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Pharaoh Horemheb
The Pharaoh Horemheb
The best known member of the 18th Dynasty of Egyptian Pharaohs is Tutankhamun, who's short reign lasted from 1334 - 1325 BC. Despite the spectacular contents of his tomb, discovered on November 22, 1922, little else is known about his boy king, and even is exact parentage is not certain.

He certainly died young, probably in the 9th year of his reign, and an examination of his mummy shows a suspicious sliver of bone in the upper part of his head. Could the boy king have been murdered?

If so, suspicion falls very heavily on his successor, the Pharaoh Horemheb.

After a brief reign by an old man called Ay, Horemheb saw his chance and seized it. He had been the Great Commander of the Army under the Pharaoh Akhenaten, and had been Tutankhamun's King's Deputy, a position of high rank.

Horemheb declared himself king in 1321 BC, married the sister of Nefertiti and promptly began eliminating all traces of Tutankhamun and the heretical worship of Aten, a practice begun by Tutankhamun's possible father, Akhenaten.

He reopened all the old temples and restored the priesthood of Amun, taking them from the ranks of the army, where he still had considerable influence. He also split up the army into a northern and southern command, hence reducing any possibility of a counter-coup against his reign.

He even took over all the monuments to Ay and Tutankhamun and totally destroyed the temples to Aten, which he hated. He took over the mortuary temple of Ay and began dating his reign from the death of Amenhotep III (one of the most successful, prosperous and stable Pharaohs 1386 - 1349 BC).

His actual reign was about 30 years, mostly spent consolidating his country after the religious upheavals of the previous Pharaohs, and in preparing his own tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Rulers of the
New Kingdom
(1570 - 1070 BC)

Dynasty 18

That is where the mystery begins.

the tomb is discovered When it was discovered by Theodore Davis in 1908, Horemheb's tomb contained as many enigmas as answers. It was unfinished (unusual for a mighty Pharoah!), it had been robbed (not unusual for all tombs but that of Tutankhamun), there were large quantities of smashed furniture and wooden figures (who did this, and why?), and his mighty sarcophagus was empty.

Scattered in a side chamber were the remains of four individuals, possibly those of Horemheb's family, or possibly that of his predecessor, Ay. There was also a cryptic message, almost graffiti, carved on the walls. It said that Horemheb's body had been moved to the tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte "for restoration".

There it vanished, and no trace of it has ever been found since. It was not among the two very large caches of mummies found near Deir el-Bahari at Thebes in the 1870's - or was it?

caches of mummies found Burial of the New Kingdom Pharaohs was a difficult business, as the tombs were constantly being broken into and robbed. In about 1000 BC the temple priests gathered together all the mummies they could find and hid them in two caches, far from the sight of the robbers (who were only interested in the gold and treasure anyway).

These first of these caches were found by three brothers round about 1870. They told no one about them, and made a good living plundering the mummies and selling the best of them to collectors. This lasted until about 1881, when Egyptologists finally were led to the tomb and rescued what remained of the collection.

It is possible that the body of Horemheb was among those found and sold privately before the practice could be stopped. There are many such mummies in collections around the world - including the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is certainly possible that Brno could have received a "souvenir" mummy from a rich patron, who had bought it from the brothers during his "tour" of Egypt.

is there a curse? Many of these Egyptian artifacts were thought to carry an ancient curse, placed upon them by the priests who were trying to protect them from tomb robbers. Others were thought to be cursed by the Egyptian gods whom they had offended. Certainly Horemheb must have fallen into this category, given his career!

Using modern technology and techniques, many mummies are now being re-examined to see how they lived and how they died.

You can be part of such an investigation.

Science@a Distance
© 2001, Professor John Blamire