Valley Of The Kings The Lost Tombs
The Problem with the Next Moon Mission
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The Valley of the Kings is situated over 1,000 feet of limestone and other sedimentary rock, which form the cliffs in the valley and the nearby Deir el-Bahari, interspersed with soft layers of marl. The sedimentary rock was originally deposited between 35 and 56 million years ago during a time when the Mediterranean Sea sometimes extended as far south as Aswan. During the Pleistocene the valley was carved out of the plateau by steady rains. There is currently little year-round rain in this part of Egypt, but there are occasional flash floods that hit the valley. These floods dump tons of debris into the open tombs.
The quality of the rock in the Valley is inconsistent, ranging from finely grained to coarse stone, the latter with the potential to be structurally unsound. The occasional layer of shale also caused construction (and in modern times, conservation) difficulties, as this rock expands in the presence of water, forcing apart the stone surrounding it. It is thought that some tombs were altered in shape and size depending on the types of rock the builders encountered. Builders took advantage of available geological features when constructing the tombs. Some tombs were quarried out of existing limestone clefts, others behind slopes of scree, and some were at the edge of rock spurs created by ancient flood channels.
The problems of tomb construction can be seen with the tombs of Ramesses III and his father Setnakhte. Setnakhte started to excavate KV11 but broke into the tomb of Amenmesse, so construction was abandoned and he instead usurped the tomb of Twosret, KV14. When looking for a tomb, Ramesses III extended the partly excavated tomb started by his father.The tomb of Ramesses II returned to an early style, with a bent axis, probably due to the quality of the rock being excavated (following the Esna shale).
Between 1998 and 2002, the Amarna Royal Tombs Project investigated the valley floor using ground-penetrating radar and found that, below the modern surface, the Valley’s cliffs descend beneath the scree in a series of abrupt, natural “shelves”, arranged one below the other, descending several metres down to the bedrock in the valley floor.
The Theban Hills are dominated by the peak of al-Qurn, known to the Ancient Egyptians as ta dehent, or “The Peak”. It has a pyramid-shaped appearance, and it is probable that this echoed the pyramids of the Old Kingdom, more than a thousand years prior to the first royal burials carved here. Its isolated position also resulted in reduced access, and special tomb police (the Medjay) were able to guard the necropolis.
While the iconic pyramid complex of the Giza Plateau have come to symbolize ancient Egypt, the majority of tombs were cut into rock. Most pyramids and mastabas contain sections which are cut into ground level, and there are full rock-cut tombs in Egypt that date back to the Old Kingdom.
After the defeat of the Hyksos and the reunification of Egypt under Ahmose I, the Theban rulers began to construct elaborate tombs that reflected their newfound power. The tombs of Ahmose I and his son Amenhotep I (their exact location remains unknown) were probably in the Seventeenth Dynasty necropolis of Dra’ Abu el-Naga’. The first royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings were those of Amenhotep I (although this identification is also disputed), and Thutmose I, whose advisor, Ineni, notes in his tomb that he advised the king to place his tomb in the desolate valley (the identity of this actual tomb is unclear, but it is probably KV20 or KV38).
I saw to the excavation of the rock-tomb of his majesty, alone, no one seeing, no one hearing.
The Valley was used for primary burials from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC. It contains at least 63 tombs, beginning with Thutmose I (or possibly earlier, during the reign of Amenhotep I) and ending with Ramesses X or XI, although non-royal burials continued in usurped tombs.
Despite its name, the Valley of the Kings also contains the tombs of favorite nobles as well as the wives and children of both nobles and pharaohs. Therefore, only about twenty of the tombs actually contain the remains of kings. The remains of nobles and of the royal family, together with unmarked pits and embalming caches, make up the rest. Around the time of Ramesses I (ca. 1301 BC) construction commenced in the separate Valley of the Queens.