Mummy Monday: Amenhotep II

Why don’t we talk about another famous royal, whose tomb we have mentioned several times? This week let’s talk about Amenhotep II, the seventh pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.

Life

Amenhotep II was born to Pharaoh Thutmose III and his minor wife Merytre-Hatshepsut. He was born and raised in Memphis, instead of the traditional capital of Thebes. As a prince, he oversaw the deliveries of wood sent to the dockyard of Peru-nufe in Memphis. He was also made a Setem, which is a high priest over Lower Egypt. Amenhotep II left many inscriptions touting his athletic skills while he was the leader of the army. He claims to have been able to shoot an arrow through a copper target one palm thick and to row his ship faster and farther than two hundred members of the navy could row theirs.

Now Amenhotep II was not the firstborn of the Thutmose III. He had an elder brother named Amenemhat, but he and his mother died between Years 24 and 35 of Thutmose III, which prompted the king to remarry and have more children.

Life as Pharaoh

Amenhotep II rose to the throne around 1427 BCE, on the first day of the fourth month of Akhet. This was days after his father’s death, which indicates that they might have been in a coregency together. He was probably around 18 years old when he became the pharaoh as indicated by his great Sphinx stela,

“Now his Majesty appeared as king as a fine youth after he had become ‘well developed’, and had completed eighteen years in his strength and bravery.”

He married a woman named Tiaa, with whom he had as many as ten sons and one daughter. His eldest son and heir was Thutmose IV. Princes Amenhotep, Webensenu, Amenemopet, and Nejem are clearly attested, which Princes Amenemhat, Kaemwaset, Aakheperure, and Princess Iaret are possible children.

Besides Tiaa, Amenhotep II did not record the names of his other wives. Some Egyptologists have theorized that he felt the women had become too powerful under titles such as God’s Wife of Amun. They point at the fact that he participated in his father’s removal of Hatshepsut’s name from her monuments and the destruction of her image. Amenhotep II may have continued to destroy her images in his co-regency with his father, but not during his reign. But he may have still harbored his father’s concern that another woman would sit on the throne.

Amenhotep II took his first campaign in his 3rd regnal year, where he was attacked by the host of Qatna, but he did emerge victoriously. He also apparently killed 7 rebel princes at Kadesh, who were then hung upside down on the prow of his ship and then hung on the walls of Thebes and Napata.

Death

Amenhotep II died after 26 of his reign. Although the dates of his reign indicate that he was about 52 when he died, his mummy reveals that he was closer to 40 years old.

He constructed a tomb in the Valley of the Kings KV35, which I will talk about below, and a mortuary temple at the edge of the cultivation in the Theban necropolis, but it was destroyed in ancient times.

Tomb

I know we have talked about KV35 several times already, but I will mainly focus on the tomb as it was when Amenhotep II had it built.

The tomb is in the shape of a dog’s leg, which means it turns at a 90-degree angle. This is a typical layout of tombs of the 18th dynasty. Upon entering the tomb, there are two sets of stairways and two corridors before the well shaft. This is decorated with images of the King performing ritual acts before Osiris, Anubis, and Hathor.

After the tomb takes a 90-degree angle, there is a pillared vestibule and another wide flight of stairs. There is one small annex off of this first vestibule. This leads to a third corridor and a large six-pillared room. The burial chamber is just past the last set of pillars.

The burial chamber is a rectangular shape and divided into upper and lower pillared sections. The lower part held the sarcophagus of the king which was made of red quartzite. There are also four annexes off of this chamber. The walls of the burial chamber are decorated with a frieze and scenes from the Amduat, which is one of the many different Egyptian funerary texts. The pillars are decorated with the king before Osiris, Anubis, and Hathor. As with many tombs from this period, the ceiling is blue and covered in stars.

Although the tomb had been plundered in antiquity and then reopened to place the cache, some items from Amenhotep II’s burial were still found. These included a papyrus with extracts from the Book of Caverns, emblems in wood, a broken Osiris bed, at least one large wooden funerary couch, a large wooden figure of a serpent, a large wooden Sekhmet figure for the king’s son Webensenu, a life-size cow head statues, faience vases, a resin-coated wooden panther, 30 empty storage jars, and many miniature wooden coffins.

As we know, KV35 was used as a mummy cache in the Third Intermediate Period for many of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom. Those found in the tomb are listed below:

  • Queen Tiye (The Elder Lady)
  • A prince, either Webensenu or Thutmose
  • The Younger Lady
  • Unknown woman D
  • Two skulls were found in the well and an anonymous arm
  • The Mummy on the Boat

These mummies were discovered in March of 1898 by Victor Loret.

Mummy

When the mummy was originally found, there were garlands of mimosa flowers around his neck. The mummy had also been rewrapped and given a shroud by the priests of the Third Intermediate Period. Unfortunately, in 1901 when the tomb was plundered by modern robbers, the mummy was taken from the tomb and exposed from the waist up. Howard Carter was able to track down the robbers, using, among other clues, the imprints of their feet in the dust of the tomb. The mummy was then returned to the sarcophagus. Up until 1928, the mummy of Amenhotep II was still found in the quartzite sarcophagus before it was transferred to the Cairo Museum (CG61069).

After the 1901 plundering, the mummy was severely damaged. The head and right leg were separated from the body, the front abdominal wall was missing, and the spine was broken as well. There were also distinctive patterns of ossification along the vertebrae, which is a degenerative type of arthritis seen in people aged 60 years and older. His skin was covered in raised nodules, which were also found on the mummies of Thutmose II and Thutmose III. This could have been from disease or by a reaction of the embalming materials with the skin. Amenhotep II’s teeth were worn but in good condition.

He was probably 6 foot tall in life and he had graying hair and a bald spot on the back of his head.  There were impressions of jewelry found in the resin which had been used in the embalming process. Finally, there was a large bow, which was broken or cut in two was found with the mummy.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amenhotep_II

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KV35

http://www.narmer.pl/kv/kv35en.htm

http://www.narmer.pl/dyn/18en.htm#7         

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/amenophist.htm

https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/publications/le/mummy-amenhotep-ii

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Amenhotep_II

http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages1/Aeighteen.htm

Images

Head of Amenhotep II at the Brooklyn Museum – Wikimedia Commons (Keith Schengili-Roberts)

Head of Amenhotep II at the State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg))

Head of Amenhotep II at the Louvre – Wikimedia Commons (Rama)

Stela from Elephantine, now on display at the Kunthistorisches Museum, Vienna, recording Amenhotep II’s successful campaign against Syria – Wikimedia Commons (Captmondo)

Amenhotep II shown at the Temple of Amada, Lake Nasser, Egypt – Wikimedia Commons (Dennis Jarvis)

Image of tomb, tomb plan, mummy – http://www.narmer.pl/kv/kv35en.htm

Wooden cow head and image of sarcophagus – http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/amenophist.htm

Black and white photo of the sarcophagus – https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/publications/le/mummy-amenhotep-ii

Mummy – https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Amenhotep_II

Mummy and sarcophagus, and objects found in the tomb – http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages1/Aeighteen.htm

Pictures of the tomb – https://ib205.tripod.com/kv35_cache.html

Pictures of the tomb – https://alchetron.com/KV35

Women Crush Wednesdays: Berenice I

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

Cameo of a woman wearing a diadem, perhaps Berenice I. Possibly found in Pompeii, British Museum, 1814,0704,1718.

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.

Coin of Berenice’s son from her first marriage, Magas, King of Cyrene

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.

Berenice I’s daughter Arsinoe II on a gold coin

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.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berenice_I_of_Egypt

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Berenice-I

https://www.livius.org/articles/person/berenice-i/

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1814-0704-1718

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/C_1964-1303-3

Images

Gold Coins and Cameo – British Museum

Ptolemy I statue in the Louvre – Wikimedia Commons (Marie-Lan Nguyen)

Berenice I drawing – Wikimedia Commons (Guillaume Rouille)

Coin of Magas, as King of Cyrene – Wikimedia Commons (Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.)

Coin of Arsinoe II – Wikimedia Commons (MET)

Bust of Ptolemy II, National Archaeological Museum, Naples – Wikimedia Commons (Marie-Lan Nguyen)

Mummy Monday: The Mummy on the Boat

This Mummy Monday I am starting with a special request to look at the mysterious Mummy on the Boat from KV 35.

This is a pretty interesting case because we don’t really know the identity of this mummy. So I am first going to describe the discovery, provenance, and theories, and then the mummy itself.

Discovery of the Mummy on the Boat

The Mummy on the Boat was found in KV35, in the Valley of the Kings. The tomb was originally for Pharaoh Amenhotep II and it later became a cache burial for many of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom during the Third Intermediate Period. He was found in Antechamber F, which was a distance from the original burial chamber and the side chambers where the other mummies in the cache were found.

Victor Loret, the Egyptologist who discovered the cache in 1889, described the mummy as a “horrible sight…all black and hideous, its grimacing face turning towards me and looking at me…” The mummy had obviously been pillaged, which I will describe later. There was a small partly unwrapped bundle next to the mummy, which may have been a mummified animal or a bundle of wrappings.

The mummy was found leaning on top of a large funerary boat, which is not a typical burial technique. The remainder of this antechamber was mostly empty.

Shortly after the cache was placed in KV35, thieves entered and plundered the tomb again. This was most likely when the mummy was first plundered as the thieves tried to remove him from the boat, but the arms and feet were broken off.

When the cache was found by Loret, the Mummy on the Boat had not been scheduled for removal from the tomb along with the other burials, but had been moved from his original positions and placed out of the way when Antechamber F was used to store the other mummies in their large shipping crates.

Model Boat of Amenhotep II One of several models from the tomb of Amenhotep II, this example represents a river-going vessel. Scenes on it portray the pharaoh as a sphinx trampling enemies, and representations of deities and amulets serve as protection for the king in the Afterlife. Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep II 1426Ð1400 BCE PHOTO CREDIT: McMillan Group

Three years after the discovery of the tomb on November 24, 1901, modern thieves also broke into the tomb and stole the wooden funerary boat. During this time, the mummy was smashed to pieces on the floor. The funerary boat was later acquired by the Cairo Museum from a local dealer (which I believe is pictured in the photo above), but the remains of the mummy are now lost. Howard Carter wrote, “the boat in the Antechamber had been stolen; the mummy that was upon it, was lying on the floor and had been smashed to pieces.”

The images below are the only images of the mummy. There is a possibility that the pieces were swept out of the tomb or are in some sort of box in the Cairo Museum.

Theories of the Identity of the Mummy

There are two main possible candidates for the identity of the mummy, along with an alternative theory.

Prince Webensenu

The first theory is that the Mummy on the Boat was Prince Webensenu, son of Pharaoh Amenhotep II. The prince’s shabtis and a canopic jar have been found in KV35, which implies that the prince’s body was buried in his father’s tomb. The prince predeceased his father and was probably buried in KV35 before his father was. But he probably would have been buried in one of the side chambers to the burial chamber, rather than in Antechamber F. His burial would have gotten in the way of any of the subsequent burial, so this is quite unlikely.

He possibly could have been buried somewhere else in the Valley and then moved into KV35 at the time of his father’s burial. But again, it would have been logical to bury him in the side chamber.

Prince Webensenu or Prince Thutmose?

To add to the confusion of all of this, another mummy was found in the KV35 cache that had also been attributed to Prince Webensenu. This is the mummy of a young boy, maybe 11 years old. But this mummy has also been identified as Prince Thutmose, son of Amenhotep III, so we really don’t have a clue.

Pharaoh Sethankte

The other popular option for the identity of the Mummy on the Boat is Pharaoh Sethnakhte, founder of the 20th Dynasty. His father was one of the sons of Ramesses II and he ascended the throne after the death of Queen Taweseret. But he died shortly after he ascended the throne and may have even been originally buried in Queen Taweseret’s tomb KV14.

His coffin basin and lid were found in KV35, in side chamber Jb, as they were reused by the mummies of Merenptah and Unknown Woman D. Fragments of his cartonnage were also found in the main burial chamber. It is theorized that his mummy was placed with the other cached mummies in side chamber Jb, which of course leads to the confusion of why the mummy was found in Antechamber F.

Again, it seems very unlikely that anyone would move a mummy up from the burial chamber to antechamber F, or purposefully separate one mummy into room F. The usual explanation is that the tomb robbers removed the mummy from chamber J, dragged it across the chamber, and then up into antechamber F so they could strip it of its wrappings and valuables.

But the position of the mummy on the model boat does not also appear accidental. The body seems to have been carefully positioned. The robbers may have found the mummy already in place on top of the boat and removed the wrappings there. And the reason they didn’t remove it from the boat because the oils and resin in the wrappings had stuck it to the boat, which would have made its removal a time-consuming chore.

The last theory is that this mummy is a private individual from a period later than the recorded official inspection of KV35. At the beginning of the 22nd Dynasty, there were many intrusive burials. This could explain why it was found in chamber F and the unusual positioning on top of the wooden model boat.

The Mummy on the Boat

When Loret found the mummy, he said that the legs and arms were bound. Loret thought that it may have been a sacrificial victim or a thief slain by tomb guardians or fellow thieves. The bandages had already been torn off entirely, except for those tangled around the mummy’s abdomen and upper thighs, which made Loret think that the mummy had been bound.

The mummy is of a male with long dark hair. There was a hole in the sternum and a smaller hole in the skull. The left-arm had been broken off while the right arm appears to be disconnected. The left arm and the disconnected right foot are visible on the chamber floor next to the mummy. The fingers were individually wrapped. The remaining skin of the torso and face appears to be thoroughly perforated by tiny holes, maybe by insects. There is also possible evidence of an embalmers incision on the left side of the lower abdomen.

Sources

http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages2/UnidentifiedandMissing.htm

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Mummy_on_a_Boat

http://www.narmer.pl/dyn/20en.htm#1

https://tim-theegyptians.blogspot.com/2012/06/mummy-on-boat.html

Image Sources

Images of the mummy – http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages2/UnidentifiedandMissing.htm

Cartouche and face – http://www.narmer.pl/dyn/20en.htm#1

Antechamber F – https://the-ancient-pharaohs.blogspot.com/2017/02/kv35-tomb-of-amenhotep-ii-part-19.html

Unidentified Boy from KV35 – Mummipedia

Victor Loret discovering the tomb and funerary boat – https://www.egyptianhistorypodcast.com/2597-2/

Women Crush Wednesday: Mayet

This week we are going to talk about a child buried in the Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep II in Deir el-Bahri. Her relationship to the king is not entirely known, but her name was Mayet, meaning “The Cat.”

Life

Mayet (alternatively spelled Miiut or Miit) probably lived during the rule of Mentuhotep II from 2061 to 2010 B.C.E. in the Middle Kingdom. Her relationship to the royal family is not known, but since she was buried within the mortuary temple, it can be assumed that she was a close family member to Mentuhotep II.

It is generally assumed that she was a young daughter of the king who died unexpectedly, but the Brooklyn Museum cites that she was a wife of the King. This is unlikely as she was probably around five years old when she died, which would be extraordinarily young for the wife of a king. As I said her name means “the cat,” and her name is written with the hieroglyph of a cat!

Burial

Map of the series of tombs in the back of the Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep II. Mayet’s tomb is the first on the right.

Her burial was found intact in the back of a columned structure in the center of the complex. Here there were six burials with shrines, which were discovered in 1921 by the American expedition by Herbert Eustis Winlock. Five of the burials belong to other royal women with the titles of King’s Wives. These were Ashait, Henhenet, Kawit, Kemsit, and Sadeh. Unfortunately, Mayet’s burial did not contain any titles, not even King’s Daughter, which leads to confusion about her relationship with the royal family.

Check out this article about the discovery of the tombs of these Queen’s and Mayet’s tomb!

Her coffins were found at the bottom of Pit 18. She was buried in three coffins, one made of limestone and two wooden coffins. The outer limestone coffin was inscribed with a simple offering formula. It was also much bigger than required, which suggests that it was not originally made for her small size. This implies an unexpected death and the use of someone else’s coffin. The stone sarcophagus was seemingly left in the tomb in Deir el-Bahri.

The outer wooden coffin is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ( 26.3.9a-b). This coffin has several offering spells on each of its sides and a pair of magical eyes on one side, which would allow the deceased to see when priests made offerings to them.

The inner coffin (and preseumably her body?) is located in the Brooklyn Museum (52.127a-b) and made of cypress and fig wood. It is also inscribed with a simple offering spell and decorated with a pair of magical eyes on one side. There is also evidence that the names within the offering spells had been altered to spell Mayet’s name. This is direct evidence of the use of someone else’s coffin.

Direct evidence of the removal of a name to replace with Mayet’s name

Within the wooden coffin, the body of the girl was found wrapped in linen and adorned with a mummy mask. The embalmers added substantial padding to her feet and her head to make the mummy look longer and fit within the adult size coffin. It is unclear if the body is currently with the inner coffin in the Brooklyn Museum, as I could not locate any pictures of the mummy or the mummy mask.

Check out these awesome 3D models of her coffin by Indiana University!

Linen

There are several linen markers found within the coffin, which are located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (22.3.4-22.38). These are short inscriptions written in ink on the corners of large sheets of linen. Some mention the names or titles of high officials, to whose estate the linen may have belonged to or who were possibly overseeing its acquisition or production. Other marks say nfr meaning good, which refers to the quality of the fabric.

One inscription (Above, 22.3.7), which came from a sheet of linen (22.3.6) that was laid inside her coffin, mentions the steward Henenu, who may have been the same person depicted on a different stela at the MET (26.3.21a,b).

Some of the linen padding found in the coffin MET 26.3.14

There is evidence that the tomb was robbed in antiquity, but the looters did not open the sarcophagus. This is lucky because there are several beautiful necklaces found on the mummy. All of her jewelry are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Jewelry

Five necklaces were found around the neck of the mummy. Her necklaces are some of the finest jewelry that survives from this period. The drilled stone beads are very tiny, making this a technically brilliant manufacture. The necklaces are made out of beads (22.3323) and amulets (22.3.324), carnelian (22.3.321), and gold (22.3.320 and 22.3.322).

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayet_(ancient_Egypt)

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Mayet

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/3575

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544147

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/590944

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544145

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544146

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544144

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/552232

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/545320

Image Sources

Inner coffin – Wikimedia Commons – Unknown Author

Inner coffin -Brooklyn Museum

Necklaces – MET

Image of mummy in coffin – https://www.klinebooks.com/pages/books/43305/h-e-winlock/excavations-at-dier-el-bahri-1911-1931

Excavation Images – Bulletin of the MET 1921

Mummy Monday: Unknown Man E

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!

Coffin

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.

Mummy

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.

Discovery of DB 320

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.”

CT image of Unknown Man E, showing the lower neck region and shoulder joints. The scapulae are shifted to the lateral side (as seen by the arrows) and the soft tissues are inflated because of gas formation (star).

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.

CT image of the lower thoracic region of the Unknown Man E. Thorax is filled with air (stars) and appears to be inflated. Residue in the diaphragm and organs (arrows) are present in the dorsal side.

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.

Bob Brier examining Unknown Man E

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.

Bob Brier and Zahi Hawass examining Unknown Man E. The large bundle in front of the body may the sheepskin??

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.

Zahi Hawass with the bodies of Unknown Man E and Ramesses III

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.

Who was Pentawer?

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.

Image of one of the reconstructions of Unknown Man E

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.

Harem Plot

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.

The Judicial Papyrus of Turin

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.

Ramesses III in his harem. From the Medinet Habu Temple

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.

Mummy of Ramesses III, including the extra bandages around the fatal wound on his neck

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.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentawer

https://archive.archaeology.org/0603/abstracts/mysteryman.html

https://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/UnknownManE/ManE.htm

https://www.livescience.com/61749-screaming-mummy-backstory.html

https://strangeremains.com/2015/08/23/a-pharaonic-murder-mystery-that-was-solved-with-forensic-analysis/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harem_conspiracy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_Papyrus_of_Turin

https://ib205.tripod.com/unknown_man.html

Image Sources

Mummy – Wikimedia Commons – G Elliot Smith

Hieroglyphs of his name – Wikipedia Article

Bob Brier with mummy, with Zahi Hawass, and drawing of the discovery of DB320 – Pat Remler

The mummy, reconstruction, and coffin – The Theban Royal Mummy Project

Mummy of Ramesses III – Wikimedia Commons – G Elliot Smith

Judicial Papyrus of Turin – Wikimedia Commons – Khruner

Hawass, Unknown Man E, and Ramesses III – http://ambassadors.net/archives/issue34/selected_studies3.htm

Coffin Image – https://blog.selket.de/tag/pentawer

Mummy Monday: Seqenenre Tao

We are back! Thank you all for the support during my two-week break. I am rested and prepped for a great 2021.

Our first candidate for Mummy Monday for the year needed to be big. And what is bigger than an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh who most likely died in battle and has the scars to prove it? This week we will be talking about Sequenenre Tao, otherwise known as the Brave.

Life

Seqenenre Tao, also known as Seqenera Djehuty-aa, Sekenenra Taa, or Sequenenre Tao II (after his father), ruled over the last of the local Theban kingdom in the 17th Dynasty of the 2nd Intermediate Period. Seqenenre means “Who Strikes like Re,” and Tao means “brave,” which may have been a name given to him based on his bravery in life.

The center scribal palette in the image (currently located in the Louvre) is inscribed with the name of Seqenenre Tao

He was probably the son and successor of Senakhenre Ahmose and Queen Tetisheri. He would have risen to power either in 1560 to 1558 B.C.E. He had multiple wives including Ahmose Inhapy, Sitdjentui, and Ahhotep I. Through Ahmose Inhapy, he had a daughter Ahmose Henuttamehu, and through Sitdjehuti, he had another daughter named Ahmose. But it was Ahhotep I who bore the next two kings of Egypt, Seqenenre Tao’s sons Kamose and Ahmose I. She also gave birth to Ahmose Nefertari, Ahmose Meritamon, Ahmose Nebetta, Ahmose Tumerisy, Binpu, Ahmose Sapair, and Ahmose Henutemipet, many of whom were married to one of their brothers.

This jar lid (currently located at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, M.80.203.224) is inscribed with the name of Seqenenre Tao

His rule was anywhere from 5 to 3 years, so this left almost no time for monumental building. He did build a new mudbrick palace at Deir el-Ballas. When this site was excavated, a large amount of Kerma-ware pottery was found. Kerman Nubians either traded heavily with the Egyptians or were residents in the palace. This also may indicate that they were allied with the Egyptians in the upcoming battles.

Sometime during his reign, Seqenenre Tao came into contact with the Hyksos people in the north. They were most likely a Canaanite group that settled in the north during this period of instability. They lived in their capital of Avaris in the Delta. It looks like the Egyptians and the Hyksos met in a city called Apepi or Apophis. There is a tale written about this meeting that is called, “The Quarrel of Apophis and Seqenenre.” A portion of this tale is translated below.

“Give orders that the hippopotamus-pool which is in the flowing spring of the city be abandoned; for they (the voices of the hippos) do not allow deep sleep to come to me either by day or by night; but their noise is in mine ear.”

If this letter was actually sent, it is unclear. But the Hyksos king was obviously complaining about Seqenenre’s growing power. But it must be noted that this tale was written by the Egyptians, who notoriously would create propaganda to benefit their own rule. There is always the possibility that the Hyksos king had no quarrel with the Egyptians, but Seqenenre wanted a unified Egypt and chose to attack them.

Death

Seqenenre Tao seemed to have actively participated in the war against the Hyksos, which may have led to his demise. Based on the injuries to his mummy (which I will describe below), Seqenenre Tao was most likely struck down in battle. He was probably around the age of 40 when he died.

Painting of a Queen Ahhotep I recovering her husbands body from the battlefield (Artist’s rendering; there is no evidence of this encounter.) By Winifred Mabel Brunton in 1915.

After Seqenenre Tao’s death, his son Kamose took the throne and continued to battle the Hyksos people. He may have also died in battle (though this is not for certain), but his brother Ahmose I then rose to the throne (after a possible regency of Ahhotep I) to finally defeat the Hyksos, end the Second Intermediate Period and 17th Dynasty and start the New Kingdom and the 18th Dynasty.

This battle axe of Ahhotep I depicts Ahmose I defeating a Hyksos in battle.

Tomb

Although his tomb has not been found, it is presumed that Seqenenre Tao was buried in Dra Abu-el-Naga on the west bank from Thebes. This is where other 17th Dynasty rulers were buried, including the tomb of Ahhotep (still unclear if this was the I or the II).

According to the Abbot Papyrus (British Museum, 10211), which is a document that recorded tomb robberies during the 20th Dynasty, Seqenenre Tao’s tomb was still intact in Year 16 of Ramesses IX.

Image of some of the coffins found in the Deir el Bahri cache

Sometime after this, the tomb was robbed by looters, and in the 21st Dynasty, local priests relocated the coffin and the mummy to the Deir el-Bahri cache in DB320, which we have talked about multiple times. This cache was discovered in 1881 and contained the bodies of several famous kings of the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st Dynasties. Here is a list I have shown before of the mummies found in this cache:

  • Tetisheri
  • Ahmose Inhapy
  • Ahmose Henutemipet
  • Ahmose Henuttamehu
  • Ahmose Mertiamon
  • Ahmose Sipair
  • Ahmose Sitkamose
  • Ahmose I
  • Rai
  • Siamun
  • Ahmose Sitamun
  • Amenhotep I
  • Thutmose I
  • Baket (?)
  • Thutmose II
  • Iset
  • Thutmose III
  • Unknown man C
  • Ramesses I
  • Seti I
  • Ramesses II
  • Ramesses III
  • Ramesses IX
  • Pinedjem I
  • Nodjmet
  • Duathathor-Henuttawy
  • Maatkare
  • Masaharta
  • Tayuheret
  • Pinedjem II
  • Isetemkheb D
  • Neskhons
  • Djedptahiufankh
  • Nesitanebetashru
  • Unknown man E
  • 8 other unidentified mummies; funerary remains of Hatshepsut

As you can see, his mother, one of his wives, several of his daughters, and one of his sons were all moved here after their tombs had been looted. Check out my post on Nodjmet to learn more about the DB320 cache!

Coffin

The mummy of Seqenenre Tao was found in its original coffin (CG 61001). This coffin was decorated with a royal uraeus and eye inlays, which were most likely removed by tombs robbers along with the majority of the gilding. But the inscriptions and symbolic elements have been preserved and even restored, possibly after the gilding was removed.

Mummy

Mummy of Seqenenre Tao

The mummy of Seqenenre Tao (JE 2609/CG 61051) has captured a lot of attention over the years of its appearance. After the discovery of the cache in 1881, his mummy was partially unwrapped by Egyptologist Gaston Maspero on June 9th, 1886. It was completely unwrapped by Eugene Grebaut, who took office in the Antiquities Service after Maspero resigned in 1886, on September 1st, 1906. The mummy was also reexamined in the early 1900s by G. Elliot Smith.

By all indications, the mummy seems to have been hastily embalmed. His mummy is the worst preserved of all the mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There was no attempt to remove the brain or add linen inside the cranium or eyes. His organs were removed, and the body packed with linen, but there was one thing done wrong – the heart was also removed. Now, this is against every Egyptian tradition. The Egyptians believed that the heart was the most important organ and that you thought with your heart. This was always left within the body to help in the afterlife. In some cases when the heart was removed, a heart scarab amulet was put in its place. While it is unclear why the heart was removed, there is the possibility that it was removed in an attempt to destroy him in the afterlife.

A “foul, oily smell filled the room the moment the case in which his body was exhibited was opened.” This is probably because of the poor embalming process and the absence of the use of natron salts to dry out the body, which left some of the bodily fluids in the mummy at the time of burial.

The mummy’s chest is also broken, and the ribs were hurriedly squeezed together by the embalmers and wrappers. His arms, legs, and vertebrae are also disarticulated, and the pelvis is in pieces. Worms were also found in the shroud and shells of beetle larvae in the king’s hair. This is another indication of a bad or quick mummification.

The Face of Seqenenre Tao with arrows pointing at the wounds to his face

The face of the mummy was what really cause speculation. It is very damaged, and his mouth is open, as some thought in horror. Multiple wounds cover the mummy’s face. There is a small cut above the eye, on the forehead, and a wound behind his ear.

Below is a description of the injuries given by Maspero.

“…it is not known whether he fell upon the field of battle or was the victim of some plot; the appearance of his mummy proves that he died a violent death when about forty years of age. Two or three men, whether assassins or soldiers, must have surrounded and dispatched him before help was available. A blow from an axe must have severed part of his left cheek, exposed the teeth, fractured the jaw, and sent him senseless to the ground; another blow must have seriously injured the skull, and a dagger or javelin has cut open the forehead on the right side, a little above the eye. His body must have remained lying where it fell for some time: when found, decomposition had set in, and the embalming had to be hastily performed as best it might.”

The back of the Head of Seqenenre Tao with an arrow showing the wound behind his ear

The wound to his forehead fits the shape of an Egyptian battle-axe while the wounds above the right eye and left check fit a Hyksos style battle-axe. His check and nose were smashed in. This may have been done with the blunt end of an axe or by a mace. The wound behind his ear was most likely made by a dagger or spear, possibly while Seqenenre was lying prone. There were no injuries found to his arms or hands, indicated that he was not able to defend himself. But there is some evidence that the wound behind his ear has begun to heal. This may indicate that this injury was caused in battle and then other injuries were made later, possibly in an assassination attempt.

This battle-axe (currently located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.80.203.43) is inscribed with the name of Seqenenre Tao. The original owner of this piece is unknown.

Until 2009, the main hypothesis was that Seqenenre Tao had died in battle or was assassinated in his sleep, before or after a battle. Egyptologist Garry Shaw and archaeologist/weapons expert Robert Mason reconstructed the death of the king and came up with an alternate theory. They suggested that Seqenenre Tao was executed by the Hyksos king after being captured. This may have been a ceremonial execution at the hands of the enemy commander.

Here you can read a fictionalized account of his death by Shaw, but you can also download his scholarly article on his findings below. Also, check out this video where Shaw and Mason recreate the injuries.

While I have not seen anything to corroborate this, I have a theory that aligns with Shaw and Mason’s theory of the ceremonial execution. If Seqenenre Tao was executed, his body would have been in enemy hands for an unknown amount of time. Maybe the Hyksos people attempted to mummify him?

This would explain why it was done so badly and why the heart was missing. This wasn’t them trying to ruin his chance in the afterlife, just a simple lack of knowledge of Egyptian mummification. They probably assumed that all the organs were removed.

Otherwise, his body may have been returned to his family and the priests just did an extremely quick mummification job. Just a theory, but it would be interesting to look into!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seqenenre_Tao

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Seqenenre_Tao

https://rawi-magazine.com/articles/sequenenre_tao/

https://egypt-museum.com/post/187302666356/mummy-of-seqenenre-tao

https://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/seqenenretao/

https://members.tripod.com/anubis4_2000/17A.htm#Seqnenre-Taa%20II

Image Sources

Photo of skull – Wikimedia Commons – G. Elliot Smith

Photo of mummy in case – Rawi Magazine

Photo of mummy – Egypt Museum.com

Cartouches – ancientegyptonline.co.uk

Photo of Coffin and mummy – members.tripod.com

Photo of battleaxe – Wikimedia commons – LACMA (M.80.203.43)

Photo of scribal palette with his name (Louvre) – Wikimedia Commons – Rama

Jar lid with his throne name – Wikimedia Commons LACMA (M.80.203.224)

Women Crush Wednesday: Merneith

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!

Life

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.

Merneith’s name can be seen on the far right. The vulture and the plant with shoots is the world for mother, while the three signs below it, spell her name.

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.

Reconstruction of the tomb of Mereneith in Abydos

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.

The Levantine jug handle found in the tomb of Merenneith in Abydos located in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (UC 17421)

Tomb in Saqqara

Reconstruction of the supposed tomb of Mereneith 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.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merneith

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastaba_S3503

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/firstdynastysaqqara.htm

https://www.livius.org/articles/person/merneith/

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/abydos/abydostomby.html

https://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/queenmereneith/

http://www.ancient-egypt.org/who-is-who/m/merneith/tomb-y-at-umm-el-qaab.html

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/chronology/queenmeritneit.html

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/abydos/abydosforts2.html

Photo Sources

Detail of the tomb stela, Egyptian Museum Cairo (JE 34450) – Wikimedia Commons (Juan R. Lazaro)

Cemetery B, Umm el-Qa’ab – Wikimedia Commons (Jolle~commonswiki)

Plan of the main chamber of the tomb – Wikimedia Commons (Josiane d’Este-Curry)

Funerary enclosure – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/abydos/abydosforts2.html

Levantine jug – Petrie Museum (UC 17421)

Full stela – Ancient Egypt Fandom (Tomrowley)

Reconstruction of the tomb – http://www.ancient-egypt.org/who-is-who/m/merneith/tomb-y-at-umm-el-qaab.html

Reconstructions of Saqqara tombs – https://www.courses.psu.edu/art_h/art_h201_ejw3/egypt.html

Seal impression from the tomb of Den – http://xoomer.virgilio.it/francescoraf/hesyra/merneith.html

Royal Tombs of Abydos – Wikimedia Commons (PLstrom)

Mummy Monday: Ramesses VI

Throughout Egyptian history, there were 11 pharaohs named Ramesses, all living during the New Kingdom. This week we are going to look at the mummy of Ramesses VI.

Life

Ramesses IV Nebmaatre-Meryamun was born Amenherkhepsehf (C) to Ramesses III and most likely queen Iset Ta-Hemdjert. This is suggested by the presence of his cartouches on the door jamb of her tomb in the Valley of the Queens. As a prince, he held the titles of royal scribe and cavalry general. He was the 5th pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty, after his older brother Ramesses IV son, Ramesses V died without a male heir.

His Great Royal Wife was Nubkhesbed and they had at least four children: princes Amenherkhepshef, Panebenkemyt, and Ramesses Itamun (future pharaoh Ramesses VII) and one princess Iset. His first son died before his father and was buried in KV13 and his daughter was appointed as God’s Wife of Amun.

He only reigned for about 8 years (1145 to 1137 B.C.E) which may have been quite turbulent. Ramesses IV stopped frequent raids by Libyan or Egyptian marauders in Upper Egypt. But Egypt lost control of its last strongholds in Canaan, which weakened Egypt’s economy and increased prices throughout the kingdom. The pharaoh’s power also waned during this period as the priesthood of Amun began to rise in power. This is when Ramesses VI appointed his daughter as a priestess of Amun in an attempt to reduce their power.

There are multiple statues of him, many of which he usurped from past rulers by engraving his name over theirs. These usurpations were most likely done because of the economic depression rather than a sign of antagonism against his predecessors. One statue that was well documented on the reverse of the Turin Papyrus Map was installed in the Temple of Hathor at Deir el-Medina. It was called “Lord of the Two Lands, Nebamaatre Meryamun, Son of Re, Lord of Crowns, Ramesses Amunherkhepesef Divine Ruler of Iunu, Beloved like Amun.” The statue was apparently made out of both painted wood and clay, showing the pharaoh wearing a golden loincloth, a crown of lapis lazuli and precious stones, a uraeus of gold, and sandals of electrum.

Ramesses VI died in his 40s, in the 8th or 9th year of his rule. He was succeeded by his son Ramesses VII Itamun. Besides his tomb (described below), it is also thought that he usurped his nephew’s mortuary temple in El-Assasif, Thebes (which was probably stolen from Ramesses IV). It was planned to nearly half the size of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II. But only the foundations were built at the death of Ramesses IV so it is unclear if it was ever completed.

Tomb

The outside of the Tomb

Now presumably because Ramesses VI was older when he rose to power, he chose to usurp his nephew’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV9. It is unclear if Ramesses V was first buried in this tomb and then moved, or if Ramesses VI buried his nephew somewhere else. Unlike his usurpation of his predecessors’ cult statues, this usurpation could have been because he did not hold his nephew in high regard. It was most likely completed in the 6th or 8th year of his reign.

Layout of KV9

The tomb is 104 meters or 341 feet long and has several chambers. The entrance of the tomb is decorated with a disk containing a scarab and an image of the ram-headed god Re between Isis and Nephthys. In the first corridor, there are images of Ramesses VI before Re-Horakhty and Osiris.

Ramesses VI worshipping Osiris above the entrance to the hallway

The Book of Gates is on the south wall while the Book of Caverns is on the north wall. These are both Ancient Egyptian funerary texts that would help the newly deceased soul into the afterlife. The Book of Gate describes several gates, each associated with different goddesses and required the deceased to recognize the particular character of the diety. The Book of Caverns is very similar, but it describes six caverns of the afterlife which are filled with rewards for the righteous and punishments for the bad.

The ceiling of the long hallway is decorated with an intricate astronomical ceiling. The Book of the Gates and the Book of Caverns continued on their respective walls. Above the entrance to the next corridor, the king is shown before Osiris. The second corridor is decorated with two more funerary texts: the Book of the Imi-Duat and the Books of Day and Night. Here Ramesses is shown before Hekau and Maat.

At the end, there is a hall and the burial chamber. Again, these are decorated with more funerary texts, mainly the Book of the Dead and the Book of the Earth (also known as the Book of Aker). Ramesses was buried in a large granite coffin box and mummiform stone sarcophagus in the center of the chamber.

Unfortunately, like many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, it was looted in antiquity, most likely around 20 years after Ramesses VI was buried. They took everything and destroyed much of the sarcophagus and mummy. The mummy was removed from the tomb in the 21st Dynasty. Interestingly, the workers huts that were built for the construction of this tomb, obscured the entrance to the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which may have been a reason that it was not seriously looted during this period.

Check out the tour of the tomb completely 3D tour of the tomb here and here! You can also see more images of the tomb decoration here.

In the Graeco-Roman Period, the tomb was identified as that of Memnon, the mythological king of the Ethiopians who fought in the Trojan War. This meant that it was frequently visited during this time. Visitors from the 1st century B.C.E. to the 4th century C.E. left approximately 995 pieces of graffiti. These were mostly in Greek, Latin, Demotic, and Coptic, and in black or red ink. Many of these were found higher up on the walls, indicating that the floor level was higher during this period. Since 1996, the graffiti has been studied by the Epigraphic Mission from the Polish Center of the Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw. Check out the article below to learn more!

The tomb was cleared by Georges Emile Jules Daressy in 1898. He uncovered the fragments of the coffin and sarcophagus. During this time, the face, and several other pieces, of the sarcophagus were taken by visitors. The face (EA140), which was taken by Giovani Belzoni, Italian strongman turned explorer, for Henry Salt, the British consulate in Cairo, is currently in the British Museum, and attempts to return it to Egypt have been futile.

In 1997, Egyptologist Edwin Brock received funding from the American Research Center in Egypt to restore the sarcophagus. They completed the work in three seasons reassembling the 370 broken pieces and a fiberglass replica of the mask. Much of the decoration of the coffin had been obscured by a black resinous layer which was most likely a ritualistic oil that was poured over the sarcophagus at the time of burial. The reassembled sarcophagus is currently on display inside the burial chamber.

Burial in Royal Cache

Now, like many of the royal mummies of the New Kingdom, the mummy of Ramesses VI was not found in KV9, but in KV35, also known as the Royal Cache. Here is an excerpt about this tomb that I wrote in an earlier post about Amenhotep III.

The priests of Amon in the 21st dynasty moved multiple mummies from the looted Valley of the King’s tombs to one specific tomb in the valley. This was the tomb of Amenhotep II, KV35. The mummy cache lay undiscovered until 1898. Here is a list of the other pharaohs found in this cache:

  • Thutmose IV
  • Merneptah
  • Seti II
  • Siptah
  • Amenhotep II
  • Amenhotep III
  • Ramesses IV
  • Ramesses V
  • Ramesses VI
  • Queen Tiye (originally labeled and the Elder Lady)
  • A prince (either Webensenu, child of Amenhotep II, or Thutmose, son of Amenhotep III)
  • The Younger Lady (mother of Tutankhamun, and daughter of Amenhotep and Tiye)
  • Unknown Lady D
  • Two skulls and an arm

The mummy of Ramesses VI (CG 61086/JE 34564) was found in side chamber Jb inside an 18th dynasty coffin (CG 61043) of a man named Re, who was a high priest of the mortuary cult of Menkheperre-Thutmose III. Ramesses VI’s name had been written over the original owner’s name. The face of the coffin had been hacked off in antiquity, possibly indicating that it had been gilded and thus taken by tomb robbers.

Mummy

When the mummy was unwrapped by G.E. Smith on July 8th, 1905, the body was found in disarray. It apparently had been hacked to pieces by the tomb robbers who were looking for precious jewelry. The head had been shattered and the bones of the face were missing. His hip bone and pelvis were found among the bones at his neck and his elbow and humerus were discovered on his right thigh. Bones from two other mummies were also found including the right hand of an unidentified woman and the right hand and forearm of an unidentified man.

Ramesses VI was embalmed in a fashion similar to his two predecessors. The cranial cavity had been packed with linen and a resin paste, which was also plastered over the face, eyes, and forehead. The king’s ears had also been pierced and his teeth were only moderately worn. And due to the presence of a skull piercing similar to those found on the skulls of Ramesses IV, Ramesses V, Merenptah, and Seti II, it has been speculated that Ramesses VI had originally been moved to the KV14 cache along with those mummies before being finally placed in KV35.

The Face of Ramesses VI

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramesses_VI

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KV9

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Gates

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Caverns

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Ramesses_VI

https://www.arce.org/project/conservation-sarcophagus-ramses-vi

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA140

http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages2/20A.htm

https://madainproject.com/kv9_(tomb_of_ramesses_v_and_ramesses_vi)

Photo Credits

Face of Stone Sarcophagus – British Museum; Wikimedia Commons (Carlos Teicxidor Cadenas)

Relief of Ramesses VI as a prince from Medinet Habu – Wikimedia Commons (Neithsabes)

Statue of Ramesses VI holding a bound Libyan captive, currently in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo – Wikimedia Commons (Georges Legrain)

Portrait of Ramesses VI from his tomb – Wikimedia Commons (Champollion and Rosellini)

Broken bust of Ramesses IV at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon – Wikimedia Commons (Colindla)

Mummy face– Wikimedia Common (G. Elliot Smith)

Mummy body – Mummipedia (Tawfika)

Ushabtis of Ramesses VI at the British Museum – Wikimedia Commons (Jack1956)

Reassembled lid, cleaning the fragments, the glued fragments groups, Brock checking the joins – Francis Dzikowski

Test cleaning of the sarcophagus – Edwin Brock

Images of Tomb – Madain Project

Mummy in coffin – http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages2/20A.htm

Picture of 18th dynasty coffin – http://ib205.tripod.com/ramesses_6_cache.html

Tomb Layout – https://famouspharaohs.blogspot.com/2011/05/kv9-tomb-of-ramesses-v-and-ramesses-vi.html

Mummy Monday: Sesheshet

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.

Life

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.

Excavation

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.

A picture of the excavation. The pyramids in the distance are those of Teti, Userkaf, and the Step Pyramid of Djoser in the far back.

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.

Pyramid

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.

Sesheshet’s Pyramid is most likely north of #8, the Pyramid of Queen Iput. No map that included the new pyramid could be found.

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.

Mummy

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.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sesheshet

http://www.guardians.net/hawass/Press%20Releases/queens_pyramid_saqqara_11-08.htm

https://grahamhancock.com/phorum/read.php?1,308190

https://www.haaretz.com/1.5034161

http://judithweingarten.blogspot.com/2009/01/queens-are-magic.html

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-tomb-of-queen-sesheshet-49733615/

https://freddysetiawan.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/queens-mummy-found-in-4300-year-old-pyramid/

Photo Sources

Photos of the excavation – Mohamed Magahed

Picture of Teti Pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (Wknight94)

Teti Pyramid plan – Wikimedia Commons (Malyszkz)

Map of area – http://www.touregypt.net/sakkara.htm

Other Map – http://www.athenapub.com/aria1/_Egypt/DEpic/PE-SaqqaraNTomb1c.html

Ebers Papyrus, Mummy photos – Judith Weingarten Blog

Women Crush Wednesday: Sobekneferu

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.

Life

The royal titulary of Sobekneferu

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.

Reign

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.

Graffito from Semna

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.

Depictions

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.

Burial

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 remains of the Northern Mazghuna 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.

Plan of the North Pyramid of Mazghuna

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.

Substructure or hypogeum of the Northern Mazghuna Pyramid

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!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sobekneferu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Sobekneferu

https://collections.mfa.org/objects/145757

https://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/sobekneferu/

https://mathstat.slu.edu/~bart/egyptianhtml/kings%20and%20Queens/Sobekneferu.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Mazghuna_pyramid

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA16581

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA66159

http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=23673&langue=en

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17057387149/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17242980762/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17218263246/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17112628709/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17319324991/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17132263418/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17382539481/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/7049052547/in/album-72157628918539107/

Photo Sources

Statue at the Louvre – Wiki Commons Public Domain

Statue at Berlin – Wiki Commons (Hedwig Fecheimer)

Cylinder seal, drawn by Flinders Petrie – Wiki Commons (Flinders Petrie)

Interior of Pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (I, Bakha)

Drawing of the pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (Lespsius)

Inscription – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt//hawara1/archive/uc14337.jpg

Plan of Pyramid – https://egyptphoto.ncf.ca/mazghuna.htm

Ruins of Pyramid -https://famouspharaohs.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-pyramid-of-sobekneferu.html

Column, inscriptions, statues – Flickr (Juan R. Lazaro)

Royal Titulary – https://mathstat.slu.edu/~bart/egyptianhtml/kings%20and%20Queens/Sobekneferu.html