New Tomb (KV63)
An official press announcement of the discovery of a previously unknown tomb was made by Dr Zahi Hawass on 10th February 2006. The tomb was uncovered in the King’s Valley by a team of excavators from the University of Memphis, USA. This exciting new discovery has been the first since Howard Carter found the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
The excavation led by Dr Otto Schaden had been concentrating for several years on the area around the tomb of Amenmesse (KV10), searching for foundation deposits relating to the tomb, when they found a shaft crudely blocked with stones. The entrance to the shaft is a little to the north-east of the floor level of some workmen’s huts, about 4 metres below ground level and was found at the end of the 2005 digging season. The find was reported to the SCA as significant and then re-covered to await the following season’s excavation. The past few seasons’ work had already revealed the Dynasty XIX workmen’s huts below the piled up rubble in front and to the sides of KV10, at levels not excavated since Theodore Davis dug there in the early 1900s. Howard Carter had also previously excavated at these levels.
The 2006 season began with what must have been great excitement for the excavation team as they started work to uncover the shaft and to dig it out, finding ostraca on the way. Eventually the well-constructed shaft, 4.5 metres deep, led to a single chamber. The doorway of the chamber consisted of carefully placed stones, perhaps suggesting a reburial or funerary cache, although no seals were visible. The first view of the tomb was seen through a small opening in the blocking and it appeared to contain five anthropoid coffins with coloured funerary masks and twenty large storage jars.
The weeks following the discovery found the American team concentrating on unblocking the doorway and clearing away stone and debris prior to the removal of the contents. When the team entered the tomb they found that there were actually seven coffins and a current count of twenty-eight storage jars. Two of the coffins were empty and contained discarded items of burial materials, natron and linen etc. One of the coffins with a yellow-faced mask was stacked on top of others and is smaller in size suggesting that it belongs to a youth. Three of the remaining coffins have yellow-faced masks and it has been suggested that they may belong to females, one with glass inlaid eyes and eyebrows. The others are covered in black resin. Unfortunately four of the coffins have been badly damaged by termites and possible early plundering and are in poor condition. More recent news of the excavation tells of another tiny infant’s wooden coffin wedged between two adult coffins which has been found to contain an inner coffin covered in gold leaf. The storage jars have been inspected, most were sealed but some have been opened and their contents examined to reveal miniature vessels, scraps of papyri, natron and cloth.
There was much early speculation by the press that the tomb may contain Amarna Period royal burials, as it is thought that some Amarna mummies had been transported in antiquity to the Valley of the Kings for reburial. One report from KV63 suggested that hieroglyphs on a broken seal found among the debris in the tomb names the Aten, the sun-disc worshiped by Akhenaten and the speculation was that the chamber was constructed during that period, though I have not seen any further reference to this. Other evidence for the late Dynasty XVIII period is found in the similarity to material from jars found in pit KV54, Tutankhamun’s embalming cache where waste materials from his burial were deposited. This cache was discovered in 1907 by Theodore Davis and excavated by Edward Ayrton. One of the wine jars in KV63 was found to contain residue similar to that in Tutankhamun’s cache and there were also many plant remains found which were similar to plant materials in KV54. While the link with the Amarna royal family is just wishful thinking at present, as no inscriptions or royal insignia have yet been found, the coffins were almost certainly originally intended for elite burials. Perhaps the most interesting object is the tiny inner coffin of a child, covered in gold leaf. None of the seven coffins contained any human remains, to the disappointment of many of us.
The chamber currently presents a mystery to archaeologists – why go to all the trouble of digging a shaft and chamber only to house a jumble of sealed-up coffins full of rocks, embalming items and pottery sherds? But we all love a good mystery don’t we? Apart from the coffins, the contents of KV63 are very similar to those found in KV54 and it is suggested that this may also have been an embalmer’s cache possibly associated with an elite burial. While both KV54 and KV63 contained necropolis seals, so far there have been no names or texts found to prove any identities in the latter. The removal of the tomb contents and conservation work to stabilise the items carried on throughout the summer of 2006, until November when the excavation season ended and all of the artefacts were removed for storage and preservation to the nearby KV10.
In an update posted by Dr Schaden in September 2007, he states that as his contract with the University of Memphis has expired, the Amenmesse Project [KV-10 and KV-63] is now affiliated with the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), The Egyptian Ministry of Culture. Dr Schaden will continue as Director of the mission and Earl Ertman as Associate Director. Because of a delay due to Dr Schaden’s ill health, work on KV63 has only just resumed in January 2009.
See the KV-63 website for up to date information and pictures of the excavation.
KV64 and KV65
Two new possible tomb entrances were found in the King’s Valley in 2008, in an area not previously explored, and designated the numbers KV64 and KV65. KV64 is close to the tomb of Merenptah and thought to be Ramesside in date. The current news on KV65 is that that it may be undisturbed and rumours sugest the tomb of an unknown princess. More news on these tombs when as it is available.