They call it serendipity – a happy chance discovery – and it is the perfect word to describe the unearthing of KV63 – the first tomb to be discovered in the Valley of the Kings since Tutankhamun’s.
It was thanks to The Amenmesse Project, directed by the late Otto Schaden, which was created to clear the tomb of the 19th Dynasty king, Amenmesse (KV 10). In 2005, while probing the remains of some ancient workmen’s huts nearby, his team discovered the entrance to a tomb shaft.
20 feet (six metres) down was a single rock chamber, and inside were six wooden anthropoid coffins. Instead of mummies, however, some of the coffins were filled with ceramics, textiles, natron, and a variety of embalming materials.
Chicago House epigraphic artist, Susan Osgood, was called in to document a number of the coffins. Part of the work involved creating this photo from a montage by Ted Brock.
Based on art styles and comparisons of a variety of artefacts, there is no doubt that the date for the final closing of KV 63 in antiquity should fall during or within a few years of the time of King Tutankhamun.
Oddly enough, the texts on the KV 63 coffins were intentionally covered with glossy black resin, obscuring the identities of their original owners, and their use was dramatically changed. Although not made specifically to accompany the embalming goods, at some point they were converted to containers of embalming materials.
Also crammed into the room were 28 large ceramic storage jars, most of which were sealed (and contained salts, linens and deliberately-broken pottery). This small, single-chambered structure was clearly used as an embalmer’s cache that was probably never meant to be used as a tomb. The question as to whose embalming goods were housed in KV 63 remains to be answered.
Perhaps KV 63 will also prove to be a precursor to a future find, and our “Tutankhamun moment” is still to come.
Explorations: Egypt in the Art of Susan Osgood explores the two worlds of Susan Osgood: Art and Archaeology. It is showing at the Agyptisches Museum - Georg Steindorff -in the University of Leipzig through to August 27, 2017. Explorations features Susan Osgood’s incredibly detailed drawings of temple reliefs as an archaeological illustrator for the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute Epigraphic Survey in Luxor, as well as her colourful travel sketchbooks and evocative contemporary fine art.
You can read more about the serendipitous KV63 and Susan’s amazing art – both ancient and modern - in the latest issue of Nile Magazine. Subscribe and get Nile delivered to your door, pretty well anywhere in the world.