Tomb of Horemheb (KV57)

The tomb of Horemheb Djeserkheperure Setepenre has been closed to visitors for several years while undergoing restoration (after suffering flood damage) which is now completed. He was the last king of Dynasty XVIII.

Statue of Horemheb before Atum from the Luxor Cachette

The king who had served as a royal scribe and general in the courts of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), Tutankhamun and Ay, built for himself a large tomb in the centre of the Valley after becoming king to replace his earlier tomb at Saqqara. Unfortunately his Theban tomb was unfinished at his death but is interesting in that it shows us a great deal about the methods of decoration.

The traditional staircases and descending passages lead to a well-room (with shaft) decorated with scenes of the king before Anubis, Harsiesi and Isis, Hathor, the Western goddess, and Osiris (on the left) and Horus, Hathor, Osiris, Anubis and Harsiesi (on the right). The walls are brightly coloured on a grey-blue background.

The well-room leads into a two-pillared antechamber, again with scenes of the king offering to the various deities. A sunken staircase leads down through another descending corridor and staircase to a vestibule and it is here we begin to see the transition in style to the much larger tombs of Dynasty XIX.

The burial chamber is on a straight axis to the corridors and antechambers and is a large six-pillared sarcophagus hall with Horemheb’s red granite sarcophagus still in situ. The hall has the familiar star-ceiling. The design features vary from earlier tombs with a slope from the first pillars to the ‘crypt’ area down a flight of steps and then a series of three lower chambers (probably for storage) cut behind the burial chamber. The main sarcophagus hall has the usual four lateral annexes; the one at the western end has a beautiful painting of Osiris before a djed-pillar. The scenes in the burial chamber are incomplete and seem to have been interrupted at various stages of work, some areas showing the grids, sketched-in figures and corrections on the background of plaster. We also see the introduction of painted incised relief carving for the first time in a royal Theban tomb. Another innovation is the ‘Book of Gates’ (a reference to the ‘gates’ which separated the twelve hours of the night) which is depicted for the first time, but the final carving only completed in some places. The incomplete state of the burial chamber is rather a mystery because Horemheb reigned for 28 years – ample time to complete a tomb!

This tomb is much more interesting because of its unfinished condition. The figures depicted represent the transition from the late Amarna period, which Horemheb tried to completely wipe out, to the more formal style of the Ramesside period, but more than that they give us an insight into the techniques and methods of design used by the artists and craftsmen of Deir el-Medina during the New Kingdom.


The tomb of Horemheb was officially opened in April 2002 but seems to be always closed. Tickets for the King’s Valley cost EGP 80 for three tombs and can be bought at the gate. Photography inside the tombs is strictly forbidden and can incur heavy fines. There is a little train – the taftaf – that runs from the coach park to the entrance to the monument area and costs EGP 2.

~ by Su on February 5, 2009.