Pyramids

Is This The Tomb Of King Tut's Wife?

Here's what we know. Somewhere in the area of 3,350 years ago, Egypt was (briefly) ruled by a teenager named Tutankhamen. His tomb has been thoroughly explored, its treasures (and alleged curses) divvied up nearly 100 years ago. We still don't have a very clear idea of the shape of his family tree, though, and we don't know where his closest relatives ended up. But the discovery of a new tomb might shed some light on both of those questions — especially since, if archaeologist Zahi Hawass is right, this tomb contains the remains of King Tut's half-sister/wife, Ankhesenamun.

Undiscovered Treasures

This new tomb isn't the only contender for Ankhesenamun's final resting place. In fact, many archaeologists believe we've already found her. You see, Tutankhamen wasn't buried alone. He was joined by the fetuses of two stillborn daughters, and genetic testing has confirmed that they belong to him and to a female mummy discovered in the tomb known as KV21. Since King Tut was only married once, that should close the case, right?

Except that we know that a pharaoh named Akhenaten fathered Ankhesenamun and Tutankhamun (Yeah. It's gross.). The mummy from KV21 wasn't a genetic match with her supposed dad. Plus, the story goes that after Tut's death, Ankhesenamun got together with the next pharaoh, Ay (who, by the way, may have been her grandfather). Okay, shake those willies off. Let's talk about where she might have ended up instead.

According to Zahi Hawass, radar detection in an area of the Valley of Kings near Ay's burial tomb has uncovered what could be a hitherto unknown tomb. A sweep of the region revealed four foundation deposits, where ancient Egyptians stored their votives and offerings before constructing a tomb — it's a telltale sign of a tomb in the area.

The fact that the tomb is so near Ay's leads Hawass to believe this might be the final resting place of Ankhesenamun, but this also isn't his first foray into untangling Tutankhamen's family tree. In fact, Hawass was behind the gene-sequencing effort of the KV21 mummy as well, and spearheaded the effort to test the genes of the children buried with Tut himself.

A Saharan Soap Opera

So by now we've probably all accepted that ancient Egyptians were just a little more forgiving of incest than we tend to be today. But even putting that aside, Ankhesenamun lived a truly extraordinary life. She married her boy-king brother at 13, and was a widow by age 21. Faced with the uneasy prospect of marrying the advisor Ay (who, again, may have been her grandfather. Sorry, we just can't seem to let that go.), she wrote a letter to the king of the Hittites to find out if he had a spare son he'd like to marry off. The Hittites were intrigued but suspicious, and sent an envoy to determine exactly how serious she was. Unfortunately, they just took too long, and by the time the Hittites were satisfied, she'd already been forced into her marriage. What happened next has been lost to the sands of time, but if the new tomb pans out, we might finally get the closing chapter on Ankhesenamun's life.

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Written By Reuben Westmaas August 6, 2017