Original Documents

Home Addtopics Submenu
Ayrton Report - The Tomb of Thyi I and II
By E.R. Ayrton
Mehr KMT
German: Huje
The Tomb of Thyi I
The Tomb of Thyi II
The Three Initial Signs of Tutankhamun
How Ayrton Missed a Great Discovery
Many Faces

Yuya's Article

The Tomb of Thyi - Part I

The work or Mr. Davis and myself in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings at Thebes has again been crowned with success, and has resulted in the discovery of the tomb of Thyi, one of the most interesting queens of Egyptian history, the wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhnaton.

It is situated deep below the present level of the valley, slightly to the South of, and in the same hill as that of Ramses IX (Nefer-ka-ra).

The plan is simple; a flight of well-cut steps leads to a corridor which openes into a Edward Russel Ayrton, 1882-1914 large room with a small side-chamber in the South wall. This room was originally covered with white stucco but left unpainted. Fragments of a large wooden coffin lie on the floor are against the walls, whilst on one side is the royal mummy under a cartonage (shaped to the figure) of exquisite workmanship, inlaid with various stones in gold mounts. The surface of the large coffin was originally covered with scenes of the Aten worship, and was made for the "Royal mother and Great royal wife Thyi" by Akhnaton. Besides a few broken boxes this is the only furniture in the tomb.

Unfortunately the whole of the woodwork and stucco is so fragile that it crumbles under the touch, and we have consequently been unable to move anything. The whole contents of the tomb are therefore being photographed before we attempt to handle or preserve them in any way.

The two halves of the door of the room were covered with gold leaf, and, like the coffin, ornamented with the scene of Aten worship. Four very fine alabaster canopic jars are in the side-chamber and a few stone kohl-pots are scattered about the floor, but of other small objects the tomb is practically destitute.

The cartouches of Akhenaten have been erased on the furniture, but those of Thyi and Amenhotep III remain intact.

The outer door had been sealed by the priests of Amen, but had been broken into later and then roughly closed again. This probably took place after the decay of the Aten worship, and was done with the object of erasing the cartouches of Akhnaton.

It has, till now, been generally supposed that Thyi was buried at Tell el Amarna, or in the Western Valley at Thebes, and the finding of her tomb here has been a complete surprise. [End of Article as it appeared in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, February 13, 1907, pp. 86,87.]

The Tomb of Thyi - Part II

Thebes, although a place of no small importance from the earliest times, reached its zenith of splendor and power under the Pharaohs of the XVIIIth, XIXth, and XXth dynasties; great temples rose on both banks of the Nile, and the kings vied with one another in building these superb monuments. It is but natural that such monarchs should not be content to be buried amongst the subjects in the vast cemetery that occupies the whole of the desert on the Western side of Thebes, but should seek some separate place in which to excavate their last dwelling on this earth.

The Nile valley is bounded on each side by high desert plateaux, and on the Western side this ends in an abrupt precipice on the edge of the desert. This plateau is intersected by huge wadis, which for untold centuries have led down to the Nile valley the accumulated rainfall of the upper desert. Such a wadi is the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings (or, to give it its Arabic name, the Biban al Moluk), which, beginning as a tiny crevice high on the plateau behind Deir el Bahri, opens as a wide channel into the Nile valley nearly opposite to Karnak, which lies on the other side of the river, after having been joined by the other similar gullies, the Western valley and another which is unnamed.

The Biban el Moluk and the Western valley were the places chosen by the great rulers of Thebes for their last resting-place.

The Upper or Southern end of the Biban el Moluk, in which the majority of the tombs are situated, has for some years formed the site of Mr. Davis' excavations.

Each season has borne its fruit - the tombs of Hathshepsut, Thotmes IV, Iuaa and Thuaa, Siptah, and, lately, the tomb of Queen Thyu, of which I shall now speak more fully.

In the winter of 1906-7 our work commenced by digging near, and to the North of, the tomb of Rameses IX (Nefer-ka-ra) in a large mound of limestone chippings, which had been thrown here by the sculptors of the tomb of Rameses V and VI. We removed the greater part of this rubbish, digging down to the face of the solid rock, as is our usual method in the valley. We had but few hopes of finding a tomb here, however, since our pits were sunk so close to the tomb of Rameses IX that there scarcely seemed any room for another burial, We, however, persevered, knowing well that in such excavations the unexpected happens only too frequently; and we were certainly amply rewarded, for at some feet below the level of the pathway we came upon a square-cut corner in the rock, and shortly afterwards found the corresponding one on the other side. To avoid the removal of more rubbish than was absolutely necessary, in case this should be an unfinished tomb, we placed some workmen at the point at which we supposed the first of the flight of steps descending into the tomb would lie, and commenced to sink a pit there. The men presently found a staircase cut in the rock leading downwards, and we now decided to remove all the rubbish above the entrance, and shortly afterwards had it completely cleared.

As will be seen this tomb is considerably below the level of the tomb of Ramses IX, and also below the present water-level of the valley. We therefore feared that we should find the interior damaged by rain-water from the torrents which periodically course down the valley.

After a little more digging to remove all loose and dangerous debris above the mouth of the pit, we cleared away the blocking of rough limestone chips which had closed the first doorway, and entered a long corridor. This was found blocked by a huge tray of wood covered with gold-leaf, which we afterwards found was the lid of a great square wooden coffin. On this lay one half of a wooden door, with a design in gilt stucco on its surface, showing a queen standing worshipping a sun-disk from which extended hands holding the symbol of life. We now knew that the burial must belong to the el Amarna period. Under a great fragment of limestone which lay on the door we could just distinguish the edge of a cartouche. Beneath this stone we hoped to read what would perhaps be the only clue that we should ever have to the identity of the occupant of this tomb.

With the greatest possible care we raised the stone, and moving our light backwards and forwards to obtain the best lighting on the hieroglyphs, we were able to read the name of the wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten - Queen Thyi.

Carrying electric lights, we advanced towards the door at the further and of the corridor and looked into the burial chamber. Here we saw a scene of unexpected disorder, and it was some time before we could make out the position of the various objects.

Immediately in front of us, reaching down from the doorway to the floor of the room, was a long slope of limestone fragments, on which lay beams of wood covered with gold-leaf, and the other half of the door of which we had already found a part in the first corridor. Climbing down these chippings, we made a detailed survey of the objects in the room.

Propped against the walls and lying on the floor were the remains of an immense wooden shrine, originally covered with gold-leaf, on which had been worked the scenes of sun-worship usual to this period. Almost all the gold had slipped from the upright pieces of wood, and lay in a crumpled mass on the floor, but fortunately one end of the shrine was lying flat. On this, on a ground of gold-leaf, was a scene in which the king, Akhenaten, followed by Queen Thyi, makes offerings to the Aten disk the rays from which are terminated by hands, some of which offer the symbol of life to the king and queen, while others touch the offerings placed before it. We learn from the fragments that this shrine was made for Queen Thyi by her son Akenaten.

Against the West wall, however, lay what we were looking for. Here had originally stood a four-legged couch, bearing the coffin of the queen. The legs of this couch had given way, allowing the coffin to drop to the floor below. The lid had fallen in, breaking in two halves and forcing the mummy out to one side.

The lid itself had been a beautiful piece of work, made of wood and Tomb findsmodeled slightly to the human form; the lower part had been covered with gold-leaf, and the inlaid with carnelian and coloured glass to give the impression of a feathered robe. Down the centre ran a line of inlaid hieroglyphs with an erased cartouche, The mummy had been wrapped in plates of gold, but was, itself, so disintegrated by the action of water, that only the bones remained in a fit state to be moved.

On the head of the skeleton lay a crown of gold. It is in the form of a vulture grasping the emblem of eternity in either claw; the tail was worn over the forehead, and, by catching the weight of the coffin lid, prevented the skull from being completely crushed. The feathers and other details are incised on the surface, and two rings at the extremities of the wings are probably joined by a pin. Round the neck of the mummy had been a necklace, consisting of a row of plaques of gold inlaid with stone, and below this four rows of hollow gold drops, the four strings being attached at each end to a lotus flower of gold, inlaid with stone.

On each arm were three broad bracelets of this gold.

But yet more surprises were in store for us. We had, on entering, noticed that, in an alcove above the coffin, were standing the four canopic jars. We now proceeded to examine them more closely, and found that though the bodies of the vases were of plain alabaster and contained the decomposed vicera of the deceased, the lids were most beautifully carved in the shape of a queen's head; the eyes being inlaid with glass or obsidian, with copper eyelids and lapis lazuli eyebrows. There had also been an uraeus over the forehead, but this had in each case been broken off. Numerous other smaller objects were found in the tomb. In the broken remains of a large box at the head of the coffin were one hundred and fifty-six small glazed objects connected with religious ceremonies for the next world. Vases for ointment, model papyrus rolls, wands to protect against snake bites, and two typical figures of the god Bes bearing dishes in their hands. But the gem of this collection is the small figure of a girl, who carries on her shoulder a comparatively large vase. Like the other objects, this figure is made of a green-glazed composition, with the exception of her hair, which is brown. In the same box were also numerous sacred eyes and bunches of grapes of the same green glaze, probably belonging to a necklace.

The upper part of an uraeus in copper, inlaid with gold and inscribed with the cartouches of the Aten on the breast, is of fine work, and was found in the rubbish on the floor.

In the further corner of the room were the remains of a similar box, which had contained the instruments for the "ceremony of the opening of the mouth" of the deceased. Here were two instruments called pesh-en-kef , in the form like two ostrich feathers bound together; one of these bore the queen's name. The handle of a chisel used in the ceremony, the four blocks of alabaster used in the ceremony to cool the lips after the chisel had done its work, and some flint knives; also two red pebbles, by contact with which the lips regained their colour.

In the ceremony of the "opening of the mouth" are described four pieces of Baa, with which the mouth and eyes of the deceased are to be touched. This word has generally been translated "iron," but as our four pieces of alabaster are certainly to be identified with the "Baa of the North and South" of this ceremony, we see that the word must mean alabaster in this case at least. This is a strong proof of M.Naville's assertion in `PSBA, June, 1907, p. 234-5, that the word , which is probably the same word, should be translated "alabaster." Several small objects were found scattered about the tomb, among them a gold rosette and a small gold pendant in the shape of a lotus flower. In the corridor near the entrance was the blade of a small copper engraving tool.

In each corner of the room was a mud block inscribed with a prayer and an erased cartouche.

It will probably be no news to my readers that the skeleton found in the tomb has been pronounced by Dr. Elliot-Smith, of Cairo, to be that of a young man of about twenty years of age. The subject will receive further consideration, but in any case, the discovery of a burial of this character cannot be devoid of interest. [End of Article as published in PSBA, November 13, 1907, pp. 277-281.]

Miscellaneous Report

The annexed Plate is from a photograph of a slab, PSBA image with small contrast enhancement addedwhich I found last winter lying in one of the Courts of the Temple of Luxor representing Khuenaten (Akhnaton), the heretic king of the XVIIIth dynasty, receiving from the Sun's rays, which end in hands, ankhs and User scepters, emblems of life and power. With it I found a number of small fragments inscribed with the king's name in cartouches.

Similar slabs have been often illustrated, but the chief interest of this example lies in its being found in Luxor Temple. It seems probable that all the fragments must have been removed there from some other building - perhaps from the tomb at Thebes, which was opened by the late Mr. Villiers Stuart. [By Rev. Dr. Colin Campbell, PSBA, May 9, 1906, p. 156. CIAS: I could not discern a `User scepter' ending perhaps due to damage.]

The Three Initial Signs of the Existence of Pharaoh Tutankhamun

Another series of reports, which were not written by Ayrton but by Reeves, states that the retired American lawyer and patron Theodore Davis had his

  1. first brush with Tutankhamun in 1905/06, when Ayrton brought to light a small faience cup bearing the king's prenomen, which he had discovered `under a rock' not far from the private tomb #48. The
  2. second brush with King Tut came with the discovery of Pit 54 in 1907, where they discovered embalming and other debris associated with the king's burial. On January 10, 1909, a
  3. third find was made: a small, undecorated chamber (#58) containing a fine calcite shabti figure and several fragments of gold foil and other fittings stripped from one or more chariots and from harness originally buried in Tomb 23 (that of Ay). The gold bore the names of both, Tutankhamun and of Ay, the latter is a commoner and (supposedly) a pharaoh, and at once became confused in Davis's mind with the blue faience cup and the contents of Pit 54.

Davis concluded that he had found the tomb of Tutankhamun himself (with tomb 23) and that being so, he opined, `I fear that the Valley of the Tombs is now exhausted.' - The source presents the map of the locations of these finds except that of tomb 23 which is located in a separate valley just a little less than a mile away from that of Tut's tomb in the East Valley of the Kings. [N. Reeves, The Complete Tutankhamun', p. 37-38.] The map of Ay's tomb (WV23) is shown in Nicholas Reeves, `The Complete Valley of the Kings', in the front pages of the book. It is located near the supposed tomb of Akhnaton (WV25), in which he was not buried for if Akhnaton is Ahab, and we believe he was, then he was buried in Israel and not in Egypt as it is expressly stated in Scripture, 1.Kings 22:37..
Remember the following main burial areas in Egypt: (1) The Theban tombs around Deir el Bahari; (2) Coming from Western Thebes you would get first to the Valley of the Queens. (3) About 3.5 miles away is the most populated and famous East Valley of the Kings, and then just a little less than a mile further is the West Valley of the Kings with tombs 23, 24 and 25. - Distances estimated from the map. Ceram (1915-1972) wondered about the burial of King Tut, ". . . perhaps the most touching by its human simplicity was the tiny wreath of flowers . . . as it pleased us to think, the last farewell offering of the widowed girls queen to her husband, the youthful representative of the `Two Kingdoms'." [Ceram, `Hands on the Past', p. 187.]

The Timing of Important Discoveries

  1. 1840/50's - the discovery of the lion hunting Ashurnasirpal lion hunt photo scenes of Ashurnasirpal.
  2. 1905 the opening of the tomb of Yuya by Ayrton in the employ of Davis and his work person James Quibel.
  3. 1913 the publishing of the short article on the `platter' of Yuya and its interpretation by Gaston Maspero
  4. Perhaps WWI had to do with the circumstance that the 1913 brief article in a magazin with limited cirulation, was ignored.
  5. 1926 the discovery and opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun
  6. 2004 the publishing of `The Many Faces of Ahsurnasirpal and his son' by Damien Mackey.
  7. 2006/2007 the re-discovery of Ashurnasirpal's face close up the 1913 article by Johnny Z from CIAS knowing its importance.
  8. 2007/2008 putting together the pieces of the puzzle: comparing the appearance of Yuya with the appearance of the facial features of Ashurnasirpal, even though not very clear, seems to sufficiently support the written testimony of the `platter' of Yuya.
  9. 2011 (December) the publishing of the article on `Identifying Tutankhamun' by Damien Mackey.
  10. 2012/2013 further support discovered by finding images of additional, somewhat similar plates/platters found independent of `Yuya's platter which may help support to verify that Yuya's platter does belong to the time of Tutankhamun: (1) one published by Petrie, (2) the other published by Seton Lloyd.

Ivory Age Items
German: Huje/Huy
English: Chaemhet 1
Chaemhet 2
How Ayrton Missed a Great Discovery

"Pick something special to show to a VIP," that was the word passed down to Edward Russell Ayrton (12-17-1882 to 05-18-1914, drowned in accident on Lake in southern Ceylon/Sri Lanka, KMT, Summer 2010, Vol. 21, No. 2, p. 77,78), head of the Theodore Davis Expedition digging in 1908 in the Valley of Kings. Luckily, Ayrton had just dug up a number of large storage jars. The first of these (position of find marked by arrow) - had contained a charming face mask. But when Ayrton opened the other jars under the eyes of Sir Eldon Gorst, a visiting fireman, he found nothing but "trifles" - some carefully wrapped chemicals, a few cloths, simple utensils, and several wreaths of once-fresh flowers. The VIP thanked him for an excellent dinner and took no further thought of the finds he had been shown, thereby ignoring one of the most dramatic clues in the history of modern archaeology. For these "trifles" had served, about 2850 years earlier, for the embalming of Tutankhamun, the king who for reasons not yet determined was buried in greater splendor than any ruler before or after him. - Ayrton too put the finds aside, although they bore the seal of Tutankhamnun and therefore should have alerted him to the presence of a royal tomb in the vicinity. When they reached the Metropolitan Museum in New York, they were again ignored. No account of them was published until 1941, 15 years after Tutankhamun's tomb had been opened, the whole world standing agog. Herbert E. Winlock, constrained, because of the war, to "dig" in the museum rather than in Egypt, then reported on them. Thus a connection was finally established between these "routine" finds and the greatest discovery in archaeology." [C.W. Ceram (1915-1972), `The March of Acrhaeology', NY, 1970, p. 135-137. See also Seton Lloyd, The Art of the Ancient Near East', NY, 1963, p. 153 plus images.]

Bible Topics Main Menu Submenu