Name = KV55
Location = East Valley of the Kings
Date = January 6, 1907
Owner = Tiy and Smenkhkare/Akhenaten cache
Excavated = Edward R. Ayrton (1907-1908)
Lyla Pinch Brock (1992-1993)

Tomb KV55 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings was discovered by Edward R. Ayrton on January 6, 1907; Ayrton's sponsor, Theodore M. Davis, published an account of the dig ("The Tomb of Queen Tîyi") in 1910. KV55 is a problematic archaeological site of the 18th Dynasty. It may have been used for several burials, but it is most often attributed as first being a burial site for Queen Tiye, based on the broken wooden shrine dedicated to her. (Tiye was possibly relocated here after the abandonment of Amarna, and then perhaps moved finally to KV35.) The mummy found here may be her son, the Pharaoh Akhenaten, or possibly his successor, Smenkhkare.

The tomb

KV55 is a relatively small royal tomb, its total length only measuring 27.61 meters. [http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_869.html KV 55 Tiye(?) or Akhenaten(?) - The Theban Mapping Project, accessed July 21, 2007] ] It is located immediately adjacent to KV 6, the tomb of Ramesses IX, and across the valley floor from KV7 (the tomb of Ramesses II) and the near-contemporary tomb KV62 (the tomb of Tutankhamun). Leading almost due east, its entranceway is cut into the bedrock of the valley, leading to a set of stairs which in turn lead to a gently sloping corridor and then to a burial chamber. On the south side of the burial chamber is a small antechamber, and red masonry marks within the burial chamber indicate plans for another room, which would have made the tomb's layout roughly similar to that of Tutankhamun's. [Reeves, Nicholas. Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Valley of the Kings. p.121. Thames & Hudson. 1997. (Reprint) ISBN 0-500-05080-5] While the walls of the tomb are plastered, atypically for a royal tomb, they are undecorated. An ostracon found by Lyla Pinch Brock in 1993 has been interpreted as a plan of the tomb, suggesting that its original entrance had been expanded, corroborated by mason's marks found on the walls by the tomb's entranceway.

The site itself was heavily disturbed in antiquity, thus making it difficult to interpret. Though it may have been desecrated in antiquity to defame the memory of Akhenaten, it was also certainly disturbed during the building of nearby KV6 during the 20th Dynasty.

The evidence of the tomb complicates its attribution even further. Its door carried seals bearing Tutankhamun's name, evidently from the time of its occupant's (re-)burial. The canopic jars found in the tomb strongly resemble the features of Akhenaten's minor Queen Kiya; the broken shrine whose panels were strewn around the tomb feature the name and representations of Akhenaten's mother, Queen Tiye. Akhenaten's own name appears on a series of "magical bricks" found in the tomb, and other pieces name Akhenaten's predecessor Amenhotep III and Amenhotep's daughter and wife Sitamun. [Reeves, Nicholas. Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Valley of the Kings. p.120. Thames & Hudson. 1997. (Reprint) ISBN 0-500-05080-5] All of these finds neatly bracket the time of the major figures of the Amarna period, hence the tomb's popular name "The Amarna Cache".

It is thought that the tomb was initially intended as a burial site for a private individual, and then taken over for a royal interment, as was the case for the later tomb of Tutankhamun. [Reeves, Nicholas. Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Valley of the Kings. p.121. Thames & Hudson. 1997. (Reprint) ISBN 0-500-05080-5]

The identification of the mummy found in KV55

However, when the tomb was opened in January, 1907, the only mummy interred within was a male. This mummy was for some time believed to be Akhenaten due to the presence of some funerary items (chiefly Akhenaten's magical bricks and depictions of the worship of Aten in which could still be seen an Akhenaten-like sillouette) as well as the vandalism of the sarcophagus and the representations – Akhenaten was later reviled as a heretic. The cartouches bearing the mummy's name are erased - unlike the ones mentionting Queen Tiye, which means another name was erased -, and the uraeus removed. Additionally, the mummy bears several similarities to that of Tutankhamun-- a cleft palate, a dolichocephalic skull, and slight scoliosis, as well as a wide pelvis. ["Nefertiti and the Lost Dynasty," National Geographic Channel 2007.] The mummy was also a reinterrement and it is known that Akhenaten was transferred from Amarna to the Kings Valley in the reign of his son.

But this attribution is not fully accepted; recent examinationsMark Rose, [http://www.archaeology.org/0009/newsbriefs/coffin.html "Royal Coffin Controversy"] , "Archaeology", September/October 2000 (Vol. 53, No. 5).] estimate that this person died near the age of twenty – too young to be Akhenaten. Thus some suggest that the mummy may instead be Smenkhkare. However, others have estimated the mummy's age at thirty or more, based on its dentition, which would be consistent with its identification as Akhenaten. In any case, KV55 contained absolutely no evidence of Smenkhkare, so identifying the mummy as Smenkhkare is purely conjecture. However, recent research in 2008 has revealed that the mummy's age was indeed around thirty-five or forty, which hevily implies that the mummy is, in fact, king Akhenaten.

One scenario, suggested by Nicholas Reeves, goes as follows: Ahkenaten and his mother, Queen Tiye, were originally entombed at Akhenaten's new capital Akhetaten (modern Amarna) but the mummies were moved to KV55 following the total abandonment of Akhetaten during the reign of Tutankhamen, who was likely Akhenaten's son by his secondary wife, Kiya. The door was sealed with Tutankhamen'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" so 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 of 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. [Reeves, Nicholas. Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet. p.83. Thames & Hudson. 2005. ISBN 0-500-285527]

In 1923, Harry Burton used KV55 as a darkroom to develop his photographs documenting Howard Carter's excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb.

Further reading

* Theodore M. Davis, "The Tomb of Queen Tiyi" (reprinted KMT Communications, 1990)
* John Romer, "Valley of the Kings" (Henry Holt, 1981) pp. 211-219
* Cyril Aldred, "Akhenaten, King of Egypt" (Thames and Hudson, 1988) pp. 195-218
* C. N. Reeves, "Valley of the Kings: The Decline of a Royal Necropolis" (Keegan Paul, 1990) pp. 42-49
* Nicholas Reeves and Richard H. Wilkinson, "The Complete Valley of the Kings" (Thames & Hudson, 1996) pp. 116-121
* Nicholas Reeves, "Akhenaten: Egypt's False Prophet" (Thames & Hudson, 2000)

External links

* [http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_869.html Theban Mapping Project: KV55] – Plans of the tomb and other details.
* [http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/kv55.htm KV55 in the Valley of the Kings] by Mark Andrews


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