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Valley of the Kings

Guide to the Valley of the Kings: Discovering Pharaonic Tombs

As much history is in one place as it is collected on the banks of the ancient Nile, probably nowhere on the planet. The ancient Egyptians left many mysteries, some still in the Valley of the Kings.

Her tombs have been the center of attention of archaeologists and tourists for centuries. This magical place, embodying the greatness of the Egyptian civilization, has been attracting tourists for many years.

Burials in the Valley of the Kings were carried out from about the 16th to the 11th century BC – during this time, the Egyptians managed to create the actual City of the Dead.

On the left bank of the Nile River is the so-called City of the Dead – a vast necropolis of the pharaohs with funerary temples. The Valley of the Pharaohs is the name given to the tombs of the Egyptian rulers. Interestingly, archaeological excavations are still being carried out in this valley.

Scientists are still discovering new tombs, and how many more will be discovered is unknown. Today, more than 50 tombs have already been excavated.

The Valley of the Kings in Luxor was a favorite place for robbers. There were entire settlements whose inhabitants were exclusively engaged in stealing valuable things from the tombs and selling historical values.

History of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt

Valley of the Kings

The story begins way back, during the New Kingdom, between 1539 and 1055 BC, Right on the banks of the Nile River, where Luxor is today, formerly the city of Thebes. This site was chosen as a burial ground for pharaohs, priests, and people who were part of Egypt’s elite during the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties.

This mountainous region was chosen as a large cemetery, where they would be buried mummified, taking everything of value to a supposed afterlife. Anyone who has read our article on the Pyramids of Giza has seen that pharaohs were also buried inside pyramids, but it was different in the Valley of the Kings.

The Idea of Establishing the Valley of the Kings in Luxor

One day, Pharaoh Thutmose the First made an unexpected decision – to make his tomb not in a temple but in some other secret place to protect his burial place from looting.

Moreover, to mislead the robbers, the temples of the dead were specially installed away from the centuries themselves. This burial practice has been practiced for five centuries.

Today, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings are magnificent examples of world art and are considered World Heritage treasures.
In 1922, Howard Carter found Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Pharaohs Valley.

The burial was made of two hundred kilograms of gold and precious stones, and it contained the personal belongings of the pharaoh, jewelry, chariots, dishes, weapons, and much more. Of course, the scientist was very pleased with his discovery, but he and his colleagues were even more surprised by another fact.

Next to the mummy lay a small bouquet of dried flowers, which, it would seem, was entirely out of place in this case, given the rich decoration of the grave. Scientists suggest that Tutankhamun’s widow left the flowers.

A little away from the Valley of the Pharaohs is the Valley of the Queens, where the family members of the Egyptian rulers were buried. It is worth noting that the tombs of the pharaohs’ wives, daughters, and sons were much poorer and more modest than the tombs of the kings.

Why did the pharaohs choose the Valley of the Kings?

  1. The valley’s soil is unique; it consists of several layers of limestone, sedimentary rocks, and soft clay.
  2. The valley’s hills are characterized by a hierarchical top shape and were used in constructing the pyramids as royal tombs during the Old Kingdom.
  3. The Valley of the Kings is isolated from the residential community, so the main goal was to protect the royal graves from cemetery thieves.
  4. The valley is not subject to a lot of rain throughout the year; when floods occur, only a tiny amount of precipitation remains at the entrances to the cemeteries, as happened in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
  5. A significant geological difference exists between thin and smooth layers, coarse rock, and surface layers.

What to See in The Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings is divided into Eastern and Western parts. Most of the tombs are concentrated in the East Valley. Here, in Luxor, there are 64 tombs, almost all royal. All the tombs of the Valley of the Kings have a similar layout – first, a long corridor that slopes down to a depth of 100 meters and three or four rooms at the end of the hall.

The ceilings and walls of the corridors and rooms are decorated with colored drawings illustrating the life and deeds of the buried ruler and have not lost their brightness to this day. Of the dozens of tombs discovered to date, the most notable are those of Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, Tutankhamun, and the Ramses.

Today, the Valley of the Kings is far from a quiet place, hidden from prying eyes. Thousands of tourists flock to Luxor annually to visit where the pharaohs were buried. But the Valley of the Kings became popular after the sensational story about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

After discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun, which was overflowing with gold and is still considered the wealthiest tomb, all the archaeologists who excavated it died under strange circumstances. They then started talking about the “curse of the pharaohs.”

The height of the casket is almost two meters, and its weight is 200 kg of gold. It is inlaid with lapis lazuli, turquoise, and carnelian.
Do not miss one of the most beautiful tombs of the Valley of the Kings, the tomb of Thutmose III, the most elaborate tomb of Seti I, consisting of many stairs and galleries, the tomb of Ramesses II with its magnificently painted ceiling, which depicts two celestial hemispheres and star gods marching behind the solar boats floating on the heavenly Nile.

Undoubtedly, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings are the highest examples of world art; today, they are included in the list of World Heritage treasures. But today, mummies are not stored in tombs – in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, in the hall of mummies. The mummy of Tutankhamun has been resting at its burial site for about three and a half thousand years.

Facts about the tombs of the Valley of the Kings:

  • The tomb thieves of the pharaohs stole the treasures of all the royal tombs in the valley.
  • All tombs contain drawings of pharaohs and inscriptions for use in the afterlife.
  • To date, 65 burials have been discovered, and new ones are also being found.
  • The Valley of the Kings in Luxor is a world-famous site for research in Egyptology and archeology worldwide.
  • King Seth Nekhet captures tomb No. 14 of Queen Tauessert, having faced the problem of cracks between the rock layers and penetration into King Amendment’s tomb.
  • King Ramses III was aware of the problem and restored his father’s tomb, King Seth Nekhet (Tomb 11).
  • The tomb of King Ramses II was built according to a vaulted architectural design, as it was dug into the sedimentary rocks due to the collapse of the rock in the Valley of the Kings after the flood of the Nile.
  • The Valley of the Kings suffered a great flood at the end of the 18th Dynasty of the Pharaohs, where all the tombs of the royal families disappeared under the sedimentary period of the Nile after the flood.
  • The hills of the Valley of the Kings are exposed to 7 drainage paths that flow into the valley’s depths and are formidable.
  • All the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings of Luxor are 100% carved from rock.
  • The royal tombs contain more than 2,100 pharaoh inscriptions on the walls.
  • Tomb 9 of King Ramses V and King Ramses VI, contained 100 inscriptions and was built in 278 BC.
  • The first approved map of the Valley of the Kings was drawn up in 1799 by the French archaeologist Dominique Vivant and his accompanying French Mission.
  • Several documentaries were made by all directors worldwide, particularly films about the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
  • Most royal tombs are small, consisting of a burial chamber via a staircase, a road leading to a well dug underground, or a set of busy corridors leading to the burial chamber of the king’s coffin.
  • Animal remains have been found buried in the cemetery, and many of the tombs have not been used.

Which Tombs are open to the public?

It was possible to visit 15 of the 65 tombs discovered so far. It turns out that this number of graves changes from time to time, in addition to some closing and others not on the list opening for visitation.

This happens because of the many periodic restorations but also because they seek to close some of the tombs for preservation, given the number of tourists that visit them daily.

Each tomb is identified with the letters KV (King’s Valley), plus its number. Therefore, below, we list the graves that were open when we visited, but it is worth remembering that this list constantly changes.

  • KV01 – Ramses VII
  • KV02 – Ramses IV
  • KV06 – Ramses IX
  • KV08 – Merenptah
  • KV11 – Ramses III
  • KV13 – Bay, Amenherkhepshef and Mentuherkhepshef
  • KV14 – Tausert and Setnakht
  • KV15 – Seti II
  • KV34 – Thutmose III
  • KV43 – Thutmose IV
  • KV47 – Septah

In addition, three special tombs are always open and pay separately. They are:

  • KV09 – Ramses V and VI
  • KV17 – Seti I
  • KV62 – Tutankhamun

Description of the essential graves worth seeing (with a grave identification number, “KV” stands for “King’s Valley”):

  • Ramses IV’s (KV 2) grave is a clear example of architecture from the 20th Dynasty. Length as a whole: 66 m. On the axis is a broad, very straight corridor. Images from the Solar Litany, the Book of the Dead, the Cave Book, the Amduat Book, and the Port Book.
  • (KV 5): Sons of Ramses II: Even though this grave is not open to the public, it should be mentioned because of how shocking it was found. It is a vast and complicated grave complex with many passages, chambers, corridors, and chapels for Osiris’s sacrifices. Both the grave and the decoration on it are in bad shape.
  • Ramses IX’s (20th Dynasty) tomb (KV 6) has pictures from the litany of the sun, the book of the dead, the cave book, and the amduat, as well as the book of the day and the book of the night, on the vault of the burial chamber. Distance: 86 m.
  • Ramses II (KV 7): Tourists are not allowed to visit Ramses II’s grave, which has a lot of rooms and is very big. Both the grave and the decoration on it are broken. Length: 100 m or so.
  • Merenptah (KV 8) is a large tomb from the 19th dynasty that has pictures from the Amduat, Book of Portals, Book of the Dead, and Litany of the Sun. The stone sarcophagus is still in the burial chamber and in good shape. Distance: 115 m.
  • Ramses V/VI (KV 9): An exciting tomb from the 20th Dynasty with a straight axis and interesting pictures from the Book of the Earth, the Cave Book, and beautiful photos of the Sky Books (night and day) on the ceilings, especially in the burial chamber. Length: 104 m.
  • Ramses III (KV 11): A large, complicated, and beautifully decorated tomb from the 20th Dynasty with pictures of the Book of the Dead, the Amduat, the Book of the Portals, the Litany of the Sun, and the Book of the Earth. There are also pictures of gods walking, cult acts (like opening the mouth), and well-known pictures of two blind harpers. Distance: 125 m.
  • Tausret and Sethnacht (KV 14): Two in one: At first, the tomb was meant for Pharaoh Tausret, but his successor, Sethnacht, added to it to fit his needs. The Book of the Dead and the Book of Gates are used to show these things. 110 m in length.
  • Ramses I (KV 16): A small grave from the early 19th Dynasty (around 1290 BC) with pictures from the port book. Length: 29 m. Belzoni made the discovery (1817).
  • The grave of Seti I. (KV 17) is from the 19th dynasty. With a length of about 100 m, it is one of the longest and most beautiful graves in the valley. Because it could fall, it had to be closed. Representations of the amduat, the port book, the litany of the sun, and astronomical and ritual expressions of the sky with star constellations. Discoverer: Belzoni (1817).
  • Thutmose III’s tomb (KV 34) is among the 18th Dynasty’s most interesting. In a secret place, and only stairs lead to it. The floor plan of the King’s Chamber is oval. Representations of the Amduat book, in which the order of the night hours is not strictly followed, but the four cardinal points put the different parts in order. Victor Loret found it (1898). Distance: 55 m.
  • Amenophis II’s grave (KV 35) is from the beginning of the 18th Dynasty and has pictures of the Amduat. I am putting the twelve night hours in the correct order by number. A rectangle-shaped tomb with pillars. Discoverer: Loret (1898), length: 60 m.
  • Siptah (KV 47) is a tomb from the end of the 19th dynasty with pictures from the Amduat book and the sun litany. Discoverer: Ayrton (1905). Distance: 90 m.
  • Haremhab (KV 57): Lovely tomb from the end of the 18th Dynasty (around 1300 BC). The first pictures of the gate book and the blue background give it a unique personality. Ayrton found it in 1908, and it is 114 m long.
  • Tutankhamun (KV 62): This is the most famous grave in the Valley of the Kings because of the incredible treasure found in its original state. But compared to the other graves, it was tiny (40 m long) and had only a few decorations. Tourists love to visit the grave, even though it costs extra to get in. Discoverer: Howard Carter (1922).
  • The ancient history of the kings of the pharaohs buried in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings will leave you speechless. Luxor is a must-see with its open museums and rare artifacts, and it is known as the world’s largest open-air museum. A round-trip or amazing Nile cruise on the Nile ship is a great way to see Luxor, historical sites, and much more.
About the author

Egypt Planners Team is a highly experienced travel agency specializing in memorable trips to Egypt. The team comprises expert travel planners and tour guides with a deep knowledge of Egypt's history, culture, and top tourist destinations.