Monday, March 24, 2008

Top 10 Travel Wonders of Africa

Top 10 Travel Wonders of Africa

[Click on the heading / image of each wonder to read the full article]

1. Pyramids of Egypt

Pyramids of Egypt one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaPyramids of Giza one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

Architecturally speaking pyramids are three dimensional polyhedron structures with four sides tapering upper part and broad base. In Egypt (Pyramids are found in many other countries like China, American continent, France and Sudan etc. Pyramids found in one locality differ from those of the other.

2. Serengeti Migration

serengeti national park migration one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaSerengeti national park migration one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

This mega migration of more than two million wildbeasts, buffaloes, zebras etc; as a united force proceeding to the Northern plains (Masai Mara Conservation Area) which is located hundreds of kilometers away. They are unmindful of the national barriers. This phenomenon has always attracted the curiosity of the scientists as well as common people.

3. Ngorongoro Crater

ngorongoro crater one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaNgorongoro crater one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

Ngorongoro is often described as the world’s largest volcanic crater; it is in fact it the world’s largest unbroken and unflooded volcanic ‘caldera’. It was formed 3 million years back when a giant volcano of about 19,000 meters in height collapsed as the magma beneath it exploded.

4. Victoria Falls

victoria falls one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaVictoria falls one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

The River Zambezi flowing quiet through the vast plains of Africa all on a sudden trips as such in to a 360 feet deep gorge making a water curtain that is 5577 feet (1700 meters) wide, the largest water curtain in the world. The local people call it ‘Mosi oa Tunya’; the thundering smoke!

5. Karnak Temple

karnak temple one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaKarnak temple one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

The Karnak Temple is located on the eastern banks of River Nile near Luxor (old name Thebes) in Egypt. It was the spiritual center of the whole Egyptians from the Pharaoh Kings to common people. Ancient Egyptians called it Ipet Isut (the sacred place); a village by name El Karnak is there about 2.5 km north of Luxor; and that name came to be associated with the temple also.

6. Nile River

Nile river one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaNile river one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

The Greeks Called at ‘neilos’ meaning valley. Ancient Africans called it ‘aur’, ‘iteru’ etc meaning black (the rich sediments made the river black). For Egyptians River Nile was their Holy ‘God Hapi’ visible to their eyes, they called the Nile valley as Black-Land and the rest of Africa as Red-Land; because the rich sediments made its basins black and fertile.

7. Egyptian Museum

Egyptian museum one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaEgyptian museum one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

The Egyptian Museum was established in 1835 by the initiative of Ismail Pasha; the architect of modern Cairo. At first it was opened with the collections received from Augusto Mariette a French archaeologist engaged by Ismail Pasha. Its first location was at Azbakia Gardens at the Center of Cairo. It was then moved to Bulaq a nearby place in 1858.

8.Valley of the Kings

valley of the kings one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaValley of the kings one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

The Valley of Kings was exclusive for the Pharaoh Kings and the tombs were made by digging the side of hill beneath the Al Qurn; building a good entrance and cutting long stairways that lead to the crypt where the body is placed. The Al Qurn Peak which oversees both of the valleys is shaped like a pyramid; reason for selecting it as the site, it isolated position offered better safety to the tombs. The location was carefully selected by checking the condition of the soil.

9. Abu Simbel Temple

abu simbel temple one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaAbu simbel temple one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

The twin rock temple is also famous for historical relocation from its former position between two rock cliffs and the river (under threat of submergence); to the present site which involved tremendous efforts, technology and resources, a relocation of such a massive structure was so far unheard of in history.

10. Sahara Desert

sahara desert one of the top ten travel wonders of AfricaSahara desert one of the top ten travel wonders of Africa

The largest desert in the world that occupies half the area of the Great African Continent, in area it equals the US and larger than continent of Australia. In fact size is not the only thing that makes Sahara a great place in the world. Its richness in history and culture defeats any other places on earth whether fertile or desert. Numerous cultures and ancient cities flourished in these desert areas. It had been the cradle where human beings got evolved from humanoids to hunters and gatherers before becoming farmers.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Explorers of Ancient Egypt

Archaeologists of ancient monuments of Egypt

These are names of those explorers; who toiled hard in the arid desert; to cast some light in to a bygone era. There may be some omissions; contributions from readers are most welcome.

Behind the discoveries of ancient tombs, palaces, temples and other monuments that lie scattered in the various sites of Egypt; numerous archaeologist have shed a lot of sweat; there are cases of working several years to bring out s single monument that was lying covered with mud and debris. There was no master plan to lead them; at times years of labor produced no fruits. The following list is just some of the names and available details about them; names in alphabetical order.

Auguste Mariette

Auguste Mariette

Mariette was a French scholar/explorer of the 19th century; who worked for Ismail Pasha the Egyptian Premiere at that time. It was Mariette who excavated the Kaffre’s Pyramid at Giza (during 1853 -58). Later in the fag end of his carrier he got in to the Pyramid of Pepi I and collected many valuable items. The inscription of funeral texts on the wall of the tomb he discovered was a very valuable guide to the archaeologists. His greatest contribution is that he could convince the necessity of a Government Museum for the preservation for the valuable monuments that was being looted and vandalized. This idea of his gave birth to Egyptian Museum.

Donald P Ryan


American archaeologist, researcher in history of archaeology, worked in KV 27, 28, 44 etc of the Valley of Kings. It was Ryan who identified the mummy found in KV 60 as that of the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut.

Karl Richard Lepsius

Carl Richard Lepsius

He led a team appointed by Frederick IV the Prussian king. He had worked about 10 years on Egyptian and Ethiopian monuments between 1849 and 59. Excavation of the Step Pyramid of Djoser and the Temple of AmenehetIII at Hawara; those works were done in rather haste and left incomplete; the details are in a book published in ‘Monuments of Egypt and Ehtiopia’.

Victor Loret (Victor Georges Philippe Loret); he was head of Egyptian Antiquities

Victor Georges Philippe Loret

Service in 1896; discovered the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35); other discoveries in Valley of Kings are KV 32, 33, 36, 40, 41 and 42.

William Mathew Flinders Petrie

William Petrie

Sir William Petrie is known as the ‘Father of Egyptian Archaeology’ as much of the renowned archaeologists were trained by him; he had done extensive works on Egyptian monuments in Giza (1881), Sneferu’s Temple and Pyramid, Pyramid of Amenehet III at Hawara etc.

Edwin C Brock

Edwin C Brock

American Egyptologist/explorer; participated in the Theban Mapping Project; associated with the works on KV 1, tomb of Mereptah (KV 8) and tomb of Amanmesses (KV 10)

Edward Ayrton

william edward ayrton

Edward Ayrton; an English archaeologist and Egyptologist; was former assistant to Flinders Petrie. Ayrton is one of the most famous explorers in the Valley of Kings findings KV 47, 55, 56, 57 etc are his own discoveries more over he has led many explorations to the discoveries of a number of tombs in the valley.

James Bruce (1730 -94)

James Bruce

Scottish traveler, explorer, travel writer; graduate from Edinburgh University; reached in the Valley of Kings as a part of his extensive tour. It was he who for the first time made the tomb (KV 11) public (it was excavated and vandalized far before); hence this tomb is called Bruce tomb! He was the first European to reach in Lake Tana the source of Blue Nile; his travelogues are most appreciated.

Harry Burton (1879 1940)

burton and carter

English archeologist/photographer; accompanied the Tutankhamun Exploration Team of Howard Carter; stayed there for years taking photographs of the entire works. He led the team excavating KV 3.

John Romer

John Romer

English Egyptologist/ archaeologist/ historian; born in 1941, a TV presenter, he began his career in 1966 participating in University of Chicago’s project of survey of Egyptian sites in Thebes. He led the team that excavated KV 4 of the Valley of Kings.

Kent R Weeks

Kent R Weeks

American Anthropologist; born in 1941; in 1963 was active in digging the Nubian Sites and relocation of the Twin Temple of Abu Simbel; introduced hot air ballooning methods for cheap aerial survey of the sites. The discoveries he made in KV 5 of the Valley of Kings was the project that showed his perseverance which took about five years hard work.

Harold Jones

He was an American explorer; said to be Jew; discovered KV 58 and 61 in 1910 from the Valley of Kings.

Henry Salt (1780 1827)

Henry Salt

British artist, diplomat, traveler, archaeologist explorer etc, explored the Red Sea in 1805; posted as the British Consul General in 1815, he utilized this time in exploration and collection of maximum number of artifacts (including even the head of Ramesses II) and sending it to the Museum of London! His major discovery was KV 6 in the Valley of Kings.

Howard Carter (1874 - 1939)

Howard Carter

English archaeologist/Egyptologist; born in London childhood spent in Norfolk; began studying ancient inscriptions and paintings of Egypt; taken part in the excavation work of the grave of Beni Hassan, Princess of the Midddle East during 2000 BC. Later he joined William Petrie’s team. He is famous for his great discovery; KV 62 in the Valley of Kings, the tomb of Tutankhamun the ‘Golden King’.

James Burton (1788 – 1862)

James Burton

British Egyptologist, was invited by Pasha Mohammed Ali for mineralogical research; later left the job and entered in to exploration; spent several months in Abu Simbel sites; partly explored KV5; main discovery KV 9 of the Valley of the Kings.

Daressey Georges Emile Jules (1864 -1938)

A French Egyptologist who worked for Egyptian Museum during 1887; has supervised the works of shifting venue of the museum from Bulaq to Tahrir (the present site); had done extensive works in Karnak Temple site Abydos, Malkata, Valley of the Kings Luxor etc. He led the team that discovered the tomb KV 6.

Belzoni, Geovanni Battista (1778 – 1823) (Belzoni the Great)!


Born in Padua Italy to parents hailing from Rome; at 16 he went to Rome to lead a career as a hydrologist; left from Rome to Netherlands; in1803 proceeded to England; worked as a stuntman at London; married an English woman. Invented a hydraulic machine to lift water; proceeded to Egypt to meet Henry Salt for help in marketing the machine; but joined exploration team led by Henry Salt. His well built body with 7 feet height and super skill in acrobatics was useful in exploration.

There is seldom any site where he had not exhibited his usefulness. He gained the surname as Great Belzoni among the team. Lifted the Ramesses statue and brought it to England. Abu Simbel, Karnak, Seti (it is Belzoni who opened the sepulcher), Edfu, Philae all these sites have his finger marks. He has also worked in the Valley of Kings; tomb number KV 16 was excavated by him. He died while traveling to Timbuktu due an attack of dysentery. .

Sakuji Yoshimura

Sakuji Yoshimura is a Japanese Egyptologist (a rare breed among Japanese); director of Waseda Institute University Research Institute for Science and Engineering’s Egyptology Wing. He had stayed in Egypt for more than 25 years and done extensive works on surveying of Memphis Necropolis for preservation of the monuments. It was he found the tomb of King Khufu (known as Cheops) a deified king.

Hatwig Atten Muller

Born in Wurttemberg Germany in 1937; was professor of archaeology in Hamburg University; worked in Saqqara between 69 82. He was also associated with works on KV 13, 14 and 47 of the Valley of Kings.

James E Quibell, 1867 – 1935)

james e quibell

Educated in Christ Church Oxford; was posted as Inspector of Staff of Antiquities Department at Egyptian Museum. Done exploration in the Valley of Kings; discovered KV 46 (tomb of Yuya and his wife Tjuyu parents of Tiya wife of Amenhotep.

Otto J Schaden

Otto J Schaden

American Egyptologist; currently working at excavation related to KV 10 (tomb of Amenmesse); associated with the works of WV 23, WV 24, WV 25 of the Western portion of the Valley of Kings.

Theodore M Davis (1837 – 1915)

He was an American lawyer who happened to get associated with the explorations; some of the most famous discoveries have been made by him like KV 46 tomb of wife of Tjyu, KV 57 tomb of Horemheb (the military chief of Tutankhamun), KV 54 and KV 62 (that of Tutankhamun but did not excavate it fully.

The list of archaeologists associated works can never be fully covered in an article; hence omissions may kindly be brought to notice. we'll be pleased to add them to the Explorers of Ancient Egypt.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Egyptian Museum Cairo Egypt

Egyptian Museum (Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) Cairo Egypt

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

The essence of all under one roof

The word Egypt creates a mosaic of images in a reader’s mind consisting of the gigantic pyramids guarded by fearsome Sphinx; never ending sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, the great River Nile and numerous monuments standing on its banks bathed in the desert sun; etc all grand and impressive. When all these monuments get stored beneath one roof what can that place be called? Well we can call it The Egyptian Museum! Because it contains at least even a fragment from every monument found in Egypt. There may be no Pharaoh who had not left at least a trace of his belongings to this museum; whether it is Queen Hatshepsut, Akhenaton, Thutmose, Ramesses of any number; all are represented.

A child of Ismail Pasha

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

The Egyptian Museum was established in 1835 by the initiative of Ismail Pasha; the architect of modern Cairo. At first it was opened with the collections received from Augusto Mariette a French archaeologist engaged by Ismail Pasha. Its first location was at Azbakia Gardens at the Center of Cairo. It was then moved to Bulaq a nearby place in 1858. Damages to the building due to flood in Nile necessitated a change and a building of its own came to being. The present museum built in 1902 was designed by a French architect Marcel Dournon. It is a huge neoclassic building built in 1902 and located in Midan el Thahrir, Cairo. It has two floors (ground floor and the upper floor).

Auguste Mariette

The idea of Egyptian Museum actually belongs to Auguste Mariette who could convince Ismail Pasha of the necessity of such a set up to protect the monuments from looting and vandalizing. Mariette was a French scholar/explorer of the 19th century who had contributed in enriching ancient Egyptian history. It was he who excavated the Khafre’s Pyramid at Giza in 1853 – 58. Later in 1881 he brought forth the Pyramid Texts carved on the walls of the tomb in Pyramid of Pepi I at Saqqarah.

No parallel

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

Egyptian Museum is the richest display center of Egyptian antiquities in the world that houses about 16,000 artifacts of which less than half is displayed on the shelves and the rest kept in the stores. Certain items are taken out from the store and displayed as ‘the articles of the month’. In 2002 at the time of the 2nd centenary of the new building very special items that were never exhibited were on display. Most of these materials were collected from various sites like ancient temples, royal tombs, pyramids, and various locations that lie scattered all around Egypt.

Texts of archaeologists

The museum has two floors Ground Floor of the museum has 42 rooms and the upper floor has 47. Antiquities belonged to 4th, to the 25th dynasties, royal and private relieves, paintings, figurines, those retrieved from Giza, remains from the Middle and New Kingdoms like large sculptures, sarcophagi, statues etc are displayed. Other artifacts of historical importance are coins, papyrus, pieces of pottery and various artifacts most of them belonging to the New Kingdom (between 1550 and 1070 BC).

Chronological settings

The artifacts are arranged in chronological order and a visitor can be a time traveler while seeing the artifacts as they are arranged. One who follows the order will finally reach the ground floor where there are items from Thutmose III, IV, Amenophis, Queen Hatshepsut, and Meherpren are stored after a travel that lasted 5000 years!

Egyptian museum image

1 the first section and most valuable is the treasures of Tutankhamun.

2. Monuments pertaining to the Pre-dynasty Old Kingdom.

3. Fist Intermediate and Middle Kingdom.

4. Monuments pertaining to the Modern Kingdom.

5. Monuments from the Greco- Roman Period.

6. Coins and papyrus collections.

7. Sarcophagi (stone coffins generally adorned with a sculpture) of royal members).

1. The treasures of Tutankhamun; the son of King Akhenaton and his second wife Kiye; wore the crown at the age of eight/nine and dead at the age of 18. He was buried in The Valley of Kings in tomb number KV 62 along with all the materials he used while living. These remains include a mask and chest plate made of solid gold (that itself weighed 24 pounds, more over the weapons, rare ornaments, instruments, decorated chest for ivory and ornaments, four chariots for war and ride, vases, flasks, and various items altogether 3500 in number. Admission to this hall requires costly ticket.

2. The section for Monuments of Old Kingdom; The Old Kingdom spans from 3rd to 6th dynasties. The monuments like statues, potteries spoons etc pertain to this period as well as those belonging prehistoric times. The Old Kingdom is also known as the Kingdom of Pyramids as Pyramids were constructed at this time.

3. Section for the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom,

This period following the Old Kingdom was a time of disunity for Egypt; it is believed that most of the tomb robberies were made in this period when River Nile shrunk and agriculture was reduced. This period was marked by less construction activities. The monuments include numerous statues including one big statue of Hotep, statue of a Hippo, numerous figurines, Pillar of Senusret with bas relief, funerary masks, ornaments one beautiful female brewer engaged in making beer etc.

4. Section for the Modern Kingdom,

These are very rich times and the articles stored are too many; prominent items are, statues of Akhenaton, Amenhotep, Queen Tiye (broken), Thutmosis, a large vase with handle shaped as goat, Tomb deities retrieved from Deir el Medina, a vase used by Queen Hatshepsut, jewel chest, rare ornaments, chair of Sitamun, Bracelet belonging to Ramesses II etc

5. Section for the Greco Roman Period,

The Greeks entered Egypt to ward of the Persian Kings; later both cultures got amalgamated; even gods were shared in between! This period is dominated by the resurgence of animal worship. Sculptures Egyptian Gods. Falcon headed crocodile cat statues made of bronze, funeral mask of Amenemope etc are some of the exhibits of this time. Considerable numbers of the mummified animals stored in this museum belong to this era

Coins and papyrus

One of the world’s most ancient collections of coins, papyrus works etc are the real wealth of this museum. These coins were made of gold, silver bronze etc belong to ancient Egypt, Greek, Roman tell the trade partners of ancient Egypt and their progress in metallurgy, while minting tells much about the civilization that existed in their place of origin. These papyrus (made from a plant used as paper) with Greek, Roman, Arabic as well as hieroglyph that was used in ancient Egypt. Potsherds are real story tellers that last for ever.

From the Valley of Kings

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

The real crowd pullers are the remains of Pharaohs recovered from the tombs of the Valley of Kings (new kingdom), Dahshur (middle kingdom), Deirel Bahari, Amama, Tell el, Thebes (new name Luxor), Memphis, Karnak, Abu Simbel, Giza etc include altogether 27 royal mummies of Pharaohs belonged to various dynasties, grave materials kept in the tomb, statuettes, royal jewellery (all extremely rare and very precious), etc. In this aspect the treasures retrieved from the tomb of Tutankhamun is the superstar of the show; but hefty fee is levied for a look at it.

Sarcophagi (singular sarcophagus)

Egyptian museum image

Egyptians enclosed the mummified bodies in a box made of stone carved to make it most attractive; especially the Pharaohs had their dead members bodies enclosed in very exquisitely made sarcophagi. These sarcophagi being made of stone found worthless to the tomb robbers and let them there after emptying the valuables. For archeologists these sarcophagi were very conclusive evidences to determine the occupant of the tomb. In Egyptian Museum these stone sarcophagi with their beautiful engravings present a mysterious feeling among visitors and act as crowd pullers.

The Library

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

There is a grand library with 42,500 books magazines and periodicals attached to the museum this is managed by The Highest Council of Monuments. Here books of English, French, Latin, Dutch and Arabic etc about 20 periodicals are added every month. These collections of rare books are made with special stress on all branches of ancient civilization and culture like literature, mathematics, medicine etc. Admission to the library is restricted to research students and scholars only.

Each times some new things!

Egyptian museum image courtesy: Peter Brubacher

A visit to this museum requires a lot of time to appreciate each items; hiring the service of a guide is worth otherwise a visitor most probably may miss items of significance and bi pass it for some large and beautiful thing with less historical importance (it is said that one visitor noticed the statue of a female brewer making beer only on his third visit to the museum as he missed the beauty during his past two visits. It is facts that people who have made several visits finding new items. In 2002 the 2nd centenary of the museum was quite significant as very so far not displayed items were on the shelves.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tutankhamun the Mysterious Prince of Egypt

Tutankhamun, the Mysterious Prince of Egypt

Mask of Tutankhamun's mummy Mask of Tutankhamun's mummy

KV 62

It is the name/number of a tomb; one among 64 tombs so far discovered at the two valleys on both sides of Al Qurn the peak of a pyramid shaped hill. It is located at the Valley of the Kings on the western bank of River Nile in Egypt. It is here; the most famous and mysterious king ever reigned in the history of world; the Tutankhamun was laid to rest. This tomb is the most intriguing among 64 tombs found in the Valley of the Kings located near Thebes (new name Luxor near ancient Karnak Temple).

Its original occupant- the Tutankhamun, the valuable treasures enclosed in it, the myths associated with the tomb; all have cast a spell among students of history and archaeology for centuries. Tutankhamun (1341 to 1324 BC) who wore the crown at 9 ruled about ten years and died at the age of 18; that too very mysteriously, scientists are still working hard to sort it out!

Akhenaton, Nefertiti and Kiya

Tutankhamun (King Tut for Egyptologists) who lived between BC 1341 and 1323 (his name is also spelt Tutankhamun meaning Tutan the son of Amen/Amun -the Sun-God). His initial name was Tutenkhaten meaning Tutan son of Aten (Sun-God). His parents were Pharaoh Amenhotep (who ruled in the name Akhenaton meaning servant of Aten) and his second wife Kiya (Queen Nefertiti was Akhenaton’s first wife).

The weight of a big crown on a child’s head

Tutankhamun from the back of his gold throneTutankhamun from the back of his gold throne

Akhenaton had six children in Nefertiti but all girls hence Tut; the son of his second wife Kiya was chosen for the crown. Tut was crowned in the young age of 8; married to Akhenaton’s daughter in Nefertiti (Ankesenpaaten) who was slightly elder than him. Tutankhamun (believed to be at the behest of Ay (Nefertiti’s father) and Horemheb the Chief of the Army; got Sun- God worship law- imposed by his father -reverted.

Ay and Horemheb!

Tutankhamen's DiademTutankhamen's Diadem

Tutankhamen faced a mysterious death at the age of 18 and Ay rose to the throne; later he married the widow of Tut to make his position legalized and ruled four years until his death. Horemheb; the chief of army; utilized the vacuum created by the death of ruling king and seized power. Horemheb has been pictured in the funeral ceremonies show his prominence in the royal palace. Horemheb consequently got all the engravings praising Akhenaton and Tut wiped out and placed his names instead.

Well buried

Tutankhamun coffinette Tutankhamun coffinette

It must be admitted that Ay along with Horemheb gave Tut an honorable burial. Howard Carter who led the tomb excavation team in 1923 was up for a mega surprise. The richness of deposits was not matched by any such findings made anywhere else in the world. Rare and rich ornaments made in gold and precious stones, the chest plate and mask made of solid gold accompanied by about 3000 grave items. Four loaded chariots (one for hunting; one for fighting war and the rest two for ceremonial parades; all after death!) found in this tomb made the world open its eyes to the ancient culture and rituals of ancient Egypt.

The curse of the Pharaohs!

Tutankhamun SarcophagusTutankhamun Sarcophagus

It was a team led by Theodore M Davis who bumped upon the Tutankhamen Tomb at first in 1907. It so happened with the opening of the initial chamber they got something and returned as Tutankhamen’s tomb had only that much! Theodore’s book ‘The tombs of Harmhabi and Touatankhaemanchu’ ends with the words the valley was ‘exhausted’!

Tutankhamun Throne

Tutankhamun Throne

In Egyptian myth had it that ‘those who disturbed the tomb of Tutankhamen will undergo an early death’ this did not deter Carter to excavate and enter in to it along with his sponsor Lord Carnarvon; making them first to enter in to it after a long spell of 3000 years!

The mummy was however excavated by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities with the help of modern equipments and studied it in detail. It was later taken many places and exhibited it in almost all the famous museums of the world. In its long course this mummy was stolen several times and many disasters followed in the ensuing incidents which took the lives of almost 25 people who got involved in them. Each incident was able to capture the media attention highlighting the ‘legendary curse of the Pharaohs’.

The tomb

Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the KingsTomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings

The tomb of Tutankhamun was only ordinary and only the burial chamber contained decorations. All the four walls had a golden tinge on which pictures were drawn. The western wall pictures of apes at the first hour of the Amduat (a magical book with details of the netherworld; contents similar to the texts at the pyramids).

The southern wall had pictures of the king followed by Anubis and Isis (Anubis a god with dog’s head; he is the protector of the necropolis and keeper of souls; where as Isiris is a winged goddess the mother of Horus). The north wall pictures the king standing before Nut (the mother of all gods’; d/o Shu and Tefnut and also grand d/o of Sun-God Ra/Re. Another picture shows ka embracing Osiris the chief god of the netherworld.

The eastern wall pictures Horemheb with two viziers in among a procession that carries the body of the king in a sledge. Horemheb later through many manipulations rose to the position of Pharaoh.

Still working on it!

Researches are still going on about his life, appearance and cause of death and recent findings indicate a fall from horseback and infection from the wounds might have caused his premature death at the prime age of 18. The broken skull led them to believe that he was attacked from hind and possible culprits were found; those included those who came to throne after along with his bereaved queen!

Detailed research has proved these wrong as there had occurred substantial calcification between the cracks. Not just the reason for death but what was his skin tone. How did he look like etc are all issues before them to be solved; only relief is that modern technology is there for their guidance; let technology lead them to better and more accurate solutions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt

The tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte showing descending corridor

(Wadi Biban el Muluk = Gate of the Kings)

This is a valley in west bank of River Nile; part of the Theban Archaeological Sites (near Luxor or Karnak Temple). The Theban (old name for Luxor) sites include the Valley of the Kings, Valley of Queens, Nobles, Temples and Shrines pertaining to the Pharaoh period. During the Pharaonic times the Kings Valley was exclusively preserved for the burial of its dead members. During the New Kingdom Period (it was at this time the Pharaohs rose to most powerful position) that lasted almost 500 years the tombs were made cutting the valleys and the cliffs of mount Al Qurn.

A second life with all paraphernalia

Valley of the Kings Luxor EgyptTomb of Ay, Luxor - Valley of the Kings (Western Valley)

Ancient Egyptians believed in life after death within the same body; hence they preserved the dead ones after mummification. This is a process done to preserve the dead body so that the dead can happily go through his life after death. The internal organs were removed and some spices where stuffed in to the hollow parts; the body was embalmed with silk cloth for protection. Along with the body four jars were also kept with the removed internal organs like liver, lungs, stomach and intestine. There was also placed a shabti or statuette often made of marble or wood as company to the dead along with images of Egyptian gods for his care. Food materials, ornaments, gold, and all required for the dead for his after life were placed in his tomb.

The majestic Al Qurn a natural pyramid

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt

al-Qurn dominates the valley

The Valley of Kings was exclusive for the Pharaoh Kings and the tombs were made by digging the side of hill beneath the Al Qurn; building a good entrance and cutting long stairways that lead to the crypt where the body is placed. The Al Qurn Peak which oversees both of the valleys is shaped like a pyramid; reason for selecting it as the site, it isolated position offered better safety to the tombs. The location was carefully selected by checking the condition of the soil.

Tomb raiders and flash floods

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egyptvalley of the kings

As these tombs contained valuable materials; it was a general practice for thieves to break in and rob the toms (they were called tomb robbers). There were royal guards posted for the protection of these sites yet most of the 64 tombs of the site remain broken. The damages were done from the part of the weather also; though the site is a part of the big Sahara Desert; two or three flash floods occurred within this long period but that was enough and more to immerse several valuable sites in mud and debris damaging the rare artifacts and paintings.

Virtual treasures!

Valley of the Kings Luxor EgyptValley of the kings map courtesy:

The status of these valleys (within the Theban Necropolis) as a Royal Burial remained intact for almost five hundred years (from the 12th to 18th dynasties (16th century BC to 11th century BC) and the number of tombs rose to that level the site got too much crowded and cutting tract for one often reached in to a previous one. There was no master plan or atlas to lead the grave diggers, yet it remains a mystery that such collisions were comparatively rare. While these tombs were virtual treasures of history and culture; in the absence of master plans they remained elusive to the explorers; about two centuries and hard labor of thousands of people were required to find them out.

Each tomb a task

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt Pillar in Seti I's tomb

It is from the 18the century onwards serious researches commenced by archaeologists in these sites. They have done extensive works on this site and found many clues to demystify the ancient history of Egypt. There were no charts or a plan to the numerous sites which included shrines, tombs, graffiti etc. Most of the sites were immersed in mud and silt carried by the rare flash floods occurred in the region. The earth also was unpredictable and at times hard to dig while at times collapsed setting traps.

Tricks of the trade

Valley of the Kings Luxor EgyptView of the central East Valley, showing area around KV62

The tombs discovered were numbered prefixing ‘KV’ for the Valley of Kings like KV 1, KV 2 etc, those in the western valley are with prefix like WV 22, 23 etc. The digging of a tomb had to be done horizontally; that involved more strain; men had to work in tunnels that were humid, crammed and dark (this portion belonged to the Sahara Desert). The debris dug out could not be disposed as such as there was possibility of it containing valuable pieces of archaic importance. It had to be filtered then load it in a truck to be disposed from outside the site (leaving it within the site may waste another teams efforts at next time).

The following are the sites with names and relevance

KV 1 belongs to Ramesses 7; 20th Dynasty; discovered in 1984 by Edwin Brock,

KV 2 is of Ramesses 4; low down main valley located between KV 1 and KV 7.

KV 3 no marks of burial, might be for son of Ramesses 3, and later used a Christian chapel.

KV 4 is the last Royal Tomb; supposed to be of Ramesses 11 of the 20th Dynasty; excavated by John Romer.

KV 5 son of Ramesses 2; was a very amazing tomb that was lying filled with mud of the flash flood, though it was noticed as early as 1825 by James Burton and later by Howard Carter; its real quality assessed only during 1987 - 1995. The Theban Mapping Project undertaken by Kent A Weeks made a real break through; potsherds, beads, ushabti (funerary figures placed in tombs with other grave goods), a big statue of Osiris the god of afterlife etc were recovered from it.

KV 6, built for Ramesses 9; unfinished as king died earlier; big gate and ramp; final chamber with exquisite graffiti made for ‘opening of mouth’ ceremony (a ritual when the mouth of the dead is opened for breathe and talk); an Old Kingdom ritual.

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt

KV6 - valley of the kings

KV 7 the final resting place for Ramesses 2; badly damaged by floods.

KV 8 built for Merenptah; corridor 160 meters long; sarcophagus was originally built in four nested stones.

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt

KV 8 - valley of the kings

KV 9; built for Ramesses 5 but had to be used for his uncle Ramesses 6; built in typical 20th Dynasty simple style.

KV 10; believed to be of Pharaoh Amenmesse.

KV 11; built for Ramesses 3; opened in unknown times; also known as Harpers Tomb as there are pictures of blind harpers on its walls; as Bruce entered in to it in 1761it is also called Bruce Timb.

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt

KV 11 - valley of the kings

KV 12; a tomb used for multiple burials; similar to KV 5; excavated by Harold James, Otto Schaden and Howard Carter.

KV 13; said to belong Bay the owner of the tomb who was executed by Pharaoh; but no remains of him found; excavated by Hartwig Attenmuller.

KV 14; one of the largest tombs; made for two persons; was opened in antiquity; recordings made by Hartwig Altenmuller between 1983 and 87.

KV 15; made for Pharaoh Seti 2; the sarcophagus removed and an unidentified mummy placed instead of it; excavated by Howard Carter.

KV 16; built for Ramesses 1 of the 19th Dynasty; decorated with the ‘Book of Gates’ (a sacred text of ancient Egypt which states that the soul of the dead has to pass through numerous gates each guarded by a goddess; only after answering her questions one can pass through; those who fail will be put in to the lake of fire!); excavated by Geovanni Belzoni.

KV 17; built for Seti 1; the largest tomb but damaged by ‘explorers’ who removed some sections to be taken away; excavated by Geovanni Belzoni, G. Battista and Howard Carter.

KV 18; is incomplete.

KV 19; made for Ramesses 8 but had to be used for Ramesses 9; paintings of Egyptian Gods like, Osiris, Ptah, Khonsu, Thoth etc decorate the walls; excavated by Belzoni.

KV 20 is significant as the tomb for Thutmose and Queen Hatshepsot (queens body was identified only on June, 2007 by DNA tests; the body of Thutmose 1 was removed by Thutmose 3 later to KV 38; excavated by Howard Carter.

KV 21 contains only unidentified mummies of two women; excavated by Geovanni Belzoni in 1817;

WV 22 (in western valley); tomb of Amenhotep 3 with two dub burial chambers for his wives; sarcophagus missing; discovered by Prosper Jollois; and Edouard de Villiers both Napoleon’s engineers; officially excavated by Howard Carter.

WV 23; near Luxor in Western Valley; tomb of Pharaoh ‘Ay’ desecrated by unknown and sarcophagus is reconstituted; excavated by Geovanni Battista and Belzoni..

WV 24 not fully excavated; discovered by Robert Hay; partly excavated Otto Schaden.

WV 25 presumed to be built for Akhenaton’s Theban Tomb and left unfinished; excavated by Geovanni Battista and Belzoni.

WV 26 occupant not identified; it is a small one; must be of the 18th Dynasty; excavated by James Burton.

KV 27 discovered by John Wilkinson in 1990; it is undecorated and unfinished; occupant unknown; excavated by Donald P Ryan.

KV 28 occupant unknown; first excavations unrecorded; Donald P Ryon has found parts of two damaged body parts; presumed to be of the Nobles.

KV 29 not excavated.

KV 30 occupant unknown; discovered by Belzoni in 1817; a mission sponsored by Lord Belmore hence known as Lord Belmore’s Tomb; excavated by Victor Loret.

KV 31 covered in sand and debris; nothing known about the occupant; excavated by Geovanni Belzoni.

KV 32 burial site Tia’a; wife of Amenhotep and mother of Thutmose 4; discovered by Victor Loret in 1898; excavation incomplete.

KV 33 not fully excavated; nothing known of the occupant; discovered by Victor Loret.

KV 34 occupant Thutmose 3; 18 dynasty Pharaoh; sarcophagus though damaged still in place; widely vandalized by tomb raiders walls decorated in unusual style; excavated by Victor Loret..

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt

KV 34 - valley of the kings

KV 35 occupant Amenhotep 2; discovered by Victor Loret in 1898; the tomb has the shape of a dog’s leg; lower part holding the sarcophagus of the king; later it became a cache of various mummies like Amenhotep 3, Thutmose 4, Seti 2, Septah, Ramesses 4, 5 and 6, along with many unknown mummies.

KV 36 occupant Maiherpri a Noble; details unpublished; discovered by Victor Loret.

KV 37 badly damaged; occupant unknown; discovered by Victor Loret.

KV 38 original tomb of Thutmose 1; later the body removed to KV 20 by Thutmose 3; discovered by Victor Loret.

KV 39 located in high on the hills away from other burials in the eastern part of Al Qurn; its structure also varies from other tombs

KV 40; original occupant not known; barring the upper portion all remain filled with debris; excavated by Loret in 1899.

KV 41; occupant not identified; found by Loret.

KV 42; made for Hatshepsut wife of Thutmose 3 but it was Sennefur got buried there during the time of Amenhotep; excavated by Victor Loret and Howard Carter.

KV 43; tomb of Thutmose 3; shaped like a dog’s leg; discovered by Howard Carter; located on the higher side of the cliff far above the valley; decorations of the walls intact; the outer stone of sarcophagus intact within the burial chamber excavated by Howard Carter for Theodore M Davis.

KV 44; occupant not known; pottery fragments retrieved indicate 18th dynasty tomb; but it was reused in the 22nd dynasty time; excavated by Howard Carter and Ryan.

KV 45; made for Usarhat a Noble of the 18th century.

KV 46; tomb of Yuya and wife Tjuyu parents of Queen Tiye wife of Amenhotep 3; tomb rediscovered by James E Quibell in 1905; it is one of the best preserved tombs in the site with even the sarcophagi intact.

KV 47; tomb of Siptah of the 19th dynasty; discovered by Edward Ayrton.

KV 48; made for Noble Amenemopet;

KV 49; not a tomb; might be a ‘mummy repairing unit’; excavated by Ayrton.

KV 50 to 53; burial ground for animals explorations made by Ayrton.

KV 54; not a tomb; a pit located near the tomb of Seti; large jars carefully packed with invaluable articles; at present kept in Metropolitan Museum of Arts.

KV 55; severely vandalized years back; believed to be of Akhenaten son of Queen Tiye of 18th dynasty; marks of multiple burials done in the site; a mummy has been found with ornaments missing (later the golden plates were returned by a collector to Munich; at present the same in Egyptian Museum. Four canopy jars made of alabaster along with some damaged wooden pieces with her name inscribed were found in the tomb; discovered by Ayrton.

KV 56; original occupant unknown; casket disintegrated; known as golden tomb as some gold ornaments, a pair of silver gloves, a set of ear-rings marked Seti 2 found; discovered by Ayrton in 1908; were present on the mummy;

KV 57; burial of Horenheb the last Pharaoh of 18th dynasty; sarcophagus carved out of red quartzite; passages of the book of the Gates and painted bas relief instead of paintings; discovered by Ayrton in 1908.

KV 58 known as Chariot Tomb; remains from WV 23 (Ay’s) tomb dumped in to it; it was discovered by Harold Jones.

KV 59; it is incomplete and no remains present.

KV 60; occupant presumed to be Queen Hatshepsut; seriously desecrated in antiquity; discovered by H. Carter in 1903; reopened in 1906 by Donald P Ryan and Edward P Ryan; had two mummies which were taken to Cairo Museum for research in 2007; one is presumed to be of Sit Ra the Royal Nurse and the other of Queen Hatshepsut.

KV 61; no proof of any burial made in this tomb; discovered by Harold Jones in 1910.

KV 62; belonged to the mysterious child king Tutankhamun; being located beneath a labor colony it could escape the hands of tomb robbers; discovered first by Theodore M Davis; but unfortunately they did not realize the real size and returned exploring only the top chamber. Harold Carter was the explorer who found the real tomb and the accompanying treasures.

Valley of the Kings Luxor Egypt

KV 62 - valley of the kings

KV 63; this is the most recent find; it was not a tomb but a mummy preparing chamber but valuable finding could be made like big jars, salts, linen, pieces of potter etc (pottery is for archaeologists like open books they can read much from a piece).

KV 64; located near KV 63; found in March 2006; no remains found; its status as a tomb and the number ‘KV 64’ itself not yet approved.

The absence of a master plan of the tombs makes it hard to say whether there is any more lying undetected; however it is presumed that most of the tombs in this site have been detected and excavated.