Valley of the Kings is without question one of the most historically significant archeological sites in the world. For roughly 200 years, archeologists have been exploring the site, and during this time they have discovered 65 ancient tombs, with the latest discovery being made in 2008. The valley is essentially a royal necropolis that was used by the rulers of Egypt for a period of 500 years.
Being a “royal necropolis” the area was reserved for the burial of Egypt’s New Kingdom pharaohs and a few lesser nobles. However, not all the tombs were actually used for burial purposes. Instead, several of them simply remained vacant.
The Valley of the Kings is one of Egypt’s biggest tourist attractions, with an average of around 5,000 people visiting the site each day. On days when Nile River cruise ships dock in Luxor, the number of tourists can climb to as many as 9,000. It is without doubt one of the most fascinating places in all of Egypt.
A Brief History Of The Valley Of The Kings
Even though exploration in the Valley of the Kings started roughly 200 years ago, and despite 65 tombs having been discovered during this time, only eleven of them have been completely recorded. Tombs that are discovered are classified as either major tombs or minor tombs. Minor tombs generally don’t contain anything of interest. Even many of the major tombs discovered revealed very little, and quite often they have been virtually empty due to tomb robbers.
In 1907 explorers found a tomb which they believed was that of King Tutankhamen, but after this discovery, no other major tombs were discovered, and in fact by 1912, many people believed that the Valley of the Kings had been exhausted. Nevertheless, Lord Carnarvan, a wealthy British explorer was successful at obtaining a concession to continue excavating the valley. To do this he hired an archeologist by the name of Howard Carter.
Howard Carter discovered a number of tombs in the years that followed, and in 1922 he made history when he announced that he had found the real tomb of King Tutankhamen. The inner chamber that housed the body of the king was essentially a hidden chamber and it was only opened for the first time on the 16th of February 1923.
The Missing Mummies
Interestingly, there were no mummies found in nearly all of the tombs belonging to the great pharaohs. Many still had treasures and a limited amount of antiquities, but the bodies of the pharaohs had long since been removed by ancient priests in order to spare the pharaohs from tomb robbers. King Amenhotep II and King Tutankhamen were the only two pharaohs found in their tombs.
Explorers have however discovered the mummies of several pharaohs placed together in two different locations. Many archeologists also believe that there is most likely a third cache that has yet to be discovered. Sadly, all tombs discovered to date have at some point in history been entered by thieves.
East Bank vs. West Bank
Most tourists will find themselves exploring the west bank part of the valley since this is where nearly all the tombs are located. The east bank by comparison is only home to two major tombs, and as such, it gets far fewer visitors. Also, while there are typically around 10 or more tombs open to tourists on the west bank, only one is open on the east bank.
Visiting The Famous Royal Necropolis
The Valley of the Kings visitor center is open every day throughout the year. However, it should be noted that even though several tombs are open to the public, only a limited number of these are open at any one time. Additionally, a separate ticket needs to be purchased in order to enter the tomb of King Tutankhamen and also to enter the open tomb on the opposite side of the river.
All our Luxor tour packages and Nile cruise packages include a visit to the Valley of the Kings, as do many of our other all-inclusive Egypt tour packages. We personally rate Valley of the Kings as one of Egypt’s finest attractions.