Butehamun, Opener of the Gates to the Underworld: Dismantling Sacred Places of the Dead

Butehamun, Opener of the Gates to the Underworld: Dismantling Sacred Places of the Dead

At the very end of the Twentieth Dynasty and through to the beginning of the early Twenty-First Dynasty, one after another, the many royal dead in the Valley of the Kings were divested of their funerary paraphernalia. What was once considered sacrilege and unthinkable was now par for the course, thanks almost wholly to state-sanctioned looting of these sacred sanctuaries. The services of two necropolis scribes: Djehutymose and his son, Butehamun, were enlisted to systematically seek out, plunder and “restore” the burials of kings, queens, and priests. In doing so, the duo penned one of the most sordid chapters in ancient Egyptian history.

An overview of the Valley of the Kings as seen from one of the ancient workmen's pathways. The royal necropolis was plundered ruthlessly for golden treasures by the state.

In a time when the threat of internal rebellion, poverty and diminishing respect for Egypt existed, the priest-kings who usurped power needed wealth to fulfill their ambitious building projects to the glory of the pantheon. With sources of revenue dying out, they hit upon a devious plan to fill the coffers in the form of bullion, stocked in the tombs of their forebears; this, under the guise of restoration. Much earlier, tomb robbers struck at several Seventeenth Dynasty burials in the Valley of the Queens and the mortuary temples of deceased kings. In the fourth year of Herihor’s rule (1066), the necropolis scribe Butehamun received an order to carry out “work” in the tomb of Horemheb.


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