KV55 Coffin at The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo

Welcome to “Art, Culture & Books” with me Anthony King. Today I’ll be taking you on a video tour of the very special KV55 Coffin at The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo, from 1351 – 1334 BC. A tomb was discovered in 1907 in the Valley of the Kings during excavations paid for by a wealthy American lawyer called Theodore M. Davis. This tomb, which was uninscribed was later numbered KV55 and it’s one of Egyptology’s greatest mysteries. It has long been speculated, as well as much disputed, that the body found in this tomb was that of the famous king, Akhenaten, Egypt’s first and only monotheistic Pharaoh. We’ll take a close look at the lid and the bottom of the gilded coffin.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture. I’ll be popping in and out with commentary as this video progresses but for now let’s take a close up look.

Around 1353–1336 BC, Akhenaten, meaning “Effective for the Aten,” reigned as an ancient Egyptian pharaoh—the tenth ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty. His noteworthy departure from Egypt’s traditional polytheism marked the introduction of Atenism, a worship centred around Aten. Following his death, a cultural reversal took place, leading to the dismantling of Akhenaten’s monuments, destruction of his statues, and the exclusion of his name from later pharaohs’ lists of rulers.

During the restoration of artefacts in 1914 and an inventory in 1931, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo acquired the top half of Akhenaten’s coffin, along with gold foil applied to the sides and floor of the bottom half. However, a significant event occurred between these events—the theft of gold from the bottom half. Persistent rumours hinted at the gold being housed in a European museum. The missing gold was officially identified at the State Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich.

Approximately a dozen years later after Akhenaten, a new dynasty emerged with rulers lacking clear rights of succession from the Eighteenth Dynasty. In archival records, Akhenaten and his immediate successors were discredited, being referred to as “the enemy” or “that criminal.” Traditional religious practices, eroded during Akhenaten’s rule, began to be restored under his close successor, Tutankhamun, who changed his name from Tutankhaten early in his reign.

By Anthony King (c)