|Excavation in the Valley of the Kings - November 2008|
The first burial in the arid, remote valley was a departure from tradition. In earlier dynasties, pharaoh’s tombs had been built in plain sight as a sign of their power and prestige. From the earliest mastaba tombs to the pyramids, these tombs were as large and lavish as the pharaoh’s treasury and length of his reign allowed. Even as late as the 17th dynasty, pharaohs were buried in small pyramids at Dra’ Abu el-Naga, a necropolis in the Theban hills. So why did a high court official called Ineni dig a rock cut tomb for his royal master, boasting ‘alone, no one seeing and no one hearing’? Possibly because it was becoming obvious that most of these ostentatious, very visible tombs were being entered by tomb robbers, who stole the precious funerary treasure and ripped the pharaoh’s mummies apart looking for amulets and jewellery.
|Valley of the Kings|
But although it might have been possible to conceal the location of one royal tomb, as successive pharaoh’s carried on digging their tombs in the same valley, the site of the royal necropolis became well known and a workmen’s village was built at Deir-el Medina to house the men who dug and decorated these fabulous sepulchres. To date sixty four tombs have been found in the Royal Valley, belonging to queens, royal children and favoured courtiers as well as the mighty pharaohs themselves. So who is missing? Which pharaoh’s tombs have not yet been found? The two main contenders are Thutmosis II from the early 18th dynasty and Ramesses VIII from the 20th dynasty. The mummy of Ramesses XI has also not been found and though a tomb was dug for him in the Valley of the Kings, there is no evidence he was actually buried in it. Most of the tombs of the queens from the 18th dynasty have also not yet been located and there may also be smaller tombs of princes, princesses and royal officials still awaiting their turn to be discovered.
The Egyptian found two cuttings in the rock that could be tomb entrances, one where the rubble has been disturbed, suggesting that whatever is there has already been disturbed, and one where it had not. Could this be the entrance to an intact tomb? These two new tomb entrances became known as KV64 and KV65. The KV64 entrance was found close to Merenptah’s tomb and is Ramesside in appearance. It was thought this could possibly be the entrance to the tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VIII. The other tomb entrance was cut and in the style of the 18th dynasty and Dr Hawass stated in a lecture that he thought this could be the tomb of an individual from the Amarna period and that some debris has been excavated that had the name of a previously unknown queen on it.
So there is a strong chance there are still some major finds to be made in the Valley of the Kings. KV63 is now thought to have been more of a storage chamber for burials of the Amarna period, rather than a royal tomb. Most of the burials of the royal ladies of this period have not yet been located and finding the tomb of one of the major figures, such as the iconic beauty Queen Nefertiti, would be very exciting and help to clarify what really happened during this shadowy part of Ancient Egyptian history. The mystery tomb KV55 could be the tomb of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten or his ephemeral successor Smenkhare, so is either of these king’s tombs still concealed in the cliffs somewhere?
|Western Branch of the Valley of the Kings|
We also still do not know the complete family tree of the pharaoh’s or of their court officials, so there could be tombs to be discovered that belonged to queens, royal children, ladies of the harem or nobles we have never before encountered in Egyptian history. Also all the tombs visited by tourists are in the eastern branch of the Valley of the Kings. There is a western branch that contains the tombs of Amenophis III and Ay that is rarely visited and has not yet been thoroughly surveyed or excavated. But although a tomb stuffed full of golden treasure would captivate the media and the public the world over, any find, however small, adds to our knowledge of our ancient past and fills in another piece of the puzzle.