|Last updated: July 4th, 2009
| AMENHOTEP III : THE PERSON
Amenhotep III (also known as Amenophis III) was the son of Thutmosis IV and the father of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). He reigned during the latter part of the 18th Dynasty. He became pharaoh at around the age of 12 years.
Amenhotep-Heqawaset was his birth name, meaning "Amun is Pleased, Ruler of Thebes". His throne name was Neb-maat-re, meaning "Lord of Truth is Re".
His reign (of 36-40 years, depending on the source you use) was peaceful and prosperous.
Which a lack of military activity, this became a period of artistic creativity, with some of the largest and most impressive monuments of the New Kingdom.
His mortuary temple, on the west bank, is the largest single temple known. However, all that remains of it today are the two huge statues, the "Colossi of Memnon".
His palace of Malkata, situated south of the temple, is still impressive today even though it is in ruins. This is the largest royal residence known to us. Its walls and ceilings being plastered and painted in vivid colours.
His building work wasn't restricted to the west bank, for he was responsible, on the east bank, for the erection of the temple of Luxor and the long colonnade joining it to the temple complex of Karnak.
He also made many additions to the temple complex at Karnak.
Considering these monuments to his building success, it is a pity that the only thing to show of his tomb today, in the West Valley of the Kings, is an unimposing, and often unnoticed hole in the ground; no grand entrance like that of Tutankhamun and others.
The Great Royal wife of Amenhotep III was Tiy, mother of Akhenaten.
She was the daughter of Yuya and Tuya.
He also married his daughter Sitamon.
It is believed that he had in excess of 300 wives.
| DISCOVERY AND ARCHAEOLOGY OF TOMB KV 22
Amenhotep chose for his final resting place, a location halfway into the Western Valley of the Kings, on the left hand side and away from the cliff face, and is known as KV22 (or WV22).
Officially it was originally discovered by two French engineers of Napoleon Bonaparte's expedition, Jollois and Devilliers, who excavated and charted the tomb.
No records were kept of Theodore M. Davis' excavations between 1905 and 1914, but he partially cleared it.
This was resumed, and completed, by Howard Carter in February-March 1915.
The Egyptian Archaeological Mission of Waseda University (of Japan) worked in the tomb (see restoration sign) from September 1989; work has currently ceased.
During that time a short preliminary report was published on the Internet. Since then, and available on-line, a full printed report was published for UNESCO, in 2004; but be aware, this is a very large 51Mb download in PDF format. It contains many photographs of the conservation work carried out in phases one and two of the work.
Further conservation work is still required. In particular the structure of the tomb still needs to be stabalised. One of the pillars and a retaining wall have large cracks; unless these are dealt with, the tomb will remain in a seriously dangerous condition.
It is especially regrettable that the tomb now remains closed to the visitors.
| GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE TOMB
From material, baring the name of his father Thutmosis IV, found in the foundation deposits, it would appear the tomb was started by him.
However, it was completed and decorated by Amenhotep III.
The wives, Tiy and Sitamon, were possibly to have been buried here.
The sarcophagus was removed during some period in antiquity.
The mummy of the king was moved, along with others, to the KV35 cache, during the reign of Smendes.
There is evidence of Third Intermediate Period intrusive burials; fragments of a wooden coffin being found in the well chamber.
Plan of the tomb
The tomb is, in many respects, like that of his father, tomb KV43.
His father's tomb also exhibits two changes of direction in axis, but unlike KV43 this tomb changes first left then right (KV43 are both to the left).
Other differences include the fact that the burial chamber is undecorated and the addition of two large side chambers off the burial chamber.
Both of these are supported by a single pillar and each have their own side chamber.
They were probably intended for his wives Tiy and Sitamon, although there is no evidence that they were actually buried there.
Also, at the bottom of the well shaft, the chamber extends in the direction of the entrance, this being the opposite to that of KV43.
The entry corridors and well chamber have a general east to west axis.
This then changes, at the upper pillared hall through 90° (to the left) and proceeds in this (south - north) direction to the antechamber.
On entering the burial chamber, the axis then changes through 90° again (but to the right), the burial chamber, with its pillared hall being restored to its east to west orientation.
The tomb descends approximately 24 metres from the entrance to the burial chamber (sarcophagus section) floor, a journey of about 90 metres (not including the rear pillared chamber and its side chamber).
| DETAILED VIEW OF THE TOMB
The decoration within this tomb is organised as follows:
Isometric plan of the tomb
• Entry corridors and stairways (A-D):
• Well chamber (E):
Scenes before various deities.
• Well shaft chamber (Ea):
• Upper pillared hall (F):
• Corridor and stairways (G-H):
• Antechamber (I):
Scenes before various deities.
• Burial chamber (J):
scenes from the Amduat;
pillars with Amenhotep before various deities.
• Side chamber (Ja):
• Side chambers (Jb-Jbb):
• Side chambers (Jc-Jcc):
• Side chamber (Jd):
• Side chamber (Je):
| Entry Corridors and Stairways [ A-D ]
The current entrance to the tomb of Amenhotep, well known for the grandeur of his building accomplishments, is unimposing and could easily be missed if no-one else is around.
Just a hole
in the ground
The tomb is entered down a steep flight of steps (A).
These lead into a moderately inclined corridor (B).
This is followed by yet another steep stairway (C) of 16 steps. Yet another moderately inclined corridor (D) finally leads into a "well chamber" (E).
The journey of about 36 metres has descended to a depth of nearly 14 metres.
These entry stairways, corridors and intermediate gateways (including that into the well chamber) are completely undecorated.
| Well Chamber [ E and chamber Ea ]
This chamber has a well shaft, from which it gets it name.
Its original purpose is still uncertain and may have been symbolically connected to Nun and the primordial ocean.
If it was only intended to be a safeguard against the rare but violent rains, then the reason for the room at the bottom of the shaft would be strange.
If it was there to help deter tomb robbers, it was obviously unsuccessful.
The chamber and well shaft are 4.4m wide by 3.6m in length.
The ceiling of the upper area of the well chamber is 2.5m above what would be floor level, while the well shaft is approximately 5.9m below this level.
At the bottom of the shaft is an undecorated chamber (Ea), accessed from the east wall of the shaft.
It is about 5m wide at its entrance end and 3.5m at the far end, its left side being a very strange shape.
It is over 6m in length with a ceiling height of about 2.5m.
Returning to the normal floor level; the doorway at the rear (west) wall of this well chamber was sealed immediately after the burial of Amenhotep.
This thin wall was then covered with stucco and quickly painted.
Only three walls are decorated, the left (north) wall, the right (south) wall and the rear (east) wall facing the visitor on entry.
Each wall is topped with the classic kheker frieze on a yellow-ochre background, separated from the major scenes with an outlined band of coloured rectangles, this also extends down the ends of the wall.
Running along the top, above all of the scenes the full length of the wall, is the sky hieroglyph.
The wall area for the scenes had first been given a coat of blue-grey wash, a background colour which next appears in the tomb of Horemheb (KV57) and in the tomb of Ramesses I .
Other tombs of this period used a yellow-ochre background.
In each individual scene Amenhotep is presided over by the winged vulture goddess of protection, Nekhbet, carrying a shen-sign of eternity in her talons.
Under the scenes is a border of red and yellow stripes, placed some distance above floor level.
The ceiling is decorated with yellow stars on a dark blue background, see view above exit doorway.
THE NORTH (LEFT) WALL.
North (left) wall of the well chamber.
This is a composite of several photographs, (see slideshow)
This wall contains four scenes.
Starting from the entry end and proceeding into the tomb, the first shows Amenhotep accompanied by his father's ka embraced by Hathor.
The remaining three (in turn) show him receiving life from Anubis, the Western Goddess and finally Osiris.
A rectangular section at lower middle of the wall has been left intentionally unrestored by the Japanese team in order to see the previous state of decay.
The head (a square area) of the second occurrence of Amenhotep III was removed in the 19th century. Three such sections are now in the Louvre museum (see below).
THE SOUTH (RIGHT) WALL.
South (right) wall of the well chamber.
This is a composite of two photographs, (see slideshow)
This wall also contains four scenes.
Starting from the entry end and proceeding into the tomb, the first again shows Amenhotep again accompanied by his father's ka but this time before Nut.
The remaining three scenes are the same as those on the left wall, Amenhotep receiving life from (in turn) Anubis, the Western Goddess and finally Osiris.
Again, note the missing square areas.
These were caused by modern vandals, 19th century explorers, who removed several sections of the decoration of this tomb to display in museums, (including the Louvre, in Paris).
THE EAST (REAR) WALL.
Rear (east) wall of the well chamber.
This wall originally contained six scenes, but the other three were on the area of the doorway to the lower part of the tomb, blocked after internment of the pharaoh. Now only the narrow portion over the doorway remains (see view). The wall was destroyed by the tomb robbers trying to go deeper in the tomb.
Of the four remaining scenes, starting from the right, Amenhotep receives life, first from the Western Goddess then Anubis.
The two other remaining scenes show, from right to left, Anubis the an Hathor.
On the far left of the doorway is the remains of what appears to be another image of Hathor (see corner view), from whom he again receives life.
| Upper Pillared Hall [ F ]
The chamber is 6.2m wide by 10.25m in length, with a height of 2.5m.
With this chamber, the axis of the tomb turns 90° to the left, now running in a south to north direction.
Two pillars, approximately 1m square, are space evenly along the new axis.
The exit to the lower levels is by a stairway, cut into the floor and located against the west (left) wall and starting level with the front face of the rear pillar.
The room and pillars have no decoration, and the south-west corner the chamber was not completed all of the way to the ceiling.
| Corridors and Stairway [ G-H ]
The steep stairway exiting the upper pillared hall continues the journey to the burial chamber.
This connects to corridor (G), then another steep stairway (H), before entering the antechamber (I).
The journey from the floor of the pillared hall to the floor of the antechamber is about 17 metres has descended about 9 metres, the depth below the main entrance is now about 23 metres.
The two sets of stairways and the corridor are all terminated by a gateway entrance. They are all, with the exception of the final entrance into the antechamber, completely undecorated.
On the right-hand wall of the entrance to antechamber was found a small hieratic graffiti inscription, reading, "Year three, third month of the Akhet-season, day seven".
This may have been placed here on the day of internment of Amenhotep, but if so, does it refer to year three of a co-regency with his son ?
The chamber is 3.8m wide by 5.1m in length, with a ceiling height of 2.65m.
Initially the doorway in the rear (north) wall of this chamber was sealed immediately after the burial of Amenhotep, covered with stucco and then quickly painted.
Again, like the well chamber, only three walls are decorated, the left (west) wall, the right (east) wall and the rear (north) wall facing the visitor on entry.
Each wall, with the exception of the individual scenes, is decorated in the same fashion as the well chamber.
They contain at the top the classic kheker frieze on a yellow-ochre background, the outlined band of coloured rectangles, the sky hieroglyph running the length of the wall and the winged vulture goddess of protection, Nekhbet, above Amenhotep.
The scenes are again on a blue-grey background.
Under the scenes is also the border of red and yellow stripes, placed some distance above floor level.
The ceiling is again decorated with yellow stars on a dark blue background.
THE WEST (LEFT) WALL.
Left (west) wall of the antechamber.
This is a composite of several photographs, (see slideshow)
This wall contains six scenes.
Starting from the entry end and proceeding into the tomb, the first shows Amenhotep receiving life from Hathor.
The remaining scenes show him (in turn) with Nut, receiving life from the Western Goddess, with Anubis and Hathor (again) and finally receiving life from Osiris.
As with the north wall of the well chamber, a rectangular section (upper left) has been left intentionally unrestored by the Japanese team in order to see the previous state of decay.
THE EAST (RIGHT) WALL.
[ Sorry but full photographic coverage of this wall, is not available ]
Right (east) wall of the antechamber.
This is a composite of several photographs.
This wall also contains six scenes, but they have been badly damaged.
Starting from the entry end and proceeding into the tomb, the first again shows Amenhotep but this time before Nut.
The remaining scenes are in with the same deities and in the same order as those on the opposite wall.
THE NORTH (REAR) WALL.
Rear (north) wall of the antechamber.
This wall originally had four scenes divided into two groups, facing in opposite directions.
The two fully remaining scenes (on the left) show, starting from the left, Amenhotep before the Western Goddess then Anubis.
The two right-hand scenes were on the area of the doorway to burial chamber, blocked after internment of the pharaoh, and are now almost lost (see view).
These two scenes showed the king and his ka before Nut then Hathor.
The work accomplished by the restorers on this composition can be seen in this before and after view.
The burial chamber is entered through an undecorated doorway and down two steps.
This is situated in the south-west corner of the chamber's pillared hall.
On entering the chamber, the complex again changes the direction of its axis, turning 90° to the right.
This places the far sarcophagus end of the chamber in the east.
If the tomb had turned left, like that of his father, the sarcophagus end would have been in the west, a much more logical position.
The burial chamber is divided into two levels.
The first, upper level, contains six pillars, in two rows of three either side of the new west to east axis.
Between the easterly pair of pillars, a flight of five steps leads to the lower section of the chamber, the area which would have held the sarcophagus.
Burial chamber plan
with side chambers
The overall width of the burial chamber is just over 8m, the length about 15.5m (approximately 10m for the pillared hall).
The ceiling height is 3m in the pillared hall and 4.6m in the lower sarcophagus area.
The north and south walls of the pillared hall are punctuated with doorways to side chambers (Ja and Je).
Off the lower sarcophagus section are three doorways, again leading to more side chambers: north (Jb and Jbb), east (Jc and Jcc) and south (Jd).
For details of the side chambers, see below.
In the lowered sarcophagus section are four niches for "magic bricks" (see view 59 and view 60), two on the east wall and one beneath each of the two end pillars of the upper part of the chamber.
Also in the lower part of the burial chamber, a sunken section was provided for the sarcophagus, two parallel rectangular slots in the centre of the floor indicate the position for blocks to support it.
The sarcophagus is lost and only fragments and the broken red granite lid now remain (see lid view).
At the south-west end of this area, a pit exists (see pit view) which may be where the canopic chest would have been.
The walls, pillar faces and ceiling were all decorated, the ceiling with pale yellow stars on a dark blue background (see view 86), much of which has fallen to the ground.
The walls were plastered and decorated with the complete Amduat, and an abridged version.
The text and figures were reproduced in the cursive style found on papyri.
This version of the Amduat, along with the abridgement, begins at the left end of the north wall and proceeds clockwise around the chamber. The walls have suffered, with much of the plaster having fallen away from the lower parts.
Full photographic coverage of the walls is not yet available, but the following gives a good representation of their content and state of preservation.
The pillars are decorated showing the king before Hathor, Osiris, the Western Goddess and Anubis.
Each face is topped with a kheker frieze, and the actual scene is surrounded at the top and both sides with an outlined band of coloured rectangles.
At the very top of each scene is the sky hieroglyph and above Amenhotep is the winged vulture goddess of protection, Nekhbet, carrying a shen-sign of eternity in her talons.
Under the scene is a border of red and yellow stripes, placed some distance above floor level.
Out of a total of 24 pillar faces, only one pillar face has survived virtually undamaged (see full pillar view and right). This shows Amenhotep facing the Western Goddess from whom he is given life.
Originally layout grids were applied to assist the artists, these are still visible on some pillars.
Some of the pillars are badly cracked with missing painted plaster.
As in the antechamber, modern vandals have cut away the faces of some of the figures.
The instances of Amenhotep before the various deities is as follows:
• all sides facing south (i.e. to the right on the plan opposite) are all of the Western Goddess.
• all sides facing north (i.e. to the left on the plan opposite) are all of Hathor.
• both other sides are of Osiris, with the exception of the west side of pillar 5 (facing away from the sarcophagus) and the east side of pillar 6 (facing the sarcophagus), both of which are of Anubis.
| Side Chambers off the Burial Chamber [ Ja-Je ]
Reference the burial chamber plan above, for locations of the following side chambers.
This undecorated chamber is reached through a doorway in the centre of the north wall of the pillared hall.
It measures 3.7m width, 2.6m length, with a ceiling height of 1.7m.
The floor level is only slightly lower than that of the pillared hall.
Chambers Jb and Jbb
This large undecorated chamber is reached through a doorway in the north wall of the sarcophagus area.
It measures 8.4m width, 7.5m length, with a ceiling height of 3m.
The floor level is about 0.7m lower than that of the sarcophagus area.
There are indications that this chamber was enlarged, probably with the intention of providing a burial chamber for Sitamon, his wife (and daughter).
The chamber has, at its centre, a single pillar approximately 0.7m square.
The doorway in its east wall leads to another small chamber (Jbb) of width 4.2m, length 2.7m and a height of 1.9m.
The floor level is lower than that of its main chamber.
Chamber Jc and Jcc
This next chamber is also large and is reached through a doorway in the east wall of the sarcophagus area, very close to its junction with the north wall.
It measures 6.3m width, 7.8m length, with a ceiling height of 2.9m.
The floor level is about 0.65m lower than that of the sarcophagus area.
The chamber has a single pillar approximately 0.9m square, off centre, slightly towards the south-west corner.
The walls and pillar of this chamber have been plastered and is partially decorated with a kheker frieze, over the doorway and on the north wall.
The doorway in its east wall, at its junction with the south wall, leads to another small chamber (Jcc) of width 3.8m, length 3.1m and a height of 2m.
The floor level is lower than that of its main chamber.
This undecorated chamber is reached through a doorway at the northern end of the east wall of the lower sarcophagus area.
It measures 4.5m width, 2.6m length, with a ceiling height of 1.7m.
The floor level is the same as the sarcophagus area.
This undecorated chamber is reached through a doorway in the centre of south wall of the pillared hall.
It measures 2.6m width, 3.6m length, with a ceiling height of 1.7m.
The floor level is only slightly lower than that of the pillared hall.
| THE SARCOPHAGUS, COFFIN AND OTHER REMAINS
Of his sarcophagus, only the 3 metre long red granite lid remains. This had been broken into two large and several small pieces, which were found in the burial chamber.
Remains of the sarcophagus lid
for more detail.
It is not known if the main part of the sarcophagus was also of red granite or of a contrasting quartzite, like that of Tutankhamun.
Mummy and inner
coffin of Amenhotep III
Following plunderings of the necropolis, the priests of Amon, in 21st Dynasty, moved the mummy (along with others) to the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35) and was later discovered by Loret in 1898.
The mummy was badly damaged, the head had even been broken off. A docket on the shroud and its retaining bands clearly identifies the mummy as that of Amenhotep III. Much confusion was caused during the removal of the mummies to the cache in KV35. The lid of the coffin containing Amenhotep III's mummy originally belonged to Sety II, whilst the coffin box had originally belonged to Ramesses III.
See the Theban Royal Mummy Project for further details.
[NB: currently the identification of several royal mummies has been placed in doubt, one of which is that of Amenhotep III].
A fragment of Amenhotep's calcite canopic chest, was found in the burial chamber.
None of the items recovered from KV22 were found intact, but from the fragments found by early explorers and the more recent Japanese team, it would appear that Amenhotep must have been buried with a range of goods similar to those found in Tutankhamun's tomb (KV62).
It is doubtful as to whether either of his wives, Tiy or Sitamon, were buried in KV22, But it is reasonably certain that Amenhotep III was.
Of the sections of the tomb removed by those modern day vandals, three exist in the Louvre Museum.
The actual locations from which they were removed is currently uncertain, but they are shown below.
In passing, note the typical stylistic character of the reign
of Amenhotep III : the eyes open in a large almond shaped form, and highly raised at
the ear end.
By analysing the decorative program of the tomb of Amenhotep III, as well as that of the tomb of his father Thutmosis IV, one can only be struck by its poverty and its stereotypical character, while the excavation of the complex is well finished and very well made.
The grand representations of the sovereign and divinities occupy whole sides of the walls.
Their youthful aspect is moreover characteristic of the end of the reign of the king.
If their creation is attentive, it however doesn't have anything exceptional.
None of the scenes have been engraved.
This all indicates that the work was done in haste and in a limited time, probably that separating the death of the king from his funeral.
Indeed, considering the length and the richness of the reign, the tomb could very well have been completed during the lifetime of the king.
We touch here a problem which is not specific to Amenhotep III, but which is found to various degrees in all royal tombs: none are complete (not even that of Sethy I - KV17, where it is known that work was actively undertaken during the life of the king).
The reasons of this established fact probably varied over time, and it remains controversial.
It is probably about a deliberate wish not to represent the images and scenes which, by their magical character and the power with which they are invested, could have harmed the king, or even the balance of the world.
One would have thus awaited the death of the sovereign to, in haste, carry them out.
The Ramesside pharaohs, probably conscious of this problem, seem to have changed tactics, accepting the representation of some scenes, while those considered as most dangerous, were only completed after the pharaoh's death, within the time remaining, and thus often incomplete.
This intriguing problem remains however without real answer to this day.
- REEVES Nicholas, WILKINSON Richard H.:
The Complete Valley of the Kings,
Thames and Hudson, 1997.
- Thomas, Elizabeth:
The Royal Necropoleis of Thebes.
Princeton: Privately published, 1966.
- PORTER, Bertha and MOSS, Rosalind L. B.:
Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian
Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings I:
The Theban Necropolis, Part 2,
Royal Tombs and Smaller Cemeteries. 2nd ed. rev.
and augmented. Oxford: Clarendon, 1964.
- The "Theban Mapping Project".
- Waseda University : INTERIM REPORT ON THE RE-CLEARANCE AT THE ROYAL TOMB OF AMENOPHIS III (KV 22).
- UNESCO: Conservation of the Wall Paintings in the Royal Tomb of Amenophis III, edited by S. Yoshimura and J. Kondo; Akht Press, Tokyo, 2004.
- PIANKOFF, A. , HORNUNG, E.: Das Grab Amenophis' III im Westtal der KönigeMitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo, n°17, pp.111-127, MDAIK, Kairo, Wiesbaden, Berlin,Mainz, 1961.
- Aménophis III, le pharaon soleil, RMN, Paris, 1993.
- JOHNSON, G.B. and FORBES, D. : KMT : A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Vol.18, n°3, 2007, pp.44-52; Sebastopol, California, USA.
- CABROL, Agnès : "Amenhotep III le magnifique", ed. Le Rocher, Champollion collection, 2000.
- KONDO, in REEVES Nicholas : "After Tutankhamun", Kegan Paul, 1992
Original page created by Jon J Hirst
Text and line drawings by Jon J Hirst
Photographs by Christiane Dispot and Les & Shirley Brown
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