Whereas there are burials of royal children and court ladies from the 19th and 20th Dynasties, little is known about the composition of the pharaonic court of the 18th Dynasty, whose most famous members include Tutankhamun, queen-pharaoh Hatshepsut and the “heretic pharaoh” Akhenaten, with his queen, Nefertiti.
Spanning from around 1500 B.C. to 1300 B.C., the 18th Dynasty was the first of the New Kingdom, the pharaonic empire that lasted until around 1000 B.C. and made its capital in Thebes, the present day city of Luxor, about 300 miles south of Cairo.
Bickel believes foreign princesses ended up in KV40 as a result of the diplomatic marriages with which the kings sealed political alliances. Such princesses were sent to the Egyptian courts along with large numbers of accompanying ladies, who probably lived with them.
“We know, for example, that Tuthmosis III had at least three wives, probably from the Syrian region, who were buried together in a cliff-tomb south of the Valley of the Kings,” Donald Ryan, an archaeologist at the Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., told Discovery News.
“Rameses II had two Hittite wives who were sent to Egypt in the aftermath of a peace treaty,” he added.
Ryan directed many expeditions in the Valley of the Kings, including excavations at KV60, whose mummy was identified as that of Hatshepsut in 2007.
According to the archaeologist, among Bickel’s most important findings are the inscriptions with names unearthed in the multi-chambered tomb.
“They have discovered names and it adds to the growing evidence of how the Valley of the Kings was not just the burial place for Egypt's rulers, but many others as well, all with special status, of course,” Ryan said.
But the valley still keeps many secrets.
There are many New Kingdom royal-family members and close associates whose tombs have never been identified.
“The Valley of the Kings contains around three dozen relatively simple undecorated tombs, most of which were heavily looted or damaged by flooding. Such conditions, and the tombs' blank walls, can make it very difficult to identify their owners,” he added.
During his work in the Valley of the Kings, Ryan recovered about 29 sets of human remains, from adults to infants.
“Thus far we can only associate them with perhaps five specific individuals,” Ryan said.
Details of his findings at KV 44, an undecorated tomb with one small chamber which contained the remains of 13 individuals, probably from the 18th Dynasty, are about to be published.
Adding to the results of the ongoing anthropological analyses at KV40, they might provide new insights on the conditions of life and the burial customs of those living in the 18th Dynasty’s pharaonic court.