The Curious Case of KV55

Egypt is filled with mystery and this is one of the leading mysteries that Egyptologists are looking to solve. This mystery comes to us, not from Giza, but the Valley of Kings, situated on the West Bank in Luxor. This is a story that is interconnected with Tutankhamen, the mysterious king Smenkhkare and heretic king Akhenaten. The mystery is of KV55 which is also known as Tomb 55.

Entrace to KV55

Entrace to KV55 or Tomb 55


The Tomb was discovered in the Valley of Kings on January 6, 1907 by Theodore M. Davis and his hired assistant Edward R. Ayrton. After days of digging, Davis’ team was able to get through the rubble that blocked the entrance to Tomb 55. Inside the Tomb they found a single chamber, simple cartouche and small recess. The team also discovered some items of note such as a coffin, a gilded wooden shrine and two clay bricks. There were also 4 canopic jars found in the small recess. Most would feel that these items would prove helpful in identifying the person who was entombed here, but it was not. The objects belonged to different people. It seemed that these objects were brought to KV55 in a hurry either to entomb someone or find a new tomb for someone who was already buried. Why these items were brought to KV55 is still a mystery.

Canopic Jar with Effigy of Queen Kiya

Canopic Jar with Effigy of Queen Kiya


One of the canopic jars found in KV55 belonged to one of many Akhenaten’s wives named Kiya. The lids of other jars contained effigies of four women. There is a suggestion that these jars were made to hold the remains of Akhenaten’s daughters. But none of these jars were used. The wooden shrine in Tomb 55 is held to have been made for Queen Tiye, who was Akhenaten’s mother. While the clay bricks had the name of Akhenaten inscribed on them. So, this is a complex situation for the Egyptologists.

Face of the Sarcophagus

Face of the Sarcophagus


Now, the mummy inside KV55 was previously assumed to be a woman and scholars believed that it was made for Kiya. But evidence suggests that the sarcophagus was altered to suit a man and there was a beard added. Sometime along the line, sarcophagus was defaced with a purpose. Lower part of the face was broken off and all the inscribing were removed. So, there are no clues on the coffin about whose mummy is placed inside. When the tomb was discovered, Davis and his team believed that an elderly woman lay inside. So, logically most agreed that the coffin belonged to Akhenaten’s mother, Queen Tiye.

Mummy in KV55

Mummy in KV55


However, detailed studies of the showed that KV55 contained a male mummy. CT Scans revealed that the person died in his early or late twenties. The blood tests and skeletal similarities suggest that mummy in KV55 is closely related to King Tutankhamen. Most would assume that the mummy belonged to heretic and disliked King Akhenaten, who was the father of Tutankhamen. However, Akhenaten was much older than his twenties when he died. So, the mummy cannot belong to Akhenaten. So, there is another member from the Armana family who is the ideal candidate for KV55 mummy.

Pharaoh Smenkkhare

Rare Portrait of Pharaoh Smenkkhare


Smenkhkare was a mysterious king of Egypt. He ascended the throne after the death of Akhenaten, but he died shortly. After his death Tutankhamen was proclaimed the new Pharaoh. It is also learned that Smenkhkare ruled for some time as the co-regent of Akhenaten. Not much information about him or his rule can be found in the historical records. His body has still not been found, so he is the ideal candidate for KV55 mummy. What is suggested from the records is that – Smenkhkare was either the elder brother or uncle of Tutankhamen. So, he was closely related to the Boy Pharaoh.

For now it seems that the mysterious case of mummy in Tomb 55 has been solved. Pharaoh Smenkhkare who ruled Egypt for a very short period is the probable mummy.


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