Luxor kings valley

Luxor kings valley

THE NECROPOLIS THE Luxor kings valley


Luxor kings valley otherwise known as Biban el Muluk is situated about two miles inland from the edge of the valley A tarmac road makes the distance seem short Before its construction a visitor had a sense of the arid remoteness of the site chosen by the Pharaohs of the I Sth, 19th and 2oth Dynasties for their tombs.

There are over sixty in the valley.

Luxor kings valley

Luxor kings valley

The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom, as already explained, chose to separate their tombs from their mortuary temples as a safeguard against pillage, and to burrow through solid rock in an effort to ensure eternal seclusion.

The actual tomb design in Luxor kings valley was relatively uniform, differing only in length and in the number of chambers.

There were usually three corridors, one following the other, leading to the inner chambers.

High up on the walls of the second corridor were sometimes oblong recesses for the reception of the furniture and effects of the deceased.

Alternatively other recesses or chambers were provided at the end of the third corridor for the same purpose.

At the end of the third corridor was a door leading to an antechamber; the main hall or tomb chamber lay beyond.

The roof of the tomb chamber

was often supported by pillars and small chambers led off it. In the centre or to the rear was a crypt containing the sarcophagus, usually of red sandstone.
A shaft, sometimes dropping to a depth of over six meters, was a feature of several tombs.

Whether this was designed to discourage possible grave-robbers from proceeding further is not sure, though there are positive indications that this was their purpose; for example, the representations on the upper walls of the pit shaft were usually left unfinished with the outer frame of decoration missing, Whereas the chambers beyond the shaft were fully decorated. Another theory is that the shaft was for the drainage of rain water; though rain is not common in Egypt the tomb designers may well have taken precautions against the possibility of seepage.

Luxor kings valley

Luxor kings valley

The concern of the Pharaoh was not with his death, which was inevitable, but that his journey to the hereafter should be as smooth as possible.

There was no apprehension, no fear.

Man continued life after death in much the same manner as he had lived on earth, so long as the necessities for his existence were provided, safeguards were taken to prevent his body from decay, and the religious formula were scrupulously followed.
In the Middle Kingdom the religious formulae by which the dead were to triumph had been recorded both inside and outside the sarcophagus.

Gradually the texts were elaborated and scrolls of papyrus were placed in the cofhn as well. Enlarged over the vears these gradually became uniform and the nucleus of what has become known as the Book of the Dead.

The rock-hewn passages and chambers

represent stages in the journey to the underworld, which was supposedly divided into twelve hours or Caverns.

The deceased sailed through them at night in the boat of the Sun-god-in fact actually absorbed by him and representations on the first corridors of the tombs often show the ram-headed Sun-god surrounded by his retinue who are standing in a boat and temporarily bringing light to the places he traverses.

As they pass from one leg of the journey to another they have to go through massive gates, each guarded by huge serpents.

These chapters of the formula are know as the Boo/e of the Gates.

The forward corridors were generally devoted to Praises of Rohymns to be sung and illustrations ofthe ceremonies to be performed before the statue of the deceased Pharaoh to imbue it with eternal life.

And finally the deceased reached the judgement seat of Osiris, King of the Underworld.Osiris, the creator of law and agriculture, had once ruled on earth.

With his wife and sister Isis at his side he had been a just and much loved ruler who was slain by his jealous brother Set.

Luxor kings valley

Luxor kings valley

Set, as the myth goes, conspired against Osiris and at a banquet persuaded him to
enter a chest which was then sealed and thrown into the Nile.

It was carried down to the sea.

The broken-hearted Isis wandered far and wide in tortured misery seeking the body of her loved one.

Accompanied on her sad mission by the goddess Nephthys she eventuallv found the body entangled in a tamarisk bush in the marshes of the delta.

She hid the body, but Set, out boar-hunting, found it and cut it into fourteen pieces, scattering it in all directions.

Isis continued her mission,

collected the pieces (at each spot a monument was erected, which accounts for the widespread myth) and sought the help of the jackal-god Anubis, who became god of embalmment, to prepare it for the netherworld.

While he carried out her orders Isis 105 wept and prayed and drew near her dead lord ‘making a shadow with her pinions and causing a wind with her wings _ _ . raising the weary limbs of the silent-hearted (dead), receiving his seed, and bringing forth an heir . . .” Isis, the myth continues, raised her son Horus in the marshes until he was strong enough to avenge his father’s death by slaying Set.

He then set out to seek his father and raise him from the dead. The risen Osiris, however, could no longer reign in the kingdom on earth and now became king of the underworld where, with Isis still at his side, he ruled below with the same justice as he had exercised above.

Horus took over the throne of his father on earth.

On the walls of the tomb chamber, or in the rear corridors, are dramatic representations of the dangers carefully guarded against: enemies withdrawing the breath from the nostrils of the deceased; water bursting into flame as he drinks; foes robbing him of his throne, his organs and, worst of all, his very name, which would thus deprive him forever of his identity.
The tombs in Luxor kings valley, which are guidebooks to the hereafter, give us an insight into the hopes, expectations and fears of the living Pharaoh.

Very soon after his coronation he must have ordered the construction of these usually vast complexes.

His artists made initial sketches on the walls.

His artisans began to turn out the 403 S hazvbli (little statues bearing the implements of labour and usually put in big wooden boxes in the tomb to save the Pharaoh from tedious work in the hereafter).

Luxor kings valley Funerary furniture was designed and made.

And since secrecy was vital, only the workers from the city at Deir el Medina  toiled on the tombs and only the Pharaoh himself and the high priests knew the actual site.
It is probable that the priests actually possessed an architectural plan or blueprint for the construction of tombs in the valley.

Though no ne has ever been found, one cannot believe that a people capable of placing an obelisk of solid granite upright on a small rectangular base, of planning irrigation canals, and, with their obsession for accuracy, of dividing the year-nearly 4ooo years B.C.
`into 365 days and thus forming the basis of the calendar we use today, that such a people would hazard a guess about that most vital decision: where to dig a Pharaoh’s tomb.

Admittedly the first corridor of the tomb of Ramses III

actually breaks through into another t0mb`that of Amen-mesis, one of the pretenders to the throne at the end of the 19th Dynasty-and is consequently diverted and continued to the right.

While this might indicate the absence of any blueprint it may equally be the exception that proves the rule.What a sad turn of fate that, despite the remoteness of the site, enforced secrecy, complexity of structure and diversion shafts the tomb were robbed from earliest times! In fact they were probabli enetratsed soon after they were sealed.


(See Map on page 102) In the autumn of 1994, the Luxor kings valley was deluged by the heaviest rains since 1916 and numerous tombs suffered its effects Steps are now being taken to better predict when and where floodin I is hkely to occur in the future (see Work in Progress Nos. 1 & sf Meanwhile three royal tombs have been restored and opened to thé };L1bl1;, two in the main valley, and one in the western valley.

tomb, that of Amenhotep II (22) is also in the western valley. s is expected to be opened shortly

Luxor kings valley Tomb of Ramses VII 

This tomb hes to the north of the main road as one approaches the Luxor kings valley. It is a classical tomb in design and decorated ;f‘iuz‘5h9uf- f§1fhO}1gh known to have been opened as early as the
_to emalc PCUOCL lf WRS never seriously considered as a tourist attraction in view of other longer and more elaboratel decorated to bwithin walking distance. . Y m S

 Luxor kings valley Tomb of Siptah 

Siptah is one of the lesser-known pharaohs of E gypt who ruled briefly at the end of the 19th Dynasty. When first opened in 1908, his tomb V\{h1Ch lies to the south of the main valley, was found to contain ai Pmk granite 53fC0Pha§u5~ A5 U16 Walls were largely undecorated it was left unattended and subsequently became filled with sand Nbw it’s 106 metre long corridors (it is one of the l t b I’
_ h Luxor kings valley) have been cleared. Onges tom S In t 6

Luxor kings valley Tomb of Ay

T is tomb, and that of Amenhotep III, lie in the western Valley of the It has become known as the ‘tomb of the ageiflgli Eitflset off thlp diities depicted at the beginning of the Amduat (‘the gg- D 1; oAt e idden space -more familiar to us as the Book of the k_€8 ). y was Tutenkhamon s tutor who briefly succeeded the boy- ufgdcgn the throne of Egypt.AHe married Tutenkhamon’s widow and ru e or only three years, during which time he constructed this tomb.

Luxor kings valley

Luxor kings valley

 Luxor kings valley TOMB OF TUTANKHAMON 

Tutankhamon was the young Pharaoh who succeeded Akhenaten towards the end of the 18th Dynasty. During his nine year rule he restored Thebes as the capital and started the restoration of the worship of Amon. Apart from this all we know of him is that he met a sudden end.

Egyptologists did not seem worried that his tomb had never been found.

If there were a tomb, they reasoned, it would probably be poor in content.

In any case the notable American archeologist Davis had said that the Luxor kings valley had long since yielded all that it had to yield.

Howard Carter, working for Lord Carnarvon, the wealthy Englishman with a passion for ancient Egypt, thought otherwise.

He was convinced not only that there was a tomb but that there was a great possibility of its being intact.

Carter, in charge of the team, toiled year after year in the desert of the necrop_olis. For these two, one fruitless year merely built up hope for the next.

After six seasons, during which time it was estimated that some 2oo,ooo tons of rubble were moved, Howard Carter was finally forced to accept the fact that his predecessor had probably been right and that the valley had no tomb to yield.

It was a depressing decision and one that he could not bring himself to take.

For there was one last, very remote possibility: the site immediately beneath the tomb of Ramses VI.

It was covered with roughly-constructed workmen’s huts.

On instructions from Carter his men set about demolishing them.

It was 1922.

At the bottom of the steps was the doorway of a tomb. As yet it was too early to tell whose, but the seals seemed intact.

Cables were sent to Lord Carnarvon in England while preparations were made for the opening.

Whatever had been expected, or hoped for, there is no doubt that the tomb’s actual contents surpassed the wildest dreams.

When we gaze at the contents which now lie in Cairo Museum we can almost feel the agony of suspense, exhilaration and utter amazement that must have overwhelmed the first to see the fabulous treasures.

The opening was attended by Lord Carnarvon himself who unhappily never lived to see the full richness of the contents of the tomb, as well gs by Lady Evelyn Herbert, Professor Breasted and Dr Alan Gar-

The tomb proved to be small,

but packed to bursting with furniture, emblems, utensils, ornaments, bows, arrows and walking- sticks.

Comforts for the Pharaoh in the hereafter included a fly-whisk trimmed with ostrich feathers and a camp-bed folded in three parts.

There were necklets, pendants, rings and ear-rings, to say nothing of the shrines and sarcophagi. According to Carter, who spent ten years cataloguing the contents, there were 171 objects in the first room alone.

When he had made a small opening in the door of the tomb chamber, he had been faced with what appeared to be a wall of solid gold. It turned out to be an enormous gilded shrine within which, one after another, lay no less than three others.

Within these were a stone sarcophagus and three mummy coffins.
The one holding the Pharaoh’s remains was in solid gold and alone weighed 2,488.8 lbs (II28.Q Kg).
Whilst the world press was focussed on Thebes it was not surprising that one imaginative journalist should attribute the death of Lord Carnarvon to ‘The Pharaoh’s curse-a sting from a mosquito entombed for centuries’.

It added spice to an already fermenting excitement and a growing tourist trade.

Vendors and photographers had a heyday in the sacred valley, while forgers were turning out ‘antiquities’ wholesale.

The mummy was found to be resplendent in gold, with a solid gold mask on the head.

There were bracelets, chains, collars, gold beads and necklets of precious and semi-precious stones, engraved smmbs and garlands of flowers.

Only the outer mummy case, which contains the Pharaoh’s mummy, has been left on site.

The rest are in the Cairo Museum.

But it is as well to bear these treasures in mind as we enter this, the smallest tomb in the Luxor kings valley, for the walls of the first chamber (Plan 16 /1) which measure a mere eight by four metres, are shockingly bare.

Bare, too, are the walls of the small annex (B) which contained vessels and containers for oils, baskets of fruit and seed, wine jars and pottery, all decorated in alabaster, ebony, turquoise, gold, lapis-lazuli and ivory.
The only chamber with decorated walls is the burial chamber itself (C). The paintings are in almost perfect condition.

The religious scenes and inscriptions retain the vivid colour of the day they were painted.

There are full-length figures on three of the walls standing beneath a dark band which represents the sky.

The wall on the left (zz) has representations from the Book of the Dead.

One is immediately struck by the proportion of the Hgures, which appear top-heavy. This was of course a characteristic ofthe Amarna period.

Questions spring to the mind.

Why should the walls, apart from the tomb chamber, have been so devoid of decoration when it was believed to be imperative for every stage of the journey to the underworld to be faithfully followed? Why were the contents placed in the disorder indicated in the photographs taken just after the opening of the tomb? And how could so vast an array of splendid provisions have been completed in the short span of nine years during which the boy-king ruled? Would a young monarch have been anything but sure that time was in his favour?
The provisions for the hereafter can be easily explained. Tutankhamon was the last in the family line and his tomb was filled not merely with his own but with family treasures. Many of the pieces had been taken from the royal temples of Tel el Amarna.

Luxor kings valley The priceless royal throne in Cairo Museum,

for example, shows the young king being anointed by his wife against a background of the life-giving Aten, symbol of his father-in-law’s heresy.

So even though Tutankhamon had completely renounced the teachings of Akhenaten he carried his symbols to his grave.

Many of the glazed vases and sceptres clearly originated in the other capital. In addition some ofthe funerary objects were proved to have been made, not for Tutankhamon, but for Semenkare, Akhenaten’s son-in-law and coregent.

These included one of the larger shrines, some of the mummy ornaments and the miniature canopic coflins which had for some reason been usurped and used in Tutankhamon’s tomb.

The disorder is undoubtedly indicative of hurry, as is the lack of decoration on the tomb walls.

It is clear that the young king met a sudden death and was buried in haste. Murder? Suicide? Until 1969 the mummy revealed no secrets.

But the results of an anthropological and skeletal examination of the Pharaoh’s mummy, carried out by the Departments of Anatomy of Cairo and Liverpool Universities,
are now at hand and it appears that death could have been caused by a blow on the head.

Nearly half a century ago Howard Carter

had said that there was a ‘scab’ on the Pharaoh’s head.

Now Professor Harrison of Liverpool University claims that the unusual thinness of the outer skull of the mummy could have resulted from a haemorrhage beneath the membranes overlying the brain. The X-
ray examination has ruled out the theory that Tutankhamon died of tuberculosis.
If the young Pharaoh proves to have been murdered after all, it raises another question.

Who was guilty? Was it his tutor Ay, who coveted his young wife and probably married her after Tutankhamon’s death? Or was it General Haremhab who had designs on the throne and actually succeeded in seizing it from the blue-bloods at the beginning of the 19th Dynasty?
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