The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC

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Q: Where is the other mummy? Did both people die at the same time?

A: The grave robbers destroyed both mummies while looking for jewelry and amulets; only the one head survives today. We believe that Lady Djehutynakht died before her husband. His large coffin was found directly in front of the entrance to the burial chamber, and once in place, it would have been impossible to move Lady Djehutynakht’s coffins into the tomb. Therefore, her coffins—which were found further inside the chamber—must have been there first.

- Denise Doxey

Q: Where is the rest of the mummy? Do you only have the head?

A: Yes, we only have the head. There were originally two mummies in the tomb, which were destroyed by ancient grave robbers while looking for jewelry and amulets underneath their wrappings. The robbers unwrapped both mummies, tore apart their bodies, and left this head sitting on top of Governor Djehutynakht’s coffin. Luckily, after setting fire to one of the mummies, the wooden objects in the tomb were not damaged, but the rest of the mummies didn’t survive.

- Denise Doxey

Q: Why was Djehutynakht’s tomb so small?

A: The underground part of an Egyptian tomb, like most graves, served two main functions: to protect bodily remains and to provide the deceased with everything necessary for their journey to eternal afterlife. Although the size of these underground rooms could be affected by a person’s religious beliefs and/or status (especially for kings), there was no need to make a larger space than necessary, especially when carving them from solid rock, as with Tomb 10A. The most important detail of a burial chamber was not the size, but its contents. We can see from the number of objects excavated from Tomb 10A that Egyptians from 2000 BC made use of a fairly small space. They covered coffin surfaces with magical/religious spells and fit as much into the chamber as possible for use in the afterlife. Tomb 10A’s tomb chapel, however, was carved from the cliffs above the burial chamber, so it was visible to the outside world. This tomb chapel would have been large for its time, and amply decorated with carved and/or painted scenes. During the Djehutynakhts’ lifetime, this kind of building was a sign of their elite status and wealth. After their death, visitors present offerings to the tomb chapel to sustain the Djehutynakhts’ spirits, and to keep their memory alive for future generations.

- Nick Picardo

Q: How did you figure out how to put all those boats back together?

A: You’ve got fifty-five boats, each with six or eight figures on it. Each figure has two arms – so that’s a lot of different body parts. There are probably four or five hundred elements to deal with just in matching people to boats!

But the fortunate thing about this process is that these are all handmade models, so there is a lot of uniqueness in each figure and element. While there is a lot of uniformity to the boats – they have a pretty consistent look – you still have subtle variations. You can see the artist’s hand. There is variation in the spacing of the legs or the length of the arms, so you can start to put the pieces of the puzzle together fairly confidently and with relative accuracy. With many of these elements, we can tell a figure goes in a certain boat because it’s the only one that fits. But pegs hold these models together – if those are missing, matching the parts to the figures is more difficult.

This process took quite some time. A prominent conservator from Egypt, Nadia Lokma, spent several summers matching figures and parts. My job has been made much easier because of the time and care she had already put into this project.

- Gwynne Ryan

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