Atlas Movie Transcripts
Narrated by Dr. Kent Weeks


I am standing at the entrance to one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Here, for about five hundred years, from 1500 B.C. to 1000 B.C., the Egyptians buried their pharaohs in grand underground complexes.

There are many valleys—they're called "wadis" in Arabic—here in the Theban hillsides. Why was this particular wadi the one chosen for royal burials? Well, three reasons are geographical.

First, there is a thick layer of fine, white limestone here that allowed workmen to cut tombs that were structurally sound with smooth walls that could be easily decorated.

Second, the Valley lies close to the River Nile, easily reached by the elaborate funerary processions that brought the king's mummy to his tomb.

Third, the Valley's steep cliffs make it easy to guard, and ancient guard huts still standing atop these cliffs offer sweeping views of the entire area.

There were also some religious reasons for the selection of the wadi.

For example, the goddess Hathor, closely allied with pharaohs and Egyptian ideas of rebirth, was associated with the Theban mountains.

The mountain that dominates the valley, called al Qurn in Arabic, "the horn," from here and only from here looks very much like a pyramid, a shape associated with solar cults like that of the sun god Ra.

Actually, there are two Valleys of the Kings, an east and a west. It's the East Valley that contains most of the tombs and is the one most-visited by tourists. But the West Valley is far larger and, I think, the more beautiful. So far, Egyptologists have found only two, possibly three, royal tombs in the West valley, but in the two Valleys combined there are sixty-two tombs, plus another twenty unfinished pits called "commencements." Only about a third of these were intended for pharaohs. The rest were used for the burials of royal family members, court officials, for embalming equipment and even for mummified animals.

Each tomb in the Valley of the Kings has been assigned a number. In 1827, the English Egyptologist, John Gardner Wilkinson, numbered tombs 1 through 22 in geographical order from north to south. Since then, tombs 23 onward have been numbered in order of their discovery. Tomb 62, that of Tutankhamen, is the most recently discovered.

Images:11823, 12393, 13251, 15909, 10025, 13268, 16017, 10427, 10516

KV 1

This is the northernmost tomb in the Valley of the Kings, cut into a small side wadi near the Valley's entrance. We know almost nothing about its owner, Rameses VII. His tomb was left unfinished and its second corridor was hastily converted into a burial chamber when the pharaoh unexpectedly died. A sarcophagus lid was placed over a pit cut into the floor to serve as his place of burial.

Images:11407, 16639, 15572

KV2

Rameses IV died before his tomb, KV 2, was completed, and its pillared chamber had to be hastily converted into a burial chamber. But hastily done or not, KV 2 contains some very interesting features.

For example, the only instance of the Book of Nut known in the Valley of the Kings comes from the ceiling of the burial chamber.

The earliest example of the Book of Caverns was carved on its walls.

Its red granite sarcophagus is one of the largest in the valley.

Two plans of the tomb were drawn by ancient workmen shortly after work was completed. One of them is on a papyrus; the other is on an ostracon found in debris near the tomb entrance.

KV 2 has been open since ancient times and there are many graffiti cut and painted on its walls.

Images: 16094, 13639, 14755, 14928, 10514

KV 3

It may have been intended for a son of Rameses III, but KV 3 was never used for a burial. Its plan is not typical of tombs in the Valley. Instead it's similar to those of Rameses III's sons in the Valley of the Queens. The two rear chambers with vaulted ceilings are unusual, and cuttings for two side chambers remain only as unfinished gates. The tomb was decorated, but most of that decoration is gone today and the tomb is in very poor condition. About 1500 years ago, the tomb was even converted to use as a Coptic chapel.

Images: 10830, 10835

KV 4

KV 4 was the last tomb to be cut in the Valley of the Kings, intended for Rameses XI but never actually used. The only remains of decoration are sketches for scenes at the beginning of the first corridor. In late antiquity, the shaft in the burial chamber was used by thieves as a place to sort loot they found in the Valley of the Kings. In early Christian times, it was used as a stable; and in the 1920s, it was used by Howard Carter as the dining room for his Tutankhamen excavation staff.

Images: 10832, 16643, 17001

KV 5

By any standard, KV 5, the tomb of the sons of Rameses II, is unique. It's the largest tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings, one of the largest known in Egypt. It's unique in its complex, multi-level plan, and unique too in its function as a royal mausoleum.

The entrance to KV 5 was first noted by James Burton in 1825; he was the first European to enter the tomb. But Burton was able to crawl only into the tomb's first nine chambers—the tomb was so filled with debris that he didn't even realize it was decorated. Burton and later visitors concluded that KV 5 was simply a small, unused hole in the ground of no archaeological importance at all.

In 1989, however, our Theban Mapping Project relocated the entrance to KV 5 and we quickly discovered that the tomb was decorated and texts on its walls identified it as the burial place of several sons of Rameses II. Suddenly, KV 5 had become a tomb very much worth exploring further.

Over the next six years, we slowly cleared the densely-packed debris from the tomb's first few chambers. We found elegantly carved relief scenes and texts on chamber walls that included the names and titles of at least six royal sons.

Then, in February 1995, we dug a narrow channel through the debris that blocked a doorway at the rear of chamber 3. Instead of leading us into a small side chamber, as we thought would be the case, instead we found ourselves in a set of corridors over sixty meters long, lined with dozens of small side chambers. KV 5 had suddenly become the largest tomb ever found in the valley and it immediately received worldwide attention.

Since 1995, continued excavation has shown that KV 5 has at least 130 corridors and chambers. And its symmetrical plan suggests that there could be as many as two hundred chambers, or even more. We found hundreds of thousands of potsherds, hundreds of small objects and many square meters of decorated walls.

Our project has been especially concerned with engineering and conservation work in KV 5. This unusual tomb demands not only clearing but protection, and much of our time is devoted to ensuring that we leave it in sound condition, its decorated walls cleaned and well preserved.

This means it's going to take many more years before KV 5 is completely cleared and conserved. And therefore, and I know this will disappoint many of you, it isn't likely to be open to the public for a very long time.

Images: 10399, 11167, 16954, 15005, 15010, 15011, 11484, 11513, 11324, 11382

KV 6

The tomb of Rameses IX lies in the center of the Valley of the Kings. Its entrance, the widest of any royal tomb was cut into a steep hillside, a few meters away from KV 5 and KV 55. The tomb was left unfinished, but its decoration is attractive and in a few instances, enigmatic. It's a very accessible tomb and has become perhaps the most visited tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Images: 13673, 10927, 15585

KV 7

The tomb of Rameses II was one of the largest and best decorated in the Valley of the Kings, but its location meant that it suffered at least a dozen times from flash floods. Only recently archaeologists worked to clear it out and stabilize its weakened structure. The tomb follows the bent-axis plan of earlier Dynasty 18 tombs. Its burial chamber was the first to have a sunken central area and a vaulted ceiling and a side chamber has a figure of Osiris carved in the rear wall, similar to the one found in KV 5.

Images: 13662, 10050, 10058

KV 8

Merenptah, the thirteenth son of Rameses II, came to the throne when he was already middle-aged. His tomb, KV 8, had four sets of sarcophagi, something not known in any other tomb in the Valley. During their installation, it was discovered that the sarcophagi could not fit through the tomb's several gates; they were too big and the gates had to be hacked away to get the huge boxes inside. This may have been the result of miscommunication between the architects and the quarrymen. Somehow I find it reassuring to know that even ancient engineers could sometimes screw things up!

Images: 15305, 15277, 15423

KV 9

The Valley of the Kings was already crowded with tombs when KV9 was built, which was why it was dug in such an obvious hillside. Begun by Rameses V, the tomb was taken over by Rameses VI but he died before it could be completed, and the burial chamber was never finished. The tomb is extensively decorated, however, and includes a large number of religious texts, some of them unique. KV9 has been accessible since antiquity and it has many Greek and Roman graffiti on its walls.

Images: 10357, 16681, 15080, 10993, 16294

KV 10

KV 10 was originally made for the usurper Amenmeses, who apparently took over rule from Sety II. The tomb was never finished and there is no evidence that Amenmeses was actually buried here. During the construction of KV 11 next door, for Setnakht, the workmen accidentally broke into KV 10. The tomb was re-used for the burial of at least one royal woman in Dynasty 20, Queen Takhat. In the process of converting that tomb for that queen's burial, all of the decoration on the walls was removed and replaced. Although some of this decoration was seen and partly recorded in the nineteenth century, it is now lost as the result of subsequent flooding which filled the tomb with debris.

Images: 13676, 16832, 16615

KV 11

When digging KV 11, workmen inadvertently cut into a side chamber of neighbouring KV 10. They immediately shifted the axis of KV 11 several meters west and then continued digging. But the owner of KV 11, Setnakht, died before this work was completed, and KV 14 was taken over for his burial. KV 11 later was used by Rameses III.

The tomb has an unusual set of small side chambers near its entrance. These are decorated with some unusual scenes that show food preparation and tomb equipment, and there is also an elegant pair of harpists. Early explorers called KV 11 "The Harper's Tomb" because of these scenes.

Images: 13726, 15634, 16507, 15645, 15650, 16508

KV 12

This unusual tomb was probably begun in Dynasty 18, then used in Dynasties 19 and 20 for the multiple burials of royal family members. If this is correct, then KV 12 may be a smaller version of KV 5, the tomb of the sons of Rameses II. The builders of KV 9 accidentally broke into KV12 when carrying out their excavations.

Images: 15298, 13685

KV 13

Cut at the base of a sheer cliff, KV 13 was intended for a chancellor, Bay, who served in the reign of Siptah, the last king of Dynasty 19. The tomb is unusual for an official's burial. It's very large in size and has the plan of a royal tomb. It was later re-used for the burial of two Dynasty 20 princes names Mentuherkhepeshef and Amenherkhepeshef. The tomb has only recently been cleared of flood debris and a protective roof was installed over the entrance to keep out future floods.

Images: 15922, 13694, 13693

KV 14

Several phases of construction are present in KV 14, as the status of the tomb owner Tausert changed from royal wife of Sety II, to regent of Siptah, to last sole ruler of Dynasty 19.

The tomb is unusual for having two large burial chambers and perhaps both Tausert and her husband were to be buried here. Remains of an abandoned start for another burial chamber immediately follow the first one.

The decoration in the tomb also reflects a change in the owner's status. The upper corridors shows the queen in the presence of the gods accompanied by her stepson Siptah, whose cartouches were later replaced by those of Sety II. Scenes of the gates of the underworld and their guardians continued the decoration of the upper level. Now these are all themes appropriate for a queen's tomb, but in the lower corridors and the burial chambers, the decorative themes are more appropriate for a king.

KV 14 was hastily pressed into service for the burial of Setnakht and all the images of the queen were plastered over and replaced by images of Setnakht or by his cartouches.

Images: 13546, 14693, 13547, 14618

KV 15

Sety II was the first pharaoh in 250 years to be buried in the southwestern branch of the Valley of the Kings. Neither the cutting of his tomb nor its decoration was completed at the time of his death, so the unfinished lower corridor was made over as a burial chamber.

The fine quality of raised relief at the beginning of the first corridor was replaced by sunken relief further back, and this perhaps corresponded to its usurpation by Amenmeses. An unusual depiction of sacred statues, similar to some actual statues found in Tutankhamen's tomb, was painted on the chamber walls. Only the broken lid of the granite sarcophagus remains of the king's original burial equipment.

Images: 14688, 13537, 14689, 13525, 14685

KV 16

KV 16 is a small and hastily completed tomb cut for Rameses I and discovered in 1817 by Giovanni Belzoni. The second stairwell, with its large unfinished recessed cuttings, is characteristic of Dynasty 18 tombs, and leads directly to a relatively small burial chamber. The decoration of the roughly finished red granite sarcophagus was carried out only in paint, further evidence of hasty burial preparations.

Images: 10500, 16173, 10485, 16167

KV 17

This long and elaborately decorated tomb is appropriate for a pharaoh as important as Sety I. This is the first tomb to be completely decorated in all corridors and nearly all chambers, from the entry to the side chambers off the burial chamber. Some decorative themes appear here for the first time. There is a long and still partly unexplored corridor extending many meters into the bedrock beyond the burial chamber. The tomb was discovered in 1817 by Giovanni Belzoni and news of the find generated as much excitement in Europe as the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb did a century later. Attempts to copy reliefs on the wall and the wholesale removal of reliefs to museums in Europe did serious damage to the walls, and our only record in some cases is historical paintings that were made by early visitors.

Images: 16817, 15462, 15477, 15465, 16215

KV 18

The tomb appears to have been abandoned, still unfinished, at the death of Rameses X, and subsequently filled in by flood deposits. In 1903, Howard Carter set up the Valley's first electrical generator for lighting the tombs here in KV18. The tomb was only recently cleared.

Images: 10030, 13707

KV 19

KV 19 is a small, unfinished tomb, originally cut for Rameses VIII while he was still a crown prince. But he wasn't buried here; we don't know where his tomb lies, and KV19 instead was used for the burial of a son of Rameses IX named Mentuherkhepershef. It's a nice tomb to visit, the decoration is of fine quality and it's almost always free of tourists.

Images: 10369, 16258, 15517

KV 20

Howard Carter cleared this unusual tomb about a century ago. It is thought to have been begun by Thutmes I, then enlarged and re-used by Queen Hatshepsut. The peculiar corkscrew-like plan is unique and it may be the first royal tomb dug in the Valley of the Kings.

Images: 12392, 13704, 12339

KV 21

It's been suggested that this tomb was a queen's burial. Two female mummies were found, one with her left arm crossed on her chest, a pose only used for queens. Vandals entered the tomb after its discovery in 1817 and broke up these mummies in their search for treasure.

The tomb is an example of burials of Dynasty 18 royal family members. Burial chamber J has two noteworthy features: a chamber-length recess and a single central pillar.

KV 22

KV 22 is one of only two known royal tombs in the West Valley of the Kings. It apparently was begun by Thutmes IV but was completed and decorated by Amenhetep III. Work is still being conducted in this tomb and it is not yet open to the public.

Images: 16443, 16440

KV 23

The tomb of Ay is one of only two royal tombs known in the West Valley of the Kings. It was left unfinished and only its burial chamber was decorated, but the decoration contains some unusual scenes of fishing, hippopotamus hunting—that alone justify a visit to the tomb.

Images: 14165, 14125

KV 24

Probably a non-royal tomb of Dynasty 18, KV 24 has been open since antiquity and re-used several times for later burials and for storage.

KV 25

KV 25 lies in the West Valley of the Kings. It was originally cut in Dynasty 18, perhaps intended for Amenhetep IV, but the tomb was left unfinished.

KV 26

KV 26 is an unused tomb similar in plan to many tombs of Dynasty 18.

KV 27

Other than commenting on its rather unusual plan, there's very little to be said about KV 27.

KV 28

At least two people were buried in KV 28, which was cut during the reign of Thutmes IV. It may have belonged to a high official of his reign. The tomb has yet to be fully excavated.

KV 29

The tomb is undecorated and probably consisted of only one chamber, but is now full of debris.

KV 30

Like KV 5 and KV 27, KV 30 also has an odd floor plan.

KV 31

No details are available about the history of KV 31 and it's now completely filled with debris.

KV 32

Only now being cleared, the excavators of KV 32 are finding objects inscribed with the name of Tia'a, the wife of Amenhetep II and the mother of Thutmes IV.

Images: 13723, 13724

KV 33

KV 33 has variously been assigned to Thutmes III, to a member of his family, or to the family of his vizier Rekhmire. The tomb was never used.

KV 34

The tomb of Thutmes III was cut high up a sheer cliff in a narrow water course. It was the first royal tomb to have a well shaft and also the first to have the Book of What is in the Netherworld (known in ancient Egyptian as the Imydwat) painted on the walls of its burial chamber. The decoration was done in a cursive style that mimics writing on a roll of papyrus.

Images: 13723, 10647, 15625

KV 35

KV 35 was the tomb of Amenhetep II. Its plan includes several innovations, including: a chamber off the deep well shaft; a two-level rectangular burial chamber, the upper part of which was filled with pillars and the lower part with the sarcophagus. The painted decoration was meant to look like an unrolled sheet of papyrus. In the Third Intermediate Period, KV 35 was used for the re-burial of fifteen royal mummies, which were discovered by excavators in 1898.

Images: 14684, 13633, 13550, 14657

KV 36

KV 36 belonged to Maiherpri, a Child of the Nursery and royal fan bearer in the reign of Thutmes IV. The tomb was the first almost-intact tomb to be found in the Valley of the Kings, but unfortunately poor excavation and lack of proper publication destroyed much of the information about its contents.

KV 37

KV 37 is a small—perhaps originally royal—tomb, but there is no evidence of its owner's name or its date. In later times, it may have been used as a rest stop by tomb robbers when they were sorting through their treasures.

KV 38

KV 38, a tomb of relatively small size and simple plan, may have been the burial place of Thutmes I, as many believe. But if so, it is more likely the place of his re-burial by Thutmes III, not his original tomb.

Images: 14899, 14905

KV 39

KV 39 is a perplexing tomb: both in plan and its location high up the hill at the southern end of the Valley of the Kings. Some have argued that it was the tomb of Amenhetep I, but today that idea is losing favor. The tomb was cleared only a few years ago, but it was then almost immediately, damaged very seriously by flash flooding.

Images: 16036

KV 40

No details of the KV 40's history are available; the tomb is filled with debris.

KV 41

KV 41 is a small tomb once thought to have belonged to Queen Tetisheri, the wife of the Dynasty 17 king Seqenenra Ta'a II, but there's no solid evidence to support this idea. The tomb was never used and consists of a single shaft.

KV 42

We now know that KV 42 belonged to Hatshepsut-Meryet-Ra, the wife of Thutmes III, but she was not buried in the tomb. Instead, the tomb was reused by Sennefer, a mayor of Thebes during the reign of Amenhetep II, and by several members of his family. The tomb has a cartouche-shaped burial chamber.

Images: 14915, 14916, 14910

KV 43

The tomb of Thutmes IV was the first in which wall decoration was applied over a yellow background. A beautiful hieratic graffito dating to the reign of Horemheb describes an official inspection of the tomb. The tomb was discovered in modern times in 1913 by Howard Carter.

Images: 15552, 15558, 16281

KV 44

The original owner of KV44 is unknown, but fragments of the mummies of seven individuals have been found inside.

Images: 16042, 16049

KV 45

Canopic jar fragments of the original owner, Userhat, Overseer of the Fields of Amen, Dynasty 18, were found in this tomb, which was then reused for burial of at least two individuals in Dynasty 22.

Images: 16042, 16050

KV 46

Yuya and Thuyu, the parents of Queen Tiy, the wife of Amenhotep III, were buried in this small tomb in a side wadi near the entrance of the Valley of the Kings. The tomb was found nearly intact by James Quibbell in 1905.

Images: 13656, 14932

KV 47

When the cutting for the intended burial chamber of Siptah's tomb KV 47 began, workmen accidentally broke into KV 32. The burial chamber was quarried farther to the south, but remained unfinished. Although much of the painted decoration has been lost, what remains in the first two corridors indicates the high quality of the original decoration.

Images: 12344, 15605, 12348

KV 48

KV 48 was the tomb of Amenemipet, a vizier and governor during the reign of Amenhetep II. It lay close to the tomb of that pharaoh, perhaps an indication of how important Amenemipet was in the royal court. The tomb was robbed during antiquity and then later resealed.

Images: 15923, 13683

KV 49

Two graffiti written over the doorway of KV49 deal with provisioning of a burial and indicate that the tomb was used in the later New Kingdom as a storeroom for rags.

Images: 15924, 13681

KV 50

When he discovered KV 50 in 1906, Edward Ayrton found a dog mummy and a mummified monkey, both of them perhaps pets of Amenhetep II. The exact location of the tomb has since been lost.

Images: 12372

KV 51

KV 51 contained the mummies of three monkeys, one baboon, one ibis, and three ducks: perhaps they were all the pets of the pharaoh Amenhetep II

Images: 12370, 12371

KV 52

When he discovered KV 52 in 1906, Edward Ayrton found a mummified monkey, perhaps a pet of Amenhetep II. The exact location of the tomb has since been lost.

KV 53

Since its discovery by Edward Ayrton in 1906, the exact location of KV 53, which was plundered in antiquity, has been lost.

KV 54

When thieves broke into KV 62, the tomb of Tutankhamen, they left some of the objects they stole lying near the tomb entrance. These were collected by necropolis guards and reburied here in KV 54.

KV 55

This perplexing tomb may have contained several burials brought here from Tall al Amarna after the death of Akhenaten. KV 55 is therefore one of the most-discussed tombs in the Valley of the Kings. It was originally sealed with blocks of limestone plastered with mortar and stamped with the seal of the necropolis priests. When this was broken through, rubble fill was inserted in the corridor. An attempt seems to have been made to remove the remaining burial equipment sometime after this event and the tomb was then resealed with rough blocking during Dynasty 20.

Images: 12577, 10616, 10635

KV 56

KV 56 may have simply been a small pit in which a child of Sety II and Queen Tausert was buried.

Images: 15317

KV 57

KV57 is the tomb of Horemheb, who served as military commander under Tutankhamen and Ay before being crowned king at the end of Dynasty 18. The tomb is especially noteworthy because the decoration in the burial chamber was left in various stages of completion from preliminary sketches to finished painted relief. This is the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings to include the Book of the Gates, a text that describes the nightly journey of the sun god through the world of the dead.

Images: 14700, 13834, 13798

KV 58

KV 58 may have held a small cache of burial equipment belonging to the Dynasty 18 pharaoh, Ay, either put there when he was reburied in KV 57 or when robbers plundered his tomb.

Images: 15317, 16839

KV 59

There is no information concerning the history, the clearing or the discovery of this tomb. The site may have been discovered by Howard Carter. It was known to James Burton and to Lefébure.

KV 60

KV 60 was perhaps the burial of a royal nurse of Queen Hatshepsut called Sit-Ra.

KV 61

Nothing was found in this small, simple tomb.

Images: 15318

KV 62

The most famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings, if not in the world, was probably not originally intended for the young Tutankhamen. But when he died unexpectedly in his teens, after no more than eight or nine years of rule, it was hastily converted, perhaps from the tomb of an important official. Tutankhamen's tomb is the only royal tomb found with its burial equipment still intact, although there were at least two attempted thefts of the tomb in antiquity. KV 62 was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.

Images: 14894, 14895, 15161, 11463

KV A

Located in the West Valley, KV A may have been used as a temporary storeroom for some of Amenhetep III's burial equipment until his own tomb, KV 22, was completed.

KV F

KV F may have been the abandoned start of a tomb originally intended for Thutmes III.

© 2002 Theban Mappng Project. All rights reserved.