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Most people are familiar with the treasures found in the tomb of Tutankhamun and with his stunning funeral mask which remains one of the most universally recognisable objects ever made. However Tutankhamun's burial had been robbed at least twice in antiquity and many of the smaller items were missing. In spite of this the 'wonderful things' found by Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings captured the imagination of the world.

There was, however, only ever one complete Pharaohnic burial discovered although it remains virtually unknown. In 1940 with the world on the brink of war, the French archaeologist Pierre Montet discovered the undisturbed tomb of the 21st Dynasty king Psusennes I, as well as the tombs of the Pharaohs Osorkon I, Takelot II, Sheshonq III and others in a royal necropolis at Tanis.

Psusennes' mummy was virtually entirely destroyed by the damp conditions in the delta but his jewellery and other non perishable grave goods survived in perfect condition. Notable amongst the items discovered in this tomb was Psusennes' solid gold mask and mummy board.
His mummy had been placed inside a silver coffin which is unusual as in ancient Egypt silver was more valuable than gold as it had to be imported. This coffin was then placed in a black granite sarcophagus, which was in turn placed in a red granite outer sarcophagus.

The outer and middle sarcophagus had been 'recycled' from earlier burials. The black sarcophagus had all trace of it's original owner erased but fortunately a cartouche was missed on the red sarcophagus which reveals it was originally made for Ramesses II's successor, the Pharaoh Merenptah.

During the time of Psusennes, known as the Third Intermediate Period, the Valley of the kings was officially looted for it's treasures and many of the funeral goods were reused. This is also probably when the mummies were removed from their tombs and stored in at least two caches. Ironically this protected them from further disturbance and ensured their survival.

The destruction of all the perishable items in the tombs is illustrated by two piles of Shabti figures found on the floor at the foot of the sarcophagus. Originally these were in wooden boxes but over time the boxes had decomposed leaving the figures neatly stacked.


The Penguin Historical
Atlas of Ancient Egypt


The Chronicle of the Pharaohs