New Minister of State for Antiquities
It’s been an exceedingly long time in coming but the interim Egyptian government has finally landed on a replacement for the iconic Zahi Hawass, longtime head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities before it was folded into a reorganized office in the Egyptian government.
It’s hard to imagine an Egypt without Zahi Hawass. Love him or hate him—and there are plenty of people in both camps—Hawass made Egypt a household word. Never one to shy away from publicity and television cameras, Hawass has been seen on many Discovery Channel and History Channel specials, and has been interviewed for countless periodical and newspaper articles.
His replacement is Mohamed Ibrahim, a known person in Egyptian archaeology. Ibrahim is a graduate of Cairo University and was employed by the SCA for a number of years as an archaeologist.
Whether Ibrahim will be as much in love with the camera as Hawass is, remains to be seen. It seems unlikely, however. Ibrahim comes from a respectable academic and fieldwork background. Not that Hawass was a slouch, of course. As odd as Hawass might have been in television appearances, up to and especially including the moronic History Channel program Chasing Mummies, his background and training were top notch and his own academic and archaeological contributions to Egyptology were significant.
It will be interesting to see what Mohamed Ibrahim will be like.
KV64, New Tomb in the Valley of the Kings
Just when you think the place is played out, archaeologists have to go and prove there’s more in the storied Valley of the Kings to discover. Actually, this is worth bearing in mind—in all likelihood the Valley will continue to yield interesting finds.
The Valley of the Kings was the official royal burial ground for most of the New Kingdom (1550-1068 BCE), ancient Egypt’s period of empire. In that barren and dusty wadi were interred such great pharaohs as Tuthmosis I, Tuthmosis III, Amunhotep III, Ramesses II, and Ramesses III. The wadi also of course accommodated the burial of Tutankhamun (King Tut), who might be one of the most recognizable Egyptian pharaohs among our modern popular culture but was something of a footnote in his own time, especially compared to the reigns and achievements of the above-named kings.
A wealthy American named Theodore Davies held the archaeological concession to the Valley of the Kings until 1914, when he surrendered it to return home due to health concerns. And he also expressed his belief that the Valley was played out and nothing further would be discovered. Of course, only eight years later (1922) Howard Carter discovered KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun. Although Tut was not a major pharaoh of his own time, his little tomb was packed full of phenomenal stuff and Carter’s achievement still stands as one of the most remarkable discoveries in the history of archaeology. No royal tomb had yet been found in such pristing condition. Tut’s tomb had been robbed twice in antiquity but it doesn’t seem as though the raiders got away with much: Carter spent several years clearing the tomb of its 5,400 relics, including the boy-king’s mummy.
It must have seemed to many people that the Valley was dry of further possibilities after Carter’s discovery, and indeed many years would pass before anything of note was again found.
Then came the discovery of KV63 in 2006, eighty-four years after KV62. The tomb was painstakingly and meticulously cleared and its artifacts analyzed by Otto Schaden and his team. KV63 is a shaft tomb below the wadi floor and turned out to be barely more than a single chamber, but it was stuffed full of coffins and ceramic vessels. No mummies were found, but the coffins were treasures unto themselves.
Flash-forward to this past January (2012). A chance discovery along the route to the tomb of Tuthmosis III led to the find of KV64 (King’s Valley Tomb 64). Analysis of the tomb suggests it was originally cut in Dynasty 18, early in the New Kingdom, but may never have been used. It also is a shaft tomb, like KV63, with but a single chamber. There are actually quite a few of these scattered throughout the Valley of the Kings.
Not a lot of information has yet been published about KV64, but all in all it contains a very simple burial. All that was found in there was a single coffin and small stela.
Preserved inscriptions tell us the coffin was made for a woman named Nehmes-Bastet, who was a chantress or musician in the nearby Temple of Amun. The style of coffin tells us it dates to Dynasty 22 (948-715 BCE), Third Intermediate Period.
The date of the coffin is important to understand. Nehmes-Bastet had no connections to a ruling family and by her time the Valley of the Kings had been abandoned as the royal burial ground. By all appearances her loved ones simply helped themselves to an abandoned or looted tomb in the Valley. Nehmes-Bastet lived in a time of political instability and rival dynasties as tribal Libyans ruled both northern and southern Egypt.
An austere and simple burial, to be sure, but it serves as a very good reminder: the Valley of the Kings will continue to yield new discoveries as long as archaeologists are there to explore it. We have not yet even accounted for all of the tombs of New Kingdom pharaohs, so it’s altogether possible one or more royal tombs may yet be found in the Valley of the Kings.
Video Footage of KV64
I came across a short piece of video footage of the exploration of KV64, the tomb described above. It’s in German but the footage is pretty self-explanatory. Of special note is the opening of the coffin to check on the condition of the mummy, which to my eyes looks well preserved. The wrappings were clearly applied professionally and in a manner consistent with early in the Third Intermediate Period. Enjoy the video:
The caption to the video reads:
A Basel research team has discovered a new tomb in the famous “Valley of Kings” in Egypt with a 3000-year-old mummy. The opening of the burial chamber was filmed and is shown on television for the first time.