Tomb of Rameses III (KV11)
The tomb of Rameses III, situated in the central area of the King’s Valley has been open since antiquity. It was explored in modern times by James Bruce in 1768, which gave it the name of ‘Bruce’s Tomb’.
Rameses III Usermaatre Meryamun completed and was buried in this tomb which was begun first by Sethnakht, before he abandoned it and usurped KV14. The design and decoration is fairly typical of the later Ramesside tombs but it has some interesting variations.
The entrance at the bottom of a steep staircase has the usual sun disc with scarab and ram-headed god on the lintel and inside the first corridor. Also in the entrance are two cow-headed pilasters on either side (which seem to be unique to this tomb). Texts from the ‘Litany of Re’ are depicted in the first corridor along with the usual scenes of the king before Re-Horakhty. Two niches or side-chambers open off the middle of the first corridor, uniquely decorated with pictures of bakers, cooks, butchers, brewers and a leather-worker in the east chamber, and pictures of sailing boats in the west chamber. The first three corridors were originally decorated for Sethnakht.
The second corridor depicts characters taken from the ‘Litany of Re’, with Anubis, Isis and Nephthys. The ceiling of the corridor shows a disc containing a hawk with Isis and Nephthys depicted as birds on either side. There are eight side-rooms along the length of this corridor which were thought to have been added by Rameses III and each one is decorated with interesting and unusual pictures. In the first eastern side-chamber the walls depict Nile gods offering to some interesting objects. The fourth side-chamber on the east shows pictures of blind harpists before deities (for some reason harpists were often blind), scenes which prompted Bruce to name this the ‘Harpist’s Tomb’. The second side-chamber on the western side of the corridor has some beautiful paintings of objects from the king’s treasury including furniture, vessels, skins and baskets, some probably coming from the Aegean Islands.
The end of the second corridor turns a sharp right bend. It was here that Sethnakht abandoned the tomb because he ran into the roof of the adjoining tomb of Amenmesse (KV10). Rameses relocated the axis to run parallel with the original and carried on further into the hillside. In the corridor and chamber formed by the bend the king is seen offering to various deities.
The third corridor, decorated by Rameses III shows scenes from the Amduat and the ‘Book of Gates’ and leads into a ritual well-room before entering a hall with four pillars and a sloping floor. On the east side of the pillared hall are scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’ and representations of the four human races. The western side of this hall opens into an annex with scenes of Rameses being led by Thoth and Horus and being offered the feather of Ma’at by Osiris. Neith and Selkis can be seen in the doorway.
At the entrance to the fourth corridor which descends further into the tomb towards a vestibule and the burial chamber, a barrier closes the rest of the tomb to visitors. This corridor depicts scenes from the ‘Opening of the Mouth Ritual’ and the king before various deities.
The eight-pillared burial chamber has suffered from severe flood damage but was evidently decorated with scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’ and the ‘Book of the Earth’. There is no astronomical ceiling. Side-chambers contain extracts from the ‘Book of the Divine Cow’ the ‘Book of Aker’ and the ‘Fields of Iaru’. At the end of the burial chamber is an extension of several further annexes.
The red granite sarcophagus of Rameses III was sold to the King of France and is now in the Louvre. It’s lid, which was found by Belzoni was sold to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The mummy of the king was found in the Deir el-Bahri cache (DB320) is now in Cairo Museum.
The tomb of Rameses III is currently open to visitors. 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.