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Dispute And Mystery: Strange Case Of The Tomb KV55 In The Valley Of Kings, Egypt

Undoubtedly, a mysterious tomb KV55 located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank in Luxor is one of Egypt’s most debated ancient places.

Tomb 55 was discovered in the Valley of the Kings by Edward R. Ayrton in January 1907 and is connected to the Heretic King Akhenaten.

The desecrated royal coffin found in tomb KV55. Credit: Hans Ollermann – CC BY 2.0

There was only one single chamber and a small niche in a simple tomb. In the niche, archaeologists found four canopic jars;  other artifacts in the chamber included a coffin and two clay bricks.

The team discovered a dismantled shrine with pieces scattered all over the place. The artifacts found in the tomb belonged to several individuals, making it very difficult to decide to whom they ultimately belonged.

Archaeologists also found the names of Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, Tiy, Sitamun (a daughter and wife of Amenhotep III), and the enigmatic Kiya (who is believed by some to have replaced Nefertiti late in Akhenaten’s reign).

The shrine probably belonged to Akhenaten’s mother, Tiy, who is thought to have been initially buried in KV55. The tomb also contains the magical bricks of Akhenaten, arguing strongly that his mummy was interred here at some point.

However, the coffin was most probably designed for Kiya but later modified for a male occupant by adding a fake beard. However, the cartouche bearing the occupant’s name was removed and cut out, and the face mask was ripped off.

The mummy contained within the coffin has not made the problem any simpler. It is male, but opinion is still somewhat divided on the corpse’s age; more recent examinations have suggested a younger generation around 20, too young for Akhenaten. However, there is some evidence that these age estimates are somewhat inaccurate.

Some have argued that it is Akhenaten himself. In contrast, others suggest that it is Smenkhkare, an enigmatic ruler, who ascended the throne after the death of Akhenaten, but he died shortly. After his death, Tutankhamun became the new Pharaoh, and Smenkhkare ruled as the co-regent of Akhenaten for some time.

There is little information about Smenkhkare and his rule in the historical records that suggest that Smenkhkare was either the elder brother or uncle of Tutankhamen. The location of his body has still not been established, so he is the ideal candidate for the KV55 mummy.

Scholars also debate the mummy’s identity; for now, it seems that the most probable KV55 mummy is that of Smenkhkare, who ruled Egypt for a short period.

Many believe that the identity of the KV55 mummy will remain a mystery unless mummies of some other possible candidates are revealed.