Exploring the Valley of the Kings

Located on the west bank of the Nile and opposite Luxor (Thebes in Ancient Egypt), the Valley of the Kings is a famous site in Egypt. It was the main burial site for important members of the royal and noble family of the Egyptian New Kingdom from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC. The valley is divided into two branches: the East Valley where most of the royal tombs are located, and the West Valley. In 1979, this site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At least 63 tombs have been discovered at the Valley of the Kings. The earliest tomb is believed to be that of Thutmose I, the third pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, while the latest is believed to be the tomb of Ramesses X or XI, a pharaoh of the 20th dynasty. These tombs vary in size and complexity. One of the tombs, KV5 – a tomb for the sons of Ramesses II, contains over 120 chambers.

Almost all tombs discovered are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology. Ancient Egyptians believed that after death, humans would continue life and pharaohs would become one with the gods. Mummification was used to preserve the body from decay so that the deceased’s soul could reanimate it in the afterlife. The royal tombs were well stocked with things, including clothes, jewelry, and furniture, that a pharaoh might need in the next world. Other objects found in these tombs included food and drink, sacred objects, and even pets.

Though their entrances were well hidden, most of the tombs discovered at the Valley of the Kings were likely robbed at the end of the 20th dynasty. However, they still provide archaeologists with valuable information about the beliefs and funerary rituals of the Egyptian New Kingdom period. In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut) in the Valley of the Kings. Due to its location, this tomb was spared from the tomb depredations of that time. It took Carter’s team eight years to remove the treasures from the tomb, and these treasures are now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Most of the tombs are not open to the public. The access to the open tombs, including the tomb of King Tut, is rotated to limit the number of open tombs at one time. Also, visitors are expected to proceed quietly in a single file through the tombs to prevent the decorations from being damaged by the crowds.

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