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Revision as of 19:34, 13 April 2008
The Valley of the Kings (Arabic: Wadi el-Muluk, وادي الملوك; also known as Biban el-Moluk, the "Gates of the Kings")) is an Egyptian archaeological locality in the hills immediately behind the West Bank of Luxor. As such, it is one of the most remarkable archaeological destinations in the world - the burial place of most of the pharaohs of Egypt of the New Kingdom period.....
The tombs within the Valley are officially given a KV number, standing for "King's Valley". The tomb of Tutankhamun, for example, is also known as KV62.
A number of archaeological excavations continue periodically within the Valley of the King's to the present day; perhaps best known is the American University of Cairo's excavation of KV5, the tomb of the Sons of Ramesses II. Director of this excavation is Professor Kent Weeks, also director of the Theban Mapping Project, officially granted the permit to map the Theban Necropolis in its entirety - a project now well advanced.
Open: summer daily 6am-6pm, winter 9am-5pm. Admission: LE 70 for three tombs of your choice (those wishing to view more than 3 tombs will need to purchase additional tickets), available from the main Ticket Office in the West Bank.
Note that not all the tombs within the Valley are currently open to the public. Many are closed periodically for resting and renovation.
Information within the Valley has been vastly improved in recent years; (mostly) gone are the old faded signs, now replaced by engraved metal signs detailing the history, architecture and decoration of each tomb, together with detailed plans and diagrams (these have been provided courtesy of the Theban Mapping Project, in association with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).
In order to get the best idea of the tombs within the Valley of the Kings, it is wise to visit at least one tomb from each of the three main building phases (see below).
- the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) , requires a separate ticket (LE 100) for admission from the other tombs - arguably the most famous of the tombs in the Valley, the scene of Howard Carter's 1922 discovery of the almost intact royal burial of the young king. Compared to most of the other royal tombs, however, the tomb of Tutankhamun is barely worth visiting, being much smaller and with limited decoration. The fabulous riches of the tomb are no longer in it, but have been removed to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Visitors with limited time would be best to spend their time elsewhere.
Phase One Tombs
- the Tomb of Thutmose III (KV34)  - one of the most remote tombs in the Valley, located at the far end of the Valley and up several flights of steps to gain entry. The climb is worth it though... The tomb is of the typical, early curved plan with a large oval burial chamber. The decoration is unique, being in a simple, pleasing style that resembles the cursive writing of the time.
Phase Two Tombs
wall painting in the tomb of Horemheb
- the Tomb of Horemheb (KV57)  - the tomb of the last king of the 18th Dynasty
- the Tomb of Merneptah (KV8)  - son of Ramesses II (the Great), Merneptah's tomb has suffered greatly from flash flooding of the Valley over the millennia. Those paintings and reliefs that have survived, however, are generally in good condition.
Phase Three Tombs
- the Tomb of Ramesses VI (KV9)  - this tomb was originally started by Ramesses V, but usurped after his death by his successor Ramesses VI, who enlarged the tomb and had his own image and cartouches carved in over his predecessor's. The tomb is one of the most interesting in the Valley, with one of the most complete and best preserved decorative schemes surviving.
Hatshepsut's Temple viewed from the hiking trail out of the Valley of the Kings
- Consider hiking back over the surrounding hills to Deir el-Medina or Deir el-Bahari - although a relatively short hike, do take plenty of water, especially in summer. The views are well worth the physical exertion!
Bringing your own small torch to gently illuminate some of the more obscure reliefs is always a good idea
Visitors to the Valley of the Kings may also wish to consider a visit to the nearby Western Valley.