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The Shaft Tombs of Wadi Bairiya

By Piers Litherland

The wadis which lie to the west of the main Theban mountain were last officially explored by Howard Carter in 1916 and 1917.

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Shaft Tombs which had only been noted in two brief paragraphs by Howard Carter in 1917 have now been revealed to be burial places of hitherto unrecognised members of the family of Amenhotep III. These architecturally unique shaft tombs had been repeatedly robbed but still contained the shattered remains of the largest collections of canopic jars ever found in Egypt. These and other surviving contents of the tomb seem to have been deliberately destroyed in phaoronic times in an until recently successful attempt to remove the names of the dead from history. The tombs were used over several generations and included the burials of the King s Great Wife, son, daughter, another of his wives and at least a dozen women bearing the title Ornament of the King . Although now the site of the burials appear remote, it was the site of a major crossroads during the XVIIIth dynasty, and traces of plant life and animal dung within the tombs point to a more fertile climate when they were created. The most pressing question the tombs raise is why and when these burials were destroyed, and why the names of several of the family of Amenhotep III and a group of court women should have been subjected to deliberate, systematic and official destruction.

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