Thursday, 24 July 2008

Mummification Museum Lecture - Dr Donald P Ryan – KV60 Valley of Kings

Dr Ryan gave a great lecture and it was a good follow on to his lecture last year, notes here You might like to read them before reading these notes. I found it helpful taking notes that I attended the lecture the previous year.

He started by commenting that it was a strange story how his involvement started in 1989 and just last year it went high profile and international. The Valley of Kings is the most exciting place to work, as the royal cemetery for the kings of Egypt from the 18, 19 and 20 dynasty (plus others of high rank or special circumstances). It was shut at the end of the New kingdom and fell into ruin. Greeks and Romans came here to see the ancient history and left their graffiti. Coptic monks lived in the tombs and also left their marks. Exploration of the area was sporadic. Napoleons scholars came here but the first excavation was by Belzoni in 1816 onwards. He found many of the more famous tombs such as Seti I, highly decorated and attributed.

The royal caches of TT320 and KV35 have given us a long list of royal bodies which had been rewrapped and relabelled in ancient times, not always accurately.

KV60 was discovered in 1903 by Howard Carter (1874 – 1939). He was working at that time for Theodore Davies (1837 – 1915) who was a rich American excavator who found Yuya and Thuya (the parents in law of Amenhotep III) and the enigmatic KV55. A slide was shown of a report of the excavation, a mere paragraph and a half. No photos and an inaccurate description, Carter was obviously not interested in anything other than gold and highly decorated tombs. Archaeology has fortunately moved on since those times. They had recently discovered the tomb of Thothmosis IV and as this was in the same area made the assumption that the royal nurse referred to in the inscription was that of Thothmosis IV. The tomb of Hatshepsut was also in the same area but was not discovered for another year.

Another description of the discovery was even shorter, contained in the ‘1908 The Tomb of Siptah’ gives the wrong date and states it ‘contained nothing of interest’.

There is also a description in the register of the Cairo museum where it was stated there were two mummies found in the tomb and the one in the coffin was taken to the museum. Pencilled in the name Aryton (1882 – 1914) is mentioned. This fits as he also worked for Theodore Davies and excavated KV19 which is directly above KV60. The coffin with the inscriptions of Sit Re, royal nurse and the mummy with the red coloured hair, that was found inside it are now in the Cairo museum.

The Pacific Lutheran project started in 1989 with the goal of investigating the undecorated tombs in the valley. Most had attracted little interest from Egyptologists. The valley had attracted little work since the discovery of Tutankamun apart form some recording of a couple of Ramaside tombs such as Ramses VI and of course the Theban Mapping Project.

Dr Ryan then discussed at length the work of Elizabeth Thomas (1907 -1986) and her book the Royal Necropolis of Thebes. He enthused at great length about this book and her sometimes unusual ideas and acknowledges her magnificent research. There were a few things that she missed but in the main she picked up everything. It was her that suggestion he include KV60 in his work. He showed us a slide of a letter she wrote where she suggested it was added to the list of KV21, 27, 28 etc. He didn’t really want to but went along with her suggestion. At this time the location of KV60 was lost but the general area known.

On the first day of his work in June 1989 they were basically looking around the general area and had little equipment with them, just a broom. They started to sweep the area in front of KV19 and within 30 minutes had found a depression in the rock. The tomb was built in the lead of a gully, they had relocated KV60. Well at least he assumes it is although at times he has wondered as it is 3 metres longer than Carters description and Carter doesn’t mention the room. But this seems to be done to poor recording rather than he has the wrong tomb. It is very rough and irregular in shape and the steps themselves are also extremely rough. They found gold leaf near the entrance almost as though the robbers had taken objects to the light to investigate further or to strip them of the gold.

In the niches there were Wadjet eyes drawn (he would be interested to know if anyone else has come upon this as far as he knows this is unique). The tomb was filled with loads of debris but this was surface debris rather than fill to the ceiling. They found a massive pile of mummy wrappings and a wrapped cow’s leg in a niche, also remains of mud brick, wrapped food, twists of linen used as wicks, bits of a coffin and a mummy, a very provocative mummy. Stripped with the right arm to the side and the left arm across the breast. This pose is believed by some people to be that of a royal woman. The mummy is hugely obese, with worn teeth and golden coloured hair. The feet were wrapped but the toes had been stripped bare presumably to remove the gold toe caps we know royal mummies had. The hands had painted red fingernails outlined in black. He stressed again how obese she was.

There were several hundred other objects including a chair foot, side of a coffin but very little helpful inscriptions which is a trend in undecorated tombs. Two necropolis seals with the 9 captives surmounted by a jackal and another seal found in the burial shaft which may or may not be connected with the tomb which shows a man in front f a Mut bird. The wrapped packages were x-rayed by Selim Akram and revealed to be ribs and meat joints.

There was an end piece of another coffin (indicating that there were definitely two coffins in the tomb) which looked as though it had the gold hacked off with an adze and was painted and covered over with black resin. The face piece from the coffin had also been hacked about and all gold and possible inlaid jewels removed such as the eyes, eyebrows. It was in 80fragments and resembled by his team. There was a notch in the chin which could have been for a royal or Osirus beard which was odd!!!

With the undated tombs they rely a lot on pottery to help with dating the tomb and he was helped in this by David Aston and Barbara Aston, it contained Canaanite vessels and mid 18/19 dynasty pottery. There was a docket bearing the name of Min Moser, overseer of the granaries who donated oil. Most of the pottery is XX dynasty. They cleared the tomb and documented it, put the mummy in a wooden case and left it in the tomb. Then shut the door and that was the end of their involvement.

In her book Elizabeth Thomas speculated that this mummy could be Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut ruled very compently, put up monuments, made explorations to Punt and he will leave the comments about her personal life with Senemut to others. Her tomb is deep and dangerous, just touch the walls and it flakes and falls. The air is dangerous. It contains the sarcophagus of Hatshepsut and Thothmosis I and was probably the 1st tomb initiated by Thothmosis I, the other tomb of Thothmosis I was initiated by Thothmosis III. Her monument s were defaced, the classic theory by Thothmosis II. Her tomb KV20 is above KV60. KV60 had no decoration, no objects that would identify the mummy. It was a high status coffin with a notch for a beard but there was too much drama and speculation associated with it.

In fact the observer newspaper stretched a story beyond anything he said. He said he didn’t know who it was but Elizabeth Thomas had speculated it could by Hatshepsut. Next thing the headlines screamed ‘lost queen found in humble tomb’. This caused a great deal of personal embarrassment and trouble for him, as the SCA does not appreciate people making statements to the press they are not aware of. There were articles written in the Egyptian press criticising him and identifying a photo of Cater as him. This was the early 90’s. After along break he has come back for his 7th field season and hopes to publish soon.

That is where the story transfers to Zahi Hawass who was very interested in this mummy. He decided to take the mummy to Cairo museum and study it further there. Together with other contenders for Hatshepsut from the TT320 cache etc. The nurse’s coffin is also much larger than the body it contains. The bodies were CT scanned.

There was an object found in the Deir el Bahri cache, a wooden box contained a wrapped package, possible some canopic connections, with Hatshepsut’s name on it. They scanned the box and found what looks like a liver and a broken off tooth with part of its roots intact. It was an upper right molar and the mummy had a missing upper right molar. These compared digitally and match. Dr Ryan feels this is a compelling result and he is 99% certain it is Hatshepsut, Dr Hawass is completely convinced. This was announced late June/early July and she was put on display. At the time his team could not come to any conclusions about KV60 but Zahi has came up with a compelling conclusion.

How could we further this conclusion, Cairo has got so high speed DNA equipment and managed to get samples from the some mummies. These are uncontaminated unaffected by the mummification process samples so these can be used for comparison. The team is an all Egyptian team and he is really pleased to see native talent coming to the fore. However the mummies are not always who we think they are. For example the mummy labelled Thothmosis I is much younger than Thothmosis could have been. They are a product of hasty rewrapping in a troubled age.

As ever corrections etc are welcome

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 18th, 2007

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