Merit’s Family Tree: Just How Accurate Is It Really?

This family tree is based on the relationships within The Scarab Heart. It closely resembles the standard, pared-down, pre-2010 version apart from one thing: it shows Kiya as not only the mother of Tut-ankh-amun but of Smenkh-ka-re as well. This was my attempt to explain the similarities observed in both Tut’s and Smenkh-ka-re’s skulls (or, at least, the skull thought to belong to Smenkh-ka-re), similarities that were nearly always put down to their sharing a common father (Akhen-aton). The possibility of their sharing a common mother never seemed to occur to anybody, even though this was equally as likely to be the case. As Kiya was thought to be Tut’s mother, it seemed natural to me that she might have been Smenkh-ka-re’s too.

Merit's Family Tree

I hold my hand up and admit that this particular family tree is not complete, nor is it likely to be correct given the revelations of the Hawass team in 2010 (see KV55's Occupant for more details).

A colossal statue of Akhenaton from his Aten Temple at Karnak - photo by Gérard Ducher

Statue of Akhenaton from his Aten Temple at Karnak - photo by Gérard Ducher License: CC BY-SA 2.5

We know, for example, that Amun-ho-tep III and Ti had a number of other children, and there is some evidence to suggest that at least one of them (Beket, a girl thought to be about Merit’s age although it would seem that she’s Merit’s aunt) went with the family to Akhet-Aton (Tell el-Armana).

While it used to be held that Tut-anhk-amun was the son of Akhen-aton and Kiya (sometimes referred to as “The Younger Queen” or “The Younger Lady”), it now transpires that The Younger Lady (KV35YL) is quite probably Akhen-aton’s full-blooded sister, and therefore one of Amun-ho-tep III and Ti’s daughters.

The Nefertiti bust, originally discovered in Amarna on 6 December 1912, in Neues Museum, Berlin - photo by Philip Pikart

The Nefertiti bust, in Neues Museum, Berlin - photo by Philip Pikart License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Far less is known about Smenkh-ka-re’s origins and endings—he seems to spring forth fully formed as a teenager. It used to be agreed that he and Tut-ankh-amun were related, but this is only because of the skeletal comparisons made when Smenkh-ka-re was thought to be the occupant of KV55. With the Hawass suggestion that KV55 is in fact Akhen-aton, the relationship with Tut becomes that of father and son, and Smenkh-ka-re is once again relegated to the shadows. There is even a slim possibility that he did not exist at all—some people propose that he is actually Nefretiti going by another name, as Nefretiti starts to disappear from the records just as Smenkh-ka-re comes to the fore (a nod to Hat-shep-sut, the queen who donned a false beard and went on to rule Egypt as a man, perhaps?). One potential argument against this scenario is the existence of Smenkh-ka-re’s funerary goods—one coffin and four canopic chests designed to house his organs—which ended up being used (or re-used) for Tut-ankh-amun’s burial. Which begs the question: what on earth became of Smenkh-ka-re?

In truth it is best to take all late 18th dynasty family trees with a large pinch of salt; they are simply based on what we think we know (from weighing up all the available evidence) at any given moment in time. And while evidence may not lie, it certainly helps to confuse matters to a mind-boggling degree!