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KV55 Mummy
Akhenaten or Smenkhkare
KV55 Mummy

The skeletonized mummy from KV55.

Dynasty 18th Dynasty
Titles Pharaoh
King's Son
Father Amenhotep III
Mother Tiye
Spouse(s) KV35YL
Issue Tutankhamun
Burial KV55 (reburial)

The KV55 Male Mummy are the skeletonized remains of a mummified Pharaoh discovered in 1907 by Edward Ayrton in the KV55 rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The mummy is that of a male pharaoh who ruled during the Amarna Period and thus most likely belongs to either Akhenaten or Smenkhkare. The mummy has the inventory number CG 61075.[1]


Main article: KV55


Coffin in which the KV55 mummy was found.©Hans Ollermann

A single gilded coffin was found in the KV55 tomb containing the mummy. The coffin was originally made for a woman and only later adapted to accommodate a king, through alterations to its inscriptions and the addition of a false beard, a uraeus and the royal scepters (crook and flail).[2] It is also recognized that the four canopic jars discovered near the coffin belonged to Akhenaten's secondary wife Kiya, and that the female heads on the stoppers of the jars portray her. Like the coffin, the canopic jars were altered for the burial of a king through the erasure of Kiya's titulary and the addition of a royal uraeus to each portrait head. It is now widely accepted that the coffin was originally intended for Kiya.[2]

All personal names inscribed on the coffin and the canopic jars were excised in antiquity, rendering the identity of the human remains inside the coffin a matter of long debate.


Over the past century, the candidates for this unknown Amarna Pharaoh have been either Akhenaten or Smenkhkare.[2][3][4]

Evidence that the occupant of the coffin was Akhenaten is provided by the four magical bricks found inside the tomb. Whereas the age determination of the skeletonized mummy itself argues against such an identification,[5] favoring Smenkhkare as its identity despite that fact that his name is not attested in the tomb.

Since the KV55 tomb strongly suggested that Queen Tiye was interred here at some time, the mummy was initially believed to be hers.[2] But when anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith examined the skull and bones in Cairo a few months later he concluded that they were those of a young male, with wide hips, a pendent chin, and distorted cranium brought on by chronic hydrocephalus.[2] The age of death he estimated as being around 25 years[2] although he later suggested the possibility that the body had suffered from Frölich's syndrome which delayed normal skeletal maturation.[2] These results were seen to support the initial claims by Weigall, Maspero and Smith, based on other evidence found in the tomb (see above) that the body was that of Akhenaten.[2]


Left side view of the KV55 mummy's skull.

Later re-examinations of the remains confirmed Smith's original identification of the mummy as belonging to a young male (although with feminine trends)[6] but pushed the estimated age of death back to around 20 years.[7] These re-examinations also indicated that the body showed no signs of delayed maturation,[2] and that, while the skull was of unusual shape, it certainly wasn't abnormal,[6] and showed no indication of hydrocephalus.[2] Reconstruction of the facial features of the skull also indicated that there was no resemblance with Akhenaten's representation on his monuments.[6][2][8] It must be remembered though, that Akhenaten's representations are highly stylised. After the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun a close resemblance was noted between his mummy and the body found in KV55 and later tests showed both shared the same blood-group (A2) and serum antigen (MN), all of which suggests Tutankhamun and the individual found in KV55 were closely related to each other,[7] either as father and son, or brothers. Based on these results it was concluded that the KV55 body was too young to be Akhenaten and they were seen to support the claim that the mummy was that of Smenkhkare, an idea first proposed by Rex Engelbach in 1931.[2]

Before February 2010, it was pointed out that the reliability of methods to assess the age of death for mummies in general was uncertain.[9] For these reasons the correctness of the age estimates was repeatedly called into question.[10][11][12][13] Several studies estimated the mummy to be of a man who died around age 25–26; beside Smith, Douglas E. Derry and Ronald G. Harrison both came to this conclusion.[14] John R. Harris in the late 1980s offered 35 years as its age, while Joyce Filer in the early 2000s suggested early 20s.[14] Elsewhere, an analysis of the skeletal remains based on dentition and X-rays of the long bones indicated 35 years.[15][16] Finally, examinations using CT-scans from the late 2000s, published in 2010 and 2016, showed the mummy to have died between age 35–45, which the examiners believe supports the theory that the mummy is Akhenaten's.[14] The archaeological, inscriptional, and now genetic evidence indicate that the ancient Egyptians who buried (and later desecrated) the body in KV55 believed this to be Akhenaten's.[17][10][18] However, a number of experts dispute these findings, claiming that Hawass et al. have not provided sufficient evidence to assume the older age at death.[5] In fact, the original 2010 paper only cites a single point of spinal degeneration, while other analyses, such as Strouhal's[5] cite multiple indicators for a younger age.

Further supporting an identification with Smenkhkare; the KV55 mummy does not seem to be the father of the female mummy KV21a. The latter has been identified as the mother of the two foetuses (very closely related) found in Tutankhamun's tomb, thus probably making her Ankhesenamun, the known daughter of Akhenaten and the only known wife of Tutankhamun.

In March 2021, the results of a new forensic facial reconstruction were released.[19]

See also[]


  1. Habicht et al. 2016.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Davis 1990.
  3. Aldred 1988, p. 205.
  4. Gabolde 2009, figs. 2-6.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Strouhal 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Aldred 1988, p. 201.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Aldred 1988, p. 201-202.
  8. Harrison 1966, p. 113.
  9. Gabolde 2009, p. 14.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bell 1990, p. 135.
  11. Aldred 1988, p. 202.
  12. Reeves 1990, p. 49.
  13. Gabolde 2009, p. 16.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Hawass & Saleem 2016.
  15. Reeves 2001, p. 84.
  16. Fletcher 2004, p. 180.
  17. Hawass 2010.
  18. Gabolde 2009.
  19. Galassi et al. 2021, link.


  • Aldred, C., 1988: Akhenaten, King of Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Bell, M.R., 1960: An Armchair Excavation of KV 55. JARCE 27.
  • Davis, T.M., 1990: The Tomb of Queen Tiyi. KMT Communications.
  • Fletcher, J., 2004: The Search for Nefertiti. William Morrow.
  • Gabolde, M., 2009: Under a Deep Blue Starry Sky. Causing His Name to Live: Studies in Egyptian Epigraphy and History in Memory of William J. Murnane.
  • Galassi, F.M./Habicht, M.E./Varotto, E./Moraes, C., 2021: FAPAB KV 55 Akhenaton media release (March 8th 2021). FAPAB media release.
  • Habicht, M./Rühli, F./Bouwman, A., 2016: Identification of Ancient Egyptian Royal Mummies from the 18th Dynasty reconsidered. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
  • Harrison, R.G., 1966: An Anatomical Examination of the Pharaonic Remains Purported to Be Akhenaten. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 52.
  • Hawass, Z., (et al.) 2010: Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family. The Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Hawass, Z./Saleem, S.N., 2016: Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies. The American University in Cairo Press.
  • Reeves, C.N., 1990: The Valley of the Kings. Kegan Paul.
  • Reeves, C.N., 2001: Akhenaten, Egypt's False Prophet Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Strouhal, E., 2010: Biological Age of Skeletonized Mummy from Tomb KV 55 at Thebes. Anthropologie (1962-), Vol. 48 (2).