Some Further Evidence Of Survival

(i) The Shrine

A LARGE wooden shrine of gesso (gypsum) and gilt, like those surrounding the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, was discovered, dismantled, in Tomb No. 55. The sides, one of which was found in the corridor, had been taken to pieces as if an attempt had been made, then abandoned, to move the shrine out of the tomb. The shrine is decorated with reliefs showing Queen Tiye and her son, Akhenaten, making offerings to the Aten. The engraved copper tangs (handles) give the names and titles of the queen and the inscription states that the shrine was made for Queen Tiye by her son, whose own cartouche and figure have been carefully erased. There is no doubt or disagreement that this shrine belonged to Queen Tiye.

(ii) The Small Objects

A number of small objects, mostly toilet articles and the like, were found among the Tomb No. 55 debris. Some of these objects are inscribed with the name of Queen Tiye or her husband, Amenhotep III, making it likely that most, if not all, of these small objects belonged originally to the queen.

(iii) The Coffin

The coffin in Tomb No. 55 was made of wood, covered completely with gold leaf and inlaid with semi-precious stones. It resembles closely the second of the three coffins of Tutankhamun. However, instead of the head of the coffin wearing the usual royal head-dress, this one has a Nubian wig. Originally the coffin had been laid over a bier, but, as this had rotted away, the coffin collapsed and the mummy jerked partly out of the lid. The coffin is inscribed with a now damaged text that includes titles and cartouches of Akhenaten, which have been erased.

Much of the speculation and disagreement about the identity of the original owner of the coffin has arisen from the excised cartouches and titles of Akhenaten, evidence that the text on the coffin has been adapted to suit the present occupant, Semenkhkare, and a possibility that the royal emblem, the uraeus, was placed later on the coffin’s forehead. The differing views on the matter are:

•  Georges Daressy, the French Egyptologist, concluded that the coffin had been made originally for a woman whom he believed to be Queen Tiye;

•  Weigall thought, because of Akhenaten’s cartouches, that the coffin belonged to him;

•  Engelbach, about a quarter of a century later, tried to prove that the coffin belonged originally to Semenkhkare, dated from a time before he became coregent and was then changed to indicate his royal status;

•  Gardiner argued in 1957 on philological grounds that the original owner of the tomb was Akhenaten himself;

•  Aldred and Fairman put forward the view in the 1960s that the coffin had been made originally for Akhenaten’s eldest daughter, Merytaten, then adapted for her husband, Semenkhkare.

Inside the coffin, sheets of gold, which had apparently formed the lining, lay over the mummy. A pectoral sheet of gold had been placed on the mummy’s head, similar to the one discovered on the body of Tutankhamun. A necklace and a piece of gold, each inscribed with the early name of the Aten, used before Year 9 of Akhenaten’s reign, were found among the debris. According to both Weigall and Smith, the mummy was also enclosed in bandages inscribed with Akhenaten’s name, but these were later lost in Smith’s laboratory.

Although the Aldred-Fairman suggestion regarding the original owner of the coffin seems on balance to be more probable, there is no certain evidence to support any of the above-mentioned conclusions.

(iv) Canopic Jars

Four canopic jars were found near the coffin. They contained black material consisting of a hard, compact, pitch-like mass surrounding a well-defined central zone of different material, brown in colour and of a friable nature. This core was made up of nitrogenous material containing a small proportion of fatty matter, thus being the remains of viscera.

The lids of these jars were carved with heads wearing a wig. As the heads did not have beards it was thought that the jars had been made originally for a woman. It was also thought that the uraeus coils, the royal sign, were cut into the striations of the wigs later, indicating that this woman was not royal. As the texts that had been incised on the body of the jars have been ground away, this confirms that the original owner was different from the one who eventually used them. A. Lucas, a chemist, was able to prove that the inside of the jars indicates that the jars were used only once.1

Although some scholars have suggested that the jars belonged originally to Akhenaten, this seems unlikely as his name did not figure on the jars, which had been used only once, plus the fact that, had they been his, only his cartouches would have been erased from the text, as in the case of the shrine and coffin. Furthermore, the fact that the pattern of the wig used for these jars is very similar to that appearing on the coffin found in the same tomb suggests that both the jars and the coffin were made originally for the same woman, in this case Merytaten, Akhenaten’s eldest daughter, before she was married to Semenkhkare and became a queen.

(v) Magical Bricks

Four bricks of dried, gritty mud were found in situ, distributed around the tomb. Although they have suffered, like everything else in the tomb, from the effects of damp, Akhenaten’s name could be read on at least two of the bricks, whose function was to protect the dead person from intruders. The four bricks form a complete set, each having to be placed in a certain position in relation to the mummy in order to fulfil its protective function.

That these magical bricks belonged originally to Akhenaten is not the subject of dispute, and the fact that they were found in situ in Tomb No. 55 was one of the strong points that led Aldred and others to believe that the remains in the coffin were his. However, the skeletal remains have since been shown to be those of Semenkhkare. Why, then, was no attempt made either to erase Akhenaten’s name or adapt the text to suit Semenkhkare? It is now agreed that Akhenaten’s reign ended a few months, if not a few days, before the death of Semenkhkare. In this case, had Akhenaten’s reign ended with his death, his funerary arrangements, which would have taken seventy days, might not even have ended when the arrangements for Semenkhkare’s burial began. How then does one explain that Akhenaten’s original magical bricks, which formed an essential part of the funerary rituals, were found in situ in Semenkhkare’s tomb? The only possible conclusion is that they were not needed by Akhenaten who, although he had fallen from power before Semenkhkare’s death, was himself still alive.

Fairman was opposed to using the evidence of Akhenaten’s magical bricks to prove that the remains found in Tomb No. 55 were those of the king. He therefore tried to weaken this conclusion by suggesting that, although they had been made originally for Akhenaten early in his reign, the king could have changed his mind later and rejected this traditional practice as a result of the development of his religious ideas: ‘For the testimony of the magical bricks to be incontrovertible two things are necessary: it must first be proved that the use of such magical bricks was still retained in the funerary practices of the end of the Amarna Period; and it must also be proved that the texts themselves are such as could reasonably be expected to have been employed when the Aten cult was fully developed.’2

Fairman is not justified in these objections. First of all, Semenkhkare’s burial was an ‘end of the Amarna period’ burial, the only one we have. If Akhenaten had died when he fell from power in his Year 17, it would have been Tutankhaten’s responsibility to bury him, just as it was his responsibility to bury Semenkhkare. This is confirmed by the remains of the young king’s seal found in Tomb No. 55. At the time, and up to his Year 4, he was still called Tutankhaten and his capital and residence were at Amarna. There is no evidence that the old Egyptian gods, especially those usually associated with the underworld, were represented in Tomb No. 55. At this early stage of his rule Tutankhamun would have followed the same burial procedure with Akhenaten as he did with Semenkhkare.

Then again, if Akhenaten, having originally ordered the magical bricks to be made, later changed his mind, he would not have left the bricks forgotten in the stores. He would either have ordered any changes he thought necessary to be made or even have ordered their destruction if his developed religious beliefs caused him to reject their use. This was the course he followed in changing his own name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten and erasing the name of Amun in his father’s name. He would not have left his name on objects that offended his monotheistic belief, for it was the Egyptian creed that, as long as an inscription existed in the wrong form, the wrong beliefs lived.

(vi) Tutankharnun’s Tomb

Some funerary objects – small items, such as statuettes and bracelets – made originally for Akhenaten, but evidently never used for any burial of his, were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, who was not buried until nine years after the end of Akhenaten’s rule. A list of these objects was given by Martin.3 The numbers cited referred to objects as they appear in A Handlist to Howard Carter’s Catalogue of Objects in Tutankhamun’s Tomb, compiled by Helen Murray and Mary Nuttall of the Griffith Institute, Oxford, and published in 1963: ‘Those connected with Akhenaten appear to be nos. 54ee, 54ff, 54vv, 256 4t, 261a, 281a, 291a, 300a, 596a, 620(40) and an unnumbered sealing. Cf. also objects of Akhenaten, Semenkhkare or Merytaten nos. 1k, 46gg, 48h, 79 + 147, 101s, 256a, 256b(4), 261(1), 262, 405, 448, 620(13), 620(41), 620(42) and unnumbered gold sequins.’

Thus not only does the evidence from the royal tomb at Amarna prove that Akhenaten was never buried there: at Thebes, where it was thought that he was either buried originally in Tomb No. 55 or that his mummy was moved there from Amarna, it is now accepted that the skeleton in Tomb No. 55 is that of Semenkhkare, not Akhenaten. Then, as some original, essential parts of the funerary equipment of Akhenaten were found in situ in Tomb No. 55 they could not have been used for Akhenaten, reinforcing the belief that he was still alive at the time of Semenkhkare’s burial.

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