The Treasure of the Egyptian Queen Ahhotep and International Relations at the Turn of the Middle Bronze Age (1600-1500 BCE)


The objects from Ahhotep’s burial at Dra Abu el-Naga, dating to the Eighteenth Dynasty, are a fascinating assemblage of mostly gold and other expensive materials, and are certainly worthy of further study. However, rather than being a catalogue of the objects as the title might suggest, this book is instead a mix of articles relating to its discovery and display, some limited analysis of objects, and useful, broader interpretations of the Second Intermediate Period. It consists of 17 articles by 15 scholars, based on a workshop at the American Society of Overseas Research held in 2018. The delay in publication was due to lack of funding, highlighting the plight facing many Egyptologists needing to publish important research.

After two studies on Second Intermediate Period chronology (which include the proposal that the recently identified ‘Abydos Dynasty’ was contemporary to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties), there are three articles on Ahhotep’s burial by Gianluca Miniaci. Very little is known about the discovery of the burial, including its location and original contents, but Miniaci describes his painstaking research – hunting down hard-to-find material from multiple archival collections – and provides some useful clarity on these and other issues.

There are two other articles that are of particular interest to me. First, Peter Lacovara presents a brief summary of Ahhotep’s golden flies, described as the ‘most familiar and impressive pieces of jewellery’. My own research was still progressing at the time, but Lacovara alludes to it; he does not make a final conclusion, but does draw parallels between these and Nubian flies.

Another interesting article is by Marilina Betrò, who presents her interpretation of the identity of Ahhotep. While she does not agree with my previously published views on there being one Queen Ahhotep, nor does she present new findings (in fact, some of her views on the assemblage contradict Miniaci’s evaluation in the same volume), her analysis does demonstrate the continued interest in this topic, and is precisely the sort of debate that should be happening.

The book is well illustrated throughout with black-and-white images. All colour images are placed on plates at the back, and are generally of lower quality and quite small, but this does not detract from the overall value of the book.

Overall, this volume is a very helpful addition to the research into the mysteries of Ahhotep’s burial. Although it does not answer everything, and indeed that may be impossible, it is an interesting exploration of this fascinating topic.

You can read about Taneash’s research into the burial of Ahhotep in AE 89 and his recent conclusions on the so-called ‘flies of honour’ in AE 135.

The Treasure of the Egyptian Queen Ahhotep and International Relations at the Turn of the Middle Bronze Age (1600-1500 BCE) (Middle Kingdom Studies 11)
Edited by Gianluca Miniaci and Peter Lacovara
Golden House Publications, 2022
ISBN 978-1-9061-3772-4
Paperback £80