Day 16: Tut! Tut! Karnak without Carson?!

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This morning Mike and Bone arose dead ready, for some dead people! Tut ! Tut! you might say, and you would be right, our Boys were gonna see the mortal remains of King Tut Ankh Amun ( Egyptian name!) and the place where Johnny Carson got his mentalist shtick, Karnak!  The Road Scholar "Yacht" put into port for the full day, and Safwat asked Mike and Bone to be on "full Scott watch" duty as they boarded a bus for the famous Valley of the Kings. The bus ride was interesting in that in port and for the first 1/2 mile from the river, every thing was extremely lush, green and tropical, past that 1/2 mile the most desolate desert showed up fairly fast! First thing that Sawfat point out was the Egyptian home of Howard Carter, the suposed archeologist that found Tut's tomb, not for history or archeology, nope just another grave robbin' opportunist!


Craven, Cowardly Crook, Carters Cartel


Carter lived in this domed mud-brick house during his search for Tut-ankh-amun's tomb is surrounded by a garden on what is otherwise a barren slope above the road from Deir Al Bahri to the Valley of the Kings. The house has been restored and decorated with pictures and tools of the excavation, but Safwat had a busy day planned for the Road Scholars, and pressed on. The Bus left everyone at the Visitors Center where Safwat let the Boys wandered around while he got the passes for the Road Scholars.


Valley of the Kings for the Journeys of the Boys

While Safwat got the tickets the Boys checked out a very cool exhibit that presented the Valley, that portray the depth of the funeral chambers dug out for the pharoah burials.  When Safwat was ready everyone got ready to be carted!


Being Carted on the Valley of the Kings!!

Since it was a mile to the actual tombs from the Visitor Center, everyone gets to ride a golf cart to speed their journey along, which was really good because it was already in the high 90's in the brutal sun that early morning.  Once they arrived, the Road Scholars slowly walked up into the Valley, Safwat's friend in the sportcoat (in the 90 degree heat!) with an Uzi was there again and  followed behind the Road Scholars. Apparently, in 1997, 58 tourists and four Egyptians were massacred at nearby Deir el-Bahari by Islamist militants from Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. This led to an overall drop in tourism in the area.  The "gentleman" was insurance that the Road Scholars would be left alone.  The Valley of the Kings is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, rock-cut tombs were excavated for the pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt).

The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile opposite Thebes (modern Luxor) the ancient capital of the Kingdom, within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. The wadi consists of two valleys: the East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are situated) and the West Valley (Valley of the Monkeys). With the 2005 discovery of a new chamber and the 2008 discovery of two further tomb entrances, the valley is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers (ranging in size from KV54, a simple pit, to KV5, a complex tomb with over 120 chambers). It was the principal burial place of the major royal figures of the Egyptian New Kingdom, as well as a number of privileged nobles. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues as to the beliefs and funerary practices of the period. Almost all of the tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of the opulence and power of the pharaohs.

This area has been a focus of archaeological and Egyptological exploration since the end of the eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate research and interest. Since the 1920s, the valley has been most famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. In 1979, it became a World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis. Exploration, excavation and conservation continues in the valley, and a new tourist center has recently been opened.

Mike and Bone were awed by the sheer beauty of the area, the Valley of the Kings is situated over 1,000 feet of limestone and other sedimentary rock, which form the cliffs in the valley and the nearby Deir el-Bahari, interspersed with soft layers of marl. The sedimentary rock was originally deposited between 35 and 56 million years ago during a time when the Mediterranean Sea sometimes extended as far south as Aswan. During the Pleistocene the valley was carved out of the plateau by steady rains. There is now little year-round rain in this part of Egypt, but there are occasional flash floods. These floods dump tons of debris into the open tombs.

The quality of the rock in the Valley is inconsistent, ranging from finely grained to coarse stone, the latter with the potential to be structurally unsound. The occasional layer of shale also caused construction (and in modern times, conservation) difficulties, as this rock expands in the presence of water, forcing apart the stone surrounding it. It is thought that some tombs were altered in shape and size depending on the types of rock the builders encountered. Builders took advantage of available geological features when constructing the tombs. Some tombs were quarried out of existing limestone clefts, others behind slopes of scree, and some were at the edge of rock spurs created by ancient flood channels.   The problems of tomb construction can be seen with the tombs of Ramesses III and his father Setnakhte. Setnakhte started to excavate KV11 but unintentionally broke into the tomb of Amenmesse, so construction was abandoned and he instead usurped the tomb of Twosret, KV14. When looking for a tomb, Ramesses III extended the partly excavated tomb started by his father. The tomb of Ramesses II returned to an early style, with a bent axis, probably due to the quality of the rock being excavated (following the Esna shale).

The Theban Hills are dominated by the peak of al-Qurn, known to the Ancient Egyptians as ta dehent, or "The Peak". It has a pyramid-shaped appearance, and it is probable that this echoed the pyramids of the Old Kingdom, more than a thousand years prior to the first royal burials carved here.Its isolated position also resulted in reduced access, and special tomb police (the Medjay) were able to guard the necropolis.

While the iconic pyramid complex of the Giza Plateau have come to symbolize ancient Egypt, the majority of tombs were cut into rock. Most pyramids and mastabas contain sections which are cut into ground level, and there are full rock-cut tombs in Egypt that date back to the Old Kingdom.


A Beatiful Day for Tomb Raiding in the Valley of the Kings!

After the defeat of the Hyksos and the reunification of Egypt under Ahmose I, the Theban rulers began to construct elaborate tombs that reflected their newfound power. The tombs of Ahmose I and his son Amenhotep I (their exact location remains unknown) were probably in the Seventeenth Dynasty necropolis of Dra' Abu el-Naga'. The first royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings were those of Amenhotep I , and Thutmose I, whose advisor, Ineni, notes in his tomb that he advised the king to place his tomb in the desolate valley (the identity of this actual tomb is unclear, but it is probably KV20 or KV38).

The Valley was used for primary burials from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC. It contains at least 63 tombs, beginning with Thutmose I (or possibly earlier, during the reign of Amenhotep I) and ending with Ramesses X or XI, although non-royal burials continued in usurped tombs.


The First Tomb in the Valley, Ramesses II

Despite its name, the Valley of the Kings also contains the tombs of favorite nobles as well as the wives and children of both nobles and pharaohs. Therefore, only about twenty of the tombs actually contain the remains of kings. The remains of nobles and of the royal family, together with unmarked pits and embalming caches, make up the rest. Around the time of Ramesses I (ca. 1301 BC) construction commenced in the separate Valley of the Queens. Safwat told Mike, Bone and the Road Scholars that were paying attention (about half) the official name for the site in ancient times was “The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes”, or Ta-sekhet-ma'at (the Great Field).

At the start of the Eighteenth Dynasty, only kings were buried within the valley in large tombs. When a non-royal person was buried, it was in a small rock cut chamber, close to the tomb of their master. Amenhotep III's tomb was constructed in the Western Valley, and while his son Akhenaten moved his tomb's construction to Amarna, it is thought that the unfinished WV25 may have originally been intended for him. With the return to religious orthodoxy at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Tutankhamun, Ay, and Horemheb returned to the royal necropolis.

The Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties saw an increase in the number of burials (both here and in the Valley of the Queens), with Ramesses II and later Ramesses III each constructing a massive tomb used for the burial of their sons (KV5 and KV3 respectively). There are some kings that are not buried within the valley or whose tomb has not been located: Thutmose II may have been buried in Dra' Abu el-Naga' (although his mummy was in the Deir el-Bahari tomb cache), Smenkhkare's burial has never been located, and Ramesses VIII seems to have been buried elsewhere.

In the Pyramid Age, the pyramid tomb of a king was associated with a mortuary temple located close to the pyramid. Since the tombs of the kings in the Valley of the Kings were hidden, the kings' mortuary temples were located away from their burial sites, closer to the cultivation facing Thebes. These mortuary temples became places visited during the various festivals held in the Theban necropolis. Most notable is the Beautiful festival of the valley, where the sacred barques of Amun-Re, his consort, Mut, and son, Khonsu, left the temple at Karnak in order to visit the funerary temples of deceased kings on the West Bank and their shrines in the Theban Necropolis.

The tombs were constructed and decorated by the workers of the village of Deir el-Medina, located in a small wadi between this valley and the Valley of the Queens, facing Thebes. The workers journeyed to the tombs through various routes over the Theban hills. The daily lives of these workers are quite well known due to their being recorded in tombs and official documents. Amongst the events documented is perhaps the first recorded workers' strike, detailed in the Turin Strike Papyrus.

Safwat then discussed the archeology of the valley. The valley has been a major focus of modern Egyptological exploration for the last two centuries. Prior to this time, it was a site for tourism in antiquity (especially during Roman times). The area illustrates the changes in the study of ancient Egypt, starting as antiquity hunting, and ending as scientific excavation of the whole Theban Necropolis. Despite the exploration and investigation noted below, only eleven of the tombs have actually been completely recorded. In 1799, members of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt (especially Vivant Denon) drew maps and plans of the known tombs, and for the first time noted the Western Valley (where Prosper Jollois and Édouard de Villiers du Terrage located the tomb of Amenhotep III, WV22). The Description de l'Égypte contains two volumes (out of a total of 24) on the area around Thebes.

European exploration continued in the area around Thebes during the nineteenth century. Early in the century, the area was visited by Giovanni Belzoni, working for Henry Salt, who discovered several tombs, including those of Ay in the West Valley (WV23) in 1816 and Seti I (KV17) the following year. At the end of his visits, Belzoni declared that all of the tombs had been located and nothing of note remained to be found. Working at the same time was Bernardino Drovetti, the French Consul-General and a great rival of Belzoni and Salt. John Gardner Wilkinson, who lived in Egypt from 1821 to 1832, copied many of the inscriptions and artwork in the tombs that were open at the time. The decipherment of hieroglyphs, though still incomplete during Wilkinson's stay in the valley, enabled him to assemble a chronology of New Kingdom rulers based on the inscriptions in the tombs. He also established the system of tomb numbering that has been in use, with additions, ever since.

The second half of the century saw a more concerted effort to preserve, rather than simply gather, antiquities. Auguste Mariette's Egyptian Antiquities Service started to explore the valley, first with Eugène Lefébure in 1883, then Jules Baillet and Georges Bénédite in early 1888, and finally Victor Loret in 1898 to 1899. Loret added a further 16 tombs to the list, and explored several tombs that had already been discovered. During this time Georges Daressy explored KV9.

When Gaston Maspero was reappointed as head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, the nature of the exploration of the valley changed again. Maspero appointed English archaeologist Howard Carter as the Chief Inspector of Upper Egypt, and the young man discovered several new tombs and explored several others, clearing KV42 and KV20.

Around the start of the 20th century, American explorer Theodore M. Davis held the excavation permit for the valley. His team (led mostly by Edward R. Ayrton) discovered several royal and non-royal tombs (including KV43, KV46 and KV57). In 1907, they discovered the possible Amarna Period cache in KV55. After finding what they thought was all that remained of the burial of Tutankhamun (items recovered from KV54 and KV58), it was announced that the valley was completely explored and that no further burials were to be found. Davis's 1912 publication, The Tombs of Harmhabi and Touatânkhamanou closes with the comment, "I fear that the Valley of Kings is now exhausted."

After Davis's death early in 1915, Lord Carnarvon acquired the concession to excavate the valley, and he employed Howard Carter to explore it. After a systematic search, they discovered the actual tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) in November 1922.

Various expeditions have continued to explore the valley, adding greatly to the knowledge of the area. In 2001 the Theban Mapping Project designed new signs for the tombs, providing information and plans of the open tombs.   The earliest tombs were located in cliffs at the top of scree slopes, under storm-fed waterfalls (KV34 and KV43). As these locations were filled, burials descended to the valley floor, gradually moving back up the slopes as the valley bottom filled with debris. This explains the location of the tombs KV62 and KV63 buried in the valley floor.   Architecture The usual tomb plan consisted of a long-inclined rock-cut corridor, descending through one or more halls (possibly mirroring the descending path of the sun god into the underworld) to the burial chamber. In the earlier tombs, the corridors turn 90 degrees at least once (such as KV43, the tomb of Thutmose IV), and the earliest ones had cartouche-shaped burial chambers (for example, KV43, the tomb of Thutmose IV). This layout is known as "Bent Axis", After the burial, the upper corridors were meant to be filled with rubble and the entrance to the tomb hidden. After the Amarna Period, the layout gradually straightened, with an intermediate "Jogged Axis" (the tomb of Horemheb, KV57 is typical of this layout and is one of the tombs that is sometimes open to the public), to the generally "Straight Axis" of the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty tombs (Ramesses III's and Ramesses IX's tombs, KV11 and KV6 respectively). As the tombs' axes straightened, the slopes also lessened. They almost disappeared in the late Twentieth Dynasty. Another feature that is common to most tombs is the "well", which may have originated as an actual barrier intended to stop flood waters from entering the lower parts of the tomb. It seems to have developed a "magical" purpose later as a symbolic shaft. In the later Twentieth Dynasty, the well itself was sometimes not excavated (by the builders), but the well room was still present.

The majority of the royal tombs were decorated with religious texts and images. The early tombs were decorated with scenes from Amduat ('That Which is in the Underworld'), which describes the journey of the sun god through the twelve hours of the night. From the time of Horemheb, tombs were decorated with the Book of Gates, which shows the sun god passing through the twelve gates that divide the nighttime and ensures the tomb owner's own safe passage through the night. These earliest tombs were generally sparsely decorated, and those of a non-royal nature were totally undecorated.

Late in the Nineteenth Dynasty the Book of Caverns, which divided the underworld into massive caverns containing deities as well as the deceased waiting for the sun to pass through and restore them to life, was placed in the upper parts of tombs. A complete version appears in the tomb of Ramesses VI. The burial of Ramesses III saw the Book of the Earth, where the underworld is divided into four sections, climaxing in the sun disc being pulled from the earth by Naunet.

The ceilings of the burial chambers were decorated (from the burial of Seti I onwards) with what became formalised as the Book of the Heavens, which again describes the sun's journey through the twelve hours of night. Again from Seti I's time, the Litany of Re, a lengthy hymn to the sun god began to appear.  

Each burial was provided with equipment that would enable a comfortable existence in the afterlife. Also present in the tombs were items used to perform magic rituals, such as shabtis and divine figurines. Some of the items may have been used by the king during his lifetime (Tutankhamun's sandals for example), and some were specially constructed for the burial.

The modern abbreviation "KV" stands for "Kings' Valley". In 1827, Wilkinson painted KV numbers over the entrances to the 21 tombs that lay open in the East Valley at that time, beginning at the valley entrance and moving southward, and labeled four tombs in the West Valley as WV1 through WV4. The tombs in the West Valley were later incorporated into the East Valley numbering system as WV22 through WV25, and tombs that have been opened since Wilkinson's time have been added to the list. The numbers range from KV1 (Rameses VII) to KV64 (discovered in 2011). Since the early 19th century AD, antiquarians and archaeologists have cleared and recorded tombs, with a total of 61 sepulchers being known by the start of the 20th century. KV5 was only rediscovered in the 1990s after being dismissed as unimportant by previous investigators. Some of the tombs are unoccupied, others remain unidentifiable as regards to their owners, and still others are merely pits used for storage. Most of the open tombs in the Valley of the Kings are located in the East Valley, and this is where most of the tourist facilities are located.  

The Eighteenth Dynasty tombs within the valley vary quite a bit in decoration, style, and location. It seems that at first there was no fixed plan. The tomb of Hatshepsut has a unique shape, twisting and turning down over 200 metres from the entrance, so that the burial chamber is 97 metres below the surface. The tombs gradually became more regular and formalised, and those of Thutmose III and Thutmose IV, KV34 and KV43, are good examples of Eighteenth Dynasty tombs, both with their bent axis, and simple decoration.

Perhaps the most imposing tomb of this period is that of Amenhotep III, WV22, located in the West Valley. It was re-investigated in the 1990s by a team from Waseda University, Japan, but it is not open to the public.

At the same time, powerful and influential nobles began to be buried with the royal family; the most famous of these tombs is the joint tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu, KV46. They were possibly the parents of Queen Tiy. Until the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, this was the best-preserved of the tombs that had been discovered in the Valley.

During the Amarna Period there was a return of royal burials to Thebes after the end of the Amarna Period marks a change to the layout of royal burials, with the intermediate 'jogged axis' gradually giving way to the 'straight axis' of later dynasties. In the Western Valley, there is a tomb commencement that is thought to have been started for Akhenaten, but it is no more than a gateway and a series of steps. The tomb of Ay, Tutankhamun's successor is close by. It is likely that this tomb was started for Tutankhamun (its decoration is of a similar style), but later usurped for Ay's burial. This would mean that KV62 may have been Ay's original tomb, which would explain the smaller size and unusual layout for a royal tomb.

The other Amarna Period tombs are located in a smaller, central area in the centre of the East Valley, with a possible mummy cache (KV55) that may contain the burials of several Amarna Period royals – Tiy and Smenkhkare or Akhenaten.   In close proximity is the burial of Tutankhamun, perhaps the most famous discovery of modern Western archaeology. It was discovered by Howard Carter on 4 November 1922, with clearance and conservation work continuing until 1932. This was the first royal tomb to be discovered that was still largely intact, although tomb robbers had entered. Until the excavation of KV63 on 10 March 2005, it was considered the last major discovery in the valley. The opulence of his grave goods notwithstanding, Tutankhamun was a relatively minor king, and other burials probably had more numerous treasures.   In the same central area as KV62 and KV63, is "KV64", a radar anomaly believed to be a tomb or chamber announced on 28 July 2006. It was not an official designation, and the actual existence of a tomb at all was dismissed by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, prior to finally excavating and describing it during 2011–2012.   The nearby tomb of Horemheb, (KV57) is rarely open to visitors, but it has many unique features and is extensively decorated. The decoration shows a transition from the pre-Amarna tombs to those of the 19th dynasty tombs that followed.

The Nineteenth Dynasty saw a further standardization of tomb layout and decoration. The tomb of the first king of the dynasty, Ramesses I, was hurriedly finished due to the early death of the king and is little more than a truncated descending corridor and a burial chamber. However, KV16 has vibrant decoration and still contains the sarcophagus of the king. Its central location makes it one of the more frequently visited tombs. It shows the development of the tomb entrance and passage and of decoration.

His son and successor, Seti I's tomb KV17 (also known as Belzoni's tomb, the tomb of Apis, or the tomb of Psammis, son of Necho), is usually regarded as the finest tomb in the valley. It has extensive relief work and paintings. When it was rediscovered by Belzoni in 1817, he referred to it as "a fortunate day."

The son of Seti, Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great), constructed a massive tomb, KV7, but it is in a ruinous state. It is currently undergoing excavation and conservation by a Franco-Egyptian team led by Christian Leblanc. The tomb is vast in size, about the same length, and a larger area, of the tomb of his father.

At the same time, and just opposite his own tomb, Ramesses enlarged the earlier small tomb of an unknown Eighteenth Dynasty noble (KV5) for his numerous sons. With 120 known rooms, and excavation work still underway, it is probably the largest tomb in the valley. Originally opened (and robbed) in antiquity, it is a low-lying structure that has been particularly prone to the flash floods that sometimes hit the area. Tonnes of debris and material has washed in over the centuries, ultimately concealing its vast size. It is not currently open to the public.

Ramesses II's son and eventual successor, Merenptah's tomb has been open since antiquity; it extends 160 metres, ending in a burial chamber that once contained a set of four nested sarcophagi. Well decorated, it is typically open to the public most years.

The last kings of the dynasty also constructed tombs in the valley, all of which follow the same general pattern of layout and decoration. Notable amongst these is the tomb of Siptah, which is well decorated, especially the ceiling.   The Twentieth Dynasties role in the Valley is reflected in the first (upper) burial hall in the tomb of Twosret and Setnakhte, KV14; scenes from the Book of Caverns are depicted on the far wall.

The first ruler of the dynasty, Setnakhte, had two tombs constructed for himself. He started excavating the eventual tomb of his son, Ramesses III, but abandoned that dig when it unintentionally broke into another tomb. He then usurped and completed the tomb of the Nineteenth Dynasty female pharaoh, Twosret, KV14. Therefore, this tomb has two burial chambers, the later extensions making this one of the largest of the Royal tombs, at over 500 feet.

The tomb of Ramesses III (KV11, known as Bruce's Tomb or The Harper's Tomb due to its decoration) is one of the largest tombs in the valley and is open to the public. It is located close to the central 'rest–area', and its location and superb decoration make this one of the tombs most visited by tourists.

The successors and offspring of Ramesses III constructed tombs that had straight axes. They all had similar decorations. Notable amongst these is KV2, the tomb of Ramesses IV, which has been open since antiquity, containing a large amount of hieratic graffiti. The tomb is mostly intact and is decorated with scenes from several religious texts. The joint tomb of Ramesses V and Ramesses VI, KV9 (also known as the Tomb of Memnon or La Tombe de la Métempsychose) is decorated with many sunk-relief carvings, depicting illustrated scenes from religious texts. Open since antiquity, it contains over a thousand examples of graffiti written in ancient Greek, Latin and Coptic. The spoil from the excavation and later clearance of this tomb, together with later construction of workers huts, covered the earlier burial of KV62 and seems to have been what protected that tomb from earlier discovery and looting.

The tomb of Ramesses IX, KV6, has been open since antiquity, as can be seen by the graffiti left on its walls by Roman and Coptic visitors. Located in the central part of the valley, it is between and slightly above KV5 and KV55. The tomb extends a total distance of 105 metres into the hillside, including extensive side chambers that were neither decorated nor finished. The hasty and incomplete nature of the rock-cutting and decorations (it is only decorated for a little over half its length) within the tomb indicate that the tomb was not completed by the time of Ramesses' death, with the completed hall of pillars serving as the burial chamber.

Another notable tomb from this dynasty is KV19, the tomb of Mentuherkhepshef (son of Ramesses IX). This small tomb is simply a converted, unfinished corridor, but the decoration is extensive. The tomb has been newly restored and opened for visitors.

Twenty-first Dynasty and the decline of the necropolis was reflected by the end of the New Kingdom, Egypt had entered a long period of political and economic decline. The priests at Thebes grew more powerful, and they effectively administered Upper Egypt, while kings ruling from Tanis controlled Lower Egypt. Some attempt at using the open tombs was made at the start of the Twenty-first Dynasty, with the High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem I, adding his cartouche to KV4. The Valley began to be heavily plundered, so during the Twenty-first Dynasty the priests of Amun opened most of the tombs and moved the mummies into three tombs in order to better protect them. They removed most of the treasure in order to further protect the bodies from robbers. Most of these were later moved to a single cache near Deir el-Bahari (known as TT320). Located in the cliffs overlooking the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, this mass reburial contained a large number of royal mummies. They were found in a great state of disorder, many placed in other's coffins, and several are still unidentified. Other mummies were moved to the tomb of Amenhotep II, where over a dozen mummies, many of them royal, were later relocated.

During the later Third Intermediate Period and later periods, intrusive burials were introduced into many of the open tombs. In Coptic times, some of the tombs were used as churches, stables, and even houses.

The majority of the 65 numbered tombs in the Valley of the Kings can be considered as minor tombs, either because at present they have yielded little information or because the results of their investigations were only poorly recorded by their explorers. Some have received very little attention or were only cursorily noted. Most of these tombs are small, often consisting of only a single burial chamber accessed by a shaft or staircase with a corridor or a series of corridors leading to the chamber.

Nonetheless, some are larger, multiple-chambered tombs. These minor tombs served various purposes: some were intended for burials of lesser royalty or private burials, some contained animal burials, and others apparently never received a primary burial. In many cases these tombs also served secondary functions, and later intrusive material has been found related to these secondary activities. While some of these tombs have been open since antiquity, the majority were discovered in the 19th and early 20th centuries during the height of exploration in the valley.

Sadly, Safwat told the Boys that almost all tombs throughout Egypt have been robbed. Several papyri have been found that describe the trials of tomb robbers. These date mostly from the late Twentieth Dynasty. One of these, Papyrus Mayer B, describes the robbery of the tomb of Ramesses VI and was probably written during year eight or nine of Ramesses X, around 1118 BC.

Tombs were filled with valuables, therefore a prime motivation to rob them. Thieves often looted the chambers and bodies of mummies and took with them precious metals and stones, the most common gold and silver, linens and ointments or unguents. Often tombs were robbed when they were still fresh because many of the valuables buried with the mummies were perishable.

The valley also seems to have suffered an official plundering during the virtual civil war, which started during the reign of Ramesses XI. The tombs were opened, all the valuables were removed, and the mummies were collected into two large caches. One in the tomb of Amenhotep II, contained sixteen mummies, and others were hidden within Amenhotep I's tomb. A few years later most of them were moved to the Deir el-Bahari cache, containing no fewer than forty royal mummies and their coffins. Only tombs whose locations were lost (KV62, KV63 and KV46, although both KV62 and KV46 were robbed soon after their actual closure) were undisturbed during this period.

Most of the tombs are not open to the public (18 of the tombs can be opened, but they are rarely open at the same time), and officials occasionally close those that are open for restoration work. The number of visitors to KV62 has led to a separate charge for entry into the tomb. The West Valley has only one open tomb – that of Ay – and a separate ticket is needed to visit this tomb. The tour guides are no longer allowed to lecture inside the tombs, and visitors are expected to proceed quietly and in single file through the tombs, this is why Safwat lectured outside the door of each. This is to minimize time in the tombs and prevent the crowds from damaging the surfaces of the decoration.

With this background Safwat recommended that the Road Scholars choose three tombs to visit, of course, Mike and Bone wanted the hardest three to check out, starting with Steven Martins buddy, King Tut!!


Mike and Bone, ready to descend into the Tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amun!

The Boys started their descent into the Tut's tomb, they reflected on what Safwat just told them about the whole Howard Carter debacle of how he wrecked Tut's face by ripping off the famous gold mask due to his greed for the gold.Tut-Ankh-Amun tomb, also known by its tomb number, KV62, is the burial place of a very young (19-year old!), who reigned from 1334–1325 BC, was the pharaoh of the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty. The tomb consists of four chambers and an entrance staircase and corridor. It is smaller and less extensively decorated than other Egyptian royal tombs of its time, and it probably originated as a tomb for a non-royal individual that was adapted for Tutankhamun's use after his premature death. Like other pharaohs, Tutankhamun was buried with a wide variety of funerary objects and personal possessions, such as coffins, furniture, clothing and jewelry, though in the unusually limited space these goods had to be densely packed. Robbers entered the tomb twice in the years immediately following the burial, but Tutankhamun's mummy and most of the burial goods remained intact. The tomb's low position, dug into the floor of the valley, allowed its entrance to be hidden by debris deposited by flooding and tomb construction. Thus, unlike other tombs in the valley, it was not stripped of its valuables during the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1070–664 BC).


KV 62: Tut-Ankh-Amun's!

Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered in 1922 by excavators led by Howard Carter. As a result of the quantity and spectacular appearance of the burial goods, the tomb attracted a media frenzy and became the most famous find in the history of Egyptology. The death of Carter's patron, the Earl of Carnarvon, in the midst of the excavation process inspired speculation that the tomb was cursed. The discovery produced only limited evidence about the history of Tutankhamun's reign and the Amarna Period that preceded it, but it provided insight into the material culture of wealthy ancient Egyptians as well as patterns of ancient tomb robbery. Tutankhamun became one of the best-known pharaohs, and some artifacts from his tomb, such as his golden funerary mask (that was ripped from his face!), are among the best-known artworks from ancient Egypt.


Mummy! Mummy!! Look! the Mortal Remains of Tut-Ankh-Amun!!

Saftwat told the the Road Scholars that Tut-Ankh-Amun was the "antepenultimate pharaoh" of the Eighteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt. He ascended to the throne around the age of nine and reigned until his death around the age of nineteen. The most significant actions of his reign were reversing the societal changes enacted by his predecessor, Akhenaten, during the Amarna Period: Tutankhamun restored the traditional polytheistic form of ancient Egyptian religion, undoing the religious shift known as Atenism, and moved the royal court away from Akhenaten's capital, Amarna. Tutankhamun was one of few kings worshipped as a deity during his lifetime; this was usually done posthumously for most pharaohs.


Mike, Bone, and their buddy Scott in Tut's Tomb!

In popular culture, he is known for his vastly opulent wealth found during the 1922 discovery of his tomb, KV62, the only such tomb to date to have been found in near-intact condition. The only reason he is famous is the discovery of his tomb, which is widely considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. His reign was fairly insignificant in comparison of other pharaohs.

His parentage is debated, as they are not attested in surviving inscriptions. DNA testing has identified his father as the mummy within tomb KV55, thought to be the pharaoh Akhenaten. His mother was identified as a mummy from tomb KV35, which was also his aunt, informally referred to as "The Younger Lady" but is otherwise unknown.

Tutankhamun took the throne under the unprecedented viziership of his eventual successor, Ay, to whom he may have been related. Within tomb KV21, the mummy KV21A was identified as having been the biological mother of Tutankhamun's two daughters, it is therefore speculated that this mummy is of his only known wife, Ankhesenamun, who was his paternal half-sister. Their two daughters were identified as the 317a and 317b mummies; daughter 317a was born prematurely at 5–6 months of pregnancy while daughter 317b was born at full-term, though both died in infancy. His names, Tut-Ankh-Amun — are thought to have meant "living image of Aten" and "living image of Amun" in the ancient Egyptian language, with the god Aten having been replaced by the god Amun after Akhenaten's death. Some Egyptologists, including Battiscombe Gunn, have claimed that the translation may be incorrect, instead being closer to "the-life-of-Aten-is-pleasing" or "one-perfect-of-life-is-Aten".  Seeing him after all the Pop Culture, National Geographic, and TV Specials on his Golden Tomb, did not show a king, but a mummys boy! After a few minutes Mike and Bone Headed up to check out the next tomb to raid!T

KV8: Merenptah's Tomb!

he next tomb the Boys took on was supposed to be amazing (and it was!) but very long and difficult. Mike and Bone had to convince Scott not to follow them on this one.  Tomb KV8, located in the Valley of the Kings, was used for the burial of Pharaoh Merenptah of Ancient Egypt's Nineteenth Dynasty.

Merenptah (reigned July or August 1213 BC – May 2, 1203 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years, from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records. He was the thirteenth son of Ramesses II,only coming to power because all of his older brothers had died, including his full brother Khaemwaset.


Mike descending the looong ramp to Merenptah's Tomb

By the time he ascended to the throne, he was around seventy years old. He is arguably best known for his victory stele, featuring the first known mention of the name Israel. His throne name was Ba-en-re Mery-netjeru, which means "The Soul of Ra, Beloved of the Gods".

His daddy, Ramesses II lived well into his nineties and was one of the oldest pharaohs in Egyptian history, if not the oldest. He outlived many of his heirs and eventually Merneptah would be the son to succeed him. Merneptah would have been prepared to be pharaoh through the responsibility of his government roles. By Year 40, Merneptah had been promoted to Overseer of the Army. In Year 55, he was officially proclaimed crown prince. At that point, he gained additional responsibilities by serving as Prince Regent for the last twelve years of Ramesses II's life.

According to one reading of contemporary historical records, Merneptah ruled Egypt for almost ten years, from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on 2 May 1203 BC

Merneptah had to carry out several military campaigns during his reign. In the fifth year of his rule, he fought against the Libyans, who—with the assistance of the Sea Peoples—were threatening Egypt from the west. Merneptah led a victorious six-hour battle against a combined Libyan and Sea People force at the city of Perire, probably located on the western edge of the Nile delta. His account of this campaign against the Sea Peoples and Libu is described in prose on a wall beside the sixth pylon at Karnak.   There is also an account of the same events in the form of a poem from the Merneptah Stele, widely known as the Israel Stele, which mentions the suppression of revolts in Canaan and makes reference to the supposed utter destruction of Israel in a campaign prior to his fifth year, in Canaan: "Israel has been wiped out...its seed is no more." This is the first recognised ancient Egyptian record of the existence of Israel--"not as a country or city, but as a tribe" or people. A newly discovered massive layer of fiery destruction confirms Merneptah's boast about his Canaanite campaign.


The Colorful and Beautiful paintings in Merenptah's Tomb

Merneptah suffered from arthritis and atherosclerosis and died as an old man after a reign that lasted for nearly a decade. He was originally buried within tomb KV8 in the Valley of the Kings, but his mummy was not found there. In 1898 it was located along with eighteen other mummies in the mummy cache found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) by Victor Loret. His mummy was taken to Cairo and eventually unwrapped by G. Elliott Smith on July 8, 1907. Smith notes that:

The body is that of an old man and is 5'6" in height. Merneptah was almost completely bald, only a narrow fringe of white hair (now cut so close as to be seen only with difficulty) remaining on the temples and occiput. A few short (about 2 mill) black hairs were found on the upper lip and scattered, closely clipped hairs on the cheeks and chin. The general aspect of the face recalls that of Ramesses II, but the form of the cranium and the measurements of the face much more nearly agree with those of his [grand]father, Seti the Great.


Merenptah's Sarcophagus

In 1980, James Harris and Edward F. Wente conducted a series of X-ray examinations on New Kingdom Pharaohs crania and skeletal remains, which included the mummified remains of Mereneptah. The analysis in general found strong similarities between the New Kingdom rulers of the 19th Dynasty and 20th Dynasty with Mesolithic Nubian samples. The burial chamber, located at the end of almost 500 feet (making it one of the longest!), 160 metres of corridor, originally held a set of four nested sarcophagi. The outer one of these was so voluminous that parts of the corridor had to have their doorjambs demolished and rebuilt to allow it to be brought in. These jambs were then rebuilt with the help of inscribed sandstone blocks which were then fixed into place with dovetail cramps.

The pillars in one of the chambers were removed to allow passage of the sarcophagus, only two were replaced. The other two pillars may have been stolen by Paneb, a worker in the craftsman's village (Deir el-Medina), for use in his own tomb. The Tomb was beautiful but the climb down and back really was not that bad. So on to Twosrets Tomb!


KV 14 A Female Pharaoh: Twosret's Tomb

Tomb KV14 is a joint tomb, used originally by one of the few female pharaohs, Twosret, and then reused and extended by Setnakhte. It has been open since antiquity but was not properly recorded until Hartwig Altenmüller excavated it from 1983 to 1987.   Twosret was the last known ruler and the final pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt during the time Troy fell to the Greeks for some context.

She was said to have ruled Egypt for seven years, but this figure included the nearly six-year reign of Siptah, her predecessor. Twosret simply assumed Siptah's regnal years as her own. While her sole independent reign would have lasted for perhaps one to one and a half years from 1191 to 1189 BC, this number now appears more likely to be two full years instead, possibly longer. Excavation work by the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition on her memorial temple ("temple of millions of years") at Gournah strongly suggests that it was completed and functional during her reign and that Twosret started a regnal year 9, which means that she had two and possibly three independent years of rule, once one deducts the nearly six-year reign of Siptah. Her royal name, Sitre Meryamun, means "Daughter of Re, beloved of Amun.”


Twosret's loooong ramp down to her Tomb!

She was thought to be the second royal wife of Seti II. There are no children for Twosret and Seti II, unless tomb KV56 represents the burial of their daughter.   Theodore Davis identified Twosret and her husband in a cache of jewelry found in tomb KV56 in the Valley of the Kings. This tomb also contained objects bearing the name of Rameses II. There is no consensus about the nature of this tomb. Some (Aldred) thought this was the tomb of a daughter of Seti II and Tawosret, but others (Maspero) thought this was a cache of objects originally belonging with the tomb of Tawosret herself.

After her husband's death, she became first regent to Seti's heir Siptah jointly with Chancellor Bay. Siptah was likely a stepson of Twosret since his mother is now known to be a certain Sutailja or Shoteraja.

When Siptah died, Twosret officially assumed the throne for herself, as the "Daughter of Re, Lady of Ta-merit, Twosret of Mut", and assumed the role of a Pharaoh. Meanwhile, Egyptian territories in Canaan seem to have become effectively independent under the overlordship of a man called Irsu. Papyrus Harris I, the main source on these events, seems to claim that Irsu and Twosret had allied themselves, leaving Irsu free to plunder and neglect the land.  


Mike and Bone, Paying Homage to Twosret!

Twosret's reign ended in a civil war, which is documented in the Elephantine stela of her successor Setnakhte, who became the founder of the Twentieth dynasty. It is not known if she was overthrown by Setnakhte or whether she died peacefully in her own reign; if the latter is the case, then a struggle may have ensued among various factions at court for the throne in which Setnakhte emerged victorious. However, Setnakhte and his son Ramesses III described the late 19th dynasty as a time of chaos. Setnakhte usurped the joint KV14 tomb of Seti II and Twosret but reburied Seti II in tomb KV15, while deliberately replastering and redrawing all images of Twosret in tomb KV14 with those of himself. Setnakhte's decisions here may demonstrate his dislike and presumably hatred for Twosret since he chose to reinter Seti II but not Twosret. Located in the main body of the Valley of the Kings, it has two burial chambers, the later extensions making the tomb one of the largest of the Royal Tombs at over 400 feet long, and by far one of the most colorful!

With that Mike and Bone headed to their last tomb tour of Rameses I !


KV 16 Rameses I Tomb

KV 16,Rameses I Tomb is the steepest and deepest tomb. Another tomb Scott was disuaded to do by himself, giving Mike and Bone a free run to check out what turned out to be another amazing place. Mike and Bone headed down the very steep ramp into Tomb KV16, which was used for the burial of Pharaoh Ramesses I of the Nineteenth Dynasty. The burial place was discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in October 1817. Since Ramesses I ruled for less than two years, his burial chamber is rather small, being only fifty feet long. It consists of two descending staircases, linking a sloping corridor and leading to the burial chamber. Like the tomb of Horemheb (KV57), the grave is decorated with the Book of Gates. The sarcophagus, still in place in the final chamber, is constructed of red quartzite.


Rameses I Extremely Colorful Tomb Chamber

Menpehtyre Ramesses I (or Ramses) was the founding pharaoh of ancient Egypt's 19th Dynasty. The dates for his short reign are not completely known but it was around late 1292 to 1290 BC. While Ramesses I was the founder of the 19th Dynasty, his brief reign mainly serves to mark the transition between the reign of Horemheb, who had stabilized Egypt in the late 18th Dynasty, and the rule of the powerful pharaohs of his own dynasty, in particular his son Seti I, and grandson Ramesses II.Originally called Pa-ra-mes-su, Ramesses I was of non-royal birth, being born into a noble military family from the Nile Delta region, perhaps near the former Hyksos capital of Avaris. He was a son of a troop commander called Seti. His uncle Khaemwaset, an army officer, married Tamwadjesy, the matron of Tutankhamun's Harem of Amun, who was a relative of Huy, the viceroy of Kush, an important state post. This shows the high status of Ramesses' family. Ramesses I found favor with Horemheb, the last pharaoh of the tumultuous Eighteenth Dynasty, who appointed the former as his vizier. Ramesses also served as the High Priest of Set, as such, he would have played an important role in the restoration of the old religion following the Amarna heresy of a generation earlier, under Akhenaten.

Horemheb himself had been a nobleman from outside the immediate royal family, who rose through the ranks of the Egyptian army to serve as the royal advisor to Tutankhamun and Ay and, ultimately, pharaoh. Since Horemheb had no surviving children, he ultimately chose Ramesses to be his heir in the final years of his reign presumably because Ramesses I was both an able administrator and had a son (Seti I) and a grandson (the future Ramesses II) to succeed him and thus avoid any succession difficulties.

Ramesses was already an old man when he was crowned, Ramesses appointed his son, the lawith full official honors and is on display at the Luxor Museum.


Mike and Bone, in Ramesses I, Tomb Chamber

Seti I did in fact serve as the Crown Prince as the chosen successor. Seti was charged with undertaking several military operations during this time–in particular, an attempt to recoup some of Egypt's lost possessions in Syria. Ramesses appears to have taken charge of domestic matters: most memorably, he completed the second pylon at Karnak Temple, begun under Horemheb.

Not only did he die shortly after taken power, he was not treated well in death, in fact his poor body, toured the World!!!. A mummy currently believed to be that of Ramesses I was stolen from Egypt and displayed in a private Canadian museum for many years before being repatriated. The mummy's identity cannot be conclusively determined but is most likely to be that of Ramesses I based on CT scans, X-rays, skull measurements and radio-carbon dating tests by researchers at Emory University, as well as aesthetic interpretations of family resemblance. Moreover, the mummy's arms were found crossed high across his chest which was a position reserved solely for Egyptian royalty until 600 BC.

The mummy had been stolen from the Royal Cache in Deir el-Bahari by the Abu-Rassul family of grave robbers and sold by Turkish vice-consular agent Mustapha Aga Ayat at Luxor to Dr. James Douglas who brought it to North America around 1860. Douglas used to purchase Egyptian antiquities for his friend Sydney Barnett who then placed it in the Niagara Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada. The mummy remained there, its identity unknown, next to other curiosities and so-called freaks of nature for more than 130 years. When the owner of the museum decided to sell his property, Canadian businessman William Jamieson purchased the contents of the museum and, with the help of Canadian Egyptologist Gayle Gibson, identified their great value. In 1999, Jamieson sold the Egyptian artifacts in the collection, including the various mummies, to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia for US $2 million. The mummy was returned to Egypt on October 24, 2003. Learning that poor Ramesses was back where he belonged, the Boys were cognizant that the Safwat asked to Boys to not spend too much time in the tomb and skedadled back up the steep stairs to meet up with the rest of the Road Scholars, to check out one of the biggest and best monuments a man can build for his woman! Safwat herded the Road Scholar cats on to the Bus to go on the other side of the Valley!

If you cross the mountains in Valley of the Kings is a gianormous monument to a Female Pharaoh by her lover/builder.


Safwat!!! In his Element!!!


An Oasis in a Brutal, Beautiful Desert!!

On the way to the next temple the Bus took a quick stop for lunch right by a little oasis, it was only a short break, then on to a mortuary temple?!


The Amazing Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut!

The Bus then pull into the parking lot of the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut (Egyptian: Ḏsr-ḏsrw meaning "Holy of Holies") is a mortuary temple built during the reign of Pharaoh Hatshepsut of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Located opposite the ancient capital of Thebes (again, the current city of Luxor), it is considered to be a masterpiece of ancient architecture.


The Other Side of the Valley of the Kings Mountain Range!


The Adjacent Tomb of the Builder and Lover,Senenmut!

Its three massive terraces rise above the desert floor and into the cliffs of Deir el-Bahari. Her tomb, KV20, lies inside the same massif capped by El Qurn, a pyramid for her mortuary complex. At the edge of the desert, about ¾ of a mile east, connected to the complex by a causeway lies the accompanying valley temple. Across the river Nile, the whole structure points towards the monumental Eighth Pylon, Hatshepsut's most recognizable addition to the Temple of Karnak and the site from which the procession of the Beautiful Festival of the Valley departed. The temple's twin functions are identified by its axes: its main east-west axis served to receive the barque of Amun-Re at the climax of the festival, while its north-south axis represented the life cycle of the pharaoh from coronation to rebirth.


The Loooooong Walk Up!

Construction of the terraced temple took place between Hatshepsut's seventh and twentieth regnal year, during which building plans were repeatedly modified. In its design it was heavily influenced by the Temple of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty built six centuries earlier. In the arrangement of its chambers and sanctuaries, though, the temple is wholly unique. The main axis, normally reserved for the mortuary complex, is occupied instead by the sanctuary of Amun-Re, with the mortuary cult being displaced south to form the auxiliary axis with the solar cult complex to the north. Separated from the main sanctuary are shrines to Hathor and Anubis which lie on the middle terrace. The porticoes that front the terrace here host the most notable reliefs of the temple; those of the expedition to the Land of Punt and of the divine birth of Hatshepsut, the backbone of her case to rightfully occupy the throne as a member of the royal family and as godly progeny. Below, the lowest terrace leads to the state of the temple has suffered over time. Two decades after Hatshepsut's death, under the direction of Thutmose III, references to her rule were erased, usurped or obliterated. The campaign was intense but brief, quelled after two years when Amenhotep II was enthroned. The reasons behind the proscription remain a mystery. A personal grudge appears unlikely as Thutmose III had waited twenty years to act. Perhaps the concept of a female king was anathema to ancient Egyptian society or a dynastic dispute between the Ahmosid and Thutmosid lineages needed resolving. In the Amarna Period the temple was incurred upon again when Akhenaten ordered the images of Egyptian gods, particularly those of Amun, to be erased. These damages were repaired subsequently under Tutankhamun, Horemheb and Ramesses II. An earthquake in the Third Intermediate Period caused further harm. During the Ptolemaic period the sanctuary of Amun was restructured and a new portico built at its entrance. A Coptic monastery of Saint Phoibammon was built between the 6th and 8th centuries AD and images of Christ were painted over original reliefs.


Mike, almost there in the 90 degree heat!

The temple resurfaces in the records of the modern era in 1737 with Richard Pococke, a British traveller, who visited the site. Several visitations followed, though serious excavation was not conducted until the 1850s and 60s under Auguste Mariette. The temple was fully excavated between 1893 and 1906 during an expedition of the Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF) directed by Édouard Naville. Further efforts were carried out by Herbert E. Winlock and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) from 1911 to 1936, and by Émile Baraize and the Egyptian Antiquities Service (now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA)) from 1925 to 1952. Since 1961, the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology (PCMA) has carried out extensive consolidation and restoration works throughout the temple and it was opened to the public in March 2023.

From her accession to the throne, Hatshepsut renewed the act of monument building. The focal point of her attention was the city of Thebes and the god Amun, by whom she legitimized her reign. The preeminent residence of Amun was the Temple of Karnak to which Hatshepsut had contributed the Eighth Pylon, two 100-foot tall obelisks, offering chapels, a shrine with two further obelisks, and statues of herself. Facing Karnak from across the river Nile, she built a mortuary temple against the cliffs of Deir el-Bahari. The pinnacle of her architectural contributions, it is considered to be among the great architectural wonders of the ancient world.

The identity of the architect behind the project remains unclear. It is likely that Senenmut, the Overseer of Works who was likely Hapuseneb’s lover. It is also likely that she provided input to the project.

Over the course of its construction, which took place between the seventh and twentieth year of Hatshepsut's reign, the temple plan underwent several revisions. A clear example of these modifications is in the Hathor shrine, whose expansions included, among other things, a conversion from a single to dual hypostyle halls. Its design was directly inspired by Mentuhotep II's adjoining temple immediately south, although its manner of arrangement is entirely unique. For example, whilst the central shrine of Mentuhotep II's temple was dedicated to his mortuary cult, Hatshepsut instead elevated the shrine of Amun to greater prominence. However, her mortuary cult was otherwise afforded the most voluminous chamber in the temple, harkening back to the offering halls of the pyramid age. There are parallels between the temple's architectural style and contemporaneous Minoan architecture, which has raised the possibility of an international style spreading across the Mediterranean in this period. Safwat mentioned that Hatshepsut may also be of partly Cretan descent. Overall, the temple is representative of New Kingdom funerary architecture which served to laud the pharaoh and to honor gods relevant to the afterlife. After Safwat gave the overview, he let the gang go for the next hour to check the massive complex out.


From the Top, the Nile in the Distance

It is a about ¼ of a mile from the entrance to the massive temple and it was in the high 90’s in the superhot afternoon sun.  Walking all the way up to the top was thirsty work!

In fact, the three terraces fronted by a portico leading up to the temple proper is over a ½ mile from the long causeway.  Mike and Bone march slowly up each elevated terrace via a ramp. The south portico's reliefs depict the transportation of two obelisks from Elephantine to the Temple of Karnak in Thebes (the Boys next stop), where Hatshepsut is presenting the obelisks and the temple to the god Amun-Re. They also depict Dedwen, Lord of Nubia and the 'Foundation Ritual'. The north portico's reliefs depict Hatshepsut as a sphinx crushing her enemies, along with images of fishing and hunting, and offerings to the gods. The outer ends of the porticoes have 26-foot tall Osiride statues.


The Valley of the Kings Mountain Range in the Background!

The Boys tramped up the middle terrace which is 246 feet deep by 300 foot wide fronted by porticoes on the west and partially on the north sides. The west porticoes contain 22 columns arranged in two rows while the north portico contains 15 columns in a single row. The reliefs of the west porticoes of this terrace are the most notable from the mortuary temple. The south-west portico depicts the expedition to the Land of Punt and the transportation of exotic goods to Thebes. The north-west portico reliefs narrate the divine birth of Hatshepsut to Thutmose I, represented as Amun-Re, and Ahmose. Thus, legitimizing her rule both by royal lineage and godly progeny. This is the oldest known scene of its type. Construction of the north portico and its four or five chapels was abandoned prior to completion and consequently it was left blank. Looking around, Mike and Bone read that the terrace also likely featured sphinxes set up along the path to the next ramp, whose balustrade was adorned by falcons resting upon coiled cobras. In the south-west and north-west corner of the terrace are the shrines to Hathor and Ra, respectively.

The Shadows of Mike and Bone!

Finally at the top, Mike and Bone read that the upper terrace opens to 26 columns each fronted by a 17-foot tall Osiride statue of Hatshepsut. They are split in the center by a granite gate through which the festival courtyard was entered. This division is represented geographically, too, as the southern colossi carry the Hedjet of Upper Egypt, while the northern colossi bear the Pschent of Lower Egypt. The portico here completes the narrative of the preceding porticoes with the coronation of Hatshepsut as king of Upper and Lower Egypt. The courtyard is surrounded by pillars, two rows deep on the north, east and south sides, and three rows deep on the west side. Eight smaller and ten larger niches were cut into the west wall, these are presumed to have contained kneeling and standing statues of Pharaoh Hatshepsut. The remaining walls are carved with reliefs: the Beautiful Festival of the Valley on the north, the Festival of Opet on the east, and the coronation rituals on the south. Three cult sites branch off from the courtyard. The sanctuary of Amun lies west on the main axis, to the north was the solar cult court, and to the south is a chapel dedicated to the mortuary cults of Hatshepsut and Thutmose I.  

It was an amazing site and after an hour Mike and Bone saw Safwat wave the Road Scholars back to the bus in order to head over to the center of Ancient Egypt , the Theban Capital, Karnak!


The Ancient Capital of Egypt: Karnak!!!

Getting off the Bus, everyone felt a similar energy to visiting the Pyramids, Safwat walked the the Road scholars the three blocks to Karnak. Today Karnak is a vast open site and includes the Karnak Open Air Museum. It is believed to be the second most visited historical site in Egypt; only the Giza pyramid complex near Cairo receives more visits. It consists of four main parts, of which only the largest is currently open to the public. The term Karnak often is understood as being the Precinct of Amun-Re only, because this is the only part most visitors see. The three other parts, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV, are closed to the public. There also are a few smaller temples and sanctuaries connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amun-Re, and the Luxor Temple. The Precinct of Mut is very ancient, being dedicated to an Earth and creation deity, but not yet restored. The original temple was destroyed and partially restored by Hatshepsut, although another pharaoh built around it in order to change the focus or orientation of the sacred area. Many portions of it may have been carried away for use in other buildings.


The Remants of the "Road of Kings" that Connects Karnak to Luxor

They walked past the ancient road, filled with Egyptian statues lining the path that connected the political temple Karnak, with the religous temple Luxor. Mike and Bone were in for one heck of an early evening!

Another View of Road to Luxor from Karnak

Once outside the gates, Safwat told the Road Scholars that today Karnak is a vast open site and includes the Karnak Open Air Museum. It is believed to be the second most visited historical site in Egypt; only the Giza pyramid complex near Cairo receives more visits. It consists of four main parts, of which only the largest is currently open to the public. The term Karnak often is understood as being the Precinct of Amun-Re only, because this is the only part most visitors see. The three other parts, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV, are closed to the public. There also are a few smaller temples and sanctuaries connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amun-Re, and the Luxor Temple. The Precinct of Mut is very ancient, being dedicated to an Earth and creation deity, but not yet restored. The original temple was destroyed and partially restored by Hatshepsut, although another pharaoh built around it in order to change the focus or orientation of the sacred area. Many portions of it may have been carried away for use in other buildings.


The Amazing Entrance to Karnak

Walking into the entrance Saftwat gathered the Road Scholars Troops  and explained to the Boys that the key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction of temples started in the Middle Kingdom and continued into Ptolemaic times. Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the size and number of features are vast. The deities represented range from some of the earliest worshipped to those worshipped much later in the history of the Ancient Egyptian culture. Although destroyed, it also contained an early temple built by Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), the pharaoh who later would celebrate a nearly monotheistic religion he established that prompted him to move his court and religious center away from Thebes. It also contains evidence of adaptations, where the buildings of the ancient Egyptians were used by later cultures for their own religious purposes. In other words, it was used for a looong time.


Falcon Representation of Horus "Protecting" the Entrance to Karnak1

Once in the Gates, Safwat talked about the Great Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re has an area of 50,000 square feet with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. One hundred and twenty-two of these columns are 33 foot tall, and the other 12 are 69 foot tall with a diameter around 10 feet. The architraves, on top of these columns, are estimated to weigh 70 tons. Each of these columns is “book” or a review of a year of the Egyptian Empire! The number of columns and the amount of  hieroglyphics is mind numbing!


Hypostyle Hall of Karnak

Once in the Gates, Safwat talked about the Great Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re has an area of 50,000 square feet with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. One hundred and twenty-two of these columns are 33 foot tall, and the other 12 are 69 foot tall with a diameter around 10 feet. The architraves, on top of these columns, are estimated to weigh 70 tons. Each of these columns is “book” or a review of a year of the Egyptian Empire! The number of columns and the amount of  hieroglyphics is mind numbing!


The Thebes Theme

The history of the Karnak complex is largely the history of Thebes and its changing role in the culture. Religious centers varied by region, and when a new capital of the unified culture was established, the religious centers in that area gained prominence. The city of Thebes does not appear to have been of great significance before the Eleventh Dynasty and previous temple building there would have been relatively small, with shrines being dedicated to the early deities of Thebes, the Earth goddess Mut and Montu. Early building was destroyed by invaders. The earliest known artifact found in the area of the temple is a small, eight-sided column from the Eleventh Dynasty, which mentions Amun-Re. Amun (sometimes called Amen) was long the local tutelary deity of Thebes. He was identified with the ram and the goose. The Egyptian meaning of Amun is "hidden" or the "hidden god".


Inside the Temple

The broader Karnak Temple Complex comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, pylons, chapels, and other buildings near Luxor, Egypt. Construction at the complex began during the reign of Senusret I (reigned 1971–1926 BC) in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000–1700 BC) and continued into the Ptolemaic Kingdom (305–30 BC), although most of the extant buildings date from the New Kingdom. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut ("The Most Selected of Places") and the main place of worship of the 18th Dynastic Theban Triad, with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes, and in 1979 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List along with the rest of the city.

There is an unfinished pillar in an out-of-the-way location that indicates how it would have been finished. Final carving was executed after the drums were put in place so that it was not damaged while being placed. Several experiments moving megaliths with ancient technology were made at other locations, some of which are amongst the largest monoliths in the world. It is dedicated to their old friend Hatshepsut! After a twenty minute dissertation, Safwat let the Road Scholars have a full hour to absorb the enormity of Karnak!


Obelisk of Hatshepsut


The Famous First Pylon of Karnak


Pinedjem I and a Teeney, weeney Woman!

Wandering a around, Mike and Bone checked out one of the many, many statues of Karnak which is dedicated to the High Priest of Amon-Ra and King, Pinedjem I (ca. 1070–1032 BCE, XXI Dynasty) from the Forecourt ("the Court of King Sheshonq I") of 'Ipet-Sut' ("Karnak").  The tiny women beneath is, a statue of the "God's Wife of Amon" Mutemhat MaatkaRa, "King's Daughter of His Body", "Adoratrix of Amon", daughter of the High Priest of Amon-Ra and King Pinedjem I and of Queen Henwttawy.


The Famous Column "Library" of Karnak!

The Boys, then on their own waked in reverence down the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes which led them past the massive front of the first pylon, each one holding a statue of the king, Rameses II, in its paws (later usurped by Pinudjem of Dynasty XXI). The sphinxes were fantastic beasts with the body of a lion and the head of a ram, a symbol of the god Amun.

The first pylon is unfinished and its height, originally of 141 feet, is still pretty impressive. There is no certainty as to who built it, but it’s thought that it may have been the Dynasty XXV king Taharqo whose buildings are in the forecourt. It was likely augmented by Nectanebo I of Dynasty XXX who built the temenos walls which link to the pylon and surround the temple complex. The remains of a mudbrick ramp can still be seen on the inner side of the pylon, the only example we have, and which shows how the pylon was constructed.

The forecourt is now inside the entrance pylon but would have originally been outside the main temple. In the centre are the remains of the giant Kiosk of the Nubian pharaoh, Taharqo, with its one complete papyrus column still standing. It is worth remembering that Karnak Temple was built to expand outwards from a central core, the oldest part being in the middle of the main axis, behind the sanctuary of Amun.

To the north of the forecourt and adjoining the first pylon, is the triple barque shrine of Seti II, with three rooms built to contain the barques of Mut, Amun and Khonsu, the gods of the Theban triad.

On the south side of the forecourt, Mike and Bone walked by the entrance to a temple of Rameses III, who was not satisfied with the simple way-stations of his ancestors and built an elaborate barque shrine designed as a mini-version of his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu on the west bank. Its first court is lined with Osirid statues of Rameses and its walls show festival scenes and texts. Next to this is the ‘Bubastite gate’, built by Sheshonq of Dynasty XXII, the biblical king ‘Shishak’.


One of the Many, Many Awesome Statues of Karnak

On the south side of the forecourt, Mike and Bone walked by the entrance to a temple of Rameses III, who was not satisfied with the simple way-stations of his ancestors and built an elaborate barque shrine designed as a mini-version of his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu on the west bank. Its first court is lined with Osirid statues of Rameses and its walls show festival scenes and texts. Next to this is the ‘Bubastite gate’, built by Sheshonq of Dynasty XXII, the biblical king ‘Shishak’.


Mike and Bone in reverence, in the Hypostyle Hall!


The Unfinished Column


Saftwat, Teaching to the End!



An Amazing Evening Scene in Karnak!


Mike and Bone, bidding a fond farewell to Incomparable Karnak!!


Sadly, as the burning fire in the sky fading in the west, a brisk, warm breeze started up and Safwat signaled to the Road Scholars it was time to go! With great sadness, tons of thoughts, memories, and IPhone pictures, our heroes Mike and Bone headed to da Bus for a nightcap?


A Nightcap Endcap to the Trip in Luxurious Luxor!

Safwat had timed the trip to ensure that the Bus would arrive in Luxor right after dark for its amazing evening lighting!


The "Path of God" Between Karnak and Luxor at Night!

Parking the Bus, Safwat led the Road Scholars up a small portion of the Path of God to the gates of Luxor! As discussed earlier Luxor's Avenue of Sphinxes, an avenue of human headed sphinxes which once connected the temples of Karnak and Luxor. The avenue (known"path of god" which went in a straight line for about 8,900 foot between the Luxor Temple and the Karnak area was lined with human-headed sphinxes; in ancient times it is probable that these replaced earlier sphinxes which may have had different heads.[9] Six barque shrines, serving as way stations for the barques of the gods during festival processions, were set up on the avenue between the Karnak and Luxor Temple. Along the avenue the stations were set up for ceremonies such as the Feast of Opet which held significance to the temple. Each station had a purpose, for example the fourth station was the station of Kamare, which cooled the oar of Amun. The Fifth station of Kamare was the station which received the beauty of Amun. Lastly the Sixth Station of Kamare was a shrine for Amun, Holy of Steps. After that presentation, they headed into Luxor!


Luxor By Night!

Once inside, Safwat told Mike, Bone and the weary Road Scholars that the Luxor Temple was constructed approximately 1400 BCE. Unlike the other temples in Thebes, Luxor temple is not dedicated to a cult god or a deified version of the pharaoh in death. Instead, Luxor temple is dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship; it may have been where many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned in reality or conceptually (as in the case of Alexander the Great, who claimed he was crowned at Luxor).

To the rear of the temple are chapels built by Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty, and Alexander. Other parts of the temple were built by Mike and Bone's new friend, Tut-Ankh-Amun and Ramesses II.

During the Roman era (Yep,they were definitely here!), the temple and its surroundings were a legionary fortress and the home of the Roman government in the area. During the Roman period a chapel inside the Luxor Temple originally dedicated to the goddess Mut was transformed into a Tetrarchy cult chapel and later into a church.


The Iconic Main Gate of Luxor!

As the Road Scholars walked along with Safwat, he mentioned that as well as the other archeological sites in Thebes, the Luxor Temple was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. The Luxor Temple was built during the New Kingdom and dedicated to the Theban Triad consisted of Amun, his consort Mut, and their son Khonsu. The focus of the annual Opet Festival, in which a cult statue of Amun was paraded down the Nile from nearby Karnak Temple (ipet-sut) to stay there for a while with his consort Mut, was to promote the fertility of Amun-Re and the Pharaoh. However, other studies at the temple by the Epigraphic Survey team present a completely new interpretation of Luxor and its great annual festival (the Feast of Opet). They have concluded that Luxor is the temple dedicated to the divine Egyptian ruler or, more precisely, to the cult of the Royal Ka. Examples of the cult of the Royal Ka can be seen with the colossal seated figures of the deified Ramesses II before the Pylon and at the entrance to the Grand colonnade are clearly Ka-statues, cult statues of the king as embodiment of the royal Ka.


Walking in Past the Iconic Pharonic "Guards"!!


Awe Inspiring Statues in the Heart of Luxor!

After twenty minutes of leading the Road Scholars around, Safwat gave the Gang another twenty minutes on their own till 9:00 PM to soak it all in and get back to the Bus. With that, Mike and Bone scattered to the wind to check out their last iconic night in the land of Ancient Egypt!!


On the way out, Safwat point out to the Road Scholars a small mudbrick shrine that was built in the courtyard of Nectanebo I in early second century (126 AD), which was dedicated to Serapis and Isis, and ironically it was presented to Mike and Bone's old friend Hadrian on his birthday!

The trip in many ways began and ended with the Emperor Hadrian!



Leaving the Land of the Pharoahs!

It was the last night, of an iconic day, for an iconic trip!!! Mike and Bone, as well as the other Road Scholars staggered back on the Bus for the last night on the Boat. All were overwhelmed with the sites, sounds in the searing desert heat of the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut. Karnak, and finally Luxor! 


One, Last Crappy Buffet!

The now weary Boys sat alone for one last boiled beef with tabouli meal on the Boat. The next day everyone was heading back to Cairo for a Islamic Tour, but not Mike and Bone!