Debate continues over the ownership of the KV53 tomb in the Valley of the Kings, writes Zahi Hawass
In 1905-1906, US archaeologist Edward Ayrton, who was sponsored by the American millionaire Theodore Davis, found six tombs in the Valley of the Kings, KV48 to 53. The first five tombs contained animal bones, and it was therefore believed that these tombs were built for the pharaoh Amenhotep II’s pets.
Over time, sand covered some of the tombs, including KV53, and they were lost. However, an Egyptian expedition led by the present writer was later able to relocate KV53 during a search for lost tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
The square shaft of the tomb leads to a relatively small rectangular chamber. In his original account, Ayrton wrote that the tomb had been robbed. The only object of note found was a piece of stone bearing the name of a man called Huri, who was the “overseer of scribes in the palace of justice,” meaning the royal Theban necropolis.
This might have indicated that Huri was the tomb’s owner. Archaeologist Nicholas Reeves writes that a stela for the goddess Meretseger was also found in KV53. Our team found other objects in the tomb, including pottery shards, fragments of linen and pieces of wood that might have been part of a coffin.
The Egyptian expedition also found four wonderful canopic jar lids. The lids were in the form of human heads with eyebrows and eyes in black paint and a hieroglyphic sign engraved on the top of each head in order to identify it. A v-shaped object made of gold was also found in the tomb, together with an amphora dating back to 1400-1300 BCE.
However, the most important discovery in KV53 was the human remains: bones and three human skulls were found in the burial chamber. Study of the remains showed that three people were buried in KV53: a man aged 45 at the time of his death, a second man who died at the age of 20, and a woman who died at 23.
We believe that the older man is the owner of the tomb, while the young man and woman could be his son and daughter. However, the identity of those buried in KV53 is still the subject of debate. The tomb is dated to the 18th Dynasty.