Valley of the Kings
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General Site Information
Structure: Valley of the Kings
Location:, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
Other designations: Biban al Muluk, Wadi al Muluk
Site type: Necropolis

Description: Hidden behind the Theban Hills, on the West Bank of the Nile, lies the Valley of the Kings (abbreviated as KV). It was chosen as the burial place for most of Egypt's New Kingdom rulers for several reasons. As the crow flies, the Valley is very close to the cultivated banks of the river. It is small, surrounded by steep cliffs, and easily guarded. The local limestone, cut millions of years ago by torrential rains to form the Valley, is of good quality. And towering above the Valley is a mountain, al Qurn ("the horn" in Arabic), whose shape may have reminded the ancient Egyptians of a pyramid, and is dedicated to the goddess Meretseger.

There are 62 numbered royal and private tombs in the Valley of the Kings, ranging from a simple pit (KV 54) to a tomb with over 121 chambers and corridors (KV 5). Most were found already plundered. A few, like the tomb of Tutankhamen (KV 62) or that of Yuya and Thuyu (KV 46), and Maiherperi (KV36), contained thousands of precious artifacts. Some tombs have been accessible since antiquity, as Greek and Latin graffiti attest, some were used as dwellings or a church during the Graeco-Roman and Byzantine Periods, and others have been discovered only in the past two hundred years. Some, like KV 5, had been "lost," and their location rediscovered only recently.

The Valley of the Kings is divided into the East and the West Valleys. The East Valley contains most of the tombs and is the most commonly visited by tourists. But the West Valley covers a larger area and is the least explored of the two. It has only two royal tombs, those of Amenhetep III (KV 22) and Ay (KV 23).

Noteworthy features: This is the principal burial site for the rulers of Egypt's New Kingdom. Its tombs contain unique examples of funerary decoration.
Site Location
Latitude: 25.44 N
Longitude: 32.36 E
JOG map reference: NG 36-10
Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt
Surveyed by TMP: Yes
Site History
The earliest references we have to modern European visitors in the Valley of the Kings date to the eighteenth century. Early maps, such as that drawn by the scholars who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte's 1799 expedition to Egypt, or those of Giovanni Belzoni (1818) and John Gardner Wilkinson a decade later, indicate that about twenty-five tombs were accessible since ancient times. Wilkinson was able to see twenty-one tombs and he numbered them in geographic order from the entrance of the Valley southward, then toward the east. Since then, tombs have been numbered in the order of their discovery, KV 62 (Tutankhamen's) being the most recent.

Many people have dug in the Valley of the Kings. One of the first was Giovanni Belzoni, who in 1816-17 discovered eight tombs, the most spectacular being KV 17, the tomb of Sety I. In the late nineteenth century, Victor Loret uncovered sixteen tombs, including the cache of royal mummies in KV 35, the tomb of Amenhetep II. From 1902 on, Theodore M. Davis sponsored thirteen seasons of work during which thirty-five tombs were cleared or discovered. One of his excavators was Howard Carter. In 1907, Carter began working with Earl Carnarvon. In 1922, their work led to the discovery of Tutankhamen's intact burial (KV 62).

Apart from projects engaged in copying specific texts or in documenting particular tombs, such as the work of Alexander Piankoff in the tomb of Rameses VI, published in 1954, or the Polish epigraphic project in the tomb of Rameses III (KV 11) between 1959 and 1981, there was relatively little archaeological activity in the Valley from 1922 (when the tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered) until the 1970s. Since the 1970s, however, there has been a resurgence of activity. In 1972, a project of the University of Minnesota, directed by Otto Schaden, began work in the West Valley in the tomb of Ay (KV 23).

The Berkeley Theban Mapping Project (later the Theban Mapping Project), under the direction of Kent Weeks, began its survey of tombs in 1978. At the same time, a project led by John Romer for the Brooklyn Museum worked in the last royal tomb constructed in the Valley, that of Rameses XI (KV 4). Following documentation in the tomb of Tausert (KV 14) from 1983-1987, Hartwig Altenmüller of the University of Hamburg started excavating the tomb of Bay (KV 13), completing this task in 1994. In 1989, Donald Ryan of Pacific Lutheran University began a re-excavation and recording of several un-inscribed tombs, including KV 21, 27, 28, 44, 45, and 60. KV 39, thought by some to be the burial place of Amenhetep I, was excavated by John Rose beginning in 1989. In 1992 and 1993, Lyla Pinch Brock re-examined and carried out conservation in KV 55.

There are several archaeological projects currently at work in the Valley of the Kings. Christian Leblanc is excavating the tomb of Rameses II (KV 7) for the CNRS, while across the road, the Theban Mapping Project (TMP) is excavating, recording and conserving KV 5 (the sons of Rameses II). The tomb of Amenmeses (KV 10) is being cleared by the Memphis University mission led by Otto Schaden. Elina Paulin-Grothe is directing a project of the Ägyptologische Seminar der Universität Basel, clearing and documenting in the tombs of Rameses X (KV 18), Siptah (KV 47), and Tia’a (KV32).

Nicholas Reeves and Geoffrey Martin are examining the area between the tombs of Horemheb (KV 57) and Rameses VI (KV 9). Edwin Brock continues his studies of royal sarcophagi with particular emphasis now on the remains in the tombs of Merenptah (KV 8) and Rameses VI (KV 9), where he is reconstructing the inner sarcophagus. Richard Wilkinson of the University of Arizona has been involved in an examination of symbolic alignments in the royal tombs. An expedition from Waseda University, Tokyo, under the direction of Jiro Kondo is clearing, documenting and conserving the area in and around the tomb of Amenhetep III in the West Valley (KV 22).

This site was used during the following period(s):
New Kingdom
Late Period
Third Intermediate Period
Byzantine Period

Conservation history: Much of the conservation measures enacted in the Valley of the Kings have consisted of removing earlier structures originally designed for touristic activities. This includes the removal of an old restaurant and bathroom from the center of the Valley, relocating souvenir kiosks from inside the Valley, and the demolishing of guard huts and donkey shelters built over and in the vicinity of tombs.

Other steps have been taken to mitigate the negative affects of the visits of tourists. Cement steps and ramps ways created along paths, bordered by rubble retaining walls, to control the flow of tourists. An air circulation system was installed in KV 62 and plexiglass panels now protect the relief in many tombs from the hands of visitors. The Theban Mapping Project installed new informational signage to give tourists information about the tombs they visit before they enter.

Flash flooding is a serious threat to the tombs and their decoration and has prompted the construction of shelters over entrances of tombs endangered by flood cascades (such as KV 13, KV 14, KV 15, and KV 35). Flood deflection walls built around tomb entrances also protect from the effects of torrential rains.
Site condition: Not all of the tombs in the Valley have been fully excavated. Accessible tombs are subject to physical stress from large numbers of visitors. Site maintenance is in need of revision. Trash collection is a problem. Open tombs are in danger of flooding. Internal rock movement is a danger to the structural stability of the tombs.

Printable Tomb Drawings

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