LUXOR — West Bank — Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings is a desolate place with vast hills of sand where very little grows and is scorching hot in summer. It was chosen because of its isolation to discourage tomb robbers.

Valley of the Kings 1

Valley of the Kings
There are 62 main tombs found here but more are likely to be discovered over time. Not all the tombs are open to the public and you may find that some of the tombs you want to visit will be closed as there is a rotation system in place to protect the tomb walls from too much deterioration and for any renovation work that needs to be done. Each tomb has a number which represents the order in which it was discovered. The first tomb to be discovered was that of Ramses V11 which is tomb number 1 and it has been open since Greek and Roman times. It is not open to the public now because after years of being looted and weathered, it remains destroyed. Great amounts of effort are in progress with the hope of returning the tomb to a somewhat presentable stage.

Most of the tombs consist of a long corridor with highly detailed decoration leading to several chambers and false doors to the burial vault. The entrance passage is decorated with text and illustrations from the ‘Book of the Dead’, ‘Book of the Gates&lrsquo; and ‘Book of Amduat (the Underworld)’ Some of the best tombs to visit are those of Ramses V1, Ramses 111, Tuthmosis 111 and the tomb of Horemheb. Most people will want to visit the tomb of Tutankhamen because of its fame but it is really quite small and uninteresting compared to some of the other tombs.

There are lots of signs and maps showing where the various tombs are located, making navigation around the site relatively easy. Tickets are normally bought at a cost of 70LE for three tombs, which is probably enough to see for one visit. If you wish to visit Tutankhamen’s tomb it will cost 80LE for adults and 40LE for children.

The tombs that can be seen here are:
Tomb of Ramses 1V (Tomb no 2)
Tomb of Ramses 1X (Tomb no 6)
Tomb of Ramses 11 (Tomb no7)
Tomb of Merneptah (Tomb no 8)
Tomb of Tutankhamun (Tomb no 62)
Tomb of Ramses v1 (Tomb no 9)
Tomb of Ramses 111 (Tomb no 11)
Tomb of Horemheb (Tomb no 57)
Tomb of Amenhotep 11 (Tomb no 35)
Tomb of Tuthmosis 111 (Tomb no 34)
Tomb of Siptah (Tomb no 47)
Tomb of Tawosret/Sethnakht (Tomb no 14)
Tomb of Seti 11 (Tomb no 15)
Tomb of Ramses 1 (Tomb no 16)
Tomb of Seti 1 (Tomb no 17)
Tomb of Monthuhirkhopshef (Tomb no 19)
Tomb of Tuthmosis 1V (Tomb no 43)
Tomb of Ay (Tomb no 23)

Ramses 4

Tomb of Ramses 1V (Tomb no 2)
The tomb of Ramses IV is large but rather plain. In ancient times it was used as a type of hotel by early 19th century explorers of Egypt. It was also an important Coptic Christian dwelling and there is a lot of Coptic and Greek graffiti on the walls. Many of the paintings in the burial chamber have deteriorated except for the ceiling which is decorated with scenes from the Book of Heaven.

Tomb of Ramses 1X (Tomb no 6)
This tomb has stood open since antiquity and was visited by many ancient tourists who left their graffiti in the tomb. This tomb was apparently explored by Henry Salt, who collected some of the funerary equipment which is now in his collection at the British Museum. You enter the tomb and walk down a passage which has four side rooms and it is decorated with figures of the pharaoh before the gods Ra-Horakhty and Osiris, scenes from the Litany of Ra and from the Book of Caverns. This connects to another passage decorated with scenes from the Book of Caverns and the Book of the Dead. This is followed by a third passage decorated with scenes from the Book of Amduat and images of the pharaoh as Osiris. This leads into a small room decorated with Inmutef who was the god of Medicine. This room opens into a four pillared hall which is undecorated, and then a very short corridor leads to the burial chamber. An unusual feature of the burial chamber is a two tiered pit in the floor. No sarcophagus has ever been found.

Tomb of Ramses 11 (Tomb no 7)
This is the burial place of one of Egypt’s longest reigning pharaohs — 67 years. It has been plundered and flooded over the years damaging it badly. The mummy is found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Tomb of Merneptah (Tomb no 8)
Merneptah was the thirteenth son of Ramses 11. This tomb has five corridors, two halls and some side chambers. When you enter the tomb if you look above the doorway you will see paintings of the goddess Isis and her sister Nephths. This leads to a passage decorated with scenes of the pharaoh and the god Ra-Horakhty and text from the Litany of Ra. The other passages are decorated with scenes from the Book of Gates and the Book of Amduat. The pharaoh was originally buried inside four stone sarcophagi, the three outer ones made of granite and the inner one of alabaster. The lid of the second sarcophagus which is the shape of the royal cartouche is made from rose-coloured granite and it is still in the tomb.

Tutankhamun

Tomb of Tutankhamun (Tomb no 62)
This is probably the best known of all the tombs in the Valley of the Kings because when it was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 it was almost intact. Four chambers were found full of furniture, statues, chariots, musical instruments, weapons, boxes, jars and food. Most of these treasures can be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and a few are in the Luxor Museum.The tomb itself is small and rather unimpressive compared to some others.

Tomb of Ramses V1 (Tomb no 9)
This tomb was begun by Ramses V and finished by Ramses V1 and both were buried here. Graffiti is found all over the walls left from Greek and Roman visitors to the tomb but it is most famous for the sunken reliefs that are very well preserved and colourful. The decoration includes astronomical scenes and texts including the Book of Gates, Book of Caverns, Books of the Heavens and Book of the Earth. The ceiling of the burial chamber has scenes from the Book of the Day and the Book of the Night. The goddess Nut is shown swallowing the sun in the evening and regenerating it in the morning, which symbolises a force of renewal and predicting the rebirth of the dead pharaoh.This theme of rebirth is echoed in images throughout the tomb.

Traveller's Tip

Take note in the burial chamber of the double image of Nut decorating the vaulted ceiling. It is stunning.
Ramses 3

Tomb of Ramses 111 (Tomb no 11)
This tomb is one of the largest in the Valley of the Kings. You enter the tomb through two columns decorated with the heads of cows on either side. There are four passages, each containing side rooms with scenes from the Litany of Ra, Book of Gates and the Book of Amduat. The decorations in this tomb include pictures of the king before the gods Ra-Horakhty, Isis and her sister Nephths and scenes of sacrifices. There are also scenes of everyday life. In one of the side rooms in the second passage there is a painting of a harpist singing before the gods and because of this image the tomb is also known as the ‘tomb of the harpists’. The sarcophagus of Ramses 111 is found in the Louvre in Paris and the mummy is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Tomb of Horemheb (Tomb no 57)
This tomb is found deeper than some others in the Valley of the Kings and you enter by a series of steep steps. These steps lead down to undecorated corridors which open into rooms with beautifully decorated images of the king before various gods. The burial chamber is decorated with scenes from the Book of Gates and although the image is unfinished it gives you an idea of how the decoration was made with sketched outlines in red corrected in black prior to carving the reliefs and painting.

Traveller's Tip

Note the wonderful blue and black striped wig of Hathor and the lotus crown of Nefertem on a blue-grey background. The colours are superb.

Tomb of Amenhotep 11 (Tomb no 35)
This tomb is one of the most impressive as well as being one of the deepest in the valley with its 90 steps down. It had been used by priests of the 22nd Dynasty as a hiding place to keep the royal mummies safe from tomb robbers. The burial chamber is the highlight of this tomb with its ceiling decorated with golden stars on blue and its walls decorated with scenes from the Book of Amduat. The decoration on the pillars show the pharaoh before the gods. Even though this tomb was robbed of some of its possessions a total of thirteen mummies were found here when the tomb was excavated in 1898 including a mummy of Amenhotep lying in his sarcophagus with flowers around his neck.

Tuthmosis

Tomb of Tuthmosis 111 (Tomb no 34)
This tomb is hidden in the hill between high limestone cliffs and is reached by a steep staircase. Tuthmosis was one of the first to build in the Valley of the Kings and he chose the most inaccessible place to fool tomb robbers. The antechamber in this tomb is decorated with more than 700 different gods in red ink on a grey background in the shape of a papyrus scroll. The burial chamber is shaped like a huge cartouche with its oval shape and curved walls. The ceiling here is decorated with yellow stars on a blue background and the decorations on the walls are very well preserved scenes from the Book of Amduat. The mummy can be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Tomb of Siptah (Tomb no 47)
The entrance of this tomb is decorated with the sun disk and figures of the goddess Maat. The first passage is decorated with the king before Ra-Harakhty. The second passage is decorated with the Litany of Ra and the third passage is decorated with scenes from the Book of Amduat. The rest of the tomb is undecorated.

Tomb of Tawosret/Sethnakht (Tomb no 14)
This tomb is decorated with images of Tawosret and Sethnakht with the gods as well as scenes from the Book of Gates, Book of Caverns and the Book of Amduat. The ceilings in the burial chamber are decorated with astronomical scenes. There are two burial chambers here - one for Tawosret and one for Sethnakht.

Tomb ofSeti 11 (Tomb no 15)
The doorway to this tomb was cut directly into the cliff face. The entrance area has some beautiful carved reliefs. The first two passages are decorated with the Litany of Ra and the second and third passage are decorated with the Book of Amduat but are unfinished. In the burial chamber the ceiling is decorated with Nut stretched out. This tomb was used by Carter as a laboratory to restore the objects of Tutankhamun.

Ramses 1

Tomb of Ramses 1 (Tomb no 16)
The only part of this tomb that is decorated is the burial chamber with its pink granite sarcophagus. This chamber is decorated with scenes of the king before various gods set on a blue-purple background which are stunning.

Tomb of Seti 1 (Tomb no 17)
This is one of the largest tombs in the valley as well as one of the deepest. Part of the painted reliefs of Seti with Hathor can be found in the Louvre and in Turin Museum. The alabaster sarcophagus resides in the house of Sir John Soames which is open as a museum in London. The mummy can be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This tomb is considered to be one of the most beautifully decorated in the valley. The first part of the burial chamber is decorated with scenes from the Book of Gates, the Book of the Divine Cow and the Book of Amduat. The second part is decorated with scenes from the Book of Amduat and the ceiling has astronomical scenes. This tomb is closed for restoration.

Tomb of Monthuhirkhopshef (Tomb no 19)
This tomb is one of the less-visited tombs and is found high up in the valley wall. In the entrance passage to this tomb are decorations of life-size reliefs of various gods receiving offerings from the pharaoh. Monthuhirkhopshef was only young when he died so in his images he wears the blue-and-gold sidelock of youth, a finely pleated linen skirt and elaborate make-up.

Tomb of Tuthmosis 1V (Tomb no 43)
This is one of the largest and deepest tombs with two long flights of stairs leading down to it. The antechamber is decorated with well preserved and bright coloured scenes of various gods but most of the other walls in the tomb are unfinished. The huge sarcophagus in the burial chamber is covered in hieroglyphics.

Tomb of Ay (Tomb no 23)
This tomb is found in Wadi al-Gurud (Valley of the Monkeys) named after the pictures of baboons on the tomb walls. This is rather a difficult tomb to get to but the atmosphere around this tomb is much quieter and eerier, much like the Valley of the Kings would have been in the past. This tomb is noted for the scenes of Ay hunting in the marshes and the wall of 12 baboons. It is best to ask at the ticket office if this is open before making the trek to it.

Traveller's Tip

For a good view walk up the hill from the Valley of the Kings at the viewpoint overlooking Deir al-Bhari.