Archaeologist: King Tut's Wet Nurse Was His Sister

Public can now gawk at scenes showing Maya nursing the young pharaoh
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2015 1:14 PM CST
Egypt Opens Tomb of King Tut's Wet Nurse
The tomb of King Tut is displayed in a glass case at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015.   (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Some 300 miles south of Cairo sits the Valley of the Kings, the location where Tutankhamen was laid to rest. But just 13 miles south of Egypt's capital is the necropolis of Saqqara, where officials, courtiers, and, apparently, King Tut's wet nurse, Maia, were buried. Her tomb was found in 1996 by the French archaeologist Alain Zivie, and the AP reports it's just been opened to those outside the scientific community for the first time. But what Zivie had to say Sunday on the occasion of its opening to the media (the public gains access in January) is fascinating: He believes Maia (also reported as Maya) "is none other than princess Meritaten, the sister or half-sister of Tutankhamun and the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti."

Antiquities Minister Mamduh al-Damati said Sunday the tomb featured carvings of the wet nurse breastfeeding the young King Tut, and Zivie says he arrived at his conclusion after studying these carvings. The AFP points out that DNA established in 2010 that Tut is the son of Akhenaten; his mother has yet to be identified. Akhenaten's tomb has carvings showing the death of another daughter, princess Maketaten; Ahram Online reports Meritaten is shown in that scene nursing a child. As for Nefertiti, archaeologists currently working on Tut's tomb think it holds a hidden chamber—and that she could be inside it. She might not be alone. Al-Damati says Meritaten's mummy has not been located and could possibly be in that chamber, if it exists. As for what we know about Maia, Deutsche Welle calls her "enigmatic," and Ahram Online recalls her as "educator of the god's body and the great one of the hareem." Read more on the hunt for Nefertiti's tomb. (More King Tut stories.)

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