Egypt: KV 39 in the Valley of the Kings, The Tomb of Amenhotep I?

KV 39, The Tomb of Amenhotep I?

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Tomb KV39 has been described as one of the most mystifying tombs in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes), and may be the oldest in the Valley as well.. It sits literally on the edge of the Valley of the Kings, and was discovered by Macarios and Andraos, two local Luxor residents in 1900. Wigall visited the tomb in 1908, but described it as being ruined. In 1966, Elizabeth Thomas drew up a ground plan of the tomb, but apparently it was based largely on conjecture. Recently, but apparently before the most recent excavations, Nicholas Reeves of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project visited the tomb, stating:

"No-one know who was actually buried there, although some people think it was the final resting place of Amenhotep I. The whole place has an eerie, claustrophobic, slightly sinister air to it, not helped by the deep cracks criss-crossing the walls and ceiling - you get the impression the whole place could cave in on you at any moment."

However, today, Dr. John Rose is the latest scholar to have investigate the tomb, beginning in 1889 and thereafter for several seasons, and has apparently been able to somehow piece together much of its history. His study is now complete, and after careful analysis, he appears to believe that the tomb was indeed built, at least originally, for Amenhotep I.

The tomb, of little interest to most of today's tourists, lies at the head of a small wadi above the tomb of Tuthmosis III. The most interesting aspect of KV39 is its unusual plan. It appears that, what started out as a fairly ordinary corridor tomb leading westward, was abandoned at the end of the first chamber. Later, it was extended by a second long descending corridor leading off to the east, with two sets of stairs that terminated in a chamber (the East Chamber). Two the south of the original chamber, a set of stairs led to a second corridor that terminated by first a stairway and then another chamber (South Chamber). Within the southern chamber was found a pit to receive a coffin that was covered by stone slabs.

The most recent excavations of the tomb produced over 1,50 bags of potsherds, calcite fragments, pieces of wooden coffins, textiles, fragments of metal, mud jar sealings, cordage, botanical specimens and human skeletal remains of at least nine individuals. In addition, one reason the tomb is believed to have been Included in these finds were an unusual group of sandstone dockets bearing the cartouches in blue of Tuthmosis I, Tuthmosis II(?) and Amenhotep II. There was also a calcite fragment bearing a king's title (Amenhotep I?). We are told by Rose that a gold signet ring with the name of a famous pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (Tuthmosis III) was also found, but he does not elaborate on this information. Due all this material, and to the large number and types of mummy bandages, as well as embalmers' material discovered at the tomb, Rose believes the site may have been used as a staging area for bodies that were relocated to the 1881 Deir el-Bahari cache.

Regrettably, in 1994, Rose suffered a stroke and has only recently been able, with the help of colleagues, to publish the results of his work. However, most of the 1,350 bags are in storage on the West Bank of Luxor. There are still about a dozen boxes in the tomb vestibule that contain additional bags of debris. Why these were not also removed is uncertain. Some have been rifled and contribute to the liter that is now strewn about the tomb opening and entrance corridor.

General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 39
  • Location: Valley of the Kings, East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
  • Owner: Amenhetep I (?)
  • Other designations: 235 [Carter]
  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 248.99
  • Axis orientation: West

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N
  • Longitude: 32.36 E
  • Elevation: 249.42 msl
  • North: 99,122.451
  • East: 94,127.795
  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10
  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt


  • Maximum height: 4.94 m
  • Mininum width: 0 m
  • Maximum width: 3.92 m
  • Total length: 101.09 m
  • Total area: 193.69 m
  • Total volume: 445.1 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Hillside
  • Owner type: Unknown, possibly royal
  • Entrance type: Staircase
  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers
  • Axis type: Bent

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Architectural elements
  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Human mummies
  • Jewelry
  • Mummy trappings
  • Religious objects
  • Tomb equipment
  • Vessels
  • Written documents


History of Exploration
  • Andraos, Boutros (1900): Excavation
  • Macarios, C. (1900): Excavation
  • Macarios, C. (1900): Discovery
  • Andraos, Boutros (1900): Discovery
  • Carter, Howard (1916): Visit
  • Rose, John (1989, 1991-1994): Excavation






Reference Number

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

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Thebes in Egypt: A Guide to the Tombs and Temples of Ancient Luxor

Strudwick, Nigel & Helen


Cornell University Press

ISBN 0 8014 8616 5