Valley of the Kings ( , less often وادي بيبان
الملوك Wādī Bībān al-Mulūk; "Valley of the Gates of the
Kings") is a valley in Egypt where, for a
period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were
constructed for the kings and powerful
nobles of the New Kingdom
(the Eighteenth to the
Twentieth Dynasties of
Ancient Egypt).The valley stands on
the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes (modern Luxor), within the
heart of the Theban
Location of the valley in the Theban Hills, West of the Nile,
October 1988 (red arrow shows location)
consists of two valleys, East Valley
(where the majority of the royal tombs situated) and West
2006 discovery of a new chamber (KV63), and the
2008 discovery of 2 further tomb entrances, the valley is known to
contain 63 tombs and chambers (ranging in size from a simple pit to a complex tomb with over 120 chambers), and was the principal burial place of the major
royal figures of the Egyptian New Kingdom, together with those of a
number of privileged nobles.
The royal tombs are decorated
with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs
and funerary rituals of the period. All of the tombs seem to have
been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of
the opulence and power of the rulers of this time.
The area has been a focus of concentrated archaeological
exploration since the end of the
eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate
research and interest. In modern times the valley has become famous
for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (with its rumours of the Curse of the Pharaohs), and is one of
the most famous archaeological sites in the world.
it became a World Heritage Site
along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis. Exploration,
excavation and conservation continues in the valley, and a new
tourist centre has recently been opened.
of soil where the Valley of Kings is located are an alternating
sandwich of dense limestone and other
sedimentary rock (which form the cliffs in the valley and the
el-Bahri) and soft
layers of marl. The sedimentary rock
was originally deposited between 35–56 million years ago during a
time when the precursor to the Mediterranean Sea covered an area that extended much further inland
Stratigraphy of the valley
During the Pleistocene
the valley was carved out of the
plateau by steady rains. There is currently little year-round rain
in this part of Egypt, but there are occasional flash floods
that hit the valley, dumping tons
of debris into the open tombs.
The quality of the rock in the Valley is inconsistent, ranging from
finely-grained to coarse stone, the latter with the potential to be
structurally unsound. The occasional layer of shale
also caused construction and conservation
difficulties, as this rock expands in the presence of water,
forcing apart the stone surrounding it. It is thought that some
tombs were altered in shape and size depending on the types of rock
the builders encountered.
Builders took advantage of available geological features when
constructing the tombs. Some tombs were quarried out of existing
limestone clefts, others behind slopes of scree
, or were at the edge of rock spurs created by
ancient flood channels.
The problems of tomb construction can be seen with tombs of
and his father Setnakhte
. Setnakhte started to excavate KV11 but broke
into the tomb of Amenmesse, so
construction was abandoned and he instead usurped the tomb of
looking for a tomb, Ramesses III extended the part-excavated tomb
started by his father. The tomb of Ramesses II returned to an early
style, with a bent axis, probably due to the quality of the rock
being excavated (following the Esna shale).
Between 1998 and 2002 the Amarna Royal Tombs Project
investigated the valley floor using ground-penetrating radar
that, below the modern surface, the Valley's cliffs descend beneath
the scree in a series of abrupt, natural "shelves", arranged one
below the other, descending several metres down to the bedrock in
the valley floor.
The area of the Theban hills is subject to infrequent violent
thunder storms, causing flash floods in the valley, recent studies
have shown that there are at least 7 active flood stream beds,
leading down into the central area of the valley. This central area
appears to have been flooded at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty
and buried several tombs under metres of debris. The tombs KV63,
KV62 and KV55 are dug into the actual wadi bedrock rather the
debris, showing that the then level of the valley was 5 m
below its present level. After this event later dynasties leveled
the floor of the valley, making the floods deposit their load
further down the valley, and the buried tombs were forgotten and
only discovered in the early 20th century. This was the area that
was the subject of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project ground scanning
radar investigation, which showed several anomalies, one of which
was proved to be KV63.
Hills are dominated by the peak of al-Qurn, known to
the Ancient Egyptians as ta dehent, or 'The Peak'.
al-Qurn dominates the valley.
It has a pyramid shaped appearance, and it is probable that this
echoed the pyramids of the Old
, more than a thousand years prior to the first royal
burials carved here. Its isolated position also resulted in reduced
access, and special tomb police (the Medjay
were able to guard the necropolis.
iconic pyramid complexes of the Giza plateau have come to symbolize ancient Egypt, the majority
of tombs were cut into rock.
Most pyramids and mastabas
contain sections which are cut into ground
level, and there are full rock-cut tombs in Egypt that date back to
the Old Kingdom.
After the defeat of the Hyksos
reunification of Egypt under Ahmose I
construct elaborate tombs that would reflect their newfound power.
of Ahmose and his son Amenhotep I (their
exact location remains unknown) were probably in the Seventeenth Dynasty necropolis
of Dra' Abu
el-Naga'. The first royal tombs in the valley were
those of Amenhotep I (although this
identification is also disputed), and Thutmose I, whose advisor Ineni notes in his tomb that he advised his king to
place his tomb in the desolate valley (the identity of this actual
tomb is unclear, but it is probably KV20 or KV38).
The Valley was used for primary burials from approximately 1539 BC
to 1075 BC, and contains at least 63
, beginning with Thutmose I
possibly earlier, during the reign of Amenhotep I
), and ending with Ramesses X
although non-Royal burials continued in usurped tombs.
Despite the name, the Valley of the Kings also contains the tombs
of favorite nobles as well as the wives and children of both nobles
and pharaohs, meaning that only about 20 of the tombs actually
contain the burials of kings, the burials of nobles and the royal
family, together with unmarked pits and embalming caches make up
the rest. Around the time of Ramesses I (ca. 1301 BC) construction commenced
in the separate Valley of the Queens.
The official name for the site in ancient times was The Great
and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh,
Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes
(see below for
the hieroglyphic spelling), or more usually,
(the Great Field).
At the start of the Eighteenth Dynasty
, only the
kings were buried within the valley in large tombs; when a
non-royal was buried, it was in a small rock cut chamber, close to
the tomb of their master. Amenhotep III's
tomb was constructed in the Western Valley, and while his son
Akhenaten moved his tomb's construction to
Amarna, it is
thought that the unfinished WV25 may have originally been intended
With the return to religious orthodoxy at the end
of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Tutankhamun
and then Horemheb
returned to the royal necropolis.
Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties saw an
increase in the number of burials (both here and in the Valley of
the Queens), with Ramesses II and later
Ramesses III constructing a massive
tomb that was used for the burial of his sons (KV5 and KV3
respectively). There are some kings that are not buried
within the valley or whose tomb has not been located: Thutmose II may have been buried in Dra' Abu
el-Naga' (although his mummy was in the Deir el-Bahri tomb cache),
Smenkhkare's burial has never been located,
and Ramesses VIII
seems to have been
In the Pyramid Age
the tomb of
the king was associated with a mortuary temple located close to the
pyramid. As the tomb of the king was hidden, this mortuary temple
was located away from the burial, closer to the cultivation facing
. These mortuary
temples became places visited during the various festivals held in
the Theban necropolis, most notably the Beautiful festival of the
valley, where the sacred barques of Amun-Re, his consort Mut and son
Khonsu left the temple at Karnak in order to
visit the funerary temples of deceased kings on the West Bank and
their shrines in the Theban Necropolis.
were constructed and decorated by the workers of the village of
el-Medina, located in
a small wadi between this valley and the Valley of
the Queens, facing Thebes.
The workers journeyed to the tombs via routes over the Theban
hills. The daily lives of these workers are quite well known,
recorded in tombs and official documents. Amongst the events
document is perhaps the first recorded worker's strike, detailed in
the Turin strike papyrus
Exploration of the valley
The area has been a major area of modern Egyptological
exploration for the last two
centuries. Before this the area was a site for tourism in antiquity
(especially during Roman
illustrates the changes in the study of ancient Egypt, starting as
antiquity hunting, and ending as scientific excavation of the whole
Despite the exploration and investigation
noted below, only eleven of the tombs have actually been completely
(1st century BC) and Diodorus Siculus
(1st century AD) reported
that the total number of Theban royal tombs was 47, of which at the
time only 17 were believed to be undestroyed. Pausanias
and other ancient writers
remarked on the pipe-like corridors of the Valley, clearly meaning
Others also visited the valley in these times, as many of the tombs
have graffiti written by these ancient tourists. Jules Baillet located over 2100 Greek and
Latin graffiti, along with a smaller number in
Phoenician, Cypriot, Lycian, Coptic, and other languages.
majority of the ancient graffiti are found in KV9, which contains
just under a thousand of them. The earliest positively dated
graffiti dates to 278 B.C.
the nineteenth century, travel from Europe to Thebes (and indeed anywhere in Egypt) was
difficult, time-consuming and expensive, and only the hardiest of
European travelers visited—before the travels of Father Claude Sicard in 1726, it was
unclear just where Thebes really was. It was known to be on
the Nile, but it was often confused with
Memphis and several other sites. One of the first
travelers to record what he saw at Thebes was Frederic Louis Norden, a Danish adventurer
He was followed by Richard Pococke
, who published the first
modern map of the valley itself, in 1743.
expedition (especially Dominique
Vivant) drew maps and plans of the known tombs, and for the
first time noted the Western Valley (where Prosper Jollois and Édouard de Villiers du
Terrage located the tomb of Amenhotep
- French Expedition
contains two volumes (out a total of 24) on the
area around Thebes.
Entrance to a Royal Tomb, drawn in
European exploration continued in the area around Thebes during the
nineteenth century, boosted by Champollion
's translation of hieroglyphs early
in the century. Early in the century, the area was visited
by Belzoni, working for
Henry Salt, who discovered
several tombs, including those of Ay in the West
Valley (WV23) in 1816 and
Seti I (KV17) the next
At the end of his visits, Belzoni declared that all of
the tombs had been found and nothing of note remained to be found.
at the same time (and a great rival of Belzoni and Salt) was
Bernardino Drovetti, the
In 1827 John Gardiner
was assigned to paint the entry of every tomb, giving
them each a designation that is still in use today—they were
numbered from KV1 to KV21, with KV standing for King's Valley,
(although the maps show 28 entrances, some of which were
unexplored). These paintings and maps were later published in
The Topography of Thebes and General Survey of Egypt
1830. At the same time James
explored the valley. His works included making KV17
safer from flooding, but he is better known for entering KV5.
Champollion himself visited the valley, along with Ippolito Rosellini
and Nestor L'Hôte
, in the Franco-Tuscan Expedition
The expedition spent two months studying the open tombs, visiting
about 16 of them. They copied the inscriptions and identified the
original tomb owners. In tomb KV17, they removed wall decorations,
which are now on display in the Louvre in Paris.
Drawing of the valley showing open tombs from 1862
In 1845-1846 the valley was explored by Karl Richard Lepsius
's expedition; they
explored and documented twenty-five in the main valley and four in
The second half of the century saw a more concerted effort to
preserve rather than simply gathering antiquities. Auguste Mariette
's Egyptian Antiquities
Service started to explore the valley, first with Eugène Lefébure
in 1883, then
and Georges Bénédite
in early 1888
and finally Victor Loret
in 1898 to
1899. Loret added a further 16 tombs to the list, and explored
several tombs that had already been discovered. During this time
When Gaston Maspero
to head the Egyptian Antiquities Service, the nature of the
exploration of the valley changed again. Maspero appointed Howard Carter
as the Chief
Inspector of Upper Egypt and the young man discovered several new
tombs and explored several others, clearing KV42 and KV20.
the turn of the twentieth century, the American Theodore M.
had the excavation permit in
the valley, and his team (led mostly by Edward R. Ayrton)
discovered several royal and non-royal tombs (including KV43, KV46 and KV57).
1907 they discovered the possible Amarna Period cache in KV55.
finding what they thought was all that remained of the burial of
Tutankhamun (items recovered from KV54 and KV58), it was announced
that the valley was completely explored and no further burials were
to be found, in Davis's 1912 publication, The Tombs of Harmhabi
and Touatânkhamanou; the book closes with the comment, "I fear
that the Valley of
Kings is now exhausted."
Entrance to Horemheb's tomb, soon
after discovery in 1908
After Davis's death early in 1915 Lord Carnarvon
acquired the concession to excavate the valley and he employed
Carter to explore it. After a systematic search they discovered the
actual tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) in November 1922.
end of the century, the Theban
Mapping Project re-discovered and explored tomb KV5, which has
since been discovered to be probably the largest in the valley
(having at least 120 rooms) and was either a cenotaph or real burial for the sons of Ramesses II.
Elsewhere in the eastern and western branches of the valley,
several other expeditions cleared and studied other tombs. Until
2002 the Amarna Royal Tombs
explored the area around KV55 and KV62, the Amarna
Period tombs in the main valley.
Various expeditions have continued to explore the valley, adding
greatly to the knowledge of the area. In 2001 the Theban Mapping Project
signs for the tombs, providing information and plans of the open
February 8, 2006, the
Supreme Council of
Antiquities announced that an American team led by the University of Memphis had uncovered a pharaonic-era tomb (KV63), the first uncovered there since King
Tutankhamun's in 1922.
The 18th Dynasty tomb included five
intact sarcophagi with coloured funerary masks along with 28 large
storage jars, sealed with pharaonic seals. It is located close to
the tomb of Tutankhamun. KV63, as it is known, appears to be a
single chamber with seven sarcophagi and about 20 large funerary
jars. The chamber is from the 18th dynasty and it appears to have
been a deposit of funerary preparation materials, rather than a
tomb. As yet, no mummies have been discovered in the sarcophagi,
and it is now thought of as a mummification chamber, rather than a
On July 31 2006
analysis of ground penetrating
for the autumn of 2000 showed a sub-surface anomaly
in the area of KV62 and KV63. He
has tentatively labeled this anomaly "KV64". This has caused some
controversy, as only Egypt's Supreme Council of
can officially designate the name of a new tomb,
the anomaly may not in fact be a tomb, and because Reeves had
reported the finding to the press first, instead of a scientific
In May 2008, Zahi Hawass
an Egyptian team has been looking for the tomb of Ramesses VIII
, concentrating around the tombs
of Merenptah and Ramesses II. In August 2008, it was announced that
two further tomb entrances had been located, and these would be
investigated in October 2008. At the same time, clearance of the
descending tunnel in KV17 has started.
earliest tombs were located in cliffs at the top of scree slopes, under storm-fed waterfalls (for example
KV34 and KV43).
these locations were soon used, burials then descended to the
valley floor, gradually moving back up the slopes as the valley
bottom filled up with debris. This explains the location of the tombs
KV62 and KV63 buried in the valley
The tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte showing descending corridor
The usual tomb plan consisted of a long inclined rock-cut corridor,
descending through one or more halls (possibly mirroring the
descending path of the sun-god into the underworld), to the burial
chamber. In the earlier tombs the corridors turn
through 90 degrees at least once (such as KV43, the tomb of
Thutmose IV), and the earliest had
cartouche-shaped burial chambers (for
example, KV43, the tomb of
This layout is
known as 'Bent Axis', and after the burial the upper corridors were
meant to be filled with rubble, and the entrance to the tomb
hidden. After the Amarna
Period, the layout gradually straightened, with an intermediate
'Jogged Axis' (the tomb of Horemheb,
KV57 is typical of this, and is one of the tombs that is
sometimes open to the public), to the generally 'Straight Axis' of
the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty tombs (Ramesses III's and Ramesses IX's tombs, KV11 and KV6
As the tomb's axes straightened, the slope
also lessened, and almost disappeared in the late Twentieth
Dynasty. Another feature that is common to most tombs is the
'well', which may have originated as an actual barrier intended to
stop flood waters entering the lower parts of the tombs. It later
seems to have developed a 'magical' purpose as a symbolic shaft. In
the later Twentieth Dynasty, the well itself was sometimes not
excavated, but the well room was still present.
The majority of the royal tombs were decorated with religious texts
and images. The early tombs were decorated with scenes from
('That Which is in the Underworld'),
which describes the journey of the sun-god through the twelve hours
of the night. From the time of Horemheb, tombs were decorated with
the Book of Gates
, which shows the
sun-god passing through the twelve gates that divide the night
time, and ensure the tomb owner's own safe passage through the
night. These earliest tombs were generally sparsely decorated, and
those of a non-royal nature were totally undecorated.
Late in the Nineteenth Dynasty the Book
, which divided the underworld into massive caverns
containing deities and the deceased waiting for the sun to pass
through and restore them to life, was placed in the upper parts of
tombs; a complete version appears in the tomb of Ramesses VI. The
burial of Ramesses III saw the Book of
, where the underworld is divided into 4 sections,
climaxing in the sun disc being pulled from the earth by Naunet
The ceilings of the burial chambers were decorated (from the burial
of Seti I onwards) with what become formalised as the Book of the Heavens
, which again
describes the sun's journey through the twelve hours of night.
Again from Seti I's time, the Litany of
, a lengthy hymn to the sun god began to appear.
Pillar in Seti I's tomb
- Tomb equipment
Each burial was provided with equipment that would enable a
continued existence in the afterlife in comfort. Also present in
the tombs were ritual magical items, such as Shabtis
and divine figurines. Some equipment was that
which the king may have used in their lifetime (Tutankhamun
's sandals for example), and some was
specially constructed for the burial.
modern abbreviation "KV" stands for "Kings' Valley", and the tombs
are numbered in the order of 'discovery' from Ramesses VII (KV1) to
KV63 (which was discovered in 2005), although
many of the tombs have been open since antiquity, and KV5 was only
rediscovered in the 1990s (after being dismissed as unimportant by
The West Valley tombs often have
the "WV" prefix but follow the same numbering system. A number of
the tombs are unoccupied, the owners of others remain unknown, and
others are merely pits used for storage. Most of the open tombs in
the Valley of the Kings are located in the East Valley, and this is
where most tourists and facilities can be found.
Typical 'Bent axis' early Eighteenth
The Eighteenth Dynasty tombs within the valley vary a good deal in
decoration, style and location. At first there seems to have been no fixed
plan; indeed the tomb of Hatshepsut is of a unique shape, twisting and
turning down over 200 metres from the entrance so that the
burial chamber is 97 metres below the surface.
gradually became more regular and formalised, and the tombs of
Thutmose III and Thutmose IV, KV34 and
KV43 are good examples of Eighteenth Dynasty tombs, both
with their bent axis, and simple decoration.
the most imposing tomb of this period is that of Amenhotep III, WV22 located in
the West Valley. It has been re-investigated in 1990s (by a
team from Waseda
University, Japan) but is not
open to the public.
same time, powerful and influential nobles started to be buried
with the royal family; the most famous of these tombs is the joint
tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu,
They were possibly the parents of Queen
, and until the discovery of the tomb of
Tutankhamun, this was the best preserved tomb to be found in the
Typical 'Jogged axis' post-Amarna
The return of royal burials to Thebes after the end of Amarna
period marks a change to the layout of royal burials, with the
intermediate 'jogged axis' gradually giving way to the 'straight
axis' of later dynasties. In the Western valley, there is a tomb
commencement that is thought to have been started for Akhenaten
, but it is no more than a gateway and a
series of steps. Close by to this tomb is the tomb of Ay
It is likely that this tomb was started for Tutankhamun (its
decoration is of a similar style) but later usurped for Ay's
burial. This would mean that KV62 may have
been Ay's original tomb, which would explain the smaller size and
unusual layout for a royal tomb.
Amarna period tombs are located in a smaller, central area in the
centre of the East Valley, with a possible mummy cache (KV55) that may
contain the burials of several Amarna Period royals—Tiy and Smenkhkare or Akhenaten.
Decoration of the burial chamber in KV62
Close to this is the burial of Tutankhamun, which is perhaps the
most famous discovery of modern Western archaeology
and was made here by Howard Carter
on November 4
clearance and conservation work continuing until 1932. This was the
first royal tomb to be discovered that was still largely intact
(although tomb robbers had entered it), and was, until the
excavation of KV63
, considered the last major
discovery in the valley. The opulence of his grave goods
rather minor king and other burials probably had more numerous
In the same central area as KV62 and KV63, is 'KV64
', a radar anomaly believed to be a tomb or chamber
announced on 28 July 2006
. It is not an official designation, and indeed the
actual existence of a tomb at all is dismissed by the Supreme Council of
nearby tomb of Horemheb, (KV57) is rarely
open for visitors, but it is many unique features, and is
The decoration shows a transition
from the pre-Amarna tombs to those of the 19th dynasty tombs that
Typical 'Straight axis'
Nineteenth/Twentieth Dynasty tomb
The Nineteenth Dynasty saw a further standardisation of tomb layout
and decoration. The tomb of the first king of the dynasty
Ramesses I was hurriedly finished due to
the death of the king and is little more than a truncated
descending corridor and a burial chamber; however, KV16 has vibrant
decoration, and still contains the sarcophagus of the king.
location means that it is one of the frequently visited tombs. It
shows the development of the tomb entrance and passage and of
and successor, Seti I's tomb, KV17 (also known
as Belzoni's tomb, the tomb of Apis, or the
tomb of Psammis, son of Necho) is usually thought to be the
finest tomb in the valley, with extensive relief work and
When it was rediscovered by Belzoni in 1817, he
referred to it as "..a fortunate day.."
of Seti, Ramesses the Great constructed
a massive tomb, KV7, but it is
in a ruinous state, and it is currently undergoing excavation and
conservation by a Franco-Egyptian team led by Christian Leblanc.
It is a vast
size, being about the same length, and a larger area, of the tomb
of his father.
same time, and just opposite his own tomb, Ramesses enlarged the
earlier small tomb of an unknown Eighteenth Dynasty noble (KV5) for his
With 120 known rooms and excavation work
still underway, it is probably the largest tomb in the valley.
Originally opened (and robbed) in antiquity, it is a low-lying
structure that has been particularly prone to the flash floods that
sometimes hit the area, which washed in tonnes of debris and
material over the centuries, ultimately concealing its vast size.
It is not currently open to the public.
II's son and eventual successor, Merenptah's tomb has been
open since antiquity; it extends 160 metres, ending in a burial
chamber that once contained a set of four nested sarcophagi.
Well decorated, it is
typically open to the public most years.
kings of the dynasty also constructed tombs in the valley, all of
which follow the same general pattern of layout and decoration,
notable amongst these is the tomb of Siptah, which is well decorated, especially the
ruler of the dynasty, Setnakhte, actually
had two tombs constructed for himself; he started to excavate the
eventual tomb of his son, Ramesses III,
but broke into another tomb and abandoned it in order to usurp and
complete the tomb of the
Nineteenth Dynasty female pharaoh Twosret.
This tomb therefore has two burial
chambers, the later extensions making the tomb one of the largest
of the Royal tombs, at over 150 metres.
tomb of Ramesses III (known
Bruce's Tomb or The Harper's Tomb due to its decoration)
is one of the largest tombs in the valley and is open to the
public; it is located close to the central 'rest–area' and its
location and superb decoration usually makes this one of the tombs
visited by tourists.
successors and offspring of Ramesses
III constructed tombs that had straight axes and were decorated
in much the same manner as each other; notable amongst these is
KV2, the tomb of Ramesses
IV, which has been open since antiquity, containing a large
amount of hieratic graffiti.
tomb is mostly intact and is decorated with scenes from several
religious texts. The joint tomb of Ramesses V and Ramesses
VI, KV9 (also known
as the Tomb of Memnon or La Tombe de la
Métempsychose), is decorated with many sunk-relief carvings,
depicting illustrated scenes from religious texts.
since antiquity, it contains over a thousand graffiti in ancient
Greek, Latin and Coptic. The spoil from the excavation and later
clearance of this tomb, together with later construction of workers
huts, covered the earlier burial of KV62 and seems to have been
what protected that tomb from earlier discovery and looting.
of Ramesses IX, KV6, has been
open since antiquity, as can be seen by the graffiti left on its
walls by Roman and Coptic visitors.
Located in the central
part of the valley, it stands between and slightly above KV5 and
KV55. The tomb extends a total distance of 105 metres into the
hillside, including extensive side chambers that were neither
decorated nor finished. The hasty and incomplete nature of the
rock-cutting and decorations (it is only decorated for a litte over
half its length) within the tomb indicate that the tomb was not
completed by the time of Ramesses' death, with the completed hall
of pillars serving as the burial chamber.
notable tomb from this dynasty is KV19, the tomb
of Mentuherkhepshef (son of
The tomb is small
and is simply a converted, unfinished corridor, but the decoration
is extensive and the tomb has been newly restored and open for
Twenty-first Dynasty and the decline of the necropolis
By the end of the New Kingdom, Egypt had entered a long period of
political and economic decline. The priests at Thebes grew in power and
effectively administered Upper Egypt, while kings ruling from
Lower Egypt. Some attempt at using the open tombs was
made at the start of the Twenty-first Dynasty, with the
Priest of Amun, Pinedjem I, adding
his cartouche to KV4.
The Valley began to be heavily plundered, so during the
Twenty-first Dynasty the priests of Amun
most of the tombs and moved the mummies into three tombs in order
to better protect them, even removing most of their treasure in
order to further protect the bodies from robbers. Most of these were
later moved to a single cache near Deir
el-Bari (known as TT320); located in
the cliffs overlooking Hatshepsut's
famous temple, this mass reburial contained a large number of royal
They were found in a great state of disorder, many
placed in other's coffins, and several are still unidentified.
mummies were moved to the tomb of
Amenhotep II, where over a dozen
mummies, many of them royal, were later relocated.
During the later Third
and later periods, intrusive burials were
introduced into many of the open tombs. In Coptic
times, some of the tombs were used as churches,
stables and even houses.
Almost all of the tombs have been ransacked. Several papyri
have been found that describe the trials of
tomb robbers; these date mostly from the late Twentieth Dynasty.
One of these (Papyrus Mayer B) describes the robbery of the tomb of
Ramesses VI and was probably written in Year 9 of Ramesses
The valley also seems to have suffered an official plundering
during the virtual civil war
, which started
in the reign of Ramesses XI
. The tombs
were opened, all the valuables removed, and the mummies collected
into two large caches. One in the tomb of Amenhotep II
, contained sixteen, and others
were hidden within Amenhotep I
years later most of them were moved to the Deir el-Bahri cache, contained no less than forty royal mummies
and their coffins. Only those tombs whose locations were lost
(KV62, KV63 and KV46, although
both KV62 and KV46 were robbed soon after their actual closure)
were undisturbed in this period.
Most of the tombs are not open to the public (18 of the tombs can
be opened, but they are rarely open at the same time), and
officials occasionally close those that are open for restoration
work. The number of visitors to KV62 has led to a separate charge
for entry into the tomb. The West Valley has only one open
tomb—that of Ay—and a separate ticket is needed to visit this tomb.
The tour guides are no longer allowed to lecture inside the tombs
and visitors are expected to proceed quietly and in single file
through the tombs. This is to minimize time in the tombs and
prevent the crowds from damaging the surfaces of the decoration.
Photography is no longer allowed in the tombs.
58 tourists and 4 Egyptians were massacred at nearby Deir el-Bahri
by Islamist militants from Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
. This led to
an overall drop in tourism in the area.
On most days of the week an average of four to five thousand
tourists visit the main valley. On the days that the Nile
Cruises arrive the number can rise to around nine
thousand. These levels are expected to rise to 25,000 by 2015. The
West Valley is much less visited, as there is only one tomb that is
open to the public.
Notes and references
- – Details of all the major tombs, their discovery, art and
- – Covers the history of the exploration of the Valley in
- – A good introduction to the valley and surroundings
- – Spectacular photography of the best tombs
- – chapters by archaeologists working in the valley from an
international conference on the Valley of the Kings