Valley of the Kings

From Academic Kids

Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings, or Wadi el-Muluk (وادي الملوك) in Arabic, is a valley in Egypt where tombs were built for the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom, the Eighteenth through Twentieth Dynasties.

The valley is located on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes (modern Luxor). It is separated into the East and West Valley, with most of the important tombs in the East Valley. The West Valley has only one tomb open to the public: the tomb of Ay, Tutankhamun's successor.

The Valley was used from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC, and contains some 60 tombs, starting with Thutmose I and ending with Ramesses X or XI.

The Valley of the Kings also had tombs for the favourite nobles and the wives and children of both the nobles and pharaohs. Around the time of Ramesses I the Valley of the Queens was begun, although some wives were still buried with their husbands.

Graffiti on the walls of some of the tombs indicate that this was an attraction during Roman times.

The quality of the rock in the Valley is very inconsistent. Tombs were built, cutting through various layers of limestone, each with its own quality. This poses problems for modern day conservators, as it must have to the original architects. Building plans were probably changed on account of this. The most serious problem are the shale layers. This fine material expands when it comes into contact with water. This has damaged many tombs, particularly during floods.


Grave robbers

Almost all of the tombs have been ransacked, including Tutankhamun's, though in his case, it seems that the robbers were interrupted, so very little was removed. King Tutankhamun was a minor king and other kings probably had more numerous treasures.

The valley was surrounded by steep cliffs and heavily guarded. In 1090 BC, or the year of the Hyena, there was a collapse in Egypt's economy leading to the emergence of tomb robbers. Because of this, it was also the last year that the valley was used for burial.

The valley also seems to have suffered an official plundering during the virtual civil war which started in the reign of Ramesses XI. The tombs were opened, all the valuables removed, and the mummies collected into two large caches. One, the so-called Deir el-Bahri cache, contained no less than forty royal mummies and their coffins; the other, in the tomb of Amenhotep II, contained a further sixteen.


Modern Western archaeology's first discovery was by Howard Carter on November 4, 1922: the Tomb of King Tutankhamun. He supervised the clearance and conservation until 1932. Tutankhamun's tomb was the first tomb to be discovered that was still largely intact.

Some members of the archaeological teams led by Carter and later archaeologists contracted local lethal viruses through food or animals (particularly insects), resulting in the infamous "Curse of the Pharaohs" modern legend.

Missing image
The Valley


  • Pets were also buried here. There is a group of three animal tombs.
  • The largest tomb, known as KV5, was built for the sons of Ramesses II. It contains 67 burial chambers.
  • The tombs have been tourist attraction since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

See also

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Selected reading

  • John Romer, Valley of the Kings (Henry Holt, 1981) – Covers the history of the exploration of the Valley in chronological order.
  • Nicholas Reeves and Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Valley of the Kings (1996, Thames and Hudson) – Details of all the major tombs, their discovery, art and architecture.
  • Alberto Siliotti, Guide to the Valley of the Kings (Barnes and Noble, 1997) – A good introduction to the valley and surroundings.
  • Kent R. Weeks, Araldo De Luca (photographs), Valley of the Kings (Friedman/Fairfax, 2001) – Spectacular photography of the best tombs.

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