Category: keith-payne

The Riddle of KV63 – King Tut’s mom?

Archaeologists moving one of the sarcophagi inside KV63. Click the image to skip to the video.Heritage Key has premiered a new video with Dr. Zahi HawassThe Riddle of KV63. Again we are treated to the film work of Nico Piazza and Heritage Keys exclusive access to the one person who has unfettered access to all of Egypts mysteries, Dr. Zahi Hawass.

The story of KV63 is an epic tale that has been fraught with cliffhangers and surprises since its discovery several years ago. The name KV63 is a result of the naming conventions used in the Valley of the Kings necropolis near Luxor, Egypt. It essentially means that it is the sixty-third tomb discovered in the Valley of the Kings, with KV62 being that of King Tutankhamun.

Why an actual royal name has not been associated with the tomb has to do with the strange turns researchers have had to navigate in unraveling its story. First thought to be a tomb, then thought to be a mummy workshop, it now appears that it may have been both, and Dr. Zahi Hawass thinks we are inching closer to being able to hang a royal name on KV63.

Delayed Gratification

Tomb KV63 was discovered by Dr. Otto Schaden late in the digging season of 2005 in an area where some workers huts belonging to Nineteenth Dynasty tomb builders from Deir el-Medina had been previously excavated. While conducting digs in the area close to KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, Schaden found what would later prove to be the shaft of a tomb.

He had to wait until the following year to complete his excavations, but when he was able to resume his team soon discovered an underground chamber consistent with an Eighteenth Dynasty tomb. With Dr. Hawass present, on February 8, 2006, the finding was dubbed KV63 and Otto Schaden was credited with discovering the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings since Howard Carter discovered Tut in 1922.

When the burial chamber of the tomb was further excavated it was found to contain seven sarcophagi which contained embalming tools and materials, but no mummies. It then appeared that what Dr. Schaden had discovered was an embalming cachette. On one level this made senseas Dr. Hawass mentions in the video clip, the eventual discovery of a mummification workshop at the mouth of the valley was expected. But on another level it was odd that the cachette should be discovered in what was clearly a tomb.

Handling With Care

The Riddle of KV63 video contains some great footage of work being conducted inside KV63, including the preparation and movement of the sarcophagi. The wooden coffins have severely deteriorated over the millennia, and we see archaeologists doing the meticulous work of gathering fragments and examining the coffins. There is one very tense scene where one of the sarcophagi is being moved using tools and methods that are probably very similar to those used by the ancients.

He [Dr, Hawass] theorizes that KV63 is actually an Eighteenth Dynasty tomb which was robbed fairly early and then converted into an embalming cachette at some point during the Nineteenth Dynasty.

We are also allowed to see the unusual contents of sarcophagus number six, which was stuffed with what appear to be ancient pillows. Dr. Hawass is cautious not to speculate too much about what purpose they may have served. It seems unfeasible that they served some purpose in the mummification process, as we have never seen them represented or mentioned in such a way before. Perhaps they belonged to the workmen or the priests themselves?

But Dr. Hawass is more willing to speculate with regard to the nature of the site which, as mentioned above, looks a lot more like a tomb than just a workshop. He theorizes that KV63 is actually an Eighteenth Dynasty tomb which was robbed fairly early and then converted into an embalming cachette at some point during the Nineteenth Dynasty. Dr. Hawass goes one step further in naming who he thinks the tomb may have belonged toTutankhamuns mother, Queen Kiya. You will have to watch the video to hear his reasoning behind this. There is a good 30 seconds or so of footage after the credits roll, so stick around!

HD Video: Dr. Zahi Hawass on the Riddle of KV63

(Transcription of this video.)

We also have some great images by Sandro Vannini of the sarcophagus in KV63, as well as a map detailing where each of the artefacts were found. Check out our video page for more videos featuring Zahi Hawass, including the search for KV64, and the lost tombs of Thebes. We’re releasing new videos all the time, so sign up to our RSS feed to stay up to date.

Dr. Zahi Hawass’ Video with the Latest Discoveries from Dra Abu el-Naga

Dr. Zahi Hawass shows the New Discoveries in Drabu el NagaHeritage Key has posted the latest video clip from Dr. Zahi Hawass regarding current excavations at the Valley of the Kings and surrounding areas.

In New Discoveries in Drabu el Naga, Dr. Hawass brings us up to date with his excavations at this promising site on the West Bank of the Nile, close to Luxor and directly across from Karnak.There are about 80 numbered tombs at Dra Abu el-Naga, some of which are royal tombs dating from the Seventeenth Dynasty, with other New Kingdom tombs belonging to Theban priests and privileged court officials.

The site suffers from modern encroachment, with houses being built on top of some burial sites.Other sites have been looted in times both ancient and modern.But Dr. Hawass remains confident that there is still much to be discovered at Dra Abu el-Naga.

Indeed, there have been a number of exciting finds made recently at the necropolis.Dr. Jos Galn, of the National Research Center at Madrid, has had a Spanish team excavating Dra Abu el-Naga since 2002.At the end of the 2008 season his team discovered a deep shaft under the burial chamber in the tomb of Djehuty (TT11), a high official in the court of Queen Hatshepsut.At the beginning of the 2009 season Dr. Galn was able to properly survey his find and discovered a second burial chamber decorated with texts from the Book of the Dead, also called Pyramid Texts, with the goddess Nut adorning the ceiling.

It is even possible that some of the houses built over top of burial sites may have inadvertently protected the sites from spoilage.

Dr. Hawass discusses finds made by his own team, in particular three New Kingdom tombs (although one may date from the Late Period) belonging to Theban officials.The first he discusses is the tomb of Amen-Em-Opet, an official bearing the title of Supervisor of Hunters, who was previously dated to prior to the reign of Akhenaten, but in this clip Dr. Hawass speculates that he may have lived during the Amarna Period.

The jewellery discovered in Djehuty's TT11 at Dra' Abu El-NagaAlthough one might expect a bearskin rug and a mounted elks head over a fireplace in the tomb of the official Supervisor of Hunters, we are treated to no such fineries in this video.We are, however, shown a seal bearing Amen-Em-Opets name, and a shabti bearing the name of a usurper, “Ray-?”. Apparently the tomb was reused at least once during the Nineteenth Dynasty, or possibly during the early part of the Third Intermediate Period, and the interloper left behind one of his miniature servants.

More Heritage Key Expert Videos:
Dr Mark Lehner Searches for Information About the Pyramid Builders
Dr Hawass Tells About the New Inscribed Finds from the Valley of the Kings

Dr. Hawass goes on to give some details of two other tombs which had previously only been described as two undecorated tombs [that were] found to the north-west of Amen-Em-Opet’s.The first was the tomb of a high priest of the god Montu, but the owners name is illegible.The entrance is decorated with the death scenes, including one depiction of the priest and his wife in adoration of Montu, and another scene depicting Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys.Dr. Hawass does not think it is one of the New Kingdom tombs, but probably dates to the Late Period.It has not yet been excavated.

There are fewer details about the second tomb, but Dr. Hawass reveals its owners name to be Ankh-min, and believes that it dates to the reign of Ramesses III.It also has a death scene depicting Osiris, and like the previous tomb, has not yet been excavated.The tombs have almost certainly been looted, but so had the tomb of Djehuty, and Dr.Galn, in addition to a beautifully decorated second burial chamber, recovered two gold rings and five gold earrings.Until the tomb is fully excavated, we have no idea ofwhat waits within.

Video: The New Tombs Discovered at Dra Abu El Naga

Read the full transcript on our video page.

Dr. Hawass concludes the video clip, after the credits roll, by reasserting that there remains a possibility of finding intact tombs in Dra Abu el-Naga.It is even possible that some of the houses built over top of burial sites may have inadvertently protected the sites from spoilage.

Dr Zahi Hawass Shows New Artifacts Discovered in the Valley of the Kings

Dr Zahi Hawass shows new finds from the Valley of the KingsIn Zahi Hawass in the Valley of the Kings: Part 1, Dr. Hawass caught us up on how excavations were progressing in the Central Valley area of the Valley of the Kings, particularly with the northern side, between the tombs of Ramesses II and Merneptah, and the area to the south of Tutankhamuns tomb. Watch part 2!

In my analysis of what the Part 1 said – and left unsaid – I pointed out that theWestern Valley dig was conspicuously absent from the discussion.

Well, it remains such. The second video makes no mention of KV64 at all, much less the Western Valley dig. Dr. Hawass devotes this clip to some of the artifacts recovered from the excavations in the Valley of the Kings in general, and while royal tombs are the real headline grabbers, artifacts will always be the coin of the realm. Taking Dr. Hawass at his word, our anticipation is undoubtedly being stoked for some major revelations, and the pieces he shares in this video are interesting and informative, and even a bit provocative, for a number of reasons.

Artefacts from the Valley of the Kings

Cartouches of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III
Sandro Vannini - Valley of the Kings - Cartouches of Hatshepsut and Thutmoses III

Keeping count of what the workmen at the Valley of the Kings eat
Sandro Vannini - Valley of the Kings - Workman Food Consumption

Weret Hem Netjer – The Great God’s Wife
Sandro Vannini - Valley of the Kings - Weret Hem Netjer

Queen Tiy
Sandro Vannini Valley of the Kings Queen Tiy

An ancient Egyptian girlfriend?
Sandro Vannini - Valley of the Kings - Ancient Egyptian Imaginary Girlfriend

A couple of pieces are directly related to the work of the tomb builders who were encamped at the site 3000 years ago. One is a manifest listing the daily amount of food required to support the workforce. Another piece appears to show the floor plan of a tomb under construction. Looking like a modern blueprint, the image is a top-down view of the tomb and a section of the entrance hall. There is even a grid marked on the plan showing the dimensions of the hallway and the tomb.

18th Dynasty Pinup Girl

Dr. Hawass also shows two artifacts that seem to give a hint of how the workmen spent their leisure time. One is an Eighteenth Dynasty pinup girl. While the artist isnt exactly what one might call a prodigy, we get a relatively clear idea of his taste. The other, well, maybe I should let Zahi describe this rather flattering self-portrait. It appears after the credits roll, so be sure to stick around for it.

Hatshepsut and Thumose III

One of the pieces may contribute to our understanding of some of the most interesting personalities of the New Kingdom Period. It shows the cartouches of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III side by side, which seems to challenge the long-held notion that the latter held great enmity for the former, going so far as to obliterate all references to her. Dr. Hawass says that this shard bolsters the position that the destruction may have instead occurred at the hands of officials who didnt like the idea of a female pharaoh.

When Thutmose II died, the only successor to the throne was Thutmose III. This resulted in a delicate situation for two reasons. First, Thutmose III was the son of Iset, one of the pharaohs lesser wives, not Hatshepsut, who held the title of Great Royal Wife. The second issue was Thutmose IIIs age. He was too young to rule on his own, so Hatshepsut was appointed co-regent. The result was a young pharaoh who had to share power with a woman who was not his actual mother.

Women had ruled Egypt in the past, but Hatshepsut didnt just rule as a co-regent, she actually took on the title and accoutrements of pharaoh, false beard and all. In addition, she was recognized as pharaoh by the court, and ruled Egypt with a great deal of independence until her death. This has led to speculation that Thutmose III may have harboured a deep resentment for Hatshepsut.

Late in Thutmose IIIs reign, long after Hatshepsuts death, a determined effort was made to literally rip her memory from Egyptian history. Her cartouches and likenesses were gouged away and her statues smashed and buried. For many years Egyptologists concluded that this was a result of Thutmose IIIs acrimony at having spent years in Hatshepsuts shadow. According to Dr. Hawass, this notion is challenged by the appearance of their cartouches together.

There are other reasons for doubting that Hatshepsuts posthumous banishment was the result of a royal tantrum by Thutmose III. For one, the defacing began some twenty years after her death, which is a long time for someone with absolute power to await revenge on someone who is already dead. For another, Hatshepsut had placed her coregent in charge of the military, and there are no indications he ever attempted to usurp the throne, though he almost certainly could have.

There are other more likely culprits for this particularly focused and prolonged wave of vandalism. One would be, as Dr. Hawass stated, the misogyny of royal officials who, interestingly enough, did not attempt to vent their displeasure while Thutmose III was a younger and more capable ruler. Another suspect, also cited by Dr. Hawass, is Amenhotep II, who served as coregent with Thutmose III during the latters twilight years. This is given further credence by the fact that the defacements continued under Amenhotep IIs reign after Thutmose III had died. Most Egyptologists agree that the predominance of evidence points away from Thutmose III.

Weret Hem Netjer, or the “Great God’s Wife”

But possibly the most interesting artifact Dr. Hawass shares with us in this video clip is a small piece inscribed with the title Great Gods Wife (weret hem netjer) and lists the name of a previously unknown queen, the name of which he gives as Tiy (or possibly Tiye, who is hardly unknown). He declines to expand further on this particular find.

VIDEO:Dr. Hawass in the Valley of the Kings (part 2)

Speaking for myself, I have gotten used to Dr. Hawass dispatches raising more questions than answers, namely because I have faith that he is soon to reveal some really great discoveries. I was a bit let down that he didnt fill us in on how the excavations in the Western Valley are going, or for that matter, mention KV64 at all. But he has promised that there will be a tomb revealed in October, so his team has found something. The question is: what? And where?

I havent heard anything about a Zahi Hawass in the Valley of the Kings: Part 3. Maybea Part Three is in the works. Who can know? But you can be sure that if a Part 3 pops up, you will find it here at Heritage Key, and I will be blogging about it.

While you wait, why not explore King Tut’s tomb? Impossible you say? Welcome to the 21st Century, my friend! Heritage Key makes it possible for you to ramble through Tutankhamun’s tomb in virtual reality. Try it out!

Tomb KV64 in the Valley of the Kings: Nefertiti, Queen Tiye, or Weret-Whats-Her-Name?

Heritage Key has posted a new video of Dr. Zahi Hawass by Sandro Vannini and Nico Piazzadiscussing the current excavations in the Central Valley area of the Valley of the Kings,or what we like to call the Quest for KV64.While the photography of Sandro Vannini alone makes the clip worth viewing, lets face itwhat we are looking for is news of the next tomb.

Dr. Hawass has been closing in on what he hopes will be the tomb of Ramesses VIII, but regardless of whose name will eventually adorn the entrance, KV64 is the goal.If his team is successful, theevent will be historical for an additional reasonit will be the first tomb discovered by an Egyptian team, something of import for Egyptian national pride, not to mention a fine feather in Zahis fedora before he retires from the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

In the video Dr. Hawass reviews some of the areas of interest in the Central Valley area.He mentions the northern side of the Central Valley, between the tombs of Ramesses II and Merneptah, where a drainage system built by the ancient Egyptians to catch the tears of the gods was discovered.As I alluded to in a previous blog about KV64, the flood patterns of the Valley of the Kings are a major indicator of where the next tomb will be found, and you can expect to read more about that on Heritage Key very soon.

In addition to the waterworks, there are ruins of huts from an ancient workmens camp in the northern area.These were originally discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, but left unexcavated until recently.A storage area for food and water was discovered as well, all signs that point to a busy spot for tomb builders.

VIDEO:Dr Hawass in the Valley of the Kings: KV64 is going to be discovered! (part 1 of 2)

( We’ve transcribed this video for you!)

Dr. Hawass also talks about the area to the south of the tomb of Tutankhamun, where nine storage rooms were found containing mortuary equipment and materials for offerings. In addition, the remains of huts were discovered there, which Dr. Hawass says were temporary housing for the workers from Deir el-Medina.The southern area is adjacent to KV63, which was as a storage area for funerary equipment, meaning that a mummification workshop may have existed on the site (Note: KV63 may yet prove to be more than a storage room.. Keep checking back).

Just imagine If the new tomb turns out to be the mysterious unknown queen whose partial name is Weret, and the tomb of Queen Tiye is discovered in the Western Valley, and the tomb of Nefertiti is found

All in all, the video is fairly short and is mostly a review of what has already been released. Dr. Hawass concludes by saying that KV64 will be discovered by the Egyptian team.But is there anything that goes unsaid that could point us in the direction of KV64?

We do know from a press release, “Latest News from the Valley of the Kings,”that Dr. Hawass and his team are actually working in three areasthe northern area, the southern area, and an area of the Western Valley where the tombs of Amenhotep III and Ay are located.This last area, the Western Valley, is conspicuously absent from this video.Dr. Hawass believes this is where the tomb of Queen Tiye, among others, may be located.His silence on this third area may mean nothing.Then again, this video is labeled Dr. Hawass in the Valley of the KingsPart 1.

There have been many intriguing discoveries made by Hawass team in the Central Valley area that suggest a number of possibilities for KV64 (and KV65, and KV66..).There is the ancient graffiti, originally recorded by Jaroslav Czerny and rediscovered by Hawass team, stating that Vizier Userhat built a tomb for his father, Amennakht, in the vicinity.There is an inscription mentioning an unknown queen whose partial name is Weret.Yet another (or possibly the same) queen is depicted on an ostracon presenting offerings.

Tears of the Gods in the Valley of the Kings by Sandro VanniniAnd although it is important to Dr. Hawass thatthe Egyptian team makes the discovery, there are non-Egyptians whose work in the area has indicated that there are tombs waiting to be found.Stephen Cross article, “The Hydrology of the Valley of the Kings, from the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (no. 94, 2008) makes a case for tombs hidden under sediment from flash flooding.Dr. Otto Schaden, who discovered KV63 using tried and true archeological methods, also continues to work nearby with the Amenmesse Project, although this project is now under the aegis of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, making it not strictly non-Egyptian.

Zahi Hawass has already indicated that a new tomb will be revealed in October, and that he hopes to announce the discovery of Nefertitis tomb in the winter.If the announcement in October turns out to be the tomb of Queen Tiye, then instead of the Year of Nefertiti, Dr. Hawass last year could be the Year of Egyptian Royal Women.

Just imagineIf the new tomb turns out to be the mysterious unknown queen whose partial name is Weret, and the tomb of Queen Tiye is discovered in the Western Valley, and the tomb of Nefertiti is foundBut I am getting ahead of myself.Maybe it will just be Ramesses VIII.(Did I just say just Ramesses VIII?)

For now we will have to await Valley of the KingsPart 2.That and the promised announcement for October.Like the video says, To Be Continued

In the meanwhile, do your own virtual exploration of KV62, King Tut’s tomb! If you are down below when KV64 is discovered, we will send for you. You have my word.

Ramesses, Thutmose or Nerfertiti? The Search for KV64

ExcavationThe designation KV is part of the naming convention used for tombs in the Valley of the Kingsinthe necropolis across the Nile from Luxor. Tombs discovered in the Kings Valley are given a KV number, in the order of their discovery, and tombs found in the West Valley receive a WV number. The most recent royal tomb, KV62, is that of King Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter.

So why do we skip from KV62 to KV64? That can be chalked up to an embarrassing lesson on how early one should summon the international press, detailed below. The story of KV64 begins with a survey conducted by the Amarna Royal Tombs Project (ARTP) from 1998 to 2002 in the central area of the Valley of the Kings. The location is fertile ground for Eighteenth Dynasty tombs, and Nicholas Reeves, director of the project, was specifically looking for the Tomb of Nefertiti, along with other family members of the heretic king, Akhenaten.

Are two tombs to be revealed – some as-of-yet unnamed royal in October (KV64), and Nefertiti in the winter (KV65)?

In the autumn of 2000 Reeves appeared to hit the jackpot. During surveys conducted with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) his team discovered no less than nine anomalies that showed the tell-tale signs of being tombs. Unfortunately, before Dr. Reeves could begin excavating his discoveries in earnest he suffered the first of a series of discouraging setbacks. False charges of antiquities smuggling were leveled against him and in 2002 his license to survey and excavate was suspended.

Reeves decided to hold off on publishing his discovery until he returned to the Valley of the Kings, but it was never to be. Although he was cleared of all charges by the Supreme Council of Antiquities in 2005, he was denied permission to resume his work.

Good Storage, but no Tomb

Meanwhile, another dig was underway in the area of Reeves survey. Dr. Otto Schaden of the University of Memphis was conducting excavations in the central valley as part of his Amenmesse Tomb Project. Schadens team was clearing the rubble away from some Nineteenth Dynasty workers huts when they found a straight edge that could only be worked stone. The edge turned out to be the opening of a vertical shaft. Without knowledge of Dr. Reeves survey, the team had independently discovered an entryway exactly where Reeves had detected one of his anomalies.

zahi hawass in the valley of the kings

The discovery occurred on March 10, 2005, which was too late in the digging season for excavation. The following year, however, work resumed and sure enough Dr. Schaden had discovered an underground chamber. On February 8, 2006, with the international media in attendance, Zahi Hawass visited the site and credited Dr. Schaden with discovering the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings sinceCarter found Tutankhamun.

The finding was dubbed KV63, but its declaration as a tomb was premature. Although seven wooden coffins were found in the chamber, all were empty but one, which was packed with pillows. There were also embalming tools and jars of natron, the salt used in mummification, and so it was determined that KV63 was actually a storage room. The trophy for the most recent tomb discovery would remain with Howard Carter.

The Buzz Begins

At this point Reeves decided to reveal that his survey had indicated that a tomb, or in this case, a storage room, would be exactly where KV63 was found. According to an August 3, 2006, interview with Archaeology Magazine (“Another New Tomb in the Valley of the Kings?“), Reeves claimed that his decision to come forward was to protect the site itself: I don’t want to see it damaged in a random, aimless hunt for more tombs. In other words, he knew the discovery of a storage room would raise expectations of finding a tomb, and rather than have the site destroyed by willy-nilly treasure hunting, he hoped his maps would urge caution.

Dr. Reeves revealed his own detailed analysis of the 2000 survey when he posted it to his website in 2008. His maps showed the anomalies, labeled Features 1-9, with KV63 being labeled Feature 6. The area where he believed KV64 would be discovered was labeled Feature 5.

Nicholas Reeves wasnt the only person to suggest that the location of his favorite anomaly, Feature 5, might conceal a tomb. In February 2006 a geologist named Stephen Cross was studying ancient flood patterns in the Valley of the Kings. Judging from concentrations of flood debris, Cross determined that a good place to look for undiscovered tombs would be the area east of Tutankhamuns tomb, close to where Reeves claimed KV64 should be located.

The Buzzkill – More Storage Buildings

Since 2007 Zahi Hawass has been working with the first all-Egyptian archaeological team in an effort to locate the tomb of Ramesses VIII. His focus is the area between the tombs of Ramesses II (KV7) and Merenptah (KV8), but in the 2008-09 digging season he decided to divert some of his resources to exploring Reeves Feature 5 anomaly. The dig succeeded in unearthing the foundations of several small storage buildings dating from the Ramessid Period, but no tomb.

The excavation also revealed that the floor of the valley in that area was about six meters down, which is probably too deep for the GPR used by Reeves. Dr. Hawass concluded that the anomalies detected in that area were nothing more than a reflection of one or more of these [storage buildings] stone foundations. After examining more of Reeves anomalies, Hawass concluded that his analysis failed to account for naturally occurring geological formations and interference from such modern artifacts as electrical wires. (For the full story, read In Search of the Truth About KV64, by Zahi Hawass.)

The Search Continues


For now, the placard of KV64 remains reserved and unclaimed. Potential contenders would include other Eighteenth Dynasty personalities such asThutmose II, or the Twentieth Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses VIII, but one intriguing possibility is Nefertiti. In his August 7th lecture at Clowes Hall in Indianapolis, Zahi Hawass stated that a new tomb would be revealed in October, 2009, and the location of Nefertiti would be disclosed sometime in the winter of 2009-10. After all, this whole story began with a search for the elusive queen and her family.

The ambiguity (possibly intentional) of these statements has lit the fires of conjecture and speculation. Are two tombs to be revealed – some as-of-yet unnamed royal in October (KV64), and Nefertiti in the winter (KV65)? Or will KV64 and Nefertitis tomb be one discovery stretched out over two press conferences? Only time, and Dr. Hawass, will tell.

Images (top to bottom): “Excavation” by drewnoakes; “Zahi Hawass in the Valley of the Kings” by FAMSF; and “Berlin” by rachie5. All rights reserved.

The Mummy Project: Swiss Anatomy Experts Mummify Human Leg

Having a peek at the mysteries of mummificationFirst they perfected chocolate, then the penknife. Now the Swiss are seeking to unlock the mysteries of mummification.

According to a recent article in The Journal of Turkish Weekly (“Swiss Research Unlocks Mummy Secrets”), A leading Swiss anatomy expert has managed to mummify a body part using the same salt drying process the ancient Egyptians employed. Frank Rhli, head of the Zurich University Institute of Anatomy, is attempting to mummify a human leg. Having participated in the CT scan analysis of Tutankhamun and the tzi iceman, Rhli is no stranger to mummies.

So far the Swiss team has met with mixed results. After 440lbs (60kg) of salt mixture and 80 days, magnetic resonance still shows signs of moisture within the tissue. Dr. Rhli had expected the process to take around 70 days, and plans to continue for another month. Sometime this winter the team will attempt to mummify another body part, this time accounting for the role heat plays in mummification.

The article states that the Swiss team is basing their salt mixture on a mid-1990s United States study, which tried to determine the magic formula used by ancient Egyptians to dry out bodies before burial, but the details of the U.S. study are not given.

In 1994, Ronn Wade, the Director of Anatomical Services at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, and Bob Brier, an Egyptologist at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University, successfully mummified an entire human body using the tools and methods that would have been (to our best knowledge) used by the ancient Egyptians.

The salt mixture Wade and Brier used was natron, a naturally occurring compound consisting of sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, sodium carbonate, and sodium bicarbonate. Natron is commonly found along the Nile River and is known for both its desiccating and antibacterial properties, both vital to the mummification process. They used a total of 600lbs (272kg) of natron for an entire body. It is likely that the Swiss study is using the formula employed by Wade and Brier.

Rhli will also be examining how much the mummification process degrades DNA, which may have implications for Egypts Supreme Council of Antiquities efforts to produce a genetic map of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Dr. Zahi Hawass has predicted that this year will see the identification of various members of Tutankhamuns family, including his parents, Nefertiti, and other New Kingdom mummies. The Swiss teams studies could cast possible doubts on the reliability of these tests.

Frank Rhli says he would eventually like to attempt to mummify an entire human body using the same process he is currently trying to perfect. While his interest as an anatomist is obvious, he also has sociological and anthropological questions. “I’m medically interested in how tissue reacts, he states, but I’m historically interested to know how ancient cultures tried to preserve their loved ones after death.”

Image by bswiz. All rights reserved.

The Bust of Nefertiti – A Century-Old Archaeological Detective Story Nearing an End?

The bust of Nefertiti, gyptisches Museum Berlin

In his August 7th, 2009, interview with Heritage Key, Zahi Hawass revealed that the Supreme Council of Antiquities was gathering evidence regarding the illegal appropriation of the bust of Nefertiti by the Altes Museum in Berlin. I will reveal [the evidence] in October when I write the letter to the Berlin Museum for the return of the piece, because it left Egypt illegally, Dr. Hawass stated.

In a new article published in Al-Ahram Weekly (Queen of Egypts heart), Dr. Hawass reveals that his wish is for the bust to be placed in the Museum of National Heritage at Giza in time for its official opening. He may be in for a fight, but thats nothing new for Dr. Hawass, who has returned more than 6,000 artifacts to Egypt in the last seven years.

Discovered, Dislocated, and Defamed

The bust was discovered in 1913 by a German team working under Ludwig Borchardt while excavating the studio of Thutmose, Akhenatens royal Master of Works. At the time Egypt was under French control, and excavation regulations stated only that unique discoveries would become part of the Egyptian national collection and that half of what remained was to go to the excavator. According to the regulations, Borchardt had to publish the results of his excavations within two years, which he didto the exclusion of the Bust of Nefertiti.

I will reveal [the evidence] in October when I write the letter to the Berlin Museum for the return of the piece, because it left Egypt illegally.

The rest of the world would have to wait a decade to view the elegant sculpture of the queen. In 1923 Nefertiti went on display in Germany, and she has been hounded by controversy ever since. The initial complaints were fairly obvious: the bust was clearly a unique artifact, and its conspicuous absence from Borchardts summary of discoveries smacked of subterfuge.

Then, beginning shortly after the 1952 Revolution and culminating with Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin in 2009, questions arose concerning the authenticity of the bust. In interviews following the release of his book, The Bust of Nefertitian Egyptology Fraud, Stierlin claimed It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original. However, the authenticity of the bust is perhaps the only thing upon which Dr. Hawass and the Altes Museum agree.

Questions of the queens honor aside, the primary controversy revolves around issues of acquisition and ownership. Germany continues to claim Borchardt brought the artifact to Berlin without deceit, and that the bust of Nefertiti has become a part of German cultural identity, even going so far as to refer to her as the Berlin Bust.

Defender of the Queen

For his part, Zahi Hawass remains unrelenting and continues to gather evidence. One hint of this evidence may have come in February, 2009, when the BBC News reported that Borchardt claimed in his own diary that the bust was indescribable, a word hardly appropriate for a non-unique artifact unworthy of mention in his final report (German guile won Queen Nefertiti). The BBC further revealed that Borchardt misrepresented the bust in such descriptions as he did provide, stating that it was made of gypsum rather than limestone, and produced a photograph that was unflattering by design.

Hopefully we will learn more when Dr. Hawass publicly discloses the content of his letter to the Berlin Museum in October. Dietrich Wildung, curator of the Altes Museum, seems to be preparing his own counter argument, claiming that the bust is now too fragile to move. We could never be certain that she would arrive in good health.

Herr Wildung! How ungallant!

Image by okkofi. All rights reserved.

Lecture Review: Zahi Hawass’ Mysteries of King Tut Revealed

More than two thousand Egyptophiliacs lined up outside Clowes Memorial Hall for what Director of Operations Karen Steele informed me was a sold-out house. Even as funding for the arts is being cut, an event like this sells out in days.”
It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say Zahi Hawass’s lecture, The Mysteries of King Tut Revealed, had the feel of a rock concert. We were there to see a star. What secrets would he reveal tonight? What announcements would he make?

The evening began with a brief introduction by Mark Lach, Senior Vice President of Arts and Exhibitions International, the company that has produced such award winning exhibitions as Diana A Celebration and Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship, and who have been touring the Tut exhibition worldwide for the last five years. Mr. Lach was followed by Jeffrey Patchen, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Childrens Museum.

Mr. Patchen first met Dr. Zahi Hawass while designing a travelling exhibit with National Geographic entitled National Geographic Maps: Tools for Adventure, which featured Dr. Hawass as one of the explorers. When they flew to Cairo for the filming, Dr. Hawass invited Mr. Patchen to attend a planning and review meeting for the Suzanne Mubarak Childrens Museum. During the course of the evening, Dr. Hawass convinced Her Excellency Mrs. Mubarak that the Indianapolis Childrens Museum should design all of the exhibits for the Suzanne Mubarak Childrens Museum. In exchange for all their work, Dr. Hawass promised that the Tut exhibition would come to Indianapolis, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Goings-On at Giza

Im promising all of you that the secrets of the pyramid will be revealed for the first time.

After a short biographical video, Dr. Hawass began the lecture with an update of various archaeological projects currently underway on the Giza Plateau. Of course, the most widely followed story is that of the secret doors found in the Great Pyramid. Ever since the discovery in 2002 of a second door in the southern shaft leading from the Queens Chamber, and a third door in the northern shaft, exploration of this mystery has been high on the Supreme Council of Antiquities list of priorities.

Dr Hawass enthuses the crowd at the lecture. Image Credits - Anne Houston PayneIt has been widely published that a team from Leeds University was selected to conduct the survey, and that they spent the month of July, 2009, testing their robotic explorer in the desert sands of the plateau. What is not so widely known is that the team from Leeds began the actual investigation of the secret doors last week, and according to Dr. Hawass, on July 31 the Leeds team had a major breakthrough.

In this coming December, Dr. Hawass avowed, Im promising all of you that the secrets of the pyramid will be revealed for the first time. But if you can’t wait that long, just check out Heritage Keys exclusive interview with Zahi Hawass.

Dr. Hawass also offered an update with regard to the Osiris Shafta water-filled tunnel discovered in 1945 under the causeway between Khafres Valley and Mortuary Temples. In 1999 Dr. Hawass began the arduous task of draining and excavating the shaft. He discovered three vertical chambers, the lowest of which is more than 100 feet down.

This chamber contains a large basalt sarcophagus counter-sunk into the center of the room and surrounded by a channel which may have originally been filled with ground water, creating an island. Dr. Hawass believes this may have been a symbolic tomb of Osiris. But most curious is a small tunnel that tapers off from the northwest corner until it disappears into the mud, trailing enticingly toward Khafres Mortuary Temple and his pyramid beyond.

Through a combination of people, probes, and robots, Dr. Hawass was able to determine that at just past 21 feet a second tunnel branches off from the main circuit. At last report he had only been able to reach an additional 34 feet into the secondary tunnel, and just shy of 70 feet into the primary tunnel.

Tonight he disclosed that in July he brought a Chinese researcher to the site who was able to insert a camera through a tube 150 feet into the primary tunnel, still without reaching the end. He states in his interview with Heritage Key that a snake robot will be required to explore further.

A New Tomb to be Revealed

Dr Zahi Hawass. Image Credits - Anne Houston PayneDr. Hawass also spoke extensively on the exciting work taking place in the Valley of the Kings. For centuries, archaeology has been the province of nearly every nation except Egypt. In 2007, Zahi Hawass set out to change this with the first all-Egyptian team to work the Valley of the Kings. It seems that he is prepared to make history yet again, as his team hopes to reveal a new tomb in October of 2009. He did not give details, but provided plenty of fuel for speculation. Three notable women come to the forefront.

One possibility is a mysterious and unfamiliar queen known only by the partial name, Weret. An inscription was found in the area south of Tutankhamuns tomb bearing her name and the title Gods Wife. In the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Gods Wife of Amun was an important religious and political position reserved for royal women. The team also discovered a ceramic shard with a stunning depiction of this queen making offerings to the gods. The discovery of the tomb of this queen and consort of the god Amun would certainly be worthy of a press conference.

Another candidate is Queen Tiye, the mother of Akhenaten. Tiye was the wife of Amenhotep III, and was possibly the sister of Ay, both of whom are entombed in the Western Valley. Dr. Hawass has made no secret of his search for Tiye in this area, and he may be close to announcing success.

But the real headline would be the discovery of the tomb of Nefertiti. The area south of Tutankhamens tomb has proven to be a lucrative dig, with the discovery of stone storage chambers and various artifacts from the workmens huts originally discovered by Howard Carter.

But most important, to the northeast of Seti Is tomb, under a modern rest house, Dr. Hawass team has discovered evidence of what he believes to be the tomb of Nefertiti. As there are other Amarna Period tombs in the vicinity, Dr. Hawass surmises that finding Nefertitis tomb in that location is highly probable.

However, during his presentation Dr. Hawass also announced that he hopes to reveal the tomb of Nefertiti in the winter of 2009/2010. One possibility is that the announcement in October may simply be the location of the new tomb, with the identification coming in the winter. One thing we do know about the eminent Dr. Hawass is that he knows how to generate excitement and expectation, and his revelations tend to be preceded by a generous amount of foreplay

Doctor, the King is here to See You

Dr. Hawass spent considerable time reviewing the importance of the CT scans and genetic tests being conducted on King Tut and his family. Although much of the territory covered was old news, he did make some tantalizing announcements that put old news into a new perspective.

The first announcement involves genetic testing on one of the fetuses that were found in Tutankhamuns tomb in 1922. Although the younger of the two was too deteriorated for genetic testing, the second was most likely stillborn at nine months and was in sufficient shape to provide a sample.

The first set of tests indicated that the fetus was very likely the daughter of King Tut. Dr. Hawass announced that a second lab has now confirmed those results, and that a paper is to be published next week for purposes of peer review.

Confirmation of Tuts paternity is important because, if Tut is the father, then additional testing will lead to the mother, Tuts wife Ankhesenamun, which will then lead to her mother, Nefertiti. Dr. Hawass mentions in his interview with Heritage Key that this will in turn lead to the identification of Queen Tiye and numerous other Eighteenth Dynasty royals. He also informed Heritage Key that he hopes to break more news about this royal line in a month and a half.

Dr. Hawass also spoke about the CT scans of Tutankhamens mummy. He pointed out that there were about 130 walking sticks discovered in Tuts tomb, along with a depiction of the young king walking with a cane. Dr. Hawass announced with conviction that thanks to the CT scans, the whole world will know in one month why Tut needed a walking stick!

Not exciting enough for you? Then try this. It has long been thought that the boy king may have been murdered due to a hole in the back of his head. Dr. Hawass says this has been misinterpreted, and is actually a post-mortem wound resulting from the mummification process. After more than 1,700 CT scan shots, Dr. Hawass states emphatically that he knows the cause of death, and at a press conference in one month he will reveal the exact reason why King Tut died.

Digging up the Future

While it was certainly exciting to experience Dr. Zahi Hawass enthusiasm first hand, his presentation was mostly a review of the past with announcements of things to come. Thats not too surprising, as this was an engagement with a general audience, not a press conference. But he did make several specific promises, and announcing the future of the past is no small business. Most of the discoveries that we do now, he stated, change history.

Indeed, Zahi Hawass himself has changed history. In his introduction, Jeffrey Patchen said of Dr. Hawass Through his passion – archaeology – he has become a world leader in the crusade for understanding ourselves.

That is what separates archaeologists from the robbers who all too often precede them – passion. Dr. Hawass is an ambassador not only for Egypt, but for all who seek to improve our future by understanding our past.

All images by Anne Houston Payne.

Next: Find out more in our exclusive interview with Dr Hawass, or don your virtual fedora and climb into Heritage Key’s Virtual King Tut.