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Deir el-Bahri

Valley of the kings at night

The Valley of the Kings: the facts behind the most important location in Ancient Egypt

The valley of the Kings; Once part of the ancient city of Thebes is the burial site of almost all of Egypt’s Pharaohs from the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. Archaeologists have found around sixty-three tombs (with the latest discovery being in 2008) at this burial complex located in the hills of Dayr- al-Bahri.

Even though most of the tombs that are located in this valley have been robbed and luted the remains of these ancient burial sites give archaeologists and historians an estimate of the power of ancient Pharaohs and noblemen. This archaeological site has been the center of attention for researchers since the eighteenth century and even today scholars rush to ancient Thebes to study and explore the history behind one of the most important locations in ancient Egypt.



The Facts and History

  • The valley of the Kings: the facts behind the impost important locations in Ancient Egypt
  • The official name for the site in ancient times was The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes. Or also, Ta-sekhet-ma’at (the Great Field).
  • The first tomb discovered was of pharaoh Ramses VII designated KV1
  • Most of the tombs of the Valley of the Kings are not open to the public.
  • Researchers state that the quality of the rock in the Valley is quite inconsistent, ranging from finely grained to coarse stone.
  • Builders took advantage of available geological features when constructing the tombs; due to the lack of specific tools, the builders had to look out for any advantage that could help them achieve their goal.
  • The peak of al-Qurn which watches over the valley is an iconic feature of the region; the tomb police, known as the Medjay, watched over the valley from this location.
  • The tomb of Akhenaten was originally intended to be located in the Valley of the Kings; Archaeologists point toward the unfinished WV25 as the intended burial chamber for Akhenaten.
  • During Roman times the valley of the kings was a very attractive touristic location.
  • Many of the tombs have graffiti written by ancient tourists; researchers have located over 2100 ancient graffiti, mostly Latin and Greek.
  • Archaeologists have found that most of the ancient graffiti are located in KV9, which contains just under a thousand of them. The earliest positively dated graffiti dates to 278 B.C.
  • The mark “KV” actually stands for “Kings Valley” while WV stands for Western Valley.
  • There is a number of unoccupied tombs in the Valley of the Kings and their owners remain unknown.
  • The most imposing tomb of this period is that of Amenhotep III, WV22 located in the West Valley.
  • The burial site of Tutankhamun is one of the most famous in the entire Valley of the Kings.
  • The tomb of Tutankhamun was one of the first royal tombs to be discovered that was still largely intact, even though robbers had already accessed it in the past.
  • The tomb of Horemheb is one of the most unique tombs in the Valley of the Kings exhibiting unique features compared to other tombs in the Valley, it is rarely open to the public.
  • The first ruler of the twentieth dynasty, Setnakhte, had two tombs constructed for himself.
  • The tomb of Ramesses III is one of the largest and most visited tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
  • The first unknown tomb since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb is dubbed KV 63; even though it has a sarcophagus, pottery, linens, flowers, and other materials it is unoccupied.

Sources and references: National Geographic, Wikipedia, Ancient Code.
Image Credit: National Geographic. Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

Ahmose-bust

Ahmose I

Ahmose I (Egyptian: Jˁḥ ms(j.w), sometimes written Amosis I, “Amenes” and “Aahmes” and meaning Born of Iah[5]) was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty. He was a member of the Theban royal house, the son of pharaoh Seqenenre Tao and brother of the last pharaoh of the Seventeenth dynasty, King Kamose. During the reign of his father or grandfather, Thebes rebelled against the Hyksos, the rulers of Lower Egypt. When he was seven years old his father was killed,[6] and he was about ten when his brother died of unknown causes, after reigning only three years. Ahmose I assumed the throne after the death of his brother,[7] and upon coronation became known as Neb-Pehty-Re (The Lord of Strength is Re). The name Ahmose is a combination of the divine name ‘Ah’ (see Iah) and the combining form ‘-mose’.

Egypt’s 18th Dynasty that established the New Kingdom is, to most people interested in Egypt, a dynasty of stars. It is the dynasty of Tutankhamun who was a fairly minor king, but perhaps the best known of any of the pharaohs. It was also the dynasty of the well known Akhenaten, and of Queen Hatshepsut.

The founder of this Dynasty is less well known to the general public, but unquestionably of major importance to Egyptian history. He was Ahmose I, during who’s reign Egypt was finally and completely liberated from the Hyksos. Various scholars attribute different dates to his reign, but he probably became ruler of Egypt around 1550 BC at the age of 10, and ruled for a period of around 25 years before his death (examination of his well preserved mummy suggest he was about 35 when he died).

Ahmose I (Amosis to the Greeks) was given the birth name Ah-mose (The Moon is Born). His thrown name was Neb-pehty-re (The Lord of Strength is Re). He was probably a boy when he assumed the thrown, having lost his father Seqenenre Taa II and his brother Kahmose within three years of each other. His mother was Queen Ashotep, a powerful woman who was perhaps his co-regent during his early years.

Egyptologists believe that during his very early reign, little was probably accomplished and perhaps the Hyksos may have even gained some ground, recapturing Heliopolis. However, by the end of his first decade in power, we know from an Autobiography of Ahmose, son of Ibana, a naval officer from El-Kab, that he laid siege on Avaris (The tomb of Ahmose Pennekheb, another soldier also records the campaigns). This was a long battle interrupted by the need to put down insurrections in already liberated territories, but appears to have been successful sometime between his 12th and 15th year as ruler. Afterwards, he attacked the southwest Palestinian fortress of Sharuhen in a six year siege that would finally put an end to Hyksos control of Egypt.

Stele of Ahmose I – Egyptian_Museum

Next, he turned his attention to Nubia (Kush) and, while Kamose (his predecessor) may have gained some ground prior to his death, Ahmose I pushed the boundaries south to the Second Cataract. Here, he established a new civil administration at Buhen probably initially headed by a Viceroy named Djehuty.

Apparently, while Ahmose I was in Nubia, former Hyksos allies again attempted a few uprising in the north lead by an arch enemy of Kamose named Teti-en. In this instance, Ahmose I’s mother, Ahhotpe, was probably responsible for putting down the rebellion and for this she was awarded the gold flies, an award for valor that was found on her mummy in her intact tomb at Thebes.

After Ahmose I’s campaigns in Nubia, he once again returned to Palestine during his 22nd year in power and may have fought his way as for as the Euphrates, according to information on a stela of Tuthmosis I.

Ahmose I married his sister, Ahmose-Nefertiri, who became Egypt’s first great God’s Wife of Amun, and had a number of children including:

  • Merytamun – eldest daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Tair – daughter of Kasmut
  • Satamun – 2nd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Sapair – eldest son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died young)
  • Saamen – 2nd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (died infant)
  • Aahotep – 3rd daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (Queen)
  • Amenhotep I – 3rd son of Ahmose-Nefertari (King)
  • Satkames – 4th daughter of Ahmose-Nefertari (died aged 30)
  • Henttameh- daughter of Thenthapi
  • Ahmose – daughter

We also know from Ahmose, son of Ibana that he supported his reign and rewarded local princes who had supported the Theban cause during the Second Intermediate Period by gifts of land (as recorded in Ahmose, son of Ibana’s tomb at el-Kab). We also know that he initiated some temple building projects, notably at Abydos. However, though we know he reopened the Tura limestone quarries, little survives of his construction apart form a few additions to the temples of Amun and Montu at Karnak. However, a recent Dutch-Egyptian team of archaeologists believe they may have unearthed the remains of Ahmose’s palace in the Al-Dabaa area in the Sharqiya Governorate of Egypt, a location that was probably the ancient Hyksos capital.

He was buried in the Dra Abu el-Naga area, but his tomb has yet to be found. His actual mummy was found in the Deir el-Bahari cache. He did have a cenotaph at South Abydos, consisting of a cliff temple and a pyramid and temple on the edge of the Nile valley. The pyramid which measures about 70 meters square is the last known royal example built in Egypt. Some battle scene decorations within the pyramid may have depicted his wars with the Hyksos. In these scenes are some of the earliest representation of horses in Egypt.

hatchepsut

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut – Foremost of Noble Ladies. Hatshepsut was born in the 18th Dynasty. This Dynasty is also referred to as the New Kingdom. Hatshepsut entered this world as the daughter of royal parents. Her father was Tuthmosis I and ruled Egypt for approximately 12 to 14 years. Her mother was Ahmes. Ahmes was the sister of Amenophris I (Pharaoh who ruled Egypt for 21 years). In addition to Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis I and Ahmes had a son. They named him Anenemes. By birthright, Anenemes should have inherited the throne as the son of Tuthmosis I and Ahmes; however, he never became king.

Hatshepsut, on the other hand, went on to rule Egypt in later years for approximately 21 years. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt between 1479-1458/57. She ruled in a time when women were allowed to own property and to hold official positions. They were given rights to inherit from deceased family members and were allowed to present their cases in court. Women of Ancient Egypt had more freedom than other ancient cultures such as Greece where women were expected to stay home.

Hatshepsut Bust. Image: Dailymail

After the death of Hatshepsut’s father (Tuthmose I), her half-brother (Tuthmose II) succeeded the throne. As it was customary in royal families, the oldest daughter of the pharaoh would marry a brother to keep the royal bloodlines intact. Therefore, Hatshepsut married her half-brother. Tuthmose II was the son of one of her father’s lesser wives (Mutnofret); however, his reign would be short and his life short-lived. It may have been that Tuthmose II died of an illness and thus held the throne only for 14 years.

During their marriage, Hatshepsut and Tuthmose II were not able to produce a male heir but rather had a daughter whom they named Neferure. In later years, it appears that Neferure may have been married to her half-brother (Tuthmose III); much like her mother had married a half-brother in previous years. Tuthmose III was the son of Tuthmose II (Hatshepsut’s husband) and one of his royal concubines named Isis. This bloodline made Tuthmose III a stepson to Hatshepsut. Because Tuthmose III was very young when his father died, Hatshepsut became a co-regent and ruled right alongside the young stepson. It appears that within the second or third year of this co-regency reign, Hatshepsut proclaimed herself king with complete titles. She would be known as Maatkare (Matt is the ka of Ra) and also Khnemet-Amun-Hatshepsut (She who embraces Amun, the foremost of women). After this proclamation, Tuthmosis III would no longer reign as co-regent with Hatshepsut. In order to make Hatshepsut’s proclamation to king more official and more accepting to the Egyptian citizens, she invented a co-regency with her father Tuthmosis I. She even went as far as incorporating this fabricated co-regency into texts and representations. These were found decorating her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. In addition, and also to make things still more official, Hatshepsut dedicated a chapel to her father in her mortuary temple. She hoped to acquire more acceptance as the new ruler of Egypt by changing the beliefs of her people.

Hatshepsut was a very unique and intelligent individual. She used various strategies to legitimize her position as pharaoh. Not only did she proclaim herself as pharaoh and fabricate a co-regency with her father (Tuthmose I), but she also tried to make herself more god-like by the invention of stories with the attachment to gods. She did this by making it appear as if the gods had spoken to her and her mother while in she was still in her mother’s womb. Hatshepsut misled her subjects and the uneducated public by indicating that Amon-Ra had visited her pregnant mother at the temple in Deir el-Bahri in the Valley of the Kings.

Hatshepsut was unique because she took on several male adornments while she ruled Egypt. Unlike most women of that time, she attached a false beard, wore male clothing, and was depicted in statutes as a pharaoh. She might have done this to make her transition to kingship and the acceptance of the priesthood more convincing. It may be that if she had ruled strictly with a more feminine-looking disposition she may not have been so readily accepted by the masses. Her strategy seemed to work and the priests supported her reign as pharaoh.

There were many prominent figures during her reign but there appears to be one person in particular who was probably foremost in her circle. This prominent person was Senenmut who was born of a humble family in Armant. He came to be known as Hatshepsut’s spokesman and steward of the royal family. In addition, he was known as superintendent of the buildings of the God Amun. During the later years, Hatshepsut had obelisks installed in the Temple of Amon-Re at Karnak. Senenmut supervised the transport and erection of these obelisks as well as the mortuary temple that was built for Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. 

It appears that he must have been very well favored by the Queen as he had a separate tomb constructed close to Hatshepsut’s tomb for himself. He had this second tomb dugout in front of Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb in spite of owning another tomb at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. During Hatshepsut’s reign, gossip followed the pair as it was suggested that his good fortune was due as a result of his intimate relations with the Queen. To add to this deduction, it was further fueled by the fact that he played a heavy role in the education of Hatshepsut’s only daughter Neferure. His brother, Senimen, also acted as nurse and steward to Neferure and this caused more gossip to run rampant. Several statues were found associating Senenmut with the Princess Neferure. History shows that Senenmut was a prominent figure during three-fourths of Hatshepsut’s reign and possibly after the death of Neferure (it appears that she died around the 11th year of Hatshepsut’s reign), that he fell out of graces with the queen for unknown reasons. Speculation has it that he may have had some kind of alliance with Tuthmosis III (Hatshepsut’s stepson) and this could have led to the demise of their relationship.

History also shows that the construction of the famous temple of Deir el-Bahri was most probably started by Tuthmose II and later finished by Queen Hatshepsut. The walls of the temple depict major achievements such as the expedition to Punt near the Red Sea. This trading expedition brought back many riches for the country.

To this day, the death of Hatshepsut remains a mystery. It appears that she reigned for fifteen years and her stepson took the throne after her disappearance. It’s also believed that the hatred for his stepmother pushed him to erase the memory, existence, and any depictions of Queen Hatshepsut by destroying any monuments erected during her reign. Although her temple still stands, neither her tomb nor her mummy has ever been found. She has now come to be known as having been the only female pharaoh to erect the most monuments during her reign.