December 27, 2018
This morning we visited Valley of the Kings, where there are 62 tombs of Egyptian nobility – specifically, pharaohs, including Tutankhamen. They date from Thutmose I of the 18th Dynasty to Ramses XI of the 20th Dynasty, all rulers of the New Kingdom, and most of the tombs have been raided by tomb robbers. Howard Carter hit the jackpot when he accidentally discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922: most of the burial items had been left intact, giving archaeologists insight into the artifacts that would have been buried in the king’s tomb and outlying chambers.
To get to the Valley of the Kings, we took a motorcoach out into the desert.
To get to the tombs, there were trams shuttling groups of people back and forth.
We were only allowed to take photos inside the tombs if we paid 300 EP (Egyptian pounds), the equivalent of about $15.00. Only one member of our tour group was willing to pay to take photos. Dale and I decided not to pay and refrain from taking photos, but in hindsight, I should have paid the 15 bucks – after all, it helps the Egyptian economy. Dale is too cheap, in general, to pay and he usually finds a way to take pictures anyway, which he did.
I opted, instead, to pay the equivalent of $30 for a 2-DVD set, including one containing over 11,000 photos taken by Egyptologist Mohammed Fathy all over Egypt. I figured that way I would have photos of everything, including what I missed. I have already posted a few of these photos to “fill in the blanks” and will do so again here.
We visited four of the tombs. The first was Ramses IX, which is the first tomb encountered when entering the Valley of the Kings via the modern entrance.
The king’s body was found in 1881 at Deir el-Bahri, also known as Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, which we would visit later today. Some of the funerary items are now at the British Museum.
Entering the tomb was via a shat which opened into a long corridor with steps down into another corridor. This tomb map and some information is from the web site The Tomb of Ramesses IX, Valley of the Kings, Egypt .
There were a lot of tourists visiting, and Dale noticed some Asian tourists taking photos with their cellphones and getting away with it (he didn’t know if they had paid the 300 EP). So he started taking pictures surreptitiously. (The unlabeled photos are his.)
Along the walls, there were inscriptions and paintings, no doubt extolling the pharaoh’s victories in battle. Every surface was covered and much of the color has been preserved.
The texts and decoration inside royal tombs contain illustrations of spiritual texts, including the Book of the Dead (on the left wall). These texts were to accompany the deceased pharaoh through the netherworld into the afterlife, with the expectation of eventual rebirth. Here are two photos I took recently at the Field Museum in Chicago. The first is a piece of a replica of the Book of the Dead. The second is a diorama illustrating the second phase of the deceased’s journey to the afterlife, receiving protection from the gods during his journey.
Continuing on down the corridor, everywhere we saw spectacular artwork all around us. It must have taken many years for the pharaoh’s artisans to prepare this tomb to receive his body.
Niches line the corridor which contain representations of different gods. Below is a collage of photos taken by Mohammed Fathy of various scenes in Ramses IX’s tomb. The large red circle depicted in several of these photos represent the sun disk.
At the end of the corridors was this doorway, decorated overhead by a snake, the scarab holding the sun disk on a boat, and the eye of Horus, a symbol of protection for royalty.
In the burial chamber, the god Nut is represented on the ceiling as part of another spiritual text, the Book of Night.
The burial chamber is empty – it does not contain a sarcophagus.
These photos taken by Mohammed Fathy show details of the ceiling of the burial chamber.
As we made our way back, a man approached Dale, gesturing wildly and demanding, “Ticket! Ticket!” He meant the ticket issued if you pay to take photos. Of course, Dale didn’t have one. He acted all innocent, saying, “I didn’t know” and “our guide didn’t tell us” but the man wasn’t buying it.
I suggested to Dale that he delete the photos with the man watching, but instead the man grabbed Dale’s cellphone and turned to leave with it! Of course, Dale had to follow. Outside, he asked Dale, “Where is your guide?” Whether Mohamed was within view or not, I don’t know, but Dale wasn’t going to point him out. He just looked around and said vaguely, “He’s around here somewhere.”
The man got frustrated and didn’t know what else to do, so he gave Dale his phone back and walked away!
The next tomb we went in was that of Ramses VI, which was better preserved and contained a sarcophagus!
Dale once again took a few photos! He was caught again, but once again talked his way out of it, so we do have these shots he took with his cellphone.
He even took a photo of me in one of the corridors of the tomb!
This tomb’s structure was basically the same as that of Ramses IX.
These photos are all from the collection of Mohammed Fathy, from the DVD I purchased.
Fathy even included a photo of the mummy!
Next was KV 14, the tomb of King Tausert/Setnakht.
Dale took a few pictures again, but this time did not get caught!
The fourth and final tomb we visited was the long anticipated tomb of Tutankhamun. It was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 after digging for six years – no one knew who this young king was, but his name had appeared occasionally on ancient writings and artifacts so Carter began excavating in the Valley of the Kings, presumably where his tomb would be.
Each of the 62 tombs is numbered by the order in which they were discovered (Ramses IX is labeled with K.V. 6). Tutankhamun’s tomb is number 62. Very little is known about this king who died at the age of 18 or 19. He ascended to the throne at the age of eight, as the rightful heir of Akhenaten, the “heretic” king; Akhenaten is believed to be his father, but his mother was not Akhenaten’s beloved first wife, Nefertiti, who bore only daughters. It is speculated that Tutankhamun was the child of one of Akhenaten’s lesser wives, a woman named Kiya. It is also possible that he is not Akhenaten’s son, but rather his much younger brother, next in line for the throne because Akhenaten and Nefertiti had only daughters.
From what I have learned about ancient Egypt, it was very common for pharaohs to have a harem of lesser wives – the principal wife was the preferred mate to produce a male heir, but failing that, the pharaohs had other wives who could produce a son. Whatever the case, Tutankhamun, while officially enthroned at the age of eight (his rule is officially stated as 1333-1323 BCE), had a regent named Ay who was the vizier of his probable father, Akhenaten. Ay had been close to the royal family since Akhenaten (formerly known as Amenhotep IV) was a child. When Tutankhamun was old enough – probably in his young teens – he took the reins of power but unfortunately died after only a few years on the throne.
Although there has been much speculation about the cause of Tutankhamun’s death – a Discovery Channel documentary even theorized that he was murdered – recent improvements in DNA technology have allowed scientists to determine that he died of malaria, which must have been common in Egypt as it was in much of Africa.
Tutankhamun was buried in a hurry; his original tomb (no. 23) was not completed at the time of his death. Tomb 62 is smaller than average for a pharaoh’s burial site. (No. 23 would end up being the tomb of his successor, Ay.)
In 2007, his mummy was removed from the marble sarcophagus where it had been since the tomb was opened to the public. The body, without its mummy wrappings, is now on display in his burial chamber. We had seen several of his coffins, as well as many funerary objects and his burial mask, at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Photography, even if you’ve paid 300 EP, is prohibited in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Even Dale didn’t take illegal photos there – I doubt he would have been able to talk his way out of that infraction!!
The tomb has four rooms, but only the burial chamber is decorated.
Inside the burial chamber is one of the gilded coffins in which the king’s mummy had originally been placed. There was an old man, dressed in the galabeya (a type of afghan) that traditional Egyptian men wear, in the chamber with a flashlight. He smiled at us with a mostly toothless grin and shone the flashlight onto the body’s blackened feet. I’m not sure why he did this, perhaps there was something particular we were supposed to notice about Tutankhamun’s feet. In any case, the rest of the body was covered with a shroud so only his lower legs and feet were visible.
Mohammed Fathy includes these photos (including of Tutankhamun’s body above) in his small collection of photos from the “boy king”‘s tomb, but they are not labeled and I don’t think he took them.
Two views of the burial chamber in different lighting.
Informational signs about Tomb no. 62
Adjacent to Valley of the Kings is the home of Howard Carter, the archeologist who discovered and excavated Tutankhamun’s tomb. We took a short tour through the house.
In 1908, Lord Carnavan was introduced to Howard Carter, who had spent the previous 17 years working in Egypt, but at that time was unemployed and at a low point in his life. In January 1909, Carnavan offered Carter a job and help in building a house, which was dubbed “Castle Carter.”
The doors of Howard Carter’s house (posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors, 3/7/19).
A small door in a corner (for a dog maybe?) – open…
Door of a safe
Doors and a mirror of an armoire
Information for this post was obtained from:
Fodor’s Egypt, 2009 edition.
Web site page The Tomb of Ramesses IX, Valley of the Kings, Egypt (linked above) .
My own notes and photos.