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The Valley Of The Kings

The Valley of the Kings is an astounding location where 62 Pharaohs are buried. This royal cemetery is located on Luxor's west bank, down the only entrance, a long narrow winding path.


This was a secret place, and sentries guarded the entrance and the tops of the hills to discourage tomb robbers.
In the past, they had plundered all royal tombs, including the pyramids' treasures! Some thefts were probably carefully planned, but others were spur of the moment, as when an earlier tomb was accidentally discovered while cutting a new one, and workers took advantage of the opportunity.
This may have happened when KV 46 was found while cutting KV 4 or KV 3 nearby. The tombs in the Valley range from a simple pit (e.g., KV 54) to one with over 121 chambers and corridors ( KV 5).
In 1827, John Gardiner Wilkinson first established the present numbering system to prepare a map of Thebes. Wilkinson painted the numbers 1 through 21 at the entrances of the tombs that were then visible. The numbers were assigned geographically, from the entrance to the Valley southward. Since Wilkinson's day, tomb numbers have been set in chronological order of discovery, KV 62 (Tutankhamun) being the most recent.
Wilkinson's is not the only tomb designation system used in the Valley, though. Several explorers assigned numbers, letters, or descriptive labels to the tombs, as the accompanying chart indicates, but Wilkinson's is the only system that is still in use. The Valley of the Kings has two main wings: west and east. The eastern side has most of the tombs, while the western part has very few but boasts the tombs of Amenhotep III and Ay.
The earliest known tomb of the New Kingdom, within the Valley of the Kings, is that of Tuthmoses I, who started using the Valley as a royal burial site. It is located in a desolate part of the Valley, which provides excellent protection as it is small enough to be closely guarded. The superior stone quality allowed the ancient Egyptians to cut many tombs close to each other.
Most of the tombs were found already plundered! A few, like the tomb of Tutankhamun (KV 62) or that of Yuya and Thuyu (KV 46), contained thousands of precious artifacts. Some tombs were accessible in antiquity, as Greek and Latin graffiti attest. Some were used as dwellings or churches during the Greco-Roman and Byzantine periods. Most of them have been discovered in the past two hundred years.
Some tombs, like KV 5, had been "lost," and their locations only recently rediscovered. The well-known Egyptologist Kent Weeks is still working on many projects in the Valley, including Theban mapping. Mr. Kent Weeks (shown with the site author in the picture above) has spent more than six years exploring, trying to uncover the secrets of this massive tomb. KV5 is the largest tomb ever found in the Valley! Re-excavated in 1995, it contains at least 121 chambers and corridors! Can you imagine the majestic grandeur? Mr. Weeks believes that it was built for the children of Ramses II. On your way to the inner side of the Valley, You can see KV5's entrance location (currently closed to the public).
Since 1922 and Howard Carter's discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV 62), no new tombs were discovered in the Valley until, on February 9, 2006, the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt announced the discovery of a new tomb. Designated the number KV63, it was discovered through a joint effort between the University of Memphis (USA) and the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt. This is one of the smaller tombs found, consisting of a vertical shaft with an adjacent chamber at the bottom. Some artifacts are known to have been found, but as this is an ongoing project, the details are yet to be released.
Presently, there are several archaeological projects currently at work in the Valley of the Kings.

Tomb Building - Tools

Before discussing the creation of the tombs, it is essential to examine the tools the workers used and the actual work crews. Though over three thousand years old, many of these tools have survived and, in many cases, are similar to tools used in construction today.
The first of these tools is the mallet and chisel, which were discovered and are now in the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. The mallet is made from acacia wood and was often used; the chisel was also well-used yet constructed of bronze. Though they were not found in either Deir El-Medina or the Valley of the Kings, they have been dated to the 18th-20th Dynasties, so we can safely assume that they are the same type of tool that the tomb makers would have used. Many different types of chisels were used during tomb construction, from pointed tips to flat, broad tips, depending on the type of cut required.
Boning rods were integral to ensuring that horizontal surfaces were as straight as possible. A set of these was found with the two items above and is also in the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. Two workers would hold the boning rods, each having an identical piece of wood in his other hand. As he moved the piece of wood along the string, any protruding pieces of rock would be seen and could be cut away.
The tomb makers used various other tools: triangular level and plumb bobs, plumbs, squares, square levels, and drills, each with their specific piece of work. The measurement was made by cubits, though whether they were "small cubits" or "royal cubits" is not always clear. A cubit was a forearm length divided into six palms or 24 fingers. The Royal cubit was divided into seven palms or 28 fingers, corresponding to 20.9 inches per Royal cubit, 3 inches per palm, and ¾ inch per finger).
Pounders were usually made from dolerite, though gneiss or granodiorite could also be used. They were shaped between round and oval and varied in size and weight. Often showing signs of battering and chipping, they were used for less precise work.


Polishers tended to be round, oval, or flat with a smooth surface. They were produced from various rocks, including sandstone, flint, chert, or basalt. Used for finishing surfaces, they often show signs of polish or abrasion from constant use.

Tomb Building - Work Crews

The Valley of the Kings workers were all housed at Deir El-Medina. However, they would often spend nights in the small enclave of huts built about halfway between the village and their workplace, and some workers may even have spent their nights in one of the small huts scattered throughout the Valley. Each worker had a task, whether they were stonemasons, draughtsmen, chisel-bearers, carpenters, artists, or any other trades represented within this community. From an ancient papyrus (Papyrus Salt 124), we know that work crews were separated into two different gangs, a right side and a left side, with a chief workman in charge of each "side."
During the Ramesside Period, the workmen were known as the "Servants in place of Truth" and also the "Men of the Gang," a name which had come from the Egyptian military and navy referring to the Egyptian term "ist," which means gang or crew. The size of these gangs ranged from thirty to more than one hundred and twenty, depending on the tomb being cut.


Work in the tombs depended on how long an oil-filled lamp took to burn and die, usually about four hours. This meant that the working day was divided into two shifts of four hours each, with a break for lunch and rest in between. It sounds a lot like the traditional operating hours of today. The lamps were often shaped like a bowl with a central jar made from one piece of clay. The main jar holds the twisted wick used in oil lamps, probably made out of linen coated with oil or animal fat to last longer and provide light. Forget the illumination of tombs by reflected light off polished surfaces, as seen in the movie "The Mummy," as experiments have shown that this does not work. Also, the theory that the tombs would soon run out of air is a non-starter because the tombs were always open; they were never closed until the Pharaoh was interred.
Scribes accounted for everything that went on in the valley, from the issuing of oil for the lamps to the visit of the vizier, as well as keeping an inventory of tools issued and returned, and these reports were periodically sent to the vizier so he would know what progress was being made. One particular scribe, Qenherkhepeshef, collected a library of reports and other essential documents, and it is through him that many facts about life in Deir El-Medina and the Valley of the Kings are known. He and his descendants amassed a vast collection of papyri, including religious texts, official letters, poetry, stories, and magical and medical texts. They were discovered by French archaeologists at Deir El-Medina in 1928. What a find!

Tomb Building - Cutting and Construction

Once the king, vizier, architects, and chief stonemasons decided on a suitable site, the tomb could be cut. The workers would be issued the required tools, and the scribe would record this transaction and its return. Large spike-like chisels would be hit with a mallet to break the rock, and workers should remove debris using leather or wicker. Limestonemestone is a relatively solid stone, so work would have progressed reasonably unless Flint became an obstacle.
The entrance doorway was shaped as soon as the workers had cut an ample space for this operation. Once sufficient depth into the mountain was achieved, a red line was painted on the ceiling to ensure that the stone cutters could follow a straight path; it was also used as a central point for measurements to be taken from, which could be used to make sure that all the walls were parallel to one another, angles of corners were correct, and doorways were perpendicular. These red lines can still be seen inside some of the tombs today. The cutting of a tomb was a matter of great skill as the tombs had to run straight unless a bend or corner was planned, and any aids which builders of external constructions could not be employed here.
Small chisels shaped the corridors once work progressed inside the passageway, leaving a rough surface for the pounders and polishers to finish. Because many tombs were finished at varying stages of completion due to the death of the Pharaoh, it is easy to see how these workmen did their tasks. The rock was cut out in small blocks, leaving steps allowing the stone cutters to work at a greater height without scaffolding. Beyond the stepped portion, the cutters continued to dig deeper into the mountain, shaping the ceiling as they dug deeper. Quite often, niches were cut and finished simultaneously as the corridor to save the following workers from using scaffolding.
In larger rooms, pillars were created to support the ceiling. These were left rough at first, but axial lines were painted on them to assist in the final cutting and smoothing. These rooms also allowed many workers to complete their tasks at the same time. The burial chamber of Hatshepsut-Meryet-Ra (KV42) revealed that plasters and painters were performing their jobs at the same time as the finishers and smoothers due to the painted walls and yet the unfinished pillar and ceiling. This could be due to the sudden death of Hatshepsut-Meryet-Ra and the seventy days they had to complete their work, but it shows that the workers would all work together if and when required.
When finishing the corridors, one thing that had to be ensured was that the walls were parallel and perpendicular, and the tomb of Thutmose IV (KV43) has left the answer to how this was performed. Thutmose IV was an 18th Dynasty Pharaoh,. The archaeological evidence shows that the work patterns, techniques, and strategies that the work crews used throughout the Valley of the Kings and at Akhetaten changed very little during this period. This tomb shows how plaster blobs were fixed to the walls to serve as plumb line pins.
Their work was done once the cutting crew had leveled the surfaces, smoothing the rock to a smooth finish. These smooth surfaces allowed for careful studies of the chisel marks left on the tombs' walls to determine the implements' sizes and shapes.

Tomb Collisions:

As mentioned, some tomb collisions would have been avoided had some maps been available to later workers. During the New Kingdom, only three tombs accidentally encroached upon others, and surprisingly, this did not happen more often, especially considering how many tombs were in the valley.
When the tomb of Siptah (KV47) infringed on the tomb of Tia'a (KV32), the design was immediately altered. The intended burial chamber became another corridor. The ancient Egyptians repaired this accidental intrusion with large stone slabs.
Setnakhte's workers (KV11) broke into the tomb of Amenmeses (KV10) and abandoned their work there. Ramesses III took over ( KV11), and the workers changed their direction without further problems.
While cutting (KV9) for Ramesses VI, the workers collided with (KV12)(an unknown occupant) and had to change their design to finish this tomb. This collision was repaired with a simple stone patch.
The many tombs at Deir El-Medina show that the workers also created tombs other than those in the Valley of the Kings. Many Egyptologists state that these workers also constructed the tombs in the Valley of the Queens, which is understandable when one sees the tomb of Nefertari and the great work produced there. It is also quite feasible to believe that the same artisans created the nearby Tombs of the Nobles.
"It is one of the ironies of history that we know more about the humble workmen who cut the New Kingdom royal tombs than we do about the god-kings for whom the tombs were made."

To visit the Valley of the Kings, you should be aware of the following:

  • Your entrance ticket to the valley costs (200 EGP )
  • The ticket office is located at the outer entrance to the valley, at the end of the parking lot, after the visitor's center
  • This ticket should give you access to three tombs of your choice.
  • Cameras and Video cameras are not allowed into the valley at all!
  •  You will have to check your camera at the entrance.
  • Lecturing in the tombs is not allowed either.
  •  Your Egyptologist tourist guide will have to give your tombs info from the outside and may also recommend which tombs to visit.
  • If you wish to go inside the tomb of King Tutankhamen (KV62), you will need to buy a separate ticket (250 EGP)
  • While visiting these tombs, Please don't touch the walls.

Tombs we recommend: 

Tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) (Open Now)

It is considered one of the best-completed tombs in the valley. The tomb contains religious scenes depicting an entire Egyptian Book of the Dead chapter. Victor Loret discovered the tomb when he was an antiquities director in 1897; it was the only tomb beside the tomb of the boy King Tutankhamun, where the king's mummy was found intact in its coffin. In 1897, We discovered a cache of another 11 mummies of kings and queens and many funerary objects in the tomb. Upon discovering these mummies, many were taken to the Egyptian museum, and three unknown mummies were left behind together with many funerary objects. Unfortunately, later, some of these pieces disappeared or perhaps were stolen! Among these pieces was a 3500-year-old boa made of cedar wood and 4 M long! No one knows what happened to it!

Tomb of Seti I (KV 17) (currently Closed)

It is considered the longest tomb in the valley, extending to more than 120 M inside the solid rock. The tomb was discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817. It has a complete record of the Book of the Dead and is characterized by its bas-relief on the walls and the fantastic high-quality paintings, especially in the burial chamber. The tomb consists of seven corridors and ten champers, all painted and decorated with the Litany of Ra (Book of the Dead, Im-dwat, Book of Gates Opening of the Mouth ritual, astronomical scenes). Many Tomb equipment was found, including writing equipment and Vessels, etc. As one entered the burial chamber, a magnificent coffin made of the finest alabaster was found. It was later transferred by Giovanni Belzoni to the U.K. and sold to Sir John Sonne at 2000 English pounds. You can still see it in the Sir John Sonne Museum in London today.

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