Egypt: The Tomb of Horemheb, Valley of the Kings

The Tomb of Horemheb, Valley of the Kings

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The Tomb of Horemheb, Valley of the Kings

Financed by Theodore Davis, a wealthy American, it was a young British Egyptologist named Edward Ayrton who, in 1908, discovered the tomb of Horemheb in the Valley of the Kings. Today, the tomb is designated KV57. Horemheb was the successor of Ay, who in turn had succeeded Tutankhamun as pharaoh of Egypt. He was actually not related to the earlier kings of the 18th dynasty, though he served in the courts of first Amenophis IV, and then Tutankhamun and finally Ay. Horemheb was a royal scribe and general of the armies at various times. He restored the old worship of Amun and reconstructed the provincial administration and military cadres.

Initially, the tomb was filled with rubble washed in by the infrequent rain over the past thousands of years. After removing the debris from the entrance, another two days was required to clean the rubble from the tomb itself. Unfortunately, much of the funerary equipment was in pieces due to the rubble.

The Tomb of Horemheb, Valley of the Kings

In his tomb, Horemheb developed several innovations which would carry on from the 18th into the 19th dynasty tomb builders. His tomb does not have the right angle between the end of the descending corridor found in earlier 18th dynasty tombs, and he introduces painted bas-reliefs instead of the simple paintings found in earlier tombs. Also, for the first time he inscribes passages from the Book of Gates on his tomb Walls rather than those from the Amduat. The Book of Gates is a religious composition regarding the "gates" that separate the night's twelve hours.

The Tomb of Horemheb, Valley of the Kings

In addition, there are a number of idiosyncrasies in Horemheb's tomb that are never repeated. These include a slope in the burial chamber from the first pair of pillars to the steps of the "crypt, a second set of stairs leading to the crypt, and a lower storeroom beneath the burial chamber's annex.

The Tomb of Horemheb, Valley of the Kings

Entering the tomb, the first stairway down ends in a corridor that in turn leads to a second stairway and a second corridor. Finally one arrives at the first room with a shaft. On the walls of the shaft are paintings of two groups of deities. The first group is Hathor, Isis, Osiris and Horus, on the left, and Hathor, Anubis, Osiris and Horus to the right. Here, Isis replaces the goddess Nut found in earlier tombs. Decorations, as in earlier tombs, are limited to this shaft, the antechamber and the burial chamber proper. However, the painting are much more sophisticated then many earlier tombs, obviously produced by more skilful artists who vary the stances, gestures and clothing of the figures. There is also an extensive use of color with multicolored hieroglyphs and blue-green backgrounds.

From here the tomb leads to a two-pillar hall and then to a third corridor and finally a vestibule. The burial chamber with its six pillars and four lateral and one back annex are next. The annexes were used to store funerary equipment. Within the burial chamber is the king's large, red granite sarcophagus and the walls are painted with the fifth division from the Book of Gates, including a figure of Osiris. The sarcophagus is interesting from the standpoint that it incorporates features both from before and after the Amarna period, making it transitional. The gable-ended lid is completely unique.

The Tomb of Horemheb, Valley of the Kings

There was considerable funerary equipment found within the tomb. A number of wooden (cedar and acacia) images, broken by the rubbish were discovered. Also smashed were alabaster canopic jars with portrait-headed stoppers and four miniature lion-headed embalming tables. Other items of funerary equipment included:

  • Lioness headed couch
  • Hippo headed couch
  • Cow headed couch
  • Three large Anubis figures
  • A "germinating Osiris"
  • Magical bricks
  • Model boats
  • Fixed and folding chairs
  • Pall Rosettes
  • Faience beads
  • Wood and stone containers for embalmed provisions

Interestingly, while Horemheb reigned for at least 28 years, his tomb was never completely finished. This would have been enough time to finish the most complex of tombs. The work was apparently started and stopped at various times, and because of this, Egyptologist have learned a great deal about how tombs were built. In particular, different stages of the decorations were left unfinished, giving Egyptologists considerable clues to the techniques used by the early artists.

General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 57
  • Location: Valley of the Kings, East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
  • Owner: Horemheb
  • Other designations:
  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 357.72
  • Axis orientation: North

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N
  • Longitude: 32.36 E
  • Elevation: 173.242 msl
  • North: 99,518.773
  • East: 94,026.915
  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10
  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt
  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 5.36 m
  • Minimum width: 0.66 m
  • Maximum width: 8.94 m
  • Total length: 127.88 m
  • Total area: 472.61 m
  • Total volume: 1328.17 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Base of sloping hill
  • Owner type: King
  • Entrance type: Staircase
  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers
  • Axis type: Straight


  • Grafitti
  • Painting
  • Raised relief

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Embalming equipment
  • Furniture
  • Human remains
  • Jewelry
  • Models
  • Sculpture
  • Tomb equipment
  • Vegetal remains


History of Exploration

  • Ayrton, Edward Russell (1908): Excavation (conducted for Theodore M. Davis)
  • Ayrton, Edward Russell (1908): Discovery (made for Theodore M. Davis)
  • Davis, Theodore M. (1912): Mapping/planning
  • Burton, Harry (1923): Photography (for the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  • Service des Antiquits (1934): Conservation
  • Hornung, Erik (1971): Photography (shot in color)
  • Supreme Council of Antiquities (1994-): Conservation


Title Author Date Publisher Reference Number
Ancient Egypt The Great Discoveries (A Year-by-Year Chronicle) Reeves, Nicholas 2000 Thmes & Hudson, Ltd ISBN 0-500-05105-4
Complete Valley of the Kings, The (Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs) Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H. 1966 Thames and Hudson Ltd IBSN 0-500-05080-5
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The Shaw, Ian 2000 Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-815034-2