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Valley of The Kings - Nile Cruise Tours
first king of the New Kingdom, Ahmose of the 18th Dynasty,
built a pyramid-like structure at Abydos, which may or may
not have been his original tomb. But all the remaining
rulers of the period, except for the so-called Amarna
interregnum, had their tombs cut into the rocks of the West
Bank at Thebes, specifically at the Valley of the Kings.
From Thutmose I in the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom
period, all the kings, and occasionally high officials of
that period, were buried in the secluded wadi, or dry gully,
which today is called Valley of the Kings. The peak known in
Arabic as el-Qurn was known in ancient times as dehent, the
Horn, and was sacred to the goddesses Hathor and Meretseger,
"She who loves Silence."
The Valley, known as Biban el-Muluk, "doorway or gateway of
the kings," or, the Wadyein, meaning "the two valleys," is
actually composed of two separate branches. The main eastern
branch, called ta set aat, or "The Great Place," is where
most of the royal tombs are located, and in the larger,
westerly branch where only a few tombs were cut.
The Valley is hidden from sight, behind the cliffs, which
form the backdrop to the temple complex of Deir el-Bahri.
Though the most direct route to the valley is a rather steep
climb over these cliffs, a much longer, shallower, route
existed along the bottom of the valley. This was quite
possibly used by funeral processions, pulling funeral
equipment by sledges to the rock-cut tombs in the Valley.
With its worker's village later called Deir el-Medina, the
valley was called the Place of Truth or Set Ma'at, in
ancient times. The workers of Deir el-Medina, who for
generations since their community was established, could
reach the Valley in about 30 minutes by walking along the
steep mountain paths. Today, energetic folks may spend 45
minutes to an hour climbing the paths leading from the north
side of the amphitheater of Deir el-Bahri and over the
mountain ridge into the Valley of the Kings. Their efforts
would be rewarded by splendid views of the Theban region.
Valley contains 62 tombs to-date, excavated by the
Egyptologists and archaeologists from many countries. Not
all of the tombs belonged to the king and royal family. Some
tombs belonged to privileged nobles and were usually
undecorated. Not all the tombs were discovered intact, and
some were never completed.
The powerful kings of the 18th and 19th Dynasties kept the
tombs under close supervision, but under the weaker rulers
of the 20th Dynasty, the tombs were looted, often by the
very workers or officials supposedly responsible for their
creation and protection. In order to prevent further thefts,
the mummies and some of their funerary objects were reburied
in two secret caches, not to be re-discovered until the 19th
century of the modern era.
Visitors to Egypt have often journeyed into the Valley to
view the accessible tombs, including Tut's, but with the
increasing tourism, urban and industrial growth, pollution,
and rising groundwater, the tombs have suffered over the
decades. Today their access is rotated, so that a smaller
number of tombs are open at one time, and even then, many of
the decorations and walls can only be seen behind glass.
According to Diodorus and Strabo, and Greek and Latin
graffiti, two writers of ancient times, a few of the tombs
in the Valley of the Kings were known and visited by ancient
tourists during Ptolemaic times. Today, only a few of the 62
known tombs are accessible and open to the public. Eleven of
the tombs, including Tutankhamun's, Ramesses VI, Amenhotep
II, and Seti I, have been set with electrical lighting.