History Files
 

 

Ancient Egypt

The Valley of the Kings

by Peter Kessler, 1 April 1999

 

 

The Valley of the Kings is an area in Western Thebes which was used by the Egyptians to bury their dead. Burials were held there for over nine dynasties of Egyptian rulers.

This area of Egypt was chosen for burial partly because of the way the land is laid out. Firstly, there is the flat plain leading to foothills that were perfectly shaped for tombs, there were also flat areas which were used to build the temples. This was all located above the flood plain, and Western Thebes faced west which is where the sun sets. Egyptian religion identified the sun with the realm of the dead.

Tuthmosis I, the third king of the 18th Dynasty is thought to be the first to have a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The Egyptians stopped using the Valley of the Kings as a burial ground by the end of the 20th Dynasty. The exact reason why is unclear, but it could have had something to with tomb raiding. Many treasures were stolen from the tombs.

The Egyptians believed in the after-life which is why they buried treasures (valuables thought to be useful in the afterlife) with the kings and the Pharaohs. They were also buried with all their belongings.

There were many views in what the afterlife was. The solar cult thought that the dead Pharaoh would board the sun's heavenly boat and accompany him on his daily sail across the world above. The cult of Osiris thought the Pharaoh passed into the underworld to become Osiris and rule the underworld as on earth.

Osiris became the mortuary god. Egyptians thought that after-life meant the soul left the body at death, but it was expected to return to it throughout eternity which is why the Egyptians mummified their dead - to preserve the bodies from decay.

Although the Egyptians needed to preserve the bodies and tried very hard to preserve the tombs few of the treasures survived long. Most of them were raided, despite the attempts to keep them hidden.

 

 

     
Text copyright P L Kessler. An original feature for the History Files.