The Valley of the Kings

One of the topics that was talked about in this week’s lectures that is actually quite popular is the Valley of the Kings.  However, I realized that before this week’s lectures and blog post, I really only knew of the Valley of the Kings rather than really knowing anything about it.  So for my week six post, I decided to do a little outside research and to learn a little more about this archaeological goldmine.

After the shift into the New Kingdom, there was less interest from the nobles in the ornate and lavish burials that were characteristic of the Old Kingdom [and the burials marked by the pyramids].  One of the reasons behind this shift in interest was possibly the economical situation of the New Egyptian Kingdom.  With the New Kingdom came a time of wealth, and thus, more grave-robbings.  The noble people lost interest in these lavish burials likely knowing they would be robbed.  So they began building tombs for their nobles and kings in two desert valleys  [the East and the West valleys] on the west bank of Thebes.

It is theorized by many archaeologists that the Valley of the Kings was chosen as a burial site because it is a small, easily guarded, close to the river, and perhaps most of all, because of a pyramid like natural mountain known as al-Qurn.  It was believed that instead of building more extravagant pyramids which beckoned robbers, the royalty and noble people saw al-Qurn as a symbolic pyramid which marked the significance of the Valley of the Kings, without being an obvious site for robbers [as it was a natural landmark and would not be so obvious].

There are 62 tombs in the Valley of the Kings, holding both royal and private noble mummies.  Perhaps the most famous of these is the tomb of Tutankhamen, which was discovered in 1922.  The tombs were elaborate underground mausoleums filled with everything from clothing and jewelry to pets and furniture, and even feasts of wine and food.

Most of the tombs have been excavated and were found around the same time as King Tut’s tomb was found, however there was a discovery of a new tomb as recent as 2005.  This tomb, although archaeologists are unsure of who was buried here has been named “KV 63” and contains sarcophagi, flowers, and even an embalming chamber.

After researching the Valley of the Kings, I not only have a new understanding of the level of importance that this discovery has for all of archaeology and Egyptology, but it truly does give you a better understanding of the shift of logic and economic understanding of the New Kingdom of Egypt.  I see their shift from the lavish monumental burial tombs to the hidden and underground mausoleums as a more logical and possibly secular thinking man.  Instead of building these huge monuments to themselves, they began building secret tombs that were not even meant to be seen.  By changing their mortuary culture in attempts to guard their belongings, they have used a problem solving technique that has altered their entire process surrounding noble death and funerary processes, which is of great significance as a growing civilization.

References:

  • Handwerk, B. (2012). The Valley of the Kings: Gateway to Afterlife Provides Window on the Past. Retrieved from: http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/valley-of-the-kings/
  • The Theban Mapping Project (1997-2006). The Valley of the Kings. Retrieved from: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_450.html

 

1 thought on “The Valley of the Kings

  1. I really like the points you bring up in your post this week, especially where you talk about the reasons for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom choosing to be buried in the simple Valley of the Kings rather than in elaborate pyramids. The Valley is kind of out of the way so if you were a grave robber you’d have to take a bit of a hike and then when you got there, all you would find is a plain valley with some holes cut into the rocks. Not very impressive and you might think that you’ve wasted your time. Pharaohs would have been able to fill their tombs with goods without the whole world seeing which would create less of an incentive for grave robbers as they wouldn’t really know what or how much loot is in one of the tombs.

    Perhaps another reason for the pharaohs moving their burial chambers was so that their bodies would not be disturbed. It probably wasn’t that great for pharaohs to see what grave robbers were doing to their ancestors or other old pharaohs and probably didn’t want that to happen to them.

    Of course, the biggest reason for the switch was probably because the Valley was much easier to guard than several different pyramids scattered across the land. You would need fewer people to look after the Valley of the Kings and it probably would have been easier to catch anyone who was trying to rob a tomb.

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