Egypt : Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

The pyramidal hill which overlooks the Valley of the Kings

July 2002

The hills on the west bank of Luxor were used by the pharaohs of the new kingdom for building their tombs. The high altitude which protected the site from the flooding of the Nile and a natural pyramid shaped hill which overlooks the valley were the main reason for the particular site being chosen as the location for the necropolis. Tuthmosis I was the first pharaoh to be buried in the valley of the kings. After him many kings of the VIII and IX dynasties had their tombs built here in the form of a tunnel cut inside the hills. The idea was to make the tombs as inconspicuous as possible to prevent  it from being raided by tomb robbers. Unfortunately since the authorities themselves were involved in these robberies, almost all the tombs were stripped naked of their treasures.

The only tomb which escaped the tomb robbers is that of Tutankhamun,  the XIX dynasty boy king who succeeded the controversial Amarna period. The reason why the tomb escaped the robbers is due to the unimportance of the pharaoh himself. The tomb not only was the smallest in the valley but also was placed in an obscure part hidden completely by the tomb of Ramesis VI. Despite this, the treasures found in Tutanknamun's tomb still amazes its viewers. It is almost impossible to imagine how much treasures would have been placed in the tombs of greater kings!

Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

The entry ticket to the valley of the kings allows one to visit any three tombs, except that of Tutankhamun which has a separate entrance fee. Our guide chose the tombs of Ramesis XI, Ramesis III and Merneptah for us to visit during our trip. The tomb of Ramesis XI was left unfinished mainly due to the untimely death of the pharaoh. Even during his lifetime there were problems in the valley including a full fledged strike (first of its kind in history!) which delayed its progress. The roof and many of the inscriptions were left incomplete. Many inscriptions also had some errors which were left uncorrected.

The tomb of Ramesis III, on the other hand, is the grandest tomb in the valley among the tombs which were open to public during our visit. The XX dynasty was at its zenith when Ramesis III ruled Egypt and the fact is very well reflected in his tomb. One can still the bright colours used by the ancient Egyptians. The tomb changes its axis midway because the builders accidentally bumped into the tomb of his father - a rare mistake during those times. The walls of the tomb are inscribed with scenes from the book of the gates and book of amduat. One can also see soot marks from the flames used by the Roman soldiers who used to hide here from the enemies. The marks proves how advanced the original builders were because they never left any such marks: they used mirrors to direct the natural light deep into these tombs!

Merneptah, the thirteen son of Ramesis II, succeeded his father because Ramesis outlived his first dozen sons! Due to the evidence of the Israel Stele at Karnak, Merneptah is considered to the biblical pharaoh who confronted Moses. The tomb of Merneptah is over 80m long and is unique among the tombs in the valley because it gives the visitor the opportunity to walk under the lid of the pharaoh's sarcophagus!1

Click here for more photos from the Valley of the Kings.

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