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Monday, 22 February 2021

Hitting the Woking Trail

This has been written by Dr Dulcie Engel, who recently put together a virtual trail to lead visitors through some of the items in the Woking Loan at the Egypt Centre. Following her previous post on the loan and the launch of the trail today, this new post highlights some of her favourite items on the trail. Ken Griffin has recently re-photographed the whole of the Woking Loan collection, which can now be viewed on the Egypt Centre online collection catalogue.

In my previous Woking Loan blog, I talked about the history of the collection in Woking College (and previously, the Girls Grammar School); possible links to Robert Mond and Flinders Petrie; and I picked out a few objects of interest (fig. 1). In this post, I am going to focus on some of the other items featured in the trail. First of all, I would like to mention the very first inventory of the donation to Woking Girls Grammar School. Some of the artefacts still bear the original ‘museum’ labels; round white stickers with numbers written on by Anna Bachelier. Anna was a pupil when the objects were given to the school in 1958, and worked with the collection until she left in 1962. She went on to become a leading archaeologist in Scotland, under her married name of Anna Ritchie. While at school, Anna looked after the collection and even took the objects to the British Museum for identification. Here she recalls her time with the artefacts:  

Fig. 1: Sokar Hawk (WK21)

“The artefacts were displayed in a shelved case in the main entrance hall of the school, and I loved looking after them. You are right in thinking that I compiled the first inventory, and indeed that the museum was a spur to my future as an archaeologist. Miss Hill was headmistress throughout my years at the school, and although strict she was happy to encourage initiative I suppose, and readily gave permission for me to set up the museum.”
(Personal e-mail communication, 28/10/2019)

Anna put together a ‘Museum File’ (fig. 2) of seventeen pages, covering various donations of interesting items to the school (mainly fossils). Of particular interest to us is the sheet that deals with the Egyptian collection. One side of this inventory* is entitled ‘E. Egyptian Collection presented to the school’ and has descriptions of objects numbered 1 to 25. The reverse side is headed ‘S. Other Shuabti Figures [or Shabti]’, and there is a note of shabtis (and scarabs) with a separate numbering system, but no descriptions. The inventory does not correspond exactly to the fifty-eight artefacts donated to the Egypt Centre in 2012, but gives us a good idea of what was there originally.

Fig. 2: From the cover of the ‘museum file’


WK7 (fig. 3) is a pottery vessel made of B2 silt, painted white. It stands 141mm high, is 101mm wide at its widest point, and weighs 312 grams. It has a flat base, rounded belly with ridged lines, a handle, and a spout (a second handle is missing, and it is clear to see where it broke off). There is a plant motif in black just below the neck, which is typical of Ptolemaic pottery. Although the label is now missing, this vessel is clearly no. E.14 in Anna’s inventory: ‘Clay Pot with extended neck, Graeco-Roman period’.

Fig. 3: Pottery vessel (WK7)

WK25 (fig. 4) is an unguentarium, that is, a Roman Period (first century CE) perfume or ointment bottle. It is one of two in the Woking Loan (the other is
WK24). The Roman Period was a golden age for glass-making across the empire. WK25 is semi-translucent and a pinky-brown colour, with traces of iridescence. It is 43mm high, the base diameter is 26mm, and the neck diameter 13mm. The wall thickness is 1mm. When Woking College history teacher Andrew Forrest later took the collection to the British Museum in 2001, he was told that Petrie dug up many such bottles, often found in child burials. Anna Bachelier lists four Roman glass vessels of varying sizes under E15 (a–d) in her inventory, but we only have two of them.

Fig. 4: Unguentarium (WK25)

WK26 (fig. 5) is a beautifully painted fretwork wooden figure of Anubis, the god of mummification. It is most likely that it formed part of a coffin lid or mummy board dating to the Nineteenth–Twenty-first Dynasties when fretwork, also known as openwork, was a common decorative technique. It is one of two in the Woking Loan. The other,
WK27, depicts either Isis or Nephthys in mourning, but the decoration is not as clear as on WK26. Anubis is missing his muzzle, feet, and arms, but his ears stand proud! The wood is coated with a thin layer of gesso, and painted red, yellow, green, blue, and black. It is 131mm high, 42mm wide and 8mm thick. On the back, there is the original round white label reading ‘E.23’. On the inventory we read: ‘E.23 ANUBIS, part of fret-work design 5.3”’.

Fig. 5: Wooden fretwork figure of Anubis (WK26)

WK29 (fig. 6) is a pottery overseer shabti painted light blue, and dating from the Third Intermediate Period. As an overseer figure, the shabti holds a whip in its right hand and wears a projecting kilt. It measures 80mm high, 25mm wide, and 16mm deep. On the back it still has its original label, S.31.

Fig. 6: Pottery overseer shabti (WK290

WK39 (fig. 7) is a blue-green faience cone-shaped pendant representing a lotus. The lotus symbolised rebirth, and Upper Egypt. The pendant possibly dates to the New Kingdom. A very close parallel can be found in the
World Museum, Liverpool, which originates from the collection of Robert Mond. The diameter of the cone base is 24mm; the height of the cone 29mm. A suspension loop has been pierced through the top of the cone, so the flower would hang down when suspended on a necklace, hiding the petal detail on the base. In the original inventory it was no.E.8: ‘pendant of PAPIRAS (sic) flower, 1.2” high, 22nd dyn.’ Overall, this has to be my favourite item!

Fig. 7: Lotus pendant (WK39)

Enjoy following the trail!                                                                                                    

*You can see a copy of the original inventory in the appendix of my 2020 article The Woking Loan: a collection within a collection at the Egypt Centre.


As noted previously, I could not have done this research without the help of Egypt Centre staff, in particular Carolyn Graves-Brown, Ken Griffin, and Syd Howells. Additionally, Ancient History staff and researchers at Swansea: Christian Knoblauch, Nigel Pollard, John Rogers. Nor my brilliant Woking Loan correspondents: Richard & Rosemary Christophers at the Lightbox Gallery, Andrew Forrest, Anna Ritchie, the staff of Woking College; and John Taylor of the British Museum.

Monday, 15 February 2021

A Special Day in the History of the Egypt Centre

The 15th February is a date that will forever be etched into the history of the Egypt Centre. On this day in 1971, a portion of the Egyptian material in the Wellcome Collection was formally offered to the University College of Swansea (now Swansea University). This agreement was issued by the University College of London (UCL), who were acting on behalf of the Wellcome Trustees. It was signed by Harry S. Smith (now Professor Emeritus of Egyptology by UCL) and David M. Dixon (fig. 1), the latter being a Research Fellow at the Wellcome Institute between 1959–1964, and tasked with sorting the Egyptian material.

Fig. 1: David Dixon

David Dixon was instrumental in bringing the collection to Swansea. Some eight months prior (22nd June 1970) to the agreement being sent, Dixon had a phone conversation with John Gwyn Griffiths (fig. 2) in Welsh in which the idea of sending Wellcome material to Swansea was first proposed. Gwyn Griffiths was a Reader in Classics at Swansea, who is well known for his studies on Egyptian religion. Later that evening, Dixon wrote to Griffiths, also in Welsh;  the letter and its English translation are retained in the Egypt Centre archives. Part of it contains the following passage: “The purpose of this letter (sorry for being so long-winded) is to give you an opportunity to consider what we think. If it is of interest to you, it would be of help if you could send a word to me as soon as possible. Meanwhile may I ask you to keep the contents of this letter as a secret”.

Fig. 2: Gwyn Griffiths

1971 marks fifty years since the collection arrived in Swansea in September 1971. Over the coming months I’ll be posting some historical documents, including archival photos, to mark this event. We aim to celebrate this anniversary digitally, and hopefully physically once it is safe for us to do so. Therefore, to kick things off, here is the agreement between the two parties, which was sent to the then Principal of the University College of Swansea fifty years ago today!


Principal F. Llewellyn-Jones,

The University College of Swansea,

Singleton Park,

Swansea University,


15th February, 1971


Dear Principal Llewellyn-Jones,

You will recall that during the latter part of last year Dr. D. N. Dixon discussed informally with Dr. John Gwyn Griffiths the possibility that a portion of the collection of Egyptian antiquities formed by the late Sir Henry S. Wellcome might eventually be offered to the University College of Swansea. It was understood that a tentative proposal to this effect which Dr. Griffiths submitted to you met with a favourable response, and that arrangements were in hand to deal with any material that might be received.

Under the terms of the will of the late Sir Henry Wellcome, his Trustees were charged with a permanent responsibility for the maintenance and scientific use of his collections. They are therefore required to continue to exercise control over their future. The Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine, however, is concerned only with the history of medicine, and Egyptological material does not fall within its province. The Trustees’ wish therefore is that their material should be permanently maintained by the recipient institution while it has staff and facilities to make proper provisions for it. The Trustees would exercise their right of control only in circumstances where the recipient, for whatever reason, felt unable to maintain the collection.

The Wellcome Trustees have now given their consent to the proposals submitted to them by University College London for the future disposition of the Wellcome Collection in the interests of science. They have therefore authorized the College to offer you a portion of the said collection subject to the conditions set out in the accompanying document.

We trust that this offer will be acceptable to your Governing Body.

Yours sincerely,

H. S. Smith

Edwards Professor of Egyptology


D. M. Dixon

Curator, Petrie Museum


Wellcome Collection of Egyptian Antiquities: Agreement between the University College of Swansea and University College London, acting on behalf of the Wellcome Trustees

1. The Wellcome Collection of Egyptian Antiquities will remain under the control of the Wellcome Trustees.

2. The transport of the material from London to Swansea, and any other measures deemed necessary (e.g. insurance), shall be arranged by the University College of Swansea (hereinafter called ‘the recipient’) and approved by the officers of the Petrie Museum. All expenses shall be borne by the recipient.

3. The material shall be unpacked, sorted, documented (as far as possible), and made available for study within a reasonable period from the date of its arrival in Swansea. The exact period shall be determined after consolation, but two years is suggested.

4. The recipient shall not be permitted to dispose of any items whatever, whether for gain or otherwise, by any means (sale, gift, temporary or permanent loan, or destruction).

5. At their discretion and subject to the requirements of their duties at University College, members of the Petrie Museum staff may be prepared to assist, by correspondence, or possibly in person, with the documentation of the material and other queries arising therefrom. All expenses arising from such assistance (e.g. hotel bills, travelling) shall be borne by the recipient.

6. At the expiry of the period agreed upon for the unpacking etc. of the material, a representative of the Petrie Museum, acting on behalf of the Museum and the Wellcome Trustees, shall inspect all the objects and reclaim any items which he may deem to fall within the following two categories:

i)                Items of medical interest, which will be returned to the Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine, London.

ii)              Contexted material which complements material already in the Petrie Collection or which it is felt ought logically to be incorporated therein.

The decision of the Petrie Museum representative regarding such matters shall be final. Packing and transport to University College London of material reclaimed (including that ultimately destined for return to the Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine) shall be arranged and paid for by the recipient.

Upon satisfactory compliance with all the above conditions, the recipient shall be free, in the interests of science, to make such arrangements with the City of Liverpool Museum as both parties see fit regarding their respective portions of the Wellcome Collection. For example, it is envisaged that they may wish to exchange certain objects with a view to the more rational division of the material.

Such exchanges, however, shall not be undertaken without prior reference to the Wellcome Trustees or their authorized representatives.

University College London

15th February, 1971

Monday, 8 February 2021

“It’s Good to Be the King” – or Is It?

Iris C. Meijer is an amateur in the true sense of the word – one who loves. She fell in love with ancient Egypt when she was ten years old and it has been the longest and most enduring love affair of her life. Her academic credentials are not in Egyptology, however, but in the field of International Law. She has lived in Egypt for eighteen years now, and through self-study, observation and of course many courses such as this wonderful one on the Valley of the Kings by the Egypt Centre, has amassed quite a body of knowledge. She lives in a madhouse with eighteen Egyptian rescued dogs and cats called the House of Fluff, and is the author of the bilingual animal welfare awareness book for children in Egypt “Abdallah, Bondoq and Other Animals” with which workshops for children are taught all over Egypt, which soon will go online as video lessons (please check out the Facebook page with the same title). She is currently working on a project to join these interests and make a treasure hunt trail for children on pets and other animals in the Theban Tombs.

When in Luxor, one of the sights that of course cannot be missed is the famous Valley of the Kings – which is also the subject of yet another stellar Zoom course by Dr Ken Griffin. It is home to many tombs of pharaohs of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom, which vary from huge to small, elaborate to simple, lavishly decorated to hardly finished; the stark but beautiful Valley of the Kings seems like a very otherworldly place. Little do most visitors know that when they descend into the tombs to see the amazing and mysterious depictions the ancient Egyptians left behind, they actually are entering another world: the Netherworld, or in proper ancient Egyptian, the Duat (fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Twelfth Hour of the Amduat

Unlike the tombs of the nobles, which are dotted around the Theban Hills in their hundreds or perhaps thousands, the royal tombs (with the exception of five of them), do not depict the quite well-known Book of the Dead—a modern term for what is actually called the “Book of Coming Forth by Day”—but rather show other, much more esoteric funerary texts (fig. 2). When we visit the Tombs of the Nobles, we see beautiful depictions from this Book of the Dead, yes. The weighing of the heart, the judgement in front of Osiris and others, plentiful offerings. But we also see laid out before us an enormous variety of scenes of daily life, lavish banqueting, energetic fishing and fowling—a lot of very relatable images, even though they are all from the perspective of the elite—even the scenes of people working in the fields or making beautiful items are usually overseen by the elite. We actually know very little about what the other 98–99% of the people of ancient Egypt would have expected their afterlife to look like. This is because it was only the nobles (the elite) who knew how to read and write, and so left us written clues; they alone had access to the wherewithal to fashion such beautiful places to be laid to rest in.


Fig. 2: Book of the Dead spell 145, KV 14 

The elite, of course, still had nothing on the king when it came to level of afterlife, or life in this world, for that matter. In theory (and in very broad strokes), everything and everyone in Egypt ultimately belonged to the king and was there to serve him in his main divine duty of upholding maat: cosmic order, truth, and justice (fig. 3). Tough job, but it had its perks. So we’d be forgiven if upon entering a kingly tomb, we would expect to see lush scenes of an even more glamorous paradise than the nobles portray waiting for the king—a place where after all that mundane and divine responsibility he could finally relax and reap his rewards. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Fig. 3: Figure of Maat

Forget, for a moment, the lavish treasures and luxury found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, those cascades of gold we all know so well. Instead, focus on the walls, with the decorations and the deep texts that tell us what is actually going on in the afterlife that the king goes into. You see, these tombs were both literally and figuratively meant to represent the actual Netherworld. And the texts and decorations on the walls tell us that this is a dark and dangerous place, full of perils (fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Fourth Hour of the Amduat, KV 34

It is still relatively light at the entrance to the tomb where the sun can shine in, and where we often find beautiful depictions of the three divine stages/forms of the sun: the ram-headed God Atum (the setting sun in the West), and the scarab beetle God Khepri (the rising sun in the East). Both are encompassed by the glowing orb of the sun at midday, representing the God Ra (fig. 5). The Goddess Maat is often there, too, as if to say that even though we are now entering this enigmatic and threatening realm of the Duat, cosmic order, truth and justice still reign there too. The light of the day is still there, in both fact and in image. But as we descend further into the bowels of the craggy cliffs that these tombs are carved into, we enter a world of darkness. We are literally entering the night – and without the modern lighting that is in place now, we would feel that most acutely. 
During the night, the sun God Ra had to face many challenges and obstacles to overcome the menacing darkness and emerge again in the morning, triumphantly, as Khepri, the light in the East. And the king joins him in this quest, merges with him as it were. This is not, as in the Book of the Dead, a one-off journey and judgement: pass it and you are in the Field of Reeds or paradise as the ancients saw it. Oh no. This perilous journey with dangers threatening around every corner and at every gate had to be faced each and every single night, without fail. Over and over, and over again. Or else, there would be no sunrise. There would be no new day.

Fig. 5: Sun disk adored by Isis and Nephthys, KV 8 (Theban Mapping Project)

Thankfully, the king and Ra had very specific and literal help: elaborate texts including maps and ‘cheat sheets’. These so-called ‘Afterlife Books’, as Egyptologists refer to them collectively (the ancient Egyptians called them “That Which Is in The Duat”) are known under very arcane names: “The Amduat” (ancient Egyptian name: “The Book of the Hidden Chamber”), “The Book of Gates”, “The Book of Caverns”, “The Book of the Earth” (ancient Egyptian name: “The Books of the Creation of the Solar Disk”), “The Books of the Sky” (“The Book of the Heavenly Cow”, “The Book of the Day”, and “The Book of the Night”). There is also the “Litany of Re” (ancient Egyptian name: “The Book of Adoring Re in the West”), which enumerates the seventy-five names of the sun god—my favourite of course being “The Great Cat of Re” (fig. 6). It seems to depend on period and personal preference which one(s) were chosen to be included in which king’s tomb. Other than the much better known Book of the Dead, these texts have not been the subject of widespread study, and so much of what is actually meant by these very interesting texts is still up for debate. More debate is happening now, with quite a few books being published on them (a great one to start with is “The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife” by Erik Hornung).

Fig. 6: The Great Cat, KV 34

What we do know, however, is that these cryptic ancient books describe, in extremely specific but also, to us at least, extremely enigmatic terms, exactly what the sun god, and therefore his kingly companion would be facing on the journey through the twelve hours of the night. They include which route to take, what threats they needed to face and overcome, the names they needed to know in order to pass the many gates and appease the fearsome and fancifully named guardians of those gates, as well as the magical spells that needed to be uttered at precisely the right moment to clear yet another obstacle and continue on their way in the night. No gentle snooze for king or god during those nightly hours; rather, the need to know every single detail, the battle to slay Ra’s oldest opponent, the primeval serpent Apep, highly evolved magical work, precisely negotiating the watery expanse of the night in exactly the right way, different for each of the twelve hours and described in great detail for each one—all in order to get to the eastern horizon and rise again as Khepri, to ensure the future of humanity and the world again, as the one who gives life to everything: the sun (fig. 7). Definitely not a journey for the faint of heart—but luckily there was a lot of divine help along the way, too.

Fig. 7: Book of Caverns, final scene; Ba of Ra; Book of the Earth, part A, scenes 1-2, extracts, KV 14
(Theban Mapping Project)

So, was it good to be the king? Rather depends on how one views it. These texts focus very little on the deceased king as an individual being judged and then passing on to an afterlife that was the plus size version of the physical life the ancient Egyptians had had and adored so much (as the Book of the Dead does). Rather, they are all about making sure that Ra gets out of that Netherworld so that life and order did not collapse. Cyclically, eternally. No rest for the righteous, this virtuous king, this upholder of maat. There was royal work to be done, even in the long night that followed death. But again, there were perks. After the valiant effort during every single night, the king got to shine again during the twelve hours of the day, together with Ra, forever (fig. 8). Every single day. And that’s a pretty powerful reward.

Fig. 8: Beginning of the Book of the Day (Theban Mapping Project)

If you would like to hear exactly how detailed and esoteric these texts were, and how many names and spells needed to be remembered, check out the links for videos about the ‘Amduat’ at the bottom of the blog written by Marissa Lopez for this course two weeks ago.


Abt, Theodor and Erik Hornung 2003. Knowledge for the afterlife: the Egyptian Amduat - a quest for immortality. Zurich: Living Human Heritage.

Darnell, John Coleman 2004. The enigmatic Netherworld Books of the Solar-Osirian unity: cryptographic compositions in the tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramesses VI and Ramesses IX. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 198. Fribourg; Göttingen: Academic Press; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Darnell, John Coleman and Colleen Manassa Darnell 2018. The ancient Egyptian Netherworld Books. Writings from the Ancient World 39. Atlanta: SBL

Hornung, Erik 1999. The ancient Egyptian books of the afterlife. Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca (NY): Cornell University Press.

Roberson, Joshua Aaron 2012. The ancient Egyptian Books of the Earth. Wilbour Studies in Egypt and Ancient Western Asia 1. Atlanta, GA: Lockwood.

Warburton, David 2007. The Egyptian Amduat: the Book of the Hidden Chamber. Edited by Erik Hornung and Theodor Abt. Zurich: Living Human Heritage.

Werning, Daniel A. 2011. Das Höhlenbuch: textkritische Edition und Textgrammatik, 2 vols. Göttinger Orientforschungen, 4. Reihe: Ägypten 48. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Monday, 1 February 2021

The Architecture of the Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

The blog post for this week is written by Yvonne Buskens-Frenken, from the Netherlands. She is a member of the Dutch Egyptology society Mehen and a former student of Egyptology at Manchester University (Certificate 2015 and Diploma 2017). While Yvonne has never been to the Egypt Centre before, she hopes to visit in the near future, perhaps with other Mehen members.

Last week’s session of the Valley of the Kings course was about the architectural development of the tombs in this royal necropolis (fig. 1). Primarily, a tomb had two main functions. First it had to provide a permanent protected resting place for the body, and secondly it was a cult place for performing the ritual acts to ensure eternal life. Hardedef, who lived in the Old Kingdom, already stated in his Instructions: “Furnish your house in the graveyard and enrich your place in the west…the house of death is for life”. The resting places were therefore called “Houses of Eternity” by the ancient Egyptians as they wanted to continue their accustomed lifestyle into the afterlife. The resting places were usually built close to their homes in life. Religious ideas about the afterlife changed over time and would have impacted on architecture and iconography. This was the case for the tombs of the New Kingdom kings. By the time of the New Kingdom, the kings did not want their tombs to be visible for the public. The king’s chamber had to be, as was stated in the Egyptian funerary text of the New Kingdom known as the Amduat, a “hidden” chamber, away from plain sight, not accessible for the secular, non-religious eyes. These religious ideas were now reflected in the architectural form and iconography of the tombs which replicated the path of the sun during its nocturnal journey beneath the earth. On that journey, the king identified himself with the sun god and wanted, just like the deity, to experience a rebirth. Additionally, as a result of the fact that these tombs were supposed to be hidden, the cult practices or offerings would have been done elsewhere at a mortuary temple (known as a “Temple of Millions of Years”). Although the original tombs of the first four kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty are not yet securely identified, the tomb of Hatshepsut (KV 20) marks the first separation of the burial place for a king and the building of a cult centre elsewhere.

Fig. 1: Path leading to KV 20, 19, 43, and 18 (Theban Mapping Project)

When you visit the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, you may notice that they are not all the same; the architectural features vary a lot. There are small ones with just a few compartments or corridors, or some large ones with many side rooms. Some tombs have long sloping corridors, and some have a bended axis. A few are not even finished. There was, as far as we know, no standard blueprint for the building of a tomb, although workmen would have access to a sort of “building plan”—nineteen papyri and ostraca describe the architecture of various Theban royal tombs. One famous example is Turin Papyrus 1885 (fig. 2), which shows the building plan of Ramesses IV (KV 2). The text in hieratic provides us with the names of the tomb components and a plan of the decoration which gives us some clues as to function. The plan is drawn at a scale of 1:28, but it is not entirely accurate in proportion (for instance the size of the doorways).

Fig. 2: Turin Papyrus 1885 (Theban Mapping Project)

In its most complete form, a tomb could have thirteen elements in total, for convenience now numbered A to M by Egyptologists. The tomb of Seti I (KV 17) is known for having all of them, with element M being the long tunnel extending beyond Chamber J (fig. 3) One of the smallest tombs in the Valley is KV 1 of Ramesses VII with only four elements (A, B, J and K). All of these elements (A–M) actually have an ancient Egyptian name. For instance the burial chamber, J, is called “The Hall in which One Rests” or “The House of Gold”. I would like to discuss here some architectural elements and features, which are sometimes overlooked because visitors are often overwhelmed by and drawn to the fantastic iconography, and so pay less attention to its architecture.

Fig. 3: Plan of the tomb of Seti I (Theban Mapping Project)

The beginning of things is always important, and that is also the case for the tombs discussed here: The Entrance Doorway/Corridor (element A). It has a suitable name: “Passage of the Way of Shu or “The Open air corridor”. This element dates from the time of Ramesses II (KV 7) to that of Ramesses XI (KV 4). It is decorated with a lintel depicting the goddesses Isis and Nephthys, each flanking and adoring the yellow morning sun disk, which encircles Atum and Khepri. It summarises what was the initial idea of the tomb: the deceased kings’ nocturnal journey through the netherworld and his rebirth.

We now skip B and move to Corridor C. This corridor is found in all of the Valley tombs except KV 1 (Ramesses VII). KV 20 (Hatshepsut) has two corridor Cs! This part of the tomb was called “The Third God’s Passage [of Re]” or “The Hall Wherein They Rest”. But who were “they”? Maybe the recesses of corridor C, an easily overlooked feature, provide us some clues. A good example occurs in KV 2 (Ramesses IV) (fig. 4). These recesses (sometimes translated as sanctuaries) are called: “The Recesses in which the Gods of the East/West Reside”. Not all tombs had these recesses, and they could vary in measurements. Maybe the open spaces offered room for statues/statuettes of the Gods of the east/west?

Fig. 4: Corridor C in the tomb of Ramesses IV (Theban Mapping Project)

In Corridor D, “The Fourth God’s Passage [of Re]” we encounter a similar architectural feature as the recesses in C. These niches are called in ancient Egyptian “The Two Doorkeepers’ Rooms”. The name suggest that two guardians were here symbolically posted to block further access into the tomb (fig. 5). The two guardians from the tomb of Tutankhamun come to mind. It has been suggested that Corridor D marked the beginning of the most sacred part of the tomb and was officially sealed with stone and plaster after the burial had been installed.

Fig. 5: Niche for “doorkeepers” (Theban Mapping Project)

We move to Hall F. It is the second hall in line and is called “The Chariot Hall” or “Another Hall of Repelling the Rebels” or “What is in it [Chamber F]: four pillars”. In the tombs of Seti I and Amenhotep III, some remnants of chariots were indeed found. The pillars must have played a role in this room, either functional or symbolic, although this not exactly clear to us. There were not always four pillars by the way, some tombs had two and other had even six pillars. It is typical for hall F that there is:

  •  in the earliest Eighteenth Dynasty tombs a ninety degree shift in its axis,
  •  in the late Eighteenth/early Nineteenth Dynasty, the tombs axis jogged left in F, with a staircase leading down to the feature G,
  • in the late Nineteenth/early Twentieth Dynasty, F had a central ramp/stairway,
  • in the late Twentieth Dynasty there were sloping floors without steps.

Hall F brings us to another interesting architectural feature; the side rooms. Only six tombs in the Valley had a F hall had side rooms, called usually Fa, Fb, etc, and they are typically dating to the late Nineteenth or Twentieth Dynasty tombs. Some side rooms had pillars, some were not finished or uncompleted but they have all in common being cut on the right sight of F except for KV 17 (Seti I) which was cut through the rear wall.

The most important chamber of the tomb was the Burial Chamber J: “The Hall in which One Rests” referring to the body and “The House of Gold” probably referring to the golden shrines that surrounded the body as one can see on the plan of the Turin papyri mentioned earlier in this blogpost. You would expect all tombs had one, but KV 10 of Amenmesse and KV 18 of Ramesses X had none for the simple reason that both tombs were never finished.

Fig. 6: Osiris in the niche in the tomb of Horemheb (Theban Mapping Project)

Chamber J often had additional rooms, sometimes multiple ones but from late Twentieth Dynasty onwards they were no longer included. They are labelled J-a/J-d and are associated with Osiris, who is often represented in the niches (fig. 6). The most important side room seems to be labelled J-a, as all in situ sarcophagi from early Eighteenth until the early Nineteenth Dynasty were orientated towards the entrance to this room. According to Thomas (1966, 279), the contents of this room was “intended to facilitate the king’s journey through the underworld and his successful transformation into Osiris”.

Fig. 7: Beam being used to lower the sarcophagus (Theban Mapping Project)

Another architectural element apart from the elements A–M that is easily overlooked when visiting the tombs are the technical features such as the beam holes. Recesses were cut in pairs in corridor walls opposite each other, one square and the other rectangular. Wooden beams would be inserted into the holes and ropes attached to the beam and sarcophagus to facilitate its descent into the tomb (fig. 7). Speaking of the latter, have you ever noticed how the sarcophagus is placed on the floors? It could be positioned in various ways; on the floor itself, on a plinth, or even set into the floor like the sarcophagus of Ramesses VII in KV 1 (fig. 8).

Fig. 8: Sarcophagus of Ramesses VII (Theban Mapping Project)



Reeves, C. N, (1990) Valley of the Kings, The decline of a royal necropolis, Kegan Paul International, London & New York.

Reeves, C.N., Wilkinson, R. (1996) The Complete Valley of the Kings, Thames and Hudson, London.

Thomas, E, (1966), The Royal Necropoleis of Thebes, Princeton.

Wilkinson, R. Weeks, K. (eds) (2016) The Oxford Handbook of the Valley of the Kings. Oxford University Press: Oxford.