KV 55's Lost Objects:
by William Max Miller, M. A.
Not much luck has befallen the search for the elusive mummy bands which Weigall stated were found around the KV 55 mummy (JEA 8 , 193ff.) He described the bands as being wrapped around the outside of the mummy at right angles to the bandages, but none of the others present during the clearance of the tomb mentioned such bands in their written accounts. Apparently Weigall assumed that the objects he saw were retaining straps or mummy "braces," used to hold the shroud and wrappings covering the mummy in place. (A good example of such "mummy bands" appears on the still-wrapped mummy of Isiemkheb-D.)
Some researchers believe that these objects never existed on the KV 55 mummy in the first place, and that Weigall, in the poorly lit tomb, mistook some other object(s) among the debris of the coffin as mummy bands, perhaps the gold foil bands of inscriptions which could have fallen off the rim of the decaying coffin lid or basin onto the mummy. Martha Bell discerns bands of some type, running both horizontally and vertically through the debris of the coffin and mummy, in Plate XXX of Davis's The Tomb of Queen Tiyi. Bell argues that, since the objects discernable in this photographic plate don't fit the descriptions of any other items that came from the coffin, they must be the lost mummy bands. Of the bands, Bell writes that they were "stiff, apparently metal, and presumably gold (due to their position on the body)...They seem to have a center crease and some holes, perhaps where cartouches were cut out." (JARCE 27 , 118-119, and n. 172, 173. See also 115, Fig. 9 for Bell's diagram of the coffin in situ showing the position of the gold bands.) A close examination of Plate XXX from Davis's The Tomb of Queen Tiyi reveals the objects indicated by Bell, which have been highlighted in yellow in the photo at the top of this page. It is important to note that these objects are seen on top of the gold foil sheets which cover a portion of the mummy. If they had been mummy bands used to hold the shroud or bandages in place, then they would have been beneath the gold foil sheets, which almost certainly were sections of gold foil which fell from the lid of the coffin onto the mummy. (BIFAO 12 , 149 and n. 1; TTAA, 63; DRN, 46, no. 20.) Weigall may have been misled into identifying these as mummy bands (i.e., mummy "braces") due to his assumption that the gold foil sheets were a part of the mummy's wrappings (GP, 137.)
Weigall must have examined the alleged bands closely because he reported that they were inscribed and had cartouches cut out (JEA 8 , 196-197; LToA, 231, 242.) (This description, it must be noted, applies equally well to the coffin's gold foil bands of inscriptions.) Cyril Aldred (JEA 47 , 57, 58 and n. 5) stated that the mummy bands were supposedly sent to the Cairo Museum with the bones of the KV 55 mummy, and were subsequently stolen. Bell points out that Aldred's version is not exactly the same as that given by Arthur Weigall (see above) or Joseph Lindon Smith (TTAA, 66), where neither state that the gold mummy bands were placed in with the remains. Aldred related that G. E. Smith had told Warren R. Dawson that the bone box [i.e. the box containing the remains of the KV 55 mummy] had three or four engraved "gold bands" in it, which he stored in a drawer in his desk. He went on to report that these "gold bands" were stolen from his desk on the same day he had stored them there. Weigall (JEA 8 , 197) claimed to have seen the mummy bands in a workroom at the Cairo Museum and implied that they might still be in the Cairo Museum at the time of his writing (1922). Bell believes that Weigall and G. E. Smith were in reality taking about two entirely different sets of gold objects. She thinks G. E. Smith was probably referring to the thin gold foil bracelets found encircling the mummy's skeletal upper left arm and right wrist, which would probably have been packed up with the remains of the mummy for shipment to Cairo. These bracelets (six in number, three on each arm) were described as being found on the mummy by Davis (ToQT, 9-10), Ayrton (PSBA 29 , 280) and J. L. Smith (TTAA, 63.) They are not listed in Daressy's catalogue of KV 55 objects. These were probably the "gold bands" which G. E. Smith discovered had been stolen from his desk drawer.
According to Bell's reconstruction of events, the mummy bands reported by Weigall would have most likely been packed up with the gold sheets covering the mummy, and not with the mummy itself. Her examination of the Andrews diary revealed a sequence of events at KV 55 which supports this contention. On January 25'th, 1907, Andrews records that the bracelets and necklace were left on the mummy, but that it had otherwise been "cleared" for examination by the two visiting doctors from Luxor. This would have entailed only the removal of objects which would have gotten in the way of the exam, i.e. the so-called "crown," the mummy bands, gold foil sheets, and decayed bandages. Andrews reports that the "treasure" was taken from the tomb and placed on a boat (Davis's dahabiya?) on January 27'th. Logically, this would be the date when the gold bands found overlying the mummy were brought on board. On the 28'th, Andrews says that "the ashes and bones...have been...gathered and put into a box..." Any small items remaining on the mummy--such as the six gold foil bracelets--would have been packed up with the mummy at this time. (Bell, JARCE 27 , 118-119, and n. 175-179.)
This scenario strongly suggests that Weigall's mummy bands were not the objects which G. E. Smith found with the remains and reported stolen from his desk. If the mummy bands were shipped with the coffin elements, they may have remained in the Cairo Museum as late as November, 1927, after which some of the basin elements were taken (see above for explanation of. the 1927 dating for this event.) G. E. Smith's casual mention of the mummy bands in his 1912 work, The Royal Mummies (Cairo, 1912, p. 51) and also in his 1924 book, Egyptian Mummies (Kegan Paul International, Ltd., 1991 reprint) also seems to support Bell's theory. Smith often provided detailed descriptions of any objects which he found with a mummy, but when he described the remains of the KV 55 mummy (whom he identified as Akhenaten), he says merely that it was found "encircled by bands of gold," and gives no further details. He also notes Arthur Weigall's paper (JEA 8 , 193ff.) as the source for his knowledge of the bands. If G. E. Smith had seen and handled the mummy bands himself, surely he would have described them thoroughly (and perhaps commented on their theft) in his published works. Furthermore, he would have had no need to use Weigall's article as a source if he had actually seen the mummy bands for himself along with the remains of the mummy.
George Johnson reported that the KV 55 mummy bands resurfaced a few years ago on the antiquities market (KMT [9: 1], 66, n. 3), but no further news about them is available at this time. However, if the bands were taken from the Cairo Museum along with the coffin basin elements, there may be a chance that they, too, will re-emerge from curatorial obscurity when the State Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich reveals all the details about the KV 55 coffin basin elements now in their possession.
Addendum: Since my writing of this page, Egyptologist Frederico Rocchi visited Munich's State Museum of Egyptian Art and saw their exhibit of KV 55 objects (which were displayed from Oct. 17'th, 2001 through January 13, 2002.) In his EEF Report, Rocchi stated: "On the third wall were displayed six golden bands found together with the pieces of the KV55 trough, but not belonging to the trough; they probably belonged to the Cairo lid of the coffin." These golden bands were most probably the long-missing "mummy bands" originally reported by Weigall. Rocchi's statement tends to confirm the theory that these bands were originally elements from the coffin lid, and not (as Weigall and others have assumed) part of the mummy's wrappings. (See photo of the KV55 golden bands seen by Rocchi at Munich's State Museum of Egyptian Art. Photo from Das Geheimnis des goldenen Sarges, A. Grimm and S. Schoske [eds.], Munchen 2001, pgs. 67.)
Close window or click here to return to Part I