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|Theban tomb TT320|
|Burial site of Royal cache|
|Location||Deir el-Bahari, Theban Necropolis|
Tomb DB320 (now usually referred to as TT320) is located next to Deir el-Bahri, in the Theban Necropolis, opposite modern Luxor, and was found to contain an extraordinary cache of mummified remains and funeral equipment of more than 50 kings, queens, royalty and various nobility.
TT 320 is an unfinished tomb located in the Theban plateau just south of Deir al-Bahari. It was used as a cache for royal mummies during the Twenty-first Dynasty. Each mummy entombed at TT 320 had its own tomb but pillaging of their tombs lead to these royal mummies being moved here to protect them. During Ramesses IX’s reign, he had teams that went out and inspected the tombs of pharaohs. If it were discovered that repairs to the tomb or the mummy were needed, arrangements would be made to make the necessary repairs. The tombs that were inspected were found untouched at that time. During Herihor’s reign some tombs and mummies were in need of what they called “renewing the burial places”. The tombs of Ramesses I, Sety I, and Ramesses II required “renewing”. 1 Each coffin found in TT 320 had dockets on them stating when they were moved and where they were reburied. The mummies were moved when it was discovered that their tombs had been plundered. Some of the mummies were moved multiple times before they were placed in TT 320.
Usage of tomb
The tomb is thought to have initially been the last resting place of High Priest of Amun Pinedjem II, his wife Nesikhons and other close family members. Pinudjem II died around 969 BC in a time of decline of the Egyptian kingdom. In this time the mummies from former dynasties were vulnerable to grave robbery and were moved here to protect the remains of these royal personages. It is believed that this tomb initially belonged to an Eighteenth dynasty queen who was found buried here. However, mummies were cached here in the Twenty-first Dynasty and the Eighteenth Dynasty queen was found at or near the entrance of TT 320 suggesting that she was placed in this tomb last. This would suggest that this was not her tomb. If this was her tomb she would have been placed at the far, or back, side of the tomb.2 When the last of the mummies were placed in TT 320, it seemed that the opening was naturally covered with sand and possibly other debris such as rocks rendering it difficult to find. The first documented case of someone finding this tomb was in 1881. It is possible that this tomb was discovered prior to 1881 but there is no documentation indicating that it was found prior to this.
The list of mummies in the tomb is as follows;
|17th||Tetisheri (?)||Great Royal Wife|
|17th||Ahmose-Henuttamehu||Great Royal Wife|
|17th||Ahmose-Meritamon||Great Royal Wife|
|17th||Ahmose-Sitkamose||Great Royal Wife|
|18th||Ahmose-Nefertari||Great Royal Wife|
|18th||Rai||Royal nurse||Nurse of Ahmose-Nefertari|
|18th||Baket (?)||Princess||possibly Baketamun (?)|
|18th||Iset||Great Royal Wife||Wife of Thutmose II, mother of Thutmose III|
|18th||Unknown man C||Possibly Senenmut|
|21st||Nodjmet||Queen||Wife of Herihor|
|21st||Pinedjem I||High Priest of Amun|
|21st||Duathathor-Henuttawy||Wife of Pinedjem I|
|21st||Maatkare||God's Wife of Amun||Daughter of Pinedjem I|
|21st||Masaharta||High Priest of Amun||Son of Pinedjem I|
|21st||Tayuheret||Singer of Amun||Possible wife of Masaharta|
|21st||Pinedjem II||High Priest of Amun|
|21st||Isetemkheb D||Chief of the Harem of Amun-Re||Wife of Pinedjem II|
|21st||Neskhons||First Chantress of Amun; King's Son of Kush||Wife of Pinedjem II|
|21st||Djedptahiufankh||Fourth Prophet of Amun|
|21st||Nesitanebetashru||Wife of Djedptahiufankh|
|?||Unknown man E||has been studied by Bob Brier, who thinks the mummy in question, might be Pentawer, one of the progeny of Ramses III|
|?||8 other unidentified mummies; funerary remains of Hatshepsut|
Other mummies possibly buried in the tomb:
- Ahhotep I
- Nebseni, father of Tentamun, possible wife of Ramesses XI
Discovery and clearance
In 1881, a tomb-robber named Abd el-Rassul found TT 320.4 Later research conducted by Gaston Maspero stated that the Abd el-Rassul family discovered TT 320 as early as 1871 because items such as canopic vases and funeral papyri from this tomb showed up on the antiquities market in Luxor as early as 1874. For example the Book of the Dead of Pinudjem II was purchased in 1876 for ₤400.5 The story that Abd el-Rassul Ahmed told was that one of his goats fell down a shaft and when he went down the shaft to retrieve the goat, he stumbled across this tomb. As he looked around, he discovered that this was no ordinary tomb. He saw that the mummies entombed in TT 320 were royal. This was indicated by the royal cobra head dress on some of the coffins. Abd and his brother plundered this tomb and lived off of the profits for many years until they were caught.6 Local authorities were expecting to find several tombs belonging to the family of Herihor. When items started appearing on the antiquities market with their names on them began, local authorities started to investigate the items and were able to trace them back to the Abd el-Rassul family.7 Authorities interrogated and tortured the two brothers until one of the brothers eventually gave up the location of the tomb where the items were plundered from.8 Authorities were sent out to TT 320 immediately to secure it.
Authorities arrived at TT 320 without the head of the Egyptian Service of Antiquities because he was on vacation. Instead, the only other European member of the team, Emil Brugsch was sent with one of the first Egyptian Egyptologist, Ahmed Kamal, to explore and examine TT 320. Rather than just exploring, Brugsch had all of the contents, including the mummies, of this tomb removed within 48 hours of them entering this tomb. Neither Brugsch nor Kamal documented the tomb before having the contents removed which made future study of this tomb difficult. Locations of the coffins were not documented and items were not catalogued. Brugsch went back later to document the tomb but the problem with this is that when he went back, he was not able to remember every detail of the tomb. His recollection of the tomb is questionable since he did not document the details immediately upon entering the tomb.9 The removal of the items from TT 320 so quickly presented problems that the removal team at the time did not take into account.
The hasty removal of the items in TT 320 was not done carefully. When the items were received in Cairo, it was discovered that some coffins had damage that would have happened if they were banged around during removal or transport. Evidence suggests that the damage to the coffins happened during removal from TT 320. Brugsch documented the height of the different parts of the tomb and the measurement of the opening was just big enough to drag out the coffins. In addition to this, there were fragments of royal coffins and other items found in the bottom meter of debris in TT 320. However, there were approximately ten coffins that were found with their foot ends missing. It is believed that this happened before they were placed in TT 320 because there was no mention, by Brugsch, of foot ends whether they were whole, in pieces or fragments being found. A research team entered TT 320 in 1998 for research and that team did not find any evidence of foot ends either.10 In addition to plundering of TT 320 and the royal tombs of the mummies found here, the mummies themselves were plundered also.
Once the coffins/mummies and items made it back to Cairo they were examined. It was found that not only were the tombs plundered but so were the mummies, and that some of the mummies were found in the wrong coffins. Some of the mummy’s heads and limbs had been removed by tomb robbers to be able to get to amulets found under the wrappings of the mummies in addition to other precious ornaments found on the mummies. A few of the mummies found in TT 320 were found in the wrong coffins. It is speculated that this could be because royal mummies were buried in multiple coffins so one or more of their coffins could be used by others as their coffins.11
Considering the inconsistencies of some of the mummies mentioned previously, one mummy in particular raises many questions due to inconsistencies in two of his papyri. The first papyrus, Book of the Dead of Djedptahiuefankh A was read incorrectly. The person who read it thought that one of Djedptahiuefankh A’s titles was part of his name. On the second papyrus, The Amduat papyrus, Djedptahiuefankh A’s first title was “the third prophet of Amun”. However, he is called “the second profit of Amun” on his coffin. This is thought to be because the items that had “the third prophet of Amun” were prepared prior to him reaching the position of “the second prophet of Amun”. Djedptahiuefankh was believed to be royal because on the Amduat papyrus his “priestly title” is immediately followed by “the king’s son” and that is followed by “of Ramesses”. Similar text is found on the Book of the Dead papyrus with one exception, “the king’s son” is followed by “of the lord of the two lands”. This title is what gave the impression that he was royal but that title does not mean that he was royal. In fact it is believed that he was not royal at all. Cynthia Sheikholeslami says that “It is clear that the actual title [of Djedptahiuefankh] should be understood as ‘king’s son of Ramesses’ rather than as an indication of membership in the royal family”. There are eight other individuals known to hold this same title. It is argued that this title was given to someone from a certain region, more specifically a town in the Delta called Ramesses.12
The chamber is reached by a nearly vertical chimney, which was left open in 1881, and has since filled with rocks and other debris (in fact every object that was left in the tomb has now been damaged in some way). It was reinvestigated in 1938. Since 1998 a Russian-German team led by Erhart Graefe has been working on reinvestigating and preserving the tomb.
Research teams have entered TT 320 a number of times since its discovery but the most successful research team entered TT 320 in 1998. They cleared the passage ways of fallen debris such as stones and fallen walls. They were able to find fragments of coffins and other small items. When they cleared debris away from the walls they were able to see some paintings. These paintings coupled with the archaeological fragments and the coffins, led this research team to conclude that this tomb was originally owned by a family from the Twenty-first Dynasty as a family tomb.3
- KV35 – Mummy cache in tomb of Amenhotep II
- The Night of Counting the Years – A 1969 Egyptian film based on the story of the Abd el-Rasuls
References numbered in the text:
1. Belova, Galina A. TT 320 and the History of the Royal Cache during the Twenty-first Dynasty. In: Zahi Hawass (ed.), Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists, Cairo, 2000. Cairo: AUC Press, 2003. I, 73-80.
2. Graefe, E. and Belova, G 2006. The Royal Cache TT320: New Investigations 1998, 2003, and 2004. Annales Du Service Des Antiquites De L’Egypte, 80. 207-220
3. Graefe, E. and Belova, G 2006.
4. Wilkinson, Richard H., and Nicholas Reeves. The Complete Valley of the Kings, Tombs and Treasures of Egypt’s Greatest Pharaohs. London 1996, 194-197.
5. Sheikholeslami, Cynthia May 2008. A lost papyrus and the royal cache in TT 320 before 1881. In Hawass, Zahi A., Khaled A. Daoud, and Sawsan Abd El-Fattah (eds). The realm of the pharaohs: essays in honor of Tohfa Handoussa 1, 377-400. Kairo: General Organisation for Government Printing Offices.
6. Wilkinson, Richard H., and Nicholas Reeves 2004.
7. Sheikholeslami, Cynthia May 2008.
8. Wilkinson, Richard H., and Nicholas Reeves 2004.
9. Graefe, E. and Belova, G. 2006.
10. Graefe, Erhart. The Royal Cache and the Tomb Robberies. In: Nigel Strudwick and John H. Taylor (eds.). The Theban Necropolis: Past, Present and Future. London: British Museum Press, 2003. Pp. 75-82
11. Graefe, E 2003.
12. Sheikholeslami, Cynthia May 2008.
- Dylan Bickerstaffe, The Royal Cache Revisited, JACF 10 (2006), 9–25
- G. Belova (2009), The "Royal Cache" and the Circumstances of an enigmatic burial. Moscow (in Russian and English)