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There may be one other poignant testimony to the legacy of royal incest buried with Tutankhamun in his tomb. While the data are still incomplete, our study suggests that one of the mummified fetuses found there is the daughter of Tutankhamun himself, and the other fetus is probably his child as well. So far we have been able to obtain only partial data for the two female mummies from KV21. One of them, KV21A, may well be the infants' mother and thus, Tutankhamun's wife, Ankhesenamun. We know from history that she was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and thus likely her husband's half sister. Another consequence of inbreeding can be children whose genetic defects do not allow them to be brought to term.

So perhaps this is where the play ends, at least for now: with a young king and his queen trying, but failing, to conceive a living heir for the throne of Egypt. Among the many splendid artifacts buried with Tutankhamun is a small ivory-paneled box, carved with a scene of the royal couple. Tutankhamun is leaning on his cane while his wife holds out to him a bunch of flowers. In this and other depictions, they appear serenely in love. The failure of that love to bear fruit ended not just a family but also a dynasty. We know that after Tutankhamun's death, an Egyptian queen, most likely Ankhesenamun, appeals to the king of the Hittites, Egypt's principal enemies, to send a prince to marry her, because "my husband is dead, and I have no son." The Hittite king sends one of his sons, but he dies before reaching Egypt. I believe he was murdered by Horemheb, the commander in chief of Tutankhamun's armies, who eventually takes the throne for himself. But Horemheb too dies childless, leaving the throne to a fellow army commander.

The new pharaoh's name was Ramses I. With him begins another dynasty, one which, under the rule of his grandson Ramses the Great, would see Egypt rise to new heights of imperial power. More than anyone else, this great king would work to erase from history all traces of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and the other "heretics" of the Amarna period. With our investigations, we seek to honor them and keep their memories alive. 

Since 2001 the Society has supported the research of Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and a National Geographic explorer-in-residence. He is the author of Zahi Hawass's Travel Guide to Secret Egypt, forthcoming from National Geographic Books.

Kenneth Garrett has photographed 15 stories on Egypt for the magazine and collaborated with Zahi Hawass on six books.

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