Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62)
The story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamun Nebkheperure in 1922 is well known, and it could be said that it is more interesting than the tomb itself. The treasures from the tomb can be seen in the Cairo Egyptian Museum in a newly-renovated exhibition hall and are well worth a visit.
The tomb itself however, is small, with architecture more in character with the private tombs of the West Bank than a royal tomb and the decoration is in a sorry state.
A staircase and short descending corridor lead to a rectangular antechamber with a small annex off to the east. At 90 degrees to the antechamber is a sunken burial chamber which when discovered was completely filled with the gilded shrines enclosing the sarcophagus of the king. This is the only chamber in the tomb to be decorated and the style is very similar to that of Tutankhamun’s successor Ay, who is depicted on the walls in the ‘Opening of the Mouth Ceremony’.
The east wall shows the king’s funerary procession with the mummy being transported on a sledge to the necropolis in the company of two visiers and a figure which some have identified as General Horemheb. This is an unusual scene in a royal tomb, although common in private tombs of the period.
The north wall shows Ay, already wearing the royal crown, performing the rituals before the young king’s mummy. Ay is here establishing his rights to the throne, not usually done until after the burial of the former pharaoh and gives rise to much speculation on the history of the period. Before this scene the king is shown being greeted by the goddess Nut and with his ka, embracing Osiris.
The south wall depicts Tutankhamun followed by Anubis, Isis (destroyed) and before Hathor, ‘Mistress of the West’. A vignette from the Amduat (the ‘Book of What is in the Underworld’) showing the apes of the ‘First Hour’ is depicted on the west wall of the burial chamber. Unfortunately the painted decoration is in a very poor state of preservation and getting worse each year.
The paintings in the tomb are curiously executed, with the decoration of the north, west and east walls in Amarna proportions while the south wall seems to be more traditional. All of the walls depict brightly coloured figures against a yellow background. There are four niches for magical bricks in the walls.
1 Standing statue of Tutankhamun, one of a pair from the antechamber of his tomb. (Cairo Egyptian Museum JE60708)
2 Life-sized painted mannequin of the king, probably used for fitting clothes and jewellery. (Cairo Egyptian Museum JE60722)
Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb was sensational at the time because it was the first time a royal tomb had been found which still contained an intact burial. The tomb had been robbed several times in antiquity and although a vast hoard of the funerary treasures remained in the tomb, it was obvious that they had been hurriedly ‘restored to order’ by the necropolis officials. The robbers however, had never got as far as the king’s mummy and this is still in situ today, displayed in the centre of the burial chamber in a gilded wooden coffin inside his sandstone sarcophagus.
On the east side of the burial chamber is the entrance to a side-chamber known as the Treasury. The contents of this room were similar to those which would have been in the ‘crypt’ area of a larger royal tomb. Here Carter found the king’s canopic equipment as well as two subsidiary burials thought to be Tutankhamun’s stillborn children. This room is now empty and cannot be visited today.
There is a little train – the taftaf – that runs from the coach park to the monument area and costs EGP 2. Tickets for the King’s Valley cost EGP 80 for three tombs and can be bought at the gate but separate tickets must be bought for the tomb of Tutankhamun costing EGP 100. Photography inside the tombs is strictly forbidden and can incur heavy fines. Many visitors find Tutankhamun’s tomb cramped and disappointing, although now entrance is restricted to only a few visitors at a time and at busy periods there may be a queue.