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Brief History of the Valley of the Kings

King's Valley - The Valleys - The Places

The Valley began its use in the 18th Dynasty and during this time only Pharaohs were buried here in large Tombs, other burials, usually those of Nobles, would be in small rock cut Chambers close to their Pharaoh.

The break that happened with the Amarna Period was subject only to the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten as we are all well aware that his son, Pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried in the Valley.

During the 19th and 20th Dynasties saw almost continuous excavation for burials of Pharaohs, their sons and Royal Families, although a few Pharaohs elected to be buried elsewhere: Pharaoh Tuthmose II and Pharaoh Ramses VIII as two examples.

To understand the process for excavating and decorating the Tombs of the Pharaohs, click here to visit the Artisans in Pa Demi.

The Valley stopped being used in at the end of the 20th Dynasty.

During the Roman Period the Valley had become a place of tourism including over 2,000 Latin, Lycian, Coptic, Phoenician, Cypriot and Greek Graffiti with the earliest dating to around 278BC.

The Valley was mapped for the first time by Napoleon’s expedition in 1799, and it was then further explored and plundered by mainly European “Explorers” in the 1800s. These explorers included:

  • French Consul General Bernardino Drovetti
  • Giovanni Belzoni on behalf of British Consul General Henry Salt


John Wilkinson began a trend of deciphering the hieroglyphics and it is from him that we have the numbering system still in use today in the Valley. In the latter part of the century this influence increased and moved on to preserving the Tombs rather than plundering them. The names that should be remembered for this are:

  • Georges Daressy
  • Auguste Mariette
  • Gaston Maspero
  • Howard Carter
  • Eugene Lefebure
  • Theodore Davis
  • Jules Baillet
  • Edward Ayrton
  • Georges Benedite

The earliest Tombs could be found in the cliffs inside the Hills which were hidden during storms by waterfalls and after the storms by the debris those storms had deposited there. Obviously, there was only so much space within the Hills, so the Tombs gradually descended to the Valley’s floor.

During the 21st Dynasty the Valley began to decline; this was in part to the partial split which occurred in the governance of Egypt between the Pharaohs in Tanis and the Priests of Amun in Thebes. To learn more about the Pharaohs in Tanis, click here. To understand how the Priesthood of Amun who became the Pharaohs of Upper Egypt during this period, click here and scroll down to the “Third Intermediate Period”

At this juncture many of the Tombs had already been plundered, most of which had been state sanctioned. At first it appears as though the de facto rulers of Thebes may wish to continue the “Royal” burial tradition in the Theban Hills as the High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem I looked to be buried in the King’s Valley himself. We know this due to his addition of his Cartouche to Tomb KV4, the last Tomb excavated and was due for the internment of Pharaoh Ramses XI but he was never buried here.

The Priests on seeing the further plundering of the Valley decided to protect the fragile Mummies of the Royals and moved the majority of them into holding Tombs before moving them on to Tomb TT320 near Deir el Bahri, now more commonly known as the Royal Mummy Cache. To discover these Royal Mummies and their story, click here

As with the Valley of the Queens many of the Tombs were later reused in the Coptic Period as stables, homes and Churches with much fire damage and chipping away of the deities being carried out by this religious group.


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