The Valley 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 valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, across from Thebes (modern Luxor), within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. The wadi consists of two valleys; East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are situated) and West Valley.
The area has been a focus of concentrated archaeological and egyptological 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. In 1979, it became a World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis.
The Valley was used for primary burials from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC, and contains some 60 tombs, starting with Thutmose I and ending with Ramesses X or XI. The Valley of the Kings also had tombs for the favourite nobles and the wives and children of both the nobles and pharaohs. Around the time of Ramesses I (ca. 1300 BC) the Valley of the Queens was begun, although some wives were still buried with their husbands.
The quality of the rock in the Valley is very inconsistent. Tombs were built, by cutting through various layers of limestone, each with its own quality. This poses problems for modern day conservators, as it must have been to the original architects. Building plans were probably changed on account of this. The most serious problem is the shale layers. This fine material expands when it comes into contact with water. This has damaged many tombs, particularly during floods.
Most of the tombs were cut into the limestone following a similar pattern: three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. These catacombs were harder to rob and were more easily concealed. The switch to burying the pharaohs within the valley instead of pyramids was intended to safeguard against tomb robbers. In most cases this did not prove to be affective. Many of the bodies of the Pharaohs where moved by the Egyptian priests and placed in several caches during the political upheaval of the 21st Dynasty. Construction of a tomb usually lasted six years, beginning with each new reign.
Almost all of the tombs have been ransacked, including Tutankhamun's, though in his case, it seems that the robbers were interrupted, so very little was removed. The valley was surrounded by steep cliffs and heavily guarded. In 1090 BC, or the year of the Hyena, there was a collapse in Egypt's economy leading to the emergence of tomb robbers. Because of this, it was also the last year that the valley was used for burial. 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, the so-called Deir el-Bahri cache, contained no less than forty royal mummies and their coffins; the other, in the tomb of Amenhotep II, contained a further sixteen.
Panorama View of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt
All the tombs are not open all the time. Some are only used for special occasions and some of them are closed for restoration by the government. These tombs have undergone many changes in the past 500 years of use. Another tomb called Tuthmose III is in the East valley and is one of the ancient one that has its own history. It is made in an oval shape and has some stick figures all over it. It has a metal staircase that takes you down to the tomb which is worth a look. Horemheb, Ramesses VI’s is yet another tomb that is worth spending time in. The KV5 tomb is given a lot of attention and again is located in the east valley. Almost 120 rooms have been discovered, however, they are not open for common visitors and the public.
Not all tombs are open and officials occasionally close particular tombs for restoration. The style of the tombs did undergo changes throughout the New Kingdom and one should try to see examples from the span of 500 years that the Valley was in use.
What to see
Tombs of famous Pharaohs burried in the Valley of the Kings
Ramesses III: The tomb is sometimes referred to as the "Harpers Tomb" due to the two harpers playing to the gods in four of the chambers. Ten small chambers branch off of the main corridors. These were for the placement of tomb furniture.
Ramesses IV: Three white corridors descend to the sarcophagus chamber. The chamber ceilings depict the goddess Nut. The lid of the pink granite sarcophagus is decorated with Isis and Nephthys, which were meant to serve as guardians over the body. Their duties fell short, however, as the tomb was robbed in ancient times. Originally the priests placed the sarcophagus in Amenhotep II II's tomb in order to hide the body, which was a common practice.
Ramesses IX: Two sets of steps lead down to the tomb door that is decorated with the Pharaoh worshipping the solar disc. Isis and Nephthys stand behind him on either side. Three corridors lead into an antechamber that opens into a pillared hall. The passage beyond that leads to the sarcophagus chamber.
Merneptah: The steep descent into the tomb is typical of the designs of the XIX Dynasty. The entrance is decorated with Isis and Nephthys worshipping the solar disc. Texts from the 'Book of the Gates' line the corridors. The outer granite lid of the sarcophagus is located in the antechamber, while the lid of the inner sarcophagus is located down more steps in the pillared hall. Carved on the pink granite lid is the figure of Merneptah as Osiris.
Ramesses VI: Originally built for Ramesses V, three chambers and a 4th pillared chamber was added by Ramesses VI. Complete texts of the Book of the Gates, the Book of Caverns and the Book of Day and Night line the chambers. Portions of the Book of the Dead are located in the pillared chamber, along with scenes of the sky goddess, Nut.
Seti I: The longest tomb in the valley, 100m, contains very well preserved reliefs in all of its eleven chambers and side rooms. One of the back chambers is decorated with the Ritual of the Opening of the Mouth, which stated that the mummy's eating and drinking organs were properly functioning. Believing in the need for these functions in the afterlife, this was a very important ritual. The sarcophagus is now in the Sir John Soane Museum, London.
Tuthmose III: The tomb of Tuthmose III is at the far end of the East Valley and is one of the earliest in the Valley. Its burial chamber is in the shape of a cartouche (oval-shaped) and its inscriptions are interspersed with stick figures. The approach to this unusual tomb is an ascent up wooden steps, crossing over a pit, and then a steep descent down into the tomb. The pit was probably dug as a deterrent to tomb robbers. Two small chambers, decorated with stars and a larger vestibule are in front of the sarcophagus chamber, which is uniquely rounded and decorated with only red and black.
Amenhotep II: A steep flight of stairs and a long unadorned corridor lead to the sarcophagus chamber. Three mummies, Tuthmosis IV, Amenhotep II III and Seti II, were found in one side room and nine mummies were found in another.
Horemheb: This tomb's construction is identical to that of Seti I's with the exception of some of the inner decorations.
Minor tombs in the Valley of the Kings
The majority of the 65 numbered tombs in the Valley of the Kings can be considered as being minor tombs, either because at present they have yielded little information or because the results of their investigation was only poorly recorded by their explorers, while some have received very little attention or were only cursorily noted. Most of these tombs are small, only consisting of a single burial chamber accessed by means of a shaft or a staircase with a corridor or a series of corridors leading to the chamber, but some are larger, multiple chambered tombs.
These minor tombs served various purposes, some were intended for burials of lesser royalty or for private burials, some contained animal burials and others apparently never received a primary burial. In many cases these tombs also served secondary functions and later intrusive material has been found related to these secondary activities. While some of these tombs have been open since antiquity, the majority was discovered in the 19th and early 20th centuries during the height of exploration in the valley.
How to get there
You can fly to Luxor city which is about 7 km from the Valley of the Kings. Visitors take the ferry to get there.
Balloon Ride Over Valley of the Kings
Experience Luxor's West Bank and the Valley of the Kings in a new way on this balloon ride. Enjoy 45 minutes flying time over the West Bank.
Horseback through the Valley of the Kings
Have the rare opportunity to walk and travel by horse and ox card to the beautiful valley along the Orkhon River. Visit the ruin of ancient Kharaa Dari Ekh Monastery and Caves of Meditating. Have an opportunity to milk cows, mares and goats, make cheese by milk, make cream butter, visit the historical ancient graves, play traditional ankle bone game called ‘Shagai’ in Mongolian and swim in the beautiful river. Visits to historical museum where you can see mammoth ivory, rhinoceros skull and etc. Experience the historical and outdoor activities, be entertained by the local cultural events of traditional long and folk songs, traditional dance, chanting with horses.
Trek along the paths used by the ancient workers who built the Valley of the Kings to explore the tombs of the Pharaohs. Visit the great temple of Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. A fun way to explore these remarkable sites.
Where to stay
Tutotel: Situated on the Nile Corniche along the Nile River, it is air-conditioned, has 79 elegantly furnished double and twin rooms, all with a balcony and exceptional Nile views. All rooms are fully equipped and include a complete bathroom.
Hilton Luxor: The fully air-conditioned hotel comprises a total of 361 rooms spread over 3 floors. There is also a spacious lobby, a bar, a hotel safe, various shops, an à la carte restaurant and a main restaurant.
Mercure Luxor. Is a four star hotel that is located right in the center of town, overlooking the Nile River. It is tucked away amidst shady gardens, alongside a crescent moon and shaped pool. There are 314 spacious rooms and guestrooms. Room amenities include direct dial telephone, color television with satellite, radio, individually controlled air-conditioning and heating and an en-suite bathroom with bath/shower, hairdryer, telephone and toiletries.
Domina Inn: Is located in the heart of Luxor a few minutes walk to the River Nile, rooms are medium in size. All rooms are equipped with private bathroom and shower. Most of the rooms are with balconies. It serves rich buffet for breakfast. 1 km to the city centre and 7 kms to the nearest airport (Luxor).
Le Meridien Luxor: This 5 star hotel is located in the city centre of Luxor and was established in 2002. The hotel has a conference room, a coffee shop, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre/gym.
Sofitel Karnak: The hotel is air-conditioned and comprises a total of 351 rooms spread over two floors. The 3 on-site restaurants, 4 bars and 1 café mean that guests will have no shortage of dining option. Further facilities include a hairdressing salon, TV lounge, conference facilities and Internet access.
Sofitel Winter Palace:
Emilio Luxor: This air-conditioned hotel comprises a total of 101 rooms. Facilities on offer include a lobby area with a 24-hour reception, a safe, a lift, a café, a bar, a restaurant, a newspaper kiosk, a supermarket, shops, a pub and a nightclub.
Sheraton Luxor Resort: 5 star hotel near shopping area, 1.9 miles from The Valley of the Kings. Outdoor swimming pool, golf course, relaxing spa/hot tub. Poolside full service bar available La Mamma and Agra Indian Restaurant on property offering Italian cuisine Karnak restaurant on property offer Mediterranean cuisine Services 24 hour Accommodation 290 guestrooms, bungalow accommodations, luxury guest rooms, business minded guest rooms.
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