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The Nile Valley and Luxor Sights

Valleys of the Nobles

  • Archaeological Site/Ruins

Fodor's Review

The Valleys of the Nobles are divided into several necropolises distributed over the West Bank at Luxor. More than 1,000 private tombs have been found and numbered. Most of them can be dated to the 18th through 20th Dynasties, although some were reused during the 25th and 26th Dynasties (760–525 BC). Because there are so many of these tombs scattered over a wide area, several ticket options exist. For example, some individual tombs have their own admission fees (usually

around £E25–£E30). Other tombs are grouped together on a single ticket, sometimes combining one or two popular tombs with one or two lesser-known options.

As the name of the valley indicates, nobles mostly occupied the necropolises, but priests and officials were buried here as well. Funerary scenes appear in the tombs, but so do scenes of the daily life of the time; it is not unusual in these tombs to admire the joy of a banquet, discover the leisure-time activities, and analyze the professional lives of the deceased.

Sheikh Abd al-Gurna is the largest necropolis. A present-day village was built on top of the cemetery. To protect the site, the government tried to relocate the local population to another village, made especially for them. The attempt was all in vain for many years. Finally, the government prevailed; at this writing, scarcely a trace of the village is left. Note that some tombs have their own separate admission fees.

Tomb of Nakht. The second tomb on the left opposite the Ramesseum, is somewhat small, and only the vestibule is decorated with vivid colors. Before the vestibule is a small display of the finds inside the tomb. Nakht was a royal scribe and astronomer of Amun (high priest) during the reign of Thutmose IV (18th Dynasty). Start with the first scene on the left of the entrance—which shows the deceased with his wife, who pours ointments on the offerings—and keep moving right scene by scene. Underneath the first is a butchery scene. Then three registers represent agricultural scenes in which Nakht himself supervises. The wall to the right of the agricultural scenes has a false door. The offerings bearers kneel, two tree goddesses carry a bouquet, and other offerings bearers stand before the gifts.

The wall opposite the harvest depictions presents a famous banquet scene with dancers and musicians—look for the blind harpist. The first scene on the right of the entrance represents, once again, the deceased and his wife pouring ointments on the offerings. To the right of the banquet scene, offerings bearers present gifts to Nakht and his wife. Farther right still, the wall shows hunting and fishing scenes in the delta with the deceased and his family. Tomb 52, Abd al-Gurna.

Tomb of Ramose. This is one of the finest tombs of Abd al-Gurna. Ramose was a vizier during the reign of Akhenaton. His tomb is unusual for having both reliefs executed within the traditional norms of ancient Egyptian art, as well as reliefs done in the elongated Amarna style that the heretical pharaoh Akhenaton adopted. The tomb was left unfinished. It has a court with a central doorway that leads into a hypostyle hall with 32 papyrus-bud columns, most of which were destroyed, though others were reconstructed in modern times (full-height columns are all reconstructions). The inner hall that follows has eight columns and a shrine.

On the left side of the entrance to the hypostyle hall is a representation of the funerary banquet. The guests are seated in couples before the deceased. Their wigs are all different, and the eyes of the figures are accentuated with black contours. On the wall opposite, in an unfinished scene, Ramose presents the Theban Triad and Ra-Harakhte to the king, Akhenaton, who is accompanied by Maat. To the right of this traditional scene, another scene bears the telltale Amarna influence: Ramose stands in front of Akhenaton and his wife, Nefertiti, adoring the sun disc Aten. From the parking area, the tomb is 100 yards ahead, on the right side. This is the only tomb that has a separate admission fee. Tomb 55, Abd al-Gurna.

Tomb of Rekhmire. The resting place of the governor of Thebes and vizier during the reigns of Thutmose III, Hatshepsut, and Amenhotep II (18th Dynasty) is well preserved, and the scenes are almost complete. The texts on the walls explain the installation, the duties, and the moral obligations of the vizier. The right wall of the hall to the left of the entrance shows the deceased inspecting and recording foreign tributes. Within this scene, you may recognize people of Punt bringing animals and incense trees; the Kheftiu with vases and heads of animals; the Nubians with animals; and Syrians bringing vases, a chariot, horses, a bear, an elephant, and human captives. The second scene, on the left inside the chapel, represents several stages of various crafts. The depictions of jewelry making and sculpting here helped archaeologists to understand the techniques used during the pharaonic period. The focus of the last group of scenes in the tomb is mainly on funerary rituals, such as the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. To get to the tomb, you must make your way from the parking area to the top of the valley. Tomb 100, Abd al-Gurna.

Tomb of Sennefer. This tomb once held the body of the mayor of Thebes during the reign of Amenhotep II (c. 1439–1313 bc). He was the overseer of many daily activities in the city, responsible to the vizier for the smooth running of Nile commercial ports, collecting taxes on the grain harvest, and for the day-to-day maintenance of the temples. This was a position of great trust and responsibility.

In the antechamber are scenes of Sennefer receiving offerings presented by priests and family members. He sits under a fruit-laden vine—leading this tomb to be named Tomb of the Vineyards in earlier eras. The right-hand or eastern walls depict a funerary procession with Sennefer's possessions being carried into the tomb for his use in the afterlife. The burial chamber itself has colorful scenes of Sennefer's journey after death, the rituals he must perform during his journey and his rebirth into the afterlife, including a vivid image of Sennefer and his family making a pilgrimage to Abydos where the deceased has his heart weighed to ensure he is worthy of entrance to the afterlife. Tomb 96, Abd al-Gurna.

Tomb of Userhat. Usherhat was a public servant during the reign of Amenhotep II, described as "the scribe who counts the bread in Upper and Lower Egypt." His tomb is a fine example of an inverted T-style, with a wide antechamber leading directly to a long, slender burial chamber. Scenes in the antechamber depict Userhat's earthly responsibilities—his counting boxes of grain and overseeing the distribution of bread rations to the Egyptian army. In the main chamber there are vivid scenes of Userhat hunting and fishing. Tomb 56, Abd al-Gurna.

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Sight Information

Address:

Thebes, Egypt

Sight Details:

  • Ramose-Userhat group of 3 tombs £E30; all other tombs £E25 per group
  • Daily 6 am–5 pm

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