Archaeologists’ ‘incredibly rare’ discovery inside Tutankhamun’s tomb

Tutankhamun: Expert discusses archaeologist Howard Carter

It has been just over 100 years since Tutankhamun’s lost tomb was rediscovered.

Howard Carter, the British Egyptologist, had long studied the ancient greats and was aware that there was a name missing in Ancient Egypt’s history.

Many of the great pharaohs’ tombs in the Valley of the Kings had already been opened and plundered by the time Carter arrived.

Yet when he finally stumbled on King Tut’s resting place, everything was buried as it had been in 1922.

His tomb had been missed by archaeologists and gravediggers, and a whopping 5,000 items were found inside, including the mystery remains of two mummified individuals, who were stored away for later genetic identification when the technology permitted.

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The remains, those of extremely small children, were called 317a and 317b, and each had almost identical coffins but varied in size.

Each was explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Secrets: Tut’s Last Mission’, in which the results of the DNA analysis were laid bare.

Genetic assessments showed that the babies, both girls, were most likely to be Tutankhamun’s stillborn daughters.

While one was around four months old, another was nearly full-term.

Deaths among infants were extremely common in the ancient world so it isn’t a surprise Tutankhamun experienced such tragedy.

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Yet, as Professor Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, noted: “It is extraordinary to have them carefully mummified, wrapped up, cocooned, put in these coffins and placed in their father’s tomb.”

Such tiny mummies are, the documentary’s narrator explained, an “incredibly rare discovery”, and while there is no certain way to account for their presence inside the tomb, one Egyptologist believes to know the answer.

Dr Joyce Tyldesley, a reader and academic in Egyptology at The University of Manchester, said the girls could well have been an insurance policy.

People in Ancient Egypt were desperate to make sure their journey into the afterlife — Duat — went without a hitch.

To do this, those who could afford it stuffed their tombs and coffins with items to protect them in their voyage.

If one item failed to help them on their way, another would be called upon to defeat the “demons” and “dark souls”.

“Tutankhamun was very wealthy, he could have dug a grave for his daughters anytime he wanted to,” explained Dr Tyldesley.

“So the fact that their bodies have been saved and buried with him suggests that it perhaps is not just a practical reason, but there’s a ritual reason for them being there as well.”

Females were often portrayed as the “protectors” in Egyptian culture and would stand alongside their fathers as guards in intricate artwork.

Because of this, Dr Tyldesley believes the mummified girls were less token items and more active participants in Tutankhamun’s journey to the Underworld.

She said: “By being either physically in the boat with Tutankhamun or just having their spirits supporting him while he’s in the boat, Tutankhamun will be protected by these two daughters.”

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