Ankhesenpa-aten – Jezebel or tragic Queen?

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Lid geworden op: vr 23 jan 2009, 19:52

Ankhesenpa-aten – Jezebel or tragic Queen?

Bericht door king tutankhamun » wo 27 okt 2010, 13:34

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Photos above: Newberry’s ring and Suppiliuma

Of the many stories surrounding the aftermath of the Amarna period, the mysteries surrounding the fate of Ankhesenpa-aten are some of the most fascinating. When her husband, Tutankhamen died, did she try to sell herself to a Hittite prince to retain control of Egypt? Did she marry Aye, the ageing successor to Tutankhamen? Or did she just fade away?

Ankhesenpa-aten was the third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. She is clearly shown in the many family scenes uncovered when the site of the ancient city Akhetaten was uncovered in the nineteenth century. She is believed to have been born in Waset (present-day Thebes), but grew up in her father’s new city of Akhetaten (present-day Amarna).

After her father’s death, Ankhesenpa-aten married the young Tutankhaten, and both soon changed their names to Ankhesenamen and Tutankhamen. She is shown in many scenes as a doting wife, ministering to her husband – more often as a mothering figure, but clearly devoted to her young husband.

Tutankhamen died, aged around eighteen. Ankhesenamen could not have been more than twenty one years old. What happens to her is a mystery.

In The Deeds of Suppiliuma as told by his son Mursilli, we read of an extraordinary event. Suppiluliuma I was king of the Hittites (ca. 1344 – 1322 BC?) He achieved fame as a great warrior and statesman, successfully challenging the Egyptian empire for control of the lands between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates. The “Deeds of Suppiluliuma”, compiled after his death by his son Mursilli is an important primary source for the king’s reign. One of Suppiluliuma’s letters, addressed to Akhenaten, was preserved in the Amarna letters (EA 41) archive at Akhetaten. It expresses his hope that the good relations which existed between Egypt and Hatti under Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III would continue into Akhenaten’s new reign.

The Deeds were translated in full by Hans Gustav Guterbock and published in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies in 1956.

The part of the translation that has aroused so much interest reads:

“But when the people of Egypt heard of the attack on Amka, they were afraid. And since, in addition, their lord Nibhururiya had died, therefore the queen of Egypt, who was Dahamunza sent a messenger to my father and wrote to him thus ‘My husband died. A son I have not. But to thee, they say, the sons are many. If thou wouldst give me one son of thine, he would become my husband. Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband! ——— I am afraid’”

When the texts were first translated, the Lord was thought to be Amenhotep III Neb maat re, but it was later taken to be Tutankhamen, Neb-kheper-u-re. The identity of Dahamunza has never been explained. Whilst Amenhotep III had many wives, most of whose names we do not know, we only know of Ankhesenamen as wife of Tutankhamen. No-one has ever suggested that Dahamunza be translated as Ankhesenamen. It has been suggested that Dahamunza simply means “Queen”, but the sentence would not make sense:

“the queen of Egypt, who was Queen”. If we are to set aside assumptions, the identity of this queen must remain a mystery – if she ever existed.

This story is being related by Mursilli, Suppiluliuma’s son. The story does not make sense, and we could be forgiven for thinking that this is an embroidered tale, related to justify Suppiluliuma’s later attacks on Egypt. The story ends with Zannanza, Suppiluliuma’s son and presumably Mursilli’s brother, being sent top Egypt, only to be murdered as he crossed the border!

There are huge flaws in this story. Once Suppiluliuma had read the letter from Egypt’s queen, he was suspicious. He thought it might be a trap and called together a “Great Council”. He told them “Such a thing has never happened to me in my whole life!” He queried the story, and asked the council if the queen really had no son.

At this point we must question the evidence. As Egypt’s neighbour, did the leader of the Hittites not know the Egyptian royal family? The two countries were often at war and each must have had spies in the other camp. Yet Suppiluliuma appears not to know. He sends a messenger to Egypt to find out.

The Deeds go on to explain that “when it became Spring, Hattusaziti (the messenger) came back”. He brought another message from this Queen, who appears indignant at having her word doubted. When it became Spring!



When Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen, and unwrapped his mummy, flowers were found around his neck. Flowers that only bloomed in Spring. So there was at least a year between the burial of Tutankhamen and the second indignant letter from Dahamunza. It would have taken a couple of months for her first letter to have reached Suppiluliuma, so it was most likely written eighteen months before Zannanza was finally sent to marry her.

On the wall of Tutankhamen’s burial chamber there is a scene showing Aye performing the “opening of the mouth” ceremony. Aye is already King. The mummification process takes 70 days. So, before Dahamunza’s first letter ever reached Suppiluliuma, Aye was crowned King —- and if we believe Percy Newberry, Ankhesenamen was already married to him.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Percy Newberry was shown a ring, supposedly found in an Antiquities shop in Cairo. It showed the cartouche of Aye next to that of Ankhesenamen. The implication was that Ankhesenamen married Aye to give him the right to take the throne of Egypt. As Aye was King less than 70 days after the death of Tutankhamen, if this marriage took place it had to have been earlier than that.

Even if Dahamunza was Ankhesenamen, and assuming she wrote her first letter to Suppiluliuma before she married Aye, why did she write the second letter a year later? And didn’t the Hittite messenger who returned from Egypt with the second letter notice that the lady in question had been queen for the past year or so?

Percy Newberry’s ring had no provenance, though. It was supposedly “found” in a shop and disappeared soon afterwards. It cannot be considered to be reliable evidence.

On the walls of Aye’s tomb it is Tey (Aye’s longstanding wife), not Ankhesenamen, who appears as queen. She probably died during or shortly after his reign and as of yet no burial has been found for her, but there is no mention of Ankhesenamen as his wife.

So, what happened to Ankhesenamen? It is doubtful that she could be identified as Dahamunza, and Newberry’s ring has no provenance. She appeared devoted to Tutankhamen, and it is most likely that she simply faded away.

Perhaps she returned to her childhood home of Akhetaten to live out her days with her younger sisters. Recent excavations have uncovered a tomb which appears to have belonged to one of these sisters. Perhaps hers is the image carved as a bust and now on display in the Berlin museum —- claimed to be the likeness of her mother, Nefertiti.
the defender of her royal highness, the supreme queen of egypt, Ankhesenamun :)

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