Posted April 4th, 2017 by Dylan and filed in News

Coming up very soon is the ESSEX EGYPTOLOGY GROUP Study Day on The Valley of the Kings: Saturday April 8th 2017, The Barn, Spring Lodge Community Centre, WITHAM, CM8 2HE. Commencing 10am.

The programme is:

Dylan Bickerstaffe – The Discovery of the Royal Tombs

Peter Robinson – How To Read a Royal Tomb

Peter Robinson – The Hours of the Amduat

Dylan Bickerstaffe – The Valley of the Kings in the Amarna Period

Contact: Dick Sellicks: 01702 602519;

THE ANCIENT WORLD SOCIETY Study Day at The Boston and County Club, Parkgate, Boston, Lincs: Saturday September 9th 2017.

Here I will deliver at least two talks – Topic(s) to be determined

Contact: Sandy Davey:;

THE SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF ANCIENT EGYPT, Local Group, The Library Theatre, Chesterfield, Derbys. Saturday September 16th 2017:

For Whom the Sun Doth Shine: Nefertari, Beloved of Mut. The favoured wife of Ramesses II, Nefertari has one of the most beautiful tombs in all of Egypt, but remains something of an enigma.

Contact: 01246 471556;

RAMASES (NORTH KENT Egyptology Society)

Saturday October 7th 2017: Topic to be determined.

Contact: Annette Jones: 01795 663475

Also in October 2017, I am likely to be presenting a residential Study Weekend (7-8 talks, Friday evening to Sunday lunch) at KNUSTON HALL, Northants, looking in depth at the New Kingdom Royal Mummies, Burials, and Tombs. With a thorough examination of the history of the royal necropolis at Luxor, Amarna and elsewhere (housing Kings, Queens, Princes/princesses, wet nurses, courtesans, senior courtiers and ‘de-facto’ rulers); the Royal Mummies, how they came to be re-buried in Caches and rediscovered in the modern era, methods used to identify them and how reliable these are. Many intriguing stories will be uncovered along the way.

During 2017 it has been agreed that I will run a series of sessions with a study group at CHESTERFIELD library. It is planned that these will focus on the Royal Mummies – and I intend that they will be in-part practical sessions, where participants will be invited to share their own theories and conclusions.







Posted October 9th, 2016 by Dylan and filed in News

This is just a quick look at some of the activities lined up as we head into 2017.

I gave my new talk Caravan Cities and Frontier Fortresses to The Ancient World Society, Boston, Lincolnshire on Thursday 13th October (2016).  This looks particularly at the desert cities of Palmyra, Resafa, and Dura Europos in Syria; Hatra in Iraq; and Petra in Jordan during the Roman era. The tour I did of the region in 1980 is used as the template on to which many intriguing discoveries are explored; interspersed with travel through the desert and sights of modern cities as they were then. Much of which is, of course, now reduced to rubble.

Mercifully still intact are the monuments of Jordan, including fabulous Petra, Wadi Rum, Kerak, Mount Nebo, Madaba, and Jerash. All of these and more are included in the trip I am leading for Ancient World Tours May 13th – 21st, 2017 (£2585).

I also intend to run a trip to Sicily, and perhaps an Introductory Tour of Egypt during the year.

At the Poynton Egypt Group on Friday 27th January 2017 I will give my talk Great Expeditions to God’s Land and Punt which explores the sites from which the Ancient Egyptians set forth to sail the Red Sea. The ancient records of expeditions to the Eastern Desert of Egypt are examined both in the quest to discover the location of the legendary land of Punt, and to see where sacred stone and gold were quarried.

For the Chesterfield branch of the Society For the Study of Ancient Egypt, on Saturday March 11th 2017, I am due to give For Whom the Sun Doth Shine: Nefertari Beloved of Mut. Nefertari, the Great Royal Wife of Ramesses II seems to have been particularly favoured by her husband, and not only had a temple dedicated to her at Abu Simbel, but also received one of the most beautiful tombs to have survived into the modern era. Nefertari probably did not live even to the half way point in Ramesses’ reign, so what lay behind these special honours? Who were her children, and who took her place?

A talk has also been scheduled for the RAMASSES (North Kent Egyptology Society) on Saturday October 7th 2017: topic to be confirmed.

Further talks will be announced as they are scheduled in due course.

My article Why Sinuhe Ran Away – investigating the clues contained in this classic Ancient Egyptian text (and other related documents) to answer the central mystery, will appear in KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt Vol. 27 No.4, Winter 2016.

I am also preparing some articles to appear in Ancient Egypt Magazine during 2017.

Hopefully, I will then find time to finally complete and publish Finding the Pharaohs (part 1 of Refugees for Eternity), my in-depth exploration of the tale of how the tombs and mummies of the pharaohs and queens of the New Kingdom were discovered. This includes a detailed account of the work of Howard Carter – including the Saqqara Incident and other dramatic episodes, as well as some interesting insights in to the work in and around The Valley of the Kings that preceded the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

For those who would like to discover the true stories behind some of the dramatic incidents presented in the ITV drama TUTANKHAMUN, and are unwilling to wait for Finding the Pharaohs, a summary of some of the interesting points (and awkward questions) regarding the discovery are already available in my chapter: The Mysterious Mr. Carter and the Troubling Case of the Lotus Head, in An Ancient Egyptian Case Book (reprinted edition 2016, available through this site). How did an exquisite wooden head of Tutankhamun emerging from a lotus come to be found in Carter’s store? Was he trying to steal it? Where in the tomb did it come from? Carter’s explanation makes no sense. Also in the Case Book is a chapter concerning Embalming Caches – the most famous of which was Tutankhamun’s, discovered by Edward Ayton for Theodore Davis in December 1907.



Posted August 28th, 2015 by Dylan and filed in News, Sample Writing


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.

An Ancient Egyptian Case Book – Available through PAYPAL

Posted December 31st, 2014 by Dylan and filed in News

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:



New Publication – An Ancient Egyptian Case Book

Posted December 19th, 2014 by Dylan and filed in News

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, 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 (my father) 1927-2014, An Obituary

Posted September 20th, 2014 by Dylan and filed in News

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.”


Dylan Bickerstaffe











Posted August 16th, 2014 by Dylan and filed in News


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:

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:

Title: Expeditions to God’s Land and Punt.

A Chapter Guide for the forthcoming Ancient Egyptian Case Book

Posted June 1st, 2014 by Dylan and filed in News

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.



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.


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.


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 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.


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.



Has the Mummy of the Female Pharaoh Hatshepsut been Identified?

Posted April 28th, 2014 by Dylan and filed in News