Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Valley of the Queens and Western Wadis: West Bank, Luxor


Approximately 1.5 km southwest of the Valley of the Kings, several wadis extend west from the edge of the low desert into and behind the Qurn, offering accessible but easily protected sites for burials. Here is where the tombs of many of Egypt’s New Kingdom royal family members lie. The most famous of these is the Valley of the Queens (QV). Commonly known in Arabic as 

Wadi Biban al-Malakat, QV has many other modern names, including Biban al Harim (“Gates of the Harim”) and Biban al Banat (“Gates of the Daughters”). Nearly all refer to female royalty, and it is their tombs for which QV is best known. However, the first people to be buried in QV were not queens but princes and princesses, sons and daughters of New Kingdom pharaohs. Indeed, the ancient name of the valley, ta set neferu, is a phrase that can mean both “The Place of Beauty” and “The Place of (Royal) Children”. The earliest burials in the QV date to the 18th Dynasty and were nearly all of royal offspring. It is only from the early 19th Dynasty onward that royal wives and mothers were also interred here. It is worth noting that a relatively small number of New Kingdom royal wives, sons, and daughters were buried in QV and nearby wadis in comparison to what is found in the historical record. 

Lying close to the QV are 3 subsidiary wadis that were also used as burial sites for royal family members and elite officials. The tomb of Prince Ahmose (QV 88) was dug in the eponymous Valley of Prince Ahmose, together with that of an anonymous person (QV 98). Several Christian hermitages (called laurae) were later built here as well. The Valley of the Rope (Vallée du Cord, Wadi Habl), named by European visitors for a length of ancient rope hanging down a nearby cliff face, was the site chosen for several 18th Dynasty tombs (QV 92, QV 93, and QV 97). Lastly, the Valley of Three Pits (Vallée des Trois Puits) contains three shaft tombs (QV 89, QV 90, QV 91) and twelve smaller tombs of the Thutmosid Period (QV A through QV L). 


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