On Some Queens’ Tombs of the Eighteenth Dynasty
Nicholas Reeves
The Theban Necropolis. Past, Present and Future (British Museum, 2003) (Nigel Strudwick and John H Taylor, ed.), pp. 69-73

(p. 69) Where, at Thebes, were the queens of the Eighteenth Dynasty interred (1)? The general assumption, among the public at least, is that the pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings and the queens and lesser royal-family members within tombs in the Valley of the Queens. As Egyptologists know, the reality is not so straightforward. In fact, the Valley of the Kings proves to have contained a broad range of elite burials, from kings down to commoners (albeit influential commoners) (2); while the Valley of the Queens, though it certainly contains earlier royal burials of secondary rank, only really came into play as a queenly burial ground during Ramesside times (3). In short, the simple, exclusive division of status which the modern names of the two sites seem to imply is a false one - particularly for the Eighteenth Dynasty.

Information concerning the burials of Eighteenth Dynasty queens is in fact sparse. For the late Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Dynasties we have the odd mummy and coffin from the Deir el-Bahari cache (DB 320) (4), and the rich, coffined (re)burial of Ahhotep discovered by the Qurnawi at Dra Abu el-Naga in 1859 - according to one of Howard Carter’s sources, within a brick-lined vault (5); and we have the coffined mummy of Queen Meryetamun discovered by Herbert Winlock in Deir el-Bahari tomb DB 358 - though this is a sepulchre which was perhaps not the lady`s original place of burial (6). The earliest New Kingdom queens` sepulchres about which we know anything at all definite are those mid-Eighteenth Dynasty cliff tombs which follow in the tradition of the qAj (`high place`) of Inhapy (perhaps Wadi el-Nisr A) (7) - namely, the eyrie of Queen Hatshepsut in the Wadi Sikkat Taqa el-Zeide (5), and the well-known ‘tomb of three princesses’ (actually three minor wives, Hmt nsw) from the time of Tuthmosis III in the Wadi Qubbanat el-Qurud (9). Evidence for the likely existence of other tombs of this same class was noted by Howard Carter in the wadis to the west of the Valley of the Kings (10). In addition, several stray fragments of queenly burial equipment of mid- and later Eighteenth Dynasty date are known, including the extraordinary series of queenly canopic jar fragments published by Georges Legrain at the start of the last century (11), and an odd canopic-jar fragment belonging to an Amarna-period queen (12) - though the original provenance of this material cannot now confidently be established.

Although it is the case that, in the Valley of the Queens, no tombs of Eighteenth Dynasty royal wives have been identified, the Valley of the Kings has produced evidence of several burials of this type and date.

The first queen for whom we may discern an intention to be buried in the Valley of the Kings is Hatshepsut-Meryetre, the consort of Tuthmosis III whose foundation deposits were discovered by Carter at the entrance to the problematic KV42 (13) - though lacking an entrance `well`, an otherwise kingly tomb with two-pillared burial chamber often assigned (in the absence of other candidates) to Tuthmosis II (14). We shall return to KV42 a little later on, but may note here that, despite the evidence of the deposits, the tomb appears never to have been actually employed by Hatshepsut-Meryetre (15). Indeed, on the basis of finds recovered by Victor Loret in 1898 (a fragment of funerary furniture bearing the queen’s name, a number of `extra` canopic jars, and fragments of skeletal material seemingly not associated with the royal mummies later cached there), the queen was perhaps interred with her son, Amenophis II, within KV35 (16) - though, if so, precisely where within this tomb remains uncertain.

By the time of Amenophis III two reigns later, further evidence for the burial of queens within the tombs of their sons or husbands becomes available. As a glance at the ground-plan of the tomb of Amenophis III (WV22) (17) in the West Valley reveals, this sepulchre differs in one important respect from its precursors KV35 (Amenophis II) and KV43 (p. 70) (Tuthmosis IV) (18), and this is in the number of subsidiary chambers leading off the principal burial hall (Fig. 1) (19). The two earlier tombs sport four low, single rooms, two on either side of the burial chamber, intended (as evidence from earlier Valley burials seems to indicate) for the storage of food and funerary equipment (20). In the tomb of Amenophis III, however, this basic plan is elaborated by the addition of a fifth chamber Jc at the eastern end, furnished with a single, rock-cut pillar and complete with its own storeroom, Jcc; while one of the original group of four side chambers - Jb on the north-east - has been enlarged and extended to a similar plan with its own store chamber, Jbb. The stages in which this enlargement progressed are clearly reflected in the chisel marks on the ceiling of this last pillared chamber, Jb - as Jiro Kondo (21) has observed.

As a comparison with the form of certain other tombs in the Valley of the Kings - namely, KV21 (Fig. 2) (22) and probably KV32 (Fig. 3) (23) also - suggests, the two Amenophis III `suites` In fact represent `tombs within a tomb`, and, we may guess, for occupation by members of the royal family. William C Hayes (24) believed the two suites to have been intended for pharaoh`s principal women: most logically the great royal wife Tiye in the new, fifth chamber/storeroom Jc-Jcc - which, I assume, was the first of the suites to be cut -, and conceivably (though there is no inscriptional evidence from the tomb to clinch the attribution) (25) the king’s (p. 71) daughter/great royal wife Sitamun in the adapted side-room store-chamber Jb-Jbb (26).

Now, if chambers Jb and Jc within WV22 were intended for the burial of two of Amenophis III`s queens, then the likelihood is that the previously mentioned KV21 and KV32, because of the commonality of their plans, were each also prepared for the burial of a queen. About KV32 we know virtually nothing (27)/ KV21 (28), however, was discovered in 1817 by Belzoni who recorded something of what he found there (29); the tomb was re-cleared more recenrly by Donald Ryan (30). In it, in one corner of the pillared chamber, Belzoni records that `we found two mummies on the ground quite naked, without cloth or case. They were females and their hair pretty long and well preserved` (31). Might these be the mummies of Eighteenth Dynasty queens? Quite possibly: as Ryan observes, both mummies had been `embalmed in a special pose with their left arm bent at the elbow across the chest ... with the left hand clenched, the right arm held straight at its side` (32). This is an attitude adopted by burials such as that of the `Elder Lady` from the KV35 cache - a body thought by some (on the basis of hair samples) to be the remains of Queen Tiye herself (33).

So, may we conclude that the presence of a single pillar is indicative of a tomb prepared for queenly use? Further hints that the feature is diagnostic may indeed be detected.

The first of these is to be found in the much-discussed tomb discovered by Howard Carter at Dra Abu el-Naga in 1913/14 (34). This tomb, now designated ANB (Fig. 4) (35) was identified by Carter as the double burial place of Queen Ahmose-Nofretiri and her son, Amenophis I. If for different reasons (36), I would tend to agree with Carter’s identification of this tomb with the tomb of Amenophis I described in P Abbott: for me, the aHaj or `marker` referred to in the Abbott description is most probably a cairn, or pile of stones (37), erected in antiquity as a convenient means of locating this and other burials by means of triangular measurement in an otherwise unmemorable landscape.

Carter’s reasons for associating the tomb with Ahmose-Nofretiri were both inscriptional - the queen’s name occurring on a good proportion of the vessels recovered - and architectural. The burial chamber J of ANB, in its present condition, is rectangular in plan and has two rock-cut pillars of unequal size; but this was not its original form. Carter cleverly observed from the cutting that this chamber had in fact been extended, having originally been designed with only a single column (38). In this conclusion, Carter is sup- (p. 72) ported by John Romer, who has made the further suggestion that the `well`, E, of ANB was part of this later adaptation - as I would maintain, from a (queenly) single-pillared burial chamber to a (kingly) double-pillared burial chamber (39).

There is, of course, another well-known tomb in the Valley of the Kings which sports a burial chamber with a single rock-cut pillar - and that is KV38 (40) (Fig. 5) (41). When found, this contained a sarcophagus and canopic chest inscribed for Tuthmosis l and, in consequence, the tomb has been attributed to that pharaoh ever since. Nowadays, however, KV38 is plausibly identified not as Tuthmosis l`s original sepulchre, but as the place of this king’s reburial by his grandson, Tuthmosis Ill - this subsequent to the mummy’s removal from KV20, Tuthmosis I’s original tomb, which (following Romer) I believe Hatshepsut had extended to accommodate her own burial (42). However, the single pillar within KV38 makes me wonder whether, in antiquity, this had ever been the anticipated use of the tomb - whether, in fact, KV38 might initially have been designed with a queenly interment in mind before the sepulchre (as perhaps the first to be completed?) (43) was taken up for the reburial of Tuthmosis I. If so, the obvious candidate for ownership of the queenly KV38 at the time of its inception would have been Hatshepsut-Meryetre - with Tuthmosis I’s intended place of reburial the rather more kingly two-pillared KV42.
Finally, there is one further tomb I should like briefly to mention. This is KV56 (44) (Fig. 6) (45), recently re-excavated over three seasons by The Amarna Royal Tombs Project (46) - the so-called `Gold Tomb`, first discovered by Theodore Davis in 1908 and, on its original clearance, yielding an impressive array of precious funerary jewellery dating from the time of Sety II and Tawosret (47). The current consensus is that this badly rotted deposit, from the presence of two small silver coffin hands and a tiny silver funerary sandal, represented the remains of a child burial from the period and presumably an offspring of the Nineteenth Dynasty royal couple. What interests us here, however, are the form and the date of the tomb`s original cutting.

Despite its odd ground-plan, KV56 is effectively finished, with sharp floor-, corner- and roof-angles, and flat, neatly chiselled walls throughout. What plan had the ancient architect been working to when the cutting first began? The answer, I think, is given by the peculiar stepping which the north wall of the single chamber now displays. This and the general proportions of the chamber suggest that KV56 was originally intended to be furnished with a single pillar (Fig. 7) - in other words, that it too was a tomb originally designed for a queen of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

To conclude: from this morass of disjointed facts and supposition a relatively clear picture has hopefully emerged - that a single-columned burial chamber was a characteristic feature of certain queenly tombs during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Furthermore, if the side rooms positioned to either side of the burial chamber of Horemheb’s sepulchre (KV57) (48) had been extended for the same reason as those in Amenophis III’s tomb - for queens` burials - then the absence of the single column in these later suites may indicate that it was a feature which did not survive the Dynasty`s close.

(p. 73) Postscript

Since this paper was given in 2000, the 2001/2002 re-clearance of KV32 by the Mission Siptah-Ramsès X of the University of Basel has uncovered fragments of burial equipment to confirm that this tomb was indeed intended for an Eighteenth Dynasty queen - Tiaa, wife of Amenophis II and mother of Tuthmosis IV. I am greatly indebted to Thomas Schneider for advance information on the Basel clearance, and to Elina Grothe who is preparing a publication of the work.


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(p. 69) (1) Strudwick and Strudwick ‘999, 124-8.

(2) Cf Reeves 1990a; Reeves and Wilkinson 1996.

(3) Cf Leblanc 1989. The ancient Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty name of the cemetery, tA st nfrw, is more accurately rendered as `The place of the royal children`, in preference to the misleading and still widely encountered translation `The place of beauties: Leblanc
1989, 14-19.

(4) Cf Reeves 1990a, 200-3 and passim.

(5) Cf Thomas 1966, 39-40; Reeves 2000, 50 (alluding to Carter MSS, Griffith Institute, Oxford, Notebook 17, 168 ff.).

(6) Winlock 1932. Cf Reeves 1990a, 18-19 and 30 - irrespective of whether one accepts the original ownership of DB 358 there suggested as a possibility.

(7) Reeves 1990a, 190-2 and 219-20. On the indeterminate results of the recent clearance of WN A, and for a new ground plan, see
Gabolde et al. 1994.

(8) Carter 1916a; Carter 1917; Baraize 1921, 181; Thomas 1966, 195-6.

(9) Winlock 1948; Lilyquist 1998, 677-82.

(10) Carter 1917, 107-14. Cf Thomas 1966.

(11) PM I (2nd ed), 769-70; Legrain 1903; Legrain 1904; cf Millet 1988; Reeves 2001, 60-1.

(12) Reeves 1994.

(13) Reeves 1990a, 24-5 and 32-3; Weeks 2000, sheet 6.

(14) E.g. Weigall 1910, 225; Baedeker 1929, 314; Hornung 1975.

(15) Cf most recently on this tomb, el-Bialy 1999.

(16) Reeves 1990a, 192-9 and 220-4; cf 222 n. 129; Weeks 2000, sheet 50.

(17) Reeves 1990a, 38-40 and 53-4.

(p. 70) (18) Reeves 1990a, 34-8 and 50-3; Weeks 2000, sheet 57.

(19) Based on Weeks 2000, sheet 42. Note that the number-letter designations employed by Weeks occasionally differ from those in Thomas 1966 and in Reeves 1990a.

(20) Cf for example, Reeves 1990a, 36 and 195.

(21) Kondo 1995, 30.

(22) Based on Weeks ,2000, sheet 41 - not an accurate survey, it should be noted, but taken from a sketch in Reeves 1990a which in turn had been copied from Thomas 1966.

(23) Based on Weeks 2000, sheet 48.
(24) Hayes 1935, 29, n. 104; Hayes 1959, 240.

(25) A faience vessel fragment from Carter’s clearance of WV22, now at Highclere Castle (H 115), carries the epithet `son of Amun` - which has occasionally been misread as ‘Sitamun’. Cf Carter MSS, (p. 71) Griffith Institute, Oxford, I.A.128(1 f.); I.A.138(21); Thomas 1966, 101, n. 187.

(26) It is worth noting that the small, nearby tomb WVA (Reeves 1990a, 40 and 54; Kondo 1995, 30-2. Ground plan: Weeks 2000, sheet 72) had quite probably been cut to accommodate the provisions displaced from WV22 chamber Jb when this side room was extended, as we suppose, for queenly use - in the same way that pit KV54 was cut to take the burial provisions displaced from the corridor of KV62 (Tutankhamun) following the first robbery within that tomb (Reeves 1990a, 67-9 and 84-6; Reeves 1990b, 95).

(27) Reeves 1990a, 167 and 177; but see now Postscript on p.73.

(28) Reeves 1990a, 153-4 and 165; Reeves and Wilkinson 1996, 115.

(29) Belzoni 1820, 228.

(30) Ryan 1990, 59; Ryan 1991, 29-30; cf Ryan 1995, 157-61.

(31) Belzoni 1820, 228.

(32) Ryan 1995, 157.

(33) Cf Harris et al. 1979; contested by Germer 1984. The proposal in James 2001, that the `Elder Lady` is the mummy of Nefertiti, has perhaps less to commend it.

(34) Carter 1916a.

(35) Based on Carter 1916b, pl. 20.

(36) Reeves 1990a, 3-9; despite the objections of Polz 1995, 13.

(37) Though presumably not the cairn I had proposed in Reeves 1990a, 5 (Carter 1916b, pl. 19), which is in a valley!

(38) Carter 1916b, 150.

(p. 72) (39) Romer 1976, 198 ff. Cf Reeves 1990a, 8 note 33.

(40) Reeves 1990a, 17-19 and 29-30.

(41) Based on Weeks 2000, sheet 53.

(42) Romer 1974; Reeves 1990a,13-17 and 27-9; pace Manuelian and Loeben 1993. Ground plan: Weeks 2000, sheet 39.

(43) The poor, cavernous condition of KV38`s interior today is the result of violent flooding which has removed much of the original cutting.

(44) Reeves 1990, 131-3 and 136-7.

(45) Based on Weeks 2000, sheet 66.

(46) www.valleyofthekings.org.

(47) Davis 1908; Davis 1910, 41-5. The treasure has been supplemented during the ARTP’s 1999, 2000 and 2002 seasons by a further pectoral-chain segment of gold inscribed with the cartouches of Sethos II, three pendants of gold, a gold Hathor mask, mandrake fruit and other items.

(48) Reeves 1990a, 75-9 and 88-90; Weeks 2000, sheet 67.

Fig. 1 WV 22 (Amenophis III): burial chamber and subsidiary rooms (based on Weeks 2000, sheet 42)
Fig. 2 KV21 (based on Weeks 2000, sheet 41)
Fig. 3 KV 32 (based on Weeks 2000, sheet 48)
Fig. 4 AN B (based on Carter 1916b, pl. 20)
Fig. 5 KV 38 (Tuthmosis I) (based on Weeks 2000, sheet 53)
Fig. 6 KV 56 (based on Weeks 2000, sheet 66)
Fig. 7 KV 56: hypothetical completion of plan (actual ground plan based on Weeks 2000, sheet 66)