The Valley of the Gates of the Kings, also called the “Gateway to the Afterlife” is a valley in Egypt where, for 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 ancient Egyptians built massive public monuments to their pharaohs. But they also spent time and treasure creating hidden underground mausoleums. The most famed collection of such elaborate tombs—the Valley of the Kings—lies on the Nile’s west bank near Luxor, within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. It consists of two valleys, East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are situated) and West Valley.
In the New Kingdom Of Egypt, between (1539-1075 B.C), the valley of kings was the burial ground for pharaohs Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Ramses II, as well as queens, high priests, and other elites of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. In building these tombs, a lot of elaborate preparations were made for the next world, in which it was promised that humans would experience continuing life and pharaohs would become one with the gods.
Mummification was used to preserve the body as it was believed that this was necessary so that the deceased’s eternal soul would be able to reanimate it in the afterlife. The tombs were also not left out in preparations as well, as they were well stocked with all the material goods a ruler might need in the next world. They included furniture, clothes (even underwear), and jewellery. Tombs were also well-provisioned with enough food and drink, including wine and beer, for royal feasting in the next world.
Among the many tombs in the Valley of Kings is the tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamun, discovered by Howard Carter in 1992. Until then, only 62 tombs had been discovered and after that time, two more were discovered. Majority of the 65 tombs are minor tombs because they have yielded minimum information and also because they 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.
But 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.
Even though the entrances to these tombs have been well hidden, nearly all of the valley’s known royal tombs were likely robbed before the end of the 20th dynasty—there are Egyptian records that testify to robbers’ trials and to the punishments meted out.
In 1979, the Valley of Kings 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 centre has recently been opened, also, special tomb police (the Medjay) guard the necropolis.
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 West Valley has only one open tomb and a separate ticket is needed to visit this tomb, so it is less visited. 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 to minimize time in the tombs and prevent the crowds from damaging the surfaces of the decoration. Photography is no longer allowed in the tombs.
The main alley sees an average of 4,000 to 5,000, and on the days when the Nile Cruises arrive, the number can rise to over 9,000.