Discovery of the KV35 cache

Victor Loret, 1898

While still working in the tomb of Tuthmosis III (discovered on 12th February 1898), Loret set his men to investigate a 'blank' area he had noticed in the Valley of the Kings. By March he was sure that he had discovered another tomb, as his men dug deeper they found that the rock had been carefully chiselled, and by March 8th they had discovered the tomb of a doorway. By evening the next day the doorway had been opened just enough to allow Loret and his foreman entry into the tomb, after crossing the well near the beginning of the tomb with a ladder, they continued into the tomb and came into a room with two pillars at its centre:

I went forward [between the two columns] with my candle and, horrible sight, a body lay there upon the boat, all black and hideous its grimacing face turning towards me and looking at me, its long brown hair in sparse bunches around its head. I did not dream for an instant that this was just an unwrapped mummy. The legs and arms seemed to be bound. A hole exposed the sternum, there was an opening in the skull. Was this a victim of a human sacrifice Was this a thief murdered by his accomplices in a bloody division of the loot, or perhaps he was killed by soldiers or police interrupting the pillaging of the tomb?

Loret and his foreman continued on into the tomb, down a staircase and through two more rooms:

At the bottom the door opened into blackness. We advanced, the light grew greater, and with stupefaction we saw an immense hall entirely decorated, held up by two rows of three pillars on which were painted life-sized groups of a king in the presence of a god. It was really him, Amenhotep II there were his cartouches. There was no more doubt. It was the son of Tuthmosis III. It was the beginning of the strange chronological series that marked my work that winter.

After slowly working his way down into the crypt, Loret finally discovered an imposing sarcophagus:

The sarcophagus was open, but was it empty? I did not dare to hope for the contrary, because royal mummies had never been found in the necropolis of the Valley, all of them having been moved in antiquity to a safe place. I reached the sarcophagus with difficulty being careful not to break anything underfoot. I could partially read the cartouches of Amenhotep II I leant over the edge, bringing the light a little nearer. Victory! A dark coffin lay in the bottom, having at its head a bunch of flowers and at its feet a wreath of leaves . . .

We passed to the rooms on the right. In the first one we entered an unusually strange sight met our eyes: three bodies lay side by side at the back in the left corner, their feet pointing towards the door. The right half of the room was filled with little coffins with mummiform covers and funerary statues of bitumined [resin painted] wood. These statues were contained in the coffins, that the thieves had opened and rejected after having searched in vain for treasures.

We approached the cadavers. The first seemed to be that of a woman. A thick veil covered her forehead and left eye. Her broken arm had been replaced at her side, her nails in the air. Ragged and torn cloth hardly covered her body. Abundant black curled hair spread over the limestone floor on each side of her head. The face was admirably conserved and had a noble and majestic gravity.

The second mummy, in the middle was that of a child of about fifteen years. It was naked with the hands joined on the abdomen. First of all the head appeared totally bald, but on closer examination one saw that the head had been shaved except in an area on the right temple from which grew a magnificent tress of black hair. This was the coiffure of the royal princes [called the Horus lock]. I thought immediately of the royal prince Webensennu, this so far unknown son of Amenophis II whose funerary statue I had noticed in the great hall, and whose canopic fragments I was to find later. The face of the young prince was laughing and mischievous, it did not at all evoke the idea of death.

Lastly the corpse nearest the wall seemed to be that of a man. His head was shaved but a wig lay on the ground not far from him. The face of this person displayed something horrible and something droll at the same time. The mouth was running obliquely from one side nearly to the middle of the cheek, bit a pad of linen whose two ends hung from a corner of the lips. The half closed eyes had a strange expression, he could have died choking on a gag but he looked like a young playful cat with a piece of cloth. Death which had respected the severe beauty of the woman and the impish grace of the boy had turned in derision and amused itself with the countenance of the man.

A remarkable fact was that the three corpses, like the one on the boat, had their skulls pierced with a large hole and the breast of each one was opened.

Loret then examined the one side chamber of the four that he had not examined, the entrance of which had been sealed with limestone blocks, he pulled himself upto the top of the wall where there was an opening:

The room was rather large, three metres by four, the taper hardly illuminated it. I distinguished nevertheless nine coffins laid on the ground, six at the back, occupying all the space, three in the front, leaving to the right a small free space. There was only room in the length of the room for two coffins, in the width for six so that the mummies touched at their head, shoulders and feet. Five coffins had lids, the other four were without. It was not for the moment possible to think of entering the room and looking at the cofflns at closer quarters. I said to myself that they were probably members of the royal family analagous to the two princesses found in the tomb of Tutmothis III. . .

When Loret eventually returned to KV35 (he firstly finished his work in the tomb of Tuthmosis III), he firstly cleared the tomb using a grid system (collecting over 2,000 objects) before he removed the three mummies in the open side chamber. Then he turned to Amenhotep II still in his sarcophagus:

The flowers which garlanded the coffin had already been removed with a process shown to me by Dr Schweinfurth; they were put in damp silk paper and then into cardboard boxes of the right size. In my examination of the coffin I had noticed that the part covering the feet was pierced by a large hole. I slid my hand into the hole and to my great chagrin I found that it was empty. The mummy, had it been taken ~ Was it one of the four that I had just packed up ~ I lifted the lid . . . the mummy was there- smaller than the coffin, it did not reach down to the foot-intact, carrying around the neck a garland of leaves and flowers, on the breast a little bouquet of mimosa which hid the prenomen of Amenhotep II written on the sheet, the name which I later read.

And finally the mysterious walled chamber:

I had been in there alone some days after the discovery, through the narrow aperture. On the other side of the wall I found myself in a very narrow space, and several objects which were hidden from view from outside the wall became apparent . . .

The coffins and the mummies were a uniform grey colour. I leant over the nearest coffin and blew on it to read the name. The grey tint was a layer of dust which flew away and let me read the name and prenomen of Ramesses IV. Was I in the hiding place of royal coffins? I blew away the dust of the second coffin, a cartouche showed itself, illegible for an instant, painted in a matt black on a shiny black ground. I went over to the other coffins, everywhere there were cartouches! Here the name of Siptah, there the names of Seti II further, a long inscription bearing the complete titles of Tuthmosis IV. We had fallen on a royal cache, similar to that of Deir el Bahari. Several people could not be contained in the little room at one time. It was impossible then to lift the covers and examine the mummies nearer to. I contented myself with taking the measurements of the coffins and I gave the order to the Luxor carpenter for nine new cases . . .

Each shroud was photographed, each mummy measured, described, examined in all its details. Some inscriptions were found on the bindings. I copied them patiently, mechanically, without giving myself time to study them in depth. It was thus that I discovered on the mummy shut in the coffin of Seti II, a long legend saying that in the year XIL fourth

month of the winter, day six, the first priest of Amun Re, Pai-Noudjem [Pinudjem I] wrapped the king Amenhotep III. . .

Everything was well carried out, foreseen, organised. It only remained to leave. We nailed up the last planks on the last cases hastily, because the Nile was sinking and we were pressed for time-when I received from the Minister of Public Works the order to replace the mummies in their ancient place and to seal the tomb . . .