Monday, February 25, 2013

The Valley of the Kings and the Pyramids and Sphinx

Here are the images from my iPhone of some of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, across the Nile River from Luxor, Egypt. During the 18th, through 20th Dynasty's, rulers in ancient Egypt dug elaborate tombs for their afterlife. Sixty-three tombs have been discovered so far and they were created over a nearly 500 year period from the 16th to 11th centuries BC. This means that some tombs are over 3,500 years old!

The Valley of the Kings is really a box canyon or a dry wash into the Nile. The ancient Egyptians constructed a diversion canal above the canyon to divert flood water from entering the wash. They anticipated a long history of burials here.

The sign located at the entrance of King Tut's tomb (it was essentially closed on this day for cleaning of the walls and repairs). The tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and was completely intact having never been looted.

Here are some images from King Ramses 9 tomb. This is a detail of the ceiling near the burial chamber.

The paintings on the walls are well preserved due to the dry climate and their long history of secrecy. Most tombs were not plundered by thieves until the 17th or 18th centuries AD.

Where the burial chamber had been carved out of solid limestone, I saw unmistakable slickensides on a wall - this can be seen in the central part of the photo. Here a small fault had moved down to the left. The orientation of the fault plane suggested to me that this fault became activated when the canyon was cut. The block on the left simply slid down into the open hole of the canyon. I wonder if the ancient Egyptians recognized this as well?

This is the tomb of Seti II and is located at the head of the box canyon. (Note the solid wall of limestone that marks the stream pour-off to the left).

At the entrance to Seti II tomb

At the foot of the final chamber. The ancient Egyptians would often times build pseudo-burial chambers a short way into the tomb entrance. This was done in the hope of tricking future grave robbers into thinking they had reached the treasure. Keeping a tomb secret was very difficult to do since later people usually feel little to no connection to the spiritual  aspects of a persons burial (see Anasazi burial looting in the American Southwest).

A look back down at the sarcophagus

There is a scale model of the valley in the visitor center and one can see the complete layour of the various tombs here.

After leaving Luxor, we took a one-hour flight down to Cairo for a one-day touch-down to see the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. There was much anticipation for this stop since Cairo has been in the news so much lately. But all was calm. Friday is the hold day of the week in Islam and so the streets were quite empty as we drove through from the airport to the site. As usual, our pilot wanted to give us the best view he could from our seats in the 757.

Approaching Cairo looking southeast. The air quality was pretty good until we passed a huge power plant that was belching out tremendous amounts of pollution. Notice the agricultural patterns along the Nile River.

Our first view of the Pyramids of Giza from the southwest

We came in quite low in the jet...

...and then were virtually on top of them!
A strong wind whipped up this day and the visibility went opaque

Wind-whipped visitors at the Sphinx, carved from solid limestone in front of the Pyramids

Another view. I will have one more posting from this trip Around the World. There was drenching rain in Fes, Morocco and I did not get any photographs. But I will summarize my experiences in the last posting. Check back in a day or so.


  1. The detailed preservation of this tomb are amazing. As are the aerial shots. Great pilot.

  2. FANTASTIC photos! I loved the geology of the crypt too. The shots of the pyramids from the plane are phenomenal!

  3. This makes me want to arrive in Cairo in the morning to see the view like your photos! Love the tomb photos!


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