The XVIIIth Dynasty was the first to bury the dead in the Valley of the Kings. The first king to be buried in the valley was Tuthmosis I and continued right down the line. However, the most significant king buried in this valley is Tutankhamun, whose tomb was hidden for a long time. Various accounts of the valley have been provided, some as early as the 1st century B.C.
Ancient Accounts of the Valley of the Kings
One of the earliest visitors to the Valley of the Kings was a historian named Diodorus from the 1st century B.C. The Egyptian priests told him that there were 47 tombs in the valley, but he could see only 15.
The next significant visitor was Richard Pococke, a navy captain who sailed up and down the Nile. He visited the Valley of the Kings in 1739 and said that nine of the tombs were open to the public.
Some signs show the Valley of the Kings was open throughout antiquity. Some of the tombs were robbed early. There is ancient Greek graffiti on the walls written by Greek tourists.
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More Recent Discoveries at the Valley of the Kings
Napoleon Bonaparte was also an important visitor to the valley. His scientists and scholars discovered a tomb 200 years ago. The tomb they found belonged to Amenhotep III. His surveyors created the first accurate map of the valley and said there were 16 invisible tombs and 11 open ones.
Closer to modern times, between 1815 and 1829, an Italian engineer named Giovani Belzoni went to Egypt to sell water pumps. He failed at the job on hand, but decided to try treasure hunting. Being an engineer, he figured out that the tombs were more likely to be where piles of limestone chips were. The tombs were carved out of the mountain, so there had to be a lot of rubble.
His idea worked, and he found the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I. Inside the tomb was a sarcophagus that he took back to England. He exhibited it at the Egyptian Hall and attracted many visitors. He had a plaster of models of the tomb paintings made, and people could go into the mock tomb. It became wildly popular.
The next significant discovery was in 1881 in Deir el-Bahri, where several royal mummies were discovered. Royal mummies were there for protection.
Despite all the above mentioned discoveries, what is interesting to know is that through all these years, the tomb of Tutankhamun remained undiscovered.
This is a transcript from the video series History of Ancient Egypt. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
Looking for the Tomb of Tutankhamun
At the beginning of the 20th century, Tutankhamun was an unknown pharaoh. It was also the time when the first group of people looking for Tutankhamun appeared. A lot of people were involved in this hunt, and almost all of them failed.
The first person who set out to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun was Flinders Petrie. While he was excavating in Tel el-Amarna, he found some objects on which Tutankhamun’s name was written. It was the first time a sign of this unknown king was seen. Nobody knew who he was, but his name came up in excavations.
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Howard Carter: The Discoverer of Tutankhamun’s Tomb
Howard Carter became an archaeologist by pure coincidence. He was an uneducated artist who had learned painting from his father. One of his clients was a lady who was interested in Egyptology—Lady Amherst of Hackney. An excavator in Egypt asked Lady Amherst if she could send him an artist. He preferred someone who wasn’t a gentleman because they would ask for wine and other things.
So, Lady Amherst sent an 18-year-old Howard Carter to Egypt. There, Carter started as an artist and worked with Flinders Petrie. Working at Amarna, he learned about the techniques of excavation. Later, he went to Beni Hassan in middle Egypt and learned excavation techniques by working with another excavator, Percy Newberry.
Over the years, Carter gained more experience and knowledge of the Valley of the Kings. In 1917, Carter teamed up with Lord Carnarvon to excavate at Valley of the Kings. However, it was only in 1922 that they made the big discovery. While working at the site, Carter found a step which looked like it was going into the ground, probably leading to a tomb. And once all the steps were cleared, they realized that there were steps going into the ground leading down to a wall that was sealed. It looked like he’d found a virtually intact tomb.
They cut a little hole in the wall, and that’s when they made the famous discovery. Through the hole they could see gilded furniture. It was the beginning of the tomb that was packed with objects. However, it would take them another year to reach the burial chamber.
Common Questions about Finding Tutankhamun’s Tomb: A Historical Account
The most famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings is the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
The first excavator who set out to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun was Flinders Petrie. While he was excavating in Tel el-Amara, he found some objects on which Tutankhamun’s name was written. It was the first time that Tutankhamun’s name was seen in excavations.
Howard Carter was an uneducated artist who went to Egypt at the age of 18. He trained himself in excavation and worked for different archaeologists. He finally discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun.