The present numbering system for the sixty-five tombs in the Valley of the Kings was first established by John Gardiner Wilkinson in 1827 for his 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 assigned in order of their discovery. KV 62 (Tutankhamen), KV 63 and KV 64 are the most recent.
Wilkinson's is not the only system of tomb designation that has been used in the Valley. Several explorers assigned numbers, letters, or descriptive labels, as the below chart indicates. However, Wilkinson's is the only system still in use.
- Pococke: Letters in parentheses refer to the designations given on his KV plan
- Description: (E) is “tombeau l’est”; (W) is “tombeau l’ouest”; com is “Commencement d’excavation ou grotte”
Several tombs have other designations as well:
- KV 9 = “Tomb of Memnon” or “La tombe de la Metempsychose”
- KV 11 = “Bruce’s Tomb” or “The Harper’s Tomb”
- KV 17 = “Belzoni‘s Tomb,” the “Tomb of Apis,” the “Tomb of Psammis.”