Could the mystery of Luxor Tomb KV55 now be solved, more than a century after its discovery, asks Nevine El-Aref
In 1907, British archaeologist Edward Aryton excavated Tomb KV55, considered one of the most mysterious tombs ever discovered. He found it in the Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor. The tomb bears no name and contained a selection of artefacts that belonged to several kings and queens, a single sarcophagus and a mummy.
The identification of the sarcophagus and the mummy has been complicated by the fact that the artefacts appear to belong to different individuals.
Because of the positioning of the mummy’s arms, it has been speculated that the mummy could belong to the pharaoh Akhenaten’s mother Queen Tiye, his wife Nefertiti, his secondary wife Kiya, or his stepsister Meritaten.
In 2010, after X-ray examination was carried out on the mummy, it was accepted that the coffin and the mummy could belong to a male, possibly Akhenaten, although some believe it could belong to his brother Smenkhkare.
Some believe that the tomb was created in a hurry and that the individual buried there had been previously laid to rest elsewhere. Other Egyptologists believe it was meant simply as a kind of storeroom.
With so many different possibilities for the identity of the tomb’s owner, the sarcophagus and the mummy, researchers were presented with a puzzling challenge. Now it seems that the mystery may have been solved: a wooden box found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo may hold the key to identifying the original owner of KV55.
The box was found in the storage area of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, according to Elham Salah, head of the Museums Department at the Ministry of Antiquities. It contains 500 gold sheets, fragments of a skull and a handwritten note in French.
The note dates to when KV55 was first found and states that the 500 gold sheets were discovered with a sarcophagus, though it does not mention which one. Recent studies on the sheets reveal that they belong to the sarcophagus found in KV55.
Further scientific study will be carried out on the sheets by Egyptian archaeologists, restorers and researchers from the Egyptian Museum with a grant of $28,500 from the American Research Centre in Cairo (ARCE). The hope is that they will be able to discover which king the sarcophagus belongs to.
This would make it possible to identify the mummy and the owner of the tomb. The skull fragments found in the box are also to be subjected to further analysis.