This week we are looking at another mummy found in the Valley of the Queens, who might have been the first person buried in this valley. Her name was Princess Ahmose, daughter of the 17th Dynasty pharaoh Sequenenre Tao!
The name Ahmose means “Child of the Moon” and was a common name in the Late Second Intermediate Period and the early New Kingdom. Today we are talking about Princess Ahmose, the only known daughter of Pharaoh Sequenenre Tao and his sister/wife Sitdjehuti. Ahmose was the half-sister of Pharaoh Kamose, Pharaoh Ahmose I, and Queen Ahmose Nefertari, both of whom she outlived.
During her life she was given the titles of King’s Daughter and King’s Sister, indicating that she lived throughout her brother’s reign. It is estimated that she died during the rule of Thutmose I (who was her great-nephew) in the 18th dynasty when she was in her 40s.
Ahmose’s tomb, QV47, is thought to be the earliest in the Valley of the Queens, which a nearby valley to the Valley of the Kings. This was a fairly simple tomb consisting of one chamber and a burial shaft, which are typical of the tombs in the Valley of the Queens. It is technically located in a subsidiary valley named the Valley of Prince Ahmose.
The tomb was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli during excavations in the valley from 1903 to 1905. The tomb was most likely pillaged in antiquity. The tomb contains some evidence of reuse from the Roman period, as well as evidence of modern flooding and bats.
Although the tomb was looted in antiquity, enough material has been found to support a theory of a rich burial for the princess. The tomb has been cleared multiple times and objects were found every time. First, it was cleared by the Italian mission, which is when the mummy was originally found. Fragments of a wooden sarcophagus, fragments of the Book of the Dead, and leather sandals were also found.
In 1984, the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) re-excavated the tomb and found much more. They found a small cutting of human hair, inscribed shrouds, a wax seal, fragments of dyed leather, decorated wood, a fragment of a female figurine, and a fragment of a mummy. And finally, in October 2008, one more piece of a mummy was found in the tomb.
Supposedly there were almost remains of a canopic chest, though no remains of the jar. The inscription on the shroud and the fragments of the Book of the Dead (S.5051-S.5065) is what helped archaeologists identify the tomb as Ahmose’s and connect her with her father and mother. At the time of the excavation, this was the oldest Book of the Dead that had been found. It was written on linen and there are fragments of 20 different chapters.
Her mummy (S.5050) and the majority of the other burial goods are all located in the Egyptian Museum in Turin because Schiaparelli discovered it. Unfortunately, there is very little information about the mummy. Ahmose probably died in her 40s, possibly from heart disease. She was also a relatively tall person for her advanced age.
This week for Mummy Monday, let’s meet another ancient Egyptian priestess and God’s Wife of Amun, Maatkare Mutemhat.
Maatkare Mutemhat lived during the early Third Intermediate Period in the 21st Dynasty. She was the daughter of the High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem I. He was also the defacto ruled of Southern Egypt from 1070 BCE and proclaimed himself pharaoh in 1054 BCE. Her mother was Duathathor-Henuttawy, a daughter of Ramesses XI, the last ruler of the 20th Dynasty.
Maatkare Mutemhat is the throne name of Queen Hatshepsut. She was depicted as a young girl in the Luxor Temple, along with her sisters Henuttawy (B) and Mutnedjmet. She is also depicted as a high priestess on the façade of the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak and on a statue, which is now in Marseille, France. During her father’s reign as pharaoh, Maatkare received the title of Divine Adoratrice, God’s Wife of Amun. She was first God’s wife to take on the praenomen of Divine Adoratrice, which used to only be for pharaohs. With this title, Maakare was considered the female head of the priesthood of Amun at Karnak, and therefore she had almost the same status as a queen. Her titles from the Khonsu Temple are listed below:
r-p’t(t),w ‘rt hsw’t, hmt-ntr n ‘Imn m ‘Ipt-sw’t, s’t-nsw n kt. f, nbt t’wy
Hereditary princess, great of favors, God’s Wife of Amun in Karnak, king’s bodily daughter, Lady of the Two Lands
hmt-ntrn ‘Imn m ‘Ipt-swt, s’t-nsw n (ht.f), nbt t’wy
God’s Wife of Amun in Karnak, king’s (bodily) daughter, Lady of the Two Lands
Her family was well endowed because of her father. Her brother later became pharaoh, Psusennes I, one sister became queen, and three other brothers held the title of High Priest of Amun in succession. After her death, Maatkare’s position was given to her niece, Henuttawy (D).
Her original burial place is unknown, but it could be presumed that it was somewhere in the Theban necropolis. Her coffin, mummy, and some shabtis were found in the Deir el-Bahri cache (DB320), which I have talked about several times on this blog. Along with several members of the royal family from the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties (see Nodjmet, Sqenenre Tao, and Unknown Man E), many of Maatkare’s family members were also buried here. Her father, Pinedjem I, her mother, Duathathor-Hunuttawy, and her brother, Masaharta. Her other family members were buried in tomb MMA60 in Deir el-Bahri.
Because this was a reburial, there weren’t too many funerary goods that were attributed to Maatkare. At least three shabtis were found inscribed for her. One is in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (US39863), one is at the Pelizaeus Museum in Germany (5485), and another is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (17.194.2405). A funerary papyrus has also been found but was not originally found in the tomb. It was probably stolen by the Abd el-Rassul family, who originally discovered DB320 and then sold many of the objects on the antiquities market. The papyrus is now located in Cairo.
One interesting object that was found in her coffin with the mummy was a small, wrapped package. At first, archaeologists believed that it was the mummy of a small baby, possibly stillborn. This would have been strange because, in her position as God’s Wife of Amun, Maatkare was supposed to be celibate. Finally, when the package was x-rayed, it was revealed to be the mummy of a female hamadryas baboon, either a pet of hers or it was placed there for a ritual purpose.
She was found within two coffins both of which are located in the Cairo Museum (CG 61028; JE 26200). The outer coffin shows signs of minor damage as a gilded right hand is missing and some of the decoration on the forehead has been removed. The three distinct holes indicate that it may have been a golden vulture head flanked by two uraeus serpents. These would have completed the gilded vulture headdress that the coffin was wearing. These symbols were reserved for exceptionally important individuals in her time.
The coffin also depicts a fantastically detailed wig with small braids carved into the wood. The clenched fists that are both on the outer and inner coffin were symbols of masculine power and were normally reserved for the coffins of high-status males. Female coffins typically had outstretched fingers, indicating that this choice was a bold statement of social status.
The inner coffin and coffin board were much less preserved. The hands and faces have been completely removed. These are both elaborately decorated similarly to the outer coffin lid. You can also see that the inside of the bottom of the inner coffin is decorated with a large winged goddess.
The pattern of damage seems to have been done on two separate occasions. The first set of thieves had probably only targeted the inner coffin and the coffin board for petty pilfering. These could have been members of the burial party because if they only damaged the inner coffin and coffin board, they could cover their tracks with the outer coffin lid. Sometime later, someone removed her headpiece and the one gilded hand from the outer coffin. Or these could have fallen off while moving the mummy to DB320.
The mummy of Maatkare Mutemhat (CG 61088) had been disturbed before it was buried in DB320. G. Elliot Smith examined the mummy in June of 1909 and found extensive damage. The shroud of the mummy had been torn from the forehead to the pelvis as well as the right arm wrapping. This was all done in an attempt to find valuables.
Her left forearm was broken, and her hand had been badly damaged, both of them been broken off. You can see below, that on her right hand there were three gold and silver rings on the thumb which were not stolen by thieves. Her body was internally packed with fat, possibly butter, mixed with soda, and molded into the shape of a woman. This included the face.
Maatkare’s face was stuffed to present a life-like appearance. Although we have many examples of these practices, she may have been the earliest example. The wrappings on the face were also painted yellow ochre in an attempt to get a realistic skin tone. She also has two glass eyes that were placed in the wrappings. Her dark hair is still visible around the wrappings. Apparently, her nails had been tied with string to prevent them from falling off.
A leather thong was found around her head that probably held an amulet, which is now missing. X-rays reveal that there is a gold plate covering the embalming incision on her side.
This week I am looking toward the end of Egyptian history at the Ptolemaic Era. Let’s talk about the second Greek Queen of Egypt, Berenice I.
Life Prior to Egypt
Berenice was born in Eordaea, which is an area in Northern Greece, around 340 BCE. She was the daughter of Princess Antigone of Macedon, and a Greek Macedonian nobleman called Magas. Her maternal grandfather was a nobleman called Cassander, who was the brother of Antipater, the regent for Alexander the Great’s empire.
In 325 BCE she married a local nobleman and military officer named Philip. He had been previously married and had other children. They had three children: Magas, future King Magas of Cyrene, Antigone, wife of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, and Theoxena. Magas dedicated an inscription to himself and his father when he served as a priest of Apollo and Pyrrhus named a city after his mother, Berenicis.
Life in Egypt
In 323 BCE, after conquering the Persian empire and almost reaching modern-day India, Alexander the Great died in Babylon. Because of this, Alexander’s empire was split into four main sections. Egypt was then ruled by one of Alexander’s generals Ptolemy, who was later known as Ptolemy I Soter.
Berenice moved to Egypt with her children in 321 BCE as a lady in waiting for the wife of Ptolemy, Eurydice, who was also Berenice’s mother’s first cousin. It is unclear if her husband came with her, but Philip seemingly died around 318 BCE, which would have been after she traveled to Egypt.
Shortly after Berenice’s arrival (and possibly after her husband’s death?), Ptolemy I took her as his concubine and married her in 317 BCE. It must be noted that he was still married to Eurydice, but this was typical. Apparently, because she was not of royal blood, a genealogy was fabricated to make her a half sister of the king.
In 308 BCE, Berenice gave birth to a son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, as well as two daughters Arsinoe II and Philotera. Berenice was crowned Berenice I, Queen of Egypt in 290 BCE.
Interestingly, her son was recognized as his father’s heir in preference to Eurydice’s children and he was made coregent by his father in 285 BCE. Ptolemy II’s second wife was his sister Arsinoe II, as we can see from this gold coin (British Museum, 1964, 1303.3) which marks them “Adelphon,” or Siblings. On the opposite side of these coins, Ptolemy I and Berenice I are marked with “Theon,” meaning Gods.
Although it is not clear, Berenice I most likely died in 277 BCE. After she died, her son and grandson decreed divine honors to her and her son named a port on the Red Sea, Berenice.
This Mummy Monday let’s talk about another mummy found in the Deir el Bahri cache, Unknown Man E. The identity of this mummy is not known, though there are a couple of theories. The most prominent theory is that this mummy is a Prince from the New Kingdom, who may have been involved and tried in a harem conspiracy.
Because we are not entirely sure who this mummy was, I am going to talk about the mummy first and then the theories as to who this mummy may be!
The mummy was buried in a white simple Osiriform coffin (CG 61023) that was completely undecorated or labeled. It lacked any features to help date the coffin or identify the owner. The crossed arms on the coffin were popular in the 19th dynasty and onward, but the simple headdress dates to the earlier 18th dynasty. It was made out of expensive cedar wood, indicating whoever owned it was well off. The coffin and the mummy had seemingly not been rifled through by thieves.
Besides the mummy, two canes were found in the coffin. They were made out of braided reeds. Egyptologist Geoffrey Martin noted that the treasurer of Tutankhamun, a man named Maya, had been depicted in his tomb with two canes. Unfortunately, the canes current location has not been found.
As I mentioned this mummy was found in the Dier el-Bahri cache (DB 320), which we have talked about several times. I’ve already posted about Nodjmet and Seqenrene Tao, who were also found in this cache.
The mummy we are focusing on has been labeled as Unknown Man E (CG 61098). He was about 18 to 24 years old at the time of his death. After the discovery of the cache in 1881, the mummy was transported back to Cairo where it was first unwrapped on June 6, 1886, by Gaston Maspero.
The first thing that everyone notices about the mummy is the internal scream that the face is locked in. This mummy has often been referred to as “The Screaming Mummy.” Unfortunately, this has led a few Egyptologists to assume he died a painful death, but more on that later.
The body was found wrapped in sheepskin, which for the Egyptians was a ritually unclean object. The sheepskin still has some of the original white wool attached. Beneath this were layers of thick linen, dating to the 18th dynasty, and a layer of natron salts which were applied to the final layers of the bandages. This natron had absorbed fat from the body and emitted a strong putrid odor when unwrapped. The bandages that covered that layer were impregnated with an adhesive and could only be removed with a saw, which would have destroyed any inscriptions that were on the bandages (if there were any).
It was originally believed that his hands and feet were found bound, but this could have been misinterpreted. Apparently, the bandages were held in place around the upper wrists and lower legs with knotted lengths of linen. They were tied extremely tightly because they left a definitive imprint on the skin on the upper arms. There is the possibility that the arms and legs were tied down because rigor mortis, or the stiffening of the joints and muscles of a body a few hours after death, had already set in by the time the body was mummified.
Underneath this layer was a coating of natron salt, crushed resin, and lime, which most likely consisted of calcium oxide. This was applied directly to the skin, covered the whole body, and was extremely caustic. After this was removed by Maspero and his team, they found the body of the young man. They noted that the muscles of his abdomen were extremely constricted and that his organs were still inside his body, going against all Egyptian mummification traditions. His penis was still intact but was missing when G.E. Smith examined the mummy a quarter-century later.
Gold earrings were found in his pierced ears. They were in the shape of hollow tubes “tapered at both ends and bent back to form an ellipse.” Like the canes found in the coffin, the earrings’ current location cannot be found.
Check out this image to the right and this video below to see a possible reconstruction of the face of Unknown Man E. The video also features one of his missing earrings!
Theories About the Mummy’s Death
When examining the mummy, Maspero had been convinced that there was foul play.
“All those who saw him first hand thought that [he] looked as though he had been poisoned. The contraction of the abdomen and stomach, the desperate movement with which the head is thrown back, the expression of excruciating pain spread over the face hardly allow for any other explanation.”
Daniel Fouquet, a physician who examined the mummy, was convinced that the mummy had died of poison, stating,
“…the last convulsions of horrid agony can, after thousands of years, still be seen.”
This seems to be based on the constriction of the abdomen. But this may be a reaction to the preservative chemicals that were placed on his skin. That substance would have sucked out all the moisture from his skin, which then would have made his internal organs shrink and thus constrict the skin of the abdomen. But one fact that may support poison is that there was no food found in his stomach which could indicate that he vomited everything up after ingesting the poison.
A chemist named Mathey said this,
“the wretched man must have been deliberately asphyxiated–most likely by being buried alive.”
The buried alive theory seems to have been mostly attributed to the bound hands and feet and the horrible scream on the face. This is a theory that many believed in the early 1800s and 1900s and from what I know, I don’t believe there is evidence of any Egyptian being buried alive.
Some have also posed that he was impaled because his perineum was found badly torn. But this was unlikely because his large intestine was found undamaged, so the anal injury must have been post-mortem.
G.E. Smith dismissed these previous theories, saying,
“a corpse that was dead of any complaint might fall into just such an attitude as this body has assumed.”
It has been assumed that many of the earlier theories of his death were simply based on the mummy’s facial expression. Several other mummies are locked into this silent scream, which can mostly be attributed to rigor mortis, lockjaw, or the mummification method.
Theories About the Mummy’s Identity
There is very little known about who this mummy was in life, but based on the mummification techniques, there are a few theories, though only one (besides the theory of Maya, Tutankhamun’s treasurer), has a named Egyptian attached to it. Although this is one of the first theories, I’m going to talk about it last.
One of the theories is that this mummy was the unnamed Hittite prince that was sent by his father to marry Ankhsenamun, the widow/sister of King Tutankhamun. According to preserved documents, this prince was murdered on the way to Egypt. But why wasn’t he sent back to the Hittites?
One of the more important pieces of evidence for the identity of this mummy lies in the sheepskin laid on top of the body. As I mentioned, sheepskins were seen as ritually unclean by the ancient Egyptians. By why would an Egyptian noble or a Hittite prince buried in Egypt be buried with a sheepskin? Some scholars have looked at a reference is the story of the Tale of Sinuhe. In this story, the pharaoh tries to convince Sinuhe, a former friend and confidant who has been living abroad, to return to Egypt. The king says,
“You shall not die in a foreign land…you shall not be placed in a sheepskin as they make your grave.”
This implies that placing a sheepskin over a body was a non-Egyptian tradition.
This led some scholars to believe that this mummy was an important Egyptian governor or dignitary who had died abroad, possibly in an Egyptian outpost in Palestine. They speculate that maybe he died in the desert while hunting and his body was not found immediately. This would attribute to the rigor mortis that had set in and made it difficult for his body to fit in the coffin. Then his body would have been prepared by non-Egyptian embalmers, which was why the mummification was not consistent with Egyptian traditions. The sheepskin, possibly an Asiatic burial tradition, and the use of the calcium oxide mixture on the skin, which points to a Greek influence, are the two foreign features. The official may have already had the coffin prepared (since he might have been in a location where cedar wood was more accessible), but it had not been painted or inscribed with the vital texts. So they sent the mummy and the body back to Egypt.
The Egyptian officials who received it may have noticed the sheepskin and found it offensive, so they just immediately buried the coffin. Based on the location in the DB cache, the mummy was probably originally buried in the Valley of the Kings or somewhere close by. This location is probably true no matter what the identity of the mummy is.
An Answer to His Identity?
Maspero was the first to propose that this was the mummy of Pentawer, a prince of the 20th dynasty involved in a harem conspiracy that led to the death of his father. Maspero determined that the contorted expression, the organs not being removed, the tightly bound wrappings, the taboo sheepskin, and the undecorated coffin were all done to stop this person from entering the afterlife.
This theory was revived by Egyptologist Bob Brier, who was able to examine the mummy after it hadn’t been seen for almost 100 years. He also concluded that it was most likely the body of Pentawer.
Most importantly, the DNA of Ramesses III (who funnily enough was also buried in the DB 320 cache) and Unknown Man E were compared. They both shared paternal Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a and half of their DNA, which means that they were most likely father and son. Ramesses III had at least seven sons, most of which mummies have been found, so there is a small chance that this mummy could have been another one of his minor sons.
You can check out this article by Zahi Hawass and others which studied the bodies of Ramesses III and Unknown Man E, thus helping connect them.
Pentawer, also known as Pentawere or Pentaweret, was the son of Pharaoh Ramesses III and his secondary wife Tiye (not related to the wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten, also called Tiye). All we know of this prince comes from the documents related to the harem conspiracy.
Interestingly the actual name of the prince is not known; this was just the name that was given to him in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin. This papyrus contains the records of the harem plot that he might have been involved in.
The Judicial Papyrus of Turin is a combination of papyri in the Egyptian Museum in Turin that all describe the trial of those accused on the harem plot to kill Ramesses III. These papyri were separated by a thief to sell them. Luckily when they separated it, they did not damage the text. Papyrus Rollin, Papyrus Varzy, Papyrus Lee, Papyrus Rifaud, and Papyrus Rifaud II are all included in this collection.
According to the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, Pentawer’s mother Tiye may have initiated a harem conspiracy to assassinate the pharaoh and put her son on the throne, even though the next in line to the throne was the son of Tyti. This plot was unfortunately not foiled as Ramesses III was most likely assassinated by having his throat slit on the 15th day of the third month of Shemu in 1155 B.C.E. This was the day of the Beautiful Feast of the Valley, which caused quite a commotion in the palace and harem in Medinet Habu, which was to provide cover for the assassination. Pebekkamen, a court official and one of the main conspirators, received help from a butler named Mastesuria, the cattle overseer Panhayboni, overseer of the harem Panouk, and clerk of the harem Pendua.
It was once thought by Egyptologists that Ramesses III may have survived the attack, but recent CT scans on his mummy reveal a different story. His throat was cut so severely that it severed the trachea, esophagus, and hit his neck bones. This means it was probably immediately fatal. Check out this video about recent CT examinations that helped determine these new clues.
But they were unable to put Pentawer on the throne because there were too many officials still loyal to Ramesses III and his heir Ramesses IV. The new king selected 12 magistrates to investigate and judge the cases across five trials. Accusations were brought up against Tiye, Pentawer, men in charge of the harem, women from the harem, and military and civil officials.
This is a translation from a portion of the Judicial Papyrus,
“Pentawere, to whom had been given that other name. He was brought in because he had been in collusion with Teye, his mother, when she had plotted the matters with the women of the harem concerning the making rebellion against his lord. He was placed before the butlers in order to be examined; they found him guilty; they left him where he was; he took his own life.”
Check out this link to an entire book about the Harem Conspiracy by Susan Redford and check out the article below to read the Judicial Papyrus of Turin.
Pentawer may have been an unfortunate pawn in this conspiracy. And since he was a noble, he may have been given the option of killing himself by poison to be spared the alternative. 28 people were executed, meaning that they burned alive and their ashes were strewn in the streets, which would ruin their chances for the afterlife. Others like Pentawer were given the choice to kill themselves, while others had their ears and noses cut off. The punishment for Queen Tiye is not included.
The likelihood that Unknown Man E was the Prince Pentawer has gained enough traction to be more than likely. But I do appreciate the thorough study of the mummification method which concluded that this was a foreign dignitary mummified abroad. I think a lot of the unique features of the mummification method could be attributed to that, which is why I question why they (mostly the calcium oxide mixture) would be used if this was the body of Pentawer.
After taking about the first confirmed female pharaoh of Egypt, Sobekneferu, I also wanted to mention some earlier women who may have ruled Egypt. So let’s talk about Mereneith from the 1st Dynasty!
Merneith (also known as Meritneith or Meryt-Neith) was a consort or queen during the 1st Dynasty of Egypt. Her name means “Beloved of Neith.” She may have been the daughter of Pharaoh Djer, which would have made her the granddaughter of the first pharaoh of a unified Egypt, Narmer. She was probably married to Pharaoh Djet and mother of Pharaoh Den, as indicated by a clay seal found in the tomb of Den, labeled “King’s Mother, Mereneith.”
She is believed to have ruled after the death of Djet sometime around 2950 B.C.E., although her title is still debated. It is possible that her son Den was two young to rule, so she may have ruled as regent for her son until he was old enough. But is she ruled in her own right, then she may have actually been the first female pharaoh of Egypt, or the second, if an earlier queen Neithhotep ruled in her own right. Her name is not recorded in any ancient king lists.
She is known from only a select number of artifacts, none of which contain any depictions of her. Her name was found on a cylinder seal from the tomb of her son Den. This seal contains all the Horus names of kings from the 1st dynasty. Mereneith is mentioned here with her title, King’s Mother. Some objects were found with her name in the tomb of King Djer in Umm el-Qa’ab.
In an unpresecedneted move, Mereneith may have built two sperate tombs for herself. First we will talk about her confirmed tomb in Abydos and then I will talk about her possible tomb in Saqqara.
Tomb in Abydos
Mereneith’s tomb in Abydos is located in the Umm el-Qa’ab cemetery, particularly in the 1st Dynasty royal cemetery. Her tomb is the strongest evidence that she was a ruler of ancient Egypt, because it is in the middle of the other royal tombs. She is buried in Tomb Y, which is close to the tombs of Djet and Den. Flinders Petrie discovered the tomb in 1900, and he believed that it belonged to a previously unknown male pharaoh. Two stela with her names were found outside this tomb
The tomb is only slightly smaller in scale to the other tombs at 16.5 meters by 14 meters. It was shown to contain a large underground chamber, lined with mud bricks. The actual burial chamber was dug deeper than rooms surrounding it. There were 8 storage rooms that were filled with pottery. This neck of a Levantine jug (UC 17421) which was found is currently at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. A schist bowl was also found labeled as “that which is from Mereneith’s treasury,” which confirms it was an offering from the royal treasury and not her personal property. A solar boat was found in or near her tomb, which would allow her to travel with the sun diety in the afterlife.
The tomb was surrounded by rows of small satellite burials, with at least 40 subsidiary graves for servants. During this period, servants were sacrificed to be buried with their king so that they could assist the ruler in the afterlife. This was significantly less than at her husband and her son’s tombs.
Tomb in Saqqara
Her name has also been found on inscribed stone vessels and seal impressions in a tomb in Saqqara, Mastaba S3503. This has lead some to believe that this is another tomb of Mereneith. It is 41 meters long and 16 meters wide. The exterior was decorated like a place façade, with nine niches on the long sides and three niches on the short sides. There were 23 chambers on the ground floor, with 20 subsidiary tombs arranged around the structure. Some have speculated that this tomb has features of some of the funerary structures of the 3rd dynasty. Behind the palace façade there is the base of a stepped structure.
Below the ground level there was a large burial chamber in the middle of the building with four side chambers. Although it was probably robbed in ancient times, multiple items were still found in their original locations. There was a large sarcophagus in the center, of which only a few wooden planks were found. They did contain the remains of a skeleton, but they could not be determined to be a man or a woman. Bowls and vessels were found in the remains of a chest, some of which were inscribed with the name of Mereneith. North of the sarcophagus, poles were found which were probably intended for a canopy or tent. There was also a cylinder seal found with her name inside a royal serekh. Interestingly, this serekh had an image of the goddess Neith rather than the typical Horus falcon on top of it.
The only evidence that this tomb does not belong to Mereneith is the tomb in Umm el-Qa’ab. While it is extremely unique that a pharaoh of the 1st dynasty would have two tombs, the presence of one tomb shouldn’t be the evidence against another tomb.
The only evidence that this tomb does not belong to Mereneith is the tomb in Umm el-Qa’ab. While it is extremely unique that a pharaoh of the 1st dynasty would have two tombs, the presence of one tomb shouldn’t be the evidence against another tomb.
This week we are going to take a look at a burial from the Old Kingdom! Let’s look at the mother of King Teti, Sesheshet.
Very little is known about Sesheshet, sometimes known as Sesh. We do know that she was the mother of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Her husband’s name is unknown, but it unlikely that he was of royal blood. The last king of the 5th Dynasty, Unas, most likely died without an heir. But one of his daughters, Iput, married Teti, who them succeeded his father-in-law. It has been implied that Sesheshet had a significant role in arranging this marriage and thus enabled her son to gain the throne.
Very little is known about Sesheshet, sometimes known as Sesh. We do know that she was the mother of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Her husband’s name is unknown, but it unlikely that he was of royal blood. The last king of the 5th Dynasty, Unas, most likely died without an heir. But one of his daughters, Iput, married Teti, who them succeeded his father-in-law. It has been implied that Sesheshet had a significant role in arranging this marriage and thus enabled her son to gain the throne.
She is also referred to in the Ebers Papyrus, currently at the University of Leipzig, in Germany. In this papyrus, there was a medical recipe to cure baldness.
“Another remedy to make the hair grow, prepared for Shesh, the mother of his Majesty, The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Teti the justified.”
It is unclear if this recipe was made because the Queen was losing her hair or if the recipe was created at her request. For those curious, the cure for baldness is apparently, the claw of a dog, the hoof of a donkey and some boiled dates, though it is unclear what you were supposed to do with those ingredients!
For several other Egyptian cures for baldness, click here.
According to Manetho, a Late Egyptian priest who wrote about the history of the Egyptian pharaohs, Teti was murdered by his bodyguards in a harem plot, possibly by the usurper and next pharaoh Userkare. Though there is little evidence to back up this story, some have speculated that Sesheshet would have helped her son against the conspirators, but after her death, they defeated Teti.
Again, we know very very little about Sesheshet. But remarkably her tomb and burial have been found.
On November 8th, 2008, the Supreme Council of Antiquties announced that they found Sesheshet’s pyramid in Saqqara. It was a subsidiary pyramid of her son Teti’s complex. The site had been excavated since 2006 and the pyramid was found in September 2008 under 7 meters of sand, a small shrine and mudbrick walls from later periods. The pyramid was not entered until January 2009.
I will note that there is some conflicting data on whose pyramid this was. The Council announced that the pyramid was Sesheshet’s, but there are no inscriptions in the pyramid to prove this to be so. Some other articles mention that there was evidence within the pyramid, but do not elaborate. I believe that Sesheshet is the most likely candidate, as two other pyramids have already been identified as those of Teti’s wives.
The pyramid is now topless (currently 5 meters or 16 feet tall) but was most likely 14 meters or 46 feet tall when complete. It may have actually been Saqqara’s most complete subsidiary pyramid, as many of these were not completed. The base was 22 meters or 72 feet on all sides and the walls sloped at a 51 degree angle. The substructure of the pyramid was 19 meters underground.
Although I could not find a complete consensus from my sources, I believe the pyramid was found next to Teti’s Pyramid and the pyramids of his wives, Iput and Khiut. The other pryamids were found around 100 years ago and in 1994.
The burial chamber was 22 meters long and 4 meters wide and a large granite sarcophagus was found inside. It had no inscriptions and the lid had two pinholes to secure it. The lid may have been around 6 tons (though other sources say the entire sarcophagus was that much). It took five hours for the lid to be lifted by the excavators.
Unfortunately, there was a vertical shaft from the top of the pyramid that was made by tomb robbers, so the excavators were not expecting much. The pyramid was mostly looted, but some treasures lay within the chamber and the sarcophagus.
According to some sources, the following items were found in the tomb: vessels made of alabaster and red clay, tools lacquered in gold, and canopic jars, possibly still holding the organs of the King’s Mother.
Within the sarcophagus were the presumed remains of Sesheshet. Although her body may have been properly mummified when she died, the looters and time had tainted the body. A skull, legs, and pelvis were found, with bits of linen. Looters most likely took off the linen in search for gold or precious stone amulets or jewelry.
Though they were not able to take everything, as gold was found that would have covered the fingers of the deceased. If only I had a picture!
I know this wasn’t the most interesting Mummy Monday, but I wanted to try and move away from the later portion of Egyptian history, when the majority of the preserved mummies date to.
This week’s Women Crush Wednesday is a special one! She is the first woman for whom there is confirmed proof that she reigned as Pharaoh over all of Egypt. Her name is Sobekneferu and she ruled at the end of the 12th dynasty of the Middle Kingdom.
Sometimes her name is written as Neferusobek, instead of Sobekneferu. That is because her name is written with the nefer sign in front of the name of the crocodile god Sobek. In the Egyptian language, even if the name of a god is at the end of a word or phrase, it must always be pronounced first out of respect for the god. Her full name means “The Beauty of Sobek.”
Sobekneferu was the daughter of Amenemhat III. She may have also been the sister of Amenemhat IV, but this claim was from Manetho’s Aegyptiaca, which is not a complete or accurate source. Amenemhat IV was the son and heir of Amenemhat III, and he apparently died without a male heir.
There has been some speculation of how she was related to Amenemhat IV by scholars. Since the majority of her monumental works associate her with Amenemhat III, scholars believe she was only the stepsister of Amenemhat IV. Sobekneferu also never adopted the title of “King’s Sister,” which further supports this theory.
Sobekneferu had an older sister named Neferuptah, who was next in line after their half-brother. Her name was enclosed in a cartouche and she had her own pyramid at Hawara. But she died at an early age, probably before she even rose to the throne. This put Sobekneferu as next in line for the throne.
Sobekneferu probably ruled for about four years, circa 1806 to 1802 B.C.E. As I said before, she is the first confirmed female ruler of ancient Egypt. Some earlier Egyptian women are known to have ruled (for example, Neithotep and Merneith of the 1st dynasty), but there is no definite proof that they ruled in their own right. According to the Turin Canon Papyrus, which is a New Kingdom primary source that lists the rulers of Egypt and their reign lengths, Sobekneferu ruled for 3 years, 10 months, and 24 days.
During her reign, she made additions to the funerary complex of Amenemhat III (her father) at Hawara. Multiple fragments of the mortuary temple are inscribed with her name, including this piece of a column which included the end of the text saying, “…monument to her for her father, forever.”
Another column was found that depicted the serekhs of Amenemhat III and Sobekneferu. A serekh is a Predynastic and Old Kingdom version of a cartouche that depicts a falcon bird. This associated the king with the god Horus. Here, the serekh of Amenemhat III is giving an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life, to Sobekneferu, implying that she was a legitimate ruler through him. It is especially interesting because she is labeled as the female Horus.
Sobekneferu may have also built a sanctuary at Heracleopolis Magna, though she most likely added onto a previous structure of Senusret III.
There is also a Nile graffito at the Nubian fortress of Semna that dates to her reign. It states that the Nile flood, or inundation, rose to a height of 1.83 meters in Year 3 of her reign. And finally, an inscription found in the Eastern Desert records, “Year 4, second month of the Season of the Emergence” of her reign.
Four cylinder seals have been found bearing her name and her royal titulary. They are all located at the British Museum (one being EA 16581). Cylinder seals are small cylinders that are engraved with either inscriptions or figurative scenes. These can be rolled in wet clay to create an impression, such as signing a document. Here her Horus name, Nebty name, Gold Horus name, and nomen are listed with an epithet of Sobek, Lord of Shedyt.
She died without an heir and her death concluded Egypt’s 12th dynasty and the Middle Kingdom.
Only a few of her monuments have been discovered. Many headless statues of her have been preserved.
Three statues of her were found in 1941 in Tell el-Dab’a in the Delta. They were all headless. The first depicts Sobekneferu kneeling, offering something to a god. The second and the third depict her sitting on a throne, though the second was in much better condition. In this statue, her feet are seen crushing nine arches, which represent the nine enemies of Egypt. (Click through the photos to read more about them and their surviving inscriptions.)
This fragmented statue of her is located in the Louvre (E 27135). It is made out of red sandstone and depicts the chest and waist of the Queen. There is a pendant around her neck that looks very similar to pendants carved on statues of Senusret III and Amenemhat III. Her cartouche is carved on her belt, which helps identify this fragment. This statue also shows a mix of male and female characteristics. She wears both a female sheath dress and a male kilt overtop of it. She is also clearly wearing a nemes headdress. This is not to suggest that she was pretending to male, because is always uses female suffixes on her title. This may have just been a way to pacify critics of her rule or as a desire to represent herself as a traditional pharaoh.
One statue of her head is known. It was purchased by the Egyptian Museum Berlin (no 14476) in 1899, but it was lost in WWII (it is unclear if it was stolen, destroyed, or literally lost). It is now only known from photographs and plaster casts. It was 14 cm high and made of greywacke. The face of the woman shows signs of age, which helps date it stylistically to the Late Middle Kingdom.
Recently, it has been concluded by Egyptologist Biri Fay that this head would have fit on a lower part of a royal statue discovered in the Temple of Taharqa in the Nubian fortress in Semna.
This piece is currently located at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (24.742) and is 21.4 cm tall. The chair that Sobekneferu sits on contains a sema -tawy sign. This is a motif of a lotus and a papyrus plant being tied together and it a symbol of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. This sign is typically only used with Egyptian royalty, particularly the pharaoh, so it can be presumed to depict Sobekneferu.
Now, unfortunately, even though Sobekneferu is the first confirmed female ruler, this is all we really know about her. Her reign was short and thus she probably did not have time to build a pyramid or funerary complex, as was typical of Middle Kingdom royalty.
There is some speculation that she may have planned or been buried in a pyramid complex in Mazghuna, south of Dahshur. There are the ruins of two pyramids here, both of which are of similar layout and completely uninscribed. Since the southern complex has been tentatively attributed to Amenemhat IV, the northern pyramid could have belonged to Sobekneferu. A papyrus from Harageh dating to her rule mentions a place called Sekhemneferu, which could have been the name of her pyramid.
The North Mazghuna Pyramid was either built in the late 12th or early 13th dynasty. It was unfinished and no royal inscriptions have been found. It was rediscovered in 1910 by Ernest Mackay and excavated the following year by Flinders Petrie.
The superstructure of the pyramid was never started, but it was most likely intended to be larger than the Southern Mazghuna pyramid. The substructure of the pyramid, otherwise called the hypogeum, is a twisting path, changing direction six times. The entrance is on the north side of the pyramid and has a staircase leading down to a square chamber. This then leads to another staircase and the first quartzite blocking stone. These stones were intended to fend off tomb robbers, but many of these stones were not put into place, probably because construction was abandoned.
After that two other chambers are connected by a passage with another blocking stone. After the third chamber, there is a stairway and an antechamber. This room leads to the burial chamber, which was partially covered by an inverted V-shaped ceiling. The chamber was entirely filled by a huge sarcophagus lid, made out of a 42-ton quartzite slab. This was never fitting into the chamber. There was another room behind the burial chamber, whose function is unknown.
All exposed quartzite had been painted with red paint and sometimes decorated with vertical black stripes. Typically pyramid complexes had a few associated buildings, including a mortuary temple, a causeway, and a valley temple, none of which were found in this case. One portion of the causeway has been discovered, but again construction may have been abandoned early on in the building process.
Though we do not know much about Sobekneferu or her burial, she is still extremely important to our understanding of Egyptian history and the role of ancient Egyptian women!
This week for Women Crush Wednesday, we are going to talk about a Queen of the late Second Intermediate Period. Or maybe two Queens?
Like some of the other women we have talked about, there is a bit of confusion about who Ahhotep was. There have been a few theories over the years, but I’ll only be talking about the most recent theory, though it is not fully accepted by all scholars.
The main confusion lies in two separate coffins that have been found labeling a Queen Ahhotep. One was found in the royal cache in Deir el-Bahri (DB320) while the other was found in a tomb in Dra Abu el-Naga. I’ll talk about those below.
According to Dodson and Hilton (2004), Ahhotep I has been labeled as the wife of Seqenenre Tao II, a king in the late 17th Dynasty, and mother of rulers Kamose and Ahmose I. Then, Ahhotep II would be labeled as the wife of Kamose, the last ruler of the 17th Dynasty. This would make the relationship between the Ahhoteps, mother-in-law, and daughter-in-law, or mother and daughter (as Egyptian royal siblings married each other).
Ahhotep’s name means “Iah is satisfied” or “The moon is satisfied.”
Let’s talk about each Ahhotep’s life from what little information I could gather.
Ahhotep I, wife of Sequenenre Tao II
Ahhotep I was probably the daughter of Senakhtenre Ahmose, the 7th king of the 17th Dynasty, and Tetisheri. This Ahhotep would have lived circa 1560 to 1530 B.C.E. She was titled as the Great Royal Wife and an Associate of the White Crown Bearer. She was probably the sister and wife of Sequenenre Tao II, whose mummy was famously found with wounds to the face. It is believed that he died in battle against the Hyksos. This painting by Winifred M. Brunton from Hutchinson’s History of Nations (1915) is very interesting and shows the hypothetical retrieving of the Pharaoh’s body.
Because of the early death of her husband, it is believed that she became a regent for her son, Ahmose I. She was probably also the mother of Kamose, but it is unclear if she was also regent for him as he inherited the throne from his father and ruled before his brother, Ahmose I. Nonetheless, she was an important figure in the court during this time.
This is mostly recorded in a stela of Ahmose I in Karnak. He describes his mother as one who makes important decisions. She was,
“one who cares for Egypt. She has looked after her (ie. Egypt’s) soldier; she had guarded her; she had brought back her fugitives and collected together her deserters; she has pacified Upper Egypt, and expelled her rebels.”
It is unclear if she actually conducted or organized military engagement in Upper Egypt as this stela states. Ahhotep was probably also the mother to Queen Ahmose Nefertari. Ahmose-Nebetta, Ahmose Henutempet, and Ahmose-Tumerisi.
Interestingly the coffin and inscribed items found in the tomb in Dra Abu el-Naga used an early form of the Iah glyph. Iah is a lunar deity in the ancient Egyptian religion and the word means “Moon.” According to scholars the representation of the hieroglyph changed between years 18 and 22 of Ahmose I. Because these items used the early form of the word, it has been suggested that Ahhotep (at least the one buried in Dra Abu el-Naga) died sometime before year 20 of Ahmose I. In general, this would suggest that she is not the mother of Ahmose I.
Ahhotep II, wife of Kamose
She may be the daughter of Seqenenre Tao II and one of his consorts, possibly Tetisheri. She is thought to be the mother of Queen Ahmose-Sitkamose. It is unclear if she was the sister of Kamose or just his wife.
Kamose apparently died in battle, which allowed his brother Ahmose I to rise to power. Because in this theory, she was the sister/sister-in-law of Ahmose I, it doesn’t exactly support the claims of the king on the stela in Karnak.
There is very little known about the Ahhotep that might have been married to Kamose. This confusion proves to become even more difficult when we compare the two coffins and the tomb of Ahhotep. To continue with this theory of two sperate Ahhoteps, the coffin of Ahhotep I is thought to be the one found in Deir el-Bahri, and the coffin and tomb of Ahhotep II was found in Dra Abu el-Naga.
Coffin found in Cache in Deir el Bahri (DB320)
The coffin (CG 61006) found in DB320 in Deir el-Bahri depicts a Queen with a tripartite wig and a modius, which is a flat-topped cylindrical headdress or crown. The body of the coffin is yellow and covered in a rishi-design, otherwise known as feathers. The titles inscribed on the coffin include sAt-nsw. snt-nsw, Hmt-nsw-wrt, Xnmt-nfr-HDt, mwt-nsw or “King’s Daughter, King’s Sister, King’s Great Wife, Associate of the White Crown Bearer, and King’s Mother.”
If you remember from my discussion of DB320, this was a cache of many different mummies and sarcophagus that were reburied here during the 3rd Intermediate Period. The priests who did this didn’t keep the best records of which mummy was buried in which coffin. So, the mummy of High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem I was found in Ahhotep’s coffin. The original tomb for this coffin is not known, as no mummy of Ahhotep was found in that tomb.
Coffin found in Tomb in Dra Abu el-Naga
This tomb was rediscovered in 1859 by workmen employed by Auguste Mariette, who was the first Director of Egyptian Monuments. This tomb was not well recorded as Marinette was in Cairo at the time. Unfortunately, the coffin was immediately opened by the workers and the local governor, and the mummy was removed and unwrapped to search for jewelry and precious objects. The bandages and the mummy were then unfortunately lost.
The collection of finds were about to be transported to Qena to the Egyptian viceroy. Mariette was furious and technically highjacked the collection before it arrived. Theodule Deveria, an eyewitness, stated,
“… we saw the boat containing the treasures taken from the pharaonic mummy coming towards us. At the end of half an hour, the two boats were alongside each other. After some stormy words, accompanied by rather lively gestures, Mariette promised to one to toss him overboard, to another to roast his brains, to a third to send him to the gallery, and to a fourth to have him hanged. At last, they decided to place the box containing the antiquities on board, against a receipt.”
The coffin is heavily covered in gold leaf. It had a partially destroyed uraeus on the forehead and eyes were set in gold. The titles on this coffin included Hmt-nsw-wrt, Xnmt-nfr-HDt, or “King’s Great Wife and Associate of the White Crown Bearer.” Interestingly, this coffin was too large to have fit inside the coffin found in Deir el-Bahri, which helps support the theory that there are two Ahhoteps.
Contents of the Dra Abu el-Naga Tomb
Besides the coffin and the mummy, several pieces of jewelry and weapons were found within the tomb. Many of the items bore the name of Kamose, but more were inscribed with the name of Ahmose I.
An inscribed ceremonial ax blade was made of copper, gold, electrum, and wood. It was decorated with a Minion style griffin. Some of the scenes on these axes may depict the liberation of Egypt from the Hyksos. There is also an image of a smiting motif, which depicts the king holding the hair of an enemy about to strike him.
Three gold and bronze daggers found were made out of gold, electrum, enamel, and semi-precious stones. The name of epithets and Ahmose are inscribed on both the faces of the gold handle. One of these daggers was inscribed the names and epithets of King Ahmose, “Son of Ra, from his body, Ahmose, like Ra,” and may have been a gift from him.
A model of a boat (JE 4682) made out of gold and silver may be the most unique item found in the tomb. Boat models themselves are not unique, as the Egyptians believed that these were essential to the deceased for their journey in the afterlife. This boat was found on a miniature cart with wheels. It is less detailed than other models, but it is unique in the materials it is made out of, as most of these models were made out of wood. Below is an article about the boat.
Three golden flies attached to a chain were also found and are now in the Luxor Museum. These were awards that were usually given to people who served and acquitted themselves well in the army. These have been dubbed the “Order of the Golden Fly” and appeared in the early New Kingdom. Multiple versions of these necklaces have been found, and Ahhotep’s are the largest and finest. These were supposedly originally found around the neck of the mummy. These flies help support the theory that she was the mother of Ahmose who helped with the unification struggles. Two other smaller flies made out of electrum were also found.
A large wesekh or broad collar (JE 4725A) was also found, though it has been reconstructed today. It is made out of small golden elements representing baboons, quadrupeds, birds, crosses, bells, and geometric motifs. The clasps are in the shape of two hawk or falcon heads.
Similar to the pectorals of Psusennes I that we talked about on Monday, Ahhotep was also found with a pectoral (JE 4683). It is in the shape of a shrine with wavy lines on the bottom representing the primordial waters. King Ahmose I is shown standing on a boat with the gods Ra and Amun while being protected by two falcons. The gods are pouring water on the king, which represents the purification process during a coronation ceremony. Some scholars have speculated that this was made for the coronation of Ahmose I based on the representation.
A scarab pendant on a chain is inscribed with the name of Ahmose. The gold chain is formed out of wire closely plaited together and is very flexible. The ends terminate with the head of a waterfowl and small rings to secure the pieces together. The scarab in the center is made out of solid gold and inlaid with lapis lazuli.
A gold drop in the shape of a fig was apparently also found in the tomb, but I could not fin a modern photo of it. It was apparently inlaid with turquoise or blue paste.
This beaded bracelets (JE 4685) were found containing the names and titles of Ahmose I. They are composed of 30 rows of gold beads and semi-precious stones that alternate in a special design to form triangles and squares. The clasp is made out of two gold sheets that slide within each other to close the bracelet tight.
Hinged armlets (JE 4679) in the form of the vulture goddess Nekhbet were also found but they were not made with the best craftsmanship. They are inlaid with lapis lazuli and carnelian. These bear the name of Ahmose I and show some damage from use.
This last bracelet (JE 4784) is gold with lapis lazuli inlays. It was formed from two semicircles. One half depicts Geb, the god of the earth, wearing a double crown and seated on a throne. His hands rest on a sign of protection on the shoulder and arm of king Ahmose who is kneeling before him. This represents him being crowned and thus recognized as a descendant of divine pharaohs. The other half is engraved with a falcon and jackal-headed figure representing the souls of Pe and Nekhen, the mythical ancestors of the rulers of Egypt before unification.
There is also an armlet in the form of an archer’s bracer. This was originally thought to be a diadem as it was found on the mummy’s head in her hair. But it was probably worn on the upper arm as an armlet. Some scholars speculate that it actually belonged to Ahmose himself, as the diameter is wider than the other bracelets of Ahhotep. The vertical projection of the armlet means that it took the form of an archer’s bracer, protecting the inner wrist from the bowstring as it was released.
The burial collection suggests that this royal woman, closely associated with Ahmose and Kamose, was being commemorated for her military role, possibly her participation in an actual battle.
Though it is still unclear if there was two Queen Ahhoteps or just one, the evidence surrounding both of them indicate that they were powerful women in their own right.
This week we are going to be looking at an intriguing mummy of an older woman named Nodjmet or Nedjmet found in a cache in Deir el-Bahri. She was definitely a high ranking noble lady married to the High Priest of Amun, Herihor, but she could have also been considered royalty!
There is some debate as to if there was only one Queen Nodjmet or two. Some scholars believe that Herihor’s mother may have also been named Nodjmet, and may have been the mummy that we are going to talk about later. This is based on two separate Book of the Dead fragments that were found with the body. She is mentioned as the King’s Mother in both papyri, but never as King’s Wife.
Because of this, some scholars believe that the mummy is of Herihor’s mothers and prefer to call her ‘Nodjmet A,’ and then call the wife of Herihor, ‘Nodjmet B,’ who’s mummy has not been recovered. Unfortunately, there is very little known about the mother of Herihor. She may have been the daughter of Hrere and thus the wife of the High Priest Amenhotep. Read the article below to learn more about this confusion.
The following biography is for the wife of Herihor, who was originally identified as the mummy we’re going to talk about today.
Life of Nodjmet B
She lived in the late 20th to early 21st dynasties in the New Kingdom. She may have been a princess, daughter of the last Ramesside pharaoh, Ramses XI. She was first married to the High Priest of Amun of Thebes, Piankh. He carried the titles of King’s scribe, King’s son of Kush, Overseer of the foreign countries to the South, Overseer of the granaries, and Commander of the archers of the whole of Upper Egypt.
They had at least five children, Heqanefer, Heqamaat, Ankhefenmut, Faienmut (female), and the future High Priest of Amun/Pharaoh Pinedjem I. Interestingly, it appears that Nodjmet was her husband’s most trusted confidant. When he went on a trip to Nubia, it seems that the management of Thebes was under her control. Piankh died around 1070 B.C.E. and his role was replaced by a man named Herihor, who then married Nodjmet.
Herihor is an interesting figure in Egyptian history because he was most likely an Egyptian army official before becoming High Priest of Amun. It is thought that his parents may have been Libyans, but this is not proven. Herihor was also labeled as a vizier under Ramses XI before he seemingly claimed “kingship.”
Though Herihor held the titles of Lord of Two Lands, Son of Ra, Lord of Appearances, and Son of Amun – all of which are typical titles of a pharaoh – he most likely only assumed some royal power after the death of Ramses XI. His kingship was limited to a few relatively restricted areas of Thebes, around the Temple of Amun at Karnak, as Ramses XI’s name was still used on official documents elsewhere.
Because of this, Nodjmet effectively became a queen! Her name was written in a cartouche and she was given the titles of Lady of the Two Lands and King’s Mother. She ended up outliving her second husband as well, and most likely died during the first few years of the next pharaoh, Smendes.
So, let’s talk about the mummy that was found in Deir el-Bahri cache. Even if we don’t know which Nodjmet we’ll be talking about!
Tomb TT320, previously known as DB320, is known as the Royal Cache. It is located in Deir el-Bahri in the Theban Necropolis, opposite the Nile of Thebes/Luxor. This tomb is also above the famous Middle and New Kingdom funerary temples of Mentuhotep II and Hatshepsut. The tomb was originally intended for another High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem II, and his wife Nesikhons.
Sometime during the 21st dynasty, the tombs of the Theban Necropolis needed a “renewing.” These included the tombs of Ramses I, Seti I, and Ramses II, which had already been looted. These royal mummies were moved multiple times to protect them from looters. The mummies were labeled with dockets stating when they were moved and where they were reburied. When the last of the mummies were placed in TT320, it seems that the opening of the tomb was naturally covered with sand and possibly other debris.
Here is a list of those who were buried in the tomb:
Unknown man C
Unknown man E
8 other unidentified mummies; funerary remains of Hatshepsut
The tomb was found around 1881, by the Abd el-Rassul and his family. They may have actually discovered it around 1871, but that is unclear. The family plundered this tomb for years and sold many of the items found on the antiquities market in Luxor. Canopic jars and funerary papyrus from this tomb were showing up on the market as early as 1874. The local authorities interrogated and tortured two brothers until they gave up the location of the tomb. Apparently, they discovered the tomb because one of their goats had fallen down the tomb shaft.
Emile Brugsch and Ahmed Kamal were the first Egyptologists to investigate the tomb. All the contents were removed from the tomb within 48 hours. The quick removal protected the contents of the tomb from possible looters, but the archaeologists did not document anything. The locations of the mummies and other contents were never recorded, and even when Brugsch went back, he was not able to document it reliably by memory.
Many of the items were also damaged before and after removal. Fragments of coffins were found in the tomb by later archaeologists, indicating that they were damaged during the quick emptying of the tomb. But ten of the coffins were missing the footends which were not found in the tomb, indicating that they were damaged before placing in the tomb. Obviously, the only reason the mummies were in this tomb was that their original tombs had already been looted, so the bodies are not in great condition. Some of the heads and limbs had been removed to find precious amulets or jewelry that the deceased wore.
Since the excavation in 1881, the near-vertical shaft was left open, which allowed debris and rocks to fill the hole. The tomb was reinvestigated in 1938 and then later in 1998 by a Russian and German team. This team cleared the passageways and were able to find fragments of coffins and other small items. After clearing debris away from the walls, they were also able to find some paintings on the walls, which helped them conclude that the tomb was originally owned by a family from the 21st Dynasty.
Watch this Youtube video or read these articles to learn more about the royal cache!
The mummy of Nodjmet was nested in two coffins (CG 61024), made of cedar wood with sycamore wood faces. The coffins had been originally fashioned for an unidentified man and had either been usurped from the original owner or were perhaps donated by him. They probably had the original gender markers commonly used on men’s coffins, such as stripped wigs, face masks depicting ears, and clenched hands. If this was the case, the coffin was probably completely reworked as the ears were replaced with disc-shaped earrings and the wigs represent finely braided hair. The hands were removed sometime in antiquity, but the outlines indicate that they were originally gilded and clenched.
On both of the coffins, the gliding has been completely adzed off and the eye inlays have been removed. The outer coffin’s surface has been almost completely removed, indicating that it was probably lavishly decorated with a thick gold foil. This was hacked off with an adze, which is an ancient cutting tool similar to an ax, in a very crude and hurried fashion.
But the inner coffin was handled with greater care. The inscriptions and religious symbols remain intact, indicating that the coffins had been stripped by necropolis officials and priests rather than thieves. They probably didn’t want to completely violate the coffin of one of their royal ancestors, so they left the inscriptions intact.
As I said earlier, two separate Books of the Dead were found with the name of Nodjmet. One of these was taken from the tomb by the El-Rassul brothers and sold on the antiquities market. The two pieces are located in the British Museum.
Papyrus EA 10541 is richly decorated with colorful images of Nodjmet, Herihor, and the gods. I one scene, Nodjmet’s heart is being weighed against Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. While this scene is very popular in the New Kingdom, the symbol of the heart is usually used. In this scene, a small figure of a woman is used, presumably to represent Nodjmet. This is supervised by the god Thoth in the form of the baboon.
Papyrus EA 10490 is split into five sections. It is not nearly as colorful, but it is still in excellent condition featuring multiple depictions of Nodjmet with the gods Osiris and Amun-Re. This is the papyrus where she is mentioned as the daughter of Hrere.
The mummy, currently located at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (CG 61087) was probably found in side room D of the tomb. The mummy was first unwrapped by Gaston Maspero on June 1st, 1886. G.E. Smith continued the unwrapping but only removed the remaining wrapping from areas of the body that were of special relevance to his study of ancient Egyptian embalming practices.
Some reports state that she was between 30 to 35 years old, while others claim she was an older woman. The mummy was in pretty bad shape after being presumably looted in antiquity. There were gashes on her forehead, cheeks, and nose, which were probably caused by thieves cutting the wrappings. Her legs, wrists, and left humerus were all badly broken. Impressions of jewelry were found on her right arm indicating that they had found and stolen some of the objects. But, several pieces were still found including several bracelets composed of tiny carnelian beads carved into the shapes of spheres and lotus buds, lapis lazuli beads, and gold cylinders.
X-rays of her body reveal that there was a heart scarab placed inside her chest, along with the figures of the four sons of Horus. Her viscera were not reinserted within the body like in late 21st Dynasty mummies, so it was probably placed in canopic jars which are now missing. The Osiris shroud that was covering her mummy was also damaged by looters. She was also reportedly found with an Osiris figure and a wooden canopic box.
Her original burial probably occurred around Year 1 of pharaoh Smendes, possibly in the tomb of Inhapi, the location of which is unknown. She was then probably reburied in TT320 after Year 11 of Pharaoh Shoshenq I. Three linen labels or dockets were found over the body. The first was found on the bandages on the sole of her foot and stated “High Priestess of Amon.” The second was found on the bandages on the right side of the body with her name written in a cartouche. The final docket had the date Year 1 of Smedes/Pinudjem I.
This mummy is also one of the first examples of a new mummifying technique. There was no attempt to insert materials under the skin via incisions, as was in the care of the later 21st dynasty mummies. The embalmers applied padding, wax, and other cosmetics directly to the surface of the skin to give the mummy a more lifelike appearance. To fill in her face, her mouth was packed with sawdust and her nose filled with resin. Artificial eyebrows made out of hair were attached to her face with some type of adhesive, probably resin. A wig was added on her head, which conceals a few remaining gray hairs. And finally, artificial eyes were placed within her eye sockets. This is the earliest known use of artificial eyes made of stone.
Even though we aren’t exactly sure which Nodjmet this mummy is, she represents a unique period of time where the power of the pharaohs was declining and mummification practices became more experimental.
For this week’s Women Crush Wednesday we are going to talk about Amenhotep III’s Great Royal Wife, Tiye. She was quite influential during the rule of her husband and her son Akhenaten.
Tiye was born sometimes around 1398 B.C.E. to Yuya and Tjuyu. Her father was a wealthy landowner from the Upper Egyptian town of Akhmin. He served as a priest, superintendent of oxen, and commander of the chariotry. It has been speculated that he may be of foreign origins because his name has various spellings and could be originally non-Egyptian. Her mother Tiuyu was involved in many religious cults as the singer of Hathor and chief entertainers of both Amun and Min. These titles suggest that she may have been part of the royal family in some way, but this is not clear. Tiye also had a brother named Anen, who was the second prophet of Amun. Pharaoh Ay, who was pharaoh after her grandson King Tutankhamun, may have also been her brother as he was also from Akhmin and he inherited most of the titles Yuya held while in the court of Amenhotep III.
Tiye was most likely married to Amenhotep III in the second year of his reign. She could have been either 11 or 12 when she married. Their marriage was a unique case as Egyptian pharaohs usually married their sisters or half-sisters to keep the power in the family. As Amenhotep III was born to a minor wife of Thutmose IV, he may have needed a stronger tie to a royal lineage, which is why some scholars think that Tjuyu may have been of royal blood.
In the 11th year of Amenhotep III’s reign, he released several commemorative scarabs, including one that has been dubbed the marriage scarab. Here he announced that she was elevated to Great Royal Wife, which meant that she technically had a higher rank than Amenhotep III’s mother. On these scarabs, her name is actually written within a cartouche, which was a long oval with one line on the side. These cartouches are usually only reserved for the king’s name. Here is the text on the back of the Marriage Scarab:
“Year 11 The Living Horus Strong Bull Appearing in Truth. He of the Two Goddesses Establishing Laws, Pacifying the Two Lands. The Golden Horus, Great of Valour, Smiting the Asiatics. King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Neb-Maat-Re Son of Re, Amenhotep Ruler of Thebes, given life. The Great Royal Wife Tiye, may she live. The name of her father is Yuya, the name of her mother is Tuya. She is the wife of the mighty king whose southern boundary is as far as Karoy, whose northern is as far as Naharin.”
She and Amenhotep III had several surviving children. Her eldest daughter Sitamun was elevated to the position of Great Royal Wife by her father around the 30th year of his reign. She had her own apartments in the royal city of Malqata, across the hall from her father. She also may have intended to be buried in Amenhotep III’s tomb, but it not clear if she was ever buried there. Another daughter Isis or Iset was also a Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III. Two more daughters are known named Henuttaneb and Nebetah, although the latter may have been renamed Baketaten during her brother’s reign. Baketaten is frequently seen seated next to Tiye in Amarna reliefs so it is not clear if this was a daughter, granddaughter, or someone else. Finally, the “Younger Lady of KV35” who was found with the body of Tiye, has been identified through DNA to be the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and the mother of King Tutankhamun. Presumably, the body is of one of the already known daughters, but as the body was not labeled, we may never know which daughter she was.
Tiye and Amenhotep III had at least two sons. Crown Prince Thutmose was a High Priest of Ptah before he predeceased his father. Their second son was originally known as Amenhotep IV. After his father’s death and when he took the throne, he changed his name to Akhenaten and moved the capital city to a new site in Middle Egypt, which was also called Akhenaten. Tiye and Amenhotep III may have had another son named Smenkhkare, who was the successor of Akhenaten, but this is just one of the many theories about the identity of Smenkhkare.
Famous Monuments and Depictions
Throughout his rule, Amenhotep III built various structures for his Queen Tiye. He devoted several of his shrines to her and also constructed a temple dedicated to her in Segeinga, Nubia. Here she was worshipped as the goddess Hathor Tefnut and she was also displayed as a sphinx. Her temple was the female counterpart to the larger temple of Amenhotep III.
Most importantly, Amenhotep III gifted her a pleasure lake at the city of Djaruka, which supposedly was near Akhmin. Her husband sent out another commemorative scarab detailing the lake. This lake may have been similar to the lake that was built at the royal city of Malqata. Here is a translation of the Pleasure Lake Scarab:
“Year 11 under the majesty of Horus: Strong bull, appearing in truth; two ladies: Who establishes laws and pacifies the two lands; Golden Horus: Great of Strength, smiter of the Asiatics; king of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the two lands, Nebmaatre; son of Re: Amenhotep, ruler of Thebes, given life; and the great royal wife Tiye, may she live. Her father’s name is Yuya; her mother’s name is Tuya. His majesty commanded the making of a lake for the great royal wife Tiye, may she live, in her town Djarukha. Its lengths is 3700 (cubits) and its width is 700 (cubits). (His majesty) celebrated the festival of opening the lake in the third month of inundation, day 16. His majesty was rowed in the royal barge Aten-nefru in it.”
There are a variety of statues of Tiye, but none is as impressive as the colossal statue of Amenhotep III and his wife in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (M610 & JE 33906). It originally stood in Medinet Habu. It is 23 feet or 7 meters tall and depicts the couple and three of their daughters. Interestingly, Tiye is pictured the same size as her husband, which is not typically done in Egyptian art. Usually, women are always portrayed slightly shorter than their husbands. No other Queen has ever figured so prominently in her husband’s lifetime. This emphasizes her role as the king’s divine and early partner.
This blue-green statue of Tiye used to include her husband, but that half has since been lost. It was made out of steatite and embellished with bright green enamel. The lower half of this statue was in the Louvre Museum (N2312) when it was stolen during the revolution of July 1830. It was then mysteriously returned to its place a few months later. Then in 1962, the upper part of this statue turned up on the art market and the Louvre purchased it to piece the two halves together (E25493).
But this bust is by far the most famous image of Queen Tiye. It was found in Medinet el Ghurab, which is an ancient site near the Faiyum Oasis. It is currently located at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin (AM21834 & AM1752). It is thought that this bust was created towards the end of the rule of her husband, as she is shown in advanced age. After her husband’s death, this piece may have been reworked. Using computer scan technology, Egyptologists have discovered that the Queen originally wore a silver headscarf with a gold uraeus. This headscarf was called a Khat headdress and was traditionally worn by the four funerary goddesses, Isis, Nephthys, Selket, and Neith. Then the piece was covered in several layers of linen and decorated with faience beads, a few of which are still preserved.
The crown which was added separately was actually lost within the Berlin Museum. This crown consists of a sun disc, cow horns, and a pair of features. This crown is typically worn by goddesses or deified kings. It seems that Akhenaten raised his mother, while she was still alive, into the realm of a goddess.
This is a list of all of the titles that she held throughout her life:
Hereditary Princess (iryt-p`t)
Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt)
Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt)
Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy)
King’s Wife (hmt-nisw)
Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt),
King’s Wife, his beloved (hmt-nisw meryt.f),
Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw)
Mistress of the Two Lands (hnwt-t3wy)
During her husband’s rule, she was able to wield a lot of power, probably more than a typical Queen. She became her husband’s trusted advisor and confidant. She was especially known for gaining the respect of foreign dignitaries, who were willing to deal directly through her. Tiye was the first Egyptian queen to have her name recorded on official acts.
After Amenhotep III died in either his 38th or 39th regnal year when Tiye was about 48 or 49, their son Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten continued to rule out of Memphis for a few years. Then he decided to move away from Memphis and the religious cult of Re to create a new city in Middle Egypt. This city was called Akhenaten and is currently located in Amarna. His reign triggered a switch from a polytheistic (multiple gods) religion to a monotheistic (one god) religion focusing on the Aten. There is a slight possibility that Tiye had a short co-regency with her son when he came to the throne.
Tiye lived for about 12 years after her husband died, so she was closely involved with her son’s rule in both Memphis and Amarna. She most likely continued to advise her son about foreign relations. A large cache of letters between the Egyptian administration and foreign nations was found in Amarna and several of the letters mentioned Tiye herself. In one letter the king of Mitanni told Tiye directly that he remembered the good relations when her husband ruled and hoped that they will continue to be on friendly terms with her son.
Tiye also had a house in Amarna as well as a steward named Huya. In Huya’s tomb in Amarna, Tiye is depicted at a dinner table with Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and their family and then being escorted by the king to her sunshade. The last time that Tiye is mentioned dates to the 12th year of Akhenaten’s reign. She is depicted with her granddaughter Meketaten.
Where was She Buried?
Tiye may have died around 1338 B.C.E. around the age of 60. There is a theory that she may have died in a widespread epidemic that occurred in Amarna and may have taken the life of her granddaughter Meketaten.
She was most likely originally buried in the royal tomb at Amarna. Because Amarna was only occupied for about 14 years, the tomb was never completed. Two northern plinths of the incomplete pillared hall were removed to accommodate a sarcophagus plinth and pieces of her smashed sarcophagus were found in the burial chamber. There is also a destroyed decoration that may indicate Tiye was buried there. In a depiction that closely resembles the mourning of Meketaten, a figure stands beneath a floral canopy while the royal family grieves. The figure wears a queenly sash but cannot be Nefertiti as she is seen with the mourners, so she could be Tiye.
Akhenaten did have one or a series of golden shrines built for his mother. The shrine is thought to have looked similar to the second and third shrine of King Tutankhamun. It resembled a large box with a lintel, doors, and a cornice along the top. It was entirely gilded and decorated by large scenes of Akhenaten and Tiye making offerings to the Aten, with a focus on the king rather than his mother. I’ve provided the surviving text on the shrine below. In one instance the House of Aten in Akhenaten is mentioned, which seems to imply that the shrine was made for Tiye’s burial in the royal tomb in Amarna.
But, after the death of Akhenaten, his son King Tutankhamun moved the capital back to Thebes, so he removed the burials of his family to the Valley of the Kings. It is unclear if Tiye was buried with her husband in KV/WV22 or with her son Akhenaten in KV55. Her shabtis were found near her husband’s tomb while the surviving pieces of her shrine were found in her son’s tomb.
The Shrine of Queen Tiye found in KV55
i. Door Post, left: Long live the father Heka-Aten, given life forever continually; (and) the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives of Maat, Neferkheperure-Waenre, and the King’s Mother Tiye, may she live forever.
ii. Door Post, right: King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives of Maat, Lord of the Two Lands, Nebmaatre; The King’s Chief Wife, his beloved, King’s mother of Waenre, the Mistress of the Two Lands, [Tiye], may she [live] forever.
iii. Upper traverse, left: Long live the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Nebmaatre; (and) the King’s mother, King’s Chief Wife, Tiye, [may she] live. forever.
iv. Upper traverse, right: Long live the King of Upper and Lower Egypt who lives of Maat, Neferkheperure-Waenre, what he made for the king’s mother, the King’s Chief Wife, Tiye
v. Door leaves: Heka-Aten, given life forever continually; Great living Aten. Lord of jubilees, lord of everything [Aten] encircles, lord of heaven, lord of earth in the House of Aten in Akhet-Aten.
vi. Other Side: Nebmaatre, given life forever; [King of Upper and Lower Egypt] Amenhotep III, long in [his] lifetime; [King’s] mother, Tiye, living forever continually.
vii. Side panel of the Canopy: Akhenaten offers to the Aten, followed by Queen Tiye.
Invocation addressed to Tiye: When the Aten appears in his horizon, his rays lift you up at dawn in order to see him every [day]. May you live on the Ka of the living Aten, may [you] breathe the air with finest incense (?).
viii. Lateral Panels: [Long live Heka-] Aten, given life forever continually; (and) the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who lives of Maat, the Lord of the Two Lands, Neferkheperure-Waenre, the Son of Re, who lives on Maat, Akhenaten, great in his lifetime: what he made for the King’s mother, the King’s Chief Wife, Tiye, may she live. forever.
(Murnane W.J., Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt)
Only the mummy of Akhenaten was found in KV55, so it was still unclear where Tiye was buried. In 1898, the tomb of Amenhotep II, KV35, was found with two large caches of royal mummies. You can see the full list in my blog post about Amenhotep III. Priests during the 21st dynasty took many of the royal mummies from their looted tombs and resealed them in the tomb of Amenhotep II. In one of the side chambers of the tomb, three mummified remains were discovered unwrapped. These were an older woman, a younger woman, and a young boy. As I mentioned before the “Younger Lady” was identified as the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and the mother of Tutankhamun. The young boy may be Webensenu or Prince Thutmose.
The “Elder Lady” was proven by DNA to be of Tiye. She was found to be anywhere from 40-50 years old at her death and 4 ft 9 in (145 cm) tall. She had long brown hair attached to her scalp. Her mummy was unwrapped and had been badly damaged. The whole front of the abdomen and part of the thorax were damaged. Her right arm was extended at her side with her palm on her thigh while her left hand was across her chest and gripping something.
A very unique artifact relating to Queen Tiye was found in the tomb of her grandson Tutankhamun. It was a gilded coffin set with four coffins inscribed with her name. Inside the smallest coffin was a small lock of hair that was presumably Tiye’s. In 1976, a microbe analysis was conducted on the hair sample and the hair on her mummy and it proved to be a near perfect match! This may have been seen as a memento from a beloved grandmother.