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Tomb of Akhenaten

place Valley of the Kings
Discovery date January 1907
excavation Edward R. Ayrton
for Theodore M. Davis
The following
Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings
(Eastern Valley)

KV55 (Kings' Valley no. 55) is an ancient Egyptian tomb with number 55 in the Valley of the Kings . Despite the presence of grave objects with inscriptions, the grave could not be clearly assigned to any person for a long time. KV55 was assigned to the great royal wife Teje or Semenchkare , among others . Finds in the grave are named Akhenaten, Tejes and even Amenophis III. A confirmed DNA analysis carried out in 2010 identified the mummy as the son of Amunhotep III and Teje and as the father of Tutankhamun. For some, the identification with Akhenaten is therefore considered certain, others cite the young age of death of the mummy as proof that it cannot be Akhenaten.

KV55 is unfinished and is therefore considered a temporary grave.

Discovery and excavation

KV55 was discovered in January 1907 by Edward R. Ayrton , who was digging for the American lawyer Theodore M. Davis from 1905 to 1908 . The excavations continued until 1908. From 1992 to 1993 Lyla Pinch Brock carried out final examinations and repair work in the grave, had objects that had been left behind secured and then cleaned the grave. The finds in the grave as well as the cartouches , often referred to as "seals", allowed a dating to the 18th dynasty in the reign of Tutankhamun .

Condition of the grave and conservation work

A - Entrance
B - Corridor
J - Burial
Chamber Yes - small side chamber

After the grave was opened, Ayrton and Davis discovered that the grave had been damaged by water ingress in ancient times. Presumably because of this it was not extended and only used for an emergency funeral. In addition, the water that had penetrated over the centuries had attacked all the wood in the grave so severely that a large part of it had largely disintegrated when the grave was opened.

However, the water damage wasn't the only reason the objects were in poor condition after the tomb was opened. The excavation team led by Ayrton and Davis did not proceed carefully, nor were any conservation work undertaken or all finds documented with photographs. The excavation report also turns out to be inaccurate, and even Davis's publication The Tomb of Queen Tiyi is incomplete: finds were not described or listed in a wrong context.


The grave can be reached via a long corridor consisting of the entrance area, a section with stairs and a corridor with a smooth floor. The large chamber, known as the burial chamber, has a size of 32.9 m². The walls of KV55 are smoothed, but not decorated and in some cases provided with markings (so-called graffiti) by the stonemasons. From the large chamber there is a small side chamber, the walls of which are only partially hewn. The total size of the grave is 84.3 m² and has a total volume of 185.25 m³.


Vulture collar

All objects in KV55 date to the reign of Amenhotep III. to Tutankhamun. Except for the canopic jugs, they were scattered around the burial chamber.

The most important finds were:

  • A mummy in a gilded wooden coffin, born in 2010 as the son of Amenhotep III. and Tutankhamun's father was identified.
  • The gilded wooden coffin with inlays , the assignment of which was not certain for years.
  • Four canopic jars made of calcite , the names of Akhenaten and Kiya have.
  • The gilded wooden shrine bearing the names of Amenhotep III. , Queen Teje and Akhenaten carries.
  • Magical bricks with the throne name Akhenaten (Nefer-cheperu-Re-wa-en-Re).
  • A vulture collar made of gold. A comparable piece was found in KV62 , Tutankhamun's tomb.
  • Vessels and lids with the names of Amenhotep III, Teje and their daughter Sitamun .
  • Small clay seals, the Amenhotep III. and name Tutankhamun.
  • A clay seal on which both a property in Sinai and another property of the Princess Sitamun are mentioned.

Other items included a bronze uraeus , coffin rosettes made of gold and bronze, a piece of golden stretcher, figures of the god Bes , amulets and ornamental pearls made of gold, lapis lazuli and carnelian , boxes and furniture fragments, papyrus rolls and various ritual objects.

During her work in 1993, Lyla Pinch Brock found, among other things, an ostracon on which a plan was recorded and which was possibly an original plan or work plan for the grave. Other small finds included a few pieces of gold foil, glass beads of various sizes and fragments of a figurine made of calcite.

The Mummy

Skull discovered by Edward Ayrton and Theodore Davis January 1907 (Cairo Egyptian Museum)
Gilded wooden coffin lid (Egyptian Museum Cairo, JE 39627)
Lid of a canopic jar and canopic ( Metropolitan Museum of Art , MMA.30.8.54)
Canopic jug with lid (Egyptian Museum Cairo, JE 39637A)

By the time the coffin was opened, the mummy was already badly damaged and the little fabric and the linen straps that surrounded it dissolved completely during the investigation by Ayrton and Davis. Only bone remains that have been preserved since their discovery with the inventory number CG61075 in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo are preserved today .

The mummy has been examined several times over the past hundred years, with gender and identity remaining controversial for a long time. Davis thought the mummy was Queen Tiy's. The bones were then sent to Grafton Elliot Smith for examination in 1907 . He in turn wrote to Arthur Weigall that a mistake had probably been made, because in reality it was the bones of a young man. In his opinion it was a fully developed male skeleton and he concluded that the age at death was between 25 and 26 years.

In 1931, the investigation by Douglas E. Derry , who had already examined Tutankhamun's mummy and who estimated the age of the male mummy at around 20 years, followed. Derry gives a first comparison of the skull dimensions of both mummies in Appendix I, Report upon the Examination of Tut-ankh-Amen's Mummy , in the second volume of Howard Carter's publication "The Tomb of Tut-ench-Amun". The list of measurements names Akhenaten and Tutankhamun as compared persons.

A study carried out in 1966 by the anatomists H. G. Harrison and A. Batrawi showed, among other things, that at least some parts of the skeleton are more feminine than masculine, but not to the extent that a female mummy can be assumed overall. Here, too, the skull was again compared with that of Tutankhamun and similarities were repeatedly found, especially in the lower jaw. The mummy was believed to be that of a 20 year old man. Later forensic examinations revealed that the corpse could be related to Tutankhamun due to the blood group and tissue analyzes and the very noticeable correspondence of the skull dimensions. However, a clear determination of the identity was not possible.

An examination, which was carried out in 2007 as part of a large series of examinations using a computer tomograph , confirmed the older examination with regard to skull comparisons and added other similarities: a slight scoliosis , wisdom teeth remaining in the jawbone and a cleft palate . In a ZDF documentary, Zahi Hawass interprets the results as follows: "We can now say - that the mummy from grave 55 according to the new evidence, according to the age of over 25 years and the inscriptions, may be Akhenaten."

In 2010, a group of researchers led by Zahi Hawass published the results of CT and DNA tests, which strongly suggest that the mummy is Akhenaten. According to the results, the deceased is a son of Amenhotep III. and father of Tutankhamun . The determined age of death also matches that of Akhenaten.

The latter result quickly led to disagreement on the part of several experts. They criticized the lack of clear indications of a high age at death, as well as the lack of explanation for the frequently cited indications of a young age. Eugen Strouhal even denied that a degenerative change in the spine could be detected at all, pointing out that the palate of the mummy was not intact enough to diagnose a cleft palate.

Another problem is that the KV55 mummy cannot be the father of the KV21A mummy. She was identified as the possible mother of the stillborn fetuses from Tutankhamun's grave. In this case it would have to be Akhenaten's daughter Ankhesenamun , since no other Queen Tutankhamun is known. Kate Phizackerley pointed out that the DNA of the fetuses excludes the mummy from KV55 as a mutual grandfather, since in this case the mother of the fetuses would not have all of the alleles present.

While many believe that the mummy from KV55 is indeed Tutankhamun's father (Strouhal believes an older brother is more likely), the identification with Akhenaten continues to be very controversial. The opponents of this theory continue to regard him as Semenchkare, about whom little is known that he cannot be excluded as either father or brother of Tutankhamun. There is only a certain consensus that the ancient Egyptians, who destroyed the grave and desecrated the coffin, were convinced that the mummy was Akhenaten.

The gilded coffin

The “anonymous coffin” is made of cypress wood, partly covered with gold foil and has inlays made of cobalt blue, turquoise and transparent glass and reddish calcined clay . Foil and inlays form a feather pattern called "rishi" . This feather pattern can also be found, for example, on Tutankhamun's entrails and the middle coffin.

The cartridges on the coffin were deliberately removed and the face was completely destroyed. Therefore, since its discovery, there has been a controversy about the attribution of the coffin and its owner, so that numerous theories have been put forward about its owner. In 2001 the coffin was examined in detail by the Munich State Museum of Egyptian Art and the result was published by Alfred Grimm and Sylvia Schoske in “The Secret of the Golden Coffin”. This investigation finally added the following to all thirty theories put forward so far since 1907: “The anonymous coffin from KV55 can - at least because of the autopsy findings and all the associated implications - only have been made for Akhenaten himself! [...] The inner coffin, which originally belonged to Akhenaten's burial equipment, but then became obsolete for religious reasons and not used for Akhenaten, was used in KV55 for the anonymous emergency burial of the Semenchkare, who was robbed of his own burial equipment for the burial of Tutankhamun . "

The complete coffin, with a reconstructed coffin pan and restored gold foil and original coffin lid, is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (inventory no. JE39627) and is presented there as "Akhenaten's coffin". The coffin lid, which was splintered several times, was restored after its discovery and has been on display in the Cairo museum since 1915. The remains of the coffin tub were recorded in the museum's register as “missing” in 1931. In the 20th century the gold foils of the coffin basin and wood fragments were exported from Egypt under unexplained circumstances and were later found in a poor state of preservation at a collector outside Egypt. From 1980 to 2002, the parts were then in the Munich State Museum of Egyptian Art , where the coffin tray was reconstructed and the foils restored. The coffin lid was made available by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for the special exhibition "The Secret of the Golden Coffin" from October 2001 to January 2002. In February 2002 Akhenaten's complete coffin was handed over to the Cairo Museum.

During the restoration work in Munich, extensive examinations of the gold fragments of the coffin tub were carried out. They not only provided information about the type of processing, but also conclusions about the materials used. In spite of the different thicknesses of the gold foils, five out of six samples were able to determine “that relatively low-silver, but pure gold had been processed in a way that no primary deposit in Egypt and Nubia has yet been reported.” This gold processing in the form of cementation would be older than previously assumed and documented.

The canopic jars

The four canopic jugs were found in the small side chamber. Like the ones from Tutankhamun's tomb , they are made of calcite . The lids of these intestinal vessels are not provided with the heads of the four sons of Horus , but have human-headed lids corresponding to the time of the 18th dynasty. According to the inscriptions, which are difficult to read, the canopic jars were made for Akhenaten's concubine Kija , but were apparently never used for her burial. They were fashioned and used for the burial in KV55. Three of the canopies are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, two of them in the depot and one in the exhibition, the fourth in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art . As part of the King Tutankhamen Family Project , one of the canopies was also examined in the hope of finding DNA-compatible material.

The gilded wooden shrine

The dismantled gilded wooden shrine could be assigned to Queen Teje based on the inscriptions. It shows a scene with Akhenaten and his mother worshiping the god Aton. However, the figure of the king has been removed except for the outline and the name cartouches ( birth and throne names ). However, the title of the god Aton was preserved. Harold Jones made a drawing of the back wall of the shrine, with the inscriptions reproduced, according to which Akhenaten had the shrine made for his mother.

Both the presence of Teje's wooden shrine and a number of the smaller grave goods led to the conclusion that her mummy must have been in this “emergency grave” for some time. However, her mummy and most of her grave equipment were not found, which indicates that she was reburied. This took place at an unknown point in time after KV35 , the grave of Amenhotep II. A comparison of a hair sample from the so-called "Elderly Lady" (KV35EL) found there with Tutankhamun's mummy revealed a close relationship. As a result of a new examination of this mummy in 2007 using a computer tomograph, Zahi Hawass announced that this was not clear and that further investigations were required. The genetic analysis carried out in 2010 as part of the Tutankhamun Family Project showed that the “Elderly Lady” is not only the daughter of Juja and Tuja , but also the mother of the skeletonized male mummy in the grave. This confirmed the identity of the mummy KV35EL as Queen Tiy.

The fact that Teje's wooden shrine was found in KV55 is probably due to the fact that the workers could not transport him out during the course of the reburial due to his size, as the corridor was filled with rubble and this would have to be removed first. The fragments of the gilded wooden shrine are now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (JE57175).

The magic bricks

Four so-called " magic bricks ", also called magic bricks , were found in the grave. However, these were not aligned with the cardinal points as usual. One of the bricks lay under the wooden bier of the coffin. The spells on the northern and southern bricks call Akhenaten's throne name Nefer-cheperu-Re-wa-en-Re ("With perfect shapes, only one of Re"). The western and eastern bricks have no names and the eastern bricks are only fragments. These two bricks are also provided with hieratic writing. According to Nicholas Reeves , the text on the bricks suggests that both the coffin, jars, and body were those of Akhenaten.

Importance of the grave

For research on the Amarna period , KV55 and the objects found in it have gained in importance in recent years. In addition, due to its content, the “Amarna Tomb” is one of the most controversial tombs in the Valley of the Kings and one of the most written about.

The location, the overall condition and the objects found suggest that this grave was used for an emergency burial and that it was aligned by Tutankhamun due to the clay seal with the cartouche . However, objects were removed from the grave which were then used again for Tutankhamun's own burial in KV62 .

Since its discovery, the grave has been assigned to different owners in the course of numerous research and evaluation work. Because of the shrine of Queen Tiy, Davis held the tomb for hers and published the find in 1910 as "The Tomb of Queen Tiy". Nicholas Reeves sees KV55 as the secondary tombs of Akhenaten and Tejes, who had previously been buried in the royal tomb of Amarna , as indicated by the finds associated with Akhenaten's former capital. Opinions about the owner of the grave are divided. Due to various examinations and age determinations of the mummy, some Egyptologists assume that KV55 is the grave of Semenchkares. Others attribute it to Akhenaten. Although the canopies originally bear the name of Akhenaten's great lover Kija, she has not yet been considered the owner of the grave.

Use of the grave in modern times

Following the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb ( KV62 ) in the Valley of the Kings, tomb KV55 was used as a darkroom for Harry Burton's photographic work during the excavation, as other tombs were used as a laboratory or storage room.

See also


Web links

Commons : KV55  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Christian Jacq : Nefertiti and Akhenaten. A ruling couple in the shine of the sun. Rowohlt, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-499-60758-1 , p. 54.
  2. a b Alfred Grimm, Sylvia Schoske: The secret of the golden coffin: Akhenaten and the end of the Amarna period. Munich 2001, p. 54.
  3. a b Theban Mapping Project, Tomb 55 ( Memento of the original from May 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.thebanmappingproject.com
  4. see Carter no. 256p, The Griffith Institute. Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation. The Howard Carter Archives: Handlist description: Gold hawk collar , accessed December 1, 2015
  5. ^ Roselyn Anne Campbell: Forgotten Sepulchers: The Uninscribed Tombs in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. ( Memento of the original from May 2, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. University of Montana, July 2012, p. 156. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / etd.lib.umt.edu
  6. a b c d e Nicholas Reeves, Richard. H. Wilkinson: The Valley of the Kings. Mysterious realm of the dead of the pharaohs. Augsburg 2000, pp. 120-121.
  7. Howard Carter: The Tomb of Tutankhamun. Volume 2: The Burial Chamber. Bloomsbury, London 2014, ISBN 978-1-4725-7763-4 , p. 113.
  8. ^ Peter A. Clayton: The Pharaohs. Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1994, ISBN 3-8289-0661-3 , p. 126.
  9. ZDF crime scene Egypt: The case of Nefertiti: Akhenaten in the Valley of the Kings - Is the heretic's mummy in grave 55? ( Memento of the original from December 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. On: zdf.de of June 3, 2007. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.zdf.de
  10. ^ Zahi Hawass et al .: Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family. In: The Journal of the American Medical Association. (JAMA) February 17, 2010, Volume 303, No. 7, P. 644, doi: 10.1001 / jama.2010.121 ( full text ).
  11. ^ A b 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.
  12. ^ News from the Valley of the Kings: DNA Shows that KV55 Mummy Probably Not Akhenaten . Kv64.info. March 2, 2010. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  13. Nature 472, 404-406 (2011); Published online April 27, 2011; Original link
  14. NewScientist.com; January 2011; Royal Rumpus over King Tutankhamun's Ancestry
  15. NewScientist.com; January 2011; Royal Rumpus over King Tutankhamun's Ancestry
  16. JAMA 2010; 303 (24): 2471-2475. "King Tutankhamun's Family and Demise"
  17. ^ Bickerstaffe, D. The King is dead. How Long Lived the King? in Kmt vol 22, n 2, Summer 2010.
  18. Duhig, Corinne. "The remains of Pharaoh Akhenaten are not yet identified: comments on 'Biological age of the skeletonized 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 ".
  19. Who's the Real Tut? retrieved Nov 2012
  20. Hawass, Zahi et al. "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family" The Journal of the American Medical Association (2010) p.644
  21. ^ News from the Valley of the Kings: DNA Shows that KV55 Mummy Probably Not Akhenaten . Kv64.info. March 2, 2010. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  22. Strouhal, E. "Biological age of skeletonized mummy from Tomb KV 55 at Thebes" in Anthropology: International Journal of the Science of Man Vol 48 Issue 2 (2010), pp 97-112.
  23. Alfred Grimm, Sylvia Schoske: The secret of the golden coffin. Munich 2001, p. 80.
  24. Alfred Grimm, Sylvia Schoske: The secret of the golden coffin. Munich 2001, p. 85.
  25. Michael E. Habicht : Semenchkare - phantom king (in) of Achet-Aton. epubli, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-8442-8169-9 , p. 37.
  26. ^ Cyril Aldred: Akhenaten. God and Pharaoh of Egypt. Herrsching 1986, p. 223.
  27. Press release Zahi Hawass: CT-scans of Egyptian Mummies from the Valley of the Kings. from July 10, 2007
  28. ^ Zahi Hawass et al .: Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family. In: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) February 17, 2010, Vol. 303, No. 7, pp. 638-647.
  29. ^ Theodore M. Davis, G. Maspero, Grafton Elliot Smith et al .: The tomb of Queen Tîyi. The discovery of the tomb. London 1910, pp. 26-27.
  30. Michael E. Habicht: Semenchkare - phantom king (in) of Achet-Aton. epubli, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-8442-8169-9 , p. 42.
  31. a b Thomas Schneider: Lexicon of the Pharaohs . Munich 1997, p. 261.

Coordinates: 25 ° 44 ′ 25 ″  N , 32 ° 36 ′ 6 ″  E