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November 2017

Bonaparte-Before-the-Sphinx_2

Mystery of the Sphinx: Was it built to the likeness of the Pharaoh Khafre?

In 1995, NBC televised a prime-time documentary hosted by actor Charlton Heston and directed by Bill Cote, called Mystery of the Sphinx. The program centered on the research and writings of John Anthony West, a (non-academic) Egyptologist, who, along with Dr. Robert Schoch, a professor of Geology at Boston University, made an astounding discovery on the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.

At the time, most Egyptologists believed the Sphinx had been carved in the likeness of a pharaoh named Khafre during his reign around 2500 BC (approximately 4,500 years ago.) This was based on a vague hypothesis from the fragments of a stela (stone marker) found near the front of the massive sculpture.

An antique photo of the Sphinx of Giza, circa 1890. (Photo Zangaki brothers/Public Domain)

Shocking Findings

During his many travels to Egypt, West had uncovered the research of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, a French Egyptologist who believed the Sphinx to be significantly older than what historians described. To support his research, West invited Schoch to analyze the Sphinx from a geological perspective and make an age determination from his findings. West and Schoch would later publish their conclusions which revealed the Sphinx and surrounding enclosure (made of limestone) to be significantly older by many thousands of years. Dr. Schoch’s conservative estimates were in the neighborhood of 9,000 years, which West felt was somewhat inadequate and privately expressed dates to 20,000 years or older.

The news shocked the scientific world, which could not grasp the possibility of an advanced civilization existing before 2600 BC. The documentary Mystery of the Sphinx highlighted the West/Schoch discovery which today has left the scientific community divided.

Bonaparte Before the Sphinx, 1867 (Public Domain)

Face of the Sphinx

One of the interesting aspects of the documentary, and the focus of this article, was the forensic reconstruction of the face of the Sphinx and its ethnicity. Most, if not all Egyptologists agree that the head of the Sphinx represents the Pharaoh Khafre, and over the years have presented sculptures of Khafre they felt were a good likeness. West was suspicious of this claim, and called on Frank Domingo, a New York Police Department forensic expert to reconstruct the face of the Sphinx to confirm or deny Khafre’s likeness.

Domingo Head. Photo composite of Sphinx head, by Frank Domingo, NY Police Department. (Image via author).

Domingo took hundreds of photos from a variety of positions inside and outside the Sphinx enclosure, capturing the subtleties of the face of the Sphinx, the carving technique, and the intent of the artisans who fashioned the sculpture. At the end of his analysis, the face he re-established through careful reconstruction was not the Pharaoh Khafre. Using portions of the head that remained after erosion, and the changes resulting from artillery fire from earlier wars in the area, Domingo revealed the head of the Sphinx was that of an African individual, (Nubian) and the possible likeness of an unknown pharaoh.

The Egyptological community was immediately in uproar and dismissed the conclusions of Domingo, Schoch, and West with a series of character assassinations and accusations. Given the new scientific conclusions, rather than consider the possibilities of an even earlier dynasty, they rejected the data as unsubstantiated and unscientific. But, the story doesn’t end here. One of the important considerations of West’s research was the discovery that the face was not Khafre, but distinctly African.

Racial Diversity in Ancient Egypt

My own research of early pre-classic Maya society (1500 BC – 1500 AD) now reveals evidence of racial diversity on a massive scale, thousands of years before Columbus reached the Americas. Abundant images of people from this time period and for centuries after are found on terracotta figurines, pottery, and in some examples, jewelry. It’s not known how these ethnic groups migrated to Central America, but over the last 50 years, a number of authors have documented a Maya society with people from unmistakably different racial groups. Most prominent of these writers was Professor Alexander von Wuthenau, a scholar who fled Nazi Germany, settled in Mexico and lived there until his death in the early 1970s. A keen observer, his collection of ancient Meso-American artifacts is startling, with examples of people from Asia, Africa, and Europe, and is documented in hundreds of photos in his book, Unexpected Faces in Ancient America. Similar racial types can also be found in Dynastic Egypt.

On a recent trip to Paris, I paid a visit to the Louvre, and the Egyptian Antiquities wing to view the artifacts. The current exhibit opens with a beautifully carved, large, red granite sphinx, which leads you upstairs to a collection of monoliths and sculptures collected by French archaeologists in the late 17th century. As you enter this portion of the museum, you face six small but distinctly carved individuals with sphinx bodies. The title of the exhibit reads (translated from French): Six of the Sphinxes bordering: Leading to the Serapeum of Saqqara.

Entrance sphinxes. Six small, beautifully carved sphinxes greet you as you enter the Egyptian portion of the Louvre. Each has the face of an individual from Asia. (Photo by the author).

Each sphinx is executed in the refined style we’ve come to appreciate from early Dynastic Egyptian artisans, but in these examples, all have distinctly different faces; they’re Asian. According to August Mariette, the French archaeologist who excavated the site in 1850, each sphinx was part of 600 small sculptures which lined a causeway entering the Serapeum. This is the first time I’ve noticed Asian features on the head of an Egyptian sculpture and I can only surmise that ancient Egypt was far more culturally diverse that we understand.

Cultural and Genetic Exchange

In a recent paper on DNA and mitochondrial genome research of early Egyptian populations, the authors conclude that because of its close proximity to Africa, Asia, and Europe, “from the first millennium BCE onwards, Egypt saw a growing number of foreigners living and working within its borders and was subjected to an almost continuous sequence of foreign domination by Libyans, Assyrians, Kushites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks and Brits. The movement of people, goods and ideas throughout Egypt’s long history has given rise to an intricate cultural and genetic exchange and entanglement, involving themes that resonate strongly with contemporary discourse on integration and globalization.”

It appears that geneticists have determined that, for thousands of years, ancient Egypt was a society made up of multi-racial communities, living, working, and interacting with one another as a cohesive group. Why is it so hard for Egyptologists to accept the possibility of an African or even Asian pharaoh from an earlier epoch?

It appears that the ethnically diverse experiment that is the United States of America is not new after all. Racial diversity has been cultivated in different parts of the world for thousands of years.

Source article on ancient-origins, by Cliff Dunning.

References
Verena J. Schuenemann et al, 2017. ‘Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods’, Nature Communications 8, Article number: 15694 (2017), doi:10.1038/ncomms15694 [Online] Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15694
Alexander von Wuthenau, 1975. ‘Unexpected Faces in Ancient America’. Crown Publishers.
Mystery of the Sphinx, 1993 Documentary. Director Bill Cote.

Ahmose-bust

Ahmose I

Ahmose I (Egyptian: Jˁḥ ms(j.w), sometimes written Amosis I, “Amenes” and “Aahmes” and meaning Born of Iah[5]) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty. He was a member of the Theban royal house, the son of pharaoh Seqenenre Tao and brother of the last pharaoh of the Seventeenth dynasty, King Kamose. During the reign of his father or grandfather, Thebes rebelled against the Hyksos, the rulers of Lower Egypt. When he was seven years old his father was killed,[6] and he was about ten when his brother died of unknown causes, after reigning only three years. Ahmose I assumed the throne after the death of his brother,[7] and upon coronation became known as Neb-Pehty-Re (The Lord of Strength is Re). The name Ahmose is a combination of the divine name ‘Ah’ (see Iah) and the combining form ‘-mose’.

Egypt’s 18th Dynasty that established the New Kingdom is, to most people interested in Egypt, a dynasty of stars. It is the dynasty of Tutankhamun who was a fairly minor king, but perhaps the best known of any of the pharaohs. It was also the dynasty of the well known Akhenaten, and of Queen Hatshepsut.

The founder of this Dynasty is less well known to the general public, but unquestionably of major importance to Egyptian history. He was Ahmose I, during who’s reign Egypt was finally and completely liberated from the Hyksos. Various scholars attribute different dates to his reign, but he probably became ruler of Egypt around 1550 BC at the age of 10, and ruled for a period of around 25 years before his death (examination of his well preserved mummy suggest he was about 35 when he died).

Ahmose I (Amosis to the Greeks) was given the birth name Ah-mose (The Moon is Born). His thrown name was Neb-pehty-re (The Lord of Strength is Re). He was probably a boy when he assumed the thrown, having lost his father Seqenenre Taa II and his brother Kahmose within three years of each other. His mother was Queen Ashotep, a powerful woman who was perhaps his co-regent during his early years.

Egyptologists believe that during his very early reign, little was probably accomplished and perhaps the Hyksos may have even gained some ground, recapturing Heliopolis. However, by the end of his first decade in power, we know from an Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Ibana, a naval officer from El-Kab, that he laid siege on Avaris (The tomb of Ahmose Pennekheb, another soldier also records the campaigns). This was a long battle interrupted by the need to put down insurrections in already liberated territories, but appears to have been successful sometime between his 12th and 15th year as ruler. Afterwards, he attacked the southwest Palestinian fortress of Sharuhen in a six year siege that would finally put an end to Hyksos control of Egypt.

Stele of Ahmose I – Egyptian_Museum

Next, he turned his attention to Nubia (Kush) and, while Kamose (his predecessor) may have gained some ground prior to his death, Ahmose I pushed the boundaries south to the Second Cataract. Here, he established a new civil administration at Buhen probably initially headed by a Viceroy named Djehuty.

Apparently, while Ahmose I was in Nubia, former Hyksos allies again attempted a few uprising in the north lead by an arch enemy of Kamose named Teti-en. In this instance, Ahmose I’s mother, Ahhotpe, was probably responsible for putting down the rebellion and for this she was awarded the gold flies, an award for valor that was found on her mummy in her intact tomb at Thebes.

After Ahmose I’s campaigns in Nubia, he once again returned to Palestine during his 22nd year in power and may have fought his way as for as the Euphrates, according to information on a stela of Tuthmosis I.

Ahmose I married his sister, Ahmose-Nefertiri, who became Egypt’s first great God’s Wife of Amun, and had a number of children including:

  • Merytamun – eldest daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Tair – daughter of Kasmut
  • Satamun – 2nd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Sapair – eldest son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Saamen – 2nd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Aahotep – 3rd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (Queen)
  • Amenhotep I – 3rd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (King)
  • Satkames – 4th daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died aged 30)
  • Henttameh- daughter of Thenthapi
  • Ahmose – daughter

We also know from Ahmose, son of Ibana that he supported his reign and rewarded local princes who had supported the Theban cause during the Second Intermediate Period by gifts of land (as recorded in Ahmose, son of Ibana’s tomb at el-Kab). We also know that he initiated some temple building projects, notably at Abydos. However, though we know he reopened the Tura limestone quarries, little survives of his construction apart form a few additions to the temples of Amun and Montu at Karnak. However, a recent Dutch-Egyptian team of archaeologists believe they may have unearthed the remains of Ahmose’s palace in the Al-Dabaa area in the Sharqiya Governorate of Egypt, a location that was probably the ancient Hyksos capital.

He was buried in the Dra Abu el-Naga area, but his tomb has yet to be found. His actual mummy was found in the Deir el-Bahari cache. He did have a cenotaph at South Abydos, consisting of a cliff temple and a pyramid and temple on the edge of the Nile valley. The pyramid which measures about 70 meters square is the last known royal example built in Egypt. Some battle scene decorations within the pyramid may have depicted his wars with the Hyksos. In these scenes are some of the earliest representation of horses in Egypt.

Meretites-and-Kahai

A Priestess and a Singer Locked in a Lasting Egyptian Love Story

A beautiful love story bloomed around a tomb painting found in Saqqara, Egypt. The image shows an ancient Egyptian couple in a tender scene. While sweet, this type of image isn’t a common one – so researchers may be as interested in the painting and story as romantics are.

The intriguing painting graces the wall of a 4,400-year-old tomb belonging to a couple, their children, and possibly even their grandchildren. A priestess named Meretites and her husband, a singer named Kahai who performed at the pharaoh’s palace, are the primary owners of the tomb, and are the couple depicted in the painting.

Miral Lashien, a researcher at Macquarie University, suggested the beautiful nature of the tomb can be attributed to the social status the couple held in the Pyramid Age.

Saqqara, chapel of Kahai and his family, 5th Dynasty, around 2420 BC – 2389 BC. (Image Source: pinterest http://www.ancient-origins.net/)

In fact, colorful scenes of people singing and playing musical instruments, such as harps and flutes, are splashed across the wall of the duos tomb. However, the scene that draws in the viewer the most is undoubtedly the portrayal of the priestess and singer lovingly gazing into each other’s eyes while Meretites places her right hand over Kahai’s right shoulder.

This type of image would be considered a tame or gentle depiction of a couple in the Western world today, but in ancient Egypt it was not normal – not even for a married couple. There are actually few examples of a face-to-face embrace from the Old Kingdom period (2649 – 2150 BC), the time period when Meretites and Kahai lived and pyramid building thrived. As Lashien reflected, “I think that this indicates very special closeness.”

Although a full-color image of the tomb painting didn’t appear in the media until 2013, the tomb itself was found in 1966 and the couple’s moment was portrayed in low quality black-and-white in a book in 1971. The more striking representation of the ancient Egyptian couple made global headlines thanks to the work of scientists at Macquarie University’s Australian Center for Egyptology.

Lashien explained that making higher quality color images of the tomb available was a necessary action, “This tomb is one of the most colorful examples of Old Kingdom art and certainly deserves a full-color publication.”

Apart from the eye-catching murals, the tomb also has five “false doors” with images of the deceased. The ancient Egyptians believed that these were a conduit between the world of the living and that of the dead. Furthermore, the living loved ones would place food in front of these ‘doors’ as offerings for the dead.

By April Holloway
Source: Ancient Origins (ancient-origins.net)

great-pyramids-giza

Archaeologists discover a mysterious void inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Archaeologists have uncovered a mysterious enclosure hidden deep inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The massive cavity stretches for at least 30 metres and lies above the grand gallery, an impressive ascending corridor that connects the Queen’s chamber to the King’s in the heart of the historic monument. It is the first major structure found in the pyramid since the 19th century.

It is unclear whether the void is a chamber or a corridor, or whether it played any more than a structural role in the pyramid’s construction – such as relieving weight on the grand gallery below. But measurements show that it has similar dimensions to the grand gallery, which is nearly 50 metres long, eight metres high and more than a metre wide.

Inside the great pyramid

Scientists discovered the void using sensors that detect particles known as muons, which rain down on Earth when cosmic rays slam into atoms in the upper atmosphere. The muons travel at close to the speed of light and behave much like x-rays when they meet objects. Armed with suitable equipment, researchers can used them to reveal the rough internal structure of pyramids and other ancient monuments.

“We know that this big void has the same characteristics as the grand gallery,” said Mehdi Tayoubi at the HIP Institute in Paris, a non-profit organisation that draws on new technology to study and preserve cultural heritage. “It’s really impressive.”

NG STAFF. SOURCE: MORISHIMA, K. ET AL. DISCOVERY OF A BIG VOID IN KHUFU’S PYRAMID BY OBSERVATION OF COSMIC-RAY MUONS. NATURE – Image Source: National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com

Also known as Khufu’s Pyramid, or the Pyramid of Cheops, the Great Pyramid was built in the 4th dynasty by the pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BC. The monument rises 140 metres above the Giza Plateau and has three chambers known from previous explorations: a subterranean one at the base of the pyramid, the Queen’s chamber at the centre, and the King’s chamber above. While a granite sarcophagus sits in the King’s chamber, King Khufu’s mummy is missing, and his queens were buried elsewhere. Whatever riches were once in the chambers were looted long ago.

Egyptologists have scores of theories about how the pyramid was built, but there are no reliable accounts of its construction. Herodotus wrote of stones being drawn from quarries near and far, with some being shipped down the Nile on boats. The mammoth construction project occupied the lives of a hundred thousand men, fuelled in part by radishes, onions and leeks, he noted.

To pinpoint the cavity, scientists from Nagoya University in Japan, and KEK, the country’s high energy physics lab, installed muon-detecting photographic plates and electronic muon detectors around the Queen’s chamber. At the same time, researchers from CEA, France’s energy research organisation, trained “muon telescopes” on the pyramid from the outside. All three techniques can tell from which direction incoming muons arrive.

When the teams compared their results, all had found a muon hotspot in the same place, indicating the presence of a large cavity in the pyramid. While most of the monument is made of stone that absorbs muons, chambers and cavities let the particles pass through.

Muon analysis allows scientists to look deep inside ancient monuments without drilling holes or causing other damage to the precious structures. But the technique produces low resolution images, making it impossible for the researchers to tell if the newly-found void runs horizontally or parallel to the grand gallery. Nor can they be sure it is a single enclosure rather than a series of smaller cavities close together, they report in Nature.

“What we are sure about is that this big void is there, that it is impressive, and was not expected by any kind of theory,” said Tayoubi. To shed more light on the purpose of the cavity, Tayoubi called on specialists in ancient Egyptian architecture to come forward with ideas of what it may be so they can be modelled and checked against the team’s data. The cavity may have relieved weight on the roof of the underlying grand gallery, or be a hitherto unknown corridor in the pyramid. The team has no plans to drill into the cavity to explore inside, but they are developing a tiny flying robot that might one day be sent in, if the Egyptian authorities approve.

“It’s a tribute to humankind,” said Tayoubi of the pyramid. “It asks a question about what is our future. If they have been able to do this with the means they had 4,000 or 5,000 years ago and they left this heritage today, what will our own society leave for future generations?”

Peter Der Manuelian, professor of Egyptology and director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, said the discovery was “potentially a major contribution to our knowledge about the Great Pyramid.”

“I’m sure there are imperfections and perhaps small voids or cavities in several locations in the pyramid. What makes this one so interesting is the size, seeming to rival the grand gallery itself in scale,” he said.

“The muons can’t tell us about chambers, form, size, or any possible objects, so it’s far too early to speculate. I know most people want to know about hidden chambers, grave goods, and the missing mummy of King Khufu. None of that is on the table at this point. But the fact that this void is so large warrants further non-invasive exploration,” he added.

In 2011, Rob Richardson, a researcher at the University of Leeds, sent a small snake-like robot into one of the tunnels of the Great Pyramid and took pictures of hieroglyphs that had not been seen for 4,500 years. “I think people assume that all these mysteries of what’s in our world are known but there are still places like the pyramids where we simply don’t know,” he said. “The pyramids have been there for thousands of years and we still don’t know exactly why they are there, what they were used for, or how they were built.”

Source: theguardian.

smenkhare-3

Smenkhkare

Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare Djeser Kheperu (sometimes spelled Smenkhare, Smenkare or Smenkhkara) was a short-lived pharaoh in the late 18th dynasty. His names translate as ‘Living are the Forms of Re’ and ‘Vigorous is the Soul of Re – Holy of Forms’. His reign was during the Amarna Period, a time when Akhenaten sought to impose new religious views. He is to be distinguished from his immediate predecessor, the female ruler Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten (usually identified as Nefertiti). Unlike Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare did not use epithets in his royal name or cartouche.

King Smenkhare

Very little is known of Smenkhkare for certain because later kings, beginning with Horemheb, sought to erase the entire Amarna Period from history.

Smenkhkare was known as far back as 1845 from the tomb of Meryre II. There he and Meritaten, bearing the title Great Royal Wife, are shown rewarding the tomb’s owner. The names of the king have since been cut out but had been recorded by Lepsius circa 1850.

Later, a different set of names emerged using the same throne name: “Ankhkheperure mery Neferkheperure [Akhenaten] Neferneferuaten mery Wa en Re [Akhenaten]”. This led to a great deal of confusion since throne names tended to be unique. For the better part of a century, the repetition of throne names was taken to mean that Smenkhare changed his name to Neferneferuaten at some point, probably upon the start of his sole reign. Indeed, Petrie makes exactly that distinction in his excavation notes of 1894.

Smenkhkare King

Akhenaten’s nominal successor was Smenkhkare, probably a younger brother of the king, but it appears that they may have died within months of each other. Smenkhkare’s two-year reign was in reality a coregency during the last years of Akhenaten’s life. A graffito in the tomb of Pairi at Thebes (TT 139) records a third regnal year, and there are indications that Smenkhkare was preparing the ground for a return to the old orthodoxy and had left Akhetaten. He was married to Merytaten, the senior heiress of the royal blood line, but she seems to have predeceased him. Her sister Ankhesenpaaten thus became the senior survivor of the six daughters – having herself borne a small daughter by Akhenaten, named after her – and was married to the young Tutankhaten, the heir apparent (who was later to change his name to Tutankhamun).

Mysteries of Smenkhkare

The scenes in the tombs of Meryre II and Huya (located in the Amarna Northern tombs necropolis) depicting the “reception of foreign tribute” are the last clear view of the Amarna period. The events depicted in the tomb of Meryre II are dated to the second month of Akhenaten’s regnal year 12. (In the tomb of Huya they are dated to year 12 of the Aten.)

They show the last appearance of the royal family as a whole (that is: Akhenaten and his chief-queen Nefertiti, together with their six daughters), which scholars have dated to their satisfaction. These scenes are the first dated occurrence of the latter name-forms of the Aten. After this date, the events at Amarna and their chronology become far less clear. It is only with the accession of Tutankhamun, and the restoration early in this king’s reign, that events appear to become clear again.

A scene from the tomb of Meryre II, depicts pharaoh Smenkhkare and his Great Royal Wife Meritaten handing out tribute from the “window of appearances”. The inscription was recorded upon discovery, but has since been lost.

This image is commonly taken to be Smenkhkare and Meritaten, though it may be Tutankhaten and Ankhesenpaaten. Image: wikipedia

It is in this late Amarna period that Akhenaten’s co-regent and probable immediate successor comes to the fore. Akhenaten is generally assumed to have died in the late autumn of his 17th regnal year (after the bottling of wine in that year). Nefertiti disappears from view somewhat earlier (around regnal year 14); the reasons for this are unclear and under scholarly debate (see below). Around the same time a new co-regent is first attested.

Another Historical Context

Many of the questions surrounding Akhenaten’s co-regent and successor revolve around the names attested for this individual (or individuals). Two closely similar, yet distinct sets of names, appear in the records available for the late Amarna period. These are:

  • Ankhkheprure+epithet Neferneferuaten+epithet (sometimes transliterated as Nefernefruaten)
  • Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu

Both these sets are written in two cartouches. The epithets in the former name-set are “desired of Neferkheprure/Waenre” (i.e. Akhenaten). The first set of names also sometimes appears in feminine form as “Ankhetkheprure Neferneferuaten” and sometimes the epithet for the nomen is then replaced by “beneficial to her husband”. The former set of names appears to be earlier, and the association of these names with Akhenaten seems more substantial than is the case for the latter set. Both names are associated with Meritaten as great royal wife.

Both sets of names are only poorly attested. To date, no objects other than a wine jar label and six royal seals bearing the names of Ankhkheprure Smenkhkare Djeserkheperu are known. Only one named-depiction of Smenkhkare along with Meritaten (in the tomb of Meryre II) is known. Some objects with the names of Ankhkheprure Neferneferuaten were reused in the burial of Tutankhamun (see below), and the female variant of these names appears on faience-ring bezels.

Because of the presence of the feminine Ankhetkheperure Neferneferuaten, scholars have generally dropped the old view that there was only one, male individual involved. The theory used to suggest he first acted as Akhenaten’s co-regent under the name Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten and, after the death of Akhenaten, succeeded him under the name Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare.

Several theories have been proposed to accommodate a woman:

  • To some scholars, the shared prenomen, function, and queen indicate that there is only one person associated with these different names. They seek to identify this individual as a female member of the royal family
  • Others, based on the feminine variation of the Neferneferuaten name on the one hand, and the identification of the body in KV55 as that of Smenkhkare (see below), see evidence for two distinct individuals, one female and the other male

It must be noted there is disagreement as to which names belong to each individual.

The mystery of Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings

A great deal of controversy surrounds the question of Smenkhkare’s mummy and burial. In January 1907, Edward Ayrton (working for Theodore Davis) discovered the badly water-damaged contents of an unfinished tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 55). Arguments have raged ever since over the identity of the occupant of the rishi-type coffin, because the cartouches on it had all been hacked out. Initially Davis believed he had found the tomb of Queen Tiy – the damaged body being identified as female – and published it as such.

Subsequently, the body changed sex and was identified as Akhenaten, the previously thought female characteristics of the skeleton being paralleled with those of Akhenaten’s portrayals, especially the pelvic area. More detailed forensic examination, however, now suggests that the body belonged to Smenkhkare, and serological examination (blood grouping) of tissue, as well as close skull measurement comparisons, indicate that the occupant was a brother, or possibly half-brother, of Tutankhamun – the entrance to whose tomb (KV 62) is a mere 15 yards (13.7 m) away across the Valley floor.

At one time, it appears that there were three bodies in the tomb. One of them was that of Queen Tiy, and parts of her great gold overlaid wooden sarcophagus shrine were found there. Her body was probably taken from here round into the West Valley to join her husband, Amenhotep III, in KV 22 (p. 119). Four alabaster canopic jars with finely carved female heads wearing the characteristic court wig of the period were found in the tomb; they show evidence of having been adapted by the addition of a royal uiaeus to the brow which was subsequently broken off. Unfortunately they are uninscribed, but were presumably en suite with the coffin. It has been suggested that the canopic lids are portraits of Kiya, a hitherto obscure junior queen of Akhenaten.

The cartouches on the coffin had all been deliberately hacked out, literally to deny the occupant access to the next world because loss of name was a terrible thing. The texts still in place, however, had feminine endings to the appropriate words, indicating that the coffin had been made for a royal female. This was thought possibly to have been Merytaten, Smenkhkare’s wife, or now, Kiya. The cartouches, it was suggested, had been hacked out because the perpetrators believed that the occupant was the hated Akhenaten (his could have been the third body in the tomb at the time).

It seems that they hoped to remove the bodies of Queen Tiy and Smenkhkare from the contamination of association with the heretic king Akhenaten, but made a mistake and removed Akhenaten’s body instead. On that basis, somewhere in a small undiscovered tomb or cache in or near the Valley of the Kings, Akhenaten’s body may still lie undisturbed. It will be accompanied by whatever of Smenkhkare’s funerary equipment was removed from Tomb 55, and that should include ushabti figures for Smenkhkare because, although examples are known for the rest of the royal family, not even a fragment of one survives bearing his name.

temple-nefertari

Temple of Nefertari

Nefertari, also known as Nefertari Meritmut, was an Egyptian queen and the first of the Great Royal Wives (or principal wives) of Ramesses the Great. Nefertari means ‘beautiful companion’ and Meritmut means ‘Beloved of [the goddess] Mut’. She is one of the best known Egyptian queens, next to Cleopatra, Nefertiti, and Hatshepsut. She was highly educated and able to both read and write hieroglyphs, a very rare skill at the time. She used these skills in her diplomatic work, corresponding with other prominent royals of the time. Her lavishly decorated tomb, QV66, is one of the largest and most spectacular in the Valley of the Queens. Ramesses also constructed a temple for her at Abu Simbel next to his colossal monument there.

Nefertari

Nefertari held many different titles, including: Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt), Lady of Grace (nbt-im3t), Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt), his beloved (hmt-niswt-wrt meryt.f), Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy), Lady of all Lands (hnwt-t3w-nbw), Wife of the Strong Bull (hmt-k3-nxt), god’s Wife (hmt-ntr), Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw). Ramesses II also named her ‘The one for whom the sun shines’.

Outside of Temple of Queen Nefertari

Outside of Temple of Queen Nefertari

Nefertari, or Beautiful Companion, was the first and most beloved of the wives of Ramses 11. Indeed, her form is slim and graceful, and she is extremely fair. Since her magnificent tomb in the Valley of the Queens at Luxor is closed to the general public, we are fortunate that we can see her depicted in her temple at Abu Simbel. It lies to the north of the great temple of Ramses II and is dedicated to Nefertari and to the goddess Hathor.

Temple of Nefertari – Nefertari & goddess Hathor

The terrace (1) leads to the sloping facade that provides the frame for six recesses, three on each side of the central doorway. Within each there are standing figures: four of the king and two of the queen. They appear to be walking forward with spirited strides. Ramses wears an elaborate crown of plumes and horns. On Nefertari’s head are plumes and the sun disc. At their sides are small figures of their children – the princesses beside Nefertari and the princes beside Ramses.

The legend of the love of Ramses for his wife is enumerated along with his titles: ‘Ramses, strong in Maat (Truth), beloved of Amon, made this divine abode for his royal wife, Nefertari, whom he loves’.

Throughout the temple, on pillar and wall, and even in the sanctuary, the names of the royal couple are linked in their shared dedication to the goddess Hathor.

The buttressed sloping projections between the figures on the facade bear hieroglyphic votive inscriptions. At the centre of the broadest, central section is the doorway leading to the Hypostyle Hall (2), a traverse chamber (3) and the sanctuary (4). The thickness of the doorway shows Ramses before Hathor, to the south, and Nefertari before Isis, to the north; Isis makes a gesture as though to crown her.

The Hypostyle Hall (2) has six pillars decorated on the front with sistra-the musical instrument associated with the goddess Hathor and with the heads of Hathor. Behind are representations of Ramses, Nefertari and various deities. The reliefs on the entrance walls (a) and (b) have fine representations of Ramses, accompanied by Nefertari, smiting a Libyan in the presence of Ra-Harakhte, and a Nubian in the presence of Amon-Ra respectively. The side walls have similar offering scenes. At (c) Ramses offers food to Ptah and also stands in front of the ram-headed Harshef. Nefertari makes offerings to Hathor. And Ramses offers wine to Ra-Harakhte. At (d) Ramses stands before Hathor. Ramses is blessed by Horus and Set of Nubt. Nefertari stands before Anukis. And Ramses presents an image of Maat to Amon. On the rear walls are Nefertari and Hathor (to the right) and Nefertari and Mut (to the left). Mut was the wife of Amon-Ra and, like Hathor, a mother figure.

Interior of Temple of Nefertari

The traverse chamber (3) is adjoined by two unfinished chambers, to the right and left. Over the doorways, however, are reliefs of Hathor the sacred cow in a marsh, which are worth noting. In one case, Hathor is being worshipped by Ramses and in the other by Nefertari.

The sanctuary (4) has a recess to the rear, and the roof is supported by sistra. A representation of Hathor in the form of a cow protecting the king (who appears below her head) is a fine relief. On the right-hand wall Nefertari offers incense to Mut and Hathor. On the left the king pours a libation over his own image and also that of his wife.