The Valley of the Kings also known as the Valley of the Gates of the Kings is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, rock cut tombs were excavated for the pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt).
The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes (modern Luxor), within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. The wadi consists of two valleys, East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are situated) and West Valley. With the 2005 discovery of a new chamber and the 2008 discovery of two further tomb entrances, the valley is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers. It was the principal burial place of the major royal figures of the Egyptian New Kingdom, as well as a number of privileged nobles. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues as to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. Almost all of the tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of the opulence and power of the pharaohs. This area has been a focus of archaeological and Egyptological exploration since the end of the eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate research and interest. In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (with its rumours of the curse of the pharaohs), and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. In 1979, it became a World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis. Exploration, excavation and conservation continues in the valley, and a new tourist centre has recently been opened.
The Valley of the Kings also known as Biban el-Moluk, the "Gates of the Kings") is an Egyptian archaeological locality in the hills immediately behind the West Bank of Luxor. As such, it is one of the most remarkable archaeological destinations in the world; the burial place of most of the pharaohs of Egypt of the New Kingdom. The tombs within the Valley are officially given a KV number, standing for "King's Valley". The tomb of Tutankhamun, for example, is also known as KV62.
The Valley of the Kings is situated over 1,000 feet of limestone and other sedimentary rock, which form the cliffs in the valley and the nearby Deir el-Bahri, interspersed with soft layers of marl. The sedimentary rock was originally deposited between 35–56 million years ago during a time when the Mediterranean Sea sometimes extended as far south as Aswan. During the Pleistocene the valley was carved out of the plateau by steady rains. There is currently little year-round rain in this part of Egypt, but there are occasional flash floods that hit the valley, dumping tons of debris into the open tombs.
The Theban Hills are dominated by the peak of al-Qurn, known to the Ancient Egyptians as ta dehent, or "The Peak". It has a pyramid-shaped appearance, and it is probable that this echoed the pyramids of the Old Kingdom, more than a thousand years prior to the first royal burials carved here. Its isolated position also resulted in reduced access, and special tomb police (the Medjay) were able to guard the necropolis. While the iconic pyramid complexes of the Giza plateau have come to symbolize ancient Egypt, the majority of tombs were cut into rock. Most pyramids and mastabas contain sections which are cut into ground level, and there are full rock-cut tombs in Egypt that date back to the Old Kingdom.
After the defeat of the Hyksos and the reunification of Egypt under Ahmose I, the Theban rulers began to construct elaborate tombs that reflected their newfound power. The tombs of Ahmose and his son Amenhotep I (their exact location remains unknown) were probably in the Seventeenth Dynasty necropolis of Dra' Abu el-Naga'. The first royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings were those of Amenhotep I (although this identification is also disputed), and Thutmose I, whose advisor, Ineni, notes in his tomb that he advised the king to place his tomb in the desolate valley (the identity of this actual tomb is unclear, but it is probably KV20 or KV38).
The Valley was used for primary burials from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC. It contains at least 63 tombs, beginning with Thutmose I (or possibly earlier, during the reign of Amenhotep I) and ending with Ramesses X or XI, although non-royal burials continued in usurped tombs.
Despite its name, the Valley of the Kings also contains the tombs of favorite nobles as well as the wives and children of both nobles and pharaohs. Therefore, only about 20 of the tombs actually contain the remains of kings. The remains of nobles and of the royal family, together with unmarked pits and embalming caches, make up the rest. Around the time of Ramesses I (ca. 1301 BC) construction commenced in the separate Valley of the Queens
Consider hiking back over the surrounding hills to Deir el-Medina or Deir el-Bahari - although a relatively short hike, do take plenty of water, especially in summer. The views are well worth the physical exertion!
The valley has been a major focus of modern Egyptological exploration for the last two centuries. Prior to this time, it was a site for tourism in antiquity (especially during Roman times). The area illustrates the changes in the study of ancient Egypt, starting as antiquity hunting, and ending as scientific excavation of the whole Theban Necropolis. Despite the exploration and investigation noted below, only eleven of the tombs have actually been completely recorded.
Exploration of the Valley
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