The Valley of the Kings is located on the west bank of the Nile, directly across the river from the ancient city of Thebes, now modern day Luxor. The location on the west bank of the Nile is significant because the sun sets in that direction, and for the ancient Egyptians, the setting sun was a metaphor for transitioning from this life to the next. It is by design that the world’s most famous cemetery is located on the west side of the Nile; it is also by design that this cemetery is difficult to reach, even today. The road leading to the valley is steep and dusty…and the same views of the desert repeat themselves over and over again….
until you reach the mouth of the complex
and catch a trolley ride to the tombs of the mighty pharaohs.
The site for the final resting place of the pharaohs was selected by the ancients for several reasons…it was difficult to reach the site….the terrain was foreboding as well as dry…and the reason I like the best…the shape of a mountain peak looming over the valley reminded the New Kingdom Egyptians of the shape of the Old Kingdom pyramids.
No matter their motivation for the location, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings are amazing beyond words and worlds…the craftsmen that created the 60 plus known tombs did not just produce pretty pictures and wall decorations. Ancient craftsmen believed they were creating the means by which pharaohs would come alive again and thrive in a world that was at least as wonderful as the world left behind. In fact, the ancients believed they were creating extraordinary resurrection machines.
The tombs were carved deep into the sides of the mountains, sloping downward the entire way.
Once thought to be well hidden and unable to be detected locations in the landscape, currently, all the tomb entrances pretty much look alike and are given the designation of a number and the letters KV.
My traveling companion and I entered this tomb first.
The unbelievable reality of these tombs is tangible from the moment you enter any one of the them. The Egyptian Department of Antiquity has attempted to protect the walls of the tombs with clear panels. Tourism has had a disastrous effect on Kings Valley (KV). Foot traffic, human breath and touching hands have proved harmful. Erring on the side of extreme caution, numbers of people inside the tombs are monitored and not all tombs are open at all times. All this is done to preserve vibrant colors and textures that are thousands of years old….note pharaoh’s colorful collar and deep skin tone….
and the patterned clothing with contrasting belt of the ram-headed god.
The temperature drops as you move along the corridor of the tomb.
The walls are covered with spells and information that will make the pharaoh’s resurrection possible…
This is the entrance to KV8, the tomb of Meremptah, and
the corridor into the tomb.
Here pharaoh, Merenptah, is seen in a ritual with the god, Ra Horakhty.
Now empty side niches complicate the tomb.
Decorated pillars and
walls tell the story of one man’s journey to eternity.
The entrance to King Tut’s tomb, KV62, is uneventful, but this tomb is easily the most popular. KV62 is the star of the show even though all of the treasure has been relocated to other locations, most notably, the Cairo Museum. In spite of not having much to see, this tomb continues to capture the public’s imagination.
The tomb was constructed for another king, but Tut’s untimely death at the age of 19 in 1323 BC necessitated fast-tracking him into the already prepared space. The space is small with only one burial chamber, but, luckily, the colors of the wall paintings are still vibrant.
In this mural, Tut is in the middle, flanked by his spirit double or Ka on the right and the god Osirus on the left; Osirus is welcoming Tut to the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptians were in love with the worship of animals. One of their favorites was the baboon. The back wall of Tut’s tomb is covered with 12 seated baboons which are said to represent each hour of the night. Baboons were associated with the god of wisdom, science and measurement.
The baboons in this mural are kept company by the scarab symbolizing the coming of a new day by sailing on a solar barge…kind of like the dawn of a new life.
The art work on these walls is incredible, but the mummy of Tutankhamun is what most visitors are here to see…
What an amazing experience to see these artifacts that seem to have been in existance since almost forever…unforgotten people and their philosophies. This unseasoned traveler remains struck at just how close the ancient Egyptians really came to life eternal.
See you next time….The Unseasoned Traveler