Inching Closer to Ankhesenamun: Unraveling the Radiant Child of Amarna—Part I
Ever since the discovery of KV62, the treasure-filled sepulcher of Tutankhamun, in 1922 – and even before that in 1907 when the mysterious Tomb 55 came to light – Amarna royals have always managed to make headlines globally. The search for the final resting place of Nefertiti captured the imagination of the public in 2015, but no headway has been made on that count yet. Just when the spirits of Egyptological scholars and enthusiasts began to wane, out of the blue, Ankhesenpaaten /Ankhesenamun, the third of six daughters born to the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his iconic queen, has suddenly become the center of attraction in recent times; thanks to archeologists holding out the hope of finding her burial.
The Western branch of the Valley of the Kings is an archeologically promising site. Largely unexplored, in future, Egyptologists could find the burials of several missing royals, especially from the Amarna Period. Right now, however, the hunt is on to discover the crypt of the last queen of that dynasty, Ankhesenamun.
Into the Valley of Silence
Of late, the Western Valley, also known as the Valley of the Monkeys, has grabbed the spotlight from its more renowned counterpart, the central Valley of the Kings. While the latter location in the eastern wing of the pharaonic necropolis has been the cynosure of all eyes for well over a century, owing to the wealth of burials of rulers and nobles found there, the Western Valley has thus far been largely ignored. It is generally assumed that this site is mostly devoid of tombs, because, apart from those of Amenhotep III (WV22), Aye (WV23), and the uninscribed and unfinished WV25 — which is purported to have been the beginnings of Akhenaten’s crypt while he ruled from Thebes at the start of his reign — no other burials have surfaced here.
Egyptological scholar, Brian Alm, believes the opposite is true, “It has always vexed me that the West Valley is just too vast and empty. It’s a long, long way in there for only two finished tombs, unlike the Valley of the Kings proper, which is so accessible, compact and jammed with graves. There must be a lot more in the Western Valley… in fact, there could be scores of tombs out there.”
- Tomb Could Be That of Tutankhamun’s Wife and Egyptian Leading Lady Ankhesenamun
- The Hunt for Ankhesenamun: How Did a Young Woman Stop an Ancient Dynasty from Imploding? Part I
The Red colored circle indicates the entrance to the tomb of Amenhotep III (WV22) in the Western Valley. Foundation deposits revealed that work on the tomb was initiated during the reign of Thutmose IV. WV22 was ‘officially’ discovered by Prosper Jollois and Édouard de Villiers du Terrage, engineers with Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, in August, 1799.
The Valley of the Monkeys (Wadi el-Qurud) situated on the West Bank of Luxor derives its name from a scene that features twelve baboons representing the twelve hours of night from texts known as the Amduat (“That Which is in the Afterworld”) that is depicted on a wall of Pharaoh Aye’s tomb. It is speculated that WV23, the tomb of this penultimate ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty, which was discovered in 1816 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, was in all probability under construction when King Tutankhamun (born Tutankhaten) passed away suddenly. Scholars who support this theory state that it made perfect sense to bury the young sovereign near his illustrious and orthodox grandfather, Amenhotep III, especially post the troubling events witnessed during the Amarna interlude.
Dr Marianne Eaton-Krauss explains that there was no hard and fast rule for when a new pharaoh should begin construction of a burial place; and it certainly was not necessary that he should undertake the task immediately upon ascending the throne. Given that the economy had suffered under the renegade ruler Akhenaten; and the temples he had once closed were now reopened and funds diverted for their upkeep, it stands to reason that this could have probably been a contributing factor to begin work on Tutankhamun’s tomb midway through his reign. What is certain, however, is that the Western Valley was hallowed ground for the Amarna clan.
- The Hunt for Ankhesenamun: A Murderess, Vixen or Helpless Child in this Ancient Egyptian Soap Opera? Part II
- Tomb of Prominent Queen and Wife of Tutankhamun Could Soon Be Unearthed
This sculptor's model, popularly known as the Wilbour Plaque - named for the early American Egyptologist, Charles Edwin Wilbour - represents Akhenaten and his consort Nefertiti in near-equal size—an unthinkable depiction in ancient Egyptian art. But then, the powerful Nefertiti was more than a mere queen in her husband’s court. Brooklyn Museum, New York.