ALTHOUGH not a shred of evidence has been found to confirm the date of Akhenaten’s death, Egyptologists have assumed that it must have taken place at the end of his reign in his Year 17. There is evidence, however, indicating that – as in the Talmud account of the reign of Moses as a king in Nubia (Ethiopia) – he simply fell from power in the course of this year, but did not die. This evidence comes from archaeological, philological and historical sources.

The Archaeological Evidence

The Royal Tomb of Akhenaten was desecrated originally in the wave of anti-Amarna feeling that followed his disappearance from the scene and the subsequent brief reigns of Tutankhamun and Aye. Later, it was further plundered by local inhabitants before it was first discovered officially by the Italian archaeologist Alessandro Barsanti in December 1891 during an expedition carried out on behalf of the Egyptian Service des Antiquités.

The Amarna city of Akhenaten was built halfway between Luxor and Cairo where the high barren plateau stretching 200 miles from the Red Sea recedes, leaving a crescent-shaped plain to the east of the Nile, about eight miles long and three broad. Three main valleys break into the rocks to the east of Amarna. The north and south valleys were used for the tombs of Amarna nobles and officials, the middle valley, Wadi Abu Hassan el-Bahri, for Akhenaten’s tomb. It was dug inside the rocks of a small side valley that branches out from the north side of the main valley.


The entrance of the tomb is cut into the floor of the Royal Valley with the doorway facing roughly east.1 Then there is a smooth, inclined plane for the lowering of the sarcophagus with, on each side, a flight of steps descending to the entrance. This leads to a sloping corridor, neither decorated nor inscribed.

At the end of the corridor is another flight of steps that leads to a platform giving abruptly on to a shaft some ten feet deep. In the wall opposite the shaft is the doorway of the royal burial chamber, some thirty-two feet square. The left third of the room is taken up by a dais and two columns that support the roof while the remaining two-thirds on the right has an emplacement, raised half an inch or so above the floor, for the sarcophagus. All the walls of the royal chamber had been smoothly plastered for the artists to do their work, but Akhenaten’s enemies, determined to destroy all traces of him, made sure that there is nothing left of whatever scenes or inscriptions the walls may once have borne.

If we go back to the corridor at the top of the stairs we find an opening on the right-hand side, near the royal chamber, leading to three rooms, two of which were used for the burial of Akhenaten’s second daughter, Meketaten, who died some time after his Year 12. Mourning scenes for the princess decorate the walls. A short way along the corridor is another doorway leading to six unfinished rooms that could have been intended for the other members of the royal family. So, in fact, we first have the entrance, then the corridor off which are found the six unfinished rooms, then the Meketaten suite before the steps leading to the royal chamber area.


Barsanti’s main objective on his first visit at the end of 1891 and another eight months later was to clear the tomb, whose entrance was blocked by debris. Once that had been done it seems he gave most of his attention to the royal burial chamber. However, his second visit yielded some fragmentary ushabti (small funerary statues normally placed in a tomb before the owner’s death) of Akhenaten and one small stela, in good condition, that had apparently escaped the attention of previous tomb plunderers.

More than a year passed before the arrival in January 1894 of a third expedition, led by Urbain Bouriant, director of the Mission Archéologique Française. Bouriant’s team concentrated largely on making a plan and section of the tomb and recording the inscriptions and reliefs in all of the rooms apart from the badly damaged royal burial chamber. Then followed a long gap before the Egypt Exploration Society – the first British organization to be invited to carry out work on behalf of the Service des Antiquités – was asked to re-examine the tomb as well as excavating the area outside it. Pendlebury, the director of the expedition, which began work on 18 December 1931, wrote later: ‘Outside the tomb was a large dump, some seventy metres long and varying from five to ten metres broad. The depth was, in places, as much as four metres. The dump consisted of three layers. Above lay the debris thrown out of the tomb by Barsanti; below this came the deposit left by the original desecrators of the tomb, while at the bottom was a layer of chips from the cutting of the tomb itself.’

It took more than three weeks to make a thorough examination of the dump. Three days after Christmas excavation was also begun in the shaft of the tomb. The result was that from both the dump and the shaft came many more fragments of the sarcophagi and some broken ushabti figures. The expedition also found part of Akhenaten’s alabaster canopic chest, a box with four compartments, used to hold the four canopic jars. These jars, made of pottery or stone with a head for a stopper, were used in the course of mummification to keep the viscera of the dead after they had been removed from the body, but no fragments of the jars themselves were found.

After the departure of the Egypt Exploration Society team the site continued to be the focus of attention for local predators. Robbers broke into the tomb and made off with a large number of fragments of the plaster reliefs that adorned the walls of the Meketaten rooms. In May of that year, therefore, the Service des Antiquités organized a sondage (excavation) that produced another dozen ushabti fragments.

Part of the attraction of the area for the predators lay in persistent rumours that it contained yet another tomb, so far undiscovered. This resulted in the mounting of another expedition – by an Egypt Exploration Society team led by Pendlebury and his wife – to prove or disprove the rumour. The result of six weeks’ work was a blank, and Pendlebury wrote in his subsequent report: ‘All we can say for certain is that the cutting of the tomb began later than Year 6 of Akhenaten’s reign, since the ostracon … found in one of the dumps of chips bore that date, a conclusion to which we should have been forced in any case since the city itself was not founded until that year. Since many of the fragments, both of the canopic chest and of the sarcophagi were found in the shaft inside the tomb, it is probable that they were broken up in situ.’ In addition to searching unsuccessfully for a second tomb, the Pendlebury team made a plan of the Royal Tomb, photographed the walls and copied all the wall-scenes and inscriptions. Once this work was completed the tomb was sealed off from the attentions of further predators by closing the entrance with a wall containing a steel door.

More recently, in 1974, the Egypt Exploration Society published the first part of an account by Geoffrey T. Martin, Professor of Egyptology at University College, London, with details of the small items that were found during the different stages of excavation at Akhenaten’s tomb.2

Out of the many small sarcophagi fragments, which are no more than a few centimetres each, it was possible to reconstruct one sarcophagus of pink, grey and white granite. It is too large to have been Meketaten’s. On the other hand, as Nefertiti is shown at each corner of the sarcophagus in place of the four protecting goddesses – Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Silket – it could not have belonged to the queen herself. It is safe in this case to attribute the reconstructed sarcophagus to Akhenaten.

The remaining sarcophagi fragments proved to have come from:

a)  the reconstructed sarcophagus of Akhenaten;

b)  the lid of Akhenaten’s sarcophagus;

c)  the sarcophagus of Meketaten;

d)  the lid of Meketaten’s sarcophagus.3

The great size of Akhenaten’s sarcophagus indicates that this was the outermost of a series of coffins that would protect the royal mummy (the mummies of both Yuya and Tutankhamun were enclosed in three coffins). Nevertheless, no remains of other coffins were found, nor any remains of the usual shrine or canopy that were part of the normal burial furniture, thus raising the possibility that Akhenaten was never buried in this tomb. What reinforces this idea is the fact that, although the evidence indicates that Akhenaten’s enemies smashed everything in the tomb, no matter how large or solid, into small pieces after the end of the Amarna regime, the fragmented funerary remains found in the tomb could not be considered sufficient in quantity to indicate the burial of Akhenaten and his daughter Meketaten – or for that matter burial of the king alone. Apart from the absence of the additional coffins there was no trace of other items – chariots, chairs, boxes, magic bricks and amulets – that were normally buried in royal tombs only after the king’s death. The sole remains that can be said with certainty to have belonged to Akhenaten are the sarcophagus lid, the ushabtiand the canopic chest, all objects that were normally placed in the tomb earlier than the time of actual death.

Martin, one of the few scholars who believes that Akhenaten was actually buried in his tomb, tries to justify this view by arguing: ‘Possibly the mummy of Meketaten, together with the funerary trappings – which probably would not have been extensive – were transferred to Thebes after the abandonment of el-Amarna.’4 Although evidence from the tomb confirms that Meketaten was originally buried there during her father’s reign, there is nothing to indicate that these funerary objects were removed to any other place, and Martin, who took no part in any of the excavations at Akhenaten’s tomb, gives us no reason for suggesting the possibility that they were.

It is possible, of course, to suggest, even if supporting evidence is lacking, that it was considered unsafe to leave Meketaten unguarded in the Royal Tomb once Amarna was abandoned about Year 4 of Tutankhamun. But if, as Martin suggests, Akhenaten was buried there as well, why would they move the princess and leave the king? Then there is the difficulty of the absence of funerary objects that would in the normal course of events have been placed in the tomb after the king’s death. Martin attempts to deal with this point, again without putting forward any evidence, by suggesting that there was a second exodus of objects from the tomb: ‘Most of the valuable items were doubtless carried off by the despoilers … This is unlikely to have taken place in the reigns of Tutankhamun or Aye, who were closely linked to Akhenaten’s family by marriage. The spoliation was probably ordered under Horemheb or conceivably later, in the Ramesside period.’5 However, the archaeological evidence not only does not support Martin’s theory: it contradicts it.

After his first season of excavation at the tomb in 1931, Pendlebury made the important observation: ‘In view … of the demonstration that the so-called body of Akhenaten found in the cache of Tiye at Thebes’ – he was referring to Tomb No. 55, discussed below – ‘is in reality not his at all, it was imperative to try and collect all the evidence as to whether Akhenaten was ever buried at el-Amarna, and, if so, whether in the Royal Tomb or elsewhere.’6

After giving a short account of what was found in the tomb, he went on to say: ‘From both dump and shaft came many more fragments from the sarcophagi, similar to those already in Cairo Museum, as well as broken shawabti-figures (ushabti). In addition there were found parts of Akhenaten’s magnificent alabaster canopic chest, with protecting vultures at the corners, together with pieces of the lids capped with the king’s head. The chest gives evidence of never having been used, for it is quite unstained by the black resinous substance seen in those of Amenhotep II and Tutankhamun, and is additionally interesting in that it is inscribed with the early form of the Aten name, while the sarcophagi all have the later.’

Pendlebury is here remarking that as the burial rituals required some parts of the funerary furniture, including the canopic chest, to be anointed by a black liquid, and he was unable to see any traces of such staining on the fragments he found, he concluded that the tomb had never been used. This would mean that Akhenaten was never buried in his Amarna tomb. This view was supported by the fact that no trace was found of any fragments of the canopic jars themselves, usually placed in position at the time of burial. This idea is further reinforced by the use of the early Aten name, which suggests that the canopic chest was made and placed in position very early in the king’s reign, before Year 9 when Aten received his new name.

Pendlebury’s conclusions were later confirmed by the Egyptian archaeologist Muhammad Hamza, who in 1939 was able to restore Akhenaten’s canopic chest from the fragments found by Pendlebury: ‘As the box is quite unstained by the black resinous unguents to which those of Amenhotep II, Tutankhamun and Horemheb were subjected, it seems probable that it has never been used for the king’s viscera.’7

As a result of the archaeological evidence presented by Pendlebury and Hamza, most Egyptologists accepted the conclusion that Akhenaten could not have been buried in his Amarna tomb, but still believed that he died in his Year 17, the year he fell from power. Some, like Gardiner, took the view that he had never been buried at all and his ‘body had been torn to pieces and thrown to the dogs’: others, like Weigall and Aldred, thought that he must have been buried at Thebes, in Tomb No. 55, or somewhere else. Only Martin was not convinced: ‘Akhenaten was buried in the Royal Tomb in or shortly after Year 17.’8

Where did he obtain this information? The only actual date found in the tomb, as remarked by Pendlebury, was Year 6. Then, as the late name of the Aten was found on the reconstructed sarcophagus and other objects, we can draw the deduction that some work in the tomb was carried out after Year 9. Furthermore, as Meketaten died some time after Year 12, probably in Year 14, her burial could have taken place then. But which evidence found in the Royal Tomb provided Martin with his Year 17 and persuaded him, against the evidence, that Akhenaten had been buried there?

He makes the point: ‘The suggestion that the canopic chest was never used is open to serious question.’9 What are his grounds for taking this view? ‘The absence of bitumin or resin in the canopic chest from the Royal Tomb has been alluded to by several writers, and the assumption made that the chest was never used, and that Akhenaten was therefore never buried in the tomb prepared for him.’10 He then goes on to put forward three arguments in support of his view.

1  ‘The actual canopic coffins or jars which would have contained the viscera have not been found. These were presumably of a precious material, and were placed inside the cylindrical compartments of the canopic chest, as in the Tutankhamun examples.’

Thus the first of Martin’s ‘serious questions’, being used to confirm Akhenaten’s burial in the Royal Tomb, turns out to be a serious point of evidence that he was not buried there at all. The four jars in which the viscera of the dead were placed have separate names: Imset, for the liver, Hapi (lungs), Duamutif (stomach) and Qebehs (intestines). These organs were removed in the first stages of mummification and brought to the tomb with the funerary procession at the time of burial. The absence of these jars from Akhenaten’s tomb, far from proving that he was buried there, as Martin would have us believe, is strong evidence that he was not.

Furthermore, as those responsible for the tomb’s mutilation in ancient times were not thieves, but political enemies who wanted to ensure the complete destruction of Akhenaten by removing his name, image and memory – and thus ensuring his spiritual death – they would not have removed the canopic jars from the tomb because they were precious in terms of value: rather would they have destroyed the jars and their contents for vengeance in situ, as they did with all the other tomb objects they found. They would not have risked the possibility of any part of him surviving for the sake of the value of the containers. The four vases were usually covered with tops that were decorated with the head of the dead king and the vases themselves were usually inscribed with his name and other personal details. To preserve his image or his name, according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, was to allow the spiritual part of him to live. Therefore, by removing his image, his name or any objects belonging to him, his enemies believed they were condemning him to eternal death.

2  ‘It cannot automatically be assumed that the ritual feature of pouring bitumin or resin over or in the canopic jars was a regular feature of the funerary rites of the Amarna royal family.’

This second ‘serious question’ is an assumption, not supported by any evidence. Martin is saying: what if Akhenaten didn’t follow the usual ritual? Yet we know that his successor, Tutankhamun, did, and, if Akhenaten had died in his Year 17, Tutankhamun would have been responsible for his burial. Martin is here putting forward a possibility, then using what is only a possibility to support his view. This line of argument is invalid. To suggest a possibility either requires supporting evidence or a situation where the possibility makes sense of other evidence. Neither of these conditions exists in this, the second of Martin’s ‘serious questions’. Yet he asks us to accept it as a reason for rejecting what the majority of scholars have regarded as solid archaeological testimony.

In addition, the evidence from the Royal Tomb and from Amarna as a whole confirms that Akhenaten rejected the old customs and rituals only when they had polytheistic implications that contradicted his monotheism: ‘In the Aten period, great as was the spiritual reform which Akhenaten imposed upon his subjects, the outer forms prevailing in earlier ages could not be discarded; the king’s own sepulchre at el-Amarna still contained ushabti-figures though no longer bearing the time-honoured summons to field-labourers to till the fields as substitutes for their lord, and there exist large scarabs of the period which no longer appeal for mercy in the weighing of the heart before Osiris.’11

Why should Akhenaten have rejected the ritual of anointing the canopic chest and other funerary objects with bitumin or resin when this normal practice did not contradict his religious beliefs in any way? This is what Martin did not attempt to explain.

3  ‘The canopic chest, as it now exists, is largely a skilful reconstruction in plaster.’

In his third ‘serious objection’, as he regarded it, Martin complains that too few of the original fragments were used in the reconstructed chest for the stains to be seen and even some of those are covered with plaster. This leads him to argue: ‘It follows that any conclusion drawn from the absence of resin or bitumin in these compartments or on the canopic chest must be tentative in the extreme. There is no certain evidence to prove that the chest was never used.’

Both Pendlebury and Hamza, who saw all the found parts of the canopic chest before it was plastered and reconstructed, confirmed that it was not stained with resin or bitumen. Yet Martin, without himself having any first-hand knowledge of the chest fragments, and without putting forward reasons why the two earlier archaeologists were either misled by the evidence or themselves gave a misleading account of it, wants us to reject their conclusion. Then, if he were able – which he was not – to make us suspect the accuracy of the earlier conclusion, the best he could have hoped for is to be able to say: ‘There is no certain evidence to prove that the chest was never used.’ However, he goes further than that and states confidently: ‘There can no longer be any room for doubt that Akhenaten was buried there [in the Royal Tomb].’12

From the following details of the fragments that were used in the reconstruction of the canopic chest given by Martin himself,13 we can see that they were more than enough to show whether it was stained or not: ‘Canopic chest of Akhenaten, with separate cover … Reconstructed in 1939 by M. Hamza from various fragments, with the missing portions supplied in plaster … Height of chest 76.5cm. Height of lid (front) max. 22cm. Height of lid (back) 18cm. Width (front) 60cm. Depth 60cm. Height of supporting falcons at the corners (including disk) 47.3 cm. Height of base and frieze of tyet and djed amulets [sacred ritual objects related to the dead] 23cm. Height of large cartouches 14.2cm. Height of inscription around lid 5.5cm., measured from the bottom of the lid to the border immediately above the cartouches.

‘In the reconstructed canopic chest, the front and both sides of the cover each have 26 cartouches, the back 29. The surviving inscriptions, which are all incised, consist of the early “didactic” names of the Aten. None survives on the front or on the left side of the cover …

‘The canopic chest conforms in most particulars to the other extant royal canopic chests of the Eighteenth Dynasty, which appear to have been used only for Pharaohs and not for their consorts or families. In the reconstruction the following original material is incorporated:


1  On the left side, a fragment of the feathering of the upper part of the falcon’s wing;

2  A fragment from the point where the wings of the two falcons meet;

3  Lower part of the tail of the right falcon and the tips of the wings of the left falcon;

4  Part of the base with frieze of tyet and djed.


5  Fragments of the feathering of the wings of the left falcon, and part of the tips of the wing of the right falcon;

6  Fragments of the base, including the upper border and tyet and djed elements.

Left side:

7  Fragments of the rim and much of the base, including the upper border and tyet and djed elements.

Right side:

8  Part of the base of the cartouche on the right side;

9  Tail and part of the feathering of the left falcon;

10  Part of the claw and shen amulet (for protection of the dead) of the right falcon;

11  Fragments of the base, including the upper border and tyet and djed elements.


Largely reconstructed in plaster, presumably over wood.’

As we can see from Martin’s own account, enough original fragments were found of the canopic chest, and have been used in the reconstructed chest in Cairo Museum, to be able to judge whether it was anointed with resin or bitumen or not. And as both Pendlebury and Hamza have confirmed the complete absence of such stains, I do not take Martin’s unsupported ‘serious questions’ seriously.


In January 1907 a small tomb – now known as Tomb No. 55 – with only one burial chamber was found in the Valley of the Kings. The tomb is one of only three discovered closed in the Valley, with both mummy and funerary furniture inside, the other two being that of Yuya and his wife Tuya, which first came to light in 1905, followed by Tutankhamun’s in 1922. The excavation was sponsored by the rich, retired American lawyer and amateur archaeologist Theodore M. Davis, who employed the British archaeologist Edward R. Ayrton to conduct the digging under the supervision of Arthur Weigall, another Briton, appointed two years earlier to the post of Inspector-General of the Antiquities of Upper Egypt.

Although numerous fragments of small clay seals were found with the cartouche of Neb-kheprw-re (Tutankhamun) used only during the Pharoah’s lifetime, it seems that the tomb had been re-entered at a later date as the outer door had been sealed with the same style of seal (a jackal above nine foreign prisoners) used to close the tomb of Tutankhamun.

The tomb is near the entry of the inner Valley, close to the site where the tomb of Tutankhamun was subsequently found. It consists of a small, rock-cut chamber approached by a sloping passage, and does not seem to have been intended originally for a royal burial. The burial also appeared to have been carried out in haste, with a minimum of equipment. What made the situation worse in trying to establish ownership of the tomb was the fact that it had deteriorated as a result of a great deal of rainwater dripping into it through a fissure in the rock.

The debate about ownership of the tomb has rumbled on for the greater part of this century and still surfaces from time to time. Initially it was thought that the decayed mummy was that of Queen Tiye, then that of Akhenaten. This, allied to an apparently nude statue of the king at Karnak – one of four colossi – which showed him seemingly deformed and without genitalia, led to elaborate pathological attempts to try to discover what disease he suffered from. At the end of the day this proved to be something of a storm in a canopic jar: it was demonstrated eventually that the mummy was not that of Akhenaten, but of his coregent, Semenkhkare, and, in addition, that the seemingly nude colossus at Karnak was actually an unfinished statue, awaiting, like the completed three, the addition of a kilt. It is worth examining this debate, however, because it indicates the lengths to which some of those who do not find Akhenaten to their taste are prepared to go to try to discredit him (see Appendix E). The contents of Tomb No. 55, which have prompted a protracted debate over the original ownership of the tomb, and some of the items found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, provide further evidence that Akhenaten’s life did not end when he fell from power, but in order not to weary the reader at this point I have put them in Appendix F. Here it is perhaps worth making the point briefly that some magical bricks of Akhenaten, essential for his burial, were found in Tomb No. 55, whose incumbent has been established as Semenkhkare – indicating that Akhenaten himself did not need them.


Both Professor D. E. Derry, then Professor of Anatomy in the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University, who restored the skull of the occupant of Tomb No. 55 and concluded that the remains were those of a man no more than twenty-three or, at most, twenty-four years of age at the time of death, and Professor R. G. Harrison, the late Derby Professor of Anatomy at the University of Liverpool, who confirmed Derry’s conclusion that the remains were those of Semenkhkare (see Appendix E), found a striking similarity between the facial characteristics of Semenkhkare’s skeleton and the artistic impressions we have of Akhenaten, suggesting that they must have been brothers or close relatives. Grafton Elliot Smith, at the time Professor of Anatomy at Cairo Medical School, also found similarity between Semenkhkare’s remains and the mummies of both Amenhotep III and Yuya, sufficient to make him a descendant of both. As Queen Tiye was Yuya’s daughter, this suggests that Semenkhkare could have been a son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, a full brother of Akhenaten. At the same time he could also have been the son of Akhenaten, who was a descendant of both Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. However, as Harrison’s examination proved that he died in his twentieth year, and that was Year 17 of Akhenaten’s reign, this would mean that he was born about three years before Akhenaten came to the throne as coregent. As we know that Akhenaten was not married until around the time the coregency started, this rules out the possibility that Semenkhkare was his son, and it is most likely that he was Akhenaten’s full brother.

As for Tutankhamun, who certainly belonged to the same family, he was about nine or ten years of age when he succeeded Akhenaten on the king’s fall from power and the sudden death of Semenkhkare. This means that he was born during Year 7 of Akhenaten, which was Year 34 of Amenhotep III. As we saw earlier, Baketaten, the youngest of Queen Tiye’s daughters, was probably born in Year 4 of Akhenaten, Year 31 of Amenhotep III. In Year 7 of her son, Akhenaten, Queen Tiye was about forty years of age and Amenhotep III about forty-five, in both cases a possible age for them to produce a son. Yet it is more likely that Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

In Tutankhamun’s tomb a figure of a recumbent jackal was found upon a shrine containing pieces of jewellery. The figure, which had been carved from wood, was overlaid with a thin layer of plaster and painted with black resin. The body of the jackal was covered almost completely with linen draperies, one of which proved to be a shirt dated to Year 7 of Akhenaten, the same year that Tutankhamun was born.14 This dated Akhenaten shirt was surely used for Tutankhamun at the time of his birth, strongly indicating the parental relationship and the place of birth as Amarna. His original name at the time of his birth, Tutankhaten, also suggests that he was born at Amarna. In addition, there is evidence that, while still a prince, he lived at the northern Amarna palace, the very same place where Queen Nefertiti lived during the last years of Akhenaten’s reign. Why would he have lived at Amarna with Queen Nefertiti if he were the son of Queen Tiye?

It is true that he describes Amenhotep III as his ‘father’ on a statue of a lion, now in the British Museum, and that a small golden statue of Amenhotep III as well as some of Queen Tiye’s hair, in a small coffin, were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, but it was customary among Egyptians, as with the Hebrews, to use the word ‘father’ as a synonym for ‘ancestor’, and if Queen Tiye were Tutankhamun’s grandmother, it would be normal to find some of her belongings as well as Amenhotep III’s in his tomb.

What is the correct sequence of events? It would seem that the political struggle must have reached a point where the old priesthood and some factions of the army were in open revolt against Akhenaten’s regime as a result of his attempt to impose his new God on his people. Aye, who was responsible for the army and must have been the most powerful man in Egypt at the time, either convinced, or even forced, Akhenaten to abdicate in order to save the Amarna Dynasty, and replaced him with Semenkhkare. It seems that, shortly after the fall of Akhenaten, Semenkhkare died suddenly at Thebes, most probably from unnatural causes because he was not regarded as a suitable replacement for Akhenaten.

While the country was still in turmoil it was not possible to bury Semenkhkare in the proper way – especially as it seems that his death occurred at Thebes – using his own funerary equipment which had been prepared for him (and some of which was later used by Tutankhamun). Aye therefore had to do the best he could with whatever material was available. He buried Semenkhkare secretly, and in a hurry, using some objects meant to be used by Akhenaten, who had already fled from Amarna.

The presence of a shrine of Queen Tiye’s in the tomb (see Appendix F) is not easy to explain, but it is possible that she was either still alive or, as Weigall thought, had died and been buried in the same tomb prior to the death of Semenkhkare, in which case her mummy and most of her objects would have been moved away when the time came to bury the young coregent. It is also clear that, as Tutankhamun’s priests would not have erased Akhenaten’s name from the shrine and coffin, the tomb was re-entered later, probably during the reign of Horemheb when the campaign was mounted to try to wipe out all traces of the Akhenaten regime from Egypt’s memory.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at admin@erenow.net. Thank you!