Monday, May 12, 2014

Short Story, Luxor: Famous Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

The Kings of Egypt having been painfully aware of the fact that a pyramid was an invitation to grave robbers, decided to build tombs in a site which was secret. To that end they blindfolded workers on their way to the Valley of the Kings so that no worker would know where this valley was. Thus, the robbers didn't find the Valley until many years after it was built.

Another reason that they choose this site is because the sides of the valley, where all the tombs were eventually built, is made of limestone. This is a substance which is easy to cut, when compared to granite. Another reason this graveyard was limestone is it is always cool to the touch. An enemy to bodies, dehydration, is virtually unknown in this valley. Additionally, the shape of the limestone mountain is like a pyramid and this appealed to the Pharaohs.

Eventually the burial places of the kings were found and almost all looted. The sole exception is the tomb of King Tutankhamun, It was discovered next to the already known tomb of Ramses VI. What happened was this: when the workers were building the after-life residence of King Ramses VI they threw the stones into the front passage of Tut’s tomb, completely covering it. As the discoveries were made in the Valley of the Kings, the archaeologist, Howard Carter began earnestly and diligently searching for it. One day in 1922 a workman, a boy, found a stairway leading eventually to Tut’s Tomb. The tomb had been superficially robbed but the robbers never figured how to get to the casket of King Tut. Carter noticed two black skinned, wooden statues standing in front of a wall which looked to him like it just might be the site of the mummified remains of King Tut. He dug a hole in the plaster and saw the tomb of King Tutankhamun, undisturbed for nearly 3500 years.

The next ten years were consumed with carefully removing, cataloging and negotiating how much of the treasure there was rightfully Carter’s. This was a long and hard negotiation and ultimately Carter got some of it and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo got the lion’s share. It is on display there and remains a source of pride to contemporary Egyptians. There are several tombs which are open to the public on a daily basis, among them King Tut’s tomb, which costs 100 Egyptian Pounds (Approximately $14.25) to enter.



(1) Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) – Arguably the most famous tomb in the Valley and the scene of Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of the almost intact royal burial of the young king. Compared to most of the other royal tombs, however, the tomb of Tutankhamun is barely worth visiting, being much smaller and with limited decoration. Visitors with limited time would be best to spend their time elsewhere. Requires a separate ticket for admission from the other tombs.
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(2) Tomb of Horemheb (KV57) – the tomb of the last king of the 18th Dynasty. Rarely open for visitors, but it is large and superbly decorated.
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(3) Tomb of Thutmose III (KV34) – one of the most remote tombs in the Valley, located at the far end of the Valley and up several flights of steps to gain entry. The climb is worth it, though. The tomb has a large oval burial chamber. The decoration is unique, in a simple, pleasing style that resembles modern “stick figures” and the cursive writing of the time.
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(4) Tomb of Seti I (KV17) – also known as Belzoni’s tomb, the tomb of Apis, or the tomb of Psammis, son of Necho, is usually regarded as the finest tomb in the valley, with well executed relief work and paintings.
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(5) Tomb of Merneptah (KV8) – son of Ramses II, Merneptah’s tomb extends 160 metres and has suffered greatly from flash flooding of the Valley over the millennia. The paintings and reliefs that have survived, however, are generally in good condition.
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(6) Tomb of Ramses III (KV11) – one of the largest tombs in the valley, and often open to the public. Its location and superb decoration usually makes this one of the tombs visited by tourists.
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(7) Tomb of Ramses VI (KV9) – this tomb was originally started by Ramses V, but usurped after his death by his successor Ramses VI, who enlarged the tomb and had his own image and cartouches carved in over his predecessor’s. The tomb is one of the most interesting in the Valley, with one of the most complete and best preserved decorative schemes surviving.
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(8) Tomb of the Sons of Ramses II (KV5) – Ramses enlarged the earlier small tomb of an unknown Eighteenth Dynasty noble for his numerous sons. With 120 known rooms and excavation work still underway, it is probably the largest tomb in the valley. Originally opened and robbed in antiquity, it is a low-lying structure that has been particularly prone to the flash floods that sometimes hit the area, which washed in tones of debris and material over the centuries, ultimately concealing its vast size. It is not currently open to the public.
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