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KV63

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"KV64"


KV63 is the most recently opened chamber in Egypt's Valley of the Kings pharaonic necropolis. (There is a radar anomaly that is referred to as KV64, but it has not been excavated, and its existence is denied by the Supreme Council of Antiquities[1]) The chamber contained seven wooden coffins and many large storage jars. As of late June 2006, all coffins have been opened, and were found to contain only mummification materials, with the jars also containing mummification supplies including salts, linens, and deliberately broken pottery. Based on these finds, it has been tentatively decided that the room was a storage chamber for the mummification process and not, as initially believed, a royal tomb.[2] Some clay seal impressions contain text, such as the partial word 'pa-aten,'[3] part of the name used by Tutankhamun's wife, Ankhesenamun.[3] This inscription, the architectural style of the chamber, and the form of the coffins and jars all point to an Eighteenth Dynasty date, roughly contemporary with Tutankhamun, whose tomb is nearby.

Discovery

The vertical shaft of KV63 was re-discovered on 10 March 2005.The discovery that the shaft led to a chamber was announced on 8 February 2006, by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which credited the find to a team of U.S. archaeologists from the University of Memphis, under the leadership of renowned Egyptologist Otto Schaden. The chamber — given the name "KV63" in accordance with the sequential numbering convention used in the Valley — was initially thought to be a tomb, the first new one to be revealed there since the discovery of KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, by Howard Carter in 1922.

KV63 is located in the area between KV10 (Amenmesse) and KV62 (Tutankhamun), [4] in the very centre of the Valley's eastern branch and near the main crossroads of the network of paths traversed by thousands of tourists every day. The discovery was made as the archaeological team was excavating the remains of 19th Dynasty workmen's huts at the entrance to KV10, looking for evidence to clarify the succession of Amenmesse. The area around the huts had accumulated rubble from the occasional flooding. Both Theodore Davis and Howard Carter had dug in the area in the early twentieth century, but had not removed these particular huts. While exploring a layer of dark rock, the dig suddenly came across chips of white stone (these being the last level excavated by Carter).[5] Further exploration revealed a straight edge of cut stone, which turned out to be on the upper lip of a vertical shaft. At that point the team knew they had discovered something much more elaborate and significant than the remains of the tomb-diggers' resthouses. Unfortunately, the discovery came at the very end of the 2004–05 digging season, and further excavations had to be postponed until the team recommenced its work the following autumn.

Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, travelled to Luxor to visit the new tomb on 10 February 2006, when the international press were also allowed their first glances through the breached door.

Description of chamber

The overhang on the shaft of KV63 has been compared with and found to be similar to two other Eighteenth Dynasty tombs (those of Yuya and Tjuyu), thereby dating the construction to the latter portion of the Eighteenth Dynasty (ca. 14th century BCE) of the New Kingdom (16th century to 11th century BCE).[6] It is also broadly speculated that all the three tombs are the work of a same architect, or at least the same school of architects.[7]

The newly revealed shaft descends some five metres. At the bottom of this pit stands a 1.5-metre-tall door made of stone blocks. Behind this door, in which the team originally opened up a small window for the 10 February event, stands the single chamber.

No seals were found on the door, and it was initially believed that KV63 was a reburial and had experienced some intrusion in antiquity. The blocking stones in the doorway were not original, suggesting that the doorway had been opened and closed a few times. The original blocking stones were found inside the tomb, giving evidence that someone had re-entered and sealed the tomb in antiquity.

The chamber measures some four metres by five and has plain white walls. It contained seven wooden coffins, including one that is child-sized and one that is infant-sized. Two of the adult coffins and the child's coffin have yellow funerary masks; the others have black funerary masks. The coffins that have yellow funerary masks are believed to be female. There is extensive termite damage on some coffins and the result is like a black paste; however, other coffins appear untouched by termites. These termites seem to have come from the workers' huts above the shaft, and therefore probably date from that era. There is no evidence of water damage. However, now that the chamber has been opened, the site is at risk of damage from flash floods.[3]

The identity of the owners of the coffins is unknown. It is possible that the coffins were added to the chamber over a period of time. The collection might be an embalmers' cache or meant for an important family; all options are open at this time. One coffin has inlaid glass eyes, while another has crossed arms and a black face. Glass was a royal monopoly at the time of these burials.[3] Some have resin on them, which might have to be cleaned off to allow identification, as it is possible that the resin obscures the identifying marks. The adult coffin that was at the back of the chamber has visible hieroglyphs under its coating of black resin. The investigating team has not yet announced any translation of them, and the initial version of translation of these very important bands will be completed and published by September 2006. It is hoped that these hieroglyphs may reveal the name of the intended owner of the coffin.[3]

The chamber also held large storage jars, 28 in number, approximately 75 cm tall, made from both pottery and alabaster. The jars weighed in at around 40 or 43 kg (90–95 pounds), varying slightly in size and weight. Three of them appear to have been broken in antiquity at the rim or lower neck. Most of the jars have intact sealed lids but (contrary to early reports) do not seem to have any pharaonic seals. The jars have been whitewashed while standing in sand and the bottoms show the original clay. A large ostracon was broken whilst the tomb was being opened, but the break is a clean one (two pieces) and can easily be rejoined.

According to Dr Schaden, the method of sealing the storage jars had been very deliberate and sure. A mud plug was first inserted, then a seal, and then a large plaster seal. Apparently, the people doing it had thought it of prime importance that it should be done in this very precise manner. This supports the idea that there was a solid reason behind the placing of the artifacts and that the chamber was not merely a dumping ground.[8]

There were quantities of natron in the chamber, some inside the coffins and some inside little sacks. The jars and contents are similar to those from KV54, the Tutankhamun embalming cache.

Work has been going on to carefully remove the coffins and the storage jars to KV10, which has adequate space for a conservation team to conduct a thorough examination and analysis of the coffins and jars in a proper, scientific manner. A pulley system was devised to facilitate the safe removal of the coffins and jars from the shaft. Grass buckets and bubblewrap were used to lift the jars out from the place where they were packed away for 3000 years. The removal of jars began on 2 March 2006 and most jars have been relocated safely along with one large sealed alabaster jar, which contained small pots packed in mud. Twelve of the storage jars have thus far been examined. Contents include natron, wood, seeds, shells, carbon, assorted pottery, small animal bones, papyrus fragments, mud trays, mud seals, and pieces of twine or rope.[9] Egyptologist Salima Ikram is supervising the removal and examination of the contents, a long drawn-out process.[10]

On first examination there appeared to be some kind of stuffing extruding between the lid and the bottom of the youth coffin labeled 'G'. When the coffin was opened this stuffing was revealed to be five pillows.[3],[11] As textile remnants from ancient Egypt are relatively rare, and pillows extremely so,[12] the materials used for these will be of great interest. On May 26, 2006, a 42 cm. pink gold leaf anthropoid coffinette was discovered inside the youth coffin, under the pillows. On June 17, it was announced that three small gold coffins had been found, containing six pillows.[13]

The last and only completely sealed coffin was opened on June 28, 2006. Unfortunately, as cameras were rolling, it was revealed that the coffin contained no mummy, only artifacts used for mummification or to decorate a body.

Notes

  1. [1] USAToday link; Controversy
  2. [2]. Retrieved 29 May 2006. Pharaonic find was mummification room, not tomb, Discovery Channel
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Egypt's New Tomb Revealed," Discovery Channel, USA, broadcast 4 June 2006.
  4. [3]. Retrieved June 2, 2006. KV63 Some more photos
  5. [4]. Retrieved June 2, 2006. KV63 lecture by Otto Schaden
  6. [5] Retrieved July 6, 2006. Mark Rose, "KV 63: A Look at the New Tomb," Archaeology magazine, May 1, 2006.
  7. [6] Retrieved October 12, 2006. Jane Akshar, "KV 63 lecture By Otto Schaden March 9, 2006."
  8. [7]. Retrieved June 2, 2006. "Latest updates from the work site"
  9. [8]. Retrieved June 2, 2006. "KV63 expedition Web site"
  10. [9]. Retrieved June 2, 2006. "KV63 expedition Web site"
  11. [10]. Retrieved June 10, 2006. Ian Fisher. "Pillows puzzle Egyptologists." The Detroit News Online.
  12. [[11]]. Retrieved June 10, 2006. Rossella Lorenzi. "Unusual Ancient Egyptian Pillow Analyzed." Discovery Channel News online.
  13. [12]. Retrieved June 18, 2006. "Three New Gold Coffins Found in KV63"

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