Apart from the archaeological interest in understanding how a New Kingdom settlement once looked like, the worker’s village of Deir El-Medina also reveals vital information about how New Kingdom tombs were built from the various ostraca (a piece of rock with drawings or writing on it) and papyri found in the village or in the nearby “great pit”. When these finds are added to the ones discovered at the Valley of the Kings, a clear picture of how these tombs were built emerges. Add to this the many tombs left in various stages of completion and a full picture of tomb construction in the New Kingdom can be gleaned, though some details are vaguer and speculation still has to be employed.
So far there is no evidence relating to why each tomb in the valley was located in its specific location and when looking at a map of the valley one thing seems to emerge; they appear to have been dug in a random manner. Because of this a few tomb collisions did occur, but it is amazing that these did not happen more often.
The location for a new tomb was chosen by the vizier, who was accompanied by the architects and chief stonemasons, and later approved of by the king. It would have been harder for the later viziers to select sites due to the best locations in the cliffs already being used and the subsequent lack of space caused by the earlier tombs, as well as the knowledge that the valley had an inclination to flood. The correct positioning of the site must have been a very important decision to make and several factors would have influenced the choice; what was the quality of the rock? Was the site easily accessed and secure? Was the rock face suitable for a tomb entrance? The commencement and subsequent abandonment of several tombs occurs throughout the valley, though any detailed study on them has never occurred. The many hill ends, which protrude from the edges of the valley, became the setting for most of the 20th Dynasty tombs due to these being the most suitable places to cut new tombs. Though some scholars say that maps must have been made in order to avoid running into already existing tombs, this seems more like speculation as the valley had been chosen for its secrecy, hence the mortuary temples being separated from their relevant burial sites and built on the other side of the mountain, and any maps would have been a boon to tomb robbers.
Once the site had been chosen a dedication ceremony may have occurred as foundation deposits, similar to those used in temple dedications, have been discovered adjacent to many of the tomb entrances, though some scholars reject this. As these tombs were being cut into the body of the mountain that was sacred to the goddesses Hathor and Meretseger, and knowing the ancient Egyptians belief in religion and magic, it would be feasible to consider that some kind of dedication or offering was made to appease the gods; the gods who would watch over the deceased king. These foundation deposits contained many different items including objects of ritual importance. It is unclear why not every tomb had pits dug for these deposits, though some may have been stolen or simply lost through time.
Once more speculation occurs and this time it is about the discovery of two important documents which show the layouts of two separate tombs. This speculation is about whether the designs are plans of tombs to be constructed or pictures of tombs already constructed.
There is a plan of the tomb of Ramesses IV (KV2), in the Turin museum and it is a very detailed representation of the tomb, showing the corridors, and their names, as well as the placement of the king’s sarcophagus. The papyrus was written in hieratic and it also gives the various dimensions of the tomb. The debate, however, is whether it was actually a plan for the tomb, or a drawing after its completion
An ostraca was found in the debris of the tomb of Ramesses IX (KV6), which is now in the Cairo museum, whilst the tomb was being cleared in 1888. A simple illustration, with no details, it shows the access stairway next to the ramp used to draw the sarcophagus into the tomb. It also shows the side niches, or annexes, used to hold statues and/or accessories, doors and corridors, recesses and pillars, the ramp to the lower levels, and the burial chamber, including the floor recess for the sarcophagus. Again, whether it was actually a plan for the tomb, or a drawing after its completion is questioned by scholars.
Apart from the two aforementioned tomb illustrations, many ostraca have been found, at both Deir El-Medina and the Valley of the Kings, that also show designs of various tombs, several of which have been studied and been matched with their relevant tombs though, as in the case of the two illustrations above, the question of them being a “blueprint” or a “memento” has not been decided upon.
A list of the KV’s discovered (so far!)
KV 01 Ramses VII KV 22 Amenhetep III KV 52 Animals
KV 02 Ramses IV KV 23 Ay KV 53 Unknown
KV 03 Cache of Ramses III KV 24 Unknown KV 54 Cache of Tutankhamen
KV 04 Ramses XI KV 25 Akhenaten (?) KV 55 Tiye, Akhenaten or Other
KV 05 Sons of Ramses II KV 26 Unknown KV 56 Unknown
KV 06 Ramses IX KV 27 Unknown KV 57 Horemheb
KV 07 Ramses II KV 28 Unknown KV 58 Cache of Ay
KV 08 Merenptah KV 29 Unknown KV 59 Unknown
KV 09 Ramses V / VI KV 30 Unknown KV 60 Two Women (Setri In?)
KV 10 Amenmeses KV 31 Unknown KV 61 Unknown
KV 11 Ramses III KV 32 Unknown KV 62 Tutankhamen
KV 12 Unknown KV 42 Hatshepsut-Meryetre KV 63 New Tomb – Unknown
KV 13 Bay KV 43 Tuthmosis IV
KV 14 Tausert / Setnakht KV 44 Anen (?)
KV 15 Seti II KV 45 Userhet
KV 16 Ramses I KV 46 Yuya and Thuya
KV 17 Seti I KV 47 Siptah
KV 18 Ramses X KV 48 Amenemopet
KV 19 Mentuherkhepshef KV 49 Maya (?)
KV 20 Hatshepsut KV 50 Animals
KV 21 Two Queens KV 51 Animals
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