Valley of the Kings- Beyond the semi-circle of rocks of Deir el Bahri lies the Valley of the Kings, or Biban el Moulouk, the Gate of the Kings. In this ravine, dominated by a cone-shaped mountain often called the “Crown of Thebes,” is the Necropolis of the great Egyptian sovereigns from the 18th to the 20th Dynasty.

The story of the Valley of the Kings begins with the sudden and unexpected decision of Tuthmosis I to separate his tomb from his mortuary temple – and moreover to bury his body not in a showy monument but in a secret, inaccessible place.

Valley of the Kings

After the mummified bodies of the Pharaohs had been laid to rest, the passages were sealed and covered with rock and rubble. With the entrances totally obscured, the New Kingdom pharaohs were confident that their tombs, unlike those of their ancestors, would be safe. They were mistaken. With the notable exception of the burial of Tutankhamon all were broken into and robbed of their treasures.

The huge stone lids of the sarcophagi were thrust aside, or hammered off. The inner coffins were removed. The mummies of the Pharaohs were stripped of their adornments and cast aside, sometimes actually burnt, by the robbers.

In an attempt to protect the bodies of their great ancestors, the priests of the 21st Dynasty placed them in a twelve-metre deep shaft, which was probably a Middle Kingdom tomb, in one of the caves at the foot of the cliffs at Deir el Bahri; that is to say, on the other side of the mountain that separates the Valley of the Kings from Deir el Bahri. Into this shaft they placed no less than forty mummies of the 18th and 19th Dynasties, which they had collected from pillaged tombs. The bodies of Amenhotep I, ThutmoseIII, SetiI, Ramses II and Ramses  III were among them. Other mummies were hidden in already violated tombs, such as that of Amenhotep II, which was then resealed.

The shaft at Deir el Bahri was discovered in 1881, and the mummies in the tomb of Amenhotep II in 1898. All were taken from one place to another, until they were settled on the upper floor of the Cairo Museum of Antiquities.

Valley of the Kings | Tomb design and decoration

The actual tomb design was relatively uniform, differing only in length and number of chambers. They usually comprised three corridors, one following the other, sloping deeper and deeper into the bedrock. A shaft at the end of the first corridor, sometimes dropping to a depth of over six meters, was a feature of several tombs; perhaps it was designed to discourage robbers who, despite all effort at concealment, had located the doorway, or for drainage of rainfall. At the end of the third corridor there was usually a door leading to ante-chamber, and the tomb chamber lay beyond this.

Its roof was often supported by pillars and the sarcophagus was placed either at the center or to the rear.

In the most of the royal tombs from the entrance doorway to the burial chamber, the walls from the door to ceiling were covered with sacred texts and representations from the mortuary literature known as the Book of the Dead. This had been accumulated over thousands of years and included hymns, prayers and magical utterances, as well as texts and resurrection texts. The corridors represent the different stages of the journey of the deceased to the afterlife.

The ancient Egyptians have a deeply rooted concept of Life after Death. They saw the physical body as a vehicle for certain immortal aspects of man that continued after his death. One of these was known as the KA, which was a sort of a guardian spirit that was born at the same time as a man, and continued to live in the vicinity of his tomb after his death. Another immortal aspect was the BA or soul. All the mortuary literature in ancient Egypt listed provisions of food and offerings to nourish the ka and prayers to release of the ba.

The pharaoh was regarded as “the son of the sun-god” this led the belief that at his death he would join or be absorbed by the sun when it set on the western horizon. He would travel through the twelve regions of the underworld in the solar barge. Sometimes the vessel would be piloted by the jackal of Abydos, who steered it through the underworld, or along the horizon. Then as the sun would just rise again in the eastern sky the pharaoh would be reborn.

In the early corridor of the tombs there were selections from the praises of RA often with the sun god depiction in many different forms. This was followed by the book of the portals , which was an hour by hour division of the underworld each separated by a massive gate guarded by  gigantic serpents. With the correct password the deceased would successfully pass from one hour to another. The banks of the river would usually throng with spirits and demons with a friendly nature to ward off the many enemies of the sun god, whose purpose was to hinder the journey of the solar barge.

The mortuary text known as the sun’s journey in the underworld revealed a land where ferocious. Dragon-like creatures, serpents and crocodiles lurked, Among the deadly foes of the deceased, some would deprive him of his mortuary food and drink, dry up his breath or cause him to breathe fire. They could rob him of his organs, and worse his very name, which would deprive him from his identity forever.

In the deepest chambers of the tomb monsters and spirits can be often seen in rows. To each the deceased addressed an appropriate speech. The priests ingeniously devised a choice of two ways, so that if the deceased deviated from the corridor path, there were charms to save him from the place of the execution by the gods, to prevent being overpowered by the forces of evil, to prevent him becoming blazing eye of Horus, and to prevent him from walking with his head downwards! The list was endless. There were safeguards for every stage of the journey, even a special scarab over the heart, to quieten it’s beat in the awesome present of Osiris, Lord of the underworld[/dt_sc_toggle_framed]

Valley of the Kings | Osiris, Lord of the Underworld

The concept of a court in the underworld only fully developed in the Middle Kingdom, when it was believed that the deceased would stand before Osiris, as final judge, and answer charges. With Osiris were his devoted wife Isis, her sister Nephthys, Thoth the god of wisdom, and forty-two judges of the dead. Before this impressive court, the deceased would swear innocence by what is known as the negative confession. He would declare that he had not stolen food, spoken evil or falsehood, robbed the dead, harmed anyone, or slain a sacred animal, nor was he arrogant, fraudulent or blasphemous,etc.

Osiris was usually depicted seated beneath a canopy in mummified form,as befitted a legendary ancestor. His face was green or dark like a mummy. On his head was the tall white crown. In his hands were his sacred emblems, the crook and the flail[/dt_sc_toggle_framed]

The most impressive tomb at Valley of the Kings and open today for visitors is that of Haremhab. Its reliefs are in excellent condition. Also worth seeing is the tomb of Ramesses IV and  Merneptah

Valley of the Kings | Tomb of Haremhab

This is the tomb of the first pharaoh of non-royal lineage to construct his resting place in the Valley of the Kings. Haremhab was the general who seized control at the end of the 18th Dynasty and his tomb is one of the most remarkable, although the entrance is unimpressive. It slopes through two corridors and that were not completed, but which enable us to see the different stage of mural decoration.

The rear corridor is decorated with a series of marvelous paintings showing the deceased Haremhab with Anubis, the jackal headed god of embalmment and before the various deities, including Hathor, Osiris, Anubis and Horus. In chamber 6, on the left hand wall hes embraced by Hathor, and stands before Anubis, Isis, Harsiesis and Ptah, in turn. On the right hand wall, he’s  led by Harsiesis to Hathor, and stands before Anubis, Isis, Osiris and Nefertum. These painting are of extremely high quality, and in marvelous state of preservation.

The tomb chamber 7 was never completed. On the higher reaches of the wall there are symbols for north, south,east and west, which were instructions for workmen who were given a propitiate decorations for the different parts of the chamber. These were the hours of night according to the book of the gates

On the left hand side of the hall, from (d) to (e) there are scenes from the first hour of night. Further along at (f), is the third hour of the night. The missing second hour is depicted on the opposite wall.

Towards the rear of the tomb chamber, to the left is the fourth hour of the night, at (i) and the fifth hour is opposite and finally the judgment hall of Osiris is depicted. This is the only full judgment scene in a royal tomb, and it shows Osiris with his forty-two judges of the dead, before whom the deceased will answer charges. Having pleaded innocence of all wrong-doing he gains acces to a life ever-lasting.

The red granite sarcophagus is beautifully carved with figures of the deities and with religious formulae. At the corners the protective goddesses Isis and Nephthys spread their wings to guard the pharaoh’s body. In the side chamber 8, Osiris is depicted in front of the Djed pillar representing rebirth