Saturday, 9 February 2013

Valley of the Kings

Nut's ceiling in Ramses VI's tomb
Friday 4 January: By road it's a long way around the mountains to the Valley of the Kings so my best approach is to hike over the mountains, from Deir al-Medina (the workers' village), taking the same path that the gangs of tomb builders would have used in ancient times. An hour or so later I drop down into the Valley of the Kings but I'm on the wrong side of the ticket barrier and have to walk down to the car park to buy tickets. Photos are not allowed in the tombs but you can take one surreptitiously or wait for a tomb guard to say "shhh . . . take photo" . . . "baksheesh". I visit the open tombs in chronological order.
Tutankhamun's Tomb (# 62)  
Though small and underwhelming the boy king's tomb is Egypt's most famous due to the relatively recent discovery of it's almost intact treasures by British treasure hunter Howard Carter, while in the employ of Lord Carnarvon, in 1922. The 'wonderful things' he saw here have long since been shipped to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and nothing now remains except the hastily completed artwork and stone sarcophagus. I manage to sneak a photo of an image of goddess Nut greeting the king but, even so, the expensive extra ticket required to visit Tut's tomb makes it pretty poor value.
Tutankhamun died, aged 19, after a short, 18th dynasty New Kingdom reign, 3,330 years ago.
Merneptah's Tomb (# 8)
It's a steep climb down to Merneptah's large pillared burial-chamber and the decoration is badly flood damaged but his huge granite outer sarcophagus and the lid of his inner sarcophagus remain in-situ. His mummy, originally encased in four sarcophagi, is now in the Egyptian Museum.
The 13th son of 19th dynasty ruler Ramses the Great, his older brothers died before their father so Merneptah eventually became pharaoh in his 60s, around 3,220 years ago. 
Siptah's Tomb (# 47)
Another steep climb down along musty corridors this time with fantastic flying vultures adorning the ceiling.
The 2nd son of 19th dynasty king Seti II, the club-footed Siptah probably ruled briefly around 3,210 years ago.
Queen Tawosert & Setnakht's Tomb (# 14)
Yet another steep shaft-corridor, typical of 19th dynasty tomb construction, leads down to the large and unusual double burial-chamber with well preserved decorations. The tomb was originally built for Seti II's wife, Queen Tawosert, but after her deceased husband's successor, Siptah, died she took power herself and enlarged the vault to match her new status. However the tomb was usurped, by 20th dynasty king Setnakht around 3,200 years ago, and used as his own. In the burial chamber a depiction of the final scene from the Book of Caverns shows a magnificent ram-headed bird as the soul of sun god Ra guarding over the reappearance of the sun at dawn.
I've seen enough tombs for one day so I walk back over the mountain, down to Hapshetsup's temple, and along the road, past the Ramesseum and home to the Marsam Hotel.
Tuesday 8: Returning to the Valley of the Kings, this time I take the steep mountain path from Hatshepsut's temple and, once again, drop down into the tomb area.
Ramses IV's Tomb (# 2)
A shallow descent along white corridors decorated with tomb texts and with a starry ceiling leads down to a sarcophagus chamber decorated with scenes from the Book of Gates. Surviving the 20th dynasty 'Harem Conspiricy', Ramses IV, son of Ramses III, ascended to the throne around 3,160 years ago.
Ramses V & VI's Tomb (# 9) 
The tomb was started by 20th dynasty ruler Ramses V, around 3,150 years ago, but it was later extended and also used by Ramses VI. Magnificent double-figures of the lithe yellow star and sun-disk spangled body of beautiful sky goddess Nut encompasses the dark blue ceiling, one of her heads about so swallow a sun disk. Fantastic.
Ramses IX Tomb (# 6)
Another magnificent, though unfinished, chamber ceiling with a double-image of sky goddess Nut swallowing and releasing the sun disk. Ramses IX, who ruled 3,120 or so years ago, was the last of the 20th dynasty kings.
Slideshow of the Valley of the Kings.

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