Egypt: The Tomb of Ramesses II's Sons, Part II

The Tomb of Ramesses II's Sons, Part II

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

For an introduction to the Tomb of Ramesses II's Sons, please see Part I of this article. To find out more about the principle excavator, see our article on Kent Weeks. Also, see our article on the sons of Ramesses II.

Lets take a look at the rooms within KV 5. Only a fraction of this tomb has been excavated, but we expect to learn a great deal about Ramesses II and his times. This tomb will be making news for many years to come. But what we now know of its layout and excavation borders on the fantastic. For the most part, it is a unique structure of ancient Egypt's distant past.

The Tomb of Ramesses II's Sons

The back Section of the Tomb At the entrance to the tomb there is some highly damaged text. Within the north jamb of the doorway is a winged representation of Ma'at kneeling on a basket. Between her wings is a sn-sign, its base pointing towards a cartouche of Ramesses II. Traces on the south jamb appear that its decoration mirrored the north jamb. The narrow entrance opens into one small chamber and then another before reaching a 15 square meter, 16 pillared hall. These are numbered one, two and three.


Amulet: A symbol worn as a talisman against evil or injury, often wrapped with mummies to protect them on their journey through the Duat. An Ankh is a hieroglyphic sign for life similar to a cross but with a loop in place of the upper arm, which was also often produced in solid form and worn as jewelry (an amulet).

Canopic jars: Jars that held various organs removed from the deceased. Four canopic jars were often kept in a canopic chest.

Shabtis: A figure in the form of a mummy which served as a dead mans deputy. Shabtis figures were servants in the afterlife who performed labor for the deceased.

A Shabtis from this tomb

A Shabtis from this tomb

Wiglets: The hair of a statue or other objects.

Chamber 1

Chamber one was a very difficult chamber for the archaeologists to excavate. It had suffered the ravages of twelve great floods over the past 3,000 years, and was packed with concrete like debris. Moreover, there were considerable antiquities within the debris that had to be cataloged, whether they came from this tomb or elsewhere. The archaeologists studied the chamber during 1988, but did not begin excavation within the chamber until 1989. It took another ten years, until 1999, to clear out the last of the debris.

Structurally, this chamber is one of the worst damaged by nearby tourist busses.

Chamber one appears to have an inscription adjacent to the doorway that reads Amunherkhepeshef, who was Ramesses II's oldest son. On the door jam of the entrance is a cartouche of Ramesses II. Others may be found on the walls of chambers two and thirteen, as well as the beginning of corridor seven. A scene in the room once depicted Ramesses II presenting his son to Hathor and Sokar, who were seated on thrones. The young prince holds th hw-feather fan and a sash in one hand. Above this scene was text revealing the titles of Amunherkhepeshef, and the cartouches of Ramesses II, with uraei to either side, under solar disks. Beneath this scene on the south wall is a scene depicting Ramesses II and Ramesses, Ramesses II's second son, before Neferturn-Horhekenu. At the top of this scene is the titles of the young Ramesses.

A broken base of a Cannanite amphora was found that had been reused as a paint pot, but had spilled leaving blue paint on the floor of the chamber.There were also fragments of human bones found in this chamber.Other, mostly fragmentary items discovered in chamber one included:

  • Blue and bluegreen inscribed faience shabtis

  • Faience inscribed shabtis

  • Calcite inscribed shabtis

  • Calcite uninscribed shabtis

  • Six calcite canopic jars, four of which were inscribed

  • Inscribed red granite sarcophagus or canopic box fragment (probable)

  • Uninscribed (possibly basalt) sarcophagus or canopic box fragment (probable)

  • Wooden hand from an anthropoid sarcophagus

  • Wooden round drawer pull with dowelWooden painted scepter fragmentTwo faience "wiglets" Glass "wiglet"Glazed "wiglet" of undetermined material

  • 74 tubular faience beads

  • many potsherds, as elsewhere, including pieces from the Ramesside, New Kingdom, Late period, Roman and Coptic periods

The Tomb of Ramesses II's Sons

Chamber 2

Chamber two's excavation began in 1990 and continued until 1998. There was less structural damage from modern traffic within this chamber, though the flood debris were still extensive.

While little decorations adorn the walls today, in chamber two, plaster fragments have been reassembled enough to reveal scenes showing Ramesses II presenting his sons to various gods. Another scene once showed Ramesses II standing before a table of offerings and a final scene once displayed a large canopic chest.

Items found within this room include a faience ring bezel bearing the cartouche of either Tuthmosis III or IV. Items found within this room include:

  • Wooden uninscribed shabtis

  • Calcite inscribed shabtis

  • Faience inscribed shabtis

  • Six inscribed calcite shabtis

  • Nine uninscribed calcite shabtis

  • Three Faience "wiglets"

  • Eight glazed "wiglets" of undetermined material

  • Faience fragment of Ankh amulet

  • Faience fragment of goddess amulet

  • Fragment of two light green faience vessels

  • Several light green, flat, faience inlay fragments

  • Many potsherds

The Tomb of Ramesses II's Sons

There was a large pit discovered beneath the floor of this room that contained a number of items when excavated. It had probably been completely sealed with large rock slabs, but only one was left in place. The purpose of the pit is unknown. It stretches from the east to the west wall along the base of the north wall. within were found four skeletons. Two of the skeletons seem to have been of robust younger males, while a third man seems to have been lighter. The fourth man, likewise was of light build, but older. The bodies had originally been mummified, and wrapped in linen. Other items found in the pit included fragments from an alabaster canopic jar that appears to be inscribed with the name Mery-Atum, who was Ramesses II's sixteenth son. There was also the leg bone of a cow, which had been mummified and left as a food offering.

Calcite canopic jar fragment belonging to Amenherkhepeshef

Calcite canopic jar fragment belonging to Amenherkhepeshef

The evidence from this pit suggests that at some point in antiquity, perhaps even before the first flood, grave robbers and probably carried the bodies from their burial chambers to the front of the tomb. Light was better there, so they could better search the bodies for precious relics. Then, either the robbers disposed of the mummies in the pit, or the bodies washed back in and fell into the pit.

Chamber 3

Chamber three is certainly one of the most interesting rooms within this tomb. It has more pillars, numbering sixteen, and is as large as most any chamber in the Valley of the Kings (as well as being the largest in this tomb). It has seven doorways that lead to either rooms or whole corridors. These doors exist at three different levels, because the floor of the tomb was first lowered from its original height, and then built back up again using limestone slabs. To date, only a small part of the floor of Chamber three has been cleared by excavators.

Of chamber three's sixteen pillars, fourteen were cut from the living rock, while the remaining two were made from hewn blocks (partially). On either side of the central door of chamber there are mirror scenes depicting life size images of four of Ramesses II's sons, seated in front of a priest. The priest wears panther skins. Here, two of the faces have survived fairly well, and are beautifully done. Chamber three seems to have been the center of the complex, but we will know more about this after the decorations are fully analyzed.

Alabaster fragments were found from a box near the first pillar from the entrance to the chamber. It may have had inscriptions from the Book of Gates.There were two pottery ostraca found in this room with hieratic writing.Other items found include:

  • Inscribed faience shabtis

  • uninscribed calcite shabtis

  • Three inscribed calcite canaopic jars

  • four uninscribed calcite canopic jars

  • Two Possible uninscribed calcite sarcophagus or canopic box

  • Light bluegreen fragment of glass vessel with dark blue core

  • Light blue, yellow and brown fragment of glass vessel

  • Calcite vessel rim

  • Possible granite door socket

  • pieces of gold leaf

  • A considerable number of pottery fragments (over 12,000 though less than one quarter of room excavated)

Chamber 4

Chamber four is the six pillared hall on the south of the 16 pillared hall. Its doorway is to the right when entering the 16 pillared hall, located near the front wall. Because floodwaters had greatly slowed by the time they reached chamber four, silt levels were much lower. Only about a quarter of this chamber has been excavated. Apparently, a side room was begun at the northern end of the eastern wall, but then abandoned.

Very little has been found in this room so far. These items include three small, blue faience fragments.

Chambers 5 & 6

No excavation has taken place in Chambers five and six, because the ceiling is so badly damaged that it will probably have to be entered from above. This was probably caused from the overhead traffic. This is the worst damaged chamber so far discovered in the tomb, yet when finally excavated, should prove interesting. It is the third largest chamber in the tomb, after chambers three and four, and may have had pillars. There are four small niches cut high into each of its four walls, which might suggest this was a burial chamber.

Chamber six is smaller. It has doorways from both chambers three and five, and lied directly beneath chamber 9b.

Corridor 7

Corridor seven represents the single vertical leg of this T shaped region of the tomb and is at least 60 meters (200 feet) long. It leads out of the rear wall of the 16 pillared hall past many small chambers. The corridor has 20 doorways, of which the first two to either side lead to a suit of rooms, The last two doorways towards the back of the tomb lead to additional corridors, numbered 10 and 11. 16 of the doorways in corridor 7 lead to what appears to be single chambers. All along the corridor are decorations, though they are all damaged to one extent or another. However, some of the scenes, carved in relief, depict Ramesses II and various royal sons standing in the presence of Osiris, Hathor, Thoth, Isis, Horus and other deities. Two cartouches belonging to Ramesses II were incorporated within the scenes. Apparently, at the top of the walls were inscriptions of the son's names, but unfortunately this is the part of the decorations that are the worst damaged.

A relief depicting Hathor from Corridor 7

A relief depicting Hathor from Corridor 7

Chamber seven ends at the head of the T where there is a 1.5 meter tall rock cut image of Osiris that still retains some green paint pigments. Some Egyptologists believe that the statue actually represents a deified Ramesses II represented as Osiris. The statue wears a Shebyu collar, which normally consists of two or three strands of large beads. It was worn by figures of dead pharaohs who in death, were united with the sun god Re. It was therefore a sign of deification.. It should be noted that the chambers along corridor seven, after chambers eight and nine, have letters associated with the corridor number. Therefore, they are chambers The begin on the right side of the corridor as 7a, ending with 7h, and then beginning at the rear left side, they are numbered 7i through 7p, back at the front of the corridor.

All manner of objects were found in corridor seven, including shabtis, the servants of the afterlife. Several of these were faience, as process by which loft fired ground quarts or sand was layered with usually copper oxide to produce a shinny glaze. Fragments of calcite discovered may have been part of a sarcophagus. The most common item found was many thousands of potsherds. Astraca were discovered, these are rock fragments with crude, but often practical inscription. For example one astraca documented the receipt of 200 oil lamps for the tomb builders. There were bones from butchered animals that were obviously left as offerings.Also found were

  • hundreds of faience beads

  • modeled clay sycamore figs

  • two teardrop shaped bluegreen glass beads

  • neck and handel of a multi-colored glass vessel

  • faience "wiglet"

  • rim fragment from a dark blue glass vessel

  • amulets

  • inlays from statues and furniture.

Chambers 7a through 7p

Only Chambers 7a, 7l and 7o have been cleared. These rooms vary somewhat in their dimensions, including both the size of the chamber itself and the width of the doorways. Chambers 7g and 7j, adjacent to each other near the end of corridor 7, have the widest doorways. Most of the doorways are similar in design with the exception of chamber 7o, which has a well cut cornice on the side facing corridor seven. Inside, chambers 7a, 7c and 7e the ceilings are slightly vaulted, while the other chambers have flat ceilings.

All the chambers so far examined were plastered and decorated, though the decorations are mostly now in the lower debris on the floor. Other than potsherds (and some mammal bones), no objects have been discovered within these chambers.

Chamber 8

Chamber eight is located just to the right after exiting the 16 pillared hall heading towards the rear of the tomb along corridor seven. This room had certainly been decorated, but as usual, most of these decorations applied to plaster are now to be found as fragments on the floor. We can still see traces of carved reliefs where the artists penetrated the plaster with their tools. Chamber eight appears to be the central chamber of a suit. It has three side chambers, numbered 8a, 8b and 8c. Only chamber 8c has been cleared. It has a vaulted ceiling, and lies about .43 below the level of chamber 8. This room actually lies beneath the floor of chamber three. Here, potsherds and numerous animal bones were recovered. We also know that chamber 8b has a vaulted ceiling, while the ceiling in chamber 8a is flat.

Chamber 9

Chamber nine is a side room off corridor seven and is very similar to chamber eight, across the corridor, with the exception that its ceiling is slightly vaulted. It was probably built in stages. The vaulted ceiling changes in style, being noticeably different at the front and rear. The room apparently was originally smaller, with only a single side chamber. Later it was almost doubled in side, and two additional side chambers were added. Of these side chambers, only chamber 9b, which lies under chamber 6, has a vaulted ceiling. Chamber 9c lies under chamber 3.

This small chamber is instructive, because many marks were found in red and black ink that were made by the ancient surveyors. The marks helped guide the quarrymen who were cutting into the tomb as they laid out curvature of the ceiling and blocked out areas for side chamber doors. Due to the vaulted ceiling and the decorative theme, the room might possibly have been a burial chamber. On the right door jamb at the entrance we first encounter a scene revealing a recumbent figure of the god, Anubis, as a jackal. Other scenes within the chamber include that of a winged sun disk and a standing figure of the king.Though the original decorated plaster mostly fell to the floor, some of these scenes are still visible because the artists penetrated the plaster, leaving weak reliefs in the bedrock.

Items found within this room include fragments of alabaster bird wings, a design called a rishi (feather) by Egyptologists. It could be a fragment from a sarcophagus lid. Other items included:

  • three "wiglets"

  • three broken tubular faience beads

Corridor 10

Corridor ten is the right, or southern wing leading off the rear of corridor seven. It has not yet been excavated. This corridor initially slops downward, leveling out near its midway point. Like corridor seven, it has 16 single side chambers, though this is apparently not altogether certain because the excavators are not sure they have reached the end of this corridor. The side chambers have been numbered 10a through 10p in a similar fashion as corridor seven. Here, there are no suits of rooms as in corridor seven, nor any rooms with vaulted ceilings. Seven of the chambers lie n the west side of the corridor, while nine are on the east side. So far, this corridor extends about 22 meters.

Corridor 11

Corridor eleven is very similar to corridor ten, but it slopes downward at several angles, never leveling out. It has been almost completely excavated, though little was found. Here the sixteen single chambers are numbered 11a through 11p. When this corridor was being excavated, there was great excitement because its general architectural form suggested that their might be a stairway leading to a lower part of the tomb, but the passage ended abruptly at a bedrock wall. However, what was found were plastered floors. Around and next to the rear terminating wall of this corridor the floor is covered with a layer of blue plaster. Stranger still, the floor of 11k had three thin layers of different colored plaster, which is probably unique.

Not much was found in this corridor. The few items that were consisted of a fragmentary faience vessel and two "wiglets".

The Forward Section of Tomb

Coming back to the 16 pillared hall, we find other corridors leading off in the direction of the entrance, on the forward side of the hall.

Corridor 12

Corridor twelve is the southern corridor heading back in the direction of the entrance. Its counterpart is corridor twenty, though all of that side has not been excavated. However, it is expected that corridors twelve and twenty will mirror each other. Facing the the tomb entrance in chamber three, corridor twelve would be to the right. This part of the tomb was completely unexpected, for no other tombs in the Valley of the Kings have forward wings.

Corridor tweleve angles sharply downward, and has twelve side chambers numbered similarly to others in the tomb. A set of stairs leads into the corridor, leading to a rough floor and then a second set of stairs and finally a third short stairway. Side chambers 12a and 12b lie beneath chamber four. Chambers 12j, 12k, and 12l lie beneath chambers one and two. Chamber 12b is the only side chamber to have been so far cleared.

Between chambers two and three in corridor twelve, three pieces of a single canopic jar inscribed with the name of Ramesses II's ninth son, Sethy were discovered, leading the excavators to believe was probably one of the burials in the tom. Also found in that location was mummy tissue, fragments of wooden statues and "wigs" for statues.

  • uninscribed calcite shabti

  • fragment of uninscribed calcite vessel

  • three blue faience tubular beads

  • fragment of a bluegreen faience vessel with a lotus design

  • bluegreen faience "title" with cartouche of either Thutmosis III or IV

  • small bluegreen faience plague

  • two sherds of dark blue glass vessels

Chamber 13

What is referred to as chamber thirteen is really more of a short corridor extending corridor twelve, with stairs at the beginning and end. There are no side chambers in this brief corridor. Above the doorway leading into chamber thirteen is a lintel. All that was found here were two light blue faience "wiglets" and fragments of conglomerate breccia, possible from a sarcophagus.

Chamber 14

Chamber thirteen leads into chamber fourteen, a three pillared hall oriented north-south. This room has largely not been excavated, but apparently several single rooms, several suites and a corridor numbered sixteen, with more chambers, leads off chamber fourteen. Much of this area has not been investigated at all. Items so far discovered in chamber fourteen include:

  • several light blue faience "wiglets"

  • one tubular faience bead

  • two faience disk beads

  • three pieces of glass vessels

  • blue glass bead

  • two blue-green faience vessel fragments

Chamber 15

This small chamber contained mostly silt with limestone chips. No notable objects were found.

Corridor 16

This corridor has not been fully investigated, and its termination is unknown. So far, it is eighteen meters long, and has eight side chambers.

Corridor 20

Excavation has not progressed far into corridor 20, but so far it appears to be a mirror image of corridor twelve. General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 5

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

  • Owner: Sons of Rameses II

  • Other designations: 5 [Lepsius], 8 [Hay], Commencement d'excavation ou grotte

  • bouche [Description], M [Burton]

  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 134.18

  • Axis orientation: Southeast

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N

  • Longitude: 32.36 E

  • Elevation: 169.87 msl

  • North: 99,637.895

  • East: 94,095.771

  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10

  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt

  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 2.85 m

  • Mininum width: 0.61 m

  • Maximum width: 15.43 m

  • Total length: 443.2 m

  • Total area: 1266.47 m

  • Total volume: 2154.82 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Valley floor

  • Owner type: Prince

  • Entrance type: Staircase

  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers

  • Axis type: Straight


  • Grafitti

  • Painting

  • Raised relief

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Human remains

  • Jewelry

  • Mammal remains

  • Religious objects

  • Tomb equipment

  • Transport

  • Vessels

  • Written documents


History of Exploration

  • Burton, James (1825): Mapping/planning

  • Carter, Howard (1902): Visit

  • Theban Mapping Project (1989-): Epigraphy

  • Theban Mapping Project (1989-): Excavation

  • Theban Mapping Project (1994-): Conservation

  • Theban Mapping Project (1995-): Photography



Author Date Publisher Reference Number
KV 5: A Preliminary Report on the Excavations of the Tomb of the Sons of Ramesses II in the Valley of the Kings Weeks, Kent R. 2000 American University in Cairo Press, The ISBN 977 424 574 1
Atlas of the Valley of the Kings Weeks, Kent R. 2000 American University of Cairo Press, The ISBN 9774245490
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
Lost Tomb, The Weeks, Kent R. 1998 Quill/William Morrow ISBN 0-688-15087-X
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The Shaw, Ian 2000 Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-815034-2
Ramesses II: Greatest of the Pharaohs Menu, Bernadette 1999 Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 0-8109-2870-1 (pbk.)
Thebes in Egypt: A Guide to the Tombs and Temples of Ancient Luxor Strudwick, Nigel & Helen 1999 Cornell University Press ISBN 0 8014 8616 5
Valley of the Kings Weeks, Kent R. 2001 Friedman/Fairfax ISBN 1-5866-3295-7