Valley of The Kings
Valley of The Kings
Valley of The Kings has two components – the East Valley and the West Valley.
It is the East Valley which most tourists visit and in which most of the tombs of the New Kingdom Pharaohs can be found.
Construction of a tomb usually lasted six years, beginning with each new reign.
By the end of the New Kingdom, Egypt had entered a long period of political and economic decline.
The priests at Thebes grew in power and effectively administered Upper Egypt, while kings ruling from Tanis controlled Lower Egypt.
The Valley began to be heavily plundered,
so the priests of Amen during the 21st Dynasty to open most of the tombs and move the mummies into three tombs in order to better protect them.
Later most of these were moved to a single cache near Deir el-Bari.
During the later Third Intermediate Period and later intrusive burials were introduced into many of the open tombs.
Almost all of the tombs have been ransacked, including Tutankhamun’s, though in his case,
it seems that the robbers were interrupted, so very little was removed.The valley was surrounded by steep cliffs and heavily guarded. In 1090 BC, or the year of the Hyena,
there was a collapse in Egypt’s economy leading to the emergence of tomb robbers. Because of this,
it was also the last year that the valley was used for burial.
The valley also seems to have suffered an official plundering during the virtual civil war which started in the reign of Ramesses XI.
The tombs were opened, all the valuables removed, and the mummies collected into two large caches.
One, the so-called Deir el-Bahri cache, contained no less than forty royal mummies and their coffins; the other,
in the tomb of Amenhotep II, contained a further sixteen.
Exploring the Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings has been a major area of modern Egyptological exploration for the last two centuries.
Before this, the area was a site for tourism in antiquity (especially during Roman times).
This 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.
The Greek writers Strabo and Diodorus Siculus were able to report that the total number of Theban royal tombs was 47,
of which at the time only 17 were believed to be undestroyed. Pausanias and others wrote of the pipe-like corridors of the Valley – i.e. the tombs.
Clearly others also visited the valley in these times,
as many of the tombs have graffiti written by these ancient toursits. Jules Baillet located over 2000 Greek and Latin graffiti,
along with a smaller number in Phoenician, Cypriot, Lycian, Coptic, and other languages.
Before the nineteenth century, travel from Europe to Thebes (and indeed anywhere in Egypt) was difficult,
time-consuming and expensive, and only the hardiest of European travelers visited – before the travels of Father Claude Sicard in 1726,
it was unclear just where Thebes really was.
It was known to be on the Nile, but it was often confused with Memphis and several other sites.