Should the Mummified Body Found in Tomb KV55 be Identified as the Pharaoh Akhenaten

Tomb KV 55 was initially opened by Theodore M. Davis and a hired archaeologist on the 6th of January 1907. The tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, demonstrating that the remains in this tomb belonged to one of the ancient Egyptian royals. According to Theodore, the tomb contained one chamber with a side niche. It had a wooden shrine, enclosed in gold, which had been designed for Queen Tiye, Akhenaten’s mother, funeral. Akhenaten’s name was inscribed in half of the four clay bricks found on the floor of the tomb (Rose 2002, p. 22). The bricks depicted birth and rebirth during the transition to the afterlife (Roth and Roehrig 2002, p.129). There were also four jars engraved originally for Kiya; Akhenaten’s second wife, lopsided with stoppers containing exquisite portraits of Akhenaten’s daughter. The remains were also found in a unique coffin initially designed for Kiya based on inscription, though modified with an extra beard and some inscription modification to fit a male burial (Rose 2002, p. 22). The tomb artifacts and niche represented the remains of a royal family member. However, it was hard to determine exactly who, following the destruction of the name of the tomb occupant, and the presence of different artifacts and niches representing more than one person in the family. This made it hard to identify exactly how the tomb content related to the owners of the artifacts. The most primary guess was that the tomb belonged to Akhenaten, an assumption that this essay refutes following facts that emerged after further analysis of the mummy.

The identification of the content of the tomb in these archeologists’ search is mostly aided by the artifacts and niches found in the grave. In this case, there were many guesses about the occupants including Kiya, Akhenaten, or even Tiye. However, further evaluation of the mummy ruled that it was a male (Rose 2002, p. 24).  The frontal sinuses dimensions and their index of sinus-transversal-cranial were established to be within the range of males, though decidedly below that of acromegalic men (Strouhal 2010, p.110). This eliminated the possibility of the KV55 tomb belonging to any of the past queens; Tiye or Kiya. The next major guess was that the remains belonged to Akhenaten. Although various aspects support this claim, including the physical features of the mummy, and its destruction, further analysis of the mummy by more than one group of archeologists demonstrated that the person in the tomb died in his early twenties. According to Strouhal (2010), the KV 55 mummy did not have the slimmest dental pathology and no slightest indication of the onset of the degenerative changes in his joints and spine (p.111). This is a clear indication that the mummy was younger, and nothing close to the age of 35, when those degenerations start taking place. The discovery of the mummy weakens the possibility of the mummy belonging to Akhenaten since he is said to have died in his mid-30s (Rose 2002, p. 26).

The DNA analysis of the KV 55 skeleton demonstrated kinship with the Tutankhamun mummy. The molecular genetics analysis by a Czech specialist identified a 50% of genes correlation between the two (Strouhal 2010, p.110). The archeologists also linked the KV55 mummy to that of Tutankhamun by skull shape and blood type (Rose 2002, p.27). Having ruled out the possibility of this mummy belonging to Akhenaten based on age, this brings in the possibility of this mummy being that of another younger male in the family. The most probable guess is one of the two Akhenaten’s sons, Tutankhamun or Smenkhkare. However, Tutankhamun’s grave and mummy have already been identified as KV 62 (Roth and Roehrig 2002, p.124). This leaves the possibility of the mummy belonging to Smenkhkare. Shenkhkare was Akhenaten’s elder son with one of his wives. However, Akhenaten was succeeded by Tutankhamun, his second son. This means Smenkhkare, must have died at a younger age when his father was still in the thrown (Rose 2002, p. 27). This aligns with the mummy’s young age, and high DNA and physical similarities with Tutankhamun.

A lot of analyses have been carried out to aid in the correct identification of the KV55 mummy, with some researchers contradicting each other in various aspects. However, one of the other discoveries that rule out the possibility of this mummy being that of Akhenaten is the lack of correlation between the mummy’s pathological analysis results and Akhenaten’s known pathologies. According to Strouhal (2010), the iconographic features of the KV 55 skeleton demonstrated none of the pathologies credited to Akhenaten. Akhenaten was associated with cleft palate, scoliosis, and maxillary sinus (p.111). These conditions were not present or in were at a very mild level for the mummy to be identified as that of Akhenaten. Although KV 55 mummy contained its pathologies and malformations such as bone fibroma and femoral osseous collapse, none of them matched conditions that were known to affect Akhenaten (Strouhal 2010, p.111). This rules out the possibility of this mummy belonging to Akhenaten.

Another main reason that the KV 55 skeleton does not qualify to be that of Akhenaten is that Akhenaten who was originally known as Amenhotep had averted from Amun worship to Aten worship. After his death, his monument was obliterated or cast down and he was named criminal of Akhenaten as the dynasty reverted to Amun worship (Rose 2002, p. 23). The reinvestigation of Akhenaten’s royal tomb according to (Strouhal 2010, p.110) offers unequivocal prove the thoroughness of the monument’s attack. This implies that there are low chances that Akhenaten’s mummy survived the attack. Going by this explanation, there were slim chances that the mummy found in KV 55 was Akhenaten as the vandalism must have destroyed his tomb and its content.  The discovery of the KV 55 mummy brought in a question of the true identity of the 18th Dynasty royal lying in the identified tomb. The initial guess considered it as a female mummy based on the artifacts that surrounded the event. However, further evaluation of the mummy skeleton proved it to have been male, aged in the early twenties. It also established the mummy to have a DNA relation with Tutankhamun mummy, and to have no pathological relation with what was known to affect Akhenaten. The age of the mummy and the lack of pathological relations with Akhenaten give strong evidence nullifying the possibility of the mummy belonging to Akhenaten. Also, Akhenaten monuments were said to be destroyed due to his religious stands, therefore reducing the chances of its possible discovery. The evaluated evidence thus clearly shows the possibility that the KV 55 tomb belongs to Shenkhkare, Tutankhamun’s elder brother more than it will ever belong to Akhenaten.

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