KV55 is a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It was discovered by Edward R. Ayrton in 1907 while he was working in the Valley for Theodore M. Davis. It has long been speculated, as well as much-disputed, that the body found in this tomb was that of the famous Pharaoh Akhenaten, who moved the capital to Akhetaten (modern day Amarna). The results of genetic and other scientific tests published in February 2010 have confirmed that the person buried there was both the son of Amenhotep III as well as the father of Tutankhamun. Furthermore, the study established that the age of this person at the time of his death was consistent with that of Akhenaten's, thereby making it almost certain that it is Akhenaten's body. However, a growing body of work soon began to appear to dispute the assessment of the age of the mummy and the identification of KV55 as Akhenaten.
|Burial site of Amarna cache|
|Location||East Valley of the Kings|
|Discovered||6 January 1907|
Both the tomb's history and the identification of its single occupant have been problematic. It is assumed to be a royal cache and reburial dating from the late 18th Dynasty, prepared after the abandonment of Amarna and the dismantling of the royal necropolis there. On the basis of the recovered artifacts, it is also suggested that the burial once contained more than a single occupant, either interred on one occasion or over a period of time. Queen Tiye is most often named in this context.
It is also clear that the tomb was re-entered at a later time, almost certainly during the 20th Dynasty. At this time, any additional, hypothetical occupants of the tomb would have been removed and (possibly) relocated to KV35, while the remaining mummy and some of the other artefacts were desecrated and abandoned.
The tomb is often referred to as the Amarna cache, given the mixed nature of its contents.
Discovery and excavations
The entrance to KV55 was uncovered by Ayrton on 6 January 1907. Its discovery was brought to Davis's attention on the following day. The tomb was first entered on 9 January by Ayrton, Davis, Joseph Lindon Smith, and (as the representative of the antiquities service) Arthur Weigall. On the 11th, the finds were photographed. Ayrton then began clearance of the tomb. On 25 January 1907, the coffin and mummy were investigated in situ.
According to a letter from Davis to Gaston Maspero, some of the objects found in KV55 were still in place in January 1908, and their study and attempts at conservation were still ongoing at this later date.
In 1921, while excavating south of the tomb, Howard Carter discovered several items that seem to have originated in KV55. These include a jasper burnisher and some fragments of copper rosettes from a funerary pall.
After its excavation, the tomb's entrance was fitted with a steel door, which however was later removed and replaced by stone blocking. By 1944, this blocking had collapsed and filled the tomb's entrance with debris. In 1993, the tomb was cleared again by Lyla Pinch Brock. In 1996, she undertook conservation work on the stairs and the plastering inside the burial chamber through a grant from the American Research Centre in Egypt.
Three days before the discovery of KV55, Ayrton uncovered a recess in the rock (now designated as KVC) located immediately above the entrance to KV55 and containing jars of 20th dynasty type. This recess may have been an unfinished tomb commencement, and its content may be analogous to the embalming cache found in KV54, but because the find was never properly published, the precise nature of its contents, the date of the jars, and its relation (if any) to KV55 are now unclear.
Location and general appearance
KV55 is a relatively small, undecorated, single-chamber tomb, its total length measuring only 27.61 meters. It is located in the central area of the Valley, immediately adjacent to and below KV 6 (Ramesses IX) and across the valley floor from KV7 (Ramesses II) and the near-contemporary tomb KV62 (Tutankhamun). Oriented almost due east, its entranceway consists of a set of stairs cut into the Valley's bedrock which lead to a gently sloping corridor and then to the tomb's single chamber.
The tomb appears to be unfinished: in the south wall of the burial chamber is a small niche, the commencement of an unfinished antechamber, while red masonry marks within the burial chamber indicate plans for yet another room. When finished these would have made the tomb's layout roughly similar to that of Tutankhamun's. Such a plan seems to indicate that KV55, like KV62, was initially intended as a private burial site and only later taken over for a royal interment.
The tomb is accessed by a flight of 20 steps, cut into the bedrock and covered by an overhanging rock. An ostracon found by Pinch Brock in 1993 has been interpreted as a plan of the tomb, and possibly indicates a widening of the entrance after its initial cutting. This possibility is also suggested by mason's marks found on the walls by the tomb's entrance. It appears that the stairwell has been enlarged, its ceiling raised, and the number of steps increased.
When the tomb was discovered in 1907, the stairwell was covered with debris, probably originating from the cutting of KV 6 directly above. The upper layer of this filling consisted of chips cemented together by water; underneath, the chips were dry and clean.
Doorway and blocking
When it was discovered, the tomb's outer door was blocked by two consecutive walls. The primary blocking consisted of a wall of cemented limestone blocks, plastered and stamped with the seal of the Royal Necropolis (with the jackal and nine captives motif). Weigall later stated that a fragment of Tutankhamun's seal had been recovered from this original blocking. However, his statement is not corroborated by any of the other reports dating from the initial discovery, leaving Weigall's claim open to question.
The first wall had been partially pulled down in antiquity, and the tomb was closed again by a second wall made of loose limestone fragments, erected in front of the remains of the first wall. Because Weigall described these consecutive blockings in ambiguous terms, it is unclear whether the secondary wall was found intact or had already been partially dismantled, like the primary wall.
The sloping corridor beyond the entrance was partially filled with rubble. Since the secondary wall was built on top of material originating from this rubble, the fill seems to date from the time of the original interment. By 1907 this rubble had spread down into the burial chamber. Stains on the ceiling and walls of the corridor indicate that water had infiltrated the tomb in the past.
On top of the rubble fill were found a panel and door of a large gilded shrine, although the exact position of these items is unclear. Additional pieces of the same shrine were recovered from the burial chamber.
Burial chamber and niche
The walls of the burial chamber were plastered but otherwise undecorated. This plastering seems to have been done some years after the cutting of the tomb, and repairs are evident. Rubble fill from the corridor had spread down into the chamber, partially covering its floor with debris. Elsewhere in the burial chamber, the floor and numerous objects were covered with fragments of plaster fallen from the walls and stones fallen from the ceiling.
- Parts of a dismantled, gilded shrine: Related to the panel and door found in the corridor. A door was found lying on the rubble inflow near the entrance to the chamber; large panels were lying on the floor or stacked against the eastern wall; and smaller elements (such as doorjambs, a lintel, and possibly parts of the cornice) were lying on the floor.
- Coffin, mummy, and related items: Lying against the southern wall and resting on the decayed remains of a lion-headed bier was a badly damaged coffin. Its lid was ajar, and the coffin box had rotted. The mummy contained in this coffin was badly preserved but its linen wrappings appear to have been intact. The damaged skull had been separated from the body and was found with a vulture pectoral wrapped around it. The left arm of the body was crossed over the chest, the right arm extended. In the niche above this coffin was found a set of four canopic jars. Also related to this group of items were four "magical bricks."
- Remains of boxes and their contents: At least two badly preserved boxes were found in the south-eastern corner of the room, their contents spread on the floor. These included faience objects and appear to have been related to the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony.
- Seal impressions: Several small seal impressions were found underneath the panels of the gilded shrine. These carry Tutankhamun's prenomen and are identical to seal type N found in Tutankhamun's own tomb.
- Other items: Their exact location in the chamber is not always clear. Included are a vase stand, fragment of furniture, a silver head of a goose, pall-discs of gilded copper, and a statue plinth.
Some wooden objects in the burial chamber seem to have suffered water damage, most notably the coffin, bier, and boxes; however, the elements of the gilded shrine appear to have been reasonably solid. Moisture is also the likely cause of the discoloration visible on some of the faience objects, although other, similar objects appear unaffected.
The problems surrounding the interpretation of KV55 are due in large part to the shortcomings of Davis's original publication of the excavation. Its mix of fact, assumption, error, and omission has obscured a full understanding of the deposit ever since. The blame for these shortcomings usually falls on Davis (as editor of the publication) and Ayrton (as supervising archaeologist). Recent careful re-examinations of the original publication, of eyewitness reports, and of the photographs taken before the tomb was cleared have brought some clarity to the situation.
Although the tomb was clearly disturbed in antiquity and its contents have been described as disordered and chaotic, Martha Bell argued that this disarray was more apparent than real. Her reconstruction of the layout of the tomb indicates an orderly and deliberate arrangement of artefacts, and she suggests that the impression of chaos might be due to the collapse of wooden objects caused by falling plaster and stone. The "cemented" chips and stains in the corridor indicate that water entered the tomb along the corridor ceiling, but the amount of water might not have been great, and most damage could have been caused by increased humidity rather than direct contact with water. Bell also suggested that the moisture under the mummy might have resulted from rainfall shortly after the tomb's opening in 1907. Other damage to wooden objects might result from an insect attack.
The shrine and Tiye's burial
A recent reconstruction of the shrine, based on photographic evidence, drawings, eyewitness descriptions, and two surviving planks on display in Cairo, indicate that it resembled Tutankhamun's second and third shrines in general appearance and size. The presence of copper rosettes indicate that a funeral pall was draped on a frame associated with the shrine, also comparable to Tutankhamun's shrines. However, the decoration and inscriptions on the shrine are markedly different from those of Tutankhamun: the decoration was dominated by large offering scenes rather than a multitude of smaller mythological scenes; the text was far more brief, and seems primarily concerned with titles, names, and the shrine's dedication, rather than with excerpts from funerary books; and the interior of the shrine was uninscribed and undecorated.
The text on the shrine states that it was made by Akhenaten for his mother Tiye. With one exception, the names of Akhenaten were erased and in some places were replaced by those of Amenhotep III in ink. The text also refers to the "House of the Aten in Akhetaten," perhaps indicating that the shrine was made and originally used in Amarna. The decoration, which appears to have been very similar on all sides of the shrine, features Akhenaten and Tiye making offerings to the Aten, with a focus on the king rather than his mother. As with his names, Akhenaten's figure was erased from the scenes, with one exception.
The orderly arrangement of the shrine parts inside the tomb seems to indicate that it once stood up, fully assembled, with its doors facing south, and that it was later dismantled inside the tomb. It appears that only a single shrine was used in KV55, rather than a suite of four nested shrines as in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The presence of a shrine dedicated to Tiye is usually seen as evidence that Tiye's mummy once reposed inside the shrine in KV55. Other objects inscribed with her name (such as the piece of furniture) and with those of Amenhotep III are also seen as belonging to her funerary equipment. The seal impressions found near the east wall might indicate further items that were removed together with the queen's mummy at some later point.
Coffin, canopic jars and magical bricks
When KV55 was initially opened, Theodore Davis believed that he had found the tomb of Queen Tiye. However, it was quickly recognized that the human remains interred there were male. Georges Daressy further deduced that the gilded coffin found in the tomb was originally made for a woman and only later adapted to accommodate a king, through alterations to its inscriptions and the addition of a false beard, a uraeus, and the royal scepters (crook and flail). The identity of the coffin's original owner has been a matter of much discussion over the years, with Tiye, Nefertiti, Meketaten, and Meritaten all proposed as candidates. It is now widely accepted that the coffin was originally intended for Akhenaten's secondary wife Kiya. It is also recognized that the four canopic jars discovered near the coffin belonged to Kiya, and that the female heads on the jars' stoppers portray her. Like the coffin, the canopic jars were altered for the burial of a king through the erasure of Kiya's titulary and the addition of a royal uraeus to each portrait head.
All personal names inscribed on the coffin and the canopic jars were excised in antiquity, rendering the identity of the human remains inside the coffin a matter of long debate. Over the past century, the chief candidates for this individual have been either Akhenaten himself or Smenkhkare, another male member of the Amarna royal family.
Evidence that the occupant of the coffin was Akhenaten is provided by the four magical bricks found inside the tomb. Two were inscribed in hieratic, but they are poorly preserved and the name of their owner is lost. The other two, however, are of better quality, with hieroglyphic inscriptions naming the Osiris Neferkheprure Waenre, a reference to Akhenaten's nomen. The fact that all four bricks were orientated correctly and that three of them were positioned in close association with the coffin suggests that they were intended as a set and were made for the coffin's final occupant, who would therefore be Akhenaten.
The identification of the mummy
The mummy found in the tomb was however at first identified as belonging to a woman by two visiting physicians who examined the remains in situ. This led Davis to conclude he had found the mummy of queen Tiye and he therefore published his account of the discovery as The Tomb of Queen Tiyi. As possible reasons for this initial identification the (typical female) position of the mummy's arms, post-mortem damage to the pelvic bones and the absence of male genitalia have been suggested. But when anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith examined the skull and bones in Cairo a few months later he concluded that they were those of a young male, with wide hips, a pendent chin and distorted cranium brought on by chronic hydrocephalus. The age of death he estimated as being around 25 years although he later suggested the possibility that the body had suffered from Frölich's syndrome which delayed normal skeletal maturation. These results were seen to support the initial claims by Weigall, Maspero and Smith, based on other evidence found in the tomb (see above) that the body was that of Akhenaten.
Later re-examinations of the remains confirmed Smith's original identification of the mummy as belonging to a young male (although with feminine trends) but pushed the estimated age of death back to around 20 years. These re-examinations also indicated that the body showed no signs of delayed maturation and that, while the skull was of unusual shape, it certainly wasn't abnormal, and showed no indication of hydrocephalus. Reconstruction of the facial features of the skull also indicated that there was no resemblance with Akhenaten's representation on his monuments. It must be remembered though, that Akhenaten's representations are highly stylised. After the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun a close resemblance was noted between his mummy and the body found in KV55 and later tests showed both shared the same blood-group (A2) and serum antigen (MN), all of which suggests Tutankhamun and the individual found in KV55 were closely related to each other, either as father and son, or brothers. Based on these results it was concluded that the KV55 body was too young to be Akhenaten and they were seen to support the claim that the mummy was that of Smenkhkare, an idea first proposed by Rex Engelbach in 1931.
Before February 2010, it was pointed out that the reliability of methods to assess the age of death for mummies in general was uncertain. For these reasons the correctness of the age estimates was repeatedly called into question. This opinion found support in the analysis of the skeletal remains which had indicated an age of death around 35 years (based on dentition) or even later (based on anthropological standards and new X-rays of the long bones). Some examinations placed the mummy at 20–25 years at death, while others assessed the mummy as 35 years. The archaeological, inscriptional and now genetic evidence indicate that the ancient Egyptians who buried (and later desecrated) the body in KV55 believed this to be Akhenaten's.
Further complicating the identity of the KV55 mummy is the fact that he does not seem to be the father of the female mummy KV21a. The latter has been identified as the mother of two foetuses found in Tutankhamun's tomb, thus probably making her Ankhesenamun, the daughter of Akhenaten and the only known wife of Tutankhamun.
The deposit as it was found in KV55 presents a mixture of chronological and religious anomalies. Objects inscribed with Amenhotep III's nomen and prenomen might be contemporary with that king's reign and could be interpreted as possessions of Queen Tiye. Other items inscribed with Tiye's name (such as the shrine and furniture elements) also clearly belonged to her. Akhenaten's presence is indicated by items originally inscribed for him (such as the magical bricks) and items that were adapted for his use (such as the coffin and canopic jars). It is nevertheless highly unlikely that either of these two burials within KV55 was original. In the case of Tiye, evidence found in tomb WV22 suggests that Amenhotep III prepared her burial in his own tomb. However, the fact that Tiye outlived her husband by possibly as much as twelve years seems to have disrupted such plans. From inscriptional evidence on the KV55 shrine on the other hand, it seems likely that Tiye was buried at Amarna by her son Akhenaten. In the case of Akhenaten it seems almost certain that he was originally buried in the tomb he prepared for himself in the Amarna royal wadi. Although it is unclear whether or not the original blocking of the tomb was stamped with Tutankhamun's seal, the several small seal impressions carrying his prenomen are most likely related to the reburial(s) in KV55 since he was probably not involved in the original burial preparations of either Tiye (who died several years before Tutankhamun came to the throne) or Akhenaten (who presumably was buried by his co-regent and probable immediate successor Smenkhkare).
One scenario, suggested by Nicholas Reeves, is as follows: Akhenaten and his mother, Queen Tiye, were originally entombed at Akhenaten's new capital Akhetaten (modern Amarna) but their mummies were moved to KV55 following the total abandonment of Akhetaten during the reign of Tutankhamun, who was Akhenaten's son. The door to KV55 was sealed with Tutankhamun's name. There the mummies remained for about 200 years, until the tomb was rediscovered by workmen excavating the tomb of Ramesses IX nearby. By this time, Akhenaten was reviled as the "heretic king"; consequently, Queen Tiye's sarcophagus was hastily removed from his defiling presence, except for its surrounding gilded wooden shrine which would have had to be dismantled for removal. Akhenaten's likeness was chiseled off the shrine's carved relief. Moreover, the gold face mask was ripped from Akhenaten's sarcophagus and his identifying cartouche was removed from its hieroglyphic inscription, thus consigning its occupant to oblivion. As a final insult, a large rock was thrown at the coffin. However, a finely made vulture pectoral—a symbol of royalty in Ancient Egypt—was still found placed around this mummy's head.
Later use of KV55
- Hawass, Zahi et al. "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family" The Journal of the American Medical Association (2010) p.644
- Strouhal, E. "Biological age of skeletonized mummy from Tomb KV 55 at Thebes" in Anthropologie: International Journal of the Science of Man Vol 48 Issue 2 (2010), pp 97–112. Dr. Strouhal examined KV55 in 1998, but the results were apparently delayed and perhaps eclipsed by Filer's examination in 2000. Strouhal's findings were published in 2010 to dispute the Hawass et al conclusions.
- "News from the Valley of the Kings: DNA Shows that KV55 Mummy Probably Not Akhenaten". Kv64.info. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- Nature 472, 404–406 (2011); Published online 27 April 2011; Original link
- NewScientist.com; January 2011; Royal Rumpus over King Tutankhamun's Ancestry
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- Bickerstaffe, D. The King is dead. How Long Lived the King? in Kmt vol 22, n 2, Summer 2010.
- Duhig, Corinne. "The remains of Pharaoh Akhenaten are not yet identified: comments on 'Biological age of the skeletonised mummy from Tomb KV55 at Thebes (Egypt)' by Eugen Strouhal" in Anthropologie: International Journal of the Science of Man, Vol 48 Issue 2 (2010) pp 113–115. (subscription) "It is essential that, whether the KV55 skeleton is that of Smenkhkare or some previously-unknown prince... the assumption that the KV55 bones are those of Akhenaten be rejected before it becomes "received wisdom".
- Who’s the Real Tut? retrieved Nov 2012
- Davis, T.M., The Tomb of Queen Tiyi, (KMT Communications. 1990), p.v
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- Harrison, R. G. (December 1966). "An Anatomical Examination of the Pharaonic Remains Purported to Be Akhenaten". The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. 52: 113. doi:10.2307/3855823. JSTOR 3855823.
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- Reeves, C.N., The Valley of the Kings (Kegan Paul, 1990) p. 49
- Gabolde, M., Under a Deep Blue Starry Sky p.16
- Reeves, C.N, Akhenaten, Egypt's False Prophet (Thames and Hudson, 2001) p. 84
- Fletcher, Joann, The Search for Nefertiti (William Morrow, 2004) p.180
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- "KV55". Touregypt.net. 6 January 1907. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
2013, Lyla Pinch Brock, "Shooting in KV55; New Light on Early Photography," Papers in Honor of Richard H.Wilkinson, P.P. Creasman, ed., University of Arizona, Arizona, NM, pp. 241–254.
2012 L. Pinch-Brock, "The Pottery from the So-Called 'Tomb of Queen Tiye,' Bulletin de Liaison de La Ceramique Egyptienne 23, Institute Francais d'archeologie orientale, Le Caire, 2012, pp. 195–208.
2000 Lyla Pinch-Brock, "An Unpublished Photograph of KV55," Göttingen Miszellen, no. 175 (2000) pp. 65–69.
1997 L.P. Brock, "The Final Clearance of KV 55," in Ancient Egypt, the Aegean, and the Near East. Studies in Honour of Martha Rhoads Bell, J. Phillips, L. Bell, and B.B. Williams, with J. Hoch and R. Leprohon, (eds), (San Antonio, 1997), vol. I, pp. 121–136.
1996 Lyla Pinch-Brock, "The Theban Flood of 1994 and the Case of KV55," IUBILATE CONLEGAE; Studies in Memory of Abdel Aziz Sadek, Charles Van Sicklen (ed), Part II, Varia Aegyptiaca II, no. 1, (April 1996), pp. 1–16.
1995 Lyla Pinch-Brock, "Theodore Davis and the Rediscovery of KV55," in Valley of the Sun Kings, Richard Wilkinson, Editor, University of Arizona, Tucson, pp. 34–46.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to KV55.|
- Aldred, C. (1988). Akhenaten, King of Egypt. Thames and Hudson.
- Bell, M.R. (1990). "An Armchair Excavation of KV 55". JARCE. 27: 97–137. doi:10.2307/40000077. JSTOR 40000077.
- Davis, T.M. (1990). The Tomb of Queen Tiyi. KMT Communications.
- Filer, Joyce M. (2002). "Anatomy of a Mummy". Archaeology (March/April): 26–29.
- Gabolde, M (2009). "Under a Deep Blue Starry Sky" (PDF). Causing His Name to Live: Studies in Egyptian Epigraphy and History in Memory of William J. Murnane. Brill. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2013.
- Reeves, C.N. (1990). Valley of the Kings. Keegan Paul.
- Reeves, C.N. (2005). Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet. Thames & Hudson.
- Reeves, C.N.; Wilkinson, R.H. (1997). The Complete Valley of the Kings. Thames & Hudson.
- Romer, J. (1981). Valley of the Kings. Henry Holt.
- Rose, Mark (2002). "Who's Buried in Tomb 55". Archaeology (March/April): 22–26.
- Weigall, A.E.P.B. (1912). The Treasury of Ancient Egypt. Rand McNally and Company.