Friday,26 May, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)
Friday,26 May, 2017
Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Opening a golden box

A box found in the funerary collection of Queen Hetep-Heres at the Egyptian Museum has led curators from a mystery to a new discovery

The newly discovered gold foil
The newly discovered gold foil

During restoration work carried out on Queen Hetep-Heres’s funerary collection at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in Cairo, a wooden box filled with a large number of pieces of gold foil was discovered as well as a detached piece of paper with the word Amenopete or Amenophis written on it.

Islam Ezzat, a member of the scientific team at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the story of this discovery went back to 2015 when curators at the Egyptian Museum had stumbled upon a wooden box within the storage area in the collection dedicated to Queen Hetep-Heres.

Upon opening the box, the curators discovered seven layers of 534 pieces of gold foil. The last layer contained a detached piece of paper with the word Amenophis or Amenopete written on it.

“This indicates that the foil did not belong to Hetep-Heres but to another royal personage,” Ezzat said.

Exploring the box, the team found pieces of wood and parts of a skeleton. Studies carried out on the foil had confirmed that it belonged to the Pharaoh Akhenaten as the name of the sun god Aten was engraved on some of the foil while other pieces bore Akhenaten’s titles such as “Ankh En Maat”, meaning “he who lived in life.”

Other parts belonged to the 21st-Dynasty King Amenemuba of Tanis in what is today Sharqiya governorate.

“We also found some foil decorated with engravings showing the name of another Tanis king named Pestosonis. Upon identifying the foil and the KV55 sarcophagus it is associated with, the foil was placed on the sarcophagus and put on special display in the museum,” Ezzat said.

Hassan Selim, professor of Egyptology at Ain Shams University in Cairo, told the Weekly that upon opening the box the curators had first thought it could belong to King Amenhotep, but without identifying which Amenhotep.

Studies carried out on the foil, he explained, had revealed that it consisted of two parts. The first one could be dated to the Amarna Period as it bore some of Akhenaten’s titles, such as “Ankh En Maat”, while the second could be dated to a period when the god Osiris was worshiped as the name “Osirin” was written on some of the foil.

“The results have perplexed Egyptologists because both periods could not have been taken together,” Selim said, adding that Egyptologist Mark Gabold, an expert in the domain, had said that the foil with the name of Osirin were probably related to the 21st-Dynasty King Amenemuba of Tanis.

Selim told the Weekly that more study had shown that when the French had transported jewellery from Tanis to the museum more than 100 years ago they had restored all the collection but not the sarcophagus of Amenemuba which was in a very poor condition. The sarcophagus was put in the sarcophagi hall on the museum’s third floor and its gold foil was put inside a wooden box.

When the KV55 tomb was discovered, Selim continued, several sarcophagi were transferred to the museum, among them the one that may belong to Akhenaten. As the late restorer Ahmed Youssef was in charge of the conservation work of both the Amenemuba and Akhenaten sarcophagi, he put the gold foil of the Akhenaten sarcophagus on top of that of Amenemuba in the same box and separated each with a piece of paper.

Regretfully, Selim said, Youssef died before starting his restoration of both sarcophagi and nobody knew about the way he had divided the material apart from him. Both sets of foil will now be studied in order to restore them and insert them in their original places.

Selim said that the foil that belongs to Akhenaten was not from his sarcophagus, but it could once have been used to decorate the wrapping of his mummy. “From the shape and size of the foil it is almost impossible that it could have belonged to the sarcophagus,” Selim said, explaining that further study could confirm his suggestion.

“As for the foil that belongs to Amenemuba, scholars agree that it belongs to the king’s sarcophagus,” Selim confirmed.

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