Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, March 11, 2010

In the end there was just one solution for this genetic data fitting into the family tree and this showed us this must really be Akhenaten and could not be any other.
That's what Albert Zink of the Insitiute of Muumies and a member of the Tutankhamun Family DNA Project team has to say in this report by Paul Schemm for Associated Press.  The article also goes on to reveal that since Akhenaten has now been firmly indentified, a new Akhenaten Museum is planned for Minya province in the hope of increasing the number of tourists who visit. The museum will house other mummies as Hawass reveals:
The museum in Minya will house the mummies of Akhenaten, his mother Queen Tiye and his ill-fated sister-consort and "tell the story about Akhenaten,"
With Hawass stating strongly in the media that the KV55 mummy is Akhenaten - and needing the mummy as the centrepiece of this new musuem, and with another member of the team (above) stating that the DNA data supports only one solution, it will be very difficult now for the team to admit any alternatives.  I have shown in earlier posts that the published DNA strongly suggests this mummy cannot be Akhenaten and proven that alternative interpretations are absolutely possible.  I lack the academic credentials to be taken seriously.  I can only hope that a doctor or professor will take up the baton and publish to show that the KV55 mummy has probably been misidentified by the Hawass team. Unless of course, there is something in the unpublished data which materially changes things, but I find it hard to envisage anything that could.

Over the years I have seen people claim to have witnessed discoveries which were publicly denied.  The latest was Andrew Collins with the Tomb of Birds on the Giza Plateau.  My experience with the Tutankhamun family DNA data is making me rather more open to believing what people have said.  Andrew Collins backed his claim with the publication of photos and video.  If the new law is used to suppress publication of such material discovering the truth is going to become very difficult. 


kev said...

This is just the sort of thing one would expect from the current head of SCA. There must be another Nat. Geo. contract in the offing! It is disgusting that one man can hold truth and learning to ransom, maybe he could be put on trial for crimes against humanity and corruption. Surely the suppression of truth is a crime? As for the corruption, try getting to a "forbidden" site and see how much that costs!

Anonymous said...

I think that your reaction is a little over the top Kev but i do think that there is a very strong possibility that the SCA will be eventually tarnished by all this rush to judgement and fitting facts to suit their theories and the new draconian laws will be repealed. Incidentally we drove past the new museum just under construction in November just off the bridge in Minya, a huge Pyramid shaped structure.

Markeologist said...

The "problem" with all this is that Dr Hawass sees himself, rightly or wrongly, as an ambassador for his country, including its vital tourism industry, and in a rather C19th/C21st way (Belzoni meets the blogosphere) presents archeological discovery and research in the way calculated by him to best gain media attention and promote mass-tourism. His own cult of personalty is all part of this, though it surely has its fringe benefits too. And it works.
This all leads to a degree of disneyfication of the subject which all of us with a serious interest in Egyptian Archeology find disturbing.
But then we don't have to worry about balancing the Egyptian budget.
Did the habit of pioneers like Schliemann and Evans of sexing-up their discoveries for the benefit of the public help or harm the progress of Archeology ?

s. stockwell said...

There is no question about it, the best way to preserve or recover ancient Egypt's monuments is to create a compelling tourist destination. We see this at heritage sites throughout the world and in reverse we see what neglect brings. The extraordinary vision and tireless enthusiasm of Dr. Zahi is really magnificent to behold. There is no denying that. Where he goes so far off the track is when he fails to recognize that ancient Egypt belongs to the world and for that reason it is forever available for the interested on many levels to access, interpret and describe as they will. His heavy handed gate-keeping is depressing.

Anonymous said...

the Akhenaten museum at Minya was planned before DNA, since 2-3 years. the pyramid of museum was builded since some month and the team prepare the different room. another museum was planned at Amarna with english team.

Keith Payne/Shemsu Sesen said...

Hi Kate,

I would never underestimate the power of websites such as yours to foment critical discussion. I feel your authority lies in your pursuit of accuracy. Declarations of the “truth” do not belong in science. Real science can only approach the truth by eliminating falsehood, and ironically, it is when one declares they "possess" the truth that its pursuit is stymied.

Of course, in common usage we employ the word “truth” to refer to facts and reliable explanations. But declarations, particularly with a field like genetics, of 100% accuracy are dubious. We can achieve a very high degree of likelihood. I am not sure whether this has been achieved with Akhenaten or not. But as you have mentioned elsewhere, there is a political element to all of this. That combined with a dismissive attitude regarding well-founded criticism underscores the need for healthy skepticism.

Thank you for your work

Jan said...

Hi Kate
While some of the results of the DNA testing are questionable, especially the brother/sister and not cousin link, there are some important facts that have been overlooked.
Zahi Hawass is not the first, but the last to identity the KV55 skeleton with Akhenaten! Even the method of mummification (skeletal remains) points to a different after life belief. Perhaps the problems are with the foetus. They were found in a box, with no signs of purification. Not what one would expect if they really were Tutankhamun's children.
The most important thing is the historical facts. The KV55 mummy was found with the original
gold straps encircling the outer wrappings of the mummy. They were not replacements that were provided by later priests in any re-wrapping. They bore the titles and excised cartouches of Akhenaten. The magic bricks,
found in the tomb to protect the mummy, had been neutralized by removing their amulets, but the name of the original owner was intact upon them - Akhenaten.
The old reports by Arthur Weigall who was present at the actual unwrapping of the mummy found in KV55, has the answers.
He was there, he was an eye witness! This has been ignored, mainly because the skeleton shows no signs of deformity. Many scholars support the theory that, as the old Gods had been replaced, the distorted representations depict Akhenaten as both Father and Mother of All,not deformed. Support for the skeleton being
Akhenaten also comes from Gaston Maspero who was around at the time of discovery to evaluate the evidence. Since then Cyril Aldred, Alan Gardiner,Nicholas Reeves and Geoffrey Martin just to name a few, all support the skeleton being that of Akhenaten. The story that the skeleton could not be
Akhenaten was first started by the American Philanthropist who financed the dig, Theodore Davis. The bands found surrounding the body, containing Akhenaten's name, were sent to Elliot Smith's surgery in Cairo, to accompany
the bones and debris from the coffin . Before they could be published, they were conveniently stolen from his desk 'by one of his laboratory assistants"
The search for them still goes on.
Weigall states: "I may add that, owing to some curious idiosyncrasy of old age, Mr Davis entertained a most violent and obstinate objection to the suggestion that he had discovered the body of Akhenaten. He had hoped that
he had found Queen Taia, and when he was at last forced to abandon this fallacy, he seemed to act almost as though desiring to obscure the identification of the body.".... which has continued ever since!!

Kate Phizackerley said...


I would like it to be Akhenaten - that would suggest that a tomb for Smenkhare may still be out there. As you say it comes down to the foetuses. At this stage we don't know. There is no justification for anybody to say that KV55 is Akhenaten, or even is probably so. The evidence points to the opposite but it is still remains tantalising open in both directions.

Jim said...

I don’t think that anyone is remotely trying to support Theodore Davis’ view of the matter. Well, I hope not!

With regard to Weigall, he also stated: “The body was lying in a coffin inscribed with Akhenaton's name” – which it clearly was not, as all cartouches had been cut out. The only reference of interest on the coffin itself is the usage of the Aten glyph, indicating that the burial was of a member of the Armana royal family (but giving to clue as to which one). Weigall was simply wrong about this.

I agree with you that the gold straps would have settled the matter – further from Weigall: “it was bound around with ribbons inscribed with his name”. However, this is also (it appears) potentially inaccurate, as other reports clearly state that the cartouches had been cut from the bands too. So I really wonder how reliable a witness Weigall can be taken to be. I’m not trying to impune the man here, merely to point out the inconsistencies. I find myself thinking that if he was demonstrably wrong about the coffin inscriptions, why should we believe him about the gold bands?

Weigall’s other statements are also frequently either incorrect or can be taken to apply equally to Akhenaten or Smenkhare. This is essentially his summary of reasons for believing kv55 to be Akhenaten: “it had the physical characteristics of the portraits of Akhenaton”. This could apply to Smenkhare, as a close relative – and incidentally, analysis of the skeleton show this statement to be broadly untrue anyway; “it had the idiosyncracies of a religious reformer such as he was.” I’m not sure what Weigall means here – but in any event it seems that Smenkhare did not reform Atenism (that was left to Tutenkhamen) so again this could apply to him as well as to Akhenaten; “it was that of a man of Akhenaton's age as deduced from the monuments.” There is much evidence that this is not correct – and, to be fair, some that suggests that it is, but the matter remains very unclear; “it lay in the tomb of Akhenaton's mother.” No it didn’t; “those who erased the names must have thought it to be Akhenaton's body, unless one supposes an utter chaos of cross-purposes in their actions.” Well, unless of course it was the equally heretical Atenist pharaoh Smenkhare; “and finally, there is nobody else who, with any degree of probability, it could be.” Well, sorry, but yes there is.

Jan, I really can’t see that the matter is in any way cut and dried, and Weigall does not – to my mind – settle the debate at all.

By the way, as far as I’m aware, Cyril Aldred modified his original opinion that the body was that of Akenaten and later came round to the ‘more-probably-Smenkhare’ view.

Aldred also adds this intriguing piece of information which might shed a lot of light on the original nature of the excised cartouches – it suggests that in situ, in the tomb, violence was done to Smenkhare’s cartouches: “a piece of gold sheet, different in thickness and quality from the prosthetics that were used to convert the inscriptions on the coffin… was found amongst the debris, and reads “beloved of Wa’enre”. This could be part of the equipment of Smenkhare, and is peculiar to the earlier form of both his names. What it was doing in this tomb is difficult to suggest, unless it had been cut out of his gold-covered furniture and had not been retrieved in the haste and gloom.” So, we have Akhenaten’s name on the bricks, and apparent evidence that Smenkhare’s cartouches were excised from other items whilst they were still in the tomb.

My own opinion – but from the archaeological context of the deposit it can only be a guess really – is that we’re looking at Smenkhare rather than Akhenaten. To my mind the evidence weighs mildly in that direction. But in truth, the archaeological context is – unfortunately – as clear as mud.

Anonymous said...

I don`t understand what signs of "purification" are needed to assume that the foetus are both royal children.
The wooden box was only the container for the children`s gilded coffins, two for each of them.
They have crossed arms on the coffin, one of them an additional gilded mask (the other was in pit 54) and were both mummified. The fact that the smaller one did not have her organs removed is certainly due to her being too tiny for even a skilled embalmer to do so. They removed the larger one`s organs though which is an astonishing achievement.

All of this points to much care and reverence. In the show they state that the same kind of resin which was poured over Tutankhamun`s mummy was applied to the babies` mummies.
I think we can be pretty sure they are Tut`s and Ankhesenamun`s children.

The weakest links in the chain

KV21(A or B)=Ankhesenamun
foetuses are both Tut`s and Ankhi`s

are in my view the first two.

KV 55 could be Semenkhkare or another unknown son of AIII and Tiye.
KV21 A,B are probably linked to the Amarna Clan as far as the fragmentary DNA shows and must have been queens due to the bent arms.
The choice could be Nefertiti, Meritaten, Ankhesenamun, Nefer-neferu-Aten or even Sitamun or Isis.
These are just the names that come to my mind, there are certainly even more possibilities.


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