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Friday, February 26, 2016

Pacific Lutheran University Valley of the Kings Project: KV 60: AN ENIGMATIC AND CONTROVERSIAL TOMB

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Changing venues: moving a large work-table to the other side of the Valley
     About a week ago we finished up our investigation of KV 48, the tomb of the vizier, Amenemope, and turned our attention to KV 60, one of the more controversial tombs in the Valley of the Kings. It's located near the cliffs on the opposite of the Valley.  The tomb is relatively small consisting of some stairs  .leading down to a corridor with a little side chamber about halfway down.  At the end of the corridor is a square opening leading to a single burial chamber.  The tomb throughout is very crudely carved and obviously unfinished, as if quickly made at the death of someone important enough to be buried in the Valley.   Here’s a short history of its exploration:

1903: KV 60 was first encountered by English archaeologist, Howard Carter.  The tomb had been robbed in ancient times and there were bits and pieces of objects from a destroyed burial.  In the chamber at the end of the corridor chamber were found two female mummies: one lying on the floor and the other in a lidless coffin bearing the name of a royal nurse named Sitre. There were no paintings on the wall to provide additional information.  Carter and a colleague surmised that perhaps these two women were nurses of the 18th dynasty pharaoh, Thutmosis IV (c.1400- 1390 B.C.) whose royal tomb is situated nearby.  He wrote only a few comments about the tomb in a journal article the next year.  A few years later, a statue was found that indicated that Sitre was the royal nurse of the famous female pharaoh, Hatshepsut.  Hatshepsut ruled Egypt successfully (c.1473-1458) during the 18th dynasty and her reign was characterized by spectacular building projects and foreign expeditions.  There is much speculation about her life and she is recognized as one of the great women of ancient history.  A royal and much damaged tomb in the Valley, KV 20, belongs to her.

1906: Edward Ayrton excavated a tomb directly behind KV 60 and likely removed the nurse’s coffin and its occupant to Cairo around that time, leaving the other mummy in the tomb.  The tomb was thereafter covered over and its exact location lost.

1966:  American Egyptologist, Elizabeth Thomas, suggested that if KV 60 ever were to be rediscovered, perhaps the remaining body therein might be the long-missing mummy of Hatshepsut herself.  Her idea was that after most of the royal tombs were robbed around 1000 B.C, her mummy might have been removed from KV 20 by priests, and then hidden in the nearby KV 60, the tomb of her nurse. (The comment was published in her masterful research volume on the Valley of the Kings and other royal cemeteries, “The Royal Necropoleis of Thebes.”)

The entrance stairs of KV 60 as rediscovered by the PLU expedition in 1989.
1989: The Pacific Lutheran University Valley of the Kings Project rediscovered the tomb on its first day of work in the Valley.  (It’s a great story but it will need to wait for a future post.)  We found lots of broken up and well-preserved bits of coffins and other objects, several examples of mummified food (“victual mummies”) meant to serve as provisions for the deceased, and a female mummy lying on the floor.  It was striking what some argue is a pose for royal females: left arm bent diagonally across the body with a clenched left hand and the right arm straight alongside the body.  We found nothing in the tomb to indicate her identity, although we reconstructed a once gold-gilded face-piece from a coffin that has a notch for a beard – a symbol of royalty.

The mummy as seen on the floor of the burial chamber of KV 60.
A reconstructed fragment from a shattered coffin lid found in KV 60.  They eyes and eyebrows were once inlaid and the face gilded with gold.
2006: The head of Egyptian antiquities, Zahi Hawass, removed the mummy (which he named KV 60-A) to Cairo as part of a study to identify Hatshepsut’s mummy from among several possibilities. He originally speculated that the mummy in the nurse's coffin (KV 60-B) could be the queen, but then changed his mind.

The mummy from KV 60.  Hatshepsut?
The coffin fragment, cleaned of black resin, reveals a painting and a name.
2007: Zahi Hawass announces that KV 60-A is indeed the mummy of Hatshepsut.  The identification method was unique.  A wooden box bearing the name of Hatshepsut, and containing what appeared to be some mummified internal organs, was CT-scanned and a tooth was found within; a specific tooth with a broken root.  It seems to have been a perfect fit in the mouth of KV 60-A and the announcement of the identification was an international sensation.  (There was also a Discovery Channel documentary made on the subject: Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen.)

2007:  The PLU Valley of the Kings Project examined a large fragment of coffin found in KV 60.  It was covered with black resin and when a local conservator cleaned it, a beautiful painting of the goddess Nephthys was revealed along with a funerary inscription.  The inscription indicates that the coffin belonged to a female temple singer by the name of Ty.

2014: I (Donald P. Ryan) presented a conference paper entitled, “Who is really buried in KV-60?” which considered the various possibilities for the tomb’s history.  Have the mummies been accurately identified?  Is one of them really Hatshepsut?  Are there three women involved with this tomb (Sitre, Ty and Hatshepsut) or is it some sort of mummy cache?  Would KV 60 simply be considered the tomb of a royal nurse and a temple singer had Elizabeth Thomas not thrown the name Hatshepsut in the mix?  These are all interesting questions and the story of KV-60 isn’t over yet. (A version of my conference paper has recently been published as “KV 60: Ein rätselhaftes Grab in Tal der Könige." In, Michael Höveler-Müller, ed., 2015, Das Hatschepsut-Puzzle.  Nünnerich-Asmus: Mainz.)

Our new protective door reveals the upper steps of KV 60.
2015: The PLU Valley of the Kings Project installed a special door over the entrance to KV 60 and added a descriptive sign. 

2016: We revisited KV 60 in order to find any additional clues.  A thorough examination of all the mummy wrappings stored in the tomb kept us busy but unfortunately added nothing new.  We did, however, make a great improvement by removing a rock wall installed in front of the entrance of the tomb’s underground corridor in 1989.  Now, for the first time in 25 years, the lower steps of KV 60 are once again revealed.

Examining boxes full of mummy wrappings in the burial chamber in 2016.

Clearing away the old wall blocking the lower steps.
Believe me, the above is the short version. KV 60 remains both enigmatic and controversial and someday perhaps...maybe...we’ll figure out its true story.

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