swissinfo.ch and agencies
April 29, 2014 – 12:25
Egyptologists from the University of Basel have identified the burial site of the children and other family members of two pharaohs in the famous Valley of the Kings near Luxor, finding the mummified remains of at least 50 people.
After searching the subterranean tomb’s central chamber and three of its four side chambers, the researchers and their Egyptian colleagues were able to name 30 people buried there.
Titles such as prince and princess confirmed that some of the mummies were related to two 18th dynasty pharaohs, Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III, who ruled during the 14th century BC and are also buried in the valley.
Analysis of inscriptions showed that tomb KV 40, as it is known, contained the remains of at least eight previously unknown royal daughters, four princes and several foreign ladies, according to the Egyptologists. While most were adults, children were also found.
“We discovered a remarkable number of carefully mummified newborns and infants that would have normally been buried in a much simpler fashion,” said the head of the research team Susanne Bickel in a statement. “We believe that the family members of the royal court were buried in this tomb for a period of several decades.”
The Egyptologists believe the close proximity of the remains to the royal tombs indicates who had the privilege of spending an eternal life close to the pharaoh.
“Roughly two thirds of the tombs in the Kings’ Valley are non-royal,” explained Bickel. “Because the tombs do not have inscriptions and have been heavily plundered we so far have only been able to speculate on who lies buried in them.”
The tomb, which was re-used centuries later after the valley was no longer a royal necropolis, was looted a number of times, most recently at the end of the 19th century. The researchers were able to recover fragments of funerary objects such as coffins and textiles.
The burial site was also damaged by fire most likely caused by the looters’ torches.
Further analysis is expected to reveal more details about the pharaoh’s court under the 18th dynasty as well as burial customs of the time.