Monday, January 27, 2014

History mystery: Secrets Of The Valley Of Queens

Goddess Hathor

The Valley of the Queens, an isolated cemetery at the southern part of the ancient necropolis of Ancient Thebes lies on the west bank of Luxor containing around 90 tombs most of them belonging to Nobles, Queens, Princesses and Princes of the XIX and XX dynasties. These tombs were formed by cutting into the rock in a similar fashion to those of their husbands though on a smaller scale. Secluded in a Y shaped ravine towards the western cliff, this valley served as a tomb for royal family members. This location was probably considered due to the large storm in the area which brought about a dramatic pouring of water from the rock cleft towards the western end and may have also contributed to its association and magical atmosphere with the great mother goddess Hathor. The tombs of the Queens contain art of amazing beauty with fascinating glimpses on the styles of royal women in the court of Pharaoh.

The plan of these tombs was a small ante chamber with a long narrow corridor having several side chambers and the burial chamber at the end of it all. The ancient Egyptian were lovers of beauty and the jewelry and dresses worn by the queen portrayed the same. The soft Egyptian cotton was preferred which flowed loosely with a variety of pleat in the fabric along with colored borders. Vulture head gear was seen as the goddess protecting the mother of the future king with these winged coverings having great beauty. Vulture in ancient Egypt was regarded for its remarkable care of its young ones and hence it was considered as a symbol of maternity where Mut the vulture was the mother goddess of Thebes. Most of the tombs in the Valley of the Queens were victim to robbery in antiquity. One of the important tombs in the valley was the tomb belonging to the famous Queen Nefertari, who was the main consort of Kind Ramses II and this beautiful tomb was in bad shape due to the salt crystals which seeped through its inferior quality of limestone. Besides Nefertari, four other ladies are also attested to be his queens but Nefertari excelled over them all. She has been considered as the `Most Beautiful of them’, and appears to be a high ranking origin in the society. Moreover her participation in the administration of the state is unparallel outside the Amarna Period which is reflected in the designation assigned to her as `Great King’s Wife’. Her tomb was the most beautiful in the valley and rightly worthy of her position in history.

Gueen Nifiriti
The motifs decorating the walls and ceilings are mythological connected with life in the next world, meeting with gods, deities and entry into eternity. The scenes also represent the queen wearing long, transparent white garment with two long features vulture headdress of gold accompanied with rich jewels of bracelets and wide golden collar. Her tomb was reopened to visitors on restoration of the same though it is closed to the visitors presently due to the high carbon dioxide levels and water in breath particles which damaged the artwork. Nefertari’s tomb consist of stairway which lead down to a hall with representations of the Queen with various Gods and Goddesses on the walls leading to an inner side chamber decorated with religious scenes of Queen Nefertari burning incense and offerings to Gods Osiris and Atum. A corridor led to the burial chamber with the walls having decorated scenes. Besides this, there are three other tombs of the sons of King Ramses III. The Egyptians were always interested in symbolic meaning where the paintings and carvings on tomb walls had some sort of magical effect with regards to comfort and spiritual development of the death in the next world. Tomb 55 which was considered as one of the most important tombs was dedicated to Prince Amon-khopshef, the son of King Ramses III who died while he was still young. One of the amazing scenes in the tomb is a scene on the walls of the first chamber representing the Prince along with his father, the King, with his offerings to various deities while the large hall has the decoration of some scenes from the `Book of the Gates’. Tomb 44 which belonged to Prince Khaem-waset was another son of Ramses III. His tomb consisted of two long corridors having two side chambers with a square burial chamber, the walls of which were decorated with various painted scenes some of which representing the Prince along with different deities and his father before the deities of the next world. Towards the 18th dynasty, high ranked officials preferred to be buried in the valley and the first member of the royal family buried in this valley was Sitre, wife of Ramses I belonging to the 19th dynasty.

Gueen Neferiti -2
Towards the end of Ramses III reign, the Valley of the Queens underwent remarkable changes and during the Third Intermediate Period, several tombs were modified and reused as family concessions for the members of Theban subordinate clergy as well as personnel in charge of the agricultural estates of Amun. During the Roman Period, these tombs were once again reused as burials for animal mummies. The late New Kingdom Abbot Papyrus, presently in the British Museum, relates an inspection of the valley, mentioning that the tomb of Queem Isis had been disturbed while thieves had vandalized and attacked the tomb resulting in few artifacts available at the site. The first scientific excavation of the site was done in early 1900 by Ernesto Schiaparelli, an Egyptologist working for the Italian mission from the Turin Museum. He was the one who discovered the tomb of Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II in 1905 which is now regarded as one of the most beautiful tombs in Egypt. With the help and support of the Ministry of Culture, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization and the Getty Organization, this tomb has undergone remarkable restoration with the work executed in the best manner possible utilizing the most modern technique of internationally adopted methods but this tomb presently is not open to the public due to its fragile condition.

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