ne of life’s uncertainties is the correct identification of the ancient human re-mains known collectively as the Royal Mummies of Egypt. Shortly after the discovery of the first group in 1881, there was already some confusion over who was who. The individual now no longer regarded as even “possibly” Thut- mose I was at first thought by Gaston Maspero to be Pinudjem I, because one of the coffins in which he was found had been reinscribed for the priest-king, having belonged to Thutmose I originally. Photographic and engraved images of the mummy (No. 61065) were published as “Pinetum [Pinudjem] I” and even “Pinetum II,” and engrav- ings of the unwrapped mummy of Pinudjem I were published as “Pinotem II.” By the time G. Elliot Smith’s description of these remains was published in 1912 in The Royal Mummies volume of the Egyptian Museum’s Catalogue Général, No. 61065 was listed as “The mummy supposed to be that of Thoutmosis [sic] I.”
One of the reasons for Maspero’s uncertainty regarding “Thutmose I” was that the mummy’s arms are pendant, whereas other New Kingdom male rulers were em- balmed with their arms crossed on their chests, at least this was true from “Thutmose II” onward. The “Ahmose I” mummy’s arms also are pendent and Maspero’s decision to not unwrap the beautifully bandaged mummy of Amenhotep I left it unknown at the time how that king’s arms were situated. Thus it was assumed that the traditional cros- sed-arms position for kings had been initiated with the mummification of “Thutmose II.”
When Smith physically examined the Royal Mummies for the purpose of pre-paring his Catalogue Général volume, he noted certain discrepancies, among them that the mummy labeled “Seti II” by the Twenty-first Dynasty necropolis priests — who rescued and rewrapped the desecrated New Kingdom royalty — bore no facial resem- blance whatsoever to the heavy-jawed Ramesside kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty (of whom Seti II represented the fifth generation), but instead had the skull shape, small aquiline nose and pronounced dental overbite characteristic of the kings of the Eigh- teenth Dynasty. Likewise, Smith felt that the mummification technique employed on “Seti II” was consistent with that of the early part of the latter dynasty rather than of the Nineteenth.
In his The Royal Mummies, Smith also noted that his personal estimate of the age at death of the mummy confidently identified as Thutmose IV was somewhat lower than was suggested by x-rays taken of that singular king in 1903 by one Dr. Khayat. Among the discrepancies noted by Smith in his physical examination of the DB320 and KV35 individuals was that many seemed to be somewhat younger than the historical re- cord would allow. “Thutmose I,” again, apparently was a man not more than eighteen or twenty at death, whereas the king known from the monuments almost certainly would have been well into middle age when he died.
It was not until Dr. Douglas Derry — who had assisted Howard Carter in the dismantlement of the mummy of Tutankhamen in 1925 — x-rayed the still-wrapped re- mains of Amenhotep I in the 1930s that the question of how that king’s arms were pos- itioned was answered. Like those of all the extant male rulers of the New Kingdom, Amenhotep’s upper limbs — although apparently broken off in antiquity — were, in- deed, crossed low on his thorax. Thus, “Thutmose I” with his extended arms represented a definite anomaly in this regard. The arm position coupled with his apparent youth, therefore placed No. 61065’s kingly status in serious question.
X-rays would play a major role in subsequent considerations of the possible mis- identification of several of the Royal Mummies. In 1967 a professor of orthodontics at the University of Michigan, Dr. James E. Harris, was given permission to radiograph the individuals who rested in Room 52, the Mummy Room of the Egyptian Museum. Harris had been involved in x-raying the craniofacial morphologies of both ancient and modern Nubians prior to the completion of the Aswan High Dam, and he consequently per- suaded the Egyptian Antiquities authorities that the x-raying of a control group of se- veral generations of related individuals with inherited craniofacial morphologies — the Royal Mummies — would provide useful information.
Thus, over a period of five years, Harris took precise lateral cephalometric ra-diographs of the mummies in question, analyzing the data obtained on a computer. In 1980 he coauthored with Egyptologist Edward F. Wente of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute An X-Ray Atlas of the Royal Mummies, a volume which presented their mutual conclusions regarding Harris’s data and the historical record as reexamined by Wente. Therein, and subsequently, they noted several problems with the ancient identification of certain ones of the Royal Mummies, and offered some possible identity reassignments based on the craniofacial morphologies of the problematic kings.
With the exception of so-called “Seti II,” Harris and Wente concluded that the remains of the consecutive Nineteenth Dynasty kings — Seti I, Rameses II and Mer- neptah (Rameses I’s mummy being missing) — were correctly labeled and represented a consistent father-to-son-to grandson relationship, based on their similar craniofacial morphologies. Likewise the apparent age at death of mummies Nos. 61077-79 corres- ponded with the historical record of their probable ages when they died. (Interestingly, the mummy of the boy-king Siptah was not factored into their discussion, possibly be- cause Siptah’s exact parentage is uncertain: was he the son of Seti II or of the usurper Amenmesse?) Harris and Wente found themselves in agreement with Elliot Smith: the “Seti II” mummy clearly was not craniofacially related to the individuals supposed to be his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Indeed, No. 61081 was almost certainly a Thutmosid in type; and they would reassign him accordingly.
It was with the kings of the preceding Eighteenth Dynasty that Harris and Wente found the greatest discrepancies. Because of their craniofacial similarities, they accepted the identifications of Seqenenre Tao II and Amenhotep I. But the mummy labeled “Ah- mose I” presented a distinct problem. “The Liberator” was the son (or less likely the grandson) of Seqenenre, and he was the father of record of Amenhotep. Yet the cranio- facial morphology of mummy No. 61057 was quite dissimilar from the individuals who historically were his immediate ancestor and descendent. Likewise, he bore no resem- blance to the craniofacial morphology of the female mummy thought to be his full sister (and wife), Ahmes-Nefertari. These inconsistencies coupled with the extended-arm po- sition of No. 61057 (Seqenenre having been mummified in his death throes, so his arm position was not a factor), caused Harris and Wente to discount the “Ahmose” identific- ation, placing No. 61057 in the anonymous category and leaving the mummy of Ah- mose I unknown.
Turning to the problematic “Thutmose I,” they concluded that No. 61065 was, indeed, almost certainly a Thutmosid because of his craniofacial morphology, but not a king. Analysis of Harris’s x-rays concurred with Smith’s original estimate of the indi- vidual’s age at death being eighteen or twenty years — far too young for the historical Thutmose I. And then there was the aforementioned problem of the mummy’s extended arms. Since the arms of Amenhotep I and the individual thought to be Thutmose II were in the kingly crossed position, it seemed wholly unlikely that those who mummified “Thutmose I” would have broken with established tradition (inasmuch as the so-called “royal position” was apparently not a New Kingdom innovation, the skeletal remains of ephemeral King Hor of the late Middle Kingdom having been found at Dahshur by Jacques De Morgan with the arms crossed). Thus, Harris and Wente relegated No. 61065 to anonymity, leaving the “Thutmose I” slot open for another candidate.
This they proposed is “Thutmose II,” No. 61066, who both Smith and recent x-ray analysis found old enough to fit the probable middle age of the historical Thutmose I. That No. 61066’s craniofacial morphology differs markedly from that of Amenhotep I was not a problem for Harris and Wente, inasmuch as the latter king and Thutmose I apparently were not related by blood, at least not directly. With No. 61066 now Thut- mose I by Harris’s and Wente’s reassignment, what of Thutmose II? As noted above,
the orthodontist and Egyptologist accepted Smith’s suggestion that “Seti II” was Thut- mosid and not Ramesside. Because No. 61081 would seem to have been younger at death than No. 61066, he would be a likely candidate for the vacant spot of Thutmose II, who historically died at an earlier age than his father; and the craniofacial morphol- ogy of No. 61081 was consistent as seemingly transitional between No. 61066 and No. 61068, Thutmose III, his son.
Harris and Wente left “Thutmose III” in place, as (probably) correctly identified. But their next problem was with “Amenhotep II,” No. 61069. Harris’s computer-gener-ated x-ray analyzes convinced him that the mummy so labeled “Amenhotep II” could not have been the son of No. 61068 and the father of No. 61073, “Thutmose IV,” which was the historical fact. How could he not be Amenhotep II, having been found in that king’s tomb, resting in that king’s sarcophagus, with both the cartonnage replacement and Wente could offer no explanation for this apparently extreme misidentification of some other Thutmosid king for Amenhotep II; but they were convinced that No. 61069 was not the second Amenhotep. What did seem likely to them was that, of all possible Royal Mummies candidates, only he could have been the father (craniofacially speaking) of the peculiar remains labeled-but-questioned as those of Amenhotep III. But was No. 61069 really Thutmose IV? More importantly, was No. 61074 actually Amenhotep III?
Skipping ahead chronologically, Harris and Wente turned to Tutankhamen as the only one of the Royal Mummies who was found in a totally undisturbed context within his own tomb. The sole problem with the occupant of KV62 is that his parentage is debated. It is agreed by Egyptologists generally that he was the son of a king — based on a single textual inscription which describes him as such. But which king? Of all of the extant remains of Thutmosid males, the one nearly identical craniofacially to Tutankhamen is the unnamed individual whose (now) skeletal remains were found in problematic Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings, the so-called “Amarna Cache.” Although even the sex of this person was confused initially, it is agreed by most scholars today that the skeleton in question represents the mortal remains of ephemeral King Smenkhkare, the short-lived coregent and successor of Akhenaten — although a minority view continues to hold out for an identification with Akhenaten himself. Therefore, it seemed clear to Harris and Wente, based solely on their very alike craniofacial morphologies, that Tutankhamen and the KV55 individual were closely related, either as brothers or as father and son (with Tutankhamen in the latter position, clearly).
So, which of the Thutmosid male mummies between Thutmose III and Smenkhkare/Tutankhamen is most like the latter craniofacially? Harris concluded that this was No. 61073, “Thutmose IV.” Historically, the fourth Thutmose would have been either the grandfather or great-grandfather of Tutankhamen, depending on which candidate is favored as the latter’s father (the two most often touted being Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, with majority opinion in the Heretic’s camp). But what, Harris and Wente pondered, if “Thutmose IV,” No. 61073, was, in fact, Amenhotep III, and therefore arguably the father of both Smenkhkare and Tutankhamen (which would account for the similarities in craniofacial morphologies of all three)?
Harris and Wente were convinced that the mummy labeled “Amenhotep III,” No. 61074, was not that king. Certainly, the analysis of his craniofacial morphology proved that he was wholly unlikely to have been the father or even the grandfather of either Tutankhamen or Smenkhkare. Study of the No. 61074 remains subsequent to An X-Ray Atlas has convinced Harris (and apparently Wente) that the skull of that individual — too large for the body by two standard deviations — has craniofacial features consistent with sculpted portraits of Akhenaten. Should No. 61074, in fact, be the heretic pharaoh’s remains, it would help explain two factors regarding their condition when discovered in 1898: the terribly battered state which they are in (having suffered more violence at the hands of tomb robbers than any of the Royal Mummies except Rameses VI); and the embalmers’ insertion of resinous material under the skin of the limbs and neck to give them a more life-like appearance, a practice otherwise unknown in the New Kingdom and not seen again until the Twenty-first Dynasty. But Akhenaten was historically, and inarguably, the son of Amenhotep III; and the only one of the Thutmosid mummies which Harris and Wente saw as possibly the father of No. 61074 is the individual found in the sarcophagus of Amenhotep II, and clearly thought by the ancient necropolis priests to be that king. Thus, was “Amenhotep II” actually Amenhotep III? If so, which of the Royal Mummies is Amenhotep II’s?
For reasons they did not make clear, Harris and Wente also offered another candidate for No. 61074: King Ay, Tutankhamen’s immediate successor, who was not related by blood to the Thutmosid line. By taking “Amenhotep III” completely out of the sequence of pre-Tutankhamen rulers, the orthodontist and Egyptologist were able to move “Thutmose IV” sequentially closer to Tutankhamen and Smenkhkare, casting No. 61073 (“Thutmose IV”) as actually Amenhotep III. But where does that leave No. 61069, the putative “Amenhotep II”?
Because their Royal Mummies musical chairs was quite clearly complicated — and in some ways internally contradictive — Harris and Wente came up with three separate “schemes” to reorder the identifications of the Eighteenth Dynasty kings. In all of these the mummy of the founder of the dynasty, Ahmose I, is unknown; and the mummy labeled “Amenhotep I” remains Amenhotep I. In Scheme 1, “Thutmose II” is Thutmose I; “Seti II” is Thutmose II; “Thutmose III” is Thutmose III; Amenhotep II is unknown; “Amenhotep II” is Thutmose IV; “Thutmose IV” is Amenhotep III; Akhenaten is the KV55 individual; Smenkhkare is unknown; Tutankhamen is Tutankhamen; and “Amenhotep III” is Ay.
Scheme 2 has “Thutmose II” as Thutmose I; “Seti II” as Thutmose II; “Thutmose III” as Thutmose III; Amenhotep II unknown; “Amenhotep II” as Thutmose IV; Akhenaten unknown; Smenkhkare as the KV55 individual; Tutankhamen as Tutankhamen; and “Amenhotep III” as Ay.
In Harris’s and Wente’s Scheme 3, “Thutmose II” becomes Thutmose I; “Seti II” becomes Thutmose II; Thutmose III is possibly unknown; “Thutmose III” becomes possibly Amenhotep II; “Thutmose IV” remains Thutmose IV; “Amenhotep II” becomes Amenhotep III; “Amenhotep III” becomes Akhenaten; Smenkhkare is the individual in KV55; Tutankhamen is Tutankhamen; and Ay is unknown. To help explain the problem that Tutankhamen and Smenkhkare would not seem to be the biologic sons of either the reassigned “Amenhotep II” or “Amenhotep III,” Harris and Wente proposed that Tutankhamen, at least, was the product of a marriage between a son of Thutmose IV and a daughter of Amenhotep III, the assertion that he was a king’s “bodily son” notwithstanding. This rather startling concept would go to explain Tutankhamen’s claim in a text that Thutmose IV was his “father’s father.” Wente pointed out that even in the Old Kingdom the title “king’s son of his body” was used to refer, occasionally, to a king’s grandson.
Certainly, by their implied admission, there is nothing conclusive in James Harris’s and Edward Wente’s well-meaning attempt(s) to scientifically sort out the apparent misidentifications made in the Twenty-first Dynasty of several of the Royal Mummies. Indeed, some of their suggested reassignments of identity seem implausible, especially their wish to see both Nos. 61071 (“Amenhotep II”) and 61073 (“Thutmose IV”) as possibly Amenhotep III, when neither set of remains bears any resemblance to the third Amenhotep as represented in the scores of representations of him which have survived from antiquity. Elliot Smith described “Thutmose IV” as an extremely emaciated individual at the time of his death, whereas several extant art works strongly suggest that the historical Amenhotep III was somewhat corpulent in his last years. Additionally, there is in the Luxor Museum a small limestone ostracon with raised-relief sketch portraits of two kings, one to a side. Albeit uninscribed, these are generally thought to represent a young Amenhotep III (at the time of his accession?) and Thutmose IV at the end of his reign. The latter image is of a rather gaunt individual and bears an uncanny resemblance to the “Thutmose IV” mummy in profile, suggesting that the plump-cheeked fourth Thutmose (as he was represented in the famous pair-statue with his mother from the outset of his reign) may have suffered some sort of wasting debilitation towards the end of his life, caused by a disease that ultimately killed him.
While it is very likely that the necropolis priests who rescued and rewrapped the New Kingdom royalty (and others) mistook one individual for another — as the latter were shuffled from hiding place to hiding place — it seems almost incredible that the desecrated mummy of Amenhotep II was removed from his tomb to be rewrapped (in a workshop at the Medinet Habu Mortuary Temple of Rameses III?) and, in the process, another king’s mummy was inadvertently mistaken as his, mislabeled on shroud and replacement coffin, and returned to KV35 and Amenhotep II’s sarcophagus. While they are but minor works of art, the sculpted faces of two figures depicting Amenhotep II found in the funerary refuse of KV35 (a bitumenized wooden ka figure [CG 24598] and a calcite group-statue of the king being lustrated by two deities [CG 24157] both bear a rather strong resemblance to the mummy “Amenhotep II,” in profile and full face. Something so simple as the apparent correspondences of “portraits” of Thutmose IV and Amenhotep II to the mummies thought (by the ancient necropolis priests) to be theirs should give pause to any rush to judgment about the latter’s identities as suggested by apparent discrepancies in their craniofacial morphologies.
How did it happen that the seeming misidentifications occurred in the first place? When the rulers of the Twenty-first Dynasty made the decision to dismantle the plundered interments in the Great Place (Valley of the Kings), the accomplishment of this did not happen overnight, but evidently over several years. When the royal tombs were entered by those assigned to recover the human remains therein and to collect whatever was salvageable or recyclable (bullion-wise) from the vandalized funerary furnishings that remained, they were confronted by much the same scenes as Victor Loret found in KV35 when he first entered it in 1898: total chaos. Certainly the mummified royal occupant(s) in each tomb had been rapaciously denuded of their trappings and often were found with a limb or two detached, the body cavity broken open, even the head severed in some instances. Anything that might have borne the name(s) of the tomb owner had been stripped from the body and carried off, leaving the mummy(ies) in question essentially anonymous, save for the context of the sepulcher itself.
It appears that the probably never-used tomb of Rameses XI (the latter having been interred in the Delta in all likelihood) served as a makeshift workshop wherein paper-thin gilding was stripped with some effort from furniture parts and coffin fragments, etc. The recovered human remains were carried up out of the Valley of the Kings and across the flood plain to the Mortuary Temple of Rameses III, where necropolis priests set about reassembling (as necessary) each body, rewrapping it — often without great care, frequently incorporating some of the original bandaging — and inscribing in inked hieratics on the outer shroud the nomen and/or prenomen of the presumed ruler before them. The reconstituted mummy bundle was then placed in a coffin at hand (these for the most part salvaged from various plundered burials, not necessarily royal and — with a couple of exceptions — not original to the individual being enclosed within). The replacement coffin then was itself inscribed in ink with its new occupant’s name(s), and very probably put in storage at the temple, its reinterment to be dealt with at some later time — when it was moved, eventually, to either the family cache of Priest-King Pinudjem I or to the Tomb of Amenhotep II (or some other yet-to-be-found place) where, hopefully, it would be safe for all time to come.
Further resolution of the actual identities of the several disputed Royal Mummies awaits two future developments: (1) refinement of DNA testing, whereby accurate results can be gotten from mummified tissues (samples of same for the Royal Mummies being presently in sterile storage in Cairo); and (2) discovery of the Third Royal Mummies Cache, which likely will be found to house many — if not all — of the still-missing New Kingdom rulers: Ahmose I (?), Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III (?), Akhenaten (?), Horemheb, Ay, Rameses I, Seti II, Tausret (?), Setnakht, Rameses VII-VIII-X-(?)XI and Herihor; plus any number of royal wives, princes and princesses of the period, including Neferure, Mutemwiya, Nefertiti, Meritaten, Ankhesenamen, Nefertari, Isetnofert, etc.; and unaccounted for Pinudjem family members, particularly the high-priests Piankh, Menkheperre and Nesbanebdjed (Smendes) II.