Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings features 63 exquisite royal tombs from the New Kingdom era (1550–1069 BC), all remarkably distinct from each other. From the First Intermediate Period (2181–2055 BC), royal tombs were located on the West Bank.
Three 11th-dynasty monarchs had tombs erected at Taref, northeast of the Valley of the Kings. The 18th-dynasty pharaohs picked the solitary valley overshadowed by al-pyramid-shaped Qurn’s summit (The Horn).
With its cliffs around it, it was simple to secure and resembled the setting sun, which the Egyptians connected with the afterlife.
Aside from treasure seekers and floods, mass tourism has harmed the tombs’ reliefs and wall murals by affecting carbon dioxide, friction, and humidity created by each visitor’s perspiration of 2.8g.
A rotating mechanism for opening certain tombs to the public while others being restored has subsequently been implemented by the Department of Antiquities.
Each tomb has a number that denotes its discovery order. KV 1 belonged to Ramses VII; it was open in Greek and Roman times and was referenced in the late 18th century Description de l’Egypte.
A few empty sarcophagi were unearthed in 2006, making it unclear whether this was a royal tomb or a mummification chamber.
The vast parking park leads to a new visitors center where interpreters explain the site’s history and show groups a silicon model of the Valley, while solo visitors may receive information on computers.
A film about Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. New signage and maps make exploring the site much simpler. Also, new tomb layouts and narratives help visitors better grasp what they see.
This is all part of Dr. Kent Weeks’ Theban Mapping Project’s site management strategy to enhance tourist experience and conserve tombs. A torch is useful for poorly light places.
The route into the Valley of the Kings is a steady, dry, scorching rise, so cyclists beware. A rest house is being erected near the visitor center, although vendors outside the entrance provide mineral water, soft drinks, ice cream, and snacks.
Tuf-tuf — a miniature electric railway – takes tourists to the graves (it can be hot during summer). Most of the tombs detailed below are available to the public and are listed in the order of appearance.
Escape the tombs outside the entry area if you wish to avoid the tour bus throng. This is the tomb of Tutankhamun (KV 62), notable for its riches currently in the Cairo Museum.
How many tombs are in the valley of the kings
Ramses VII’s Tomb
Ramses VII’s incomplete tomb (1136–1129 BC) located along a tiny wadi near the main entrance. It is only 44.3m long due to Ramses’ quick death and has a hallway, a burial chamber, and an incomplete third room.
His builders enlarged the tomb’s second corridor to create a burial chamber, and the pharaoh was buried in a pit with a sarcophagus lid. Unique to this tomb, Canopic jar niches are carved onto the pit’s edges.
The burial room is adorned with chapters from the Book of the Earth, while the hallway leading to it is decked with passages from the Book of the Caverns.
The Greek, demotic, Coptic, and 19th-century graffiti reveal that it has been open since antiquity — it was even occupied by Coptic hermits at one time.
Ramses IV’s Tomb
This is the second tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Its location was recognised by Ptolemaic times, as shown by graffiti on the walls from 278 BC. Ramses IV (1153–1147 BC) died before the tomb was finished, therefore the pillared hall became a burial chamber.
The murals in the burial chamber have faded, but the blue ceiling has a lovely representation of the goddess Nut, and it is the only tomb in the valley with the text of the Book of Nut, which describes the sun’s daily passage.
The red granite sarcophagus is one of the valley’s biggest. The coffin was originally surrounded by four enormous shrines, identical to Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Ramses IV’s mummy was reburied in the Tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35) after the tomb was robbed and is currently at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Ramses IX Tomb
The Tomb of Ramses IX (1126–1108 BC), opposite Ramses II, has a broad entrance, a lengthy antechamber painted with animals, serpents, and devils from the Book of the Dead, and a pillared hall and short hallway before the burial chamber.
The tomb has remained open since antiquity, according to graffiti. Ramses IX’s cartouche emblems are found directly before the burial chamber’s stairwell. On the back wall, two Iunmutef priest figures wear priestly panther-skin garments and a ceremonial side lock.
The walls of the burial room depict the Books of Amduat, Caverns, and Earth; the roof depicts the Books of the Heavens. Because it was the valley’s last incomplete tomb, the murals are remarkably well maintained.
The pharaoh’s mummy had already been removed and reburied as part of the Deir el-Bahri cache when the sculptures were rescued and brought to the British Museum in the 19th century.
Ramses II’s Tomb
KV 7 is one of the valley’s largest tombs, fitting for one of Egypt’s longest-reigning pharaohs (1279–1213 BC). Because it was situated at a low position in the valley, it was prone to flash floods. Archaeologists believe it has flooded seven times since construction.
Due of the damage and debris in the rooms, it is unlikely to reopen soon. The walls of Ramses II’s tomb would have originally been beautifully coloured, with wall sceneries depicting the Litany of Ra, Book of Gates, Book of the Dead, and other religious writings.
Dr. Kent Weeks discovered an Osiris statue in one of the burial chamber’s side rooms, supporting his idea that KV5 is one of Ramses’ numerous sons.
Ramses II, like his father Seti I, had his sarcophagus fashioned of alabaster, but his body was buried in a wooden coffin in the Deir el-Bahri tomb hoard, now in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
Ramses II lived so long that 12 of his sons died before him that he was replaced in his 60s by Merneptah (1213–1203 BC). Merneptah’s tomb, the second biggest in the valley, features Greek and Coptic graffiti.
Some of the tomb’s walls have been flooded, while the top portions feature well-preserved reliefs. Just as you reach the first lengthy hallway, a stunning relief of Merneptah with the deity Ra-Horakhty follows.
The passageways farther down are adorned with the Books of the Dead, Gates, and Amduat. There’s a fake burial chamber with two pillars bearing the Book of Gates. The burial chamber features a sunken floor and masonry niches on the front and back walls.
In the original burial, the pharaoh was enclosed in four stone sarcophagi, three of granite (the lid of the second coffin remaining intact), and the fourth, alabaster.
The outer coffin did not fit through the tomb entrance, therefore its gates had to be chopped away. Merneptah’s mummy was discovered in Amenhotep II’s tomb (KV 35) and is presently in the Egyptian Museum.
The narrative of the famed tomb’s discovery and the spectacular jewels it held outshines its real look. Tutankhamun’s tomb is modest and shows traces of haste construction and ignominious burial.
He governed short (1336–1327 BC) and died young, therefore he had little time to create a tomb.
He spent six seasons in the valley, digging hundreds of tonnes of sand and debris from various locations, hoping to uncover Tutankhamun’s tomb intact with all of its riches.
Carter made one more try at the last unknown section remaining, which was hidden by workers’ cottages directly beneath the previously excavated Tomb of Ramses VI.
In 1922, the first step was discovered, and the remainder followed on November 5th. Carter wired Lord Carnarvon to go to Egypt immediately to unveil what he thought to be Tutankhamun’s tomb in its entirety.
The tomb’s valuable contents, although being partly stolen twice in antiquity, validated Carter’s fantasy. The discovery of four rooms loaded with jewels, furniture, sculptures, chariots, musical instruments, weapons, boxes, jars, and food does not diminish their spectacular splendour. Most currently in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum (a few items remain in Luxor Museum).
Some archaeologists believe Tutankhamun was buried with all the regalia of the unpopular Amarna royal line, since some of it is inscribed with the names of his father Akhenaten and the mysterious Smenkhkare (1388–1336 BC), who some Egyptologists believe was Nefertiti ruling as pharaoh.
However, Tutankhamun’s mummy still remains within its gilded wooden coffin, which in turn lays inside a sculpted red quartzite tomb.
The walls of the burial room are painted with chubby Tutankhamun statues before the gods. The 12 sitting apes from the Book of Amduat, signifying the 12 hours of the night, are displayed on the opposite wall.
Ramses VI Tomb
The tomb of Ramses VI helped keep Tutankhamun’s tomb intact. Tons of granite chippings thrown outdoors as construction buried Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Both Ramses V (1147–1143 BC) and Ramses VI (1143–1136 BC) were buried here, and their names and titles may be seen in the first section of the tomb.
The mummies of Ramses V and Ramses VI were transported to Amenhotep II’s tomb in 1898 after the tomb was ransacked 20 years after burial.
The tomb’s beautiful ornamentation is highly intact, with a focus on celestial figures and writings. The entry corridor has passages from the Books of Gates and Caverns.
The Book of the Heavens joins them in the tomb and well room’s middle. The walls around the burial chamber have Amduat Book excerpts on them.
Beautifully adorned burial room with ceiling double picture of Nut framing the books of day and night. It represents the sky goddess devouring the sun each evening to re-birth it each morning in an eternal cycle of fresh life supposed to resurrect the deceased pharaohs’ spirits.
See also the decapitated, kneeling figures of the sun god’s enemies around the base of the chamber walls and black-colored executioners who turn the decapitated bodies upside down to show the sun god’s progress through the night, the gods who help him and the forces of darkness trying to stop him reaching the dawn.
Try to locate the ithyphallic figure (the one with an obvious erection) on the wonderfully adorned right wall of the burial room. This wall has several Greek graffiti from approximately AD 150.
Ramses III’s Tomb
Ramses III (1184–1153 BC) erected one of the Valley of the Kings’ longest tombs. Ramses’ tomb, begun but abandoned by Sethnakht (1186–1184 BC), is 125m long and is richly adorned with painted recessed reliefs depicting typical ceremonial texts (Litany of Ra, Book of Gates, etc.).
Aegean-style ceramics, royal weaponry, boats, and the blind harpists who gave the tomb one of its other names: The Blind Harpists’ Tomb. ‘Tomb
An abandoned tunnel led ancient builders into the next tomb. They created a west-facing corridor leading to a pillared hall with walls adorned with scenes from the Book of Gates.
The 21st dynasty (1069–945 BC) reburial is also described in ancient inscriptions on the back right pillar. Only a little portion of the tomb has been unearthed.
Ramses III’s sarcophagus is at the Louvre, his mummy is in the Deir el-Bahri cache, and his detailed lid is in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. In Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
Several wooden figures were unearthed in this tomb and sent to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Horemheb (1323–1295 BC), Tutankhamun’s military strongman, provided security following Akhenaten’s reign. Saqqara tomb he abandoned for this one. The many levels of tomb ornamentation in the burial chamber are remarkable.
There is a fine shaft adorned with excellent representations of Horemheb before the gods. Note Hathor’s blue-and-black striped wig and Nefertum’s lotus crown, all on a grey-blue backdrop.
In the antechamber is an undecorated pillared hall. Unfinished, the six-pillared burial chamber displays how the Book of Gates artwork was applied by following a grid system in red ink, over which the figures were painted in black before carving and painting.
However, only the pharaoh’s empty red granite coffin, sculpted with protecting goddess images with spread wings, survives.
This tomb features almost 90 steps down to a contemporary gangway, constructed over a deep pit meant to protect the inner, lower chambers from both robbers and flash floods. The vast burial chamber’s ceiling is covered with stars, and the walls are decorated with writing from the Book of Amduat.
However, unlike Amenhotep’s father and predecessor, Tuthmosis III’s tomb, this is the first royal tomb in the valley to have figures of more rounded proportions, such as those on the pillars of the burial chamber representing the pharaoh before Osiris, Hathor, and Anubis. The burial room has two levels, the top with pillars and the bottom with the sarcophagus.
Even though thieves broke into the tomb in the past, priests restored Amenhotep’s (1427–1400 BC) mummy and reburied it with 13 other royal mummies in the two side rooms, including Tuthmosis IV (1400–1390 BC), Amenhotep III, Merneptah, Ramses IV, V and VI, and Seti II (1200–1194 BC), most of which are now at the Egyptian Museum.
Tuthmosis III’s Tomb
This tomb, hidden in the hills between towering limestone cliffs, can only be accessed by a steep stairway that traverses an even steeper valley.
Tuthmosis III (1479–1425 BC), a pioneer in many domains, was one of the first to erect his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
His gravesite was created with a succession of random pathways and phoney entrances to confuse or capture prospective burglars.
The tiny gangway leads to an antechamber supported by two pillars, decorated with a list of over 700 gods and demigods.
The oldest decorated tomb in the valley, the walls seem to be huge funeral papyri with stickmen images. The pharaoh’s quartzite sarcophagus is carved in the form of a cartouche.
Tuthmosis III’s mummy was unearthed at the Deir el-Bahri cache and is currently in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Siptah’s (1194–1188 BC) tomb was never finished, although the top corridors are beautifully painted. Workmen hit a nearby tomb while digging out the rock for Ramses III’s tomb, but they were already in the burial chamber and sealed up their error with stone blocks.
The sun disc decorates the tomb’s entrance, and Maat, the goddess of truth, kneels on each side. More vivid passages from the Litany of Ra portray an elaborately clothed Siptah before gods like Ra-Horakhty (an aspect of the sun god Ra combined with Horakhty, a form of Horus the sky god). The tomb is then left unadorned, with further scenes from the Book of Amduat and Anubis figurines.
The mausoleum was reused in the IIIP. But priests in the 10th century transported Siptah’s body to Amenhotep II’s secret tomb. He was buried alongside Seti II, Amenhotep III, and Ramses IV, V, and VI.
Tawosret, Seti II’s wife, succeeded Siptah (1188–1186 BC). Her successor, the similarly brief Sethnakht, finished the tomb by building, unusually for the Valley of the Kings, a second burial chamber where he was interred.
The top corridors portray the queen, accompanied by her stepson Siptah, in the presence of the gods. Seti II’s cartouche replaced Siptah’s. In the lower passageways and burial chambers, pictures or cartouches of Sethnakht have replaced Tawosret’s.
With astronomical ceiling decorations and representations of Tawosret and Sethnakht with the gods, this tomb has remained open since antiquity.
The last tableau from the Book of Caverns, depicting the sun god as a ram-headed figure extending out his wings to escape from the darkness of the underworld, is especially stunning. Tawosret and Sethnakht may be the mummies recovered in the Amenhotep II cache.
Seti II’s Tomb
Seti II (1200–1194 BC) may have been buried in a smaller tomb next to Tawosret’s/tomb. Sethnakht’s The tomb’s entry section features some well carved relief scenes, while the remainder was rapidly painted in paint alone.
The walls of the well chamber include pictures of funeral goods used in pharaohs’ tombs, such as golden statuettes of the pharaoh inside a shrine (exactly like the genuine specimens discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb, which are currently in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo).
The sky goddess Nut spans the burial chamber’s ceiling. The Amenhotep II tomb cache included Seti II’s mummy. Carter and his colleagues utilised Seti II’s tomb as a conservation laboratory and picture studio during the 1920s cleaning of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Ramses I’s Tomb
Ramses I (1295–1294 BC) governed for barely a year, hence his tomb is modest. Originally named Paramessu, he was Horemheb’s military commander and vizier. In his tomb, there is just one entry hallway leading to the pharaoh’s open pink granite sarcophagus.
There are depictions of the pharaoh in front of the gods, including the king kneeling between the jackal-headed ‘Soul of Nekhen’ and the falcon-headed ‘Soul of Pe’, signifying Upper and Lower Egypt, similar to Horemheb’s tomb (KV 57).
Seti I’s Tomb
Seti I (1294–1279 BC), son and successor of Ramses I, had one of the valley’s longest (137m) and most exquisite graves. Its 1817 discovery by Giovanni Belzoni sparked nearly as much curiosity as Tutankhamun’s tomb a century later.
Its raised, painted relief scenes are akin to those seen in the pharaoh’s brilliantly adorned temple at Abydos, and the artistry is excellent.
Seti’s alabaster tomb was acquired by Sir John Soane and is currently on display in the basement of his London house-turned-museum.
In the Deir al- Bahri mummy cache, Seti was discovered. The first pillared hall of the pharaoh’s burial chamber has passages from the Litany of Ra and the Book of Amduat, alongside the Book of Gates.
A vibrant celestial tableau depicting the stars adorns the burial chamber’s ceiling. The tomb is closed for repairs.
Tuthmosis IV’s Tomb
The tomb of Ramses IX’s son (c 1000 BC) is placed high up in the valley’s eastern wall and seems to have been built for an earlier ruler. It’s tiny, incomplete, and only receives a few visitors.
This palace’s entry hall is filled with life-size reliefs of gods accepting sacrifices from the young prince. He is dressed in wonderfully pleated fine linen robes and a blue-and-gold ‘sidelock of youth’ linked to a black wig, not to mention his stunning make-up (as worn by both men and women in ancient Egypt).
Tuthmosis IV’s Tomb
Tuthmosis IV’s tomb (1400–1390 BC) is one of the 18th dynasty’s biggest and deepest. It is also the first tomb to use paint over a yellow backdrop, a practise carried on by many others.
The tomb of Tuthmosis IV’s great-grandson Tutankhamun was discovered in 1903 by Howard Carter. Two lengthy flights of stairs go down and around to the burial chamber where a massive coffin covered in hieroglyphs.
The excellent shaft and antechamber walls are painted with depictions of Tuthmosis before the gods, with the goddess Hathor looking especially lovely in a variety of beaded garments.
67 years after Tuthmosis IV’s death, a piece of ancient Egyptian graffiti painted by government official Maya and his aide Djehutymose refers to their examination and renovation of Tuthmosis IV’s grave on the instructions of Horemheb.
After a second ransacking of the tomb, it was decided to rebury Tuthmosis in the tomb of his father Amenhotep II (KV 35). Tuthmosis’ pierced-ear mummy is housed at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
Despite his success in Tutankhamun, Ay’s short reign from 1327 to 1323 BC is connected with the older Amarna era and Akhenaten (some Egyptologists believe he was Akhenaten’s father).
Ay left an impressive tomb at Amarna for one in the West Valley. Amenhotep III picked the West Valley as a new burial location for his vast tomb (KV 22, partway up the valley), and his son and successor Akhenaten constructed a tomb here before moving the capital to Amarna, where he was buried.
Before his untimely death, Tutankhamun’s successor Ay ‘switched’ tombs with Tutankhamun. After Tutankhamun’s death, Ay took over Tutankhamun’s tomb (KV 62), which was located at the top of the West Valley.
The tomb is reached via a gravel path that climbs for approximately 2km up a barren valley through steep rock cliffs. The atmosphere (and solitude) of the nearby Valley of the Kings is worth a visit.
The burial chamber is notable for its scenes of Ay hippopotamus hunting and fishing in the marshes (scenes usually found in noble tombs, not royal ones) and a wall with 12 baboons representing the 12 hours of the night, after which the West Valley or Wadi al-Gurud (Valley of the Monkeys) is named (see below).
This ornamentation is so close to Tutankhamun’s that scholars believe the same painters worked on both graves. Ay’s mummy was never found, but his damaged sarcophagus was reconstructed for visitors.