Day 4 – Valley of the Kings – Day 2

Before I start telling you about the tombs I need to give credit and thanks to Francis Dzikowski, the photographer for the Theban Mapping Project and Dr. Weeks, the director for the Theban Mapping Project and leader of this tour. All of the tomb interior pictures were taken by Mr. Dzikowski.

Photography in the tombs is forbidden and they are very strict about this. Do not think that just because you have given the tomb guardian some baksheesh (a tip for services provided) that you are safe. There are plain clothed employees of the SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities) all over the place and they don’t care if you have bribed a guard or not. If you are caught you will be taken to Mr. Wazery’s office and fined 50LE per picture and the pictures are still removed from your camera. Video cameras are forbidden in the valley and if you are caught using one the fine is 1000LE!

I also want to give a sincere and deep felt thank you to Dr. Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, for his very generous permission to view the tombs of Amenhetep II and Horemheb.

I used Dr. Weeks' book The Treasures of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings as my reference for spelling and factual details throughout the entire blog.

Nov. 6 – I woke up just a little before 5 AM and again watched the hot air balloons take to flight across the Nile. From our balcony we can see the Temple of Hatshepsut nestled in the Theban hills.

I’ve been excited about everything but even more so in anticipation of today’s tombs. We will see Tutankhamen and his tomb, six other tombs of our choice and I can give Mr. Wazery the e-mail I have received from Dr. Hawass and printed out last night when I was at Akmed’s internet café.

Viki is still feeling really sick to her stomach so I went to breakfast and had my usual ham and cheese omelet and pastries. I brought Viki back a couple pieces of toast and jam and she ate it on the way to the west bank.

We caught the Horus bus at 6:30 AM in front of the hotel and headed for the valley. When we arrived at the entrance to the east valley Medhat handed each of us two valley entrance tickets and a ticket for Tutankhamen.

This is a map of the tombs (green squares) we will visit today:

The rest of the day consisted of:

KV 62 Tutankhamen's tomb
KV 6 Rameses IX
KV 1 Rameses VII
KV 2 Rameses IV
KV 35 Amenhetep II
KV 57 Horemheb
KV 19 Mentuherkhepeshef
KV 16 Rameses I
Mummification Museum

We arrived in the valley very early and were in the front of our group. I wanted to see Tutankhamen before the valley got crowded. We went straight to his tomb and there was no one entering, only a couple coming out.

KV 62 plaque:

At the entrance to the tomb we handed the guardian our tickets. From the top of the stair down to the antechamber (chamber I) is only about fifty feet. As soon as you enter the antechamber the mummy of the pharaoh is immediately to your left with his feet away from you at the door to the annex (side chamber Ia). A couple of ladies were examining Tutankhamen when we entered the antechamber so Viki and I went over to the rail which blocks access to the burial chamber (J). The only decorated chamber in Tutankhamen’s tomb is the burial chamber (J).

The last tomb we saw yesterday was for Ay in the west valley so it was still very fresh in my mind. Looking at these decorations it is easy to surmise that both tombs may have been decorated by the same group of individuals.

There were only a couple other people leaning on the rail and looking into the burial chamber and they did not stay very long. Viki and I were alone in the tomb. Of course the guardian was still back by the annex door next to the mummy. We spent a long time looking at the sarcophagus and within it the beautiful golden casket. I really enjoyed reading the actual hieroglyphs and explaining them and the wall decorations to Viki (north wall). I was even able to lean backwards over the rail and get a good look at Tutankhamen, Anubis and Hathor (south wall).

Eventually a group of people came in and crowded us out from the rail so we walked over to look at Tutankhamen. He is almost completely covered but you can look at his face. We stood there in quiet reverence before the twelfth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty who died around 1323 BC. I found it an emotional experience but felt that this was not the proper setting for the pharaoh. I personally feel that he should be placed with his family in a much more dignified setting at the Cairo museum.

That being said, visiting the tomb was awesome. We spent about 15 min. in the tomb and most of it we were alone. I especially liked finally being able to see the actual places where all of those hundreds of beautiful artifacts were stored for thousands of years. That probably contributes to the reason why I am distressed by the display of Tutankhamen. Where the pharaoh is now placed was a storage area for his chariots and his life size bust.

You can look at all of the tomb items as they were originally found and photographed by Harry Burton on this website;

This is the best youtube video of KV 62 Tutankhamen I could find. It is old but the only thing that has changed is that the wood handrails in the tomb have all now been replaced or removed and the pharaoh is in a glass case just to the left as you enter the tomb.

When we left the tomb I took a couple of shots of the excavation work going on all around Merenptah’s tomb (KV 8) and some pottery finds. They are looking for the tomb of Rameses VIII.

After a truly exceptional experience in KV 62 we went across the way to give Mr. Wazery the email from Dr. Hawass. He had not yet arrived so we left the email on his desk.

Since KV 6 was just before Mr. Wazery’s office we decided to see it next. It was early so the valley was still relatively calm. There were only twenty or so people in Rameses IX’s tomb.

KV 6 plaque:

This tomb and the next two are from the 20th dynasty. During this dynasty most of the tomb construction was in a straight line into the mountain with wide corridors and a moderate decline in elevation from the front to the rear of the tomb.

This is an unfinished sunken relief of the pharaoh and his cartouches - located in the second corridor (C) of the tomb.

This is the lintel at gate D with the pharaoh on each side of the solar disk.

In 1108 BC when Rameses IX died this tomb was only partially completed so the corridor after the pillared hall F was widened, converted into the burial chamber J and hastily painted.

Here is the only video I could find of this tomb and it is just a short clip of the burial chamber:

Although KV 6 is not very large almost every inch is decorated with mostly the different Books of the Netherworld. KV 1 and KV 2 just like KV 6 have many decorations containing portions from the different Books of the Netherworld and all three tombs have been open since antiquity.

When we exited Rameses IX’s tomb (KV 6) I took a glance back at Mr. Wazery’s office window and noticed that he was not there yet so we went back down to the entrance of the valley to see the tomb of Rameses VII (KV 1).

There were only a few people in the tomb so we handed our tickets to the guardian so he could punch them and went on in.

KV 1 plaque:

Rameses VII was pharaoh from 1135 to 1129 BC. Because he died so early in his reign his tomb had only progressed to the beginning of the third corridor. Upon his death the ancient Egyptian workers converted the second corridor into the burial chamber J. They widened the chamber, vaulted the ceiling and dug a pit in the floor for the sarcophagus to be placed in.

This is an enigmatic composition from the left wall, upper part in the burial chamber.

Here double figures of Nut and astronomical figures cover the front part of the ceiling in the burial chamber.

Again in the burial chamber, an enigmatic scene of four gods bending over the corpse of Osiris.

Many of the painted areas in this tomb have either fallen off or been chipped away from the walls and ceiling and there are many graffiti on all of the walls.

We only spent about 10 minutes in KV 1 and then walked next door to the rest shelter outside of Rameses IV’s tomb (KV 2). There was a tour group of people blocking the entrance, listening to their guide, so we sat in the shelter for a little while until they came out.

The tomb of Rameses IV (KV 2) is much larger and its decoration more interesting than KV 1. Rameses IV ruled between 1155 and 1148 BC. Even though his reign was not extremely long his tomb construction had progressed to the corridor past the pillared hall F.

Upon his death the pillars in the four pillared hall were removed, the floor lowered and then sloped from half way through corridor D, through the well chamber E to the pillared hall F which became the burial chamber J. A pit was dug in the center of the chamber and the sarcophagus placed in it.

KV 2 plaque:

The decorations deeper in this tomb are intact and very beautiful. This is the ceiling in the well chamber E.

Looking into the burial chamber J from the well chamber E.

Looking from the burial chamber J toward the rear of the tomb into chamber K.

I thoroughly enjoyed KV 2 and if you have to pick between KV 1 and KV 2 definitely view Rameses IV’s tomb (KV2).

After leaving KV 2 we had just started back up toward the main rest area when one of the SCA employees came running down to us. He said that he had been all over the valley looking for us. Mr. Wazery had contacted Dr. Hawass and was having the keys retrieved for the tombs which Dr. Hawass had given us permission to enter. The tombs in the valley which are not open to the public are padlocked and lead sealed and the keys kept seven miles from the office.

We all walked back up the valley to Mr. Wazery’s office. I was simply ecstatic, I mean almost coming out of my skin with excitement. I wasn’t even thinking about the possibility of seeing these tombs today and now here we are on our way to see the tombs of Amenhetep II and Horemheb. Unbelievable!

When we got to Mr. Wazery’s office the keys had not arrived yet and as it turned out they were also bringing the keys for KV 5 and KV 55 for our group visit tomorrow. I sat and talked with Mr. Wazery, Dr. Weeks, Ali (SCA inspector for KV 5) Medhat and several other SCA employees for a while until the keys came.

When they arrived Mr. Wazery gave the keys for KV 35 and KV 57 to the same gentleman who had found us and the three of us were off to see the tomb of Amenhetep II. Here he is opening the tomb up for us.

Amenhetep II’s tomb is fairly large and follows the 18th dynasty bent axis floor plan. After leaving the pillared hall (F) the stairs make a ninety degree turn to the left and go down to the burial chamber (J), the same lay out as KV 34 Thutmes III. The sarcophagus is still in the tomb and there were also still three mummies in chamber Jd. I thought that this chamber had been resealed but it was wide open and we were able to get a good look at all three mummies.

A little bit of history here. Amenhetep II was found still in his coffin and this tomb was used in ancient times as a storage area for several other pharaohs; Thutmes IV, Amenhetep III, Merenptah, Sety II, Siptah, Rameses IV, Rameses V, Rameses VI and Setnakht. The mummies remained undisturbed until they were discovered by Victor Loret in 1898.

KV 35 plaque:

KV 35 is undecorated except for the burial chamber (J) but this is one of the more beautiful ones with vibrantly decorated walls and columns. The color has not faded at all since antiquity. I walked around slowly in absolute awe of the decorations. First I examined each of the pillar decorations. They were amazing. The burial chamber is a large six pillared hall and at the far end you go down a central staircase to the lower level which is about one third of the chamber and has the sarcophagus in the center.

After looking at all of the pillars I went down to get a close look at this magnificent sarcophagus. Our SCA escort and I started to discuss the hieroglyphs. He was working on his Master’s in Egyptology and knew the hieroglyphs well.

Suddenly the silence of the tomb was broken by the noise of a group of people coming down the upper corridor. They had opened the closed unguarded door and decided they would just come on in.

Our SCA escort said that he would go stop them. I asked if we should just go ahead and leave and he said “No! Please, stay as long as you like. I will be at the entrance.” Viki stayed with me a couple more minutes looking at the sarcophagus and then said she was going back up.

Here I was, in dead silence, in the middle of the tomb of Amenhetep II, pharaoh from 1424 to 1400 BC and ruler of the most civilized society in the world at that time and I’m totally alone. For me this was one of the finest experiences of my life. I am truly blessed.

I finished examining the sarcophagus and started looking at the walls of the tomb. The walls of the burial chamber are covered with the complete Imydwat written in red and black ink in a cursive form like the decorations in the burial chamber of Thutmes III. They are applied to perfection by an expert artisan. Simply beautiful.

I spent another ten minutes looking around and checking out the three mummies in chamber Jd and then started to leave. I stopped at the burial chamber gate and looked back one more time at a sight which will only come once in a lifetime if you’re really lucky. Wow, unbelievable! Thank you Zahi!

Now for the trek back up. I met my wife and our escort at the entrance. They were busy turning people away. He padlocked the tomb door and we were off to see the tomb of Horemheb.

KV 57 plaque:

Horemheb was pharaoh between Ay and Rameses I. He is considered the last pharaoh of the 18th dynasty but he was more of a transition pharaoh. Here our SCA escort is unlocking the pharaoh's tomb.

As he opened the steel door our escort said for us to take our time and go on down and he would wait at the entrance to stop others from entering while we were down there. OMG, I was beside myself with excitement.

This time we walked slowly down the stair until we reached the first decorated chamber which is the well chamber (E). We walked on to the bridge over the well shaft and looked at the raised painted reliefs all around us. All of the wall decorations are of the pharaoh with and making offerings to different deities. The colors are vivid and the carving and painting are done in expert detail. The dresses and hieroglyphs are possibly the most intricately decorated of almost any tomb in Egypt. This tomb is the first to have raised painted relief on the walls.

This is the representation of Osiris, Anubis and Horus on the wall facing you as you enter the chamber (E).

I found the way the hieroglyphs were carved and decorated to be almost mesmerizing. The detail was astounding. I gazed at them for a while before going on into the first pillared hall and taking another set of stairs down to the antechamber which was the next decorated chamber (I).

This tomb was the first to alter from the previously used bent axis structure. Instead of making a left ninety degree turn out of the two pillared hall (F) the axis remains straight but is offset to the left by almost ten feet.

This is the view walking into chamber I, the antechamber. It is decorated in the same manner as the well chamber and equally as beautiful. The walls are again decorated with the pharaoh and different deities. The next chamber is where the pharaoh was buried.

The burial chamber of Horemheb’s tomb is a six pillared hall with a lower level at the far end where the sarcophagus rests. It is not fully decorated and only the walls are finished in several preliminary stages. You can actually see how the walls are first plastered, then smoothed, then the red outlines of the figures and hieroglyphs are drawn, then corrections are made in black. The next step is the partial removal of the plaster around the images. These stages are shown in detail in this picture.

After the relief carving the pigment was applied and this seems to be done in individual colors. One person does all of the green or the yellow and so on and then the blue-gray background is filled in. Every stage is represented in this tomb. It is so interesting that you could spend days studying them.

The wall decoration in the burial chamber (J) is from the Book of Gates. Each of the twelve hours of the night was represented by a gate and this book describes the nighttime journey of Ra the sun god accompanied by the pharaoh. This is the first tomb with the Book of Gates represented on the burial chamber (J) walls and here it replaces the Imydwat which was used in the burial chambers of previous pharaohs.

In the center of the lower level of the burial chamber (J) is a gorgeous carved red granite sarcophagus with sunken reliefs on it. I was able to see everything at my leisure and felt as if my head were in the skies. What an absolutely exceptional experience, yet once again.

Viki and I stopped at the well chamber (E) on the way back out and I could not help but think how amazing that this was all accomplished by people just like us over 3,300 years ago. Horemheb reigned over Egypt from 1319 – 1292 BC.

I didn’t want to leave.

When we got to the tomb entrance our escort was busy telling people that the tomb was not open for viewing. Horemheb’s tomb is a lot closer to the central wadi of the valley so more people noticed that there was something going on at the entrance. After we exited the tomb he locked the door. I thanked him profusely for his time and assistance and gave him some baksheesh.

We then went across the way to the main rest shelter so I could thank Mr. Wazery and tell him how much I appreciated all he had done to make it possible for us to see the tombs.

Viki and I sat in the shelter just outside of Mr. Wazery’s office for a while. It was only 10:30 and I have seen such beautiful tombs today that it has an almost surreal feeling. My mind was spinning with all of these images from yesterday and today. As I sat there I just stared into space. It may sound stupid to some but I was so emotionally wound up I almost felt as if I was having an out of body experience. I never have had such a thing but I could imagine that this is what it might feel like.

Well, it is only 10:45 and we still have several tomb visits left on today’s tickets. Since Viki was pretty worn out I went up to KV 19 to see the tomb of Mentuherkhepshef. It is next to Thutmes IV’s tomb (KV 43) and because it is farther away from the center of the valley it is usually not v
ery busy.

KV 19 is the tomb of Mentuherkhepshef। He is the son of Rameses IX and one of only two known tombs in the valley prepared for princes, the other being that of the sons of Rameses II (KV 5). It has only one decorated corridor (B) and the decorations are very beautiful. The plaster has broken away from the walls in many small spots but you can still appreciate the skill with witch the tomb was decorated. The decorations show the prince in front of and giving offerings to different deities. Also, parts of the Book of the Dead are written in hieratic on painted doors at the beginning of the corridor. The next corridor C was barely started. A pit was dug in the floor of the beginning of corridor C and probably used for the princes resting place.

KV 19 plaque:

Here Mentuherkhepshef gives offerings to Khonsu.

In this scene Mentuherkhepshef is giving offerings to Meretseger, the goddess of the Theban Mountains.

The colors in this tomb were still very vibrant as exampled by this scene of Mentuherkhepshef giving offerings to Sekhmet.

Even though only one corridor of this tomb is decorated it is well worth the visit.

As I began the walk back down to the valley floor, looking around at the mountains, the walking paths crisscrossing about and the tomb entrances in every direction, I felt as if I belonged here. It was a warm, comfortable, happy feeling.

I met Viki back at the main shelter and sat for a little while. We still had some time before we needed to be back at the buss. I noticed that there were no people in line at Rameses I’s tomb and since Viki had seen it with me the day before I went over to spend some time taking a look at it without all the crowds like yesterday.

Even though it has only one decorated chamber I really enjoy being in this tomb. I was alone for a while until a group of eight people came down just chattering away as if they were in a sports arena. You know, these are tombs and I personally believe that your behavior should show respect and reverence while within them but I found that many people had no concern at all for where they were or the other people around them. As I was gazing at the images of Rameses I flanked by the souls of Nekhen and Pe one of the gentlemen pulled out his camera and started taking flash photos of the walls. I kind of surprised myself when I said rather loudly “What are you doing!!!”. Immediately a guardian came running down the steps and grabbed the man’s camera. The gentleman who took the pictures would not let it go and the two of them struggled back and forth with both yelling in different languages. The man with the camera did not know English and would not let go of his camera. I went up to the tomb entrance and told the guardian there what was happening and he ran down to assist. Within a few minutes we saw the man being escorted into Mr. Wazery’s office. I hope he brought some extra cash with him.

It was getting close to time to meet back at the busses so we started back down to the valley entrance to catch the Taftaf (passenger car/trains) back to the information center.

As we left the valley I could not help but think that as I grow to be an old man I will always have these memories to look back upon with a smile and believe that this was one of the finest days of my life.

We arrived back at the hotel about 12:30 and went straight up to the room. Viki decided to stay in the room and relax. I went over to the store and got water, coke and chips. On the way back I stopped in the small café in the hotel again and had a chicken salad sandwich with cheese and fries. When I got back at the room Viki gave me a list of people to e-mail and I headed back out to the internet café.

Akmed was at the “The Net” again and had no luck with finding a converter. I logged on to L4U and was suggested to go to the Luxor Digital Center. Akmed knew exactly where it was and said he would be glad to take me there. He yelled to one of his friends in the street to watch the store. We jumped in his car and off we went. When we got to the store it was closed but would open again later. We went back to his café. When we got back Akmed told me to return later and he would take me to look again. It was refreshing to meet a nice person who wanted to be helpful without thinking about compensation. Whenever you walk down the street you are inundated with people wanting to sell you something and after a while you begin to wonder if everyone is after your money, thankfully all Egyptian entrepreneurs aren’t that way.

I went back to the room and sat on the balcony looking out at the bustling Corniche below and the Nile and Theban hills beyond. It’s difficult to explain the feelings I have, excitement, happiness and very contented at the same time.

It will soon be time to head out to the 2nd lecture by Dr. Weeks. Viki is still not feeling well so she is staying in the room and getting some extra sleep. For her, after spending the day surrounded by ancient Egypt, the lectures would probably be an overload anyway.

I enjoyed the lecture and decided to check out the Mummification Museum afterwards. The auditorium where the lectures are given is in the same building as the museum.

No comments:

Post a Comment