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Posted February 15th, 2010 by Dylan


The EGYPTIAN LABYRINTH : Clues to Egypt’s Greatest Lost Building.
I have been pressured to reissue the booklet I wrote on this a few years back, but thought it better to produce a much-more-comprehensive book, which can also include more recent material, as well as a great many more illustrations in colour. This is well-progressed and should have appeared before I lead my PYRAMIDS and FAIYUM TOUR in April/May 2019 (see page on this site). This is a fascinating subject, and one that has not been tackled in a readable way to any depth. Ancient visitors claimed that this was a more impressive site than the Giza Pyramids. What was it they saw; and why was it so labyrinthine?

Probably later in 2019 will be the long-awaited Part Two of Refugees For Eternity (the Royal Mummies of Thebes) which is a very comprehensive study of The ROYAL CACHE TOMBS – arguably the greatest ancient Egyptian discovery.

Following here are a chapter guide for the most recent publication: An Ancient Egyptian Case Book, and some background on Identifying the Royal Mummies (both available through this site).

Notes on other recent and forthcoming publications will be added periodically.


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.


Chapter 1. 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.

Chapter 2. 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.

Chapter 3. 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?

Chapter 4. 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?


Chapter 5. 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.

Chapter 6. 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?

Chapter 7. 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?

Chapter 8. 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.

Chapter 9. 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.

Chapter 10. 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?


Chapter 11. 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.

Chapter 12. 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.

Chapter 13. 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.


Chapter 14. 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?



The series of extremely detailed tables in Identifying the Royal Mummies allow the mummies to be readily compared in terms of all aspects of their mummification, together with such features of their burial as the hand/arm pose, the various estimates of age-at-death etc. The crucial information on identity provided by inscriptions on mummy wrappings and coffins has been given very careful treatment so that the information surviving from the original burial can be distinguished from that added by later restorers. As many of the royal mummies, from both the TT320 and KV35 cache tombs, were provided with substitute coffins, the identity of the original coffin owner has also been distinguished from the later occupant. As far as possible, the exact ancient wording of the inscription has been adhered to.

As should be clear, this is an extremely detailed and logical piece of work, but is presented in an accessible and readable style. The Notes are extensive and provide an additional resource for the serious researcher. The book has much greater value and relevance now that the Cairo Museum is conducting more tests on royal mummies in the hope of determining or confirming identity. It should be clear that all such investigations rest upon the weight of evidence, particularly inscriptional evidence, we already have, and this book provides a convenient reference to the accumulated data. The illustrations accompanying the text present a reasonably comprehensive coverage of the royal mummies and coffins currently known.