Posted July 22nd, 2014 by Dylan

A Chapter Guide for:


By Dylan Bickerstaffe

(Published Late 2014; Now Available)


The Royal Burials

A brief history of the royal cemeteries of ancient Egypt, and the discovery of royal mummies and tombs in the modern era.


The Tomb of Akhenaten and the Golden Ring of Nefertiti

Shortly after the Royal Tomb was discovered in a remote wadi at Amarna, writers began to claim that burnt fragments of the mummy of Pharaoh Akhenaten had been found in rubble outside the entrance. Was it true? Indeed, was the Royal Tomb ever used for burials, and if so, whose? Who were the other tombs in the royal wadi intended for? What is the significance of jewellery, including a golden ring of Nefertiti, found around the same time as the Royal Tomb? Nothing is ever quite as it seems in this strange case where fact and rumour have become inextricably mixed.

An early version first appeared in The Heritage of Egypt 3.1, Issue 7 (January 2010), 11-31. Also an illustrated lecture.

The Enigma of Kings Valley Tomb 58, and the Post Amarna Period

How did Kings Valley tomb 58 (KV58) come to contain gold foil depicting King Tutankhamun, and his successor Ay, both as a private individual and as king? Who is represented by the beautiful calcite shabti figure found on the floor of the tomb? This tomb has much to tell us about events in the strange and turbulent times following the death of Tutankhamun, and the seizure of the throne by men who were not of royal blood.

Based upon the article which appeared in KMT 21.3 (Fall 2010), 35-44.

The Mysterious Mr. Carter, and the Troubling Case of the Lotus Head.

The story of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun has been told and retold in countless books and articles, and yet there is much about it that remains unexplained – such as why Carter spent so little time searching in the area where he believed the tomb to be, and when exactly he first entered the burial chamber of the tomb. If there is one thing that epitomises our suspicions over the discovery, however, it is the fact that it took a government inspection to reveal one of its greatest treasures: the exquisite Lotus Head. Where did Carter find it, and why had he hidden it?

Substantially edited from the chapter in Finding the Pharaohs: Part 1 of Refugees for Eternity: The Royal Mummies of Thebes (forthcoming).

KV63, Embalming Caches, and the Clues to Lost Royal Tombs

In 2006 the first discovery was made in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamun’s tomb (KV62) in 1922. Numbered KV63, it contained a curious mixture of rags, natron, pillows, and broken pottery stashed away in coffins and large storage jars. It was therefore, almost certainly, an embalming cache. What were these caches, and what clues do they offer to the location of lost tombs in the Kings Valley? The most famous example of an embalming cache is that of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1907, and it seems that the contents of KV63 were buried not long after Tutankhamun was laid to rest. So who did this cache belong to?

Developed from the article first published in KMT 18.2 (Summer 2007), 46-53.


The King is Dead : How Long Lived the King? Did the Pharaohs All Die Young?

Was life in ancient Egypt nasty, brutal and short? Perhaps for the privileged few life was not quite so nasty and brutal, but surely it was still pretty short! But why should it have been? Why do we think that people in the past died so young? We have some idea of the likely lifespan of the pharaohs from historical records, but when anatomists examined their mummies they found them to have died much younger than expected. What was wrong? Were the ancient records unreliable? Did the pharaohs really all die young?

Adapted from the article first published in KMT 21.2 (Summer 2010), 38-44.

Pharaoh Salt-Meat And the Mummies of the Old Kingdom kings.

One of the more bizarre stories told about the royal mummies of the New Kingdom era is that when they arrived in Cairo – following the clearance of their tomb (TT/DB320) – they were passed through customs as salted fish. Though this is not quite true, the mummy of a king did pass through customs as salted meat that same year. This mummy was, however, of an Old Kingdom pharaoh, and when the neglected remnants of royalty surviving from that period are brought together, they begin to suggest exciting prospects for future research.

Considerably extended and developed from a brief article, which told the ‘salt meat’ story, published in The Heritage of Egypt 1.3, Issue 3 (September 2008), 12-14.

Can the Niagara Falls Mummy Really be Pharaoh Ramesses I?

What made experts decide that a mummy in the museum at Niagara Falls, Canada, was actually Pharaoh Ramesses I? Why were they almost certainly wrong? Who else might this mummy be? In answering these questions it transpires that this man, laid to rest in the ‘pose of a king’, has much to tell us about ancient mummification and the way we identify royal mummies.

Revised and updated from the chapter in Identifying the Royal Mummies (2009). Earlier articles appeared in KMT 17.4 (Winter 2006-07), 26-34; and Ancient Egypt 6.2, Issue 32 (Oct/Nov 2005), 42-48. Also an illustrated lecture.

Pharaoh’s Magic Wand? What Have DNA Tests Actually Told Us About the Amarna Royal Family?

Did the recent DNA tests really clear up the relationships in ‘Tutankhamun’s Family’? Have Pharaoh Akhenaten, Queen Tiye, and perhaps Tut’s wife, Ankhesenamun, really turned up amongst unidentified mummies found in the Valley of the Kings? When the story of DNA research on Egyptian mummies is traced, and the recent, high-profile, high-tech investigations of royal mummies investigated, an interesting light is thrown on the identifications apparently reached in the Cairo DNA laboratories.

Some preliminary comments, drawing attention to reservations over the findings announced in the JAMA report, were posted on in March 2010, with further observations appearing in Ancient Egypt 13.2, Issue 74 (Oct/Nov 2012); 10-15. Also an illustrated lecture.

The Resurrected Mummy of the Deified Queen

Following her death the greatly revered queen Ahmose Nefertari became elevated to the status of Goddess. The mortal remains of this divine figure seemed about to disappear forever, however, when she was unwrapped in 1885. As her mummy was unwrapped she ‘fell into putefaction’, releasing a foul-smelling, black ooze. How is it then that she ‘resurrected’ and is today one of the best preserved of the royal mummies?

Revised and extended from the article that first appeared in Ancient Egypt 5.6, Issue 30, (June/July 2005), 13-15.

The Strange Death of Unknown Man E

Found buried alongside some of the most famous kings and queens of ancient Egypt was the well-preserved mummy of a man who appeared to have died in the most hideous agony. Wrapped in a sheepskin – ritually unclean to the ancient Egyptians – he was buried without any form of identification. It appeared to some that he had been castrated, and buried alive. Who was this man, and why was he preserved like this?

Extensively revised (including new theories for the identity) from the section in Identifying the Royal Mummies, Part 4 of Refugees for Eternity: The Royal Mummies of Thebes (Canopus Press 2009), 122-148 & 178-184 (notes). Initial conclusions appeared as ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: The Facts Concerning Unknown Man E’, KMT 10.1 (Spring 1999), 68-76.


Poison, Forgery and Voodoo. The Harem Conspiracy against Ramesses III

Arguably Egypt’s last truly great Pharaoh, Ramesses III beat back concerted attacks by Libyans and Sea Peoples and ruled long enough to celebrate his 30 year Heb Sed festival. So why did his reign end in an attempted coup? Here we examine the ancient sources to discover who the key players were, how much magic played a part, and find uncanny modern parallels in the way access was gained to the private quarters of the king.

Edited and revised from the chapter planned for Refugees for Eternity, Part 2 (forthcoming). Also an illustrated lecture.

The Tombrobbers of No-Amun. Power Struggles Under Ramesses IX.

Many books refer to the trials of tomb-robbers during the reign of Ramesses IX. There is, however, much more to this story than is generally appreciated. By examining the evidence closely the motives of the Vizier, the High Priest, and the two Mayors in Egypt’s Southern capital, Nō-Amun, the ‘City of Amun’, can be uncovered. Known to the Greeks as Thebes, this is modern Luxor, and the events take us to many familiar sites on the East and West banks of the Nile as the tale of deception and double-dealing unfolds.

Updated and revised from the chapter planned for Refugees for Eternity, Part 2 (forthcoming). Also an illustrated lecture.

Death in the Nile. The Birth of Egypt’s Last God: Antinous

The visit of the Roman emperor Hadrian to Egypt was clouded with tragedy when his ‘favourite’, Antinous, drowned in the Nile. Hadrian is said to have been devastated by the loss, but the death was suspicious, especially because Antinous died at just the right place and time to become a god.

Earlier versions appeared in KMT 19.2 (Summer 2008), 74-82; and Ancient Egypt 9.4, Issue 52 (Feb/March 2009), 34-40. Also an illustrated lecture.


The Fury of Amun. The Cursed Play in the Valley of the Queens

In January 1909 a play was due to be staged in the Valley of the Queens in front of a virtual Who’s Who of famous Egyptologists. The author was Antiquities Inspector, Arthur Weigall; the stage manager was American artist, Joseph Lindon Smith; and the subject, the rehabilitation of Akhenaten into the realm of the Gods after thousands of years in limbo. The starlit drama under the cliffs of Thebes never got further than the rehearsal, however, as an uncanny series of events culminated in the wives of both men being mysteriously struck down by severe ailments. Was it the curse of the vengeful god Amun?

An earlier version appeared in KMT 19.3 (Fall 2008), 76-83. Also an illustrated lecture.