The Tomb of Seti I, Valley of the Kings, Egypt
by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews
The tomb of Seti I (Sethos I) is the longest (at more than 120 meters), deepest and most completely finished in the Valley of the Kings. It also represents the fullest development of offset, or jogged royal tombs in the valley. It was discovered in October 1817 by the strongman of the early antiquarians, Italian Giovanni Battista Belzoni. In fact, the tomb is still known marginally as Belsoni's Tomb. The tomb was discovered only a few days after the tomb of his father, Ramesses I. When originally discovered, the tomb made international headlines, and exhibits of the tomb were held in London in 1821, and later in Paris. The tomb is located in a small lateral wadi in the Valley of the Kings.
Seti I's reign is known for high achievements in art and culture, and his tomb was one of the hallmarks of his building projects, with highly refined bas-reliefs and colorful paintings. The decorations are more refined then in earlier tombs, with figures having larger ears and smaller mouths. This tomb marks the first time that decorations cover every passage and chamber. The decorative style established in this tomb is followed fully or in part by every succeeding tomb through the rest of the valley's history. The structure of the tomb is very complex, and there is a clear division of the upper section of the tomb and the lower section.
As in many of the tombs of the Valley, a stairway leads to a first corridor and then to a second stairway and a second corridor, which in turn leads to the ritual shaft. For the first time, the Litany of Re appears on the walls of these first two passages, with scenes from the Amduat (the third hour) also in the second passage (as well as deeper sections of the tomb). Just within the entrance to the tomb is a scene on the left that depicts the king praying in front of the sun god Ra in his falcon headed shape, with the sun disk. Within the ritual shaft, decorations follow an established pattern showing the king before various gods. The deities include Isis, Hathor and Osiris.
After the ritual shaft there is a four pillared room eight meters wide. Here, we find scenes from the Book of Gates (fifth and sixth hours, each hour starts with a richly decorated gate, guarded by snakes) and another innovation, the Osiris shrine which marks the transition into the lower reaches of most Ramessid period tombs. In the back of this room to the right is attached another room of similar dimensions with two pillars. Decorations in the two pillared room are only sketched, depicting the ninth through eleventh hours of the Amduat. On the back left of the four pillared room is a stairway, originally closed off and painted to suggest that the tomb ended here, that leads to a third corridor and then to a final stairway, a small antechamber and then a six pillared burial chamber. In these lower passages are scenes from the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremonies. In the antechamber, Seti is shown sacrificing and praying before Anubis, Isis, Horus-son-of-Isis, Hathor and Osiris. On the back wall of this chamber, he is depicted in front of Ptah and Nefertum.
The burial chamber is clearly divided into two parts, a six pillared room and at the back, a crypt. One of the pillars is completely destroyed. Some of the decorations on the other pillars were removed, and are now displayed entirely intact at the museum in Berlin. These were all decorated with scenes dominated by Osiris. On all six sides of the pillars that faced the central axis were scenes of the jackal-headed and falcon-headed "souls" of Buto and Hierakonpolis. The ceiling of the burial chamber is painted with astronomical decorations. For the first time, the ceiling in the crypt area is vaulted, and painted with astronomical decorations. It records specific constellations of the night sky along with the various decans or calendar units. The decorative theme of the burial chamber includes passages from the Book of Gates and the Amduat. There are annexes on either side of the burial chamber towards the front, and small niches reminiscent of features in the tomb of Amenophis III. The left chamber is decorated with the fourth hour from the Book of Gates. The right chamber has an entire copy of The Book of the Celestial Cow.
Steps at the back pair of pillars in the burial chamber lead down into the crypt. Here, Belzoni found an elegant empty alabaster sarcophagus, a little less than three meters long and with walls only five centimeters thick, making it translucent. Upon it were engraved passages from the Book of Gates as well as passages from the Book of the Dead. This sarcophagus was later purchased by Sir John Soane, who put it in his London Museum at Lincoln's Inn Fields, where it remains today.
Further annexes include a small annex at the back right of the crypt, a two pillared annex to the back left, and a four pillared annex off the back of the crypt. The right camber was called the "Chamber of Djed" (a symbol of Osiris). The two pillared room is large, and completely decorated. Osiris in various shapes decorate the pillars. On the upper walls are scenes from the sixth through eighth hour of the Amduat. But of real interest here is the lower walls which show pictures of items in the tomb, but unfortunately, much of these illustrations are not well preserved.
The burial chamber is not the end of the this tomb, for the tomb is physically connected to the underworld by a corridor that leads from the back of the crypt down to the water level.
Little funerary equipment was found within this tomb. Besides the anthropoid sarcophagus, other finds included:
- The carcass of a bull embalmed by asphaltum
- A large number of small figures of shabtis in wood and faience
- A number of wooden statues
- A painting brush along with paint pot or jar found at the entrance to the tomb
- a number of broken jars
- A corner fragment of the king's canopic chest
Other pieces from the tomb have been found widely scattered throughout the Valley of the Kings.
General Site Information
- Structure: KV 17
- Location: Valley of the Kings, East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
- Owner: Seti I
- Other designations: 12 [Hay], 17 [Lepsius], 3 [Champollion], 6 [Belzoni], Belzoni's
Tomb, Tomb of Apis, Tomb of Psammis, son of Necho [Thomas Young], W [Burton]
- Site type: Tomb
- Axis in degrees: 218.68
- Axis orientation: Southwest
- Latitude: 25.44 N
- Longitude: 32.36 E
- Elevation: 178.021 msl
- North: 99,561.706
- East: 94,133.203
- JOG map reference: NG 36-10
- Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
- Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt
- Surveyed by TMP: Yes
- Maximum height: 6.05 m
- Minimum width: 0.66 m
- Maximum width: 13.19 m
- Total length: 137.19 m
- Total area: 649.04 m
Last Updated: June 26th, 2011