The Valley of the Queens, the southernmost of the Theban necropolises, is the place where, starting from the 18th Dynasty, the princes and princesses of royal blood were buried, together with people who lived at court; later, starting from the time of Ramses II, the queens who were given the title of “royal brides” too. Later, during the XX Dynasty, Ramses III restored the tradition and had the tombs of some of his sons set up in the Valley.
The Necropolis of the Queens
Originally, the Egyptians indicated it as ta set neferu, an expression that lends itself to various interpretations, but that can probably be translated as “the place of beauty”, which is the most common interpretation.
The necropolis is located at the bottom of a valley, surrounded by steep hills, behind the hill of the present village of Qurna. In it there are about 70 tombs, looted in ancient times and then reused by local communities.
The site was chosen because it was considered sacred and, therefore, suitable for its function of royal necropolis, both for its proximity to the Theban peak and for the presence at the bottom of the valley of a cave-waterfall whose shape and natural phenomena connected to it could suggest a religious and funerary concept. The cave would, in fact, have represented the belly or womb of the Celestial Cow, one of the representations of the goddess Hathor, from which flowed the waters that announced the imminent rebirth of the dead buried in this privileged place.
Champollion in 1800, during one of his trips, documented about a dozen of them, the only ones available at that time.
In 1904, an Italian discovered in the Valley of the Queens, in West Thebes, what is probably the most beautiful tomb in Egypt. The Italian was Ernesto Schiaparelli, the director at that time of the Egyptian Museum of Turin, while the tomb belonged to the famous Nefertari, the Great Royal Bride of Ramses II (1279-1212 BC).
Despite the work of looters, who left very little of the original equipment, the QV66 remains a jewel for its architectural structure, comparable to those found in the Valley of the Kings and, above all, for the magnificent pictorial cycle that adorns the walls and ceiling.
The plan of the tomb is quite articulated, because it has many similarities with that of Ramses in the Valley of the Kings. It has a long entrance staircase, a large central chamber and an access staircase through which one enters the sarcophagus room, which has four pillars and four adjoining rooms.
It was only in 1970 that in the Valley began a series of annual missions carried out by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, the Louvre Museum, the Centre d’Études et Documentation sur l’Ancienne Egypte (CEDAE) and the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, now the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
To the excavations of Schiaparelli we owe the discovery of all the most important tombs of the site, such as those belonging to the sons of Ramses III, Seth-her-khepshef (QV 43), Kha-em-waset (the QV 44), Amon-(her)-khepshef (QV 55).
The beauty of this valley, you savor it at sunset, sitting on a stone, waiting for the sun to come down through the rocky clefts, that from the ochre color pass through the varieties of the pink color, but from the silence sacred to the pharaohs here appears on my head the circling of the Hawk God…
To the kind readers, we give appointment with the column on Ancient Egypt, in the new bimonthly magazine of Archeome from February 2021.