Valley Of The Kings, Luxor, Egypt
The Valley of the Kings is nestled in an isolated valley in upper Egypt and located on the west bank of the Nile River near Luxor. Because the sun goes down in the west, Egyptians buried their dead on the west to symbolize death.
The Valley of the Kings became a great burial site for the pharaohs when they no longer built pyramids in which to be buried. Therefore, for a period of 500 years (16th to 11 century BC), tombs were carved out of cliffs hidden within the valley (wadi) for kings (pharaohs), their wives and children. The first known pharaoh known to have a tomb built within the Valley of the Kings was Queen (Pharaoh) Hatshepsut.
After our tour bus dropped us off, we took a shuttle to
the area closer to the tombs.
Photo: Mohammed, our guide for the day, explained that with the discovery of King Tutankhamum's tomb, the Valley of the Kings has become one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.
It contains about 63 tombs for burials from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC. Towering over the valley is a mountain shaped like a pyramid known as el-Qurn (the horn). Archaeologists believe that this natural site influenced the choice of this place as the site for the royal tombs.
The idea for the Valley of the Kings came about when pharaohs of the New Kingdom (1539–1075 BCE) began to hide their tombs over fear of tomb robbers.
After their deaths, pharaohs and family members along with several queens and high-ranking officials, were buried in these tombs that are located deep into the ground. Most of the tombs are made up of long, descending corridors broken up by deep shafts to confuse robbers who might try to enter. Toward the end of each corridor is the location of the burial chamber and where a stone sarcophagus was placed for the mummified body. In this chamber were items such as furniture, personal effects, jewelry and anything else that might make the deceased person comfortable in his afterlife.
Most of the tombs are not open to the public and only 18 can be opened for the public because many are being preserved or restored. Tombs were built by cutting through layers of limestone. Because the quality of the rock in the valley was very inconsistent, it must have posed a problem due to layers of shale. We wished our good friend and archaeologist, Starr Curtis, who passed on several years ago could have been with us. He would have provided us a lot of information our guide wouldn't know. Shale expands when it comes in contact with water and because the limestone had so many shale layers, the tombs have not been preserved as well due to floods that happen periodically.
Thutmose III ruled Egypt for more than fifty years. We were not allowed to take photos in the tombs so the teacher in me comes out and I need visuals to explain. The following photos are taken from the internet and will help you (and me) better understand more about the tombs and the contents within.
Thutmose III was the 6th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. During the first 22 years of his reign, he was co-ruler with his stepmother and aunt, Hatshepsut, who was also named pharaoh. He and Pharaoh Hatshepsut shared the reign without either having seniority over the other. However, Thutmose III served as the head of Hatshepsut's armies and during the final 2 years of his reign, he appointed his first born son and successor, Amenhotep II, as his junior co-ruler who reigned after his death.
Sarcophagus of Thutmose III
The walls inside the tombs are covered with many painted scenes depicting the life of the deceased pharaoh along with hieroglyphic texts that would supposedly guide them in their afterlife. You have to see these images in person to begin to grasp how interesting they are. As you stand in the footsteps of ancient Egyptians and gaze upon drawings that were painted thousands of years of years ago, you begin to have a greater appreciation for the mystic cultures and rituals of the people of ancient Egypt. How were ancients able to cut such complex corridors and the tombs, not to mention sarcophagus out of solid stone? How long did it take them? What type of tools did they use? What did they use for light? So many questions race through your mind when you see this in person.
The tombs of pharaohs are decorated from top to bottom with religious images and texts designed to aid the journey of the king to the afterlife.
As we walked toward another tomb, we saw pottery and other items that had been uncovered during a dig.
The University of Basal is working in this area and the sign explains more.
British archaeologists, Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, become the first people to enter King Tutankhamen’s tomb in more than 3,000 years. Tut's sealed burial chambers were miraculously intact and inside was a collection of several thousand objects, including a gold coffin containing the mummy of the teenage king.
When Carter first arrived in Egypt in 1891, most of the ancient Egyptian tombs had been discovered and over the centuries the majority of them had been plundered by tomb raiders.
Around 1907, he became associated with the Earl of Carnarvon, a collector of antiquities who commissioned Carter to supervise excavations in the Valley of the Kings. Carter was convinced that the tomb of the King Tutankhamen might still be found and in 1922 discovered the tombs of Queen Hatshepsut and King Thutmose IV. When Carter found these tombs, he began an even more intensive search for King Tut's tomb and Nov. 4, 1922, he discovered a step leading to its entrance! He immediately contacted Lord Carnarvon who rushed to Egypt. On November 23, 1922, they broke through a mud-brick door which revealed the passageway that led to Tutankhamen’s tomb. There was evidence that robbers had previously entered the structure and they feared they would discover just an empty tomb. Three days later, they broke through another door and Carter leaned in with a candle to take a look. Standing behind him was Lord Carnarvon who asked, “Can you see anything?” Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things.” I cannot even image their excitement!
The diagram below shows the layout of King Tut's tomb.
King Tutankhamum was buried in a lavish tomb filled with gold artifacts. This photo was taken inside King Tut's tomb when it was first opened.
King Tutankhamen began his reign in 1333 B.C. when he was still a child. He died 10 years later at the age of 18 and made only a faint impression on the history of ancient Egypt. In the 13th century B.C., King Tutankhamen and the other “Amarna” kings were publicly condemned and most records of them were destroyed, including the location of Tut's tomb.
In the 12th century B.C., workers began building a tomb for Ramses VI and inadvertently covered Tutankhamen’s tomb with a deep layer of rocks which protected it from future discovery. If you recall, we saw many items on display at the Cairo Museum from King Tut's tomb.
I wish we had studied something about hieroglyphics before our trip to Egypt because it would have helped us better understand what we were looking at.
The treasures found in 1922 from King Tutankhamen’s tomb can be seen today in the Cairo Egyptian Museum and certainly help us better understand the burial rituals of ancient Egyptian royalty. I got to thinking, if I were a pharaoh of ancient Egypt, I wonder if my tomb would be big enough to include my Steinway grand piano? I must say, that would certainly help make my afterlife more pleasant!
Going back to the Cairo Museum in a previous entry, I am including photos of items from King Tut's tomb.
The tomb of Tutankhamun contained three beds, chests, chairs, vases and other furniture.
A special chest contained canopic jars which held the organs removed during the process of mummification. Each jar contained a specific organ and each was marked with a head of a god to mark what was inside. The jackal headed god looks after the stomach. The happy baboon looks after the lungs. The head of a human identifies the liver and the falcon headed god looks after the intestines. The heart was left inside the body because the Egyptians believed that in the afterlife it would be weighed to see whether the person had led a good life.
Below: Funerary mask of King Tut. It wasn't until two years later that Carter was able to open the heavy sarcophagus which contained King Tut's mummified body. When they opened the sarcophagus, they found three coffins inside each other where they found the funerary mask.
Quoting Carter from his diary: "The pins removed, the lid was raised. The penultimate scene was disclosed – a very neatly wrapped mummy of the young king, with golden mask of sad but tranquil expression, symbolizing Osiris … the mask bears that god's attributes, but the likeness is that of Tut.Ankh.Amen – placid and beautiful, with the same features as we find upon his statues and coffins. The mask has fallen slightly back, thus its gaze is straight up to the heavens."
Below: King Tut's chariot.
King Tut's royal chair (throne).
It's interesting to note that the tombs of pharaohs were stocked with food and drink (including wine and beer) for feasting in the next life as well as sacred objects meant to help the deceased achieve eternal life. In addition, mummified companions were put in the tombs and even pets. Because so many treasures were buried in the tombs of the pharaohs, it is easy to understand why they would become targeted areas for robbers.
Jewelry found in King Tut's tomb.
Photo: Allie, an extremely talented student from the Jerusalem Center.
In summary: Sarah and Abraham were buried in a natural cave. Egyptians made tombs in hillside cliffs to bury their dead. Jesus of Nazareth was buried in an area cut out from rock. It's been a wonderful experience to visit these places and take a look through a window of the past.
We are leaving the Valley of the Kings, a most amazing site and a must "to see" for anyone visiting Egypt.
To be continued . . .