The biography of Ankhesenamun, queen of Egypt during the empire of Tutankhamon, is a sequence of tangled enigmas for all those people passionate about Egyptology. The reason falls within the “Damnatio Memoriae” of her and Tutankhamon’s father, Akhenaton. Because of his Amarna monotheistic heresy, they decided to cover up his deeds, fate that later was shared by the grandfather Ay as well, Tutankhamon’s successor to the throne.

Underneath, the tutankhamon’s throne discovered by Howard Carter representing the Pharaon and the Queen

Image shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The queen Ankhesenamun was born in Amarna in 1348 BC, city founded by her father, along the banks of the Nile river. Her Royal career begins here, when she becomes wife of her own father Akhenaton himself. When dad/husband died (1334/1333 BC), Ankhesenamun moved to a new union this time with her brother Tutankhamon. She became his one and only (as far as we know) Royal bride, with whom she had two children born dead.

Above: statue of Akhenaton to the temple of Karnak. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Certainties about Ankhesenamun’s curious events stops here

Although unsure, trying to recreate what really happened to this very peculiar Egyptian queen more than 3,300 years ago is however fascinating.

We know that Ankhesenamun was an adolescent 13 years old girl when she got married to her stepbrother Tutankhamon and he was only 8. We know that prior this episode, she had been married to their mutual father and after Tutankhamon’s death, she got probably forced to marry her grandfather Ay. It seems that this last husband commissioned her murder in order for him to come back to his previous wife, Tey. Another hypothesis is that she got killed for having tried to set up a marriage with the archenemy of Egypt the Hittites, asking to the king Šuppiluliuma I to provide a son so that they could get married. According to this version, Ankhesenamun wrote down a letter (found in Hattuša) saying:

“My spouse has died, leaving me without any heir. By all accounts you have several sons. If you agree on sending one of them over, I will make him my husband. I will never accept to wed one of my servants, and I am afraid..“

Under, from a Tutankhamon’s tomb paintings: the Pharaon Ay while celebrating the “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony on Tutankhamon. Public Domain picture

Perhaps Šuppiluliuma I feared this to be a scam, so he left time for Ay (whom at that point was sixty-nine years old) to organise his own accession to power as a new Pharaon. He abruptly set Tutankhamon’s funeral in motion. He officiated the event in order to obtain the power as a new Pharaon legitimately.

When the Hittites king decided to sent one of his sons over, whose name was Zananza, it was too late.

Ay was already on the throne and the foreign boy got killed.

Once the war for the succession was over, for which there is not complete certainty (some people theorise that it was Nefertiti, Ankhesenamun and Tutankhamon’s mother and Akhenaton’s wife who asked for a son to the king of the Hittites), Ankhesenamun died shortly afterwards. This happened around 1322 BC when she was just twenty-six years old, certainly before the end of Ay’s dynasty.

Under: copy of a scene from Ay’s tomb KV23. He is represented besides the Queen (presumably Tey as the cartouche cannot contain Ankhesenamun’s name )

In the book “Tutankhamun And The Golden Age Of The Pharaohs” Zahi Hawass, once Minister for Antiquities Affairs, states the the queen could have had a certain pleasurable time during her marriage with Tutankhamon. According to the pictures inside the king’s grave, it all suggests that the two would love each other dearly. We can assume such a thing by looking at the queen standing in front of her husband while he gives to her some flowers an she accompanies him when out hunting.

Under, from a cover of a case found inside Tutankhamon’s tomb: Tutankhamon while receiving some flowers from his partner Ankhesenamun as a token of love. Public Domain picture

Since the beginning of the Ay’s reign,the young Ankhesenamun disappears from any type of log. The only evidence which suggests her union with the old Pharaon would be a ring that carries the names of both. Unfortunately though this could also be an artefact coming from the burial of Tutankhamon.

The only way that would made possible to retrace the entire story of the girl would we finding her own grave

Above: picture sharede by Ad Meskens/Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

There is no trace of Ankhesenamun either in Tutankhamon and in Ay’s tomb, therefore it is almost impossible to be precise on what her fate happened to be after the death of her contemporary husband. What made things even harder was the successor Horemheb, that after the kingdom of Ay tried to delete with the aid of the Damnatio Memoriae all that had happened during his time in charge. Zahi Hawass team is searching in the “Valley of the Monkeys“, area in which the Pharaon Ay has been buried. They hope to find some burial chambers which would help them clarify this mysterious part of history.

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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