Valley of the Kings

We came to the Valley of the Kings, so named because in the valley, the kings and pharaohs of Egypt built their tombs and burial places. They chose this place because they knew its dryness would preserve their tombs.

Many tombs have been excavated, and most are open for viewing. We saw one still being excavated. These tombs are huge caverns carved out of solid rock right into the mountain. Then the stone walls and ceilings were polished smooth, and then carved and painted with hieroglyphics. Some of the tombs are quite well preserved, still retaining brilliant colors after 4,500 years.


Entrance to a tomb

None of the contents of the tombs were there (mummies, treasures, etc.) — all having been looted over the centuries, except King Tut’s tomb. All the riches and belongings of the king were originally placed into the tomb, along with statues and other items. Mummifying the body took over 70 days. A tomb would be started when a king began his rule, and sometimes the king died before the tomb was completed.

Map showing the tombs (now open to the public)


As we left the Valley of the Kings, I wondered, What would it have been like if all the energies used to prepare for and preserve death had instead been used to prepare for and preserve life? In one sense, that is really what the Egyptians were doing — preparing for life; but they were preparing for the afterlife, and doing it on a very physical level. They stored in the tombs all the belongings and items of the kings which it was thought would be used in the afterlife.


Eastern Valley

View from high in the Eastern Valley, where you find tombs 19 and 43

There was one thing at this temple more impressive than its mammoth columns and large statues. It is the remains of an extraordinarily large statue — the largest in the world — (now in pieces due probably to an earthquake) which weighs 1,000 tons and was made out of a single piece of granite. That is a fete which probably could not be reproduced today.

Next to another site called Hatshepsut’s Funerary Temple. She was the only female pharaoh in Egypt. The temple was built out of a cliff and has three levels connected by stairways. It is quite different from other structures we have seen.



The west bank at Luxor is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. It is much more than what we refer to as the Valley of the Kings, though many have called the whole of the area by that name.

The Valley of the Kings, in Thebes, is the burial place of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasties. To date, more than 62 tombs have been identified.


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.





Construction of a tomb usually lasted six years, beginning with each new reign. The design of each tomb varies throughout the period in which they were built and it is interesting to see the progression of shape and decoration from the earliest ones to the later Ramesside tombs.


Over these hills are the Valley of the Queens


Outline of the Temple of Hatshepsut on the hill
(not an often visited site, since the killing of the bus load of tourists there,  in 1997)


The text in the tombs are from the Book of the Dead, the Book of the Gates and the Book of the Underworld.


Tomb of Rameses VI  (Tomb 9), has been open and visited since early antiquity

The early excavation of this tomb forestalled the discovery of Tutankhamun’s much smaller, earlier tomb that lay below it. The tomb was actually begun for the ephemeral Ramses V (1147—1143 BC) and continued] by Ramses VI (1143—1136 BC), with both pharaohs apparently buried here.


Its decoration has an emphasis on astronomical scenes and texts, which include the Book of Gates, Book of Caverns, Books of the Heavens and for the first time, Book of the Earth.


A superb double image of Nut decorates the ceiling of the burial chamber, where only part of the sarcophagi remain. Following the tomb’s ransacking a mere 20 years after burial, the mummies of both Ramses V and Ramses VI were moved to Amenhotep II’s tomb where they were found in 1898 and taken to Cairo.


The temples were meant to honor the dead king, perhaps through eternity. In fact, they might more resemble a modern foundation or trust. They were intended to keep the king’s cult alive, guaranteeing him eternal deification, and not simply through festivals.


South of the Valley of the Kings, and closer to the Nile lies the Valley of the Queens. This area is inappropriately named, because it houses family members of the kings, including both males and females, and even some high officials. There are about 80 numbered tombs in this area, probably the most famous of which is that of Queen Nefertari.



Colossi of Hemnon


Massive head and body


And then there are two


Looking toward the Temple of Hatshepsut


Temple of Hatshepsut


On the summit between the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens





Tomb 19  (Tomb Of Mentuherkhepeshef)


Known for the high quality painted decorations along the entrance corridor


High up in the valley's Eastern wall


The Tomb of Ramses IX’s son, whose name translates as ‘The Arm of Montu is Strong’, is located high up in the valley’s eastern wall.




Its entrance corridor is adorned with life-sized reliefs of various gods, including Anubis and falcon-headed Horus (god of the sun), receiving offerings from the young prince, who is shown in all his finery, wearing exquisitely pleated fine linen and a blue-and-gold ‘sidelock of youth’ attached to his black wig - not to mention his gorgeous make-up (as worn by both men and women in ancient Egypt).




Tomb 43  (Tomb Of Tuthmosis IV)


High in the Eastern valley



One of the largest and deepest tombs constructed during the 18th dynasty. Discovered in 1903 by Howard Carter (who less than 20 years later would find the tomb of Tuthmosis IV’s great-grandson Tutankhamun), it is above the Tomb of Monthuhirkhopshef and accessed by a separate path (though the guardians will probably show you a short cut up the hill). Two long flights of steps lead down and around to the burial chamber where there’s an enormous sarcophagus covered in hieroglyphs. Most of the walls in this tomb were never finished. There are two well-preserved painted sections where various gods, such as Osiris and Hathor (in beautifully decorated dresses), are shown presenting the pharaoh with the key of life.

Down the deep passage














Looking down the valley











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