The Tomb of Tuthmosis III, Its Architecture, and Writings

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: History of Ancient Egypt

By Bob Brier, Ph.D., Long Island University

The tomb of Tuthmosis III was carved deep into the Valley. Although that is enough to make it a unique tomb, it was also the underground tomb. The drawings in his burial chamber show his expeditions to other countries. The his burial chamber also tries to protect him further, and he tries to wipe his aunt’s name out of history. Read on to learn why.

The picture shows a tomb with old wall paintings in Egypt.
The tomb of Tuthmosis III was carved into the Valley of the Kings, under the ground to make it as invisible as possible. (Image: Fred Mantel/Shutterstock)

Tuthmosis III was the greatest military king of ancient Egypt. He could not beat his aunt, Queen Hatshepsut, in building temples and obelisks, but he still outperformed her in other ways.

Erasing Hatshepsut from History

The photo shows the Festival Hall of Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt.
Tuthmosis built a couple of small temples at Karnak. These were not as spectacular as the ones that were built by Queen Hatsheput. (Image: LexyK/Shutterstock)

Late in his reign, he decided to erase Hatshepsut from history. He replaced her name with his own, his father, and his grandfather. Thus, in Hatshepsut’s temple and any other temple with her name, the name is sometimes replaced by Tuthmosis III, sometimes Tuthmosis II, and sometimes Tuthmosis I.

This was not an act of anger or revenge as it happened years after he began ruling. However, he had something greater to worry about than his aunt’s name in temples.

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Tomb Robbers

Tuthmosis III was married to many women like other kings were. Three of his wives, or concubines, were dead and buried in tombs. Years later, tomb robbers found them, and the jewelry inside was sold on the antiques market. The Metropolitan Museum of Art bought them, and now they are kept there.

The jewelry items are beautiful, but the most interesting point is that they have Syrian names. Tuthmosis III marched to Syria every year for 18 years. It is not that odd to have Syrian wives, but it is also important to note that many of them could have been diplomatic marriages to seal relations. After a while, Tuthmosis was ready for the trip to the next world.

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The Tomb of Tuthmosis III

Tuthmosis I was the first king to be buried in the Valley of the Kings. Tuthmosis III was the fourth, and he wanted his tomb to be as safe as possible from tomb robbers. Thus, he had his tomb carved deep in the Valley, all the way in the back and way up in the cliff. Steps were cut in the cliff so that the workmen could get up there and start carving.

The paintings and carvings on the wall are not only religious texts and expedition gains. Tuthmosis III also got the plants of Syria carved out on the walls, to show what he had seen in that country.

All tombs were carved from top to bottom since it was physically easier to do that. The workers spent much less energy chiseling toward the ground, not upward. Thus, the workers had chiseled a descending passageway, going way into the mountain. The tomb of Tuthmosis III has a burial chamber very deep in the ground.

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The Burial Chamber of Tuthmosis III

The burial chamber has an oval shape, like a cartouche, which is the oval that encircled the pharaoh’s name for the purpose of eternity. His sarcophagus is also in the shape of a cartouche with goddesses around it, protecting him. Of course, none of these might have originally been his ideas, and the architect suggested them, but the point is that he was open-minded enough to accept these innovations.

The photo shows the obelisk of Tuthmosis III.
Tuthmosis also built obelisks, but that was not an innovation. His innovation lies in the shape of his burial chamber and the tomb. (Image: Carlos F/Shutterstock)

After Tuthmosis III died and was buried in his chamber, the workmen carved the stairs out. Consequently, it was almost impossible to spot the tomb entrance. In case anyone, including tomb robbers, did spot it, it was almost impossible to get to the chamber.  

Today, a long metal stairway lets tourists go to the chamber and visit the tomb of Tuthmosis III, one of the greatest pharaohs of all time.

He kept getting tribute from Syria by marching there every year, kept the political relations on good terms by marrying Syrian women, built a different kind of tomb and burial chamber, and kept the record of not only his victories but also the plants he had seen. Indeed, he was one of the greatest pharaohs.

Common Questions about the Tomb of Tuthmosis III

Q: What is unique about Tuthmosis III’s tomb?

The tomb of Tuthmosis III is carved deep in the Valley and is somehow hidden from tomb robbers. Further, the burial chamber is carved in the shape of a cartouche, and around the sarcophagus are goddesses protecting him.

Q: What unique information did Tuthmosis III present on the walls of his tomb?

In the tomb of Tuthmosis III, the writings on the wall include some botany information about the Syrian plants that he had seen there.

Q: What is unique about the architecture of Tuthmosis III’s tomb?

The tomb of Tuthmosis III is carved deep into the Valley of the Kings, and there are steps carved into the mountain for workmen to build the tomb. The burial chamber is also in an oval shape.

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