King Tut's Final Secret.

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David Rohl

Express Newspapers

Part Two.


So what had happened to turn this messiah-like figure into the cursed pharaoh?

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Akhenaten came to kingship at the height of Egypt's power The rulers of the 18th Dynasty had carved out a great empire in the Asiatic north (Canaan and Syria) and in the African south (Nubia and Kush). Within two centuries Egypt had reached its apogee of wealth and power with the reign of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. Their son, Amenhotep IV, was "blessed" with physical attributes which the Egyptians associated with their fertility gods: swollen thighs, distended belly and breasts, and elongated facial features.

WHEN the young prince became Pharaoh, he changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten ("glorious spirit of the sun disk") and renounced the old god of Amun to worship Horus in his manifestation as the sun disc or "Aten". He built a new capital city for himself and his beautiful queen, Nefertiti, at el-Amarna in Middle Egypt. Akhenaten named the city Akhetaten, meaning "horizon of the sun disc". There, in a lonely wadi from which the morning sun rises each day, the king ordered the construction of a great rock-cut tomb for himself and the royal family

The first 12 years of Akhenaten's reign shone with splendour - but then disaster struck: a plague stalked the land and the Egyptian population was decimated. Two daughters of the king died in childbirth, trying to provide an heir for their father. Incest was rife in the royal household. Queen Nefertiti, who was Akhenaten's principal wife, disappeared from the scene.

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Before dying aged about 35, in the 17th year of his reign, Akhenaten savagely erased the name of Amun from the temple walls. This "spiritual murder" appears to have been a reaction against an attempted coup d'etat by the powerful priesthood of the old national god.

Akhenaten was buried in the royal tomb cut for him in the desert hills behind Amarna. Egypt then threw out the new religion, blaming it for the terrible ills the population had suffered. A new king, the young Tutankhamun, returned the court to Thebes making the old city once more the religious capital of Egypt and restoring the cult of Amun.

I think we can offer the following scenario to explain what Davis and Ayrton found in KV 55 - the dismantled shrine of Queen Tiye and the anonymous royal male mummy. The story would go something like this: Akhenaten dies after years of conflict, perhaps even civil war, with the factions supporting the old religion. The last half of his reign had been turbulent: plague ravaged Egypt, incest was destroying the royal household and frustrated army chiefs reported that the empire was fragmenting through lack of attention. The religious and cultural revolution that had begun so brightly with Akhenaten's coronation had ended in chaos.

A few months after the heretic's burial, reports reach the new pharaoh, Tutankhamun, that the royal tomb at Amarna has been broken into and ransacked. The boy-king, out of respect for the deceased members of his family, dispatches a secret mission to rescue the bodies of his eldest brother (Akhenaten), his mother (Tiye) and Smenkhkara for reburial in the Valley of the Kings where they can be protected. Queen Tiye and Akhenaten are placed in the small tomb cut into the floor of the valley in exactly the same positions as they were laid to rest in the Amarna. royal sepulchre: mother on the left and son on the right. Smenkhkara is buried elsewhere - in a tomb which is still to be discovered.

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Some two centuries after Tutankhamun's rescue mission, when all the royal mummies were being gathered together for safety during the troubled times at the end of the 20th Dynasty, came the removal of the body of Queen Tiye from Tomb 55. However, Akhenaten's mummy was not brought out of the tomb for reburial because they believed the heretic would contaminate the other pharaohs with his evil presence. Akhenaten's fate was to have his name expunged from his coffin and tomb furniture - his identity (and therefore his survival in the afterlife) denied for all eternity.

Imagine the scene: the sealed entrance of the tomb is broken down, allowing a shaft of white sunlight to penetrate the darkness. Shadowy figures scramble down the rubble-filled corridor. In the flickering light of oil lamps a macabre scene unfolds. The royal mummy of Akhenaten is being denied its eternal rest. A copper chisel hacks out the name of the king inlaid on the coffin lid; the uraeus serpent on the brow of the heretic's coffin is snapped off and the gold face-mask ripped away; finally the coffin of Queen Tiye, containing her mummy, is dragged up the ramp towards the daylight. The priests reseal the tomb, leaving their malicious handiwork to await its rediscovery by Davis and Ayrton some 3,000 years later.

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Ironically, the ancient Egyptians' attempt to deny the existence of their greatest heretic has elevated him to cult status in modern times and now, thanks to 20th-century science and archaeology, the story of his ultimate destiny is being revealed.

Hence this December's new excavations in the Valley of the Kings. Reeves has surmised that if Akhenaten and his mother, Queen Tiye, were brought back to Thebes for reburial by Tutankhamun, then there has to be a strong possibility that other Amarna royals would have received the same treatment specifically the beautiful Nefertiti. Reeves has also logically deduced that a third tomb containing these mummies would have been located near to and at the same depth as KV 62 and KV 55.

Secret exploratory digging began last winter with encouraging results. As with Carter's excavations, the remains of workmen's huts from the 20th Dynasty have been found just beneath the surface. In Carter's case these huts immediately overlaid the steps down to Tutankhamun's tomb.

Reeves and Martin found an ancient name on the rockface of their trench. They read the hieroglyphs as Wenennefer - one of the necropolis officials responsible for the removal of the royal mummies to a secret hiding place during the 21st Dynasty Why would his name be found here, beneath the Royal Wadi floor of 20th Dynasty times unless Wenennefer had been digging to find the entrance of a tomb to remove its royal occupant?

We will know the answer soon enough. This unusual British archaeological mission to the Valley of the Kings may just turn out to be the last great archaeological discovery of the century.

Copyright David Rohl and Express Newspapers 2000.

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