How to Bury a Pharaoh: Beyond the Pyramids

Dr. Aidan Dodson, Lecturer at the University of Bristol, was the Chapterís guest lecturer in April. Dr. Dodson discussed royal burial practices beginning with the oldest of the pyramid tombs at Dahshur - that of Amenemhat II - and ending with the last royal tomb constructed in Egypt, during the 20th Century!

Dr. Dodson reviewed the pyramid tombs of the late Middle Kingdom and early 3rd Intermediate period, and noted that there are still known pyramids which are as yet unexcavated.

Skipping to the Theban region, he reviewed the known, as well as some of the sur-mised royal tombs in the area of Dra Abuíl-Naga, and the artifacts which tell us of their existence. Additionally he pointed out that sometime after the reign of Amenhotep I, mortuary temples and tombs were no longer concatenated structures, but were built apart from each other.

The earliest tomb known to have been built in the Valley of the Kings was that of Thutmose I (KV-20). Dr. Dodson noted that Hatshepsut seems to have added the "final" burial chamber, but Thutmose I built the tomb.

An interesting aside: Dr. Dodson believes that the often appearing inscription, "Öno one seeing, no one hearingÖ" refers not to secrecy but that no one but the person in charge of building the tomb had a say-so regarding the work; i.e., no overseer or superintendent had authority over the person tasked with construction of the tomb in question.

Dr. Dodson commented that the earliest royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings were con-structed with a right-angle turn in the corridor leading to the burial chamber; whereas those constructed after the Amarna period were built on a straight axis, presumably to allow the rays of the sun - literally or figuratively - to penetrate to the burial chamber.

The earliest Kingís Valley tombs had cartouche shaped burial chambers, and the walls were decorated with hand-drawn renditions of the Book of the Dead, in black and red ink on a white or beige background, suggesting a great papyrus unrolled around the walls. The decoration was not applied to the walls until after the king had died and been placed in the tomb. Dr. Dodson believes that this fact provides evidence that Queen Hatshepsut was, in fact, buried in her KV tomb, as the burial cham-ber is decorated in this manner, and the decoration would not have been applied to the walls until after her burial had taken place.

The earliest 18th Dynasty mortuary temples located at Deir el Bahri, followed a pattern established much earlier in saff tombs, with one or more colonnaded ter-races. These magnificent temples were known as "Man-sions of Millions of Years", and contained a chapel dedicated to the deceased king, and possibly one dedicated to the kingís father, but the central part of the temple was devoted to the god Amun.  Those built by the 19th Dynasty kings were quite different, being in the form of cult temples. These temples often served as important admin-istrative and economic centers as well.

By the time of Amenhotep IIís burial, the shape of the burial chamber had changed to rectangular, and several transitions had occurred in the construction of the can-opic chest which held the receptacles of the kings mum-mified viscera. Also, with Amenhotep IIís burial, we find great numbers of ushabti figures as part of the kings funerary goods, not just the one or two previously included in funerary equipment.
King Akenaten (Amenhotep IV), established a new "Kingís Valley"  in a wadi at El Amarna, in which he had a tomb constructed, as did many others. One unfinished tomb was probably started by Tutankhamun prior to the time when he moved the capitol back to Memphis. Sadly, Tutankhamunís untimely death resulted in his remains being placed in a very small tomb that Dr. Dodson suggested may have originally been built by the courtier Ay - the same who eventually succeeded Tutankhamun to the throne. The decoration in Tutankhamunís tomb and the tomb Ay later built for himself in the West Valley are very similar in style.

King Horemheb, last king of the 19th Dynasty, made a major change in tomb decoration style. His royal tomb was not just painted, but the decorations were carved in bas relief before the paint was applied. The most sumptuous tomb to use this exquisite form of decoration is that of Seti I.

King Merenptah, son and successor of Ramses the Great, instituted several new innovations in funerary equipment. He introduced to the stone sarcophagus a lid carved with a recumbent image of the king, an innova-tion which was followed for the rest of the New King-dom.. He had not only the traditional three nested coff-ins, but an inner coffin of stone as well.

Seti II included a number of unique decorative motifís in his tomb that provide important clues about the history of Egypt. The coffin of Ramses III was carved from a single great cedar log, and is decorated on the inside as well as the outside. Ramses V had the largest sarcophagus, by far, and Ramses VII had his sarcophagus cut right into the bedrock of his tomb. The last royal tomb constructed in the Valley of the Kings was that of Ramses XI. Though he reigned for 30 years, his tomb was never completed.

By the 21st Dynasty, we see lots of funerary equipment being reused, as was a coffin of  Thutmose I, by the self styled king, Penudjem. Dr. Dodson postulated that Penudjem took over the Thutmose I coffin to link himself with that luminary king of the 18th Dynasty.
During Dynasty 22, several changes can be observed.  Shoshenq I had a canopic chest that appears to be an effort to replicate the integral canopic boxes of the New Kingdom, though his successors continued to use individual canopic jars that were not placed in a chest.  Sho-shenq also had a Horus-headed coffin, an additional innovation never before seen. In the latter half of Dynasty 22 when rival dynasties were ruling at Thebes and at Tanis simultaneously, we find royal burials moving into the precincts of temples. At Thebes, the royal necropolis became the forecourt at Medinet Habu - Ramses IIIís mortuary temple. At Tanis, the royals were buried within the temple compound as well. Tombs became much smaller than in the past and in some cases, more than one royal burial occurs in the same tomb.
It is during this period of  Dynasty 22 that we see the first royal appearance of the "weighing of the heart" motif adapted from private burials.
Kings of Dynasty 25 were buried in the Sudan, and those of Dynasty 26 at Sais in the delta. Dynasty 29 royals were buried at Mendes in the last of the royal pharaonic tombs. Though we have descriptions of Ptolemaic tombs, none of them have survived.

The very last royal tomb ever built in Egypt is the Al-Rafai Mosque in Cairo, where King Fuad and the Shah of Iran were laid to rest. The remains of King Farouk rest there now as well, having been moved from their original place of burial.

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