Egypt: The Tomb of Amenhotep III (and possibly Queen Tiy) on the West Bank at Luxor

The Tomb of Amenhotep III (and possibly Queen Tiy)

on the West Bank at Luxor

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The tomb that we believe was the final resting place of Amenhotep III (Greek Amenophis III), one of the greatest kings of Egypt during one of its most prosperous eras, is actually located in the West Valley on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) and numbered WV22. There are only four registered tombs in this area, including WV23, belonging to King Ay. Though it may have been known to the 18th century traveler, W. G. Browne, we official ascribe its discovery to two engineers who were members of Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, Prosper Jollois and Edouard de Villiers du Terrage.

They at least carried out a minor investigation of the tomb in August of 1799.

At that time they drew a plan of the tomb and made sketches of some of the objects they discovered. Afterwards, they were followed by a number of 19th century adventurers who seem to have carried off any number of small objects as souvenirs of their visit. Even Flinders Petrie and Francis Llewellyn Griffith were guilty of this, and a few people even went so far as to carve out small parts of the beautifully painted surfaces a number of scenes, that are now mostly all in Paris at the Louvre. After such a brutal defacement of an exquisitely decorated monument, there is little reason to wonder why the current Egyptian government is seeking the return of many such artifacts to their rightful place.

Archaeological Excavations

While Theodore Davis, Howard Carter's predecessor in the Valley of the kings, carried out a superficial clearance and investigation of the tomb between 1905 and 1914, he left almost no details of his findings. Only with Carter under the patronage of Lord Carnarvon came the first seriously examination of the structure during the spring of 1915. Carter, the famous discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhaman, became interested in the tomb after having acquired three fine hard stone bracelets plaques from a Luxor antiquities dealer that were inscribed with the name of Amenhotep III and his chief queen, Tiy (Tiye). Apparently the original precious metal mounts had been removed in antiquity, and rumor had it that these items had been found in the vicinity of the tomb. Hence, Carter thought there might be other valuable objects remaining to be discovered.

A drawing of one of Howard Carter's bracelet plaques

He began by clearing around the mouth of the water course beneath the entrance to the tomb followed by excavating immediately in front of the entrance, which yielded a number of objects before actually entering the tomb proper. These included a fragmentary foot from a Shabti figure of Queen Tiy, along with bits and pieces of faience and glass thrown from the tomb in ancient times recovered from the water course. From the entrance he found five intact foundation deposits and one robbed emplacement.

Within the tomb, he mostly worked sections that were neglected by earlier investigators, most notably the deep well shaft. Of course, this yielded a number of objects, including a fine hub from a chariot wheel and interestingly, one more small fragment of a bracelet plaque made of faience.

However, Howard Carter did not limit his excavation completely to neglected areas of the tomb. He also worked in the burial chamber that had already been worked by Davis, where he discovered a fragment of the king's calcite canopic chest. Other items would later be recovered from the debris outside the tomb.

However, Carter was not the last to examine this tomb. As recently as 1989, a Japanese team led by Sakuji Yoshimura and Jiro Kondo of Waseda University, after having excavated at Amenhotep III's palace complex to the south, also decided to have a follow up look into this structure. This modern effort was, of course, highly systematic, and the team cleared the tomb down to the bedrock. That investigation yielded a seventh, smaller (and uninscribed) foundation deposit, together with several hundred fragments of funerary material. The foundation deposit consisted of the head and small bones of a calf, five miniature pottery vessels, a wooden model cradle and a wooden carving of a symbolic rope knot, all placed in a reed basket.

Salt leeching through the walls of the tomb resulted in the paintings crumbling away from the walls. The columns inside the tomb have also started to show evidence of salt damage. Fortunately, the Japanese team also began restoration and preservation work on the tomb

Tomb Layout

This tomb differed in several respects from those of Amenhotep III's predecessors, though not necessarily in its overall design. It was located, for the first time relative to royal tombs, in the slope away from the cliff face, and internally, only very specific elements underwent modification, mostly in their locations. In fact, the most deviate constructs is a room cut at the base of the well shaft, the communication between the anteroom and the burial chamber, the orientation of the burial chamber and the addition of two large rooms to the crypt, each of which have a pillar and storage annexes.

The tomb entrance is through a corridor leading off approximately to the east that in turn is followed by a second corridor, a second set of stairs, a third corridor and then the well shaft. After the well shaft there is a two pillared hall that is oriented mostly north and south, from which a stairway leads off to the north followed by a corridor and then another stairway before communicating with the antechamber. The antechamber leads almost directly into the burial chamber which is oriented in a more or less east-west direction. It has six pillars in two rows and between the rear two rows a short stairway leads to the actual burial crypt. Within the floor of the crypt are found two recesses, including a canopic niche, though both are suspiciously rough and may be unfinished. Some eleven niches in the walls have been noted around the crypt, and originally there seems to have been wooden doors leading into the sarcophagus chamber. There are annexes on both the north and south sides of the pillared

section of the chamber, with another south of the crypt. One of the single pillared suites leads off to the south, while the second leads from the rear, or east side of the main crypt. There are niches at both entrances to these pillared rooms, and they too seem to have once had wooden doors.

It was this second of the two pillared rooms that apparently was meant for Tiy'sburial, and both Carter and the Japanese team found objects that might evidence this conclusion. It is possible that the second suite of rooms, expanded from an original storeroom, was actually meant for his wife and daughter, Sitamun. In fact, we find a parallel in his palace, where Amenhotep III apparently squeezed in a set of rooms between his own and those of Tiy for this princess who was promoted to Royal wife.


We find some new elements in the decorations of Amenhotep III's tomb. Few decorations exist prior to the well shaft, but for the first time we find find the king shown with the royal ka before the goddesses Hathor and Nut. It is only now that this Western deity is clearly defined apart from the aspect of Hathor. On the walls of the well shaft, Hathor leads one group of deities while Nut leads another. Here, the deceased king's entry into the western realm of the dead is depicted. Also in the well shaft is a scene showing Hathor receiving both the king and the ka (soul) of his father, Tuthmosis IV. Unfortunately, these scenes were rather poor even in 1799 at the time of their discovery.

Amenhotep III and his father, Tuthmosis IV, accompanied by his father's ka

The antechamber walls were also decorated with scenes of the king before various deities, while in the burial chamber we find similar scenes, as well as depictions from the Amduat. In addition to the formal decorations of the tomb, the Japanese team also discovered interesting graffiti between the antechamber and the stairway giving into the antechamber. It reads, "Year 3, 3rd month of akhet-season, day 7". While its meaning is unclear, this may be the date that Amenhotep III was enclosed within the tomb. If true, this inscription may someday shed light on any co-regency that Amenhotep III might have shared with his son, Akhenaten, a matter of much debate.

Funerary Equipment and other Fragmentary Objects

Virtually nothing was recovered from this tomb in one piece, and most of the wooden objects were chopped into find pieces during antiquity in order to deliberately hide the various robberies of the tomb. In fact, all precious metal coverings had been stripped, along with metal fittings and glass or semi-precious stone inlays, which were then all carried away. Some of this material was recovered by none other than Howard Carter in 1902 while he was working for Theodore Davis outside the tomb of KV36. However, these fragments, including later objects recovered by the Japanese team, indicate that Amenhotep III must have been surrounded by a broad range of funerary equipment not unlike that found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The king was apparently placed in a series of gilded and inlaid anthropoid wooden coffins, with the inner coffin and/or mask probably of solid gold, and an outer shrine like sarcophagus. The sarcophagus was, for the first time that we know of, made of red granite rather than quartzite. The inner coffin is possibly evidenced by a superb cobra head of lapis lazuli with inlaid eyes set in gold. It was found in the debris of the antechamber, and appears to come from a mask or coffin.

The Burials

No actual bodies were recovered from this tomb, and there is considerable doubt as to whether Queen Tiy or Sitamun were ever buried in the tomb. It is likely that Amenhotep III was, but his mummy was later moved to a side room in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35). Victor Loret found it there in 1898, beneath a docketed shroud recording its restoration in the 12th or 13th year of King Smendes rule in the 21st Dynasty. However, there remains some doubt that this was actually his body. Loret also discovered the mummy initially termed the "Elder Lady", which many now believe to be that of Tiy. However, another tomb in the Valley of the Kings numbered KV55 has also yielded evidence of Queen Tiy's burial. She most likely died during the reign of her son, Akhenaten, who provided her with a gilded shrine recovered by Davis from KV55, along with a red granite sarcophagus, fragments of which were found in a royal tomb at Amarna. Whether buried in WV22 or KV55, she was very likely buried initially in this Amarna tomb.

The Mummy thought to be that of Queen Tiy; Right: The lid of the coffin of Amenhotep III Clearly, Amenhotep III intended for Tiy (and probably Sitamun as well) to be buried in WV22. However, it is possible that, given the fact that Tiy outlived her husband, rather than disturbing his already sealed tomb, alternate arrangements were made. General Site Information Structure: KV 22

  • Location: Valley of the Kings, West Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes

  • Owner: Amenhotep III

  • Other designations: 22 [Lepsius], a [Burton], Tombeau isol de l'ouest [Description],

    W. 1 [Wilkinson], WV 22, WV22

  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 95.85

  • Axis orientation: East

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N

  • Longitude: 32.36 E

  • Elevation: 171.11 msl

  • North: 99,682.550

  • East: 93,539.550

  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10

  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt

  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 4.98 m

  • Minimum width: 0.79 m

  • Maximum width: 8.42 m

  • Total length: 126.68 m

  • Total area: 554.92 m

  • Total volume: 1485.88 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Hillside

  • Owner type: King

  • Entrance type: Staircase

  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers

  • Axis type: Bent


  • Grafitti

  • Painting

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Accessories

  • Architectural elements

  • Carpenters' and sculptors' tools

  • Furniture

  • Human mummies

  • Human remains

  • Jewelry

  • Lighting equipment

  • Mammal remains

  • Models

  • Sculpture

  • Tomb equipment

  • Transport

  • Vessels

  • Warfare and hunting equipment

  • Written documents


History of Exploration

  • Jollois, P. (1799): Discovery (but tomb may actually have been known to William

    George Browne)

  • Napoleonic Expedition (1799): Epigraphy

  • Napoleonic Expedition (1799): Mapping/planning

  • Devilliers du Terrage, Rn douard (1799): Discovery (but tomb may actually have been

    known to William George Browne)

  • Gordon, J. (1804): Visit

  • Franco-Tuscan Expedition (1828-1829): Epigraphy

  • L'Hte, Nestor (1829): Visit

  • Lepsius, Carl Richard (1844-1845): Epigraphy

  • Loret, Victor (1898-1899): Epigraphy

  • Davis, Theodore M. (1905-1914): Excavation

  • Carter, Howard (1915): Excavation (discoveryy of five foundation deposits for Earl of


  • Piankoff, Alexandre (1959): Epigraphy

  • Hornung, Erik (1959): Photography

  • Hornung, Erik (1959): Epigraphy

  • Waseda University (1989-): Excavation

  • Waseda University (1989-): Conservation






Reference Number

Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt)

Clayton, Peter A.


Thames and Hudson Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05074-0

Complete Valley of the Kings, The (Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs)

Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H.


Thames and Hudson Ltd

IBSN 0-500-05080-5

Mummies Myth and Magic

El Mahdy, Christine


Thames and Hudson Ltd

ISBN 0-500-27579-3

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2