Egypt: The Private Tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu (Tuyu) in the Valley of the Kings

The Private Tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu
in the Valley of the Kings

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Private Tomb of Yuya

Private Tomb KV 46 is located between KV 3 and KV 4 in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). It is one of the rare non royal tombs found within the valley and was most certainly cut during Egypt's 18th Dynasty. However, the couple were not ordinary Egyptians, considering that they were the parents of Queen Tiya. The construction debris from these tombs covered KV 46, apparently hiding it away from the majority of Robbers. Architecturally the tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu (Tuyu) is not unique, and its decorative theme is nonexistent. The tomb is entered by way of a stairway that leads to a well cut, large corridor, actually slightly larger than the corridor in Tutankhamun's tomb. This corridor leads to a second stairway and short corridor where the ceiling is unusually roughly rounded, rather than flat. These corridors and stairways have black dots spaced about 40 cm (16 inches) apart that divide the walls in squares. The walls were never smoothed or plaster applied, so therefore there are no decorations.

Statue outside of the Tomb of Yuya

The burial chamber is also roughly hewn and irregular, leading some scholars to believe the tombs construction came to an abrupt halt. Others blame it on the poor stone. Within the burial chamber the left end has been lowered by about one meter (3 ft, 3 in)

What is special about this tomb, and what made it the most famous tomb in Egypt prior to the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, is that it contained a great cache of funerary equipment in remarkable condition. The discovery was made by James E. Quibell under the direction of non other than Theodore Davis in 1905. Theodore Davis was Howard Carter's predecessor in the Valley of the Kings, and in fact, Howard Carter conducted some work for him. Upon finding the door to the tomb, the archaeologists involved with dig immediately knew that it had been robbed at some time in the past, for the mud packed door was open slightly at the top right hand corner. Within the first corridor, nothing much was found until a second sealed barrier, marked with the stamp of the necropolis administrator, was encountered. However, it too was broken through at the top. However, Henry Copley Greene describes their entry into the next section of the tomb:

"Squeezing their way between the wall and the rock ceiling, Mr. Maspero and Mr. Davis were soon in the midst of such a medley of tomb furniture that, in the glare of their lighted candles, the first effect was one of bewilderment. Gradually, however, one object after another detached itself from the shimmering mass, shining through the cool air, dust-free and golden..."

The tomb was probably robbed three times during antiquity, once soon after it was sealed, and two more times, probably by work gangs cutting the tombs of nearby KV 3 and 4.

They had hit the jackpot; one of the most amazing discoveries up until this point in Egypt. Apparently, even though there seems to have been cracks in all the sealed barriers, the tomb was so devoid of atmosphere that silver was still bright and shinny, but within three days of the tombs opening had it had turned black. Some vessels that were uncorked by the archaeologists still contained thick oil, and honey that was almost liquid but still preserved it scent after thousands of years.

The Many Items Discovered in the tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu

Object Inscribed with the Name of:
Yuya Tjuyu Other Uninscribed
Canopy/Box Coffin 1 1
Anthropoid Coffins 3 2
Headpiece 1 1
Mummy Bands/Framework 1 1
Mummies 1 1
Scarabs 2 1
Amulets 2 4
Truncated Cones 2
Canopic Chest 1 1
Canopic Jars 4 4
Osiris Bed 2
Shabtis 14 4 1
Shabti boxes 5 10
Shabti tools 50
Magical Statues 1
Papyrus 1
Model Coffins 1
Scribe's Palette (probably) 1
Osiris Cenotaph 1
Ba-Bird 1
Chariot 1
Whipstock 1
Beds 3
Chairs 1 2
Boxes 2 3
Wig 1
Wig Basket 1
Mirror 1
Sistrum Handle
Kohl Tube 1
Mat 1
Sandals (individual) 24
Staves 1 1
Small seals 2 3
Dummy Vessels 28
Dummy Vessels on Stand 1
Stone Vessels 1 2
Pottery Vessels 1
Jars with Embalming Refuse 52
Meat Boxes 18
Plant Remains 1

Included within this cache were three coffins, one inside the other, that belonged to Yuya. There was an outer cover box that slid over the other three coffins. This outer cover made of wood was covered with pitch and adorned with bands of relief inscriptions of gilt plaster. Actual outer coffin in the shape of a mummy was likewise covered in glistening pitch with bands of gilt text. The next coffin had bands of text, but the background was of silver leaf, while the innermost coffin is gilded all over and has hieroglyphs of glass inlaid in gold. The inside of this coffin was silver, and contained the mummy of Yuya when found.


However, one of the finest objects found in the tomb was a completely intact chariot. While not as decorated as the few others found, mostly belonging to kings, it is handsome, with its spirals and rosettes in gild plaster. Other items included a jewelry box decorated with mosaic of ivory, ebony and faience, with inscriptions in gold and a model coffin of inlaid wood decorated with blue faience tiles carrying the names of Amenhotep III, the couple's son-in-law and Tiye, their daughter. Yet some of the most striking finds were the chairs. Of the three, one small chair is completely covered in gilt and is adorned on the back with a scene of a water excursion. The largest chair has veneered wood with designs and text in gilt above the front lets. hand rests are two female heads. This chair was used by Empress Eugenie when she visited Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal.


Unfortunately, without the contents, there is not much to see of this undecorated tomb

See Also:

The Yuya and Tjuyu Tomb Gallery

Yuya's Second and Inner Coffins Yjuyu's Outer and Inner Coffins Lion Footed Chair Chair with female Heads for Hand Rests
Chest of Inlaid Wood and Blue Faience Wooden Coffer Tjuyu's Wooden Sarcophagus Yuya's Wooden Sarchophagus
Various Vessels Yuya's Outer Coffin Tjuyu's Mummy Mask Yuya's Mummy Mask

General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 46
  • Location: Valley of the Kings, East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
  • Owner: Yuya and Thuyu
  • Other designations:
  • Site type: Tomb
  • Axis in degrees: 70.62
  • Axis orientation: East
Site Location
  • Latitude: 25.44 N
  • Longitude: 32.36 E
  • Elevation: 167.608 msl
  • North: 99,686.458
  • East: 94,153.062
  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10
  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt
  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes

  • Maximum height: 4.51 m
  • Minimum width: 1.25 m
  • Maximum width: 10.02 m
  • Total length: 21.31 m
  • Total area: 62.36 m
  • Total volume: 135.63 m

Additional Tomb Information
  • Entrance location: Base of sloping hill
  • Owner type: Official
  • Entrance type: Staircase
  • Interior layout: Corridors and chamber
  • Axis type: Bent
Categories of Objects Recovered
  • Accessories
  • Clothing
  • Cosmetic equipment
  • Furniture
  • Human mummies
  • Jewelry
  • Models
  • Mummy trappings
  • Musical instruments
  • Scarabs and seals
  • Sculpture
  • Tomb equipment
  • Transport
  • Vessels
  • Warfare and hunting equipment
  • Writing equipment
  • Written documents
Dating: History of Exploration
  • Quibell, James Edward (1905): Excavation (conducted for Theodore M. Davis)


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

Last Updated: June 20th, 2011