Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yes yes, it is wonderful.

With those words back on November 26 1922, Howard Carter told the impatient Lord Carnarvon that they had indeed found a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. KV62 would hold, for the next 83 years, the title as the last tomb found in the valley. Until now.

When I first read about the discovery I was puzzled by the report it was within three miles of KV62, the tomb of a minor boy king of the 18th dynasty named Tutankhamun. Three miles would have placed the new tomb way outside the traditional boundries of the Valley of the Kings. But in later reports they corrected the error of scale. Instead of miles, that report should have read meters since the new tomb was found within fifteen feet of KV62 in circumstances strikingly similar to those that preserved KV62.

The single room tomb is being called KV63. A team from the University of Memphis was cleaning up their area after working on a nearby tomb when they found some 19th dynasty work huts. They decided to clear away the huts to find out what, if anything, the workers left behind. So, like Carter those 83 years ago, they went down to the bedrock clearing away work huts and found an entrance. Dr. Kent Weeks, who is excavating the nearby KV5 tomb where Ramesses II's sons are buried and runs the Theban Mapping Project, commented from the photos that it appears to be an 18th dynasty tomb but not royal. In the photos are seen at least five sarcophagi and jars but the walls look bare of any decoration.

This does not mean the mummies and the remaining funerary equipment will not give scientists any information. As Tutankhamun's mummy proved, wrapped in the bandages of a mummy are a wealth of amulets made from gold and these might have escaped looting. By carefully examinning these mummies, perhaps a better idea of health and medecine will discerned. No matter what is found, they will add to the sum total while perhaps answering a few mysteries. As Dr. Weeks alludes to in the article, this room might be a mummy cache when priests found tombs robbed and moved the bodies to more secure locations; it was in such a cache that the mummy of Ramesses II was found. Perhaps one mystery to be solved, since the tomb appears to be 18th dynasty, is we may finally find the mummies whose splendid funerary equipment was hastily appropriated to send Tutankhamun off into the after-life in the style of a Pharoah. And we may even find the mummies whose tombs are in the valley but the mummies have never been found. Unless, back in the 19th Century, those crazy Victorians took back to England these missing mummies so after dinner they could have unwrapping parties. And some people rail against Howard Carter for breaking into KV62 for an early peek.

I eagerly await Dr. Zahi Hawass' press conference to really see more of this new tomb. And as Dr. Weeks says in his book "The Lost Tomb" there are still tombs to be found, like Ramesses II's second wife Isisnofret, in the Valley of the Kings. The search goes on.

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