Inching Closer to Ankhesenamun: Is the Last Sun Queen Set to be Found? — Part II
The probable marriage of Ankhesenamun, the widow of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, to the aged vizier Aye before she vanished from the records paved the way for the old family retainer to ascend the throne of Egypt. The latest news from the Western branch of the Valley of the Kings suggests that her tomb could well be located nearby that of the very man she probably detested and attempted to avoid entering into wedlock with. Only time will tell if the final resting place of the last sun queen will come to light and help us solve the many mysteries that surround one of the most fascinating and intriguing periods in all of ancient Egyptian history.
Detail from a dual statue, isolating the portion of goddess Mut. Amarna expert, Dr Aidan Dodson, opines that this sculpture from the Luxor Temple cache, likely represents the physiognomy of Queen Ankhesenamun. However, not all Egyptologists agree with this identification. Luxor Museum. (Photo: Victor Solkin)
Foundation Deposits Hold Great Clues
The fate of the Amarna royals was plunged into darkness when the Atenist experiment ended following the demise of Pharaoh Akhenaten and the departure of the enigmatic ruler, Smenkhkare, from the scene. Ankhesenamun stepped in to save the day by marrying her half-brother Tutankhamun at this time. But the fortunes of the dynasty suffered a huge blow with the young king’s sudden death, and once again, she was thrust into the spotlight. However, no one knows what became of Ankhesenamun beyond the assumption that she married the next monarch, Aye. But if recent reports from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities are anything to go by, all that could well change in the days ahead.
Following the discovery of tomb KV63 in 2005 by a team of archaeologists led by Dr Otto Schaden, speculation arose that it was designed for Ankhesenamun due to its proximity to the tomb of Tutankhamun. Though no mummies were found, the chamber yielded coffins, storage jars and natron that indicated it was likely an embalmers’ cache. More importantly, clay seal impressions with the partial name ‘Pa-aten’ were also discovered. The only royal person known to bear this name from that period was Ankhesenamun (birth name, Ankhesenpaaten).
This monumental dyad was pieced together from fragments in the vaults of the Cairo Museum and those found at the Temple of Amun in Karnak, where it originally stood in the hall to the north of the obelisk of Hatshepsut. Dr Aidan Dodson states: “It seems certain that the Amun and Mut statues have the faces of Ay and Tey.” Egyptian Museum Cairo.
Between 2007 and 2011, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities undertook a comprehensive program of excavation and survey in the Valley of the Kings. It was the first such effort at the site by an all-Egyptian team of archeologists. The mission, conducted under the auspices of Dr Zahi Hawass, the then Secretary General of the Supreme Council, consisted of Afifi Rohim Afifi as field supervisor, and several Egyptian team members. This expedition was the largest since Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
Within the scope of the excavation, permission was granted to Glen Dash and his team of experts from the Glen Dash Foundation to undertake a targeted geophysical survey. The mission report states that they identified many new inscriptions, and more importantly, discovered four intact foundation deposits - which are votive offerings placed in, beneath, or around a tomb, temple or other structure, usually at its commencement - from the westernmost end of the Western Valley of the Kings.
An all-Egyptian archeological mission headed by Dr Zahi Hawass; field supervisor Afifi Rohim Afifi, and Glen Dash and his team of experts have identified a site near King Aye’s tomb in the Western Valley as the spot where a late Eighteenth Dynasty tomb could be located.
At the start of excavations, a multiplicity of workmen’s huts were mapped; which upon clearance down to the bedrock exposed four deposits arrayed around a central hut. The team found that the placement of artifacts in these deposits was similar to their arrangement in the deposits discovered by Howard Carter in front of the tomb of Amenhotep III (WV22). Carter reported that objects there were ‘placed en masse’ - the only visible order being that flesh offerings were always on top, followed by pottery. Among the objects were 18 flat-bottomed offering bowls, a blue painted jar with a rounded base, two miniature tools with handles, and a well-preserved bovine skull. The blue painted jar enabled the team to date the deposits to the Eighteenth Dynasty.