Archaeologists in Egypt made a discovery that
helped to shed more light on the mysteries surrounding the famous
A team of French archaeologists discovered the
tomb of his wet-nurse in an acropolis at Saqqara, just south of
Cairo. There are many unanswered questions about both the birth
and the death of the 18th Dynasty king, whose golden coffins and
burial treasures have fascinated generations. One of the
archaeologists, Alain Zivie, hoped that the tomb could provide
clues about the identity of Pharaoh Tutankhamun's parents.
Tutankhamun's father is widely believed to have
been the Pharaoh Akhenaten. As for his mother, 'there are all
sorts of theories, but she is not known', said Mr Zivie.
Archaeologists now knew that his wet-nurse was named Maya and
that she was a woman of some stature.
She was found in her own tomb at the Saqqara
burial site for the courtiers and high-ranking officials of
ancient Egypt's New Kingdom, which prevailed from about 1580 BC
to 1090 BC. Most of the pharaohs, Tutankhamun included, were buried
in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. An engraving on the rock wall
shows her holding the boy Tutankhamun, with his pet dog underneath
a chair, flanked by as yet unidentified senior officials.
The young pharaoh's name was written in hieroglyphics,
as was an inscription indicating that Maya was a woman who was
favoured by the pharaoh. By the end of 1997 the archaeologists had
cleared two of the five known chambers. A third was filled with
rubble, and two others were sealed off with masonry.
They had not yet found any gold or funerary objects,
and nor had they found Maya's coffin. This was only the beginning
of the story, according to Zivie. He expected other discoveries to
be made inside the main discovery. 'We can hope that this tomb...
has escaped modern robbers and that we will be able to find interesting
historic and artistic material, but clearly we cannot promise anything'.
The discovery coincided with celebrations marking
seventy-five years since the British explorer Howard Carter found
the tomb of Tutankhamun (see The Tomb of Tutankhamun, via the
sidebar link). The anniversary revived questions about the possibility
that Tutankhamun was murdered before he was twenty years old (since
disproved once and for all - see Tutankhamun Died Hunting).
Egyptologists welcomed the discovery, expecting it
to shed light on this period of political turmoil and religious