Exploration of the Valley of the Kings

Early Modern Visitors to the Valley
   
Prior to the nineteenth century, travel to Thebes was difficult, and only the hardiest travelers made the journey. Indeed, until the visit of Sicard in 1726, Europeans were not even sure where Thebes lay. They knew it was on the Nile, but adventurers had confused it with Memphis, Antinoopolis, and other large sites. One of the first travelers to record something of what he saw at Thebes was the Danish artist, Norden. He was followed by Pococke, who published the first map of the Valley of the Kings [14939].     14939
The most important visitors came in the nineteenth century. Scholars accompanying Napoleon's expedition to Egypt (1799-1801) published a massive record of their visit, the Description de l'Egypte, nineteen huge folio volumes of plates accompanied by text volumes. Two volumes of plates were devoted to the monuments of Thebes [16591, 16569]. Carl Richard Lepsius' recording expedition produced the Denkmäler aus Ägypten und Äethiopien, another folio series of plates, several volumes of which record Theban monuments [16607, 16614]. The Description and the Denkmäler remain invaluable sources of information for Egyptologists today. Many other travelers came to Thebes in the 1800s, including artists such as Lane, Wilkie, Lewis and Roberts [12393], and scholars like John Gardner Wilkinson, whose Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians introduced Europeans to a remarkably detailed and accurate view of ancient Egyptian culture.     16591 16569 16607 16614 12393
The mania for collecting Egyptian antiquities was not yet strong in Europe, but already visitors were carting away artifacts sold to them by local villagers [14265]. Soon, antiquities trading would become big business, as European collectors and museums vied for statues, obelisks, and wall decoration.     14265
Epigraphic Work in the Valley
   
Recording of the scenes and texts on the walls of tombs in the Valley of the Kings was a major concern of nineteenth century Egyptologists and even today we depend heavily upon the works of Lepsius, Rosellini, and the Description de l'Égypte for copies of walls that were long ago damaged or lost [16549]. Much of the work done by early epigraphers was done in hand copies that later would be redrawn in Europe for publication as lithographs or watercolors. Many of these early records still have not been published. Squeezes and rubbings were also common techniques, even though such methods seriously damage the walls (as the tomb of Sety I attests [15465]).     16549 15465
Since the twentieth century, epigraphic projects have tended to be smaller than their predecessors, concentrating on one tomb or part of one tomb. Most projects now rely on photography rather than drawing or painting [16953]. Perhaps the earliest photographic record in the Valley of the Kings was made by Felix Guilmant in KV 6 (Rameses IX). Among the best examples of recent epigraphic publications are those of Piankoff and Rambova in KV 9 (Rameses VI); Goedicke and Thausing in KV 17 (Sety I); and Hornung in KV 1 (Rameses VII), KV 2 (Rameses IV), and KV 17 (Sety I). In spite of these projects, only eleven tombs in the Valley of the Kings have been completely recorded: KV 1, 2, 6, 9, 16, 17, 19, 34, 35, 57, and 62.     16953

Published or last modified on: December 18, 2002
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