This week we learned about the mortuary practices of the New Kingdom and the Valley of Kings. The Valley has always been interesting to me because there is an incredible amount to learn from such a small area. With 61 tombs and multiple people buried in most tombs the number of people originally buried in the Valley is huge. Unfortunately, due to the threat of grave robbers, priests were forced to open several of the tombs and remove the mummies for safe keeping. While it is great that we still have these mummies to study today, you have to wonder what kind of evidence was destroyed by these helpful priests. What knowledge could we have gained if we had found these mummies in situ?
Grave robbing is perhaps the biggest detriment to archaeological work today when trying to understand ancient Egypt. Grave robbers took whatever they could, and the Valley of the Kings is no exception. While it might be thought that it was poor Egyptians that did most of the grave robbing but it was often pharaohs as well. Today, we generally don’t go around looting the graves of our founding fathers and former political leaders. In ancient Egypt, there must have been a strong sense of political and social unrest amongst the poor that would make them destroy a “holy” site. Meanwhile, the richest of the rich were also grave robbing to get better things to put in their own tombs. This can lead to some confusion amongst archaeologists of basic timelines and what everything actually means together.
Something that I was surprised to learn was that pharaohs occasionally would take over a previously built tomb and share it with the previous body. I’ve always thought that pharaohs were a bit egotistical and wanted to create a great space for themselves for when they died (be it a pyramid or a regular tomb). Apparently, some of them were content to not create anything at all and just live off of what the people before them had done. This brings up the question of why? Perhaps some of these pharaohs died a sudden death and had no time to build. Or perhaps they were not well liked and so a tomb was never built for them.