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Egypt: The Tomb of Siptah and (Possibly) Queen Tiaa in the Valley of the Kings


King Siptah and his Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews


King Siptah Siptah (mer-en-ptah), who's name means "Son of Ptah, Beloved of Ptah, was the son of Seti II and Queen Tiaa. This throne name was Akh-en-re Setep-en-re, meaning Beautiful for Re, Chosen by Re. Apparently he was not very chosen, for he suffered the deformity of a club foot. His reign lasted from about 1193 until 1187 BC.

Like his father we know precious little about Siptah, though perhaps, there is little for us to know. He was probably the seventh ruler of Egypt's 19th Dynasty, though in fact he may have never actually ruled at all. He was questionably the second son of Seti II, by Tiaa, a relatively minor queen, and came to the throne because his older brother, Seti-Merenptah, died prior to the death of Seti II. However, he apparently inherited the throne while still a minor and it was his stepmother, Tausret, along with her Chancellor ("kingmaker" Bay) who actually controlled Egypt during the kings short life. Siptah seems to have died in the 6th year of his reign, after which his stepmother took full royal titles.

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Like his father, or perhaps even because of his father, his tomb was entered shortly after his death and his cartouches were erased, though they were subsequently restored, possibly by Chancellor Bay but that is by no means proven.

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Siptah's deformed feet

Besides his tomb number KV47 in the Valley of the Kings, Siptah is also attested to by the Bilgar stele, the burial of an Apis bull dated to the king, and an inscription at Buhen.

KV47, the Tomb of Siptah

KV47 was discovered by Edward Ayrton on December 18th, 1905 while working for Theodore Davis. However, he noted that the debris in the entrance had been partially dug out, creating a passage that subsequently filled back up. In addition, he felt, because of the bad condition of the rock, that the likelihood of finding anything of interest would be slim. Therefore, he only excavated partially down to the antechamber. Later, beginning in 1912, Harry Burton excavated the tomb for Davis, mostly working between the four pillared chamber and up to and including the the burial chamber. Yet the tomb was never really completely cleared until 1994. In addition, Howard Carter cleared the area around the tomb in 1922, discovering a few objects belonging to this tomb.

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In the summer of 1994, the local Antiquities Inspectorate cleared what Burton left behind, as well as performing restoration and repair work so that the tomb could be opened for tourists. This work included cleaning and repairing reliefs, filling in gaps with plaster, fixing damaged doorways and the lintels in several chambers, as well as replacing substantially damaged pillars with limestone blocks. They laid down wood floors for walkways, and erected glass panels over painted decorations, and also installed a lighting system.

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Above: The top of Siptah's Sarcophagus

From these excavations it would appear that Siptah and possibly his mother, Queen Tiaa, a minor wife of Seti II, were both originally buried in the tomb. The evidence suggesting his mother was also buried in this tomb mostly consists of fragmentary calcite canopic equipment, along with a model coffin inscribed with the name of Tiaa and several ostraca found by Carter.

The tomb is found on the north face of a hill that divides the southeast and southwest branches of the central wadi within the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). It is oriented north-south running fairly straight for a distance of 114.04 meters into the hill, reaching a depth of about 13.12 meters.

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Though the first part of this tomb structure closely follows that of his father, Seti II, the rear sections are somewhat unusual. The initial opening corridor leading into the tomb is in the open air, and consists of a central ramp with two stairways of cut stone blocks imbedded into the bedrock to either side of the ramp. The first true corridor descends, leading to a second level corridor. Here, we find a pair of beam slots used for lowering the sarcophagus. This corridor gives way to a third corridor that, like the first, descends once more. At the rear of this corridor are a pair of rectangular niches. Afterwards, we find the well room that lacks a shaft, followed by a four pillared chamber The tomb continues through the pillared chamber with a descending passage that leads into the first of two more level corridors before communicating with an antechamber. Normally, we might expect to find a corridor followed by a stairway before the antechamber. A final wider corridor leads past two abandoned lateral corridors before giving way into the unfinished, transverse burial chamber. Here, a granite sarcophagus is set into an roughly finished rectangular niche in the floor just behind a transverse row of four pillars. The abandoned lateral corridors may have been meant to give into a burial chamber or storage annexes, but this work was stopped after the a corridor broke into the nearby tomb, KV32. The openings were then sealed with limestone slabs.

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Do to successive floods, no decorations remain beyond the first four pillared chamber, and little exist beyond the second, level corridor. In addition, this tomb also suffered the fate of KV15, having the cartocuhes of the tomb owner removed, and later re-carved. However, here, we have little idea who originally destroyed the cartouches, or for that matter, who later restored them, though the process probably revolved around the rivalry of Ramesses II's descendents and their quest for the throne after the death of Merenptah.

On the lintel above the doorway to the first true corridor we find the usual scene depicting a scarab and ram headed god flanked by Isis and Nephthys. On the outer thickness and reveals of the door jambs are found the name of the deceased king, along with inscribed prayers to the sun god and Osiris. On the inner thickness of the door jambs is a depiction of the goddess Ma'at, winged and kneeling on baskets supported by the heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt.

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Above: Siptah before Re-Horakhty from the Litany of Re

Inside this corridor on the northeast wall is a fairly well preserved depiction of Siptah addressing Re-Horakhty followed by the opening lines of the Litany of Re. Further text and scenes from these passages, including a scene of Anubis before the bier of Osiris, fill the remainder of this wall, the opposite wall, and then flow into the next corridor. On the ceiling of this first corridor we also find representations of a series of flying vultures. Within the next (second), level corridor, along with the text from the Litany of Re, are found the 74 forms of Re giving way to two scenes from spell 151 of the Book of the Dead. On the ceiling of this corridor is found the best preserved depiction of Isis and Nephthys as kites to either side of the soul of Re.

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Anubis from the tomb of Siptah

Beyond this, mostly only traces of decorations exist. For example, on the inner thickness of the door jamb into the next descending passage appears the winged figure of Ma'at, but few details are visible. Only fragmentary painted plaster reveal that the forth and fifth hours of the Amduat were once painted upon this corridor's walls. After the well room on the back wall of the four pillared chamber, we can just barely make out a fragment of plaster that once portrayed the god Osiris in a shrine. This was probably once a double scene of Siptah making offerings to the god of the underworld, as found in other tombs in the Valley. While no other decorations survive in this tomb, there are a few red painted mason's guidelines indicating a doorway that was never cut into the west wall of the pillared chamber. It would have probably led to an annex.

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Above: the Burial Chamber and Sarcophagus

In addition, we may also make out four pairs of vertical red lines that would have marked the location for a second row of pillars within the burial chamber.

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The only material item of funerary equipment found within KV47 was the red granite outer sarcophagus of Siptah. It is shaped like a cartouche, with the image of the king carved into the upper surface of the lid. He is flanked by figures of Isis and Nephthys and surrounded by a crocodile, a snake and a pair of cobras with human heads and arms. The sarcophagus box is decorated with alternating triple khekher-ornaments and recumbent jackals surmounting a register of underworld demons. This was a new composition that subsequently was used by other kings on their sarcophagi through the reign of Ramesses VI. Interestingly, there was no destruction of Siptah's name on his sarcophagus.

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Otherwise, only fragmentary funerary equipment was discovered, including a calcite inner mummform sarcophagus decorated with passages from the Book of Gates and the Amduat, along with calcite canopic equipment for Siptah and his mother, calcite shabtis figures for Siiptah, and possibly a sarcophagus for queen Tiaa. All of these calcite fragments are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the US. Burton discovered bones within Siptah's sarcophagus, but it is now believed that this was an intrusive burial, probably of the Third Intermediate Period. In fact, Siptah's mummy has been identified as one of those moved to the cache in tomb KV35 belonging to Amenhotep II. This tomb is currently open to the public.

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General Site Information
Structure: KV 47
Location: Valley of the Kings, East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
Owner: Siptah
Other designations:
Site type: Tomb

Orientation
Axis in degrees: 172.04
Axis orientation: South

Site Location
Latitude: 25.44 N
Longitude: 32.36 E
Elevation: 185.16 msl
North: 99,410.433
East: 93,997.048
JOG map reference: NG 36-10
Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt
Surveyed by TMP: Yes

Measurements
Maximum height: 5.3 m
Minimum width: 1.79 m
Maximum width: 13.72 m
Total length: 124.93 m
Total area: 501.42 m
Total volume: 1560.95 m
Additional Tomb Information
Entrance location: Base of sloping hill
Owner type: King
Entrance type: Ramp
Interior layout: Corridors and chambers
Axis type: Straight
Decoration
Painting
Sunk relief
Categories of Objects Recovered
Human remains
Tomb equipment
Vessels
Writing equipment

Dating:
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, SiptahThird Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21, (Reburial of Siptah's mummy in KV35)
History of Exploration
Ayrton, Edward Russell (1905): Excavation (conducted for Theodore M. Davis)
Ayrton, Edward Russell (1905): Discovery (made for Theodore M. Davis)
Davis, Theodore M. (1908): Epigraphy
Burton, Harry (1912-1913): Excavation
Carter, Howard (1922): Excavation (conducted around entryway A)
Supreme Council of Antiquities (1994): Conservation

References:

Title

Author

Date

Publisher

Reference Number

Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt)

Clayton, Peter A.

1994

Thames and Hudson Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05074-0

Complete Valley of the Kings, The (Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs)

Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H.

1966

Thames and Hudson Ltd

IBSN 0-500-05080-5

History of Ancient Egypt, A

Grimal, Nicolas

1988

Blackwell

None Stated

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian

2000

Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

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