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.