When Tutankhamun Lay in State: Did Ankhesenamun Willfully Delay Her Husband’s Burial – Part I
The twilight years of the Amarna interlude are shrouded in mystery. We have little concrete evidence of the persons who reigned and their actions. Tossed into this confounding milieu are details of an unprecedented communication from a recently-widowed Egyptian queen to the rival Hittite king. Did Ankhesenamun, who is widely believed to have penned the plea, willfully delay Tutankhamun’s burial to use it as a bargaining chip to achieve her goal of saving Egypt and her dynasty?
The untimely death of the last ruler of the Amarna bloodline, Tutankhamun, threw the race for the Egyptian throne wide open. Old hands Aye and Horemheb fancied their chances, with the former succeeding. But before Aye became pharaoh the young widow, Ankhesenamun, made a last ditch effort to save her dynasty. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Dakhamunzu and Egypt in Decline
It is of crucial importance to study the Dakhamunzu episode with regard to the diplomatic relations that Egypt maintained with her neighbors during the second-half of the 14th century BC, in particular, the other major powers in Western Asia. A battle for supremacy raged between Egypt, Mitanni and the new entrant in the power-game, the Hittites under King Suppiluliuma I. Even though scholars have conducted in depth studies into the Amarna corpus which details, among other aspects, the utter neglect of international affairs by Akhenaten; we are left at the mercy of the Hittite chronicles to reconstruct events that occurred during the late-Amarna age and its immediate aftermath.
Part of a dyad, isolating the portion of goddess Mut. Dr Aidan Dodson opines that this sculpture, from the Luxor Temple statue cache, probably represents the likeness of Queen Ankhesenamun. Luxor Museum. (Jon Bodsworth/ Public Domain)
The Egyptian army attacked the Hittites whilst they battled against Mitanni in the region of Kadesh; an area that had only recently fallen to the Hittites. Enraged, Suppiluliuma I retaliated by not only besieging Mitannian forces at Carchemish, but also sent his troops to Amqu (in eastern Lebanon) an Egyptian vassal state. When the now-famous Dakhamunzu correspondence was unearthed in the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa, historians were introduced to one of the strangest episodes in Egypt’s late Eighteenth Dynasty. ‘The Plague Prayers’ inform us that the first letter to Suppiluliuma from the enigmatic ‘Dakhamunzu’ asking for a Hittite prince to marry was sent at this point.
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[The author thanks Heidi Kontkanen, Dave Rudin, Petra Lether and Lindsay Hartley, for granting permission to use their photographs in this series. The public archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art can be accessed here.]
Top Image: Of all the pharaohs of ancient Egypt who yearned to rest for an eternity in their sepulchers in the Valley of the Kings, only Tutankhamun has had his wish fulfilled. Here, his mortal remains rest within a climate-controlled glass case in the Antechamber. (Photo: Meretseger Books)
By Anand Balaji