Historical Development of the Valley of the Kings in the New Kingdom

The founders of Dynasty 18 apparently continued the burial tradition of their predecessors and cut their tombs into the cliffs in the Theban West Bank district of Dira' Abu an Naja [16401]. The exact nature of this continuation is uncertain because the tombs of the first two kings of this dynasty have not been identified, although their mummified remains and some of their burial equipment have been found in later caches.     16401
For the first time in Egypt, the kings of Dynasty 18 physically separated the site of their tomb from that of their memorial temple. Perhaps the desecration of the prominently sited burials of the Old and Middle Kingdoms made them more cautious. Perhaps the role of these temples in the Beautiful Feas of the Valley, a festival of great importance in New Kingdom Thebes, required that the temple be built near the Nile floodplain, an unsuitable place for a tomb. The first to separate his tomb from the memorial temple appears to have been Amenhetep I. His temple lay at Dayr al Bahri (and was later obliterated by the construction of Hatshepsut's terraced temple [15173]). At least three possible sites have been proposed for his tomb: KV 39, in the southeast branch of the east Valley of the Kings; AN-B, in the hills behind Dira' Abu an Naja; and K93.11, in Dira' Abu al Naja [16036]. Texts from the late New Kingdom and the Third Intermediate Period describe the location of the tomb, but the descriptions are vague and none can be accurately compared to the existing topography. As a result, we know Amenhetep I had a tomb in western Thebes but no indication of where it is.     15173 16036
The reasons New Kingdom kings chose the East Valley of the Kings for their burials are unclear. The high point of the Theban Hills, al Qurn, whose ancient name was ta dehent "the peak," has an almost pyramidal shape when viewed from the entrance to the valley, and therefore some Egyptologists believe it must have inspired the selection [11452]. There are also indications that Hathor was associated with this area and that the serpent goddess Meretseger, "She who loves Silence," was connected with the mountain as a protector of the necropolis [16457].     11452 16457
We know that Thutmes I was one of the first to cut his tomb in the East Valley of the Kings. In fact, he had two tombs, KV 20 [13704] and KV 38 [13544], but we do not know which was the first to be cut or the last to be used. An autobiographical text in TT 81, the tomb of the early Dynasty 18 official, Ineni, states that he saw to the digging of a tomb for Thutmes I in a private place, "no one seeing, no one hearing." (This may mean that Ineni had sole responsibility for the work). Hatshepsut certainly intended KV 20 to be a burial place both for herself and her father, as the discovery of her sarcophagus in KV 20 together with another recarved for him attests [13702]. KV 38 also contained a sarcophagus for Thutmes I, this one made by his grandson Thutmes III, apparently for the reburial of Thutmes I [12340]. But whether Thutmes I's mummy was taken from KV 20 to a new tomb or returned to the original burial place is still not certain .     13704 13544 13702 12340
From the first half of this dynasty into the reign of Thutmes I, entrances to the royal Valley of the King's tombs lay at the base of sheer cliffs that encircle the wadi. In the case of KV 34 (Thutmes III), the entrance was located above the cliff face in a cleft that served as a natural channel for rainwater [13723]. This situation is similar to several earlier tombs outside the Valley, such as that made for Hatshepsut as queen, and others cut for royal women in remote wadis south of al Qurn. These inaccessible locations meant that tomb entrances were often well hidden. Those cut at the base of "waterfalls" would be covered by flood debris washed down by heavy rainstorms. As a result, many of these tombs, although robbed in antiquity, remained undiscovered until the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.     13723
The tomb of Amenhetep III (KV 22) was dug into the slopes beneath the cliffs in the West Valley of the Kings (tombs in this area are sometimes designated "WV" as an alternative to "KV") [16008, 10427]. His was possibly the first to utilize this more distant branch of the wadi system that forms the royal necropolis. Inscribed foundation deposits discovered outside the entrance suggests that his father, Thutmes IV, initiated it. The West Valley was used infrequently, but it holds several unfinished tombs of uncertain original ownership, including KV 25, perhaps intended for Amenhetep IV before his move to Amarna. KV 23, thought by some to have been started for Tutankhamen, was ultimately used for the burial of Ay. Like the tomb of Amenhetep III, these other tombs are constructed part way up the talus slope at the end of a branch of the main wadi. The last king of the dynasty, Horemheb, returned to the East Valley for his tomb (KV 57), which was cut just north of the tomb of Amenhetep II [11791, 13691]. The low-lying entrance to Horemheb's tomb, like those of Tutankhamen and KV 55, suggests that the floor of the wadi in this area was considerably lower than it is today.     16008 10427 11791 13691

Published or last modified on: December 18, 2002
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