Untersuchungen zur Religionsgeschichte der frühen 18. Dynastie: Dokumentation und Konservierung der Amduat-Exemplare aus dem Grab von Thutmosis I. (KV 38)

Since the discovery of the tombs KV 38 by V. Loret in 1899 and KV 20 by H. Carter in 1903, there has been an ongoing discussion on the identification of the earliest royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings, raising the question of whether it is KV 38 (Thutmose I) or KV 20 (Hatschepsut). In addition to this discussion, a vivid debate arose about the dating of the limestone Amduat specimen discovered in both tombs, attempting to determine the reign to which it belonged and the tomb from which it originally came. The main focus of the project is to exploit the extensive unexplored religious resources of theological underworld books. Therefore, the primary objective of the present research work is the documentation and conservation of the two royal specimens of the Amduat-book that represent the earliest sources of the underworld’s books of the early 18th dynasty. Both specimens' processing and analysis results contribute to a fundamental clarification of the dating question of the two previous tombs and the dating of the underworld's oldest books of the Eighteenth Dynasty. These funerary literature texts also served the deceased king as an afterlife guide in his tomb to ensure his prosperity in the realm of the dead and benefit him in the afterlife.

The first Amduat version was discovered in the tombs KV 38 and KV 20. This version is currently located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and is depicted on the seventeen limestone slabs. These slabs are extremely dirty and seriously damaged from salt efflorescence and bat habitation within the tomb. The surface must be cleaned and removed from the dirt to investigate the pictorial representations and religious texts on slabs. The conservators at the Egyptian Museum Cairo did an excellent job of removing the dirt from the slabs since the surface of the blocks was disfigured with a heavy accumulation of deposits (Fig. 1 below). All the fragments and slabs have been cleaned, and their parts reconstructed in the correct order so that the Amduat hours are assembled in the correct sequence (Fig. 2 below).

Fig. 1: Section of the seventh hour of the book of Amduat
Fig. 2: Assembling and cleaning the fragments of the tenth hour

The other Amduat specimen was discovered in 2016 by K. Abdel Ghany in the burial chamber of the tomb KV 38. This version is depicted on the mud-plaster fragments, which are the remains of the decorative cliff walls of the tomb. These numerous fragments can be considered a success for researching the early history of the Amduat since they have never been discussed or mentioned before. The tomb KV 38 is relatively unprotected; the entrance is much lower than ground level (Fig. 3 below). As a result, the decorative walls in the burial chamber have been heavily affected by infiltrating rainwater. Therefore, the found Amduat plaster fragments are in poor condition, partially dirty, and soiled with rainwater deposits. Thus, the project aims to restore the newly discovered mud-plaster fragments to reconstruct their displayed iconography and further explore KV 38 to search for more fragments or finds.

Fig. 3: The entrance of the Tomb KV 38 in the Valley of the Kings
Fig. 4: The mud-plaster fragment of Amduat from the tomb KV 38

During this exploration in early 2023, the conservators in Luxor were able to reassemble the small fragments and uncover the depiction from contamination (Fig. 4 above). After a comparative analysis of the paleographic and iconographic features of the displayed scenes on the newly found Amduat fragments with similar scenes from the tomb KV 34, it could be proved that there is a definite development between the time of Thutmose I and his successors. Furthermore, these sections highlight the iconographic features of the Amduat version of Thutmose I – their characteristic attributes and archaic decoration style form the original basis on which all subsequent versions have been built. Thus, this version could be dated much earlier than the version of Thutmose III and presents the oldest version of royal funerary literature of the Amduat-book in the New Kingdom.

Fig. 5: The two quartzite stone fragments with the name of Thutmose I
Fig. 6: The newly discovered limestone slab of Amduat from the tomb KV 38

During excavation work in the burial chamber to uncover the floor from debris, we found two quartzite stone fragments under the tomb rubble. The inscriptions on it show King Thutmose I's throne name (ꜥꜣ-ḫpr-⟨kꜣ⟩-Rꜥ) enclosed in a cartouche and engraved. These two fragments probably formed part of the king's original sarcophagus (Fig. 5 above). The greatest surprise of the excavation of tomb KV 38 was discovering another unexpected find. The workers found on the northern side of the burial chamber a large limestone royal funerary slab. The limestone Amduat slab is shown in a section from the second hour of the Amduat book (Fig. 6 above). This slab belongs to the small limestone fragments of the 2nd hour of the Amduat book, found in the same tomb by V. Loret in 1898 and now in the Egyptian Museum Cairo (CG 24990 B). Therefore, we could prove that the Amduat Book was already known during the reign of Thutmose I and all fragments originate from only one tomb, namely from Thutmose I (KV 38), and neither from two different tombs nor from different reigns.

Further information can additionally be found on this ARCE project page.

Recent publications:

  • Abdel Ghany, Khaled. Investigations of the earliest Amduat Specimens from the Tombs KV 38 and KV 20, in: Scribe, the Magazine of the American Research Center in Egypt (in Druckvorbereitung).
  • Abdel Ghany, Khaled. Die signifikanten Merkmale der entdeckten Amduat-Fragmente im Grab KV 38, in: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 150.1, 2023, 7–26.
  • Abdel Ghany, Khaled. Amduat-Exemplare von Thutmosis I.: Weitere Fundstücke im Grab KV 38, in: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 146.1, 2019, 1–18.
  • Abdel Ghany, Khaled. Das frühste Amduat-Exemplar im Tal der Könige: Die neu gefundenen Gipsputz-Fragmente im Grab Thutmosis I. (KV 38), in: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 145.1, 2018, 1–21.
  • Abdel Ghany, Khaled. Untersuchungen einiger Merkmale der Gräber KV 38 und KV 20, in: Göttinger Miszellen 248, 2016, 11–25.

  • Newspaper article in the Göttinger Tageblatt (March 2024).

All images on this page: Khaled Abdel Ghany

Contact Person: Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghany (Project Director)

Funded by: The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), "Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF)" for the year 2022/2023.

ARCE project page