History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.



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 during the rule of over nine dynasties of Egyptian pharaohs.

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 which 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 had 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 afterlife, which is why they buried treasures (valuables thought to be useful in the afterlife) with their pharaohs. They were also buried with all of their earthly belongings.

There were many views about 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 voyage across the world above. The cult of Osiris thought the pharaoh passed into the underworld to become Osiris and rule the underworld as he had ruled the Earth (or at least, part of pre-Dynastic Egypt, perhaps in the region of 3300-3600 BC).

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 bodies and tried very hard to preserve the tombs which housed those bodies, few of the treasures survived long. Most of them were raided, despite the best attempts to keep them hidden.



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