10 Larger Than Life Facts About the Valley of the Queens
10 Larger Than Life Facts About the Valley of the Queens

10 Larger Than Life Facts About the Valley of the Queens

Jennifer Conerly - May 3, 2018

10 Larger Than Life Facts About the Valley of the Queens
Inscriptions on a church in Old Cairo, Egypt, with both Arabic and Coptic script. Photographed in April 2005. Wikipedia.

Rulers of Egypt still used the Valley of the Queens after the fall of the New Kingdom

For over two-thirds of his thirty-year reign, Ramses III fought invasions by the Sea Peoples and the Libyans, which drained the royal treasury. Crop failure increased grain prices, weakening the country’s ability to feed its people. The tomb workers at the Valley of the Queens went on strike, refusing to continue construction over non-payment and supply delays, in what was the first recorded worker’s strike in history. After the death of Ramses III, political instability worsened the crippled economy as Ramses’ heirs fought each other for influence, and his heirs struggled to maintain control of the country for most of the next century.

Ramses’ heirs used the Valley of the Queens for royal burials until the reign of Ramses VI from the mid-to-late twelfth century BCE. Tensions between workers and the state continued for more than fifty years, with documented disputes in the reigns of Ramses IX and X in the late twelfth century BCE. Tomb robberies increased throughout the economic decline of the Twentieth Dynasty with the help of corrupt royal officials who enriched themselves and the declining royal treasury until all of the tombs in the Valley of the Queens were emptied out.

The last New Kingdom pharaoh, Ramses XI, completely lost control over the country, with the elite priests the High Priests of Amun conquering Upper Egypt, ending the New Kingdom period. The rulers of the Third Intermediate Period no longer reserved the Valley of the Queens for royalty or the elite, enlarging the tombs to make room for the extra bodies by opening them up and digging new burial shafts. There was a resurgence of burials at the site during the Roman period until the fourth century.

After the Roman period, the Christian Copts used the Valley of the Queens as a religious settlement until the seventh century. They inhabited some of the tombs, including those of two of Ramses II’s daughter-wives, Nebettawy and Henuttawy; the Christians ruined some of the tombs by burning them down and plastering over many of the wall paintings, replacing them with Christian symbols and art. The Copts occupied the Valley of the Queens until the seventh century until the Arab conquest of Egypt.

10 Larger Than Life Facts About the Valley of the Queens
Ernesto Schiaparelli, one of the initial excavators of the Valley of the Queens. Unknown photographer, before 1928. Wikipedia.

The site has fascinated archaeologists since the early 19th century

Robert Hay, one of the earliest Egyptologists, first visited Egypt in 1818 when he was serving in the Royal Navy. Six years later, Hay hired an artist, Joseph Bonomi, to return to Egypt with him on an exploration project. On two separate trips, the two men spent the majority of the next ten years traveling the country, recording Egypt’s great monuments and collecting artifacts. Their notes, drawings, and artifacts are now located in the British Library and the British Museum in London and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

In 1826, Hay and his associate first recorded the location of the Valley of the Queens west of the former capital city of Thebes. Despite the early discovery, the site remained unexplored until the early twentieth century. In 1903, Ernesto Schiaparelli and his assistant, Francesco Ballerini, led two separate excavation campaigns, uncovering some of the most famous tombs at the site, including those of Ramses III’s sons Amun-her-khepeshef and Khaemwaset. Schiaparelli himself is credited with the discovery of Queen Nefertari’s tomb.

Over one hundred tombs have been uncovered in the Valley of the Queens since Schiaparelli and Ballerini’s initial excavations in the early twentieth century. Artifacts recovered from the site can be found in museums all over the world. As further explorations followed, the unsophisticated nature of early to mid-twentieth-century archaeology permanently damaged the site. After the middle of the twentieth century, as methods began to improve, more attention was paid to the rapidly deteriorating tombs which had been exposed to the elements for decades.

Beginning in 1970, the Louvre Museum, the Centre d’Etudes et Documentation sur l’Ancienne Egypte (CEDAE) of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, and the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) of Paris began annual excavations of the site. Archaeologists and Egyptologists cleaned the debris that had been collected from earlier excavations and gathered information from all of the discovered tombs. Their efforts have helped preserve the Valley of the Queens for further study, and these yearly studies were responsible for gathering much of the information now available on New Kingdom society burial practices as well as the royals and elite who were buried there.


Continue Reading:

The Washington Post – Mystery of Ancient Egyptian Legs Likely Solved: They’re Queen Nefertari’s Knees

SCI News – Mummified Remains Identified as Queen Nefertari, Pharaoh Ramesses II’s Royal Spouse

Smithsonian Magazine – CT Scan Shows Pharoah Ramesses III Was Murdered by Multiple Assassins