KV55: A TOMB TOO FAR
By Anand Balaji
It is strange to think that a solitary tomb, situated just north of the sepulchre of Ramesses IX (KV6) in the Theban necropolis, could have taught us much about the twilight years of the Amarna Period. That was the power Tomb 55 held, which sadly, the anserine financier squandered away in 1907. The haphazard, botched excavation and bizarre report on the findings apart; the most crucial question – whose mummy was found in the beautiful, yet cruelly defaced rishi-style coffin – remains unanswered despite the passage of over a century.
The only thing we know for a fact is that the royal person was not a woman as initially claimed, and certainly not Queen Tiye. This revelation has raised more questions than it has generated answers. Through the years, the names of Pharaohs Akhenaten and Smenkhkare (the latter is believed by some scholars to have been a son of Amenhotep III and younger-brother to Akhenaten) have been proposed foremost; but we are nowhere near ascertaining the truth, even though the remains have been subjected to DNA tests and the results published.
This composite image shows (Top row) the general disarray in which Tomb 55 was discovered by Ayrton/Davis. (Image left) Notice the four exquisitely crafted alabaster canopic jars lying in the niche and one of the heavy shrine panels resting against the wall. (Right) Millennia of flood debris covered the entire tomb. (Bottom row) This necklace found in the tomb is made “of gold pendants and inlaid plaques connected by rows of minute beads, ending in large lotus flowers of gold, inlaid with paste.” The decayed, yet beautifully styled Rishi coffin; and, the vulture pectoral which was found placed on the head of the enigmatic mummy. (Photos: Public Domain, Egyptian Museum, Cairo and Ulises Muñiz)… https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/59/The_KV55_Pharaoh%27s_Vulture_by_Ulises_Mu%C3%B1iz.jpg
So today, there are as many theories as there are camps that support the aforementioned kings. However, circumstantial evidence—such as the magical bricks naming “Osiris king Neferkheperure-waenre – True of Voice” found inside the tomb at roughly the four cardinal points; the excised cartouches and inscriptions with feminine endings on the coffin; appropriated canopic jars—all point to the usurpation of funerary assemblage originally made for a woman.
An image of “The Elder Lady” mummy – identified now as Queen Tiye – as found in situ within KV35. Photo by Victor Loret, originally published in 1899.
If Akhenaten was not an occupant here, where then in the Valley could he be reburied? If Smenkhkare was the deceased king who was brought here from Akhetaten, why is there absolutely no epigraphic evidence naming him in this crypt? And lastly, if Kiya the ’Greatly Beloved Wife’ was interred in Tomb 55, where is she now?