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Jo in Tuthmosis III’s burial chamber - in Bolton © L.Campbell

Following our recent trip around the temples and tombs of Yorkshire last month, we’re now crossing over the Pennines and into the Valley of the Kings in Bolton, to the only replica royal tomb outside Egypt as featured in our new YouTube film at  Video | Immortal Egypt.

Tuthmosis III’s Valley of the Kings burial chamber in Bolton © FrontRowLive

As home to one of the finest Egyptological collections in the world, we’ve been regular visitors to Bolton Museum since the late 1980s so were more than delighted to discover that Bolton’s first curator William Midgley was a Yorkshireman. Born into a family from Barnsley, we celebrated him in our recent ‘Tut’22’ exhibition and in our article ‘Tutankhamun, Art and Yorkshire’ just published by the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) (Egyptian Archaeology | EES). 

EES’ Chairman Dr Margaret Moutford opening the new Bolton’s Egypt Galleries with Jo in 2018 © Bolton Council

And with Bolton’s 12,000 Egyptian artefacts largely acquired from EES excavations, we were honoured to officially open Bolton’s new Egypt galleries back in 2018 alongside EES Chairman Dr Margaret Mountford (above), and both of us blown away by the new galleries. Beginning with a light-filled space focusing on Egypt’s distinctive environment and daily life, this leads into a second darker space highlighting funerary practices before opening out into an exact replica of the burial chamber of King Tuthmosis III (c.1479-1425 BC). 

Far easier to access than the actual tomb in Egypt requiring a lengthy clamber up a long metal staircase, Tuthmosis’ tomb was the 34th to be discovered in ‘King’s Valley’ so is now designated ‘KV.34’. Yet it was also the very first in the valley to be decorated, and beneath a dark blue ceiling festooned with golden yellow stars, the curved walls of its unique burial chamber are covered in funerary texts from the ‘Amduat’. Literally translating as ‘what is in the underworld’, thousands of little stick-like figures portray the sun god’s dangerous journey through the hours of the night, featuring everything from ritual decapitation to a rather friendly-looking large cat representing the great Cat of Ra. The chamber’s central supporting columns also portray King Tuthmosis’ wives and daughters following the king himself, being suckled by goddess Isis emerging from a shady tree.

Tuthmosis III’s actual burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt © Araldo De Luca

And with the theme of eternal nurturing even extending inside the king’s quartzite sarcophagus within the actual tomb itself (above), the underside of its lid was carved with the open-armed figure of the sky goddess Nut. Placed there to receive the king’s body when he died c.1425 BC after an action-packed 38 year reign, it was officially announced that he’d “completed his lifetime of many years… mounting to heaven and joining the sun”, his body then mummified with so much cedar resin that the archaeologists who first entered the burial chamber in 1898 could still smell this pungent preservative (below left). 

The much-travelled mummified body of Tuthmosis III © ImmortalEgypt, with a section of his fine linen wrappings in Bolton © Bolton Museum

Once mummified, the royal body had been adorned in rich jewellery, wrapped in the finest linen - some of which is housed in the Bolton collection (above right) - and covered in a linen shroud featuring texts from the Book of the Dead. Then laid to rest within a nest of three gold-covered wooden coffins, all were carefully lowered into the awaiting sarcophagus whose lid, sealed in place, would allow ‘mother Nut’ to protect him for eternity. 

Or at least that was the plan…. 

But over the next few centuries, the royal mummies came to be seen as an easy source of wealth. With their tombs plundered and their bodies stripped of anything of value, Tuthmosis’ sarcophagus was damaged when its lid was pushed aside, his coffined body pulled out and at some point taken down the valley to a makeshift workshop inside tomb KV.4 where every vestige of gold was adzed from his coffins (see us inside KV.4 at 2 hours 50 mins into: The Dominant Rise And Total Collapse Of The Ancient Egyptians | Immortal Egypt | Odyssey - YouTube). 

As for his body, his linen wrappings had been stripped off to access his jewellery, with only a bracelet and few strings of gold, carnelian, lapis and feldspar beads escaping attention. The royal sceptre had been prized from his still tightly clasped left hand (above left), his arms broken at the elbows to access multiple bracelets, his head broken off at the neck to retrieve the swathes of precious necklaces and even his feet snapped off to get at his solid gold sandals, reducing his height to just under 5’ 4.

Rewrapped Tuthmosis (published by G.Maspero in 1889), with one of his 3 stripped down wooden coffins © National Museum of Egyptian Civilization

Yet after such terrible damage there had also been remedial work, when Tuthmosis’ battered body had been reassembled, reinforced with a combination of wooden splints and repurposed ceremonial oars then rewrapped for reburial back inside one of its now de-gilded wooden coffins (above L&R). 

As a fate shared by more than 50 other royal mummies who were all interred together c.1032 BC in Tomb DB320 above Deir el-Bahri, this location was so well hidden it was only discovered by local people in 1871 prior to its ‘official’ discovery ten years later, when the authorities swiftly removed Tuthmosis and his fellow royals from their shared tomb. Carrying them in procession down the Theban hills to the Nile and shipping them north to the first version of Cairo Museum in the suburb of Boulaq, Tuthmosis’ body was one of the first to be unwrapped and photographed there in 1881, only to be rewrapped for its final(!) unwrapping in 1886. 

But with the Nile-side Boulaq Museum prone to flooding, its entire contents – including Tuthmosis - were relocated to a palace-turned-museum in Giza in 1891, only to all be moved again to the purpose-built Cairo Museum on Tahrir Square opening in 1902. As the place we first met the pharaoh and his fellow royals almost 30 years ago, they were recently on the move yet again in April 2021, when Tuthmosis and 17 other royal mummies, each within their own named vehicle, were driven to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in the much-publicised ‘Pharaohs’ Golden Parade’ (below).

The ‘Pharaohs’ Golden Parade’ leaving the old Cairo Museum © Getty, with Tuthmosis III’s individual vehicle © CBC News 

Clearly having had an afterlife as action-packed as his long reign, Tuthmosis’ iconic status certainly merited a burial chamber so unique it was selected for replication by art conservation company Factum Arte, to form the centrepiece of ‘The Quest for Immortality’ exhibition. Opening in Washington in 2003 where we first saw it, the replica tomb then toured venues around the US, Europe and eventually the Far East, accompanied by 250 star items from Bolton’s Egyptian collection at a time Bolton Museum itself was being redeveloped into the aforementioned new galleries. 

Coffin base of Tayuhenut with the anonymous mummified man in Bolton © FrontRowLive

And as the objects returned home to Bolton in 2018, one of the most important was the painted coffin of priestess Tayuhenut (above). Having been donated to the museum by a ‘Mrs. Burton’ in 1930, it still contained a mummified body which, even in its partly unwrapped state, only just fit inside. So either the body had been 'rescued' from a looted tomb and given a new coffin in ancient times, or had simply been placed in there by modern antiquity dealers wanting to increase its sale value. 

Bolton’s mummified man examined by L-R Dr Stephen Buckley, the late Prof. Don Brothwell and Duncan Lees © History Channel 

But whatever the circumstances, the body was certainly not Tayuhenut. Having already been X-rayed back in 1983 and identified as male, little else was known about this anonymous man so our team from the University of York were keen to try and find out more. And by bringing together the combined expertise of the late great palaeopathologist Prof. Don Brothwell, 3d archaeological scanning expert Duncan Lees, facial reconstruction specialist Dr. Stephanie Davy-Jow and our very own archaeological chemist extraordinaire Dr Stephen Buckley (no bias here of course), we not only established the man’s 19th dynasty credentials, dating him to c.1300-1200 BC, but were able to elevate his status from elite to regal. Based on his specific facial and physical measurements which are almost identical to those of 19th dynasty rulers Ramses II and Merenptah to whom he was almost certainly related, his status as a minor royal is all the more likely given Ramses’ hundred or so children, at least one of whom is housed in another European museum collection over in Spain. 

The Bolton tomb and mummified royal male © FrontRowLive

And with our work filmed by the History Channel (re-versioned/retitled by Odyssey as The Shocking True Identity Of This Ancient Egyptian Mummy | Mummy Forensics | Odyssey (, the new information about this very special individual has allowed him to take his rightful place within the replica royal burial chamber, in the very same part of the tomb where Tuthmosis himself once lay. And with an emphasis on respect enhanced by low light levels and explanatory text, the tomb environment is the perfect location for an individual much loved by generations of Boltonians, creating a real highlight in any ancient Egyptian tour of the North.   

Jo and Stephen will be discussing Bolton’s ‘Unknown Man’ as part of the forthcoming July day school ‘All About Mummification’ in association with the EES and the University of York: details at Bolton's Egypt Summer Study Day 2024 - All About Mummification – Bolton Libraries and Museums (



Jo at Abu Simbel_edited.jpg

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