Five sarcophagi were discovered by Louis Félicien de Saulcy in the Tomb of the Kings, which he excavated in 1863. The inscribed sarcophagus was found in Chamber C. One of the lid’s sides was sheered, indicating that the sarcophagus may have been altered to fit into the smaller room.
Two of the sarcophagi—including the one with the inscription—are now housed in the Louvre. Two are on the Temple Mount, one in secondary use under the Qayit Bey fountain and the other outside the Islamic Museum. The final one functions as a trough under a fountain on Al-Wad Street in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The other sarcophagi from the tomb are decorated more ornately than the so-called sarcophagus of Helena in the Louvre, which raises further questions about who was buried in the inscribed coffin. The two-line inscription reads ṣdn mlkt/ṣdh mlkth (Aramaic: צדן מלךתא / צדה מלךתה), which is translated as Tsadan the queen/Tsadah the queen.1 While the first line of the inscription is written in Seleucid Aramaic script, the second appears in Aramaic Square Script.
Who was Queen Tsadan/Tsadah? Since the bones in the sarcophagus were of a young woman, she could not have been Helena.2 Perhaps she was another royal, an unknown wife of one of Helena’s sons.
It seems that Queen Helena was buried in Chamber G—the least accessible room and the only one in the tomb designed for a single burial. We may have a remnant of Helena’s sarcophagus in the ornate lid found in Chamber G. If so, it is no accident that its artwork matched the tomb’s façade.