyptology Society. Worthing Venue.
Contact: Janice Flower; Tel: 07914 339430; Web Site: www.egyptology-uk.com
Title: Expeditions to God’s Land and Punt.
Below is a chapter guide for the forthcoming volume with the working title of An Ancient Egyptian Case Book. Each chapter tackles a topic about which there is uncertainty and debate, and offers explanations/solutions based upon a close analysis of the evidence. The work is currently being set out for publication hopefully by the end of 2014.
AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CASE BOOK
The Royal Burials
A brief history of the royal cemeteries of ancient Egypt, and the discovery of royal mummies and tombs in the modern era.
DEDUCTIONS FROM DISCOVERY
The Tomb of Akhenaten and the Golden Ring of Nefertiti
Shortly after the Royal Tomb was discovered in a remote wadi at Amarna, writers began to claim that burnt fragments of the mummy of Pharaoh Akhenaten had been found in rubble outside the entrance. Was it true? Indeed, was the Royal Tomb ever used for burials, and if so, whose? Who were the other tombs in the royal wadi intended for? What is the significance of jewellery, including a golden ring of Nefertiti, found around the same time as the Royal Tomb? Nothing is ever quite as it seems in this strange case where fact and rumour have become inextricably mixed.
An early version first appeared in The Heritage of Egypt 3.1, Issue 7 (January 2010), 11-31. Also an illustrated lecture.
The Enigma of Kings Valley Tomb 58, and the Post Amarna Period
How did KingsValley tomb 58 (KV58) come to contain gold foil depicting King Tutankhamun, and his successor Ay, both as a private individual and as king? Who is represented by the beautiful calcite shabti figure found on the floor of the tomb? This tomb has much to tell us about events in the strange and turbulent times following the death of Tutankhamun, and the seizure of the throne by men who were not of royal blood.
Based upon the article which appeared in KMT 21.3 (Fall 2010), 35-44.
The Mysterious Mr. Carter, and the Troubling Case of the Lotus Head.
The story of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun has been told and retold in countless books and articles, and yet there is much about it that remains unexplained – such as why Carter spent so little time searching in the area where he believed the tomb to be, and when exactly he first entered the burial chamber of the tomb. If there is one thing that epitomises our suspicions over the discovery, however, it is the fact that it took a government inspection to reveal one of its greatest treasures: the exquisite Lotus Head. Where did Carter find it, and why had he hidden it?
Substantially edited from the chapter in Finding the Pharaohs: Part 1 of Refugees for Eternity: The Royal Mummies of Thebes (forthcoming).
KV63, Embalming Caches, and the Clues to Lost Royal Tombs
In 2006 the first discovery was made in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamun’s tomb (KV62) in 1922. Numbered KV63, it contained a curious mixture of rags, natron, pillows, and broken pottery stashed away in coffins and large storage jars. It was therefore, almost certainly, an embalming cache. What were these caches, and what clues do they offer to the location of lost tombs in the KingsValley? The most famous example of an embalming cache is that of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1907, and it seems that the contents of KV63 were buried not long after Tutankhamun was laid to rest. So who did this cache belong to?
Developed from the article first published in KMT 18.2 (Summer 2007), 46-53.
TALES TOLD BY ENIGMATIC MUMMIES
The King is Dead : How Long Lived the King? Did the Pharaohs All Die Young?
Was life in ancient Egypt nasty, brutal and short? Perhaps for the privileged few life was not quite so nasty and brutal, but surely it was still pretty short! But why should it have been? Why do we think that people in the past died so young? We have some idea of the likely lifespan of the pharaohs from historical records, but when anatomists examined their mummies they found them to have died much younger than expected. What was wrong? Were the ancient records unreliable? Did the pharaohs really all die young?
Adapted from the article first published in KMT 21.2 (Summer 2010), 38-44.
Pharaoh Salt-Meat And the Mummies of the Old Kingdom kings.
One of the more bizarre stories told about the royal mummies of the New Kingdom era is that when they arrived in Cairo – following the clearance of their tomb (TT/DB320) – they were passed through customs as salted fish. Though this is not quite true, the mummy of a king did pass through customs as salted meat that same year. This mummy was, however, of an Old Kingdom pharaoh, and when the neglected remnants of royalty surviving from that period are brought together, they begin to suggest exciting prospects for future research.
Considerably extended and developed from a brief article, which told the ‘salt meat’ story, published in The Heritage of Egypt 1.3, Issue 3 (September 2008), 12-14.
Can the Niagara Falls Mummy Really be Pharaoh Ramesses I?
What made experts decide that a mummy in the museum at Niagara Falls, Canada, was actually Pharaoh Ramesses I? Why were they almost certainly wrong? Who else might this mummy be? In answering these questions it transpires that this man, laid to rest in the ‘pose of a king’, has much to tell us about ancient mummification and the way we identify royal mummies.
Revised and updated from the chapter in Identifying the Royal Mummies (2009). Earlier articles appeared in KMT 17.4 (Winter 2006-07), 26-34; and Ancient Egypt 6.2, Issue 32 (Oct/Nov 2005), 42-48. Also an illustrated lecture.
Pharaoh’s Magic Wand? What Have DNA Tests Actually Told Us About the Amarna Royal Family?
Did the recent DNA tests really clear up the relationships in ‘Tutankhamun’s Family’? Have Pharaoh Akhenaten, Queen Tiye, and perhaps Tut’s wife, Ankhesenamun, really turned up amongst unidentified mummies found in the Valley of the Kings? When the story of DNA research on Egyptian mummies is traced, and the recent, high-profile, high-tech investigations of royal mummies investigated, an interesting light is thrown on the identifications apparently reached in the Cairo DNA laboratories.
Some preliminary comments, drawing attention to reservations over the findings announced in the JAMA report, were posted on www.dylanb.me.uk in March 2010, with further observations appearing in Ancient Egypt 13.2, Issue 74 (Oct/Nov 2012); 10-15. Also an illustrated lecture.
The Resurrected Mummy of the Deified Queen
Following her death the greatly revered queen Ahmose Nefertari became elevated to the status of Goddess. The mortal remains of this divine figure seemed about to disappear forever, however, when she was unwrapped in 1885. As her mummy was unwrapped she ‘fell into putefaction’, releasing a foul-smelling, black ooze. How is it then that she ‘resurrected’ and is today one of the best preserved of the royal mummies?
Revised and extended from the article that first appeared in Ancient Egypt 5.6, Issue 30, (June/July 2005), 13-15.
The Strange Death of Unknown Man E
Found buried alongside some of the most famous kings and queens of ancient Egypt was the well-preserved mummy of a man who appeared to have died in the most hideous agony. Wrapped in a sheepskin – ritually unclean to the ancient Egyptians – he was buried without any form of identification. It appeared to some that he had been castrated, and buried alive. Who was this man, and why was he preserved like this?
Extensively revised (including new theories for the identity) from the section in Identifying the Royal Mummies, Part 4 of Refugees for Eternity: The Royal Mummies of Thebes (Canopus Press 2009), 122-148 & 178-184 (notes). Initial conclusions appeared as ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: The Facts Concerning Unknown Man E’, KMT 10.1 (Spring 1999), 68-76.
UNRAVELLING THE TEXTS: ANCIENT TRUE STORIES
Poison, Forgery and Voodoo The Harem Conspiracy against Ramesses III
Arguably Egypt’s last truly great Pharaoh, Ramesses III beat back concerted attacks by Libyans and Sea Peoples and ruled long enough to celebrate his 30 year Heb Sed festival. So why did his reign end in an attempted coup? Here we examine the ancient sources to discover who the key players were, how much magic played a part, and find uncanny modern parallels in the way access was gained to the private quarters of the king.
Edited and revised from the chapter planned for Refugees for Eternity, Part 2 (forthcoming). Also an illustrated lecture.
The Tombrobbers of No-Amun. Power Struggles Under Ramesses IX.
Many books refer to the trials of tomb-robbers during the reign of Ramesses IX. There is, however, much more to this story than is generally appreciated. By examining the evidence closely the motives of the Vizier, the High Priest, and the two Mayors in Egypt’s Southern capital, Nō-Amun, the ‘City of Amun’, can be uncovered. Known to the Greeks as Thebes, this is modern Luxor, and the events take us to many familiar sites on the East and West banks of the Nile as the tale of deception and double-dealing unfolds.
Updated and revised from the chapter planned for Refugees for Eternity, Part 2 (forthcoming). Also an illustrated lecture.
Death in the Nile. The Birth of Egypt’s Last God: Antinous
The visit of the Roman emperor Hadrian to Egypt was clouded with tragedy when his ‘favourite’, Antinous, drowned in the Nile. Hadrian is said to have been devastated by the loss, but the death was suspicious, especially because Antinous died at just the right place and time to become a god.
Earlier versions appeared in KMT 19.2 (Summer 2008), 74-82; and Ancient Egypt 9.4, Issue 52 (Feb/March 2009), 34-40. Also an illustrated lecture.
The Fury of Amun. The Cursed Play in the Valley of the Queens
In January 1909 a play was due to be staged in the Valley of the Queens in front of a virtual Who’s Who of famous Egyptologists. The author was Antiquities Inspector, Arthur Weigall; the stage manager was American artist, Joseph Lindon Smith; and the subject, the rehabilitation of Akhenaten into the realm of the Gods after thousands of years in limbo. The starlit drama under the cliffs of Thebes never got further than the rehearsal, however, as an uncanny series of events culminated in the wives of both men being mysteriously struck down by severe ailments. Was it the curse of the vengeful god Amun?
An earlier version appeared in KMT 19.3 (Fall 2008), 76-83. Also an illustrated lecture.
THE HATSHEPSUT PROJECT
This is an extract from An Ancient Egyptian Case Book which is currently in the process of being set-out for publication. Notes appear at the foot.
The project to identify the mummy of Hatshepsut was prompted by the idea that she might be one of two female mummies discovered in tomb KV60 by Howard Carter in 1903. Both mummies lay with the left arm bent across the chest and the right arm placed straight down by the side – a pose sometimes believed to be associated with queens – and the connection with Hatshepsut was made because one of the mummies lay in a coffin-base bearing the title and name, ‘Great Royal Nurse, In’, who might be the same In-Sitre, a wet-nurse of Hatshepsut, known from a statue discovered nearby in her mortuary temple at Deir el Bahari.17 This association – coupled with the fact that KV60 lies only about 50 metres in front of Hatshepsut’s tomb (KV20) – had previously led Elizabeth Thomas to make the suggestion, with the ‘utmost temerity’, that the other KV60 mummy, (without a coffin) might, in fact, be Hatshepsut herself, anciently re-interred alongside her wet nurse.18 The mummy in the coffin base had been removed and placed in storage at the museum in Cairo sometime prior to 1916,19 and the other, coffin-less mummy was removed in 2007 to take part in the study.
As revealed in the Discovery Channel TV documentary Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen,20 the study employed modern technology in the form of CAT scans and DNA tests, but the identification announced was, in fact, made using just the first of these two techniques in what was essentially a ‘family likeness’ test. CAT scans were made of the skulls of the mummies of Hatshepsut’s half-brother (and husband), Thutmose II; Thutmose II’s son by another wife, Thutmose III; and the unidentified man sometimes thought to be Hatshepsut’s father, Thutmose I; to produce a composite, generic, ‘Thutmoside’ profile and frontal view. These two composite views were then compared to the profiles and frontal scans of six unidentified female royal mummies, who were put forward as potential candidates for Hatshepsut. The six included: the two mummies from KV60; the Elder Lady and Younger Lady from KV35;21 Unknown Woman ‘A’ (actually not ‘unknown’ as she was originally identified on her wrappings as Meritamun); and Unknown Woman ‘D’.22 The closest match was found to be the obese mummy without a coffin from KV60 (KV60-A). However, the weakness of the ‘family likeness’ test was shown by the fact that whilst Thutmose II and Thutmose III were found to share a number of characteristic features, the so-called Thutmose I was unlike them in several respects. In fact the mummy KV60-A:
‘…resembled ‘Thutmose I’ in some features, and Thutmose II and Thutmose III in others…Thus the scans pointed towards KV60-A as the most likely Hatshepsut, but did not allow us to reach any firm conclusions.’23
The identification of this mummy with Hatshepsut was then claimed to have been proved when the jewel-box labelled for Hatshepsut (found in the Royal Cache, TT320) was CAT scanned. It appeared likely that the wrapped item in the box was indeed a visceral organ (not certainly a liver), but the interesting discovery was that the box also contained a tooth with one root missing. This tooth was identified as a seventh upper right molar, and shown by computer reconstruction to fit into the upper right jaw of KV60-A where just one root remained of a missing tooth. Unfortunately for this theory it was later pointed out by a dentist that upper molars have three roots, and the tooth in the box was almost certainly a lower first molar, for which there was no gap in the mouth of the KV60-A mummy.24 However, it scarcely needs pointing out that neither the tooth nor the visceral organ found in the jewel-box need necessarily have anything to do with the person named on it.25
Samples for DNA testing by the new laboratory were taken from the mummies of KV60-A, KV60-B, ‘Thutmose I’, Thutmose II, Thutmose III, and Queen Ahmose Nefertari.
Tests actually concentrated on a comparison of the KV60 mummies (particularly KV60-A) with ‘Thutmose I’ and Ahmose Nefertari, who were said to be Hatshepsut’s father and maternal grandmother respectively. However, as noted above, the ‘Thutmose I’ mummy is not especially likely to be that king; and Ahmose Nefertari’s relationship to Hatshepsut is entirely uncertain.26 Nuclear DNA was not extracted from any of the samples at this point, but mitochondrial DNA was obtained from KV60-A and Ahmose Nefertari, leading to the observation that there appeared to be, ‘significant similarity between the two women, but it is too early to draw any conclusions.’ Later it was said that nuclear DNA had been obtained from the two KV60 mummies, but not from ‘Thutmose I’.27 However, although Dr. Angelique Corthals, of Manchester’s KHN Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, who assisted in the work in Cairo, was confident enough to state that:
“When the DNA of the mystery mummy [KV60-A] was compared with that of Hatshepsut’s ancestors, we were able to scientifically confirm that the remains were those of the 18th dynasty queen.”28
it has to be concluded that neither the CAT scan comparisons nor these DNA tests identified either mummy from KV60 as Hatshepsut, and this attribution remains entirely speculative.
THE HATSHEPSUT PROJECT – Notes
17. A note of caution should perhaps be sounded by the recent discovery of Coffin ‘A’ in KV63 (dated to the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty) which is inscribed for a ‘Royal Nurse, Iny’. Was this a common pet name for nurses?
18. E. Thomas, The Royal Necropoleis of Thebes (Princeton 1966), 138.
19. It may have been removed by Edward Ayrton in 1906 when he was working on the nearby tomb of Montuherkhopshef (KV19). The recent ‘rediscovery’ of this mummy is recounted in Zahi Hawass, ‘Quest for the Mummy of Hatshepsut. Could She Be the Lady in the Attic of the EgyptianMuseum, Cairo?’, KMT 17.2 (Summer 2006), 40-43.
20. First screened in the U.S. July 15th 2007.
21. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 21; notes that these two had been previously scanned in 2005. Although not noted there, the pose of the Elder Lady had once led to suggestions that she might have been Hatshepsut, see H. Rider Haggard, ‘The Debris of Majesty. Plundering the Graves of Kings’, The Daily Mail (4 June 1904), as reproduced in Shirley M. Addy, Rider Haggard and Egypt (Accrington 1998), 49-50; and James E. Harris and Kent R. Weeks, X-Raying the Pharaohs (London 1973), 135-6.
22. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 21; acknowledges that this mummy (CCG 61082, who is often considered to be the late Nineteenth Dynasty female pharaoh, Twosret), was included in error for CCG 61056, Unknown Woman ‘B’, sometimes thought to be Tetisheri of the early Eighteenth Dynasty.
23. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 22-3. Another weakness of such comparative techniques is that it is not impossible for men to resemble the males in their mother’s family!
24. Dr. J. L. Thimes, ‘Readers’ Forum’, KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt 19.3 (Fall 2008), 6-7. My point in Bickerstaffe, Identifying the Royal Mummies, 92-6; that matches made using x-rays or CAT scans are not strong evidence, is borne out here.
25. I point out in talks that if you knock out one of my teeth and throw it in a box named ‘Hitler’, that does not make me Hitler!
26. Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt (London 2004), 124-133. As shown in Charts illustrating the 18th Dynasty Parts 1 and 2, Hatshepsut may have had Ahmose Nefertari as a great aunt on the side of her father Thutmose I, and possibly also on the side of her mother, Ahmes-B, if she was a sister-wife of Thutmose I. The ancestry of Hatshepsut’s mother, Ahmes-B, would be otherwise unknown.
27. Hawass, KMT 18.3, 25. ‘The lab staff, led by Dr. Yehia Zakaria Gad of the EgyptianNationalResearchCenter, received extensive training in the use of the Applied Biosystems 3130 Genetic Analyzer donated by the Discovery Channel. Applied Biosystems application specialists Elias Arnaout, Dr. Pieter Van Oers, and Dr. Nicola Oldenroyd, as well as Dr. Angelique Corthals, lecturer in Biomedical and Forensic Studies at the KHN Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester, instructed the lab staff in the use of the equipment and assay kits needed to perform DNA analysis of the mummies. One of the latter, called the Minifiler, is a state-of-the-art kit developed especially for the analysis of highly degraded samples.’
28. ‘Pharaoh DNA Analysis: Preliminary Results Support Positive Identification Of Egyptian Queen’, Science Daily (July 17, 2007), http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070716133119.htm