Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, November 02, 2010

John Samsen emailed me with a theory about KV62 and the end of the Amarna period and asked my thoughts.  With John's permission, I have turned it into a guest article so that other people can offer their views as well.  This is what John presented:

In 1977, I viewed the gold death mask of Tut at the exhibit in Chicago, and was surprised to see that red veins had been painted on the whites of the eys. There is also an alabaster bust of Tut that has red veins on the eyes. I immediately had the idea that persons in charge of the funeral had wanted to show that Tut was a "flesh-and blood" human being, which is in keeping with the naturalist philosophy of Akenaten and his family. There are also items among the treasures that show Tut and his wife in Amarna style art, with the Aten. When I visited Karnak in 1985, I realized that among the Tut treasures are a number of items that are very similar to bas relief sculptures on the wall at Karnak where Thutmose III shows the many gifts he gave to the Amon temples.  The chests with slanted tops, and in particular, the large gold cabinet with cobras on top in which Tut's sarcophagus was placed. (the solar disk was added to the heads of the cobras). It suggests to me that Akenaten removed the treasures from the Amun temples at Karnak and put them in the temple at Amarna. And, as Tut was raised at Amarna, he and others of the family and court of Akenaten, perhaps including Ay and Horemheb,  may have continued to believe in the religion of the Aten. The radical purge of the Amun religion may have brought Egypt to the brink of civil war, or at least, a coup, and Horenheb may have decided to restore the Amun cult and end the experiment with the Aten, to save the nation. The huge number of Amarna items stuffed into Tut's tomb may have been an attempt by Horemheb abd the family to keep the Amarna style furniture and other treasures from falling into the hands of the Amun priests or others who may have been trying to overthrow the government, as the eighteenth dynasty was ending. They may have even hidden Tut's tomb, hoping to get back the treasures at a later time when egypt stabilized. Tut's funeral ocurred around one hundred years after Thutmose III built the Amun temples.

This is how John summarises his theory:

The young Tutankhamen has died. Horemheb will now ascend the throne, as Ay does not have the political power to oppose him, especially as Horemheb has the army behind him, and has been gaining favor with the Amun Priests. Ay and Tut have been convinced that The Amun religion be restored to prevent a collapse of stability in Egypt, and have been overseeing a transition. Tut's family and Ay give Tut a conventional burial, but leave clues to Tut's faith in Akenaten's religion that reverences life and living creatures. Rather than just Horus eyes, red veins are painted on the whites of the eyes on the gold death mask, and on an alabaster bust of the young king. This is to show he was a flesh-and -blood human being.

King Tut's family and his Amarna based court fear that Under Horemheb, there will be a purge of those involved in the Amarna religion, and want to safeguard the treasures of the palace and the Amarna temple. Some of these treasures had been given to the Amun temple at Karnak by Thutmose III around one hundred years before, and had been taken to Amarna by Akenaten. Others had been created in the new Amarna artistic style, many having images of the Aten. Not wanting the treasures to be destroyed or confiscated by the Amun priests, the family decided to re open the tomb of Tut and pack into it all the furniture and other items from Tut's palace and the Amarna temple, for safekeeping. Then the tomb was hidden. Many of the Amarna believers fled to colonies in Nubia (Sudan) and continued the custom of wrapping the heads of babies to enlongate the skull, as had been done in Akenaten's family, and to Tut. This custom persisted in Africa until the 20th. century BCE.

The pictures of the Tut treasures I emailed you are on the Nat. Geographic site. The alabaster bust shows the "caruncles" or patches of red veins on the eyes.
Pictures of the gold death mask do not show these clearly, but I saw them up close.

Link to alabaster bust
The drawing of the Karnak treasures

I haven't seen much written about process by which tombs were stocked; however, the private tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV46) of Yuya and Thuya was also well-stocked so my guess is that, apart from funerary items, a noble's royal appartment was packed into his tomb and that Tutankhamun's tomb wasn't partiularly unusual - it's why we would love another New Kingdom  royal tomb to be found intact as a comparison.  However, I do like the idea of a cache.  History suggests that when a religion is suppressed, believers do try to save certain especial treasures for posterity.  It seems highly likely that happened at the end of the Amarna period.  In general I am not persuaded that KV62 is such a cache, but maybe some of the personal items from his ancestors were added to the tomb to keep those safe - ie the theory may have a partial application even if one decides the tomb as a whole wasn't a cache.

Rather than reply to John directly, I thought his theory was interesting enough to share at large.


sokar said...

I am not at all sure that we understand the logic that was used to select items for the tomb. Some appear to be offerings or items made specifically for the burial. Others appear to be used items that he knew in life. Was there a cleansing of the Palace of things he had handled or touched for superstitious reasons or perhaps to create a familiar environment for him in the afterlife. I find both these theories, which are probably not mutually exclusive much more life that the one proposed.

tim said...

Tutankhamun's tomb is absolutely a cache as would most tombs have been particularly when the family line is dying out.

The temple treasury may well have been removed from the Amun priesthood but that is probably not relevant to the tomb of Tutankhamun as the gifts the king would give to the gods would be nearly, if not the same as would be for the king, also a god.

Interesting theory though I suspect once full nothing was added to Tutankhamun's tomb and that the furnishings were made for the god king whether it was made with Amun's gold?

sokar said...

I am not sure how the word "cache" is being used. KV63 was a cache in the sense that there was no burial but a lot of material left over from someone's. The word has also been used to describe tombs were mummies were moved to protect them after their original tomb was robbed. KV62 does not fit either definition. If "cache" means goods were placed for reasons other than burial with Tut, then I am not sure there is any evidence to support that. As i suggested we do not know what the criteria for selecting grave goods was.

Dennis said...

I agree with most of what has been said above. Tutankhamun was pretty much the last of that royal family in an Egypt falling apart from neglect and disease. His family burial equipment apparently had to be reused to make up a burial suite (coffins, furniture, and his mask). Much of the rest was simply so out of style that it had no value to anyone topside. Tut's tomb, being very small, probably could not accommodate what should have been buried for his afterlife. Truly I do not know the selection criteria for grave goods beyond food, drink, toys, and a 'map' to get to his destination. The rest seems like someone cleared out his bedroom. I suspect that he got the leftovers that Ay did not want. I am guessing most of the family treasures were paid out shutting down the old regime, rescuing the mummies, digging new KV tombs for his family and, just keeping things going in those years.

John Bright said...

There is a problem in talking about the priests of Amen. Tutankhamen records that there were none when he became pharaoh and had to appoint and train them. It seems unlikely that they would turn against him so soon. Furthermore, I suspect it was Ay and not Horemheb who arranged the burial. It is Ay who is shown on the walls of the burial chamber.

Stephanie said...

I fully support sokar`s opinion.
We will probably never know for sure why some of the items were placed in the tomb, but the best overall explanation is IMO that they were either items connected with the envisaged rebirth, personal possesions regardless if they were connected with the Aten, Amun or other deities or if they had no religious connotations at all, and heirlooms.

I do not think that the items related with the Aten were either "dumped" to be forgotten or hidden in the tomb from the view of Amun priests.

Throughout the reigns of Tutankhamun and Aye there seems to have been a smooth co-existence between the Aten and Amun/other deities with neither supporters attacking the others.
I think this co-existence is being reflected in the grave-goods, not political uphieval.

Kate Phizackerley said...

I do not believe that the contents of KV62 were especillay Amarna in nature. They certainly weren't uniquely Atenistic. It suggests to me that most items redolent of the period had already been removed from circulation leaving some overlooked items and items or a more personal nature, which were finally tucked into KV62.

Personally I like John's theory becase I think it is consistent with human behevour recorded in similar circumstances, but KV62 seems to me to be the wrong tomb. Rather, I think we should look to the mystery that is KV55 ... and we know that goes nowhere.

John Bright said...

KV55. What a tragedy! If it were discovered today, could it avoid the media circus that descended into KV63?
Many of the items found in KV62 have parallels from other tombs. It is not necessarily the objects in themselves that are different but their style on the one hand and the fact they are more or less intact. I don't see the tomb as a cache in the sense I think that word is meant to be understood, It does, though, suggest that the people responsible for the burial had not prepared the grave beforehand, in other words, the king's death was a surprise.

Ken said...

I think that the fact that both Tutankhaten and Ankhesenpaten both changed their name sometime between the death of Ahkenaten and Tutankhamun, I'm convinced that it was Tutankhamun who restored the old ways (and some semblance of stability). It is likely that Ay and/or Horemheb convinced him to do such, but there is no way to know. Inclusion of the Amarna style items in the tomb makes perfect sense to me, even if they did have the old names on them. It seems clear that he had quite a sentimental attachment to the past (his grandmother's lock hair for instance).


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