Pictures of Valley of the Kings, Egypt   Egypt VALLEY OF THE KINGS
Pictures of spectacular tombs built for New Kingdom pharaohs
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Photo of Tutankhamun (King Tut) mask Riches filled the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.  The famous gold funeral mask of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun survived the relentless thieves to become an icon of ancient Egypt.
  WHERE PHARAOHS MET THEIR GODS
The city of Thebes was the site of mighty temples built on the east bank of the Nile to honor the gods of New Kingdom ancient Egypt.  On the opposite west bank was a magnificent burial ground for the pharaohs - the Valley of the Kings.  This was the kingdom of Osiris, god of the underworld.  From their grand tombs filled with treasures and decorated with magnificant art, the Egyptian pharaohs believed they would embark on a journey in which they would meet the gods in the afterlife and achieve immortality.
Picture of Egyptian gods, Valley of the Kings
Beautiful images of Egyptian gods and goddesses adorn tomb walls in the Valley of the Kings.
Egyptian god, Valley of the Kings
The god Ptah, a creator deity, in the tomb of Ramesses III.
In the kingdom of Osiris
The people of ancient Egypt struggled to protect the bodies of their kings.  After the pyramids of the Old and Middle Kingdoms were plundered, most Egyptian pharaohs of dynasties 18 to 20 of the New Kingdom (who ruled around 1570 - 1070 BCE) were buried in tombs cut into the solid rock of the Valley of the Kings.
Picture of sun god Re (Ra), Valley of the Kings
An image of a ram-headed bird representing part of the soul of the great sun god Re, in the burial chamber of Queen Twosret.
The Egyptian workers toiled in the heat of the barren valley to dig staircases, corridors and chambers deep into the rock.  The walls were decorated with scenes of outstanding beauty that depicted the gods, perils and glory that awaited in the netherworld.  Finally, the New Kingdom pharaohs were entombed along with precious objects needed to maintain their status in the divine afterlife.
The richest place on Earth ?

Unimaginable treasures were entombed with the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings.  Sadly, these riches tempted thieves who were driven by a greed that outweighed any fear of retribution from their divine rulers or the gods.  Even the builders and guardians of the tombs could not always be trusted, and most of the sacred resting places were soon plundered.

The discovery by Howard Carter in 1922 of the almost undisturbed tomb of Tutankhamun (who died around 1325 BCE) revealed the riches of the New Kingdom royal burials in the Valley of the Kings.  But Tutankhamun was a young and obscure pharaoh.  His fabulous treasures can only hint at those looted from the tombs of great kings like Ramesses II.

Photo of Tutankhamun coffin,Egypt The coffin in which Tutankhamun was entombed was made from 110 kilograms of gold.  The image of the pharaoh holds a crook and flail that symbolized royal power in ancient Egypt.  The treasures of Tutankhamun are now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

 

Seeking immortality

The people of ancient Egypt believed that the body had to be mummified to preserve it for the life that was to follow death on earth.  For a New Kingdom pharaoh, the mummification process is thought to have taken seventy days.  The brain was usually extracted through the nose and discarded.  The heart was left in the body.  The liver, lungs, stomach and intestines were stored in four canopic jars that were left in the tomb.  The body was dried with natron before being packed with materials such as resin and linen.  Finally, it was wrapped and adorned with protective amulets.

Photo of Anubis and mummy, Valley of the Kings
An image from the Book of the Dead on a wall in the tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte.  Anubis, the jackal-headed guardian deity of the dead, prepares a mummy.  Four canopic jars await internal organs.
Picture of gods of ancient Egypt
The god Re-Horakhty, wearing the sun disk, and the goddess Maat in the tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte.  Maat was the goddess of truth, order and justice.
Destiny with the gods

The beautifully-decorated passageways and chambers in the tombs included guides to the afterlife for the pharaoh.  They showed the gods he would meet and the perils and trials he would face in his quest for immortality.  Remarkably, some of the greatest art of the ancient world was created to be seen only by the eyes of dead kings!

 

Egyptian god, Valley of the Kings
Anubis, a guardian of the dead, in the tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte.
Picture from Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Ramesses III wearing the Atef crown of the god Ra.
Picture of gods of ancient Egypt
Horus, a guide and protector of the pharaoh, stands before Osiris, the god of the underworld.  Scene in the tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte.
Guides to the beyond
Litany of Re (Ra)
Illustration from the Litany of Re, a religious text, in the tomb of Tuthmosis III.  This work shows the many different forms of the sun god Re and celebrates his union with the dead pharaoh.
The complex religious beliefs of the New Kingdom pharaohs included a conviction that after death they would become one with both Osiris, the god of the underworld, and the great sun god Re.  But first, the pharaoh expected to face many perils in the underworld.  Tombs in the Valley of the Kings were decorated with figures and texts from funerary literature.  Some of these magical and religious works offered spells or were intended as guides to the dangers of the underworld.

One of these guides, or books of the underworld, was the Amduat.  It described the perilous journey that the sun god Re made in his solar boat through the underworld each night.  The pharaoh believed that after his burial to the west of Thebes, where the sun was seen to set, he would unite with the sun god and then be reborn as one with Re in the eastern sky at dawn.

Book of Amduat
Scene from the Amduat (meaning 'that which is in the underworld') in the tomb of Tuthmosis III, one of the earliest in the Valley of the Kings.
Picture of god Re (Ra) in Book of Amduat
Scene from the Amduat in the tomb of Ramesses III.  The sun god Re in ram-headed form is accompanied by other gods in his solar boat as he traverses the underworld at night and confronts its dangers.

KEY RESEARCH SOURCES
THE COMPLETE VALLEY OF THE KINGS, by Nicholas Reeves and Richard H. Wilkinson.
ANCIENT EGYPT, edited by David P. Silverman.
THE OXFORD HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT, edited by Ian Shaw.
THE COMPLETE GODS AND GODDESSES OF ANCIENT EGYPT, by Richard H. Wilkinson.
CHRONICLE OF THE PHARAOHS, by Peter A. Clayton.
THE ANCIENT GODS SPEAK: A GUIDE TO EGYPTIAN RELIGION, edited by Donald B. Redford.
THEBAN MAPPING PROJECT.  Website

A NOTE ABOUT CHRONOLOGY
Dates are approximate because Egyptian chronology is sometimes uncertain.  Dates given on this page are those used in Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter A. Clayton.
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