A YEAR OF MIXED EMOTIONS

Lecture by Andrew Collins for the 15th Questing Conference at Conway Hall, red Lion Square, London WC1, on Saturday, 3 November 2001.

 

Since the broadcast of the HORIZON programmes which called to question the works of individuals such as Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval in 1999, we have seen a huge decline of media and publishing interest in alternative history and forbidden archaeology. Very few books on these subjects have appeared on the bookshelves, and publishers have been reluctant to take on new books promoting such ideas. Many of the key authors who had previously written best-sellers in this field have found themselves out of a job, forcing them to either accept new life styles or publish their books themselves. On the other hand, new authors with fresh ideas have found it impossible to get their theories into print. It is a sad situation, yet one that we hope is about to undergo a new renaissance.

REDATING THE SPHINX - Again!

Ten years ago Robert Schoch, a geologist from Boston University, changed the whole face of Egyptology by claiming that the Great Sphinx, situated on the Giza Plateau, might be many thousands of years older than conventional Egyptology had always believed. The theory was promoted most obviously by Graham Hancock in his 1995 book FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS.

Yet since that time much more has come to light about the antiquity of the Great Sphinx and the other monuments of the Giza Plateau. Although there is strong evidence to suggest that the carved leonine monument was in place during the reign of the pharaoh Khufu, a generation before its assumed construction by his successor Khafre, sometime around 2550 BC, new evidence amassed by my colleague Chris Ogilvie Herald now suggests that the weathering effects which determined Schoch's redating of the monument might have been produced much later than was assumed. There is ample evidence that flash floods and severe rain storms occurred with frequency during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, and that this, coupled with the saline erosion of the soft limestone each morning, contributed greatly to its appearance today. Thus there is no need to assume that the water-worn elements of the Sphinx occurred thousands of years before the commencement of Dynastic Egypt. Chris is writing up this new evidence for an article that will appear shortly on the GIZA: THE TRUTH website, maintained by his co-author of the book of this name Ian Lawton.

CUBA AND THE MYSTERY OF ATLANTIS - The Plot Thickens

As many of you will know last year I wrote a book entitled GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS, which posited the view that Plato's fabled island empire of Atlantis was located in the vicinity of Cuba, the largest of the islands of the Caribbean. Imagine my delight when in May 2001 I received notification that an underwater 'city' had been found off Cuba the previous summer by a Canadian scientific research team, headed by Russian-born oceanographer Paulina Zelitsky. Whilst searching for sunken galleons off the west coast of the Cuban mainland in July 2000 a vast area of rectilinear features, several kilometres in area was detected by hi-tech sonar equipment on a deep-sea shelf 700 metres beneath the surface. According to reports coming out of Havana, where the company, Advanced Digital Communications (ADC) are based, the 'city' is said to resemble the groundplan of the Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan, located north of Mexico City.

I tracked down Advanced Digital Communications in Havana and began a series of nail-biting communications with Paulina's husband Paul Weinzweig, who was at a loss to explain the significance of their extraordinary discovery. Already it was being suggested by the US media that they might have found the true location of Atlantis, a conclusion that Paul and Paulina were ill-prepared to handle before being given enough time to absorb the contents of my book.

I learnt that no real progress would be made on the project until Paulina and her experienced Cuban crew were able to examine the underwater features using remote operated video recorders (ROVs), which would obtain the necessary video footage to further the matter one way or another. If this operation proved successful, then the next stage would be to send down to the sea-bottom one- or two-man submersibles, like those featured in the recent BBC series 'The Blue Planet'. At a depth of 700 metres, over half a mile down, this was the only real option available.

The response to the discovery was extraordinary. America's ever-popular radio programme The Art Bell Show broadcast several Atlantis specials, while its 'science reporter' Linda Moulton Howe delivered near weekly bulletins. She even reported that media rights for the whole Cuba-Atlantis project had been sold exclusively to National Geographic, which is simply untrue. Despite various discussions with different interested parties, no such exclusivity deal has been signed. However, those who are let in on the current states of affairs in Cuba have been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, which I was also asked to do back in July. Effectively, this means that I cannot report on the present situation, other than to speak about material which is currently in the public domain, or to state my reaction to what has taken place so far, without revealing why.

All I can say is that for a few brief days in late July I felt like Howard Carter, after his long search to find the tomb of Tutankhamun. Shortly afterwards, I emphasised that for the underwater features off Cuba to stand any chance of being accepted as of possible archaeological significance, then their ROVs would have to produce footage which confirmed that any structure found bore clear and unmistakable evidence of being artificially constructed. Individual blocks, whether cut or uncut, and of any shape, were simply not enough, and any walls discovered must be shown to be artificial and not simply a freak of nature, like the features discovered off the island of Yonaguni, Japan, in the second-half of the 1990s.

YONAGUNI - A Case of Mistaken Identity

Over the past five years Masaaki Kimura, Professor of Geology at The University of Ryu Kyu in Japan, has championed the theory that the much publicised stone features found at Yonaguni represent a man-made structure created by an unknown culture some 10,000 years ago. In a book, and at the lectures he presents, he shows still images which he offers as evidence of his discoveries. Unfortunately, from these pictures alone there is very little evidence to justify his claims.

Furthermore, Dr Robert Schoch of Boston University, who was asked to inspect the underwater site, which lies in around 100 feet of water, concluded that it was purely a nature feature shaped by geological processes. He did not, however, rule out the possibility that mankind might not have made use of the site, although it was certainly not a building construction.

In response, Professor Kimura reported the existence close to the site of a retaining wall of loose stones, held up by larger boulders. He also claims to have recovered two smaller artefacts, one of which is a stone idol and the other an inscribed stone bearing a strange script which resembles symbols found on various unknown artefacts discovered in the Americas. I have examined both artefacts, and in my opinion, the inscribed stone is a fishing weight, complete with trawling hole. Any marks on it, which include a simple cross, are simply the result of personal doodlings by the fishermen involved. The other object appears simply to be a large boulder fractured in such a way as to produce simulacra that resembles an animal of some kind.

To me, only one piece of evidence points towards a human presence on the Yonaguni site and this is a line of bore holes photographed on the upper surface of a submerged rock face. These are typical of drilled holes made in uncut rock in an attempt to fracture the stone for use in building construction.

So the Canadian research team working off the coast of Cuba must produce compelling evidence that the deep-water features they have discovered are of artificial construction. All I can say is that people will have to be patient, as there is unlikely to be any public announcements emerging out of Cuba for the foreseeable future, and so, in the meantime, the search for Atlantis continues.

ATLANTIS OFF GIBRALTAR - A Frenchman's Claim

The discoveries made in Cuba in 2000 did not make the British press (although there is some suggestion that the story appeared in business bible THE FINANCIAL TIMES). Yet one theory which drew considerable media interest was the claim by a French geologist to have found Atlantis off the coast of the Gibraltar.

Professor Jacques Collina-Girard, from the Mediterranean University in Aix-en-Provence, made this startling discovery when engaged in mapping the coastline of Western Europe as it appeared at the end of the last Ice Age. He noticed, lying in deep water beyond the Strait of Gibraltar, a submerged archipelago or group of islands. The largest of these, named as 'Spartel', is reported to be nine miles long and three miles wide. According to Professor Collina-Girard, this tiny island is Plato's Atlantis. That is if we are prepared to accept that Plato's purported source for the story, the Greek legislator Solon, wrongly converted the dimensions of the city given to him by an old priest from the temple of Sais in Egypt. Moreover, we are asked to accept the idea that Plato's claim that the island was destroyed by 'volcanic activity', the text states actually 'earthquakes and floods', was merely an embellishment to make the account more dramatic. According to Collina-Girard, all it did was sink quietly beneath the waves when the sea-level rose up to '425 feet' after the melting of the ice fields in c. 9000 BC, Plato's chosen date for the disappearance of Atlantis.

The French professor cites no other evidence for the island of Spartel being the lost island empire of Atlantis, other than the fact that at the end of the last Ice Age the Straight of Gibraltar was longer and narrower than it is today, and would have contained a harbour-like inland sea like the one mentioned in Plato's account. Furthermore, no evidence of a human presence has so far been discovered on the sunken island, or any of its neighbours, even though Professor Collina-Girard speculates that Palaeolithic man might easily have travelled across the Straight to the island of Spartel.

In an article for the scholarly magazine NEW SCIENTIST in September 2001, the French professor is quoted as saying: 'The texts are the origin of a lot of speculation about Atlantis. Curiously nobody has really taken seriously the most obvious location.'(cf. Chapman, James, Daily Mail, 20 September 2001, p. 37)

As the author of a definitive benchmark on the subject of Plato's Atlantis, I feel able to comment authoritatively on the claims of the French professor. Firstly, the location of Plato's Atlantis. Sure, the Athenian philosopher tells us in his work the TIMAEUS, written c. 350 BC, that Atlantis lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the ancient name for the legendary rocks which stood each side of the Straight of Gibraltar.

However, Plato did not necessarily mean that his Atlantic island was situated there, only that it was placed outside of the Mediterranean. Indeed he states that it stood before something called the 'Opposite Continent', which lay beyond the Atlantic sea, and that voyagers could go via 'other islands' from Atlantis to the Opposite Continent, over which its kings held dominion. This suggests that the island of Atlantis was far out in the Atlantic Ocean, and plausibly even in the vicinity of the Bahamas and Caribbean. Furthermore, he states that where Atlantis once stood was now an impassable sea, making navigation to the Opposite Continent impossible. Other writers contemporary to Plato also speak of this impassable sea, adding that it is an area of great calm and is covered in seaweed. There seems little doubt that what all these writers had been describing, whether knowingly or not, was the Sargasso Sea, the vast region of sea-weed which lies between the Azores in the Mid-Atlantic and the Bahamas in the west. No way could it be construed as having lain in the vicinity of the Straight of Gibraltar. In addition to this, the size of the island of Spartel makes little sense of Plato's description of the Atlantean island, which was said to have been dominated by a plain 3000 by 2000 stadia, beyond which were mountain ranges on three sides which came right down to the sea. This implies an island in the region of 600 by 400 kilometres in size with mountain ranges which came right down to the sea. The view that Solon, the Greek legislator whom Plato states first heard the Atlantis story when in Egypt, misread the figures for the dimensions of the city is often employed by supporters of the Aegean-Atlantis theory to demonstrate that Atlantis was either Crete or the volcanic island of Santorini, blown apart in a volcanic explosion around 1400 BC. It is proposed that Solon mislead the hieroglyphs for 1000 and 100, which were in fact only 10 and 1, meaning that Atlantis was 100th the size originally given in Plato's account. Yet this theory is strongly denied by Egyptologists, who say that no such confusion can have occurred.

Moreover, as I have pointed out in my book GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS, although Plato tells us that the story came via Solon from Egypt, there is no reason to assume this was the case. The TIMEAUS, and its sequel the CRITIAS, both written around 350 BC, were fictional dialogues between characters which lived a generation or so before Plato's time. With the view of attempting to bolster the antiquity of the Atlantis legend, he is more likely to have used Solon's name to bolster the potential of the story. Moreover, Egypt's connection to the Atlantis account probably derived from it being considered to be the guardian of ancient wisdom 'hoary with age' which was sought out by all great philosophers and writers of the Greek world. Textual evidence from the dialogues themselves suggests more strongly that the story derived from Carthaginian sources, whose mariners were exploring the Atlantic Ocean as early as 600 BC. We know also that they were responsible for the creation of many other classical legends concerning what was to be found in the outer ocean. These included stories regarding the Islands of the Hesperides, the Elysium Fields and Okeanos, the ocean river which was said to encircle the ancient world. Even the myth of Atlas, the Titan who was said to have ruled the lands and seas of the far west, almost certainly derived from Carthaginian legends attached to Mount Atlas, located in the Atlas mountain range in north-west Africa.

What also makes little sense is the French professor's assertion that around 9000 BC, the alleged date for the destruction of Atlantis, the Straight of Gibraltar enclosed an inland sea resembling Plato's description of Atlantis. Plato speaks only of a series of three waterways encircling the Temple of Poseidon located at the centre of the Atlantean city. Never does he say that the island itself was surrounded by an inland sea.

In summary, it seems more likely that Plato constructed his Atlantis account from stories and rumours reaching the Mediterranean world via Carthaginian and Iberic Phoenician voyagers who were frequenting Atlantic islands either before or during his own age. I have proposed that the destruction of Atlantis is a memory of the submergence of low-lying landmasses which existed in the vicinity of the principal Caribbean islands and were remembered in the folktales of the indigenous peoples of this region. Moreover, it seems certain that Plato's description of the main Atlantean island reflects the topography of Cuba, which appears to have been known to ancient mariners through transatlantic journeys. No other theory fits the evidence better.

PHOENICIANS IN THE ATLANTIC - More Discoveries from the Canary Isles

If Professor Collina-Girard wanted to find new evidence for the existence of Atlantis he would have been better citing the archaeological features discovered recently off the island of Lanzarote in the Canaries by underwater explorer Pippo Cappellano. He has detected and filmed rectilinear stone foundations of unquestionable man-made manufacture in around 20-22 metres of water. Pictures of his discovery appear in a recent issue of HERA magazine.

Although the Canaries have been proposed occasionally as the site of lost Atlantis, there is no reason to assume that these structures do belong to Plato's lost island empire. Since they lie only at a depth of 20 or so metres, they would have been above sea-level as recently as the time of Christ, like the lost city of Heraklion found recently off the coast of Alexandria in Egypt. This is thought to have submerged as a result of a natural cataclysm as recently as AD 600. More likely is that the underwater features off Lanzarote represent evidence for the presence in the archipelago of a proto-Phoenician, Iberic Phoenician or Carthaginian sea-port during the first or second millennium BC.

Only recently, Canaries archaeologist and historian Pablo Atoche Peña has released new evidence of a Phoenician and Carthaginian presence in the Canary isles as early as 500 BC. This lends weight to the idea that these maritime peoples regularly made journeys to the archipelago, and perhaps used them as a staging post into the outer ocean. From here the Canary Current takes a vessel towards the islands of Cape Verde, before sweeping it westwards upon the North Equatorial Current towards the Caribbean. In 100 BC the Roman geographer Statius Sebosus recorded that it was 40 days' sail between the Gorgades, unquestionably the Cape Verde Isles off the West African coast, and the Hesperides, the 'islands in the west' said in classical tradition to have lay beyond the ocean river. Surely this is a reference to transatlantic journeys made either during or before his age, most probably by Carthaginian and Phoenician voyagers. Thus a line of transmission for information between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean world during the first-century BC supports the view that Atlantis laid in the outer ocean, conceivably in the Caribbean.

VISAGE LIKE A VIPER - The Mystery of the Maltese Skulls

Moving on to another subject now, HERA magazine has recently published a thought provoking article on two mystery skulls found on the Mediterranean island of Malta, which are being seen as evidence of an unknown human species with extremely long heads. Editor Adriano Forgione, who has travelled to the museum in Malta where the skulls are housed, believes that they might constitute evidence for the existence of the fallen angelic race known as the Watchers, found in pseudepigraphical works such as the enigmatic Book of Enoch. He cites the fact that another Enoch-related text, called the Testament of Amram, speaks of a Watcher with a visage like a viper, while collectively the Watchers are referred to as 'serpents', and their Nephilim offspring as 'sons of serpents'. He thus deduces that this abstract term might refer to the facial features of the Watchers and their offspring resembling that of serpents, in other words their heads were elongated in form.

The skulls, which are thought to be contemporary with the megalithic monuments on the island, and are thus at least 5,000 years old, are certainly elongated. However, the conventional view would be that they were artificially deformed in early childhood, using boards and wrappings. At such an early age the skull is still malleable and can be shaped in accordance with either religious or sectarian beliefs. This practice is found among ancient cultures world-wide, although in particular among the peoples of the Americas, and also in the Near East, the most obvious location for Eden, the home of the Watchers in Enochian literature. Adriano is certain, however, that these skulls are not artificially deformed, a fact confirmed by the Maltese archaeologists who have examined them.

The Watchers and Nephilim, and their human origins, is the subject of my books FROM THE ASHES OF ANGELS (1996) and GODS OF EDEN (1998). I pointed out the importance of the Testament of Amram to the physical appearance of the Watchers in the first of these titles, and this idea has been repeated many times since that time (in HERA magazine particularly).

I would like to see the Maltese skulls in question as evidence of an early race, connected with the megalithic builders of the eastern Mediterranean and linked in some way with the Watchers of the Book of Enoch. Yet only time will tell whether the skulls are either natural or deformed using artificial processes. Clearly, before any final judgements can be made further scientific opinions are required from experts in the field of human physiognomy.

DAUGHTERS OF AKHENATEN - Deformed Heads or Not?

Adriano in the above mentioned article has also pointed out that the Maltese skulls resemble very closely the shapes of the heads of the daughters of Amarna king Akhenaten, who ruled c. 1350 BC. Carved busts and painted reliefs show the young princesses with excessively long heads, while the pharaoh himself is shown from Year Four of his reign with an elongated head and serpent-like facial features. What earthly reason made him decide to portray his daughters in this grotesque fashion? The answer seems to lie in religious and spiritual ideals adopted by Akhenaten at this time. Before Year Four of his 17-year reign, he was portrayed like any other New Kingdom pharaoh. Yet all this changed when he rejected the traditional polytheism of Egypt in favour of the sole veneration of the invisible source of life expressed by the rays of the sun disk, Aten. The two events coincided with each other and are thus intrinsically linked in some way. Thus we have no need to assume that Akhetaten, who also had himself depicted with female breasts and hips, actually looked this way. Of course, this possibility cannot be ruled out, especially as it has been shown that the faces of some native Egyptians from Middle Egypt, where Akhenaten's gleaming white city of Akhetaten was located, resemble those of the pharaoh as depicted in the distinctive art style of his reign.

It seems to be quite another matter for the daughters. The grotesque extension to the length of their skulls suggests either some kind of rare medical condition, perhaps caused through constant interbreeding within the family, or deliberate head deformation. We certainly know that this practice was to be found among the Mitanni, or Hurrian, peoples of the Near East, and that it dates back to at least the time of the Halaf and Ubaid cultures who inhabited the region, c. 5500-3500 BC. Indeed, various figurines of serpent-headed individuals found among Ubaid graves in Lower Iraq have been used to support the contention that the Anunnaki, or builder gods, of Sumerian and Akkadian mythology belonged to this earlier culture. In one set of texts known as the Kharsag Tablets these gods of heaven and earth are described as serpents, or to have eyes like serpents. This reminds us of the descriptions of the Watchers and Nephilim in Enochian literature, who are thought to have inhabited the same region as the ancestors of the Sumerian and Akkadian races. It is a matter I have discussed at length in FROM THE ASHES OF ANGELS.

It is my opinion that the original Watchers of Eden were long-headed individuals who were a shamanistic elite that entered the Near East around 9500 BC and founded the earliest proto-Neolithic communities, which thrived on the Upper Euphrates river and other parts of the Near East (modern Kurdistan) through to the rise of Sumer and Akkad, c. 3000-2000 BC. Yet their memory became distorted over the millennia, with them changing from people with faces like serpents to serpents themselves. The same thing would appear to have happened among the Maya peoples of Central America, who deliberately deformed their heads in order to resemble their first ancestors whom they saw as walking serpents. This same process was, I believe, practised among the Halaf and Ubaid peoples of ancient Iraq, who saw their own original ancestors as serpent-faced or serpent-like individuals.

As for Akhenaten's daughters, I believe there is a very strong possibility that their heads were deformed during early childhood. Why exactly remains unclear, although it might well relate to their father's spiritual beliefs concerning the original ancestry of Egyptian pharaohs, who were themselves seen as descendants of the gods of the First Time. Yet until we find the mummy of any one of Akhenaten's royal daughters, and see for ourselves the shape of the skull, the matter can be taken no further.

THE SEARCH FOR NEFERTITI - Nic Reeves and the Amarna Royal Tombs Project

This takes us nicely on to the final topic of discussion, the current search by British Egyptologists to find the tomb of Akhenaten's wife Nefertiti in the Valley of the Kings. The Amarna Royal Tomb's Project was founded in 1998 after permission was given by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities for a British team to begin exploration of the Valley, the first time that a concession of this sort has been granted since the days of Howard Carter. Founder Nicholas Reeves asked his colleagues Professor Jeffrey Martin and Ian Shaw to join him in a search for what he believes to be a previously unknown Amarna tomb, which he has deduced either contains, or once contained, the mummified body of Queen Nefertiti. She disappears from the Egyptian records in Year Eleven/Twelve of her husband Akhenaten's reign, although Reeves considers that she returned to rule Egypt for three-brief years under the name Smenkhkare. Since a co-regency of anything up to two years existed between Akhenaten and Smenkhkare, the latter went on to rule in his right for less than one year before he himself was superseded by the boy-king Tutankhamun, c. 1349 BC.

Reeves is looking for his Amarna royal tomb somewhere between KV56, the so-called Gold Tomb where in the early twentieth century British Egyptologist Edward Ayrton found gold fineries belonging to a wife of Seti II, and KV9, the former resting place of Ramesses VI, located directly above and adjacent to Tutankhamun's tomb (KV62). Indeed, the latter escaped discovery only because the huts built by the workman employed in the construction of KV9 were placed on spoil which covered the entrance to Tutankhamun's tomb; these were only removed during Howard Carter's final year of exploration in 1922. Yet more crucial to this whole debate is a minor tomb opposite to KV62 and KV9, known as KV55. On its discovery in 1907, under the sponsorship of American millionaire Theodore Davis, it was found to contain an Amarna mummy placed there under the most unusual of circumstances. Its coffin, wrappings, canopic jars and so-called magic bricks all bore different names, which had either been scrubbed out or replaced with another, creating a nightmare when it came to identifying the mummy. Initially it was thought to be that of Queen Tiye, Akhenaten's mother, due to the presence in the tomb of the remains of a gilded shrine which bore her name. Yet when it was realised that the body was male, many Egyptologists decided that it must be Akhenaten himself, since the magic bricks bore his name. Yet examinations of the skeleton by such well-known Egyptologists as Rex Engelbach and G. Elliott Smith - as well as R. G. Harrison of Liverpool University, who examined the body in 1963 - showed that the person could not have been any more than 30 when he died. Since Akhenaten is not thought to have been any younger than 40 when he disappears in Year Seventeen of his reign, then the body in KV55 did not belong to him. The only Amarna king that fits the description is Smenkhkare, who is known to have reverted the royal court back to the southern capital Thebes during his reign, and whose name appears on items found in KV55.

Yet Nicholas Reeves ignores these facts and has resurrected the idea that the body in Tomb 55 is that of Akhenaten. He concludes this because of the evidence offered by the presence around the coffin of the magic bricks and the fact that a recent re-examination of the body from KV55 by two Egyptian pathologists has determined that its owner was nearly 40 at the point of death. Lastly, he cites the shaky theory that Nefertiti was Smenkhkare as further proof of his assertions. Since the body found in Tomb 55 is clearly male, then it cannot be Nefertiti. So if it is Akhenaten, then Nefertiti/Smenkhkare is, according to Reeves, still out there somewhere, awaiting discovery in the Valley of the Kings. This is the line of reasoning of those behind the Amarna Royal Tombs Project.

However, there is no reason to question the earlier findings of experienced scientists such as R. G. Harrison, who also examined Tutankhamun in 1968 and determined that the boy-king was related directly to the body in Tomb 55, either as brother/brother, or father/son. Moreover, there is every reason to conclude that Smenkhkare was indeed a male of the species. For instance, we know that his queen was Merytaten, Akhenaten's oldest daughter, who had previously become her father's chief wife after the disappearance of Nefertiti in Year Eleven/Twelve of his reign. Smenkhkare and Merytaten are shown together in bas reliefs found at the site of Akhenaten's city at Tel el-Amarna. After she became Smenkhkare's wife, Akhenaten chose his second oldest surviving daughter, Akhesen-pa-aten, to become his next chief wife. After her father's death, she went on to become queen to Smenkhkare's successor, Tutankhamun. All this supports the contention that Smenkhkare was a separate individual to Nefertiti. Otherwise we must explain why this former queen of Akhenaten should have wanted to legitimise her own claim to the throne - whilst her estranged husband was still alive and ruling Egypt - by taking his eldest daughter and chief wife as her 'queen'. It makes no sense whatsoever. Furthermore, a large fat, and clearly male, gold ring once belonging to Smenkhkare is to be found next to a smaller silver ring belonging to Nefertiti in Birmingham's Department of Egyptology. Did Nefertiti decide not only to marry a woman, but also to wear large masculine rings after her ascent to the throne of Egypt?

In addition to these facts, we now know that much of the funerary ware and equipment in Tutankhamun's tomb was second hand, and came originally from the tomb of Smenkhkare. This includes the second coffin's anthropomorphic lid, which, although often said to be the likeness of Tutankhamun, is actually Smenkhkare, since it is inscribed with his prenome Nefernefruaten. His mature, male features tend to confirm that Smenkhkare was a man (as does a life-size statue of Smenkhkare to be seen in the Louvre). Does it also not make sense to conclude that these priceless objects found in Tutankhamun's tomb were pilfered from Tomb 55, which lies just 50 metres across the Valley. Indeed, the entrances to the tombs are directly opposite each other.

So far the Amarna Royal Tombs Project, which is now into its fourth season in the Valley of the Kings, has unearthed precious little to convince prospective financiers that Nefertiti's tomb awaits discovery. A shard from an Amarna style canopic jar, an ostracon bearing the image of an Amarna-style priest and a few other coffin fragments are all they have to show for four years of hard work. Although I applaud the work of the team - which includes some of Britain's finest Egyptologists - I do hope that they revise their views on exactly whom they seek beneath the spoil heaps of the ancient valley. Otherwise, they might end up a little disappointed when finally they discover their hoped-for Amarna royal tomb.

 

I would like to thank the speakers for their time and effort, and those that helped make the Questing Conference a success. This list includes Grace Carey; Jason Digby, Robin Crookshank Hilton; Carina Fearnley, Catherine Hale; Rodney and Joan Hale; Hannah Hardiman; Paul Kyffin; Ian Lawton; Amber McCauley; Johnny Merron; Lisa Mundy and Matthew Adams; Chris Ogilvie-Herald; David Panter; Tony Pitcher, Yuri Raven; Colin and Cathy Stallard; Nigel Skinner-Simpson; Pandora Stevens; Tim, Richard Ward and Paul Weston. A special thanks goes out to Nigel Foster of the Global Café, Marcus Allen and staff at NEXUS magazine, Caroline Wise and Steve Wilson of Atlantis Bookshop and not forgetting my wife Sue Collins. Apologies to anyone I have forgotten. All I can add is that if you missed it, then you really did miss something special. Make sure that next year don't miss out. If we can have delegates from the United States, South Africa, Holland, France, Switzerland and Portugal, there is no reason why you shouldn't be there. The date and venue for next year's event will be given soon. Make sure it is a date in your calendar. With best wishes, Andrew Collins

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