The West Bank: Pharaoh Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple, Valley of the Kings, and Valley of the Monkeys
Luxor Travel Blog› entry 15 of 30 › view all entries
October 7th, 2003 – by: genkeeper
If you are on the East Bank for a sunrise, look across the Nile to the West Bank - there in the distance will be a sparkling light nestled against the imposing desert cliffs. That shimmering, dancing light is Deir el-Bahari. The polished white limestone catches the sun's rays and reflects them with a blinding brillance. On the flip side, unless you are there during the dead of winter (i.e. after December), Deir el-Bahari usually gets roasting hot after 8:30 am. So, it's HIGHLY ADVISED to go here first. Plus, if you can arrive right when the site opens at 6 am, you often can have a few moments of peace before the throngs of tourists arrive.
The architect of Hatshepsut's mortuary temple was her lover (still a bit of an archaeological question mark), Senmut, who also doubled as a top-notched architect. The southern wing of the temple depicts the transportation of the Pharaoh's obelisk over water to Karnak. There is also depiction of the famous expedition to Punt. Hatshepsut, who portrayed herself in statues and on temples as male, found a way to get around the tiny technicality that the Pharaoh is the god Horus on earth, thus making the Pharaoh divine and a god-king. You can't be Horus on earth if you are a woman.
Next to Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple at Deir el-Bahari is the mortuary temple of Nebhotepre Montuhotep II. He was the 5th Pharaoh of the 11th Dynasty and it is thanks to him that we have the Middle Kingdom. At the end of the Old Kingdom, Egypt fragmented into what in essence were city states and many years of fighting ensued, termed the First Intermediate Period. Then Montuhotep was born, became ruler of Upper Egypt, re-unified all of Egypt (by smitting all the Egyptian warlords until they couldn’t so much as raise a pinky), and Egypt went back to being a happy little kingdom with intrigue, assassinations, flooding of the Nile and plans of world domination.
Interestingly, a mass grave was uncovered at Deir el-Bahari containing the remains of 60 Egyptian Soldiers who were probably casualties of Montuhotep’s extensive campaign into Nubia. So our little rebel, who worshiped the Theban god of war, built a very unusual mortuary temple that fit nowhere into Egyptian architectural history, then buried himself in it, and finally had 60 of his favorite war buddies who took one for the team in Nubia buried in his front lawn.
The Valley of the Kings: Where Many Of The New Kingdom Big Boys Have Their Posh AfterLife Flats
Get to The Valley of the Kings as soon as you can (but don't short shrift Deir el-Bahari in the process). The Valley gets packed pretty quickly with naive tourists all bustling in to look at the "freak show" and not to enjoy and honor these great kings. Valley officials rotate which tombs are open, so you may not see the exact ones I did, but no matter what you will be awed. Remember to take time to honor and appreciate these great men and women for it is a real privilege to get such an intimate glympse into their world. The Ancient Egyptians spent their lives preparing for their death and these New Kingdom tombs of Pharaohs, just like the Pyramids of Giza, show the length one powerful individual will go to to MAKE SURE (with amazingly elaborate back up plans) that no matter what they would make it to the out-of-this-world afterlife.
Tuthmosis III (KV34): Tuthmosis III was the 6th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. He was a brilliant military ruler, creating the largest empire in Egyptian history. He completed over 17 campaigns, conquered Niy in North Syria all the way down to the fourth waterfall of the Nile in Nubia. Once he established his empire, Tuthmosis III went on a building frenzy building tons of structures, monuments and temples all throughout Egypt. His tomb in the Valley of the Kings is located at the very back of the Valley. You have to climb up a steep ladder that goes up the side of the cliff face to reach the entrance to the tomb.
Seti II (KV15): Seti II’s throne name, Userkheperure Setepenre, means “Powerful are the Manifestations of Re, Chosen by Re.” He was the son of Merneptah (successor of Ramesses II) and his reign was known for many serious plots to overthrow him. His reign only lasted 6 years. Seti II’s tomb is the only time that the reliefs were carved directly into the rock walls of the tomb. In all other Egyptian tombs the walls were covered in plaster and then the reliefs were carved into that.
Tausert/Setnakht (KV 14): Tausert was the wife of Seti II and after Seti II’s successor Siptah died she took over as Pharaoh.
Ramesses III (KV 11): Ramesses III’s tomb has an unusual architectural feature - 10 small side-chambers opening off of the first two corridors. These rooms contain scenes of daily life, plowing, sowing, sailing, etc., and aren’t found in other royal tombs. The corridor contains the Litany of Re. You can also see where the builders inadvertently broke into another tomb.
Merneptah (KV 8): Merneptah had the unfortunate luck of being the son of a very long living Ramesses II.
Tutankhamun (KV 62): Tutankhamun is the most famous of all the Egyptian Pharaohs and at the same time the least important. All he did during his very unimportant and unimpressive reign, was die and then not get robbed (because his tomb was so small and inconsequential that is was used for decades as a dump site for archaeologists, and tomb robbers didn’t even deem it worthy to venture in). If Mr. Unimportant was buried with ALL of that gold and cool stuff, just think about what the great Pharaohs of Egypt were interred with!! When you visit Tutankhamun’s tomb one can really see how much of an after thought he was.
Tuthmosis IV (KV43): Tuthmosis IV’s tomb is one of the largest and deepest tombs constructed during the 18th Dynasty. There is an enormous sarcophagus covered in hieroglyphics. Several depictions of deities presenting the Pharaoh with the key of life.
Ramesses VII (KV1): Ramesses VII’s tomb was the first discovered in the Valley of the Kings. The walls are decorated with passages from the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, the Book of the Earth, Opening of the Mouth Ritual, and the deceased with deities.
Ramesses IX (KV 6): Ramesses IX’s throne name, Neferkare Setepenre, means “Beautiful Is The Soul of Re, Chosen of Re.” It is one of my favorite throne names. The walls of Ramesses IX’s tomb are decorated with excerpts from the Book of the Dead (including the Negative Confession), the Book of Caverns, the Litany of Re, the Book of What is in the Duat, the Book of Day and Night, the Opening of the Mouth Ritual, and the deceased with deities.
Montuhirkhopshef (KV19): He was a son of Ramesses IX, but not his successor. The tomb is okay, but not very extensive, or interesting. In one dark sideroom there was a bunch of bones and a mummy with its dried guts hanging out.
Siptah (KV 47): In Siptah’s tomb there are scenes from the Litany of Re and the Book of What is in the Duat. Siptah’s mummy was found in Amenhotep III’s tomb and it clearly shows that Pharaoh’s left leg to be shorter than his right, his left foot is severely deformed probably due to cerebral palsy.
The Valley of the Monkeys: Traveling Back in Time To an Undiscovered Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Monkeys branches off from the Valley of the Kings just passed the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, on the right hand side. It is a good 2 km trek from the Valley of the Kings to the heart of the Valley of the Monkeys, where you can go inside the tomb of Ay. The Valley of the Monkeys is undeveloped with just a few archaeological digs and surveys being conducted. With few tombs to see, few tourists go here; one can get a moment of peace and solitude while in the Valley. You can feel what it would have been like hundreds of years ago in the Valley of the Kings, before the Valley was excavated. There are still dozens of tombs to be uncovered in the Valley of the Monkeys (Amenhotep III’s tomb is currently being excavated, and I’m betting that they may just find Akhenaten here or atleast a tomb he used for symbolic puposes), and it can be very powerful to spend a few moments here wandering through the cliffs and rolling mounds of sandstone fragments and sand just feeling how the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Monkeys was intended to be - a burial place and sacred location for the Great New Kingdom Pharaohs.
Tomb of Ay: Ay ruled after Tutankhamun, and may have “helped” him along to the afterlife (there currently isn’t much rock solid evidence for this, though). Interestingly, Ay’s tomb has very similar wall paintings as Tutankhamun’s tomb, Ay’s tomb is just larger, of higher quality and completely finished. His tomb also contains the famous Baboon scene. It is thought that this tomb may have been originally intended for Tutankhamun, Ay offed him, took his tomb, and threw him in a hasty, crappily constructed tomb. He may have needed to properly inter Tutankhamun to legitimatize his rule, hence the tomb and the goodies Tutankhamun was buried with.
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