Friday, August 22, 2008

Zahi Hawass lecture - notes by Paul Rymer

Thanks SO much to Paul Rymer, who has very kindly sent me his notes from the August 19th Zahi Hawass lecture at the O2 Bubble complex in Greenwich, where the Tutankhamun exhibition has been running. Paul's notes are excellent, and here's what he has to say:

The event was sold out, with a massive queue snaking around the Dome.

I was one of the minority with a reserved seat in the front stalls - all the people around me were expecting something a bit more academic.

We were treated to a video about Hatchepsut (edited highlights from the recent documentary), and then another general one of Hawass "highlights" before the man himself came to the podium.

Zahi is a fast talker! He managed to pitch things just about right - there were a lot of kids in the audience and I gather a lot of people with just a general interest in AE. He gave enough away to make it worthwhile for those who are committed to detail, but frustratingly one lady dominated the Q&A session, which he cut short.

New information:

Zahi and the team he first worked with at Saqqara have been clearing space in the VOK that has not been explored before. They have found two tomb entrances. The first found was near the tomb of Merneptah and is of Ramesside style. The tomb entrance here is being designated KV64. The slides that came with this part of the talk were new to me; this dig is not really in the area people speculated it was (judging from online pics) the other dig (nearer KV62/63) is the really interesting one. Zahi's team found part of an ancient man made wall, and evidence that debris from the Pharonic period had been dumped there (he mentioned this was the situation with Tut's tomb - it had been undiscovered because the area had been covered over and used.

The second tomb entrance is of 18th Dynasty style. I expected him to mention Tuthmosis II but he said he is expecting it to be someone related to Tut or Nefertiti. Some debris found in the clearance included mention of a queen so far not known to Egyptology (so he said!). A slide was VERY briefly shown of a fragment of something beige in colour with glphs on it. I meant to ask Zahi for the name of this queen (which he deliberately did not mention I'm sure) but did not have the chance. He said (as he has in prior interviews) that there are many tombs so far not identified - where are the Queens?

The implication was that Zahi's team think they have something new as the 21st Dynasty tomb restorers would not have been able to get to the tombs under the debris (some slides of massive boulders being moved were shown). Another slide showed a badly eroded staircase going down a slope; he used the phrase "up down" - KV65 is the tomb he is talking about in the interview - the wording implies that there may be a third tomb - there is not. I think he means it is up the other side of the Valley and the stairs go down the Valley side.

Confusing. Graffitio and fragments have been found dating that site to Dynasty 18; the location and style of stairs indicate late Dynasty 18.

DNA Testing:

This has started to throw up some interesting results. Zahi now seems much less certain that the KV55 body is Akhenaten; he said it could be the son or grandson of Amenhotep III. He also said Tut could be the son of Amenhotep III not the KV55 body (he said Akhenaten but that's what he meant).

Of the fetuses he said one may be male - results to be published soon.

A lady in the audience was very persisitent asking detailed questions about the DNA testing - but nothing really new was forthcoming except that Zahi said they are working with definite identities (Yuya and Tuya plus Tut and AIII) and are filling in the gaps. The fetuses are crucial in this; in theory they should have some DNA from all, plus Nefertiti and Akhensamun. Apparently no question that Tut and Amenhotep III are closely related; this was interesting to me as I thought there was some doubt that his mummy had been correctly identified.

Tuthmosis 1st - definitely not the mummy that most have thought it was. Waiting for confirmation but Zahi believes Tuthmosis I to be the unidentified mummy with the very deformed face (been trying to find an image - he looks like a mummified caricature of Jimmy Hill with a very bad skin condition - almost looks like he's made of stone). Zahi said the mummy was found near the tomb of Seti II or Siptah, then corrected himself (and I can't now remember which way round it was).


Three teams are in competition, working on projects to present ideas to Zahi to resolve problems relating to the various inaccessible areas of the Great Pyramid. Once Zahi has decided which team can do the best job plans will be made to investigate the unseen areas. Zahi sees the GP as a puzzle and it is his intention to find the key. There will be a documentary following the work of the robotics teams on the project.

Paul added that much of what he talked about was on his site already, in the interview on Hawass’s own site at:

Paul also says that thread below at Glyphdoctors shows where KV65 is being excavated. It's an old thread but the photos are worth another look considering what Dr. Hawass has talked about in the last few weeks. You will need to register for Glyphdoctors to read this thread if you are not already registered:


Joseph Nobles said...

Wow, the KV55 mummy may not be Akhenaten? Smenkhkare is the next likely suspect there, right? Very, very strange.

rymerster said...

I think we are in for some surprises in the next few months! I think it's looking likely that Smenkhare was a male (and was in KV55) but that there was a female ruler Neferneferuaten also before Tutankhamun. We shall have to wait and see!