The Tomb of Tutankhamun`s Mother?
The Tomb of Tutankhamun's Mother?
An l Sth Dynasty Chamber in the Valley of the Kings
After over eight decodes of quiet, uneventful work in the Vølley of the Kings, almost 'l 00 years after Howard
Corter found the rcmb of the golden boy-pharaoh, 'King Tut', a mojor díscovery wos recently made, ln
2005, on unknown shoft, which turned out to leod to an underground chomber contoining seven coffins
and o variety of pottery ond olaboster vessels, wos found neor the tomb of Tutonkhamun. This is indeed
on omazing find - no one believed that anything more could be dÍscovered in the Vølley of the Kings.
Memphis was working in the tomb of Amenmesse, one of the
explaining it to me, including pictures. But as it did not look very
impressive, just a shaft covered with stones, I did not think it
kings of the 19th Dynasty (around 1200 ac). Normally, Schaden
worth making an announcement at that stage.
The story began when Otto Schaden from the University of
would not have worked outside this tomb, since it is the only
place he had permission to excavate. However, when I became
Secretary Ceneral of the Supreme Council of Antiquities,
initiated site management programmes to protect the
monuments in the Valley. We wanted to make sure that the
area around the tomb of Amenmesse had been cleared down
to bedrock in order to re-route floodwater, and asked Schaden
to carry this out. Thus the discovery of the shaft came about,
as so often, through a mixture of planning and accident.
What is especially remarkable is that this area had been
excavated before. Howard Carter and Theodore Davis (a wealthy
American who sponsored excavations in the Valley of the Kings
in the early 20th century) had found workmen's huts, but
neither had stumbled across the shaft of KV 63. When Schaden
discovered the top of this unrecorded shaft, he wrote a letter
Schaden began excavating the shaft in January 2006. Every
day, he would email me about the progress of the excavation,
step by step, until he was at a depth of 5.24 m (1 7 ft) below the
surface. Finally, lvisited the work and told Schaden that I could
only smile at his discovery, because I still believed that the shaft
was not intact. When the excavators reached a chamber, they
sent another email asking me to the official opening. On Friday,
10 February, I woke at 4.00 a.m. and flew to Luxor. When
arrived in the Valley, I discovered hundreds of film crews and
journalists - an indescribable scene! The atmosphere was full
of mystery and anticipation. I slowly climbed down the ladder
and found myself in front of a niche closed by stone rubble with
no seals. Schaden followed, and we began to remove the stones
until we had opened a small hole. Now came the incredible
moment when I took a flashlight and looked inside. I can still see
The shoft of KV 63, discovered by
orchoeologist Otto Schoden of the
Un¡versity of Memphis, descencls
deep into the bedrock of the Volley
of the Kings. At the bottom wos o
chomber conta¡ning seven coffins
ond 28 large pottery jors.
Tombs, Graves and Mummies
Most of the coffins found in the
tomb chomber were bodly
destroyed by termites ond hod to
be corefully conserved before they
were moved. The foce of the most
beoutiful of the seven is shown
here, representing a womon, her
feotures reflect¡ng the ortistic style
of the period thot includes the
reign of Tutonkhomun
the scene in front of me - a chamber hidden for more than
3,000 years, but soon to be known around the entire world.
So far the excavators have found seven coffins and 28 large
pottery jars (most of them sealed), Of the coffins, five were for
adults, one was for a child and one was for an infant. Most are
in bad shape, as they were covered with resin and have been
eaten away by termites, but we can tell that they were once
very beautiful. The biggest surprise was to find that there were
no mumm¡es inside. lnstead, they were used as containers for
miscellaneous objects - sherds from small and large vessels,
miniature vessels, two alabaster vessels, natron (a salt-like
material used in mummification), the bones of small animals,
linen, small sealings and bits of wood. The youth-sized coffin
held six down pillows, some inscribed with hieroglyphs saying
such things as 'life, health, stability', and an exquisite miniature
coffinette (about 42 cml16.5 in long) of gilded wood. Twelve
of the jars have been opened and their contents examined:
they also contained various objects, including smaller vessels or
fragments, resined bandages, natron, chaff, pieces of twine or
rope, clay'trays' used in embalming, and mud seaì impressions.
Tombs, Craves and Mummies
The style of the coffins and the jars, as well as the seal
impressions, date the tomb to the late 18th Dynasty: specifically,
close to the time of Tutankhamun (about 1 320 ac). There are
many impressions of the official necropolis seal - a jackal over
had been born Tutankhaten, came to the throne, he changed his
name and restored the old faith, bringing Amun-Re back into
favour. KV 63 contains the names of both gods: that of Amun-Re
is found on an alabaster jar and a seal impression, and the Aten's
with embalming, including, most surprisingly, numerous collars,
nine captives; this seal is also found in Tutankhamun's tomb,
on another sealìng. So far, no king's name has been found.
The last coffin was opened in June 2006. lt is inscribed,
although we have notyet been able to read what it says because
of its delicate condition. The face is beautiful, and very much in
the style of the period. Everyone hoped that it might contain a
mummy, but instead it held more fascinating artifacts associated
full of embalming materials, but we all hope at least one of the
The excavators hope that at least one will include a royal name.
Other sealing motifs also have links with Tutankhamun, and the
pots are similar to ones from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuya,
probably Tutankhamun's grandparents. The excavators have
also found a number of inscriptions, most of them fragmentary:
to be inside
with a royal name.
It seems, then, that this tomb was a place where embalming
materials, possibly left over from an important royal funeral,
were stored. One such cache (KV 54), discovered in 1907,
contained materials from Tutankhamun's mummification and
funerary feast. But who was the original tomb cut for? I do not
Dr Schaden's favourite is a label on a wine jar reading 'Year 5,
wine from Tjaru' (a site at the edge of the Eastern Delta). A wlne
jar from Tutankhamun's tomb is also from Year 5, and contains
'wine from the estate of the Aten in Tjaru'. Could these two jars
hold the same vintage?
The period to which this tomb belongs was a fascinating era
of Egyptian history, The man who was probably Tutankhamun's
father, Akhenaten (c. 1 353-1 336 ac), had turned the country's
religion upside down, rejecting the main state gods and instead
worshipping the sun disc, the Aten. After Tutankhamun, who
made of cloth with flowers at the edges, that would have been
placed across the chest of the mummy or worn by mourners at
a funerary feast. Eleven large jars are still sealed; they will also be
The coffins in KV
Dr Schaden, directot of the
excovotions in KV 63, ond Dr
Hawoss exomine one of, the coffins.
wet e piled on top of eoch other.
vorÌety of objects connected with
nLtmmif¡cotion and funerols:
cloth, notron, broken pottery,
and even pillows
However, no mummies were
inside lnsteod, Ihey were full of
View into the burial chamber jusl
after the cliscovery. The coffins
ond storage iars oll sit on a bed
of rubble, ntuch of which hos yet
to be cleared.
think it was for Ankhsenamun, Tutankhamun's wife, or the
beautiful Nefertiti, his stepmother, because both of these
important gueens wouid have had larger, more elaborate tombs.
I like to imagine that it was built for Kiya, a secondary wife of
Akhenaten's, whom many believe was Tutankhamun's mother.
She disappears from the historical record at around the time he
was born, and might even have died in childbirth. I believe that
the Valley of the Kings still hides important secrets. Who knows
what we will find next?
Tombs, Graves and Mummies
Pharaoh's Children: The Tomb
An ¡nscr¡ption in KV 5, Chomber 1,
giving the nome ond titles of o royol son,
Amenherkhepeshef, whose heod oppeors
on the right.
of the Sons of Ramesses ll
in the Valley of the Kings
Kent R. Weeks
Corridor 7, behind Chomber 3, wos
in I 995 and showed thot Kv 5
wos the lorgest tomb in the Volley of the
Kings. (Thß photogroph wos token in
1 997, oftet it hod been portly cleored.)
What begon os o routine excovotion of a rediscovered
tomb in Egypt's Volley of the Kings soon become
something very different, as we learned that it belonged
to severol sons of Romesses ll and uneorthed chomber
ofter chamber. lt Ís already the largest tomb in the Volley
ønd we stÍll haven't reached the end.
A fìgure of the god Osiris corved in high
relief în the reor woll of CorrÌdor 7 (olso
ln 1825, the English adventurer lames Burton visited the Valley
of the Kings and cursorily explored the 20 tombs known there
at the time. He found the entrance of one of these, KV 5 (King's
just visible ¡n the bockground of the
tomb number 5), filled with debris and he hired local
workmen to dig a narrow channel at ceiling level. With effoft,
One of four skeletons from KV 5 (Chomber
2) which we believe ore remoins of sons
he crawled into the tomb's first seven rooms before further
of Romesses ll.
progress was blocked. ln his notes, Burton wrote that the tomb
had an unusual plan, no decoration, no objgcts and no particular
historical interest. lt lay ignored for the next 163 years.
Since 1979 the Theban Mapping Project (TMP) has been
preparing a detailed map of the Valley of the Kings. lt has also
gathered information on the Valley's tombs, especially those
seen previously but which have since become lost. One of these
was KV 5 and, based on Burton's notes, the TMP relocated its
entrance in 1988. At first we were inclined to agree with Burton:
KV 5 was unimportant. But in 1989 we found a wall carved with
hieroglyphs with the name and titles of Amenherkhepeshef, the
first-born son of the great New Kingdom pharaoh Ramesses ll
who reigned in the 'l 3th century oc; a few weeks later,
elsewhere, we found the name of another son, Ramesses.
With these discoveries, KV 5 became a tomb of considerable
interest, and we decided to explore it. Work proceeded slowly,
þut by 1995 we had cleared a pathway through Chamber 3, a
large pillared hall. ln its rear wall we found a blocked doorway.
Clearing away the debris and crawling through, we found
ourselves in a 30-m (1 00-ft) long corridor lined with doorways
that led to still more corridors and rooms. Suddenly, KV 5 had
become the largest tomb ever found in the Valley, with over 67
rooms. Today, 'l 1 years later, KV 5 continues to grow: we have
now found over 128 chambers, and more are sure to come.
Not only is KV 5 much larger than typical royal tombs in
the Valley, but its plan is also completely different. lnstead of a
few corridors cut along a single axis, KV 5's plan radiates off a
pillared hall in many directions and on several different levels.
From inscriptions on the tomb walls and on objects lying on
itsfloor, we now know that Ramesses ll buried at least six,
and perhaps as many as 22, of his numerous sons in KV 5.
Tombs, Graves and Mummles
5 is unique in plan, unique in size and unique in function
family mausoleum. But it is hard to explain why - because
there is so little to compare it with we have to depend on
evidence from KV 5 itself for interpretation. And this means
we must be especially meticulous in its excavation: even tiny
pieces of evidence may offer meaningful clues. Every one of
the 900,000 fragments of pottery we have found in the tomb
has been described and studied; from them we are learning
about the functions of the individual chambers. Every square
centimetre of exposed wall surface has been examined for
traces of inscriptions, and we are now reconstructing the
tomb's complex programme of decoration. Four skeletons
were found tossed by thieves into a pit in the floor of Chamber
2: measurements suggest they are genetically related, and
could be sons of Ramesses ll.
As this meticulous work continues we are learning more
about the reign of one of Egypt's most powerful kings and about
the royal family. Perhaps KV 5 was dug because Ramesses ll
made several of his sons his heirs, elevating them to positions of
great authority and sharing with them some of his regal powers.
When his sons predeceased him (he lived to be nearly 90) they
were buried in a tomb indicative of their exalted position - not
as elaborate as pharaoh's perhaps, but far more impressive than
for most royal children. lt is thus an architectural reflection of a
significant change in the structure of Egyptian kingship.