Mummy Monday: Seti II

This week let’s take a look at another pharaoh from the 19th dynasty, Seti II!


Seti II was the son of Pharaoh Merenptah and his wife Isetnofret II. He was probably born in the Lower Egyptian capital of Pi-Ramesses, where many of the kings of the 19th Dynasty ruled.

There was some contest for the throne when Merenptah died. Most likely, Seti II rose to the throne as his son, but during the fourth year of his reign, a man named Amenmesse took control of Thebes and Upper Egypt. Who Amenmesse was is a whole different question, but it has been theorized that he was the brother, half-brother, or even son of Seti II.

Seti II was able to take back Upper Egypt before the 5th year of his reign. He then proceeded with a smear campaign of Amenmesse. Seti II’s throne name was Userkheperure Setepenre, meaning “Powerful are the manifestations of Re, the chosen one of Re.”

During his reign, he expanded the copper mines at Timna Valley in Edmon and built a temple of Hathor nearby. He also made small additions to the temple complex of Karnak.

Seti II was married two at least to women Twosret and Takhat. If the theories that Amenmesse was his son are true, then he may have also been married to his mother Tiaa. Seti only had one son, Seti-Merenptah, but he sadly died before his father. This left a serious succession crisis when Seti II died.

Death and Tomb

Seti II only ruled for about 5 years and 10 months. Siptah was named successor of Seti, but after his short reign, Queen Twosret took the throne as Pharoah!

KV13 was Seti II’s tomb built in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. During Amenmesse’s takeover, Seti’s name was removed from the tomb. It was then recarved when Seti took power. Unfortunately, the tomb was not finished when he died, so he may have been originally buried in his wife’s tomb, KV14, before being moved.

The tomb consists of a short entry corridor, three more corridors, a well chamber (although with no well), a four-pillared hall, and then the final corridor leading to the burial chamber. The walls and the ceiling of the chamber were covered with plaster and painted with images of Anubis, Osiris, and the goddess Nut on the ceilings. It features images of different funerary texts like the Litany of Re, the Amduat, and the Book of the Gates. There are also some very unique images of Seti on a shrine, on the back of a panther, and in a papyrus skiff.

The tomb was opened in antiquity as there are several Greek and Latin graffiti. Richard Pococke apparently performed the first brief excavations in 1738. But Howard Carter did a full excavation from 1903 to 1904. The tomb was then used as a makeshift laboratory for the cleaning of objects found in King Tut’s tomb.

Check out more photos of the tomb here!


When the tomb was discovered only the lid of his sarcophagus was found. So where was his mummy? Like many of the New Kingdom mummies, priests in the Third Intermediate Period removed looted mummies of pharaohs and placed them in caches.

The mummy of Seti II was found in KV35, which was used as a mummy cache. This was discovered on March 19th, 1899. The mummy, which I will describe below, was found in an uninscribed and undecorated coffin (CG 61036-7). The original decoration was adzed off and it was then covered in a layer of plaster.

There was no lid for the coffin, but a lid inscribed for Seti II was discovered on the coffin where Amenhotep III was found.

Interestingly, in 1908 Egyptologist Edward R. Ayrton found a small tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV56. This tomb contained a small cache of jewelry that featured the name of Seti II, including these earrings.


The body was severely damaged in antiquity. The body has adze marks from the tool used to strip away the original bandages. Part of the chest wall has been broken away, which seems to have happened before the body was wrapped. Perhaps in a bad mummification job?

The head was found detached from the body along with the arms. The right forearm, hand, and several of the left fingers were missing. There was also a small hole in his skull, which has been similarly found on the skulls of Merenptah, Ramesses IV, Ramesses V, and Ramesses VI.

Several objects were placed with the mummy, either when it was originally buried or when it was rewrapped in the cache. There were blue faience wdat amulets on strings which were wound up from his ankles to his knees. Blue scarabs were attached to the ends of these strings. Finally, there were three small sphinx amulets on top of the right knee.

The mummy’s original wrappings had been covered with a shroud, where there was a small docket giving the name of Seti II. Clothing had also been employed to wrap the mummy. Reportedly there were also two intact shirts made of fine muslin were found among the wrappings along with pieces from several other garments. The cartouche of Merenptah and two other hieratic inscriptions were found on the shirt. There was also apparently red and blue fringing on some of the wrappings.

The mummy was just recently moved from the Cairo Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in April 2021.



Queen Takhat –

Two statues –

Mummy Head – Mummipedia

MET statue – 34.2.2

Photos of tomb –

Mummy head and gold earrings –

Temple of Karnak – Wikimedia Commons (Olaf Tausch)

Obelisk in Karnak – Wikimedia Commons (Djehouty)

Tomb -

Mummy Monday: Siptah

For this week’s Mummy Monday, let’s look at one of the later rulers of the 19th Dynasty, Pharaoh Siptah.


Siptah’s full name was Akhenre Setpenre Spitah or Merenptah Siptah. His father’s identity is not actually known, but a couple of pharaohs have been suggested. Mainly, Seti II, Amenmesse, and Merenptah have been suggested. His mother is also unknown but could be Tiaa, the wife of Seti II, or a woman named Sutailja/Shoteraja. The evidence for the latter is according to a relief in the Louvre (E 26901). It has also been implied that she may have been the king’s Canaanite concubine because her name is Canaanite.

We do know that he was not originally the crown prince but probably succeeded the throne as a child after the death of Seti II. His accession date occurred on 1 Peret, Day 2, which is around December.


He ruled for only about six years as a young man, as he was only ten or eleven when he took the throne. One of the king’s chancellors was named Bay, and he was instrumental in installing Siptah on the throne, though he fell out of favor with the king and was executed in Siptah’s 5th year. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the rest of his reign.

Siptah most likely died in the middle of the second month of Akhet, as his burial dates to the 22nd day of the fourth month of Akhet. This was recorded on an ostraca found in Deir el-Medina and mentions that the Vizier Hori visited the workmen close to the burial.


Pharaoh Siptah was originally buried in KV47, but his mummy was reburied in the KV35 cache with many other royals from the New Kingdom.

KV47 is in the southwest branch of the southwest wadi of the Valley of the Kings. It consists of three gently slopped corridors (B, C, D) followed by a chamber (E), a pillared chamber (F), two subsequent corridors (G, H), and a chamber (I). This last chamber leads through a passage with abandoned lateral cuttings for a burial chamber (J1) and the actual unfinished burial chamber (J2).

KV47 is in the southwest branch of the southwest wadi of the Valley of the Kings. It consists of three gently slopped corridors (B, C, D) followed by a chamber (E), a pillared chamber (F), two subsequent corridors (G, H), and a chamber (I). This last chamber leads through a passage with abandoned lateral cuttings for a burial chamber (J1) and the actual unfinished burial chamber (J2).

In total, the tomb seems to have been unfinished. The cutting of chamber J1 was halted after the workmen cut into the side chamber (Ja) of KV32, the tomb of Tia’a. The workers were also forced to abandon the chamber and create a second burial chamber, chamber J2. The burial chamber contains a granite sarcophagus.

Much of the history of this tomb is not clear as the king’s cartouches had been removed and then later restored. Only the first corridors and chamber were plastered and decorated with scenes from the Litany of Ra (corridors B and C), Book of the Dead (corridor C), Imydwat (corridor D), representations of the deceased with Ra-Horakhty (corridor B), the sun disk on the horizon (gate B) and winged figures of Ma’at (gate B, gate D).

The tomb was of course looted sometime after the burial and then reused in the Third Intermediate Period. The tomb was discovered on December 18th, 1905 by Edward R. Ayrton. Theodore M. Davies then published an account of the site’s discovery and excavation in 1908, but that was after the excavations were stopped in 1907 due to safety fears. Harry Burton also returned in 1912 to dig further.

To see some more photos, check out this link!


As I mentioned previously the mummy of Siptah was found not in KV47 but KV35, which was a royal mummy cache that I have talked about previously. Siptah’s body was found in side chamber Jb. It was found in a replacement coffin (CG 61038), which may have originally belonged to a woman as all the inscriptions had been adzed off and it was reinscribed for Siptah. He was also found beneath a shroud that had been placed there by the Third Intermediate Period priests. The shroud has a hieratic inscription, but it is very faded. Some of the original bandages have a few painted lines and hieroglyphs texts.

Siptah appeared to be around the age of sixteen when he died. He was about 1.6 meters tall and had curly reddish-brown hair. But his body had been badly damaged by the original tomb robbers. The right cheek and front teeth had been broken off and were missing. His ears had also been broken off. His right arm was fractured, the right hand had been detached. Interestingly, there was an attempt made to repair this broken forearm with wooden splints and linen. Finally, the body wall had been broken through, probably in search of a heart scarab and other valuables.

The cheeks have been filled out with linen packing and his body cavity had been filled with dried lichen instead of the usual resin-soaked bandages. The embalming wound had been sewn shut with a strip of linen. There is also an unusual crescent-shaped band of black paint across Siptah’s forehead, the significance of which is unknown.

Siptah had a clubbed foot, which could have been from polio or cerebral palsy. No objects were found among Siptah’s wrappings, but there is an impression of a pectoral ornament left in the thick dried resin which coated the mummy’s chest. There is also some gold foil impressed into the resin covering Siptah’s right elbow, which may have been left by a gilded staff originally held in the mummy’s left hand.


Image Sources

Siptah – Wikimedia Commons (John D. Croft)

Cartouche of the King on a foundation sandstone block from the mortuary temple of Merenptah-Siptah at Thebes, Egypt – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP)

Mummy –

Tomb painting – Wikimedia Commons (John D. Croft)

Tomb plan – Wikimedia Commons (R.F. Morgan)

Sarcophagus of Siptah – Wikimedia Commons (Neithsabes)

Photos of the tomb decoration –

Photos of the Tomb –

Photo of the Tomb –

Photos of the Tomb –

Mummy Monday: Princess Ahmose

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.

Burial Goods

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.


Image Sources

Mummy – Wikimedia Commons – Khruner

Hieroglyphs – Wikipedia

Take pictures of tomb and mummy – From Valley of the Queen Assessment Report

Full Picture of Mummy, and all pieces of Papyrus – Turin Museum

Family Tree –

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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 –

Wooden cow head and image of sarcophagus –

Black and white photo of the sarcophagus –

Mummy –

Mummy and sarcophagus, and objects found in the tomb –

Pictures of the tomb –

Pictures of the tomb –

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.


Image Sources

Images of the mummy –

Cartouche and face –

Antechamber F –

Unidentified Boy from KV35 – Mummipedia

Victor Loret discovering the tomb and funerary boat –

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.


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.


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.


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


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 –

Picture of 18th dynasty coffin –

Tomb Layout –

Site Saturday: Deir el-Medina

Welcome to Site Saturday! This week we are going to talk about one of the most fascinating sites in all of Egypt. This site is Deir el-Medina, which is one of the most thoroughly documented accounts of community life in the ancient world. The citizens of these villages were skilled artisans who built and decorated the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens during the New Kingdom.

Location and Name

Deir el-Medina is in a quite unique location as it is on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes/Luxor (just north west of Amenhotep III’s palace Malqata). It is laid out in a natural amphitheater within walking distance from the Valley of the Kings to the north, the Valley of the Queens to the west, and the funerary temples to the east and south east.

Map of the local area surrounding Deir el-Medina

The ancient name of the village was Set Maat, meaning “Place of Truth,” though that is only what the Egyptian officials called it. The locals called it Pa Demi, which simply meant “The Village.” The official name was thought to be inspired by the gods in creating the eternal homes of the deceased kings and their families. Those that lived in the village were called “The servants of the Place of Truth.” During the Christian era, the temple to Hathor in the village was converted to a church called Deir el-Medina in Egyptian Arabic, which means “the Monastery of the town.”

Layout of the Village

This was not a village that grew up organically. This was a planned community, most likely founded by pharaoh Amenhotep I in the 18th Dynasty. It was most likely built apart from the wider community in order to preserve the secrecy of the work being carried out in the tombs. Pharaohs during the New Kingdom moved from building massive funerary tombs, like the pyramids of Giza, to rock cut tombs built up in the cliffsides. By doing this, they hoped that their tombs would not be robbed, and the pharaohs would be able to enter the afterlife comfortably with all their possessions. Deir el-Medina was built to contain all the workers and artisans who worked on the tombs and would thus know crucial details. That is not to say that the people of Deir el-Medina didn’t rob the tombs, but we’ll talk about that later.

Although Amenhotep I probably planned the village, there are some remains that date to his father, Thutmose I’s reign. The village reached its peak during the Ramesside Period and was most likely abandoned by the end of the New Kingdom.

Although Amenhotep I probably planned the village, there are some remains that date to his father, Thutmose I’s reign. The village reached its peak during the Ramesside Period and was most likely abandoned by the end of the New Kingdom.

Map of the walled village and the necropolis surrounding it

The site is about 1.4 acres with a surrounding wall. The main entrance to the town was in the north wall and there may have even been a guard house next to the gate. The community could move freely in and out of the village, but outsiders were only allowed to enter the site if they were there for work related reasons. At it’s peak, the village had around 68 houses with a main road running the length of the village. This road may have actually been covered to shelter the villagers from the glare and heat of the sun.

What is most interesting about the village is that they were not self-sufficient. Because they were located in the hills above the Nile, they didn’t have a central well for a water supply. They were within a 30 min walk to the nearest well, so someone had to continuously help supply the village with water. The surrounding area would not have been able to sustain agriculture. Let alone, the villagers were not farmers, but artists!

Reconstruction of the walled village, one of the tombs, and a cross section of a house

The houses were designed as long rectangles, running from the street to the surrounding wall. They had an average floor space of 70 square meters or 753 square feet. Because the village was planned, all the buildings were made with the same materials and construction methods. The walls were made of mudbrick on top of a stone foundations. Mud was applied to the walls, which were then painted white on the outside. Some of the internal walls were also painted white on the bottoms.

The houses contained four to five rooms each, usually comprising of an entrance, main room, two smaller rooms, a kitchen with a cellar, and a staircase leading to the roof. Some of the houses may have had a wooden door with the name of the occupants. You would step up into the living room, then proceed to the other two rooms, before reaching the kitchen in the back of the house. It had an open roof, possibly with a thatched roof to both allow smoke to leave and block the sun. The windows of these houses were also very high up on the walls to block the glare of the sun. Nearly all the houses had niches for statues or altars and a mud brick platform which may have been used as a shrine or a birthing bed. None of the rooms were designated solely as bedrooms.

Layout of a typical house in Deir el-Medina
One of the surviving pyramid chapel above the tomb

Surrounding the village are their tombs. These mostly consist of rock cut chambers and chapels, sometimes with small pyramids. Because these villagers were artisans, these tombs are beautifully decorated. Check out these links to look inside some of the tombs!


The village was home to a mixed population of Egyptians, Nubians, and Asiastics who were employed as laborers (ie. stone cutters, plasters, water carriers), administrators, or decorators. The artisans were organized into two groups who also lived in different parts of the village. These were called left and right gangs and then worked on the respective sides of the tombs at the same time, with a foreman for each side. When working in the village, the artisans stayed overnight in a camp that overlooked the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, which is at the base of the cliffs that contain the Valley of the Kings. The workers had cooked meals delivered to them for the village.

The workmen were considered middle class, based on the record of their income and prices. They were salaried state employees, which meant that they were paid in rations. They also were known to practice unofficial second jobs as well. A working week was eight days followed by a two-day holiday. The six days off a month could be supplemented frequently due to illness or family reasons. There are even some records of taking the day off work because they were arguing with their wife or had a hangover! Workmen were also given days off for festivals as well as being issued extra supplies of food and drink to allow a larger celebration. During these days off, the workmen were allowed to work on their own tombs or take extra jobs.

The Egyptians did not use coinage for money until the Roman period, so jobs were paid with rations or through bartering. There was a continuous trade between houses of items like sandals, beds, baskets, paintings, amulets, loincloths, and toys for the children. A worker might build an addition to the house or roof in exchange for anything from a sack of grain, jug of beer, or a painting of a god or goddess in a personal shrine.

We don’t have any evidence of female artisans from this village, so it can be assumed that the village was mostly occupied by women and children while the men were away. Deir el-Medina itself provides the most information about non-royal women from the New Kingdom. Because they stayed in the village while the men were away, the government supplied them with servants to assist with the grinding of grain and laundry tasks. The wives of the worker would care for the children in the village and baked bread for the community. The vast majority of the women in the village could hold titles of chantress or singers, which meant that they held official positions within the local shrine or even the larger temples in Thebes. Women who were titled as mistress of the House could also work supervising the brewing of beer. Although some workmen used this activity as a legitimate excuse for taking time off of work.

Image from the tomb of Anherkhaway at Deir el-Medina

Women even had property rights under Egyptian law. They had a title to their own wealth and a third of all marital goods. These would belong solely to the wife in case of divorce or the death of the husband. If the wife was to die first, it would go to her heirs, not her spouse. One will of a woman named Naunakhte was found in Deir el-Medina in 1928. It dates to the 20th dynasty, during the reign of Rameses V and is currently located at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford (1945.97).

The Will of Naunakhte at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford

The Lady Naunakhte, who was labeled as a citizen and not a servant or slave, was married twice, first to a scribe Kenhikhopshef, with whom she had no children, and then to the workmen Khaemnun, with whom she had eight children. In her will, she lays out the inheritance to only her five oldest children, Maaynakhtef (male), Kenhikhopshef (male), Amennakht (male), Wosnakhte (female), Manenakhte (female). They were labeled as good children who took care of their mother in her old age. Her son Kenhikhopshef even received a bronze washing bowl. Although her last three children, did not receive anything in her will, she does remind them that they could receive items from their father. How I would love to see the will of Khaemnun to compare!

Religious Beliefs

In Deir el-Medina, the state gods were worshiped alongside personal gods without any conflict. The community had 16 to 18 chapels, the largest of which were dedicated to Hathor, Ptah, and Ramses II. The workmen typically honored Ptah, Resheph, originally a Canaanite god associated with plague, war, and thunder, Thoth, and Seshat. Women were devoted to Hathor, Taweret and Bes in pregnancy, and Renenutet and Meretseger for food a safety.

Tomb of Sennedjem Deir el-Medina, TT1

There was also a funerary cult dedicated to pharaoh Amenhotep I and his wife Ahmose-Nefertari. Amenhotep became Amenhotep of the Town and his wife because Mistress of the Sky and Lady of the West. The villagers held a festival every year dedicated to the pharaoh and his wife. The god Amun was also seen as a patron of the poor and one who was merciful to the penitent.

Book of Dreams found in Deir el Medina, Chester Beatty Papyrus, British Museum (EA 10683,2)

Dream interpretation also fell under the religious culture of the village. A book of dreams was found in the library cache of the scribe Kenhirkhopesehef. This book was used to interpret various types of dreams. Apparently the interpretation of the dream was often the opposite of what the dream depicted. Meaning, a happy dream could mean sadness or vice verse. Here are some examples:

  • If a man sees himself dead this is good; it means a long life in front of him.
  • If a man sees himself eating crocodile flesh this is good; it means acting as an official amongst his people. (i.e. becoming a tax collector)
  • If a man sees himself with his face in a mirror this is bad; it means a new life.
  • If a man sees himself uncovering his own backside this is bad; it means he will be an orphan later.

Historical Records

A large proportion of the community, including women, could at least and possibly write. Deir el-Medina itself contributed significantly to the literacy percentages in New Kingdom Egypt. This is seen especially in the vast number of ostraca and papyri remains that were found in Deir el-Medina. Ostraca are small pieces of stone or broke pottery, which were then written or drawn on. These could be funny scenes, literary texts, or important documents.

The surviving texts record the events of daily life rather than the major historical incidents, which is what the majority of other contemporary texts describe. Personal letters, records of sales transactions, prayer, law and court cases, medicine, love poetry, and literature are just some of the examples of the texts founds. Thousands of papyri and ostraca have still not been published, and it is estimated that half of the surviving records may have been lost to looters when the site was excavated.

As the majority of the workers were free citizens (there were some slaves who lived in the village), they were allowed all access to the justice system. Any Egyptian could petition the vizier and could demand a trial by his peers. The community’s court was made up of a foreman, deputies, craftsman, and a court scribe. They were authorized to deal with civil and some criminal cases, typically relating to the non-payment of goods or services. The villagers would represent themselves and some cases could go on for several years, including one dispute involving the chief of police that last eleven years.

The people of Deir el-Medina also consulted oracles about a variety of topics. Questions could be posed orally or in writing before the image of the god when carried by the priests. A positive response would be a downward dip and a negative response would the priests taking away the idol. They also believed that the oracle could bring disease or blindness to people as punishment or miracle cures as rewards.

Papyrus with medical advice, Edwin Smith Papyrus

A large portion of the ostraca found in Deir el-Medina describe the medical techniques of this time period. As in other Egyptian communities, the workmen and inhabitants of the village received care for their health problems through medical treatment, prayer, and magic. There was both a physician who saw patients and prescribed treatments and a scorpion charmer who specialized in magical cures. The surviving ostraca contain prescriptions, letters, and even semi-official documents such as lists noting the days and reasons for a worker’s absence. One example is a letter from a father to his son, asking for help in treating his blindness (Berlin P 11247). Apparently, it can be cured with honey, dried ochre, and black eye paint, though the instructions were not included.

Tomb Robbing

Tomb robbing was nothing new in ancient Egypt. The majority of tombs and funerary monuments were looted in antiquity, often just a few years after they were sealed. And then anything else was taken in the 18th and 19th century by tourists. If you didn’t know, the reason King Tutankhamun’s tomb was so famous and has created so much allure, is that it was the only intact tomb of a pharaoh.

Although King Tut’s tomb was filled to the brim with treasures, there was evidence of robbers entering the tomb, though they only took a few items. This map shows the different robbers holes.

The villagers of Deir el-Medina were blessed with the knowledge of the location, decoration, and possibly even witnessed the funerary assemblages being placed in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Because of this, it has been proposed that the Deir el-Medina villagers were actually the ones who looted many of these tombs and that it became part of the villages culture. During times where there was no work, they may have become desperate and used fences, or people who knowingly bought stolen goods, to loot and sell the finds of the tombs. They may have bribes officials and then would tunnel into the tombs through the back to not be suspected. Viziers would apparently inspect the tomb entrances often to make sure they were sealed. If any items were recovered from the tomb robbers, authorities would not put them back in the tombs, but add them to the treasury.

There are some records of thieves being caught and tortured to interrogate them. The police in the area were called the Medjay, who were responsible for preserving law and order. One of the famous cases was against a man named Paneb who was accused of looting royal tombs, adultery, and causing unrest in the community. There was an entire court case against him, which we unfortunately have no record of the outcome. Although there are other records of a head of the workmen being executed around this time. The adultery of Paneb was well recorded in this ostraca inscription:

“Paneb slept with the lady Tuy when she was the wife of the workman Kenna. He slept with the lady Hel when she was with Pendua. He slept with the lady Hel when she was with Hesysunebef – and when he had slept with Hel he slept with Webkhet, her daughter. Moreover, Aapekhty, his son, also slept with Webkhet!”

Papyrus Leopold II, currently in Brussels (07/003). The lower part in located at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and is called Papyrus Amherst VII.

The Leopold II and Amherst VII Papyrus detail one tomb robbery. One worker named Amenpanufer confessed to breaking into the tomb of Pharaoh Sobekemsaf II. He and his accomplices opened the sarcophagi and stole amulets, jewelry, and gold. They fled and spilt the loot between themselves. He alone was arrested but gave his share to the official who let him go. And then he returned to his friends, who reimbursed him for losing his share!

Another record, called the Abbot Papyrus, reports that officials were looking for a scapegoat, so they obtained a confession from a repeat offender after torturing him. The vizier was suspicious at how easily the suspect was produced, so he asked the man to lead them to the tomb that he robbed. He led them to an unfinished tomb and lied about who the tomb was made for. Supposedly, he was let go.

Strikes and the Decline of the Village

Throughout the later history of the village, there is evidence of several strikes against the pharaoh. Usually paying proper wages was a religious duty that formed an intrinsic part of Maat, which was a concept of truth or justice that the Egyptians followed. Around the 25th year of Ramses III’s reign, the tomb laborers were experienced severe delaying in supplies. They decided to stop working and wrote a letter to the vizier complaining about their lack of wheat rations. Some of the village leaders attempted to reason with them, but the workers continued to refuse to work as their were force to buy their own wheat. Apparently, the vizier and authorities were able to address their complaints and the workers resumed work. This may have been the first sit-down strike action in recorded history!

There were several strikes after this. The work chiefs continued to support the authorities rather than the workers. Since the workers didn’t trust their chiefs anymore, they chose their own representatives from within the village. After the reign of Ramses IV, the conditions in the village become increasingly unsettled. It is unclear when and why the site was finally abandoned, but it could be presumed that when the pharaoh’s stopped building tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, that the village was emptied.

Excavation History

The earliest find in the area was made in the 1840s. This was a cache of papyri, which hinted at some of the later finds in the village. It was first seriously excavated from 1905 to 1909 by Ernesto Schiaperelli, who was an Italian Egyptologists who had discovered the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Kings. His excavations uncovered a large number of ostraca.

Excavations in Deir el-Medina

Next, Bernard Bruyère, a French Egyptologist, started excavations around 1922. These of course were overshadowed by Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun. He excavated the entire site, including the village, the dump and the cemetery until 1951. During these excavations, a cache of 5,000 ostraca of assorted works of commerce and literature was found in a well near the village.

Jaroslav Černý, a Czech Egyptologist under Bruyère, continued to study the site for almost 50 years. He was able to name and describe the lives of many of the inhabitants of Deir el-Medina. The mountain peak that overlooks the village was renamed Mount Cernabru, in recognition of Černý and Bruyère’s work on the village.


Photo Credits

Wikimedia Commons (Roland Unger) – Ruins image – Plan of local area

Anne Austin ( – Picture of Ruins

British Museum (EA 10683,2) – Chester Beatty Papyrus (Dream Book)

Wikimedia Commons (Jeff Dahl) – Edwin Smith Papyrus (Medical Papyrus) – Funny Animal Ostraca

Peter Pavúk ( – Plan of Village and necropolis – Reconstruction of the village – Image of Pyramid shrine and ruins

Wikimedia (Steve F-E-Cameron) – Ruins

Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin – Osiride Statue of Amenhotep I

Anagh – Ruins

Archaeological Photography Exchange (Seshta) – Will of Naunakhte

Babara Weibel – Tomb of Sennedjem

Flickr (kairoinfo4u) – Tomb of Sennedjem – Outline of House Structure – Tomb of Anherkhawy

Global Egyptian Museum – Papyrus Leopold II – King Tut robbery map

Wikimedia Commons (French Archaeological Institute in Cairo IFAO) – Excavation of Deir el-Medina – Jaroslav Černý images – Bernard Bruyère image

Mummy Monday: Amenhotep III

As I talked about last week, the ancient palace structure of Malqata was built by Amenhotep III, a king in the early 18th Dynasty. Because I really liked learning about Malqata and Amenhotep III, I thought I would make the rest of this week themed about him. So today we are going to talk about the king himself and his mummy.

His Life

Amenhotep III was most likely born around 1401 B.C.E. to Pharaoh Thutmose IV and a minor wife Mutemwiya. He was a member of the Thutmosid family that had ruled Egypt for almost 150 years. His birth (personal) name was Amenhotep-Heqawaset, which roughly means, “Amun is pleased, Ruler of Thebes.” If you didn’t know, Egyptian pharaohs often had more than one name. Depending on the time period, some kings could have up to five names. So Amenhotep III’s throne name was Nebmaatre or “Lord of Truth of Re.”

He may have been crowned king at a very young age, either 6 or 12. He married a non-royal woman named Tiye very early into his rule. They had at least two sons and four daughters. Their eldest son was named Thutmose and he was the High Priest of Ptah in Memphis before he died suddenly, leaving his younger brother Amenhotep IV to inherit the throne. Amenhotep IV later became known as Akhenaten when he took the throne.

Their daughters were most likely named Sitamun, Henuttaneb, Isis/Iset, and Nebetah. Sitamun and Isis/Iset were elevated to the role of the Royal Wife near the end of Amenhotep III’s rule. Although Amenhotep III married at least 6 foreign princesses to secure alliances with different nations, he was adamant that “no daughter of the King of Egypt is given to anyone.”

Throughout his almost 40 year reign, he had stable international trade and a plentiful supply of gold from the mines and other products. Because of this, the economy was booming. He led exhibitions to Nubia to put down a rebellion in his 5th year, but otherwise, his reign was quite peaceful. He has the most surviving statues of any Egyptian pharaoh with over 250 discovered and identified.

Scarab Commemorating the King’s Marriage to Queen Tiye, ca. 1390–1352 B.C. Egyptian, New Kingdom Glazed steatite; L. 8 cm (3 1/8 in.); W. 5.4 cm (2 1/8 in.); H. 2 cm (13/16 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910 (10.130.1643)

During his rule, Amenhotep III commissioned several commemorative scarabs. These scarabs were quite larger than the typical seal scarabs. They had several lines of text, describing some events from his rule. These were created around the 11th year of his reign and have been found in several archaeological sites in Egypt, the Near East, Syria, and Sudan. Here is a list of the scarabs. The two that detail Queen Tiye, I will talk about Wednesday.

  • Lion Hunt Scarab– He claimed that he killed over 100 lions during the first ten years of his reign.
  • Marriage Scarab– He records the name of his wife Tiye with the name of her parents, to state her non-royal birth.
  • Lake Scarab – He announces the construction of a lake for his wife Tiye.
  • Bull Hunt Scarab – He claimed to kill almost 100 bulls in two days.
  • Gilukhepa – To announce the arrival of a Princess Gilukhepa, his new wife, from Mitanni.

As I talked about in the Malqata post, Amenhotep III built the royal palace to celebrate his three Heb-Sed festivals. Just north of the royal palace, he was building his mortuary temple called Kom el-Hettan. It was built by his architect, scribe, and overseer, Amenhotep, son of Hapu. Amenhotep was such a great architect, that the pharaoh blessed him with his own smaller mortuary temple nearby. At the time of its construction, Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple was the largest ever built by a pharaoh. Unfortunately, it completed razed by Ramses II, who used the materials to make his own temple. Only the two colossal statues, called the Colossi of Memnon, are left at the site.

The Colossi of Memnon at the entrance of the former mortuary temple of Amenhotep III

Unlike kings of the Old Kingdom, who combined their tombs and their mortuary temples into huge pyramid complexes, the New Kingdom king realized that this was bad practice because the tombs were robbed very easily. So they built their mortuary temples on the west bank of Thebes and their tombs up in the wadi behind it.

His Death

In his final years, Amenhotep III may have been very sick. According to the Theban tomb of Kheruef, he is depicted very frail. He may have been suffering from arthritis, became obese, or had painful abscesses in his teeth. Around this time, he requested a statue of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar of Ninevah from his father-in-law Tushratta of Mitanni. This statue could supposedly cure him of his aliments, but this is not clear as the statue may have been sent as a blessing of the marriage of the pharaoh and another Mitanni princess.

The latest regnal year mentioned is year 38, so he may have died in year 38 or 39. He was originally buried in the Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV22 or WV22.

His Tomb

This tomb is halfway into the Western Valley of the Kings, on the left and away from the cliff face. They reason that it is also called WV, is because it is located in this separate Western Valley, with only one other tomb. The tomb was originally found by two of Napoleon’s engineers, Prosper Jollois and Edouard de Villiers du Terrage, in 1799, but was excavated by both Theodore M. Davies in 1905-1914 and Howard Carter in 1915. The Egyptian Archaeological Mission of Waseda University in Japan excavated and restored the tomb in 1989.

Conservation of the tomb paintings by Waseda University

Davies left virtually no records of his excavations in the tomb. Carter became interested in the tomb after he purchased three bracelet plaques from a dealer in Luxor that had the name of Amenhotep III. By the entrance of the tomb, he found the foot of a shabti of Tiye and found five intact and one robbed foundation deposits. In the tomb, he found the hub of a chariot wheel, a small fragment of a faience bracelet, and fragments of a canopic chest. The Japanese team found one more foundation deposit with the head and bone of a calf, five miniature pottery vessels, and wooden model cradle, and a wooden carving of a symbolic rope knot which was all in a reed basket.

The tomb was quite a large one, with various passages to try and turn away tomb robbers. This unfortunately didn’t work as the tomb was virtually empty when discovered.

The entrance of the tomb leads to a steep flight of stairs, then an inclined corridor, another steep flight of stairs, and another inclined chamber before reaching a well chamber. This chamber is 5.9 meters down into an undecorated chamber. This room especially may have been built to deter tomb robbers, because the corridor to the rest of the tomb was bricked and stuccoed up to make it seem like a dead end.

The first room that you enter is decorated on three walls with a very similar scheme that will follow through the majority of the tomb. The walls were given a coat of blue wash and topped with a kheker frieze on a yellow background. The sky hieroglyph also runs along the tops of the walls, while a border of red and green stripes run underneath the scenes. The scenes all feature Amenhotep III being given an ankh, which is the sign of life, by different gods and goddesses. He is also presided over by the vulture goddess Nekhbet, which if you remember is a prominent figure in the decoration scheme at the royal palace at Malqata. In this room, he is given life by Anubis, the Western Goddess, and Osiris. He is also protected by his father Thutmose IV’s ka and the goddess Hathor. You can see from the images that some of the faces of the king have been removed. These were removed sometime in the 19th century and are currently located in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The corridor to the next room was also bricked up and stuccoed before being destroyed by tomb robbers. It leads into an undecorated pillared hall another steep stairway, corridor, and another stairway. This all descends another 9 meters, leaving the burial chamber about 17 meters below ground. These corridors and stairways are undecorated except for a small graffiti reading, “Year 3, 3rd month of Ankhet (season), day 7.” This may have been placed when Amenhotep III was buried in the chamber, but if so the year wouldn’t refer to his reign but rather his son’s or possibly a co-regency between the father and son.

The antechamber is decorated with almost identical decorations to that in the well chamber, with Amenhotep III receiving life from Hathor, Nut, the Western Goddess, Anubis, and Osiris. This room was again sealed from the burial chamber, so the decoration was destroyed by the tomb robbers.

The Burial chamber was a dual-chamber with a few steps between the two chambers. The upper level had six pillars in two rows and had two side chambers. The lower level had a place where the sarcophagus would have sat and had three side chambers, two of which had another side chamber off of it. The sarcophagus was lost and only fragments of its lid remain. The ceiling of these chambers was at one point painted a dark blue with pale yellow stars, but much of the plaster has fallen off.

The burial chamber

The rest of the chamber is painted with a representation of the Amduat, which was an ancient Egyptian funerary text which tells the story of Ra and how he makes the journey through the afterlife when the sun sets. This text is usually reserved only for pharaohs and was used as a way to help the deceased follow that path of Ra through the afterlife. The text and figures are reproduced in the cursive style that was usually found in papyri records. It begins at the left end of the north wall and proceeds clockwise around the chamber. The pillars are mostly damaged, but they feature a similar scheme with the other rooms, depicting Amenhotep before Hathor, Osiris, the Western Goddess, or Anubis.

All but one of the side chambers are undecorated. Most have a slightly lower floor than the previous chamber. Only chamber Jc was plastered and partially decorated with a kheker frieze over the doorway. These rooms were most likely made to house funerary goods or relatives of the king. It has been speculated that Queen Tiye was buried in this tomb for a short time, but we’ll talk about that on Wednesday.

Only the lid of the red granite sarcophagus remains. There is evidence that the king was placed in a series of golden and inlaid anthropoid wooden coffins, with the inner coffin and/or mask made out of solid gold. Debris found in the antechamber indicates that either a mask or one of the coffins had a superb cobra head made out of lapis lazuli with inlaid eyes set in gold. Following the looting of the tomb, 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.

Are you my Mummy?

Map of KV35. Amenhotep III’s mummy was found in side chamber Jb

The mummy cache in KV35 lay undiscovered until 1898. Although it was the tomb of Amenhotep II, here is a list of the other pharaohs found in this cache:

  • Amenhotep II
  • Thutmose IV
  • Merneptah
  • Seti II
  • Siptah
  • Amenhotep III
  • Ramses IV
  • Ramses V
  • Ramses 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 (sometimes labeled as Queen Tausret/Twosret)
  • Two skulls and an arm

The mummy of Amenhotep III was found in a side chamber (Jb) with the majority of the other kings. It was located in a makeshift coffin made up of a lid of Sety II and a coffin box of Ramses IV. The identification of the mummy, and many of the mummies found in the cache, are still up for debate.

A label or docket on the shroud of the mummy label the mummy as Amenhotep III. There were also hieratic on bands within the shroud and around the neck of the mummy, but these have yet to be published. The labels on the coffin box and lid identify those pieces with Seti II and Ramses IV. But the label on the lid was edited to add the throne name of Amenhotep III, Nebmaatre. The full text is listed below.

Linen Docket: “Year 12/13 4? prt 6? of Smendes/Pinudjem I: “Yr 12/13 4? prt 6? On this day renewing the burial (?) (whm krs?) of king (nsw) Nebmaatre l.p.h. by the high priest of Amon-Re king of the gods Pinudjem son of the high priest of Amon-Re king of the gods Piankh…(by?)…Wennufer (?)”

The mummy identified as Amenhotep III was badly damaged, either by tomb robbers or the priests who relocated the body. The mummy (now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, JE 34560l CG 6107) was unwrapped by G.E. Smith and Dr. Pain on September 13th, 1905. (This practice of course is no longer followed by Egyptologists.) The head of the mummy had been broken off, the back broke, and the entire front wall of the torso was missing. The right leg and thigh had also been detached from each other and the body. The mummy was probably anywhere from 40 to 50 years old when he died. He also had very worn and cavity pitted teeth, which did not necessarily cause his death, which could have left him in severe pain during his final years.

The priests from the 21st dynasty were quite careless in the re-wrapping of the body because bones of two different birds and a big toe, ulna, and radius bone from another person were found wrapped with the body. The birds’ bones may have originally been a food offering in the tomb, but the human bones remain a mystery.

The original embalmers of the body packed the skin with a resinous material, which has led to questioning if this really is the body of Amenhotep III. This technique was popular in the 21st dynasty, so there is the worry that this body was contemporary to the re-burial and not the 18th dynasty. But Smith noted that the 21st dynasty Egyptians packed the bodies with linen, mud, sand, sawdust, or mixtures of fat and soda, but not resin.

While it is not 100% confirmed that this is mummy of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, scholars agree that he is the most likely candidate.


Photo Credits – Photos and layouts of tomb KV22 – Photos of the mummy

Wikimedia commons (Einsamer Schütze) –  Amenhotep III head

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – Commemorative Scarab (10.130.1643)

Wikimedia commons (MusikAnimal) – Colossi of Memnon – KV35 map

TourEgypt – Map of KV22

Kenneth Garrett, National Geogrpahic Creative – Color photo of mummy