Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, September 04, 2010

Sherry Stockwell sent me this article, titled The Mystery Woman Behind the Pharoah which has recently appeared on Nicholas Reeves' web site in which he updates his theories about the history of Tutankhamun's golden mask.   I think it may also have appeared in the [London] Times as well.

I'm a big fan of Reeves' book, the Complete Tutankhamun, in which he first talks about the composition of the funerary masks and speculates that one was originally made for Smenkhare.  As a starting point, I suggest reading his 1997 article The Tombs of Tutankhamun and his Predecessor based on a lecture delivered at the Bloomsbury Summer School, The Valley of the Kings Revisited, University College London, 17 May 1997.  He says:
"A second and more sobering implication of my hypothesis is that a second Amarna cache, containing the weeded burials of Kiya, Meketaten and Nefertiti-Smenkhkare - the remaining, unaccounted for occupants of the Amarna royal tomb - still lies undiscovered in the Valley of the Kings. For, as with the principal occupant of the Tomb 55 cache, the burials of at least one, and perhaps two, of these individuals seem to have provided a range of materials for Tutankhamun’s reuse and must, themselves, have been subsequently re-interred somewhere."

He has now updated that theory and the evidence is very convincing that parts of Tutankhamun's golden mask was made for a female Pharaoh by the name of Ankhkheprure Nefernefruaten whom he equates to Nefertiti.  I'm not convinced that equation should be made.  Names were in short supply within the Amarna royal household, which is why we have Neferneferuaten-Tasherit and Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit.  The history of the period between Akhenaten's death and start of Tutankhamun's reign is ... well, decidedly uncertain.  At least one and probably two pharaohs occupied the throne during that time - possibly as co-regents.  (I've never understood why there is no suggestion for a co-regent for the start of Tutankhamun's reign.)  If the KV55 mummy is Akhenaten then the tombs of these pharaoh(s) and of Nefertiti are unknown.  Reeves also suggests that the mummy of Meketaten should form part of the group transferred from Amarna and I remain of the view that the KV55 mummy is actually Smenkhare.  Anyway - read his articles.  It is well worth it.

(PS if you like food, then Sherry's main web site is Jefferson's Table.  Her latest recipe is Mr. Jefferson's Ice Cream Sundae with Brandied Peaches and Praline Crumbles.)

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)


Stuart Tyler said...

Thanks for posting this Kate- i had not before seen suggestions that Tut's mask may have been originally for a woman. I was aware that other items found in his tomb were "suspect" to say the least, but not the mask. Thanks for the links.


Stephanie said...

In a TV documentary about Nefertiti Reeves mentioned the idea that the original face may have been replaced due to the soldering which is visible around the face. He said though that it is also possible that the soldering of the face to the rest of the mask could have been the usual way of manufacturing such a piece.
And one can well imagine that it might be difficult to make the whole piece with its tricky headdress from one single large sheet of gold.
So the soldering could point to a replacement but doesn`t have to.
I have not heard before that the quality of the gold used for the face is different from that used for the headdress. This too could mean the mask was altered but I could also imagine this happening if intentionally two different sheets were used due to manufacturing reasons. One point could be that the gold used for the face was harder due to its slightly lower carat and therefore deemed more suitable to withstand the working out of the facial features which involved much hammering.
Anyway, I admire Reeves for being so optimistic about Nefertiti`s tomb being in the VoK. I do hope he is right and that some day it will be found!

Stephanie said...

I forgot one more point: Does anyone know if other gold masks that have survived show signs of soldering?
I am thinking especially of Psusennes` mask. Would be interesting to know in this context.

Kate Phizackerley said...

I'd be interested if anybody knows about gold smelting and smithing techniques in the New Kingdom


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