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Smenkhkare on Wikipedia

Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare Djeser Kheperu (sometimes spelled Smenkhare, Smenkare or Smenkhkara) was a short-lived pharaoh in the late 18th dynasty. The names of this pharaoh translate as 'Living are the Forms of Re' and 'Vigorous is the Soul of Re – Holy of Forms'.[1] His or her reign, for it is uncertain whether Smenkhkare was male or female, was during the Amarna Period, a time when Akhenaten sought to impose new religious views. He or she is sometimes distinguished from the immediate predecessor (successor?), the female ruler Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten (usually identified as Nefertiti). Unlike Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare did not use epithets in his or her royal name or cartouche.[2]

Very little is known of Smenkhkare for certain because later kings, beginning with Horemheb, sought to erase the entire Amarna Period from history.

Name confusion

For the complete historiography regarding the names, see Neferneferuaten
Line drawing from Meryre II. The lost names had been recorded previously (inset) as Smenkhkare and Meritaten.

Smenkhkare was known to Egyptologists as far back as 1845 from the tomb of Meryre II. There he and Meritaten, bearing the title Great Royal Wife, are shown rewarding the tomb's owner. The names of the king have since been cut out but had been recorded by Lepsius circa 1850.[3]

Later, a different set of names emerged using the same throne name: "Ankhkheperure mery Neferkheperure [Akhenaten] Neferneferuaten mery Wa en Re [Akhenaten]". This led to a great deal of confusion since throne names tended to be unique.[4] For the better part of a century, the repetition of throne names was taken to mean that Smenkhare changed his name to Neferneferuaten at some point, probably upon the start of his sole reign. Indeed, Petrie makes exactly that distinction in his excavation notes of 1894.

By the 1970s, feminine traces in some versions of the name and more often in the epithets led to various theories. Among them, that Nefertiti was masquerading as Smenkhkare before changing her name again to Neferneferuaten. When considered with various stela depicting Akhenaten with another king in familiar, if not intimate poses, the theory that Akhenaten and Smenkhkare were homosexual arose.

In 1978, it was proposed that there were two individuals using the same name: a male king Smenkhkare and a female Neferneferuaten.[5] Ten years later, James Allen pointed out the name 'Ankhkheperure' nearly always included an epithet referring to Akhenaten such as 'desired of Wa en Re' when coupled with 'Neferneferuaten'. There were no occasions where the 'long' versions of the prenomen occurred alongside the nomen 'Smenkhkare', nor was the ‘short’ version ever found associated with the nomen 'Neferneferuaten'.[6] The issue of a female Neferneferuaten was finally settled for the remaining holdouts when James Allen confirmed Marc Gabolde's findings that objects from Tutankhamun's tomb originally inscribed for Neferneferuaten which had been read using the epithet "...desired of Akhenaten" were originally inscribed as Akhet-en-hyes or "effective for her husband".[7][8] Smenkhkare, as son in law, might be 'desired of Akhenaten', but only a female could fit the new reading.

By the start of the 21st Century, "a fair degree of consensus"[9] emerged that Neferneferuaten was a female king and Smenkhkare a separate male king, particularly among specialists of the period[10] (the public and the internet still often commingle the two unwittingly and otherwise). Almost as important, when presented with just the name Ankhkheperure, it is now widely accepted that the use of epithets indicates Neferneferuaten while no epithets indicates Smenkhkare.[11]

Another reason of confusion is that the hieroglyphs in the cartouche in the picture showing "Smenkhkare" and Meritaten rewarding Meryra II actually are not to be read as Smenkhkare, but as Saakare, or Saakara or Seaakara, according to the different transliterations. The cartouche contains s-aa-ka-re [and not the spelling present in the Royal Titulary presented on this page] like in "Rock Tombs of El Amarna II" by Davies, Norman De Garis [12] where it's possible to see the primary source [mentioned also in the picture]. In "Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien nach den zeichnungen der von Seiner Majestaet dem koenige von Preussen Friedrich Wilhelm IV" by Lepsius[13] we can clearly see the same cartouches. "Smenkhkare" would appear in a cartouche on a vase, object 405 in Carter Archive. The quality of what remains cannot allow to be totally sure if its Smenkhkare or Saakare and Carter in his notes doesn't express an opinion.[14] A source for the name Smenkhkare is a ring, associated with another one showing Saakare.[15] The explanation is a probable mistake made by Lepsius copying the cartouches. Norman De Garis Davies mentions another source, PRISSE Monuments Egyptiens where another copy of the cartouches is present and the aspect is not so clear.[16] Also Pendlebury found objects carrying the name Smenkhkare [17] [18].[original research?]


Aside from the Meryre tomb depiction already mentioned there are several pieces of evidence which establish Smenkhkare as king.

  • A calcite "globular vase" from the tomb of Tutankhamun bears the full double cartouche of Akhenaten alongside the full double cartouche of Smenkhkare. This is the only object to carry both names side by side.[19]
  • A single wine docket, 'Year 1, wine of the house of Smenkhkare', indicates he probably had a short reign.[20] Another dated to Year 1 from 'The House of Smenkhkare (deceased)'[21] was originally taken to indicate that he died during the harvest of his first year; more recently it has been proposed to mean his estate was still producing wine in the first year of his successor.
This image is commonly taken to be Smenkhkare and Meritaten, though it may be Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun .
  • Line drawings of a block depicting the nearly complete names of King Smenkhkare and Meritaten as Great Royal Wife were recorded before the block was lost.
  • Flinders Petrie documented 6 rings bearing only the Throne Name 'Ankhkheperure' (other 6 with the same Throne Name shows an epithet: or Mery Neferkheperure, no. 92 and no.93; or Mery Waenre, no. 94, 95 and 96) and 2 more bearing 'Smenkhkare' (with another one bearing the epithet Djeserkheperu, which belonged to Smenkhkare [22]) in excavations of the palace.[23] One example is Item UC23800 in the Petrie Museum which clearly shows the "djeser" and "kheperu" elements of and a portion of the 'ka' glyph. Pendlebury found more when the town was cleared.[24]
  • A ring bearing his name is found at Malqata in Thebes.
  • Perhaps the most magnificent was a vast hall more than 125 metres square and including over 500 pillars. This late addition to the central palace has been known as the Hall of Rejoicing, Coronation Hall or simply Smenkhkare Hall because a number of bricks stamped Ankhkheperure in the House of Rejoicing in the Aten were found at the site.[25]
  • Indisputable images for Smenkhkare are rare. Aside from the tomb of Meryre II, the adjacent image showing an Amarna king and queen in a garden is often attributed to him. It is completely without inscription, but since they do not look like Tutankhaten or his queen, they are often assumed to be Smenkhkare and Meritaten, but Akhenaten and Nefertiti are sometimes put forth as well.
  • An inscription in the tomb of Pairi, TT139, by the other Ankhkheperure (Neferneferuaten), mentions a functioning Amen 'temple of Ankhkheperure'.[26]

Several items from the tomb of Tutankhamun bear the name of Smenkhkare:

  • A linen garment decorated with 39 gold daisies along with 47 other sequins bearing the prenomen of Smenkhkare alongside Meritaten's name.
  • Carter number 101s is a linen shawl with the name Ankhkheperure
  • A compound bow (Carter 48h) and the mummy bands (Carter 256b) were both reworked for Tutankhamun.[27]
  • Less certain, but much more impressive is the second anthropoid coffin containing the mummy of Tutankhamun. The face depicted is much more square than that of the other coffins and quite unlike the gold mask or other depictions of Tutankhamun. The coffin is Rishi style and inlaid with coloured glass, a feature only found on this coffin and one from KV55, the speculated resting place for the mummy of Smenkhkare. Since both cartouches show signs of being reworked, Dodson and Harrison conclude this was most likely originally made for Smenkhkare and reinscribed for Tutankhamun.[27][28]

As the evidence came to light in bits and pieces at a time when Smenkhkare was assumed to have also used the name Neferneferuaten perhaps at the start of his sole reign, it sometimes defied logic. For instance, when the mortuary wine docket surfaced from the 'House of Smenkhkare (deceased)', it seemed to appear that he changed his name back before he died.

Since his reign was brief, and he may never have been more than co-regent, the evidence for Smenkhkare is not plentiful, but nor is it quite as insubstantial as it is sometimes made out to be. It certainly amounts to more than just 'a few rings and a wine docket' or that he 'appears only at the very end of Ahkenaton's reign in a few monuments'[29] as is too often portrayed.


The Meryre depiction of Smenkhkare both as king and as son in law to Akhenaten along with the jar inscription seems to indicate that Akhenaten and Smenkhkare were coregents, and it was initially taken to mean just that. However, the scene in the tomb of Meryre is not dated and Akhenaten is neither depicted nor mentioned in it. The jar may simply be a case of one king associating himself with a predecessor. The simple association of names, particularly on everyday objects, is not conclusive of a coregency.[30][31]

To make matters more confusing, he has competition as the prime candidate as Akhenaten's coregent and successor, the female Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten.


The evidence for Neferneferuaten's association with Akhenaten is more substantial.[32] As detailed above, all but a very few of her cartouches associate her with Akhenaten in the form of "...desired of Neferkheperure [Akhenaten's throne name]" and "...desired of Wa en Re [epithet of Akhenaten's throne name]".[33]

Many things from Tutankhamun's tomb either bear her name, or were originally made for her and reinscribed with his name. These include a stunning gold pectoral depicting the goddess Nut, his stone sarcophagus, mummy bands, royal figurines various bracelets and canopic items. Of particular interest is a box (Carter 001k) inscribed with the names of Akhenaten, Neferneferuaten and Meritaten as Great Royal Wife. A hieratic inscription on lid repeats the inscription from the rail.

There are also a series of stelae clearly showing what is accepted as Akhenaten along with a female figure wearing a crown. Most of these are uninscribed and damaged so while they pictorially attest to an association of Akhenaten with a female coregent, they fail to identify her by name.

One such (stele Berlin #17813 or a higher resolution image) depicts two royal figures in a familiar, if not intimate, pose. One figure wears the double crown, while the other, slightly more feminine one, wears the Khepresh or "blue crown". However, the set of three empty cartouches can only account for the names of a king and queen. This has been interpreted to mean that Nefertiti may have at one point been something like a coregent as indicated by the crown, but not entitled to full pharaonic honors such as the double cartouche.[34]

Another stele, Berlin 25574, clearly depicts Akhenaten and Nefertiti in her familiar flat top crown. Above them are four empty cartouches – enough for two kings – one of which seems to have been squeezed in. Nicholas Reeves sees this as an important item in the case for Nefertiti as female coregent. When the stele was started, she was queen and portrayed with the flat top headpiece. She was elevated to coregent shortly afterwards and a fourth cartouche was squeezed in to accommodate two kings.[35]

Perhaps the most important stela has the opposite condition and could tell us much more if it was not so badly damaged. In 1891, a private stela was found which is now in the Petrie Museum, U.C.410, sometimes called the Coregency Stela. On this stela, most of the scene is missing but the inscriptions can be read. It depicts the double cartouche of Akhenaten alongside that of Ankhkheperure mery-Waenre Neferneferuaten Akhet-en-hyes ('effective for her husband'). The inscription originally bore the single cartouche of Nefertiti, which was erased along with a reference to Meritaten to make room for the double cartouche of King Neferneferuaten.[36]

The identity of King Neferneferuaten is a matter of debate. Initially, Smenkhkare and Neferneferuaten were assumed to be the same person, primarily on the basis of the repeated throne name. Today the leading candidates are Nefertiti or Meritaten.


There is an impression that there is substantial evidence for Smenkhkare as coregent and successor. This began over 100 years ago when Smenkhkare and Neferneferuaten were assumed to be the same person.[37] If all the evidence for both Smenkhkare and Neferneferuaten are seen to represent a single person, it would be a natural, logical and obvious conclusion that he/she was coregent and successor.

As son-in-law to Akhenaten and wearing the blue crown in Meryre's tomb, Smenkhkare as coregent is a conclusion embraced by some Egyptologists. However, the name Smenkhkare appears only during the reign of Akhenaten[38] with nothing to attest to a sole reign with any certainty.

The name Neferneferuaten is a much more recent addition to the picture. Much of the evidence for her has had to be resurrected from erased inscriptions and she has become accepted as an individual by most Egyptologists only within the last 20 years. As a newcomer, many synoptic references such as encyclopedia, museum chronologies, atlases and king lists don't even mention her. In her case, the Pairi inscription offers a clear indication of a sole reign with a coregency being more a matter of interpretation.

As a result, Egyptologists remain divided on the identity of Akhenaten's coregent and his successor.

Aidan Dodson uses the Meryre depiction to conclude Smenkhkare served only as coregent starting about Year 13 of Akhenaten with the wine docket simply indicating that his estate was still in operation several years later. Nefertiti becomes his next coregent as King Neferneferuaten (perhaps with abbreviated honors) and succeeds him.[39] The main argument against this until very recently (see below) has been the assumption that Nefertiti died once she disappeared from the record after Year 13.

James Allen on the other hand, sees Neferneferuaten as the coregent who succeeds Akhenaten largely on the basis of the epithets and stela. He assumes that Nefertiti has died, and has offered her daughter, Neferneferuaten-tasherit (the lesser, or "junior") as King Neferneferuaten on the basis of her name.[32] She is followed by Smenkhkare after her 2–3 year reign.[32] He has also speculated that 'both' succeeded Akhenaten: Neferneferuaten as Akhenaten's "chosen" successor and Smenkhkare as a rival king using the same prenomen, perhaps to eclipse Akhenaten's unacceptable choice.[40]

Others have advocated for Meritaten as Neferneferuaten in different forms, perhaps succeeding Akhenaten during an interregnum. Marc Gabolde has long advocated that she continued to rule as Neferneferuaten after the death of Smenkhkare. The main argument against this is the box from Tutankhamun's tomb listing Akhenaten, Neferneferuaten and Meritaten as 3 individuals.[41]

Few succession theories account for all the evidence and only rarely do they offer an explanation for the consecutive use of the same throne name. Dodson, for instance, places Smenkhkare's brief coregency in Year 13/14, whereas Smenkhkare Hall is believed to be built about Year 15. The hall, grand as it must have been, was surely built for some significant event related to Ankhkheperure.

Allen's placement of Smenkhkare fares no better. Work is believed to have halted on the Amarna tombs shortly after year 13,[42][43] so the depiction of Smenkhkare as king in Meryre II must date to about Year 13. For him to have succeeded Neferneferuaten means that aside from a lone wine docket, he left not a single trace over the course of 5–6 years (years 14–17 of Akhenaten, 2–3 year reign for Neferneferuaten).

Gabolde's Meritaten theory has the problem of the various private stelae depicting the female coregent with Akhenaten who would be dead by the time of her rule. He suggests these are retrospective, but since they are private cult stela, this would require a number of people to get the same idea to commission a retrospective, commemorative stela at the same time. Allen notes that the everyday interaction portrayed in them more likely indicates two living people.[31]

Nefertiti Year 16 graffito

In December 2012, the Leuven Archaeological Mission announced the find of a hieratic inscription in a limestone quarry at Dayr Abu Hinnis which primarily concerns a building project in Amarna.[44] The text is dated to Year 16 month 3 of Akhet, day 15 of the reign of Akhenaten and refers to Nefertiti as the Great Royal Wife.[45][46] This find invalidates the view that she died about year 13/14 of Akhenaten. With Nefertiti still alive and chief consort in the second to last year of her husband's reign, whatever coregency was yet to come would be limited to a year or less. Year 17 would be Akhenaten's final year and as the changes to the Coregency Stela (UC 410) seem to indicate, by the time the female coregent was added to it she was also already acting on behalf of Akhenaten.

Dakhamunzu Hittite affair

See also Dakhamunzu article

The Deeds of Suppiluliuma written by his son Mursili II are sometimes used to provide a resolution for the succession order of Egypt. Several succession theories incorporate the episode.

The story tells of an Egyptian queen named Dakhamunzu, who writes to Suppiluliuma. She tells him her husband the king, Nibhururiya, has died and asks him to send a son for her to marry 'for she has no sons and he has many', in marrying her, his son 'will become King of Egypt'. The Hittite king is wary and sends an envoy to verify the lack of a male heir. The queen writes back rebuking Suppiluliuma for suggesting she lied about a son and indicates she is loath to marry a "servant". Suppiluliuma sends one of his sons, Zannanza off to Egypt, but he dies sometime after departing. It has been supposed that he was murdered at the border of Egypt (Brier) to thwart the plot, but there is no evidence as to when or where he died, nor that he was murdered, as opposed to death from a lethal injury, accident or illness en route.

Dakhamunzu (probably the Hittite transliteration of ta hemet nesu or king's wife) has traditionally been seen as Ankhesenamun since she had no sons and did eventually marry a "servant", Ay. The dead king, Nibhururiya, then refers to Tutankhamun's throne name, Nebkheperure. Some have argued that Nibhururiya might be a reference to Neferkheperure (Akhenaten), certainly the X-kheper-u-Re variations in 18th Dynasty throne names makes it possible. Of the male kings in the period, Smenkhkare can be ruled out as his throne name would be transliterated as something like Anahuriya.[47]

Writing on the Dakhamunzu episode, Jared Miller points out that "‘servant’ is likely used in a disparaging manner, rather than literally, and probably with reference to real person(s) who indeed were being put forth as candidates." If the reference to a 'servant' no longer exclusively indicates Ay, then Meritaten and Nefertiti become candidates as well.[48] For the plot to succeed, the queen would have to either wield an extraordinary amount of power in order to prevent or delay the marriage to the "servant" or enjoy the backing of some powerful supporter(s) while the correspondence and travels take place.[49] Miller also offers the prominence of sun deities with the Hittite king as a motivating factor in the queen preferring a Hittite prince over a Babylonian.[50]


Reeves identifies Dakhamunzu as Nefertiti. After 17 years on the throne alongside her husband, she can certainly be seen having sufficient power and backing.[51] Though she may also be King Neferneferuaten, she is writing as a queen, perhaps to secure a male figurehead or perhaps she envisioned a coregency like the one she had with Akhenaten.

The argument against Nefertiti is that she would have had to conceal the presence of at least one male of royal lineage from the spies and envoy of Suppiluliuma. Alternatively, if he knew of Tutankhaten or Smenkhkare, rather than merely shrewd, it must be assumed that Suppiluliuma was ruthless in the extreme and willing to risk the life of his son on a precarious endeavor where he suspected trickery.[52] On the other hand, it portrays Nefertiti as fully informed of Hittite minutiae such as Suppiluliuma's affiliation with the Hittite sun god.[50]


As shown on the box from Tutankhamun's tomb, Meritaten came to take Nefertiti's place as royal wife late in Akhenaten's reign. Marc Gabolde has proposed that Meritaten is Dakhamunzu and the dead king is Akhenaten, in a number of articles. He supposes that Zannanza completed the trip and died only after ascending the throne as Smenkhkare. It is after the death of Smenkhkare/Zannanza that Meritaten assumes power as Neferneferuaten.

Meritaten seems the least likely on the basis that at the time of Akhenaten's death she would only have been about 20 years old. By contrast, Ankhesenamun would have been about 25 and been queen consort for some 10 years. It seems unlikely that the young Meritaten would have the wiles to deceive Suppiluliuma, maintain her interregnum in the face of pressure to marry a 'servant' and conceal the presence of a male heir in the personage of Tutankhaten.


In support of Ankhesenamun, is the idea that Tutankhamun 'lay in state' for some time. The Hittite sources indicate he died in late summer, around the middle of August.[53] However, a cornflower pectoral indicates he was not buried until April or May.[54] As such, there may have been time for letter writing and travel. Ankhesenamun is made more plausible if she had the backing of Ay, or Horemheb, or both. Against her is the simpler explanation that the delay in burial was the result of his unexpected death and unfinished tomb.

Details for the Dakhamunzu/Zannanza affair are entirely from Hittite sources written many years after the events. There is the possibility that Mursili is revising history to some extent, placing full responsibility for the fiasco on the Egyptians,[55] leaving the details unreliable.


The sole regnal date (year 1) attested for Smenkhkare comes from a wine docket from "the house of Smenkhkare". This date might however refer either to the reign of Smenkhkare or his successor, but it is doubtful he ruled for more than a year.[56] As already noted, Dodson views Smenkhkare as Akhenaten's coregent for about a year beginning about Year 13 and who did not have a sole reign,[57] while Allen depicts Smenkhkare as successor to Neferneferuaten.[32]

There are those who see the possibility of a 2 or 3-year reign for Smenkhkare. A number of wine dockets from Amarna bear dates for regnal years 2 and 3, but lack a king's name. A few Egyptologists[58] have argued these should be attributed to Smenkhkare. However, these are open to interpretation and cannot be considered decisive.[59]

Clear evidence for a sole reign for Smenkhkare has not yet been found.

Death and burial

The desecrated royal coffin found in Tomb KV55

In 1907, a tomb was discovered by Edward R. Ayrton while working in the Valley of the Kings for Theodore M. Davis. Within it was found a number of funerary objects for various people—in particular, a shrine built for Queen Tiye by Akhenaten, and a mummy. This caused Davis to refer to it as The Tomb of Queen Tiye; its more common designation is KV55. The tomb is sometimes called a cache because items from several people are found there. For example, there is the shrine for Tiye, 'magic bricks' bearing Akhenaten's name and alabaster canopic jars depicting what is thought to be the likeness of Kiya.

Of particular interest is the mummy found there. The coffin had been desecrated and the name of the owner removed, but it was in the Rishi style of the 18th Dynasty. It is generally accepted that the coffin was originally intended for a female, possibly Akhenaten's wife Kiya, and later reworked to accommodate a male.[60] Over the past century, the chief candidates for this individual have been either Akhenaten or Smenkhkare.[61][62][63]

The case for Akhenaten rests largely on the 'magic bricks' and the reworking of some of the inscriptions on the coffin. The case for Smenkhkare comes mostly from the presumed age of the mummy (see below) which, at 18–26 would not fit Akhenaten who reigned for 17 years and had fathered a child near by his first regnal year. There is nothing in the tomb positively identified as belonging to Smenkhkare, nor is his name found there. The tomb is certainly not befitting any king, but even less so for Akhenaten.

Early examinations of the mummy

The skull of the KV55 mummy, believed to be Smenkhkare.

The skeletonized mummy was examined on a number of occasions over the years, including by Smith (1912), Derry (1931), Harrison (1966), Strouhal (1998/2010) and Filer (2001). Wente used cranofacial analysis in 1995 (as well as examining past X-Rays) to examine a cache of mummies, mostly from the 18th Dynasty, in order to sort out the relationships and true identities of each. Seriological tests on the KV55 remains and Tutankhamun's mummy were performed and published in Nature (1974). The KV55 mummy was also examined by Harris in 1988, but only an abstract of the results was published, and most recently by Hawass, Gad et al. in 2010.

Filer's conclusions were largely representative of the pre-2010 examinations, noting "...this man was not quite a fully mature adult, between 18 and 21 years when he died." She concluded:

The human remains from Tomb 55, as presented to me, are those of a young man who had no apparent abnormalities and was no older than his early twenties at death and probably a few years younger.[64]

These were largely in keeping with the previous results (18–26 years) allowing for the technologies available. For instance, Derry concluded an age of about 23 and Strouhal gave an age range of 19 to 22.[65] Wente's study found close cranial similarities between the mummies of Tutankhamun, KV55 and Thutmose IV.[66] The seriological tests indicated KV55 and Tutankhamun shared the same rare blood type.[67] Taken together, the KV55 mummy was assumed to be the father or brother of Tutankhamun. Brother seemed more likely since the age would only be old enough to plausibly father a child at the upper extremes.

Genetic tests of 2010

In 2010, genetic tests and CT scans were performed with some of the results published in JAMA and reported in National Geographic, including a TV special.[68] Chief among the genetic results was, "The statistical analysis revealed that the mummy KV55 is most probably the father of Tutankhamun (probability of 99.99999981%), and KV35 Younger Lady could be identified as his mother (99.99999997%)."[69] The report goes on to show that both KV55 and KV35 Younger Lady were siblings and children of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye.[70]

CT scans were also performed on the mummy from which it was concluded that his age at time of death was much higher than all previous estimates.

New CT scans of the KV55 mummy also revealed an age-related degeneration in the spine and osteoarthritis in the knees and legs. It appeared that he had died closer to the age of 40 than 25, as originally thought. With the age discrepancy thus resolved, we could conclude that the KV55 mummy, the son of Amenhotep III and Tiye and the father of Tutankhamun, is almost certainly Akhenaten. (Since we know so little about Smenkhkare, he cannot be completely ruled out.)[71]

Evidence to support the much older claim was not provided beyond the single point of spinal degeneration. A growing body of work soon began to appear to dispute the assessment of the age of the mummy and the identification of KV55 as Akhenaten.[65][72][73][74][75][76][77][78] Where Filer and Strouhal (below) relied on multiple indicators to determine the younger age, the new study cited one point to indicate a much older age. One letter to the JAMA editors came from Arizona State University bioarchaeologist Brenda J. Baker. The content was retold on the Archaeology News Network website and is representative of a portion of the dissent:

A specialist in human osteology and paleopathology, Baker takes issue with the identification of the skeletonized mummy KV55 as Tutankhamun’s father, Akhenaten. The authors [Hawass et al in JAMA] place this individual’s age at the time of death at 35–45, despite producing no evidence that repudiates well-known prior examinations citing the age in the 18–26 range.

These earlier analyses – documented with written descriptions, photographs and radiographs – show a pattern of fused and unfused epiphyses (caps on ends of growing bones) throughout the skeleton, indicating a man much younger than Akhenaten is believed to have been at the time of his death. Baker also uses a photograph of the pubic symphysis of the pelvis to narrow the age of KV55 to 18–23 based on recent techniques used in osteology and forensic anthropology.[79]

An examination of the KV55 mummy was conducted in 1998 by Czech anthropologist Eugene Strouhal. He published his conclusions in 2010 where he 'utterly excluded the possibility of Akhenaten':

[T]he unambiguous male skeleton from Tomb 55 proved decisively by a long list of biological developmental features his age at death to be in the range of 19–22 years which fully agrees with the results of the previous determination by Harrison (1966)... He did not possess the slightest dental pathology and not even the onset of degenerative changes in the spine and joints.[80]

Other criticisms surround what the project didn't do. Wente had noted that the mummies of both Tut and KV55 bore a very strong craniofacial similarity to the mummy of Thutmose IV, yet this mummy was not tested. Dylan Bickerstaffe calls it "almost perverse" that the mysterious "boy on a boat" found in KV35 was not tested while the "Elder Lady" and "Younger Lady" found there were. The boy could very well be Akhenaten's older brother Prince Thutmose or even Smenkhkare given that the KV35 ladies are now known to be related to Tut.[76]

While it now seems likely that the KV55 mummy is the father of Tutankhamen, for many his identification as Akhenaten seems as doubtful as before.


Left alone in a tomb with few of the trappings of the typical Ancient Egyptian burial, the KV55 mummy appears to be not so much buried as disposed of. Since the KV55 mummy is conclusively a close relative of Tutankhamun, if not his father, why such a haphazard burial? It may simply be that they ran out of tombs or time.

The royal family had been preparing tombs in Amarna rather than Thebes. As evidenced by the tomb of Meryre, work appears to have abruptly halted on the Amarna tombs after year 13. About that time, a significant number of people depart the scene including 3 of Akhenaten's daughters, his mother and Kiya. In Amarna Letter 35, the king of Alashia apologizes to Akhenaten for his small greeting gift of copper, explaining that a plague had killed off many of his copper miners.[81] Something similar may well have struck Amarna, if not Egypt.

After the capital moved from Amarna, Akhenaten's successor could have been faced with a severe shortage of tombs for royal reburials.[82] Smenkhkare would be in a particularly bad situation. Since he died young and reigned so briefly, he would not have had time to make and accumulate the grave goods befitting a king. In the end, the tomb seems to have been simply sealed up with the mummy and whatever was available.[82]

The tomb had been re-entered once and sealed twice.[83] The seals date to the late 18th Dynasty indicating the tomb was entered and resealed probably under the reign of Tutankhamen. The nature of the debris, rubble fill and cement retaining wall suggest the desecration and attempt to remove the shrine of Tiye did not happen until later.[84]

The tomb was once again entered some time later, in the 19th, 20th or 21st Dynasty (opinions vary). Bell suggests that this entry may be related to the reburial of royal mummies and resulted in Tiye being moved to KV35. It was during this entry that Akhenaten's name and likeness were attacked where it could be found.[84] The mummy itself was relatively unmolested: the wrappings were undisturbed but royal insignia were removed and various gold items were left behind including the gold vulture collar on the head of the mummy. Bell suggests feelings toward Akhenaten had softened by this time resulting in a "nameless king but still a consecrated pharaoh".[85] Others suggest that after desecrating Akhenaten's burial, including perhaps the destruction of his mummy, Smenkhkare was placed in Akhenaten's coffin.[86]


Perhaps no one from the Amarna Interlude has been the subject of so much speculation as Smenkhkare.[87] There is just enough evidence to say with some certainty that he is an individual apart from Neferneferuaten, but not of a coregency or a sole reign. As a result, Egyptologists move him about like a pawn as their larger hypothesis requires. He can be proposed as Zannanza (Gabolde) or Nefertiti in disguise (Reeves, Samson, Habicht). He can reign for weeks or years. He is a short lived coregent with no independent reign (Dodson) or he is Akhenaten's successor (Allen).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Clayton, P., Chronicle of the Pharaohs (Thames and Hudson, 2006) p.120
  2. Aidan Dodson, "Amarna Sunset:the late-Amarna succession revisited" in Beyond the Horizon. Studies in Egyptian Art, Archaeology and History and history in Honour of Barry J. Kemp, ed. S. Ikram and A. Dodson, pp.31–32 Cairo, 2009.
  3. de Garies Davies, N. 1905. The Rock Tombs of El Amarna, Part II: The Tombs of Panehesy and Meryra II. Archaeological Survey of Egypt. F. L. Griffith. London: Egypt Exploration Fund.
  4. Dodson, A. (2009) p 34
  5. Krauss, R. (1978) p 43-47
  6. Allen, J. (1988)
  7. Gabolde, M. (1998) pp 147–62, 213–219
  8. Dodson A. and Hilton D. (2004) p.285
  9. Miller, J. (2007) p 272
  10. Miller, J. (2007) p 272; To wit: Allen (1994); Gabolde (1998); Eaton-Krauss and Krauss(2001); Hornung (2006); von Beckerath (1997); Allen (2006); Krauss (2007); Murnane (2001)
    They otherwise hold very different views on the succession, chronology and identity of Neferneferuaten.
  11. e.g. Murnane, J. The End of the Amarna Period Once Again (2001); Allen, J. 1998, 2006; Gabolde, M. Das Ende der Amarnazeit (2001); Hornung, E. (2006); Miller, J. (2007), p 274 n 96, 97, 98; Dodson A. (2009), p 36.
  12. Rock Tombs of El Amarna II, pag 43, 5 MERYRA REWARDED BY KING SE-AA-KA-RA
  13. Lepsius - missing cartouches of Saakare
  14. Globular vase with the cartouches of Akhenaten and Smenkhkare
  15. Smenkhkare
  16. Monuments Egyptiens
  17. MEEF 40 Frankfort, H, Pendlebury The City of Akhenaton II, Plate L, 29
  18. MEEF 44.2 Pendlebury, The City of Akhenaton III, Plate CXII, IV E 9
  19. Allen, J. 2006 p 2
  20. Pendlebury, J. D. S. The City of Akhenaten (1951), Part III, vol II, pl 86
  21. Pendlebury, J. D. S. The City of Akhenaten (1951), Part III, pl lxxxvi and xcvii
  22. Flinders Petrie, Tell El Amarna - Plate XV
  23. Petrie, 1894 pl xv
  24. Pendlebury, 1951
  25. Dodson A. (2006) p 31-32; also Pendlebury, 1951 PIs. XIII C. XLIV. 1, 2
  26. A.H. Gardiner, The Graffito from the Tomb of Pere; JEA 14 (1928), pp. 10–11 and pls. 5–6.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Reeves, C. 1990b
  28. Dodson, A. 1992 and 2009 p 41
  29. Britannica entry for Smenkhkare; retrieved Dec 2012
  30. Murnane, W. (1977) pp. 213–15
  31. 31.0 31.1 Allen, J. (2006) p 3
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 James P. Allen, "The Amarna Succession" in Causing His Name to Live: Studies in Egyptian Epigraphy and History in Memory of William J. Murnane, ed. P. Brand and L. Cooper. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East 37. Leiden: E. J. Brill Academic Publishers, 2006
  33. Allen, A. (2006) p 1-2
  34. Dodson, A. (2009) p 42
  35. Reeves, C. (2001) p 167-168
  36. Dodson, A. (2009); p 43
  37. Petrie, W. (1894) pp 42–44
  38. Duhig, Corinne. "The remains of Pharaoh Akhenaten are not yet identified: comments on 'Biological age of the skeletonized mummy from Tomb KV55 at Thebes (Egypt)' by Eugen Strouhal" in Anthropologie: International Journal of the Science of Man Vol 48 Issue 2 (2010), pp 113–115.
  39. Dodson, A. (2006) p 27-29
  40. Allen, James P. (1994). Nefertiti and Smenkh-ka-re. Göttinger Miszellen 141. pp. 7–17
  41. Allen, J. 2006, p. 14, also n. 61
  42. Giles, F. 2001; also Aldred 1988
  43. Dodson, A. 2006, p 29
  44. Meyvis, Ludo. "New light on the life of Nefertiti". Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  45. Van der Perre, Athena (2012). Seyfried, Friederike (ed.). In the Light of Amarna : 100 Years of the Nefertiti discovery. Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. pp. 196–197. ISBN 978-3-86568-848-4.
  46. A. van der Perre, "The Year 16 graffito of Akhenaten in Dayr Abū Ḥinnis. A Contribution to the Study of the Later Years of Nefertiti." Journal of Egyptian History(JEH) 7 (2014), pp.72–73 & 76–77
  47. Miller, J. (2007)
  48. Miller, J. (2007) p 261
  49. Miller, J. (2007) p 275
  50. 50.0 50.1 Miller, J. (2007) p 273 n92
  51. Reeves, C.N. (2001) pp. 176–177
  52. Miller, J. (2007) p 260-261. Miller believes Suppiluliuma was indeed that "brutal [and] unscrupulous"
  53. Bryce, T. R. (1990) p 105
  54. Newberry, P. E. (1927) p 196
  55. Miller, J.; (2007) p 262
  56. Allen, J.; 2006 p 5
  57. Dodson, A. (2009) p 39
  58. Miller, J. (2007) p 275, to wit: Krauss, R. 1997:247; 2007 and Hornung, E. 2006:207
  59. Miller, J. (2007) p 275
  60. Davis, T.M. The Tomb of Queen Tiyi, (KMT Communications, 1990) p. xii
  61. Davis, T.M., The Tomb of Queen Tiyi, (KMT Communications, 1990) p. viii, p. xiv
  62. Aldred, C. (1988) p. 205
  63. Giles, F. J. (2001)
  64. Filer, J. 2001 p 4
  65. 65.0 65.1 Strouhal, E. "Biological age of skeletonized mummy from Tomb KV 55 at Thebes" in Anthropologie: International Journal of the Science of Man Vol 48 Issue 2 (2010), pp 97–112. Dr. Strouhal examined KV55 in 1998, but the results were apparently delayed and perhaps eclipsed by Filer's examination in 2000. Strouhal's findings were published in 2010 to dispute the Hawass et al conclusions.
  66. Wente, E. 1995
  67. Nature 224 (1974), 325f.
  68. Hawass, Z., Y. Z. Gad, et al. "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family". Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 2010.
  69. Hawass, Gad, 2010; eAppendix; Details of Methods, Results, and Comment
  70. Hawass, Z., Y. Z. Gad, et al. in JAMA, fig 2
  71. Zahi Hawass. "King Tut's Family Secrets". National Geographic. p. 6.
  72. "News from the Valley of the Kings: DNA Shows that KV55 Mummy Probably Not Akhenaten". 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  73. Nature 472, 404–406 (2011); Published online 27 April 2011; Original link
  74.; January, 2011; Royal Rumpus over King Tutankhamun's Ancestry
  75. JAMA 2010; 303(24):2471–2475. "King Tutankhamun’s Family and Demise"
  76. 76.0 76.1 Bickerstaffe, D. The King is dead. How Long Lived the King? in Kmt vol 22, n 2, Summer 2010.
  77. Duhig, Corinne. "The remains of Pharaoh Akhenaten are not yet identified: comments on 'Biological age of the skeletonised mummy from Tomb KV55 at Thebes (Egypt)' by Eugen Strouhal" in Anthropologie: International Journal of the Science of Man, Vol 48 Issue 2 (2010) pp 113–115. (subscription) "It is essential that, whether the KV55 skeleton is that of Smenkhkare or some previously-unknown prince... the assumption that the KV55 bones are those of Akhenaten be rejected before it becomes "received wisdom".
  78. Who’s the Real Tut? retrieved Nov 2012
  79. Brenda J. Baker (June 24, 2010). "KV55 mummy not Akhenaten". Archeology News Network. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  80. Strouhal KV55 1998/2010 p111 Conclusions
  81. Moran (1992) 107–119
  82. 82.0 82.1 Giles, F. J. (1970) p 101-105
  83. Bell, M.R. "An Armchair Excavation of KV 55", JARCE 27 (1990) p. 133
  84. 84.0 84.1 Bell, M. R. (1990) p 133-135
  85. Bell, M.R. (1990) p. 137
  86. Perepelkin, Y. The Secret of the Gold Coffin (1978) p163-164
  87. Dodson, A. (2009); p 30



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