2005 Mathematics May Seminar

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Valley of the Queens


he Valley of the Queens is located on the West Bank at Luxor. There are between 75 and 80 tombs in the Valley of the Queens, or Biban al-Harim. These belong to Queens of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. These include:

* Khaemwese (Tomb 44): Scenes in Khaemwese’s tomb show him being presented to the guardians of the gates to the afterlife along with his father. He is making an offering in this scene, and is dressed in a robe, necklace and the sidelocks of youth.

* Queen Titi (Tomb 52): She is probably the queen of the 20th dynasty. She is depicted with the sidelocks common to the Egyptian young of the period and in the presence of the gods Thoth, Atum, Isis and Nephthys. In the next chamber the queen is shown making offerings to Hathor the cow, and in the last chamber the gods Neith, Osiris, Selquit, Nephthys and Thoth.

Amenhikhopeshef (Tomb 55): Amenhikhopeshef was the son of Ramesses III and scenes show him with his father and the gods Thoth, Ptah and others. He was probably nine years old when he died. Scenes show him being presented to various gods, including Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the dead, by his farther. A premature baby was also found I the tomb. This belonged to his mother, who aborted upon learning of Amenhikhopeshef’s death.

* Nefertari (Tomb 66): One of the five wives of Ramesses II, Nefertari was his favorite and the tomb here has said to be one of the most beautiful in Egypt. The tomb is completely painted with scenes throughout. In most of these, Nefertari, known as “the most beautiful,” is accompanied by gods. She is usually wearing a golden crown with two feathers extended from the back of a vulture and clothed in a white, gossamer gown. Be sure not to miss the side room where one scene depicts the queen worshipping the mummified body of Osiris. Near the stairs to the burial chamber is another wonderful scene with Nefertari offering milk to the goddess Hathor.

Valley of the Kings


The Egyptian belief that “To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again” is certainly carried out in the building of the tombs. The king’s formal names and titles are inscribed in his tomb along with his images and statues. Beginning with the 18th dynasty and ending with the 20th, the kings abandoned the Memphis area and built their tombs in Thebes. Also abandoned was the pyramid style of building. Most of the tombs were cut into limestone and built in a similar manner: three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. These catacombs were harder to rob and were more easily concealed. Construction usually lasted six years, beginning with new reign. The texts in the tombs are from the Book of the Dead, the Book of the Gates and the Book of the Underworld.

The Valley of the Kings is divided into two sections: the West Valley and the East Valley. The East Valley is the area that is most visited by tourists. The West Valley contains only one tomb open to the public, Ay, the successor of Tutankhamun.

* Ramesses IV – Three white corridors descend into the sarcophagus chamber in this tomb. The chamber’s ceilings depict the goddess Nut. The lid of the pink granite sarcophagus is decorated with Isis and Nephthys, which were meant to serve as guardians over the body. Their duties fell short, however, as the tomb was robbed in ancient times. Originally, the priests placed the sarcophagus in Amenhotep II’s tomb in order to hide the body, which was a common practice.

* Ramesses IX – Two sets lead down to the tomb door that is decorated with the Pharaoh worshipping the solar disc. Isis and Nephthys stand behind him on either side. Three corridors lead into the antechamber that opens into a pillared hall. The passage beyond leads to the sarcophagus chamber.

* Merneptah – the steep descent into the tomb is typical of the 19th dynasty. The entrance id decorated Isis and Nephthys worshipping the solar disc. Text from the Book of the Dead is located in the pillared chamber, along with scenes of the sky goddess, Nut.

* Ramesses VI – Originally built for Ramesses V, this tomb has three chambers and a fourth pillared chamber was added by Ramesses VI. Complete texts of the Book of the Gates, the Book of the Caverns and the Book of Day and Night line the chambers. Portions if the Book of the Dead are located in the pillared chamber, along with scenes of the sky goddess, Nut.

* Ramesses III – The tomb is sometimes referred to as the “Harpers Tomb” due to the two harpers praying to the gods in the four chambers. Ten small chambers branch off of the main corridors. These were for the placement of tomb furniture.

* Seti I – The longest tomb in the valley, 100 meters, contains very well preserved reliefs in all of its eleven chambers and side rooms. One of the back chambers is decorated with the Ritual of the Opening of the Mouth, which stated that mummy’s eating and drinking organs were functioning properly. Believing in the need for these functions the afterlife, this was a very important ritual. The sarcophagus is now in the Sir John Sloane Museum in London.

* Tuthmosis III – The approach to this unusual tomb is an ascent up wooden steps, crossing over a pit, and then a steep descent down into the tomb. The pit was probably as a deterrent to tomb robbers. Two small chambers, decorated with stars and a larger vestibule are in front of the sarcophagus chamber, which is uniquely rounded and decorated with only red and black.

* Amenhotep II – In this tomb, a steep flight of stairs and a long unadorned lead to the sarcophagus chamber. Three mummies, Tuthmosis IV, Amenhotep II and III, and Seti II were found in one side of the room and nine mummies were found on in another.

* Horenheb – The construction is identical to Seti I’s except for some of the inner decorations.

* Tutankhamun – The royal seal on the door was found intact. The first three chambers were unadorned with evidence of early entrance through one of the outside walls. The next chamber contained most of the funerary objects. The sarcophagus was four gilded wooden shrines, one inside the other, within which lay the stone sarcophagus, three mummified coffins, the inner one being solid gold, and then the mummy. Haste can be seen in the relief and the sarcophagus, due to the fact that Tutankhamun died at age 19 years of age following a brief reign.

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