Loading...

Learn more about the project

UNIVERSITY OF BASEL KINGS' VALLEY PROJECT

WELCOME!

Prof. Dr. S. BickelPROJECT DIRECTOR &Professor of Egyptologyat the Universityof BaselThe University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project has been granted permission by the Egyptian authorities to explore the non-royal tombs situated in the central area of the Valley of the Kings - a privilege not granted to many foreign teams. The concession allows for the detailed exploration of 12 tombs and their environs.

The tombs found in the Valley of the Kings (which belong to the UNESCO World Heritage) have only in part been documented and published.  In addition, large areas of the valley have remained unexplored – a fact that is of concern, due to the impact of natural and human influences currently present. In the face of these factors, our objective has become to secure the valuable information these tombs have to offer and to make it available to future researchers and to the public at large.

The University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project has especially dedicated itself to the preservation and documentation of these endangered historical tomb structures and has initiated a site management programme to ensure the protection of the tombs and their surroundings.

Early in the year of 2012 - after several years of preparatory work - our team discovered a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 64) and identified over 30 18th dynasty princes and princesses in a hitherto unexplored tomb (KV40).

Our recent campaigns have brought to light much historical information pertaining to the use of the Valley of the Kings from the 18th to the 25nd dynasty (ca. 1550 - 650 BC). In many cases, we were also able to identify the socially high-ranking persons buried here as well as the material provisions made for them.

Current work in KV 40 and in other still unexplored tombs within the concession area during the coming years, promises to produce further highly important results relative to tomb use during the time span between the dynasties mentioned above.

It is a pleasure for me to introduce my team and our project to you.

RESEARCH

Egyptology at the University of Basel can look back on a long tradition in regard to the exploration of the Valley of the Kings. The earlier campaigns have contributed substantially to the success of the current University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project.

Since the early 1970’s, Erich Hornung, former director of the Seminar of Egyptology at the University of Basel, has, within the framework of his studies of the old Egyptian funerary texts, recorded and analysed  the highly complex decorations found in the pharaonic burial chambers.

In the 1990’s, emphasis began to change and the focus moved away from the royal burial grounds (necropolis), as the “official” side of the valley, and more towards the exploration of aspects of daily life as found in the valley (i.e. its “unofficial” side). This approach found its implementation in the “Mission Siptah – Ramses X” project (MISR).

Between 1998 and 2007, University of Basel Egyptologists excavated the most southern part of the valley. In recording their results, they considered not only the royal tombs, but for the first time also put the other tombs found, into their topological, chronological and socio-historical perspectives.

The motivation to initiate our current project goes back to the MISR project and to the identification of one the tombs (KV 32) in the side valley of Tuthmosis III  as the burial site of Tiaa, the consort of Amenophis II. This attribution has raised new questions as to the use of the area and to the identity of the individuals buried there.

The University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project is currently conducting research into the following issues:

TOPOGRAPHY

What meaning is there to be found in the relationship between the natural and the artificial topography laid out in the side valley? What meaning can be ascertained from the spatial relationships between a tomb site and special landmarks? Is the position of a tomb site to be understood in relationship to the royal tomb and to other non-royal tombs in the area?

AGENCY

What impact did the disuse of the Valley of the Kings as a pharaonic necropolis have on tomb use in the area? Was the choice of a tomb and the burial rites performed during the 3rd Intermediate Period systematic or of a more individual nature (agency)?

ARCHITEKTUR

Is there a relationship between the social status of the entombed persons and the architecture of their tombs? Can the different sizes and layouts of the non-royal tombs be explained with regard to the background of social relationships? Why are the tombs not decorated and where were the funerary and memorial rites performed?

SOCIAL IDENTITIES

What social and genealogical relationships were in effect in the side valley i.e. which people had the privilege of being buried within the direct vicinity of the king?

CHRONOLOGY

What is the chronology of the side valley of Tuthmosis III and were there successive phases of use? When did the use of the side valley as a burial ground for non-royal persons begin and how long was this period of time?

ROBBERIES

Tomb robbery in the Valley of the Kings was systematic and already took place in ancient times. Who were the perpetrators and what was their financial and ideological background?

TOMBS

The tombs in the Valley of the Kings present us with 2 kinds of entrance structures: a step entrance passage leading to a corridor, or a shaft.

 

CORRIDOR TOMBS

A typical feature of tombs with corridors is access by means of a more or less steeply downward inclined entrance corridor (sometimes with steps at the beginning or with periodically intervening steps). Usually a second, slightly downward inclined corridor leads away from the entrance area to the burial chamber (e.g. KV 32 and KV 37).

KV 33 differs in this regard in that the entrance staircase leads directly to a central chamber with a transversal axis and several adjoining chambers.

An additional architectural feature of KV 33 came to light in the course of the University of Basel excavation and adds to the complexity of this tomb. In the eastern third of the main chamber the ground is ca. 20 cm lower than the remaining  ground level.

This feature is usually only found from the time of Amenophis II onward, the recess being used to receive the sarcophagus. The recess feature itself has not been found in tombs other than those designated for pharaonic use. The question that immediately arises here is: Who was originally supposed to be buried in KV 33?

 

SHAFT TOMBS

The entering shafts are vertical in construction and several metres deep. At the end of the shaft an opening leads to an antechamber or directly to the main chamber. In more complex tombs of this type there are one or more adjoining side chambers projecting from the main chamber. Most tombs in the concession area of the University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project (KV 26, 29, 30, 31, 36, 40, 59, 61 und 64) belong to the shaft-tomb type.

Shaft tombs themselves present us with two kinds of layouts: a one-chamber structure and multi-chambered constructions.

The first type of shaft tombs is “simple” in that they are accessed by one shaft leading directly to the main or burial chamber (which is without adjoining chambers). Tombs KV 36, 61, 59 and 64 are of this type.

In the second type of shaft tombs the shaft opens to a corridor. Here we find two variants: a “simple” structure, where the connecting corridor leads to a single main chamber (e.g. KV26), and a more complex structure, where the corridor leads to a central chamber with several adjoining chambers. Tombs KV 30, KV 31 and KV 40 are of this type.

 

DECORATION AND SEALING

In all the graves studied, the walls are neither smoothed nor decorated. Some tombs have red paint marks on the walls, which served the Pharaonic workers as a guide in the planned installation of the graves.

In KV 30, 31, 40 and 64 traces of initial blocking and sealing at the lower end of the shaft could also be detected. The process of blocking could be reconstructed on the basis of the salvaged stone and clay remnants as well as possibly used tools: Thus, the passage to the first chamber (B or J) was initially blocked with coarse rocks. In cups of the type of the so-called "flower pots", the Pharaonic necropoleous workers mixed the damp clay that was tempered with  straw and applied to the stone block. In the moist clay the wooden stamp with the official necropolis sealing (Upuaut with 9 prisoners) were impressed. This seal was also used to block passages to the side chambers in KV 40.

Tomb KV 31, which probably dates to Thutmose III, showed at its blocking of the lower end of the shaft traces of a previously unknown seal type, whose motive is probably to be read as the gods name "Geb".

All graves of the 18th dynasty in the side valley Thutmose III were robbed. Some also suffered significant damage from flooding:

The archaeological context in the Valley of the Kings and the tombs, which has changed significantly over the past two centuries, represents a great challenge. The interplay of different disciplines helps to process this complex data:

RESULTS

Several tombs (KV 30, KV 33, KV 37, KV 59) were almost free of finds when they were excavated. Mainly KV 31, KV 40 and KV 64 contained large quantities of the original tomb equipment as well as the remains of mummification collected in large, white washed vessels. Despite the highly fragmented state of all objects, a surprisingly detailed picture of the identity and occupancy history of the tombs emerges from their analysis.

 

THE BURIALS OF THE 18th DYNASTY

Due to its proximity to the royal tombs of Thutmose III (KV 34) and Amenhotep II (KV 35) it was to be assumed that the persons buried in the shaft graves belonged to the innermost circle of the royal family. The quality of the grave goods and the mummies testifies to the high social status of the grave owners. However, it was only the discovery of numerous inscribed "mummy labels" and more than 100 dockets of vessels with hieratic administrative notes in KV 40 that provided certainty about their identity.

With the help of these inscriptions not only the persons buried in the grave can be identified by name; There are also references to the administrative institution to which these individuals belonged: Accordingly, KV 40 served as the burial place of family members of Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III, from the "household of the royal children". Meanwhile, at least 30 individuals have witnessed by name.

From this group carry 8 persons the title of a "king's daughter" and four the title "king's son". Both infants (newborns / infants) and adults were buried in KV 40. None of the persons named on the "dockets" is known from other sources.

 

THE ROYAL HARIM

In addition to the royal children, another group could be identified within the persons named in the vessel inscriptions. As suggested by the clearly non-Egyptian names of these women, they were probably foreign women (Bint-Anat, Bascha, etc.). Partly the names have a direct relation to foreign areas ("Mistress of Punt"). The hieratic spelling of some names with the "Throwing Stick" -Determinative (Gardiner, Sign List T14 as a marker for "foreigners") identifies the individuals in question as non-Egyptians. It can therefore be assumed that in KV 40 u.a. foreign princesses may have been buried with part of their Egyptian and non-Egyptian followers. It is likely that these princesses came to the Egyptian court as part of a "diplomatic marriage." The fact that an apparently purely Egyptian funeral was organized for the non-Egyptian princesses and their companions raises questions about the identity formation and the degree of acculturation of these persons.

According to the discovery of the name tags from KV 40, a small, stele-shaped wooden tablet with name inscription was also found in grave KV 64 within the fragmentary remains of the burial of the 18th Dynasty. Called an otherwise unknown princess "Satjah" ("daughter of the moon god Jah)", which may have lived at the same time as the persons in KV 40.

 

THE BURIALS OF THE 3rd INTERMEDIATE PERIOD

The massive looting, which can be detected in KV 31 and KV 40, is likely to have occurred in the late 19th and 20th dynasties and caused significant damage to the grave inventory. The robbers seem to have targeted especifically on metal objects. Objects from these materials are therefore missing in the burial inventories.

KV 26, 31, 40 and 64 show traces of reuse during the 3rd Intermediate Period. While the the later burials in KV 26, 31 and 40 were apparently introduced without previous cleansing of the grave, the archaeological situation of KV 64 shows that the remains of the burial of the 18th Dynasty were initially covered with a layer of debris, before the coffin or the burial equipment were deposited on it. The burial equipment of the 3rd Intermediate Period consisted of a coffin, a few grave goods (stela, shabti box) and none (KV 64) or small amounts (26, 31, 40) of ceramics.

The numerous fragments of coffins and cartonnage, which could be recovered in KV 40, date – according to their style and iconography – to the 22nd dynasty. The coffin decoration of the singer of Amun, Nehemesbastet (KV 64) also stresses a fabrication during the IIIrd Intermediate Period. During this period the high priests of Amun and the priesthood of Month at Thebes filled the power vacuum that opened by the decay of the central power at the end of the 20th dynasty.

GALLERY

LAUNCH A GALLERY

TEAM & PARTNERS

Project management

Prof. Dr. Susanne Bickel,

Project director, University of Basel

Lic. phil. Elina Grothe-Paulin

Field director, University of Basel

Abdu Daramally

Rais, Luxor

 

Team

Dr. phil. Faried Adrom

Research Fellow, University of Basel

Tanja Alzheimer, MA

Geodetic, Stockholm

Emanuele Casini, MA

Research Associate, University of Basel

Claudia Gamma, MA

Research Associate, University of Basel

Charlotte Hunkeler, MA

Research Associate, University of Basel

Matjaz Kacicnik

Photographer, Cairo

Dr. phil. Hans-Hubertus Münch

Research Fellow, University of Basel

Erico Peintner, Kons./Rest (FH)

Conservator, Cairo

 

Partners / Cooperations

Dr. David Aston

Egyptologist & Ceramic expert

Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna

Dr. Nesrin El-Hadidi

Archobotanikerin, Cairo University

Dr. Nakita Frater

Anthropologist, University of Zurich

Dr. Rim Hamdy

Archaeobotanist, Cairo University

Prof. Dr. Salima Ikram

Anthropologist, American University, Cairo

Prof. Dr. Somaia Ismail

Molecular geneticist,

National Research Centre Giza

Dr. Christiane Jacquat

Archaeobotanist, University of Zurich

Dr. Rabab Khairat

Molecular geneticist,

National Research Centre Giza

Dr. Sabrina Meyer

Anthropologist, University of Zurich

Dr. Anita Quiles

Archaeometry, IFAO (Institut français

d’archéologie orientale), Cairo

Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Frank Rühli

Anthropologist, University of Zurich

Dr. med. dent. Roger Seiler

Anthropologist, University of Zurich

Agnieszka Wos Jucker, Kons./Rest

Textile conservator, Abegg Stiftung, Riggisberg

RESEARCH COOPERATIONS

Within the framework of the yearly excavation campaigns, the University of Basel’s core team works together with numerous experts in various related fields (Egyptology, archaeology, geodesy, medicine / palaeoanatomy, anthropology, wood and textile conservation and ceramics). The University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project also serves as a training programme for students of Egyptology at the University of Basel.

 

The University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project works in close cooperation with the following international institutions:

University of Zurich:

Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM)

Prof. Dr. Frank Rühli and his team examine the human remains in tombs KV 31, KV 40  and KV 64.

American University of Cairo

Prof. Dr. Salima Ikram analyses the non-human remains found in KV 31, which served as a generous alimentary supply for the deceased.

The Austrian Academy of Sciences

Dr. David Aston, an acknowleged expert in his field, documents and evaluates the collected ceramic objects.

University of Cairo / University of Zurich

Remains of fibres and plants originating from tomb furniture (mats, chests, etc.) are analyzed by Dr. Christiane Jacquat.

Abegg-Stiftung Riggisberg

Agnieszka Wos Jucker, textile conservator, has the task of viewing, consolidating and analysing the recovered textile fragments and mummy bandages.

SUPPORTERS

Without the support of our colleagues from the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs, the success of the University of Basel in Luxor would not have been possible. We would like to thank our colleagues for their many years of trusting cooperation.

Funding of the University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project has been provided by the Gertrud Maier Foundation and by private sponsors since 2009. Without their continuous support, the progress achieved and the successes attained would not have been possible.

Beginning in the spring of 2015 and for the duration of 3 years, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) will finance a complete processing and evaluation of the finds in KV 40.

As of 2015 our project also enjoys the support of the Alumni of the University of Basel.

Many thanks to our institutional

and personal supporters!

CONTACT

Prof. Dr. Susanne Bickel

University of Basel

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department of Ancient Civilizations, Egyptology

Petersgraben 51

CH-4051 Basel

 

Phone: +41.(0)61.267 30 60

Fax: +41.(0)61.267 23 41

 aegyptologie_at_unibas.ch

 

Mo-Fr: 9:00-12:00 am.

Mo, Thu, Fr: 9:00-12:00, 14:00-16:00 pm.

2017 | University of Basel | Departement of Ancient Civilizations | Egyptology

CORRIDOR TOMBS

Leitung

Prof. Dr. Susanne Bickel,

Projektleiterin, Universität Basel

Lic. phil. Elina Grothe-Paulin

Grabungsleiterin, Universität Basel

Abdu Daramally

Rais der Grabung, Luxor

 

Team

Dr. phil. Faried Adrom

Research Fellow, Basel

Tanja Alzheimer, MA

Geodätin, Stockholm

Emanuele Casini, MA

Research Associate, Universität Basel

Claudia Gamma, MA

Research Associate, Universität Basel

Charlotte Hunkeler, MA

Research Associate, Universität Basel

Prof. Dr. Somaia Ismail

Molekulargenetikerin,

National Research Centre Giza

Dr. Christiane Jacquat

Archobotanikerin, Universität Zürich

Dr. Rabab Khairat

Molekulargenetikerin,

National Research Centre Giza

Dr. Sabrina Meyer

Anthropologin, Universität Zürich

Dr. Anita Quiles

Archäometrie, IFAO, Kairo

Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Frank Rühli

Anthropologe, Universität Zürich

Dr. med. dent. Roger Seiler

Anthropologe, Universität Zürich

Agnieszka Wos Jucker, Kons./Rest

Textilielkonservatorin, Abegg Stiftung Riggisberg

Matjaz Kacicnik

Fotographie, Kairo

Dr. phil. Hans-Hubertus Münch

Research Fellow, Universität Basel

Erico Peintner, Kons./Rest (FH)

Konservator, Kairo

 

Kooperationspartner/innen

Dr. David Aston

Ägyptologe & Keramikologe

Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien

Dr. Nesrin El-Hadidi

Archobotanikerin, Cairo University

Dr. Nakita Frater

Anthropologin, Universität Zürich

Dr. Rim Hamdy

Archobotanikerin, Cairo University

Prof. Dr. Salima Ikram

Anthropologin, American University, Kairo