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Egypt: Yuya and Tjuyu Tomb Gallery: The Finding of the Tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu by Theodore M. Davis


Yuya and Tjuyu Tomb Gallery

The Finding of the Tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu

by Theodore M. Davis

From The Tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu (London, 1907)


"In the 'Valley of the Kings,' on the west side of the Nile at Thebes, there is a narrow lateral valley, nearly half a mile long, leading up to the mountain. At the mouth of this valley there is a foothill about sixty feet high, in the side of which Ramses III commenced a tomb, and beyond which Ramses XII excavated his tomb. In the winters of 1902 and 1903 I undertook to clear and explore this valley, commencing just above the tomb of Ramses XII, and continuing my work until I reached the mountain. It resulted in the discovery of the tombs of Thoutmosis IV and Queen Hatshopsitu.

"On the 20th of December, 1904, I resumed my explorations in the lower end of the lateral valley, which I was enabled to do owing to the kindness of Mr. J. E. Quibell, the Chief Inspector at Thebes, who, with the approval of Monsieur Maspero, Director-General of the Cairo Museum, undertook the employment and superintendence of my workmen, pending my arrival in the valley.

"On my arrival in January, 1905, I found that the work on the location selected had yielded nothing and gave no promise. Consequently I abandoned the site, and transferred my workmen to the unexplored space between the tombs of Ramses III and Ramses XII, heretofore described.

"The site was most unpromising, lying as it did between the Ramses tombs, which had required many men for many years; therefore it did not seem possible that a tomb could have existed in so narrow a space without being discovered. As an original proposition I would not have explored it, and certainly no Egyptologist, exploring with another person's money, would have thought of risking the time and expense. But I knew every yard of the lateral valley, except the space described, and I decided that good exploration justified its investigation, and that it would be a satisfaction to know the entire valley, even if it yielded nothing.

"From the 25th of January, 1905, until the 5th of February, the work progressed without sign of promise. My daily visits were most discouraging, but on my arrival at the work on the 6th February, I was greeted by my Reis (Captain) and workmen with great acclamation. I quickly made my way to the spot, where I saw a few inches of the top of a well-cut stone step, which promised steps below and the possible existence of a tomb.

"From the 6th of February until the 11th my workmen were hard at work removing the overhanging debris which concealed the door; but before the night of the 11th a small portion of the doorway was disclosed, and from that moment the doorway was guarded day and night by policemen and valley guards. At the close of the twelfth day the door was entirely cleared--a most satisfactory sight! It was cut in the solid rock, and was 4.02 meters high and 1.35 wide, with a decorated lintel. The doorway was closed within eighteen inches of the top with flat stones, about twelve inches by four, laid in Nile mud plaster. This opening indicated that, at some early date, the tomb had been entered and probably robbed--a most unwelcome indication! Although it was nearly dark, I concluded to have a look through the opening. Mr. Arthur Weigall, the appointed but not formally confirmed Chief Inspector in succession to Mr. Quibell, had ridden out to the valley with me, and was invited to join me in the first sight of the corridor of the tomb. The opening was chin high, but we could dimly see a few yards of the corridor, which seemed to be about five feet wide and high, with a steep decline. As soon as my eyes became used to the semi-darkness, I saw what I thought to be a cane, or small club, lying on the floor a few feet from the doorway. Neither of us could get up to the opening, nor through it, without a ladder--which did not exist in the valley--so I selected a small native boy and had him lifted up to the opening, through which he entered. We watched the boy closely and saw him pick up the cane; then he came towards us, picked up two other objects and passed them to me. They proved to be a wooden staff of office, a neck yoke, and a large stone scarab, covered more or less with gold foil, which made it seem, at first glance, to be solid gold.

"Happily, Monsieur Maspero was on his dahabeah at Luxor, and, as soon as I reached mine, I wrote him a note asking him to come over and see something worth looking at. Shortly thereafter he came, followed by professor Sayce, and we not only enjoyed the discoveries of the day, but were even more interested in the ownership of the tomb, as to which we had not the slightest clue. Monsieur Maspero requested me to open and enter the tomb next day, that he might show it to H. R. H. the Duke of Connaught and party, who were expected to arrive on the following afternoon.

"Consequently, next morning, Monsieur Maspero and Mr. Weigall joined me at the tomb, and I at once set the men to work taking down the wall which barred the outer door. It was very slow work, as every stone had to be examined for hieroglyphs and signs, and every basket of sand and debris sifted and examined for objects of interest which might be concealed in the deposit. However, nothing was found, and, in the course of an hour or so, the doorway was cleared.

"The electric wire had been installed at the outer doorway, but as the introduction down the corridor would have required the services of electricians, we concluded that it would be safer to use candles for our entry and examinations. Monsieur Maspero and I and, at my invitation, Mr. Weigall, each with a candle, started down the corridor, which proved to be 1.75 meters wide and 2.05 meters high, cut out of the solid rock and descending so sharply as to require care not to fall. It was neither painted nor inscribed. After descending about twenty feet, we found a shelf cut into one side of the wall an on it a large ceremonial wig made of flax and dyed black, also an armful of dried flowers which doubtless were offerings to the dead (as is done in our day and generation.) Passing on some 9 meters, we came to another flight of stone steps descending almost perpendicularly, at the bottom of which we found a doorway 2.10 meters high and 1.20 meters wide, closed with stones set in Nile mud plaster, with an opening at the top of about the same size as was found in the first doorway, confirming our fears of a robbery. The face of the wall was plastered with mud and stamped from top to bottom with seals.

"On either side of this doorway, carefully placed to escape injury, stood a reddish pottery bowl about twelve inches wide, showing the finger marks of the man who with his hands gathered the mud and plastered it on the doorway wall. In each bowl was a wide wooden stick, evidently used to scrape the mud from his hands. Having copied the seals, we investigated the possibility of entry without taking down the wall. We found that the opening which the robber had made was too high and too small to allow of Monsieur Maspero getting through without injury. Though we had nothing but our bare hands, we managed to take down the upper layer of stones, and then Monsieur Maspero and I put our heads and candles into the chamber, which enabled us to get a glimpse of shining gold covering some kind of furniture, though we could not identify it. This stimulated us to make the entry without further enlarging the opening. I managed to get over the wall and found myself in the sepulchral chamber. With considerable difficulty we helped Monsieur Maspero safely to scale the obstruction, and then Mr. Weigall made his entry. The chamber was as dark as dark could be and extremely hot. Our first quest was the name of the owner of the tomb, as to which we had not the slightest knowledge or suspicion. We held up our candles, but they gave so little light and so dazzled our eyes that we could see nothing except the glitter of gold. In a moment or two, however, I made out a very large wooden coffin, known as a funeral sled, which was used to contain all the coffins of the dead person and his mummy and to convey them to his tomb. It was about six feet high and eight feet long, made of wood covered with bitumen, which was as bright as the day it was put on. Around the upper part of the coffin was a stripe of gold-foil, about six inches wide, covered with hieroglyphs. On calling Monsieur Maspero's attention to it, he immediately handed me his candle, which, together with my own, I held before my eyes, close to the inscriptions so that he could read them. In an instant he said, "Yuya." Naturally excited by the announcement, and blinded by the glare of the candles, I involuntarily advanced them very near the coffin; whereupon Monsieur Maspero cried out, "Be careful!" and pulled my hands back. In a moment we realized that, had my candles touched the bitumen, which I came dangerously near doing, the coffin would have been in a blaze. As the entire contents of the tomb were inflammable, and directly opposite the coffin was a corridor leading to the open air and making a draught, we undoubtedly should have lost our lives, as the only escape was by the corridor, which would have necessitated climbing over the stone wall barring the doorway. This would have retarded our exit for at least ten minutes. As soon as we realised the danger we had escaped, we made our way out of the chamber and, seating ourselves in the corridor, sent for workmen, who took down the door blocking the doorway. Then the electricians brought down the wires with bulbs attached, and we made our second entry into the chamber, each of us furnished with electric lights which we held over our heads, and we saw that every foot of the chamber was filled with objects brilliant with gold. In a corner stood a chariot, the pole of which had been broken by the weight of a coffin lid that the robber had evidently deposited upon it. Within a foot or two of the chariot stood two alabaster vases of great beauty and in perfect condition.

"From the neck of one of the vases hung shreds of mummy-cloth which had originally covered the mouth of the vase. Evidently the robber, expecting the contents to be valuable, tore off the cloth. Three thousand years thereafter I looked into the vase with like expectation; both of us were disappointed, for it contained only a liquid which was first thought to be honey, but which subsequently proved to be natron.

"The mummies of Yuya and Tjuyu were lying in their coffins. Originally each mummy was enclosed in three coffins; the inner one holding the body. Evidently the robber had taken the coffins out and then had taken off their lids, though he did not take the bodies out of their coffins, but contented himself with stripping off the mummy-cloth in which they were wrapped. The stripping was done by scratching off the cloth with his nails, seeking only the gold ornaments or jewels. At least that seems to have been the manner of robbing the bodies, as we found in both coffins, on either side of the bodies, great quantities of mummy-cloth torn into small bits. Among the shreds were found numerous valuable religious symbols, several scarabs, and various objects of interest and beauty. In lifting the body of Yuya from his coffin, we found a necklace of large beads made of gold and of lapis lazuli, strung on a strong thread, which the robber had evidently broken when scratching off the mummy-cloth, causing the beads to fall behind the mummy's neck.

"The robber had also overlooked a gold plate about the size of the palm of a man's hand, which had been inserted by the embalmer to conceal the incision he had made in extracting the dead man's heart for special mummification.

"When I first saw the mummy of Tjuyu she was lying in her coffin, covered from her chin to her feet with very fine mummy-cloth arranged with care. Why this was done no one can positively state, but I am disposed to think that the robber was impressed by the dignity of the dead woman whose body he had desecrated. I had occasion to sit by her in the tomb for nearly an hour, and having nothing else to do or see, I studied her face and indulged in speculations germane to the situation, until her dignity and character so impressed me that I almost found it necessary to apologize for my presence.

"From all the evidence furnished by the acts of the robber, it seems reasonable to conclude that the entry into the tomb was made within the lifetime of some person who had exact knowledge of its location. Evidently the robber had tunneled through the overlying debris which concealed the door of the tomb; otherwise he would have been compelled to remove a mass of rock and soil which would have required many days, and would also have exposed the robbery to the first passer-by. When the robber found the outer doorway barred by a wall, he took off enough of it to enable him to crawl through; and when he reached the second and last doorway, he found a corresponding wall, which he treated in the same manner. He seems to have had either a very dim light or none at all, for when he was in the burial chamber he selected a large stone scarab, the neck-yoke of the chariot, and a wooden staff of office, all of which were covered with thick gold foil, which evidently he thought to be of solid gold; he carried them up the corridor until he came to a gleam of daylight, when he discovered his error and left them on the floor of the corridor, where I found them.

"The tomb which I have attempted to describe is the only one ever found which has contained in perfect condition the original deposit. It is sad to realize that thousands of kindred objects, probably more beautiful and instructive than the present find, have existed in tombs which in past years were robbed and their precious contents destroyed or scattered over the face of the world. "Though, under the letter of my permission to explore in the 'Valley of the Kings,' I was not entitled to any portion of the "find," Monsieur Maspero, with a generosity common to him, offered me a share. I confess that it was a most attractive offer, but, on consideration, I could not bring myself to break up the collection which I felt ought to be exhibited intact in the Cairo Museum, where it could be seen and studied by probably the greatest number of appreciative visitors." THEODORE M. DAVIS

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