Authors: Graham Phillips
Tags: #Egypt/Ancient Mysteries
Graham Phillips would like to thank Chris Stewart, Peter Hull, Simon Trewin, Emma Gibb, Ruth McIntosh, Laura Sujin, Talya Boston, Susy Behr, Wayne Frostick, Simon Cox, Billie Walker-John, Morven Knowles, Lucy Earle, Elizabeth Bond, Gordon Wise and Rodney Hale for all their help. Also, a particular thanks to Andrew Collins, without whose invaluable research this book would not have been possible.
For more information about Graham Phillips, his books, and his research, please visit his Web site at grahamphillips.net
List of Maps and Illustrations
Imprisoned for Eternity
In the early days of 1907, the wealthy American lawyer and amateur Egyptologist, Theodore Davis, was leading an archaeological expedition in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, just across the Nile from the ancient capital of Thebes. His team included his cousin Emma Andrews, who acted as his personal assistant, the painter Joseph Lindon Smith, who was there to visually document any new discoveries, and the professional archaeologist Edward Ayrton. On 11 January, Ayrton was busy at the northern end of the valley, organizing a team of local workers to clear away a mass of debris that had been strewn around the tomb of Ramesses IX by excavators a few years before. About thirty feet to the south of the tomb's entrance, where the rock face was almost vertical, the workers unexpectedly discovered a deep in-filled trench that had been cut into the hillside centuries ago. Ayrton initially assumed that they had uncovered a ceremonial gully which originally formed part of Ramesses' tomb. However, when they began to unearth pieces of broken pottery predating Ramesses' three-thousand-year-old tomb, it quickly became apparent that the trench must be part of a second and older excavation – an undiscovered tomb.
After further digging revealed a flight of ancient carved steps, the gang continued working all night, uncovering a stairwell and exposing the stone lintel of the outer entrance to a buried tomb. For a whole week, hour after hour in the dry desert heat, Ayrton kept his men hard at work, removing the rubble from the archaic passageway. Finally, after some twenty-one steps were uncovered, leading deep into the cliff, the workmen came to a solid barrier, an intact limestone wall sealing an entrance two and a half metres high. Delighted, Ayrton realized the implications – the tomb was undisturbed. Yet there was something strange! Usually the entrances to such tombs were embossed with the royal seal of the occupant. Here there was no such seal, just a bare wall concealing an entrance carved deep into solid rock.
An account of the discovery survives in the diary of Emma Andrews, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She tells how almost at once arguments erupted. Ayrton summoned
Davis, who in turn was obliged to inform Arthur Weigall, the representative of the Antiquities Service in Cairo, who immediately arrived to oversee the excavation. Ayrton wanted to waste no time opening the tomb, but Weigall urged caution: the surrounding rubble should be carefully sifted for important archaeological clues before they were forever destroyed by further digging. Davis agreed. As the number of undisturbed tombs found in Egypt could be counted on one hand, the discovery was of immense importance and he wanted an addition to the team: the experienced archaeologist, Howard Carter, who was already in Egypt and staying in nearby Luxor.
Ayrton objected furiously. He and Carter had both been trained by the father of British archaeology in Egypt, Sir W.M. Flinders Petrie, and had since become bitter rivals. Four years earlier, while working for Davis, Carter had beaten Ayrton in a race to discover the tomb of the pharaoh Tuthmosis IV, which contained the most complete war chariot yet found. Carter had thus become the Egyptologist at the centre of world media attention. Other tombs had since been discovered, but they had been empty, long ago stripped of their treasures. Ayrton now had an intact tomb, and he was not prepared to have Carter upstage him yet again. Indeed, Ayrton was sure that they had found the very tomb for which Carter himself was so intrepidly searching: the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun, a shadowy figure from Egyptian history about whom almost nothing was known. The previous year a small cup bearing Tutankhamun's name, together with other materials used in the king's funeral, had been found nearby, leading Carter to believe that Tutankhamun's tomb was somewhere in the vicinity.
Emma Andrews' account is vague as to precisely who ordered the tomb to be opened and the reports of all those involved differ. It is doubtful that Emma herself knew the truth
as she was staying on Davis' boat in Luxor and was therefore not present at the time. From what can be gathered, however, it seems that someone, probably Ayrton, ordered the workmen to break down the wall on the night of 18 January. According to Weigall, next morning he and Davis arrived, furious to find Ayrton staring into the dark, gaping hole. Anger soon gave way to astonishment when they saw what lay behind the wall. This was certainly no ordinary tomb. From previous experience, an access corridor should lie directly beyond the bricked-up entrance, yet here there was a second wall, set in mortar and covered with an incredibly hard cement. This time there
a seal. The plaster bore an oval impression depicting nine bound captives, over which squatted a jackal: the god Anubis, the eternal protector of the dead, a device common to tombs of the fourteenth century
An unprecedented double barrier! The three forgot their differences and began talking excitedly. There must be some religious significance to the second wall, some aspect of Egyptian funerary belief that no one had previously encountered. It was surely the tomb of someone very special. But who? The jackal seal should have been accompanied by a second seal bearing the name of the pharaoh, yet there was none. Excited by what they had found, Davis was now impatient to enter the tomb, and even Weigall no longer objected. Some of the Egyptian workmen, however, became agitated. Those who had worked on other excavations in the Valley of the Kings knew there was something strange about this tomb. Some voiced concern over unfounded rumours of deadly booby traps – concealed pits or crushing stone blocks – while others were afraid of dangers of a less earthly kind.
In ancient Egypt the afterlife was considered the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful. For the ancient Egyptian,
immortality was not determined by moral conduct during life on earth, but was secured by a kind of hereafter insurance. The body was preserved by ritual mummification to ensure the spirit a place in heaven, and it was entombed with its possessions to enrich the life to come. As Egypt grew in power, so did the affluence of its ruling elite, and likewise the treasure hoards of its dead. Tombs became depositories of amassed fortunes to be protected from intrepid thieves, ever prepared to risk capture, torture and brutal execution to plunder the wealth of departed kings. The sepulchres of the nobility became ever more elaborate in an attempt to thwart the tomb robbers: impregnable pyramids, fortified mausoleums, and secret vaults buried deep underground. To whatever plan, concealment or invulnerability, Egyptian tombs were always constructed with one purpose in mind – to keep intruders out. But what Davis and Ayrton had unearthed was an Egyptian tomb unlike any discovered before or since. It was constructed to keep someone or something trapped inside.
What transpired is certainly an episode of some of the strangest behaviour of professional archaeologists in the annals of Egyptology. Instead of a methodical sifting through the rubble between the two walls, followed by the careful dismantling of the inner wall, stone by stone, that should be expected from leading experts in their field, the three ordered the second wall to be demolished with the kind of amateurish pickaxing that only ever happens in the movies. Today, the rushed entrance into this mysterious tomb is considered the sloppiest, most incompetent excavation ever undertaken in the Valley of the Kings.
As the dust settled, for the first time in over three thousand years light penetrated the dark passageway beyond. Just under two metres wide and some two and a half metres high, the
narrow corridor sloped downwards into the darkness. As they peered inside a gentle breeze from the valley below blew down the shaft causing something to shimmer and flash in the intrusive sunlight. It was the fine gold leaf that completely covered two huge wooden panels that lay just inside the entrance, resting on top of the limestone rubble that filled the length of the corridor to within a metre of the ceiling. Quickly, the three collected electric' lights, tapped from the main supply in the Valley, and, led by Davis, inched their way, one by one, down the ancient passageway. Following up the rear, Weigall paused briefly to examine the panels, making out scenes and hieroglyphic inscriptions which dated them to the mid-to-late fourteenth century
. The tomb was indeed over two centuries earlier than the nearby tomb of Ramesses IX. Ahead of him, Davis and Ayrton clambered eagerly over the debris, crawling downwards for about ten metres until they emerged halfway up the wall of a single chamber, some seven metres long, five metres wide and four metres high. As his lantern illuminated the vault, Davis was struck by the strangeness of the tomb. The walls, that should have been elaborately decorated with murals and hieroglyphics, were neatly plastered but completely bare.
Below, small glazed earthenware vessels, decorated amulets, more panels and numerous fragments of broken clay were strewn haphazardly across the floor. From the damage and the musty smell that hung in the air, it was clear that water had at some time flooded the chamber. Looking up, Davis could see the cause. A long thin crack running down the length of the ceiling had allowed rainwater, which occasionally scoured down the valley in rare but violent torrents, to seep into the tomb and wreak havoc. Fortunately, not everything was damaged. Davis was relieved to discover that on the opposite side of the chamber there was a deep recess, about one and a half metres square,
well above what had once been the water line, upon which stood four undisturbed jars of polished white calcite with beautifully wrought stoppers in the shape of human heads: Canopic jars made to contain the removed internal organs of a mummified body.
As Weigall joined them and their eyes became accustomed to the gloom, they could make out the coffin itself, lying on the floor just below the recess. The wooden lion-headed bier on which it had once stood had long ago collapsed, bringing it crashing to the ground, jerking off the lid and leaving the decaying mummy exposed to the air.
Having clambered down the wall and skirted around the rubble, the three men stood examining the coffin. It quickly became apparent that there was indeed something very peculiar about this tomb. The usual gold portrait mask on the coffin lid, made in the image of the deceased, had most of the face ripped away. All that remained was the right eye, wide and staring. Examining the mask more closely, they could make out, on the forehead, the broken remains of a bronze serpent: the
the Egyptian symbol of royalty. The mummy was not merely an aristocrat, it was a king or queen. But who? An inspection of the inscriptions on the coffin revealed even greater mystery. The name of the occupant in its cartouches – oval designs that surrounded the hieroglyphics of a royal name – had been scratched off. On the mummy itself, the inscribed gold bands that were wrapped around the dressings also had the name of the mummy deliberately cut out. Turning to the Canopic jars, the party discovered that here too the name of the mummy had been removed and inscribed panels on the belly of the jars had been chiselled away.
At first they considered that the damage to the mask had been caused when the bier collapsed, but there was no sign of
the missing item anywhere m the chamber; certainly, the obliteration of the name cartouches could not have been accidental. There was only one conclusion: someone had deliberately torn off the face and serpent from the mask, and purposely erased the name of the mummy. As other priceless gold trappings on the coffin had been left behind and the entrance had been intact, this selective destruction could not have been the work of tomb robbers – they would neither have left such gold-work behind nor resealed the tomb when they left. As the tomb seal was contemporary with the tomb's contents, the vandalism must have occurred during or shortly after the mummy's interment. Moreover, as it was an official seal of the period, the stripping of all evidence of the mummy's name, rank and features must have been officially sanctioned.
Looking around, they soon realized that the mummy had also been denied the lavish burial goods that should surround the last resting place of an Egyptian monarch. No weapons or chariots for the occupant to use in the afterlife; no remains of clothes to be worn or food to be eaten; no statues of gods for guidance and protection; no jewels or wealth of any kind – nothing but a few simple amulets, earthenware boxes and jars. Even the wall reliefs to show scenes from the occupant's life and depict his safe passage to the underworld were completely absent; merely cold, white-plastered walls, pitted and stained with age.
The only sizeable artefacts in the tomb, beside the coffin and its bier, were the remains of a number of gilded wooden shrine panels, found dispersed in various locations. The shrine, which was intended to surround the coffin, had not been broken apart and scattered by water; it had obviously never been set in place. Not only had two of its panels been found high up the tunnel,
near the entrance to the tomb where they could not have been carried by water, but the shrine itself was incomplete.
What kind of tomb was this? In ancient Egyptian belief, if someone's name was wiped from memory, so also was their influence on this world from the afterlife: a number of Egyptian pharaohs are known to have excised the names of their dead enemies from all inscriptions. Is this what had happened here? If so, the mummy itself should have been destroyed. The ancient Egyptians also believed that so long as the mummy remained, then so did its spirit; some royal tombs of the era had been formally ransacked on the orders of rival successors, and their mummies torn to shreds. Why was this mummy still intact, complete with its gilded coffin, its organs safe in their Canopic jars? Whatever the reason for the curious desecration, it was unlike anything discovered before. The mummy had been robbed of its status and identity – its power to influence the living denied – yet its spirit had been expressly allowed to survive.