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Ankhesenamun

Updated on March 1, 2013

Married to Tutankhamun when he was just nine, Ankhesenamun was his Great Royal Wife for his relatively brief reign as King  

This Ancient Egypt lens by Kate Phizackerley covers the life of Ankhesenamun who may have been the queen of four pharaohs (kings). But who was Ankhesenamun and what happened to her after Tutankhamun's premature death? Where is she buried? Read on to find out what we know about a woman who had a packed life in Ancient Egypt.

§1. Biography

Ankhesenpaaten in Hieroglyphics
Ankhesenpaaten in Hieroglyphics

Daughter of Akhenaten & Nefertiti

Princess Ankhesenpaaten

Princess Ankhesenamun (sometimes spelt Ankhesenamen) was probably born in Thebes (modern day Luxor in Egypt) and was named Ankhesenpaaten ("She who lives through the Aten"), shown in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics alongside this text. Soon after her birth, the court moved to Amarna and it is probably there that she spent most of her childhood.

She only gained the name Ankhesenamun, by which we now know her, after her marriage to Tutankhamun. The exact year of her birth has not been recorded but is believed to be about 1348 BCE. She was the third daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti who may also have gone on to rule Upper and Lower Egypt in her own right after the death of Akhenaten in 1334 or 1336 BCE. We can be certain of Ankhesenamun's parentage as she is being described on monuments as King's [Akhenaten] Daughter of his body, his beloved Ankhesenpaaten, born of the Great Royal Wife [Nefertiti], his beloved, Lady of the Two Lands. An example is a talatat (small limestone building block) from Amarna - there are photos in this thread. Edmund Melzer attempted a translation there as well, filling in gaps as follows:

[The King's Daughter of] his body, his beloved, Ankhesenpa[aten, born of the King's Great Wife] Nefernefru[aten]-Nefertity, may she live forever [and ever, (and) Ankhesenpa]aten the Younger, [born of the King's Daughter Ankhesenpaaten, bo]rn of the King's Great Wife [Nefernefrua]ten-[Nefertity]

We know that Akhenaten and Nefertiti had 6 daughters and possibly a 7th, who could even have been a son, Tutankhamun, as shown in the table below. (I have added links to my Squidoo lenses where available.)

Name

Born

Died

Notes

Meritaten

1356BC

 

Smenkhare's Queen. Later Pharaoh?

Meketaten

1350BC?

1338BC?

Mother of Tutankhamun?

Ankhesenpaaten

1348BC

1323BC??

Tutankhamun's Queen

Neferneferuaten-Tasherit

1344BC

Neferneferure

1343BC

Setepenre

1343BC

Unknown daughter? Tutankhamun?

1341BC?

Could be a daughter of Meritaten or Meketaten


(The dates shown are the best estimates of Egyptologists but could be wrong by a few years. The dating method generally used is to determine in which year of Akhenateb's reign that an event occurred. However, both this determination is uncertain in many cases and the dates of Akhenaten's own reign have not been fixed so there is a double uncertainty. I am still researching these dates and will fill in gaps when I can find the details.)

The birth of Ankhesenpaaten can be dated to within a couple of years. The duaghters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti were not permitted to appear in ceremonial events until their 5th birthday. Ankhesenapaaten does not appear on the boundary stelae erected in Aknhenaten's 6th year but does on those erected in the 8th. She therefore had her 6th birthday between these two dates suggesting she was born in the 1st or 2nd year of Akhenaten's reign.

Ankhesenpaaten at Amarna

Pharaoh Akhenaten is best known for his monotheistic religious beliefs. He and Nefertiti worshipped the Aten - the sun disc. Sometime just after Ankhesenamun was born, in year 6 of Akhenaten's reign, he moved the court to a new cult centre in Middle Egypt and established it has new capital. The city was given the name Akhetaten but is better known by it's modern name of Amarna and the period is referred to as the Amarna Period (or sometimes just Amarna). A head of a princess in New York's Metropolitan Museum is believed by Aldred to be Princess Akhesenpaaten - but attribution of statues and busts without inscriptions is an imprecise exercise.

Incestuous marriages

Towards the end of Pharaoh Akhenaten's reign, Queen Nefertiti disappeared. The circumstances are uncertain. It is possible that she died but other sources suggest she survived Akhenaten and then ruled Egypt herself. It is clear, however, that she had failed to bear a son to the Pharaoh, instead just bearing six daughters.

After the disappearance of Nefertiti, Akhenaten married Meritaten, his eldest daughter by Nefertiti. Incest within the family was not necessarily limited to marriages. Her elder sister Mekataten died in child birth, probably while birthing her father's child.

In due course it seems that Meritaten was re-married to Smenkhare and that Ankhesenpaaten succeeded Meritaten as Akhenaten's Queen. Very little is known of Smenkhare (according to one theory Smenkhare was actually Nefertiti in a new guise) but it is usually assumed he was the son of Akhenaten and Kiya and that he reigned briefly after the death of his father. It seems that Ankhesenpaaten's second incestuous marriage was to her half-brother Smenkhare.

When Smenkhare disappears (presumably dying) in 1333 BCE, he has succeed by Tutankhaten. Tutankhaten's parentage is uncertain but the most prevalent belief is that Akhenaten was his father. What is undisputed is that upon taking the throne at the age of 8, Tutankhaten married Ankhesenpaaten, then aged 13. If the family relationships are as many believe, by the time she was 13 she had been married to her father and two half-brothers. Recent DNA tests on Tutankhamun and other mummies may shed more light on this complicated web.

It is important not to impart modern standards onto people long-since dead. The traditional line of succession was to the eldest son of the eldest daughter of the King's Chief Wife. If a King wish one of his own sons to inherit, it was common to marry his daughter. Although the practice had fallen into disfavour at the start of the 18th Dynasty, it seems to have been resurrected during the Amarna period.

A Daughter - Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit

[The King's Daughter of] his body, his beloved, Ankhesenpa[aten, born of the King's Great Wife] Nefernefru[aten]-Nefertity, may she live forever [and ever, (and) Ankhesenpa]aten the Younger, [born of the King's Daughter Ankhesenpaaten, bo]rn of the King's Great Wife [Nefernefrua]ten-[Nefertity]

Returning again to the talatat block from Amarna mentioned earlier, we can observe a number of points about Ankhesenpaten the Younger (usually known as Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit):

✿   she was the daughter of Ankhesenpaaten;

✿   who was born before Ankhesenpaaten changed her name to Ankhesenamun;

✿   and almost certainly before the death of Akhenaten; however

✿   there is no mention that Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit was the daughter of Akhenaten.

There is a theory that it was this daughter who was the Ankhesenpaaten who went on the marry Tutankhamun and become Ankhesenkhamun. For more discussion, please refer to my lens dediated to Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit.

A new name: Ankhesenamun

Perhaps a couple of years into Tutankhaten's reign, bowing to political pressure, the royal family and court moved back from Amarna to the old royal capitals at Thebes (Luxor) and Memphis and abandoned Akhenaten's religion of Atenism and reverted to the old polytheistic religion. The chief god in the old religion was Amun and in recognition of their changed affiliation, the royal couple took new names. Tutankhaten became Tutankhamun and Ankhesenpaaten became Ankhesenamun. (Egyptian names were spelt in hieroglyphs and English translations vary. Sometimes Amen is spelt with an 'e' rather than as Amun. The couples' names are therefore sometimes spelt as Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamen. It is worth remembering this if searching for information on the Web.)

Tutankhamun was still only about 10 and it is unlikely that the move back to Thebes and his religious conversion was his idea. Indeed, there is some evidence that the royal couple in private continued in Atenistic practice. It is more likely that the decision was made by the powers behind the throne - the vizier Ay and General Horemheb - who would in turn succeed Tutankhamun as Pharaoh.

  Photograph of a statue in Brooklyn Museum by Keith Schengili-Roberts from Wkipedia Commons under a creative commons attribution sharealike license on the terms there.

Akhesenamun - Tutankhamun's Queen

Queen Ankesenamun was Tutankhamun's Great Royal Wife throughout his relatively brief reign of ten years or so. Vizier Ay took the throne on the death of Tutankhamun so it is obvious that Tutankhamun had no surviving son. There is also no record of any daughters. Two mummified foetuses were found in Tutankhamun's tomb. DNA tests may prove Tutankhamun's paternity; Ankhesenamun is presumed to be the mother as Tutankhamun is not known to have a second wife. With the degree of marriage within the royal family it is perhaps not surprising if genetically the royal line had become weak. The smaller foetus is five months in gestational age and just less than 12 inches in height while the other is estimated to be a birth of between seven and nine months in gestational age and measures just over 15 inches and suffered from Sprengel's deformity with spina bifida and scoliosis. Despite the different gestational ages, it is thought that they may be twins although the umbilical cord of the younger foetus is still attached while that of the older is cut; however, the residual had not dried suggesting that the infant was birthed, possibly drew breath, but did not survive long.

It is likely that Ankhesenamun shared many of the duties with the Pharaoh. She is depicted together with Tutankhamun on a number of items found in his tomb, most famously in a beautiful scene on the back of his Golden Throne, but also others such as this ivory coffer lid are just as beautiful (poster available from AllPosters.com).

The Royal Family Tree

National Geographic has put together a very nice page showing Tutankhamun's family tree as revealed by the latest DNA studies, including Queen Ankhesenamun and their stillborn children. It includes pictures of all of the mummies.

Death of Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun died in mysterious circumstances when he was about 19 after a shirt reign of under 10 years and Ankhesenamun was widowed for the third time even though she was still probably under 25.

What happens next is shrouded in the mystery so familiar to the story of Ankhesenamun's life. A letter to the Hittite king, Suppiluliuma I was found in the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa which dates to the Amarna period.

The text of the letter is unique in the history of Ancient Egypt:

"My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband... I am afraid."

The Queen who wrote the letter is not identified. Some people think it could have been Nefertiti but, while she had no sons, Akhenaten did have at least one son (Tutankhamun) and possibly a second (Smenkhare) by his other wife, Kiya. Ankhesenamun seems to be the strongest candidate as author. Whatever, it is amazing as relations between the Egyptians and the Hittites were strained. It suggests that the Queen was alienated from her people or, at least from the likely successors to the throne.

Photograph © Kate Phizackerley, 2003 under a creative commons attribution sharealike license on the terms set out here on my site

Ankhesenamun & Tutankhamun's tomb

Queen Ankhesenamun is not shown in any of the reliefs in Tutankhamun's tomb. Whether this is because the tomb was completed in a hurry when the King died unexpectedly young, or because the Pharaoh Ay didn't want his new wife Ankhesenamun to be shown for some reason, we will probably never now. She is, however, shown on some of the objects, including some of the most beautiful found. Perhaps the most important of these objects d'art is Tutankhamun's golden throne which depicts a loving royal couple on the back. For more details of the objects found, please see my lens on Tutankhamun's Tomb.

Tutankhamun's Golden Throne

Tutankhamun's Golden Throne
Tutankhamun's Golden Throne

Photograph © Kate Phizackerley, 2003 under a creative commons attribution sharealike license on the terms set out here on my site

Ankhesenamun in Luxor Temple Reliefs

There is one suviving statue in Luxor Temple believed to be Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun (picture when I can) but most of the inscriptions to Ankhesenamun were changed in Horemheb's reign to refer to Horemheb's Great Royal Wife Mutnodjmet.

Newberry Ring
Newberry Ring

Marriage to Pharaoh Ay

The suggestion that it was Ankhesenamun who wrote the letter to the Hittite king is strengthened by the fact that Tutankhamun was succeeded by the elder Grand Vizier Ay who then married Ankhesenamun. According to one theory, Ay was Nefertiti's father which would have made him Ankhesenamun's grandfather. After what was clearly a loving marriage to the young Tutankhamun she undoubtedly did not want to marry an old man. If she suspected Ay's involvement, she would also have been fearful for her own life. Ay's claim to the throne was somewhat tenuous and it is probable that he wished to marry Ankhesenamun to bolster his legitimacy. If, as some suspect, Queen Nefertiti and/or Queen Meritaten ruled as a king (pharaoh) in their own right, then he would also have wished to prevent Ankhesenamun seizing the throne for herself on the precedent of her mother/sister.

There is no mention of either Tutankamun or Smenkhare before they became king. Ay's succession makes clear that there were no other princes hidden in the background by the time Ay took the throne.

The extant archaeological evidence of a marriage to Ay is scant and consists of a ring (the Newberry ring), now in the Agyptisches (Egyptian) Museum in Berlin, which shows both their names. The glass has faded from blue to white and the ring is not on display. There are further reports of another ring, which has now been lost.

Ankesenamun was apparently married to four pharaohs over a period of 15 years.

Ay's reign was even shorter than Tutankhamun's. He reigned for a brief 4 years, dying around 1323 BC. Although it is thought he had a son called Nakhtmin, he was succeeded by another member of Tutankhamun's court, Horemheb, and it is unlikely anyway that Nakhtmin was Akhenesamun's child.

Recap Ankhesenamun's Marriages

Horemheb set out to obliterate all references to the heretic Amarna royals (Akhenaten, Smenkhare, Tutankhamun, Ay and their wives). The story of Ankhesenamun's life is poorly documented because of this and because the lives of Queens Consorts were recorded in siginificantly less detail than their husbands but we can recap her likely marriages to Egyptian Pharaohs in this table:-

Pharaoh

From

To

Notes

Akhenaten

1339BC

1336BC

Her father

Smenkhare

1336BC

1333BC

Her half-brother?

Tutankhamun

1333BC

1324BC

Her half brother?

Ay

1324BC

1319BC

Her grandfather?

(As noted elsewhere in this lens, all dates are approximate only.)

Death and burial of Ankhesenamun

This section has been updated to include the findings of the 2010 DNA investigation into 11 mummies from Egypt’s 18th Dynasty.

Around the death of Ay in 1323 BC, Ankhesenamun disappears from the record. It is presumed she died around this time but that is uncertain. Since Horemheb set out to remove references to the Amarnan royals, he would not have wished to wed Ankhesenamun who had been married to all four of the Amarnan Pharaohs. It is possible that she lived several years but was out of favour and no longer mentioned; it is not impossible she was murdered.

If Ankhesenamun pre-deceased Ay she should have been married in state as a Great Royal Wife with a tomb either in the Valley of the Kings or in the Valley of the Queens. If she died after Ay, the fate of her mummy may have been less certain. However, neither her tomb, not her mummy has ever been found. She is not buried with Tutankhamun in tomb KV62 but this probably would have been impossible. His tomb was robbed shortly after it was sealed. To prevent a repetition the shaft was filled with stone chips. No chamber had been reserved for her in this tomb. Nor was she buried with Ay whose tomb in the Western Valley of the Kings shows signs of being dug in haste.

There is a theory that tomb KV63 in the Valley of the Kings may have been intended for Ankhesenamun because of a reference to found 'Paaten' in the tomb and Ankhesenamun as Aknhesenpaaten is the only known Amarnan queen to have that element within her name.

Over the course of 2008/9, the Supreme Council for Antiquities undertook a DNA investigation into 11 mummies. This showed that one of tombs mummies from tomb 21 in the Valley of the Kings, the so-called mummy KV21A, was the mother of two foetuses found in Tutankhamun’s own tomb. There remains some doubt whether Tutankhamun was the father but, assuming he was, then the mother of these foetuses (one probably stillborn close to term, the other miscarried) was probably Tutankhamun’s wife – and his only known wife was Ankhesenamun. The KV21A mummy was assessed to be aged between 21 and 25 at death which would also fit with the disappearance of Ankhesenamun. There are a number of “ifs” and unknowns lined up in that trail of evidence. Nonetheless, the balance of present evidence suggests that the mummy in tomb KV21 is probably Ankhesenamun.

§2. Valley of the Kings

§3. Background

Ankhesenamun goodies from Amazon

Read about Tutankhamun

About Kate Phizackerley

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    • profile image

      macmaki 5 years ago

      The new DNA evidence that has recenlty come out on Tut and his lineage is really incredible. Marvelous lens, again. I enjoyed your other one as well.

    • Mistl profile image

      Mistl 5 years ago

      Very comprehensive and super interesting. Thanks for the read! :)

    • TrentAdamsCA profile image

      TrentAdamsCA 6 years ago

      Fascinating. I've been following all the theories on the relationships, identities and succession -- this is one of my favorite eras in ancient Egypt. Poignant about the mummified fetuses. I saw the Tut exhibit in San Francisco.

    • profile image

      RebeccaE 6 years ago

      you've made it easy to wrap my head around this whole thing of Eygpt!

    • fionajean profile image

      Fiona 6 years ago from South Africa

      Another great lens - really enjoyed - blessed

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    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 6 years ago

      Loved this lens! So much I've never learned about before. I know I'll be back! Angel Blessed!

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      Carol Fisher 6 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      It is so interesting to learn more about the people who are largely ignored by popular history of Ancient Egypt. Blessed.

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      Interesting! I know much about King Tut but not his wife or his family. This is a great lens..

    • trezpazz profile image

      trezpazz 6 years ago

      Great Lens!Always had wanted to know about this lady ever since I saw Mummy series.

    • trezpazz profile image

      trezpazz 6 years ago

      Great Lens!Always had wanted to know about this lady ever since I saw Mummy series.

    • jodijoyous profile image

      jodijoyous 7 years ago from New York

      I have been fascinated with ancient Egypt since I was a kid. We hear so much about "Tut" and so little about the people around him. Blessed.

    • myneverboredhands profile image

      myneverboredhands 7 years ago

      It's probably the only piece of History I was really enjoying learning... Thank you so much for so interesting and informative lens.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Ah, it's all coming back to me. I remember learning about this in high school. Ancient Egypt is in my opinion the most fascinating culture and people to have ever emerged. There's still so much to be learned about them - and from them.

    • Amanda Blue profile image

      Amanda Blue 8 years ago

      Beautifully done, thank you. I will be back to spend more time with this and your other Egyptian lenses, which are of particular interest to me.

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      thesuccess2 8 years ago

      Wow, good stuff, Ancient Egypt I have fascinated since my first history lessons

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      kundalini48 8 years ago

      My gratitude for all this. :)

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      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      Congratulations NEW Giant!

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      Light-in-me 8 years ago

      Very nice lens, very interesting.

      Great job !!

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      kab 8 years ago from Upstate, NY

      What a great lens! 5* (and a blessing)

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 8 years ago

      5***** for an excellent, thorough, and engaging historical lens! Please join the new Squidoo group Rulers and Royalty.

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      bdkz 8 years ago

      Very interesting lens! Great job!

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      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Kate, you have quite an amazing talent for composition that pulls your reader in. I like the interweaving of your outside links. Excellent lens.

    • Kate Phizackerl1 profile image
      Author

      Kate Phizackerl1 8 years ago

      Thank you for picking up the typos. The corrections will appear in the next version published - I'm working on lenses for some of her sisters and the next version will include the links.

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      Ellen Brundige 8 years ago from California

      Wow. Excellent job of untangling a truly labyrinthine family tree and an exciting but confusing period shrouded in mystery. I hadn't realized that Ankhesenamun married Ay for a bit!

      Nitpick alert: typo on her name in the blue blurb at the beginning, plus "amaxing" at the end of the section on the death of Tutankhamun.

    • Kate Phizackerl1 profile image
      Author

      Kate Phizackerl1 8 years ago

      Thanks. No I haven't been on a dig - this is a hobby for me. The lens is still growing as I find new material as I write lenses about her sisters and mother.

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      Kathryn Grace 8 years ago from San Francisco

      Interesting lens, interesting subject. Have you been on a dig?