Amenhotep III (also known as Amenophis III; on this point, see ) was the son of Thutmosis IV and the father of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). He became pharaoh at around the age of 12 and reigned during the latter part of the 18th Dynasty. 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, and it is believed that he had in excess of 300 wives. 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 largely peaceful and prosperous. Commerce and diplomacy were preferred to the use of military force, especially in the Near East, and Amenhotep III presided over a period of remarkable artistic creativity. Some of the largest and most impressive monuments of the New Kingdom were created during his reign. For many, it marks the apogee of Egyptian civilisation and the beginning of its decline.
The successors of Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaten would devote considerable military efforts to restore his reduced empire to Egypt, and military rulers - and then the Ramessides - would eventually ascend the throne of the Two Kingdoms.
His mortuary temple, on the west bank, is the single largest temple known to Egyptologists. It collapsed after an earthquake, and was dismantled by subsequent rulers, and very few remains of it today, but the two huge statues known as the "Colossi of Memnon". Archaeological digs, headed by Hourig Sourouzian, have been underway for several years on the site and regularly unearth fragments of reliefs and statues which furnish a partial idea of the splendor that this monument must once have been.
His palace of Malkata, situated to the south of the temple on the west bank, is still impressive today even though it is in ruins. We can still discern the remnants of mudbrick walls and fragments of colorful mosaics that surface in the sands. The king had dug a vast lake in front of the palace, the Birket-Habou, which was connected to the Nile by a canal. In all is the largest royal residence ever constructed by a king of Egypt.
His building work wasn't restricted to the west bank, for he was responsible, on the east bank of the Nile, for the continuation of the work on the temple of Luxor begun by Hatshepsut, as well as the long Sphinx colonnade joining it to the temple complex of Karnak, transforming a small sanctuary into the vast and prestigious monument we can still see today. At Karnak he also had a pylon built.
In addition to these works at Thebes, Amenhotep III also erected numerous monuments across the Kingdom extending his influence into Sudan. Considering the significance of his contributions to monumental archictecture in Egypt, 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.
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 alternatively as KV22 (King's Valley) or WV22 (West Valley). His tomb was dug into a Wadi situated perpendicular to to the principal North-South axis of the valley. It is interesting to note that the only other tomb in the sector is that of Ay, the last pharoah of the Amarna period, and who, we have every reason to believe, occupied the tomb originally intended for Tutankhamon, in an effort to link his own rule with that of the last "orthodox" pharoah, to whom he considered himself the rightful successor. The monument was originally discovered by two French engineers of Napoleon Bonaparte's Egyptian 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. The work was resumed and completed by Howard Carter in February-March 1915.
The Egyptian Archaeological Mission of Waseda University (of Japan) resumed restoration works in the tomb (see ) in September 1989. Those works are now completed and a was published on the Internet. Since then, a full was published for UNESCO in 2004; It contains many photographs of the conservation work carried out in phases I and II of the work.
Further conservation work is still required. In particular the structure of the tomb still needs to be stabilised. One of the pillars and a retaining wall have large cracks, and 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.
From material bearing the name of his father Thutmosis IV found in the foundation deposits, it would appear the tomb was started by him. However, the bulk of the original excavation and subsequent decorative work was completed by Amenhotep III. The wives, Tiy and Sitamon, were possibly to have been buried here.
The sarcophagus of the funereal chamber was removed during some period in antiquity to be re-used elsewhere. The mummy of the king was moved, along with others, to the KV35 cache, during the reign of Smendes. There is also evidence of intrusive burials dating from the Third Intermediate Period, in the form of fragments of a wooden coffin found in the well chamber.
The tomb is, in many respects, like that of his father, . Like that of his father, Amenhotep III's tomb also exhibits two 90° changes of direction in axis. But, unlike KV43 this tomb goes first left then right, whereas in KV43 both are to the left. In both cases the burial chamber is undecorated and is flanked by two large side chambers running laterally. Both of these chambers 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 room, an additional chamber was dug along the axis of the gallery which extends in the direction of the entrance, running in the the opposite direction of that of KV43.
The entry corridors and well chamber have a general east-to-west axis. This then changes at the upper pillared hall with a 90° turn to the left and proceeds in this south-north direction to the antechamber. On entering the burial chamber, the axis then turns 90° again, but to the right, with its pillared hall being restored to an east-west orientation.
Over a distance of approximately 90 metres (not including the rear pillared chamber and its side chamber), the tomb descends approximately 24 metres from the entrance to the burial chamber floor, where the sarcophagus would have been.
The decoration within this tomb is organised as follows:
Entry corridors and stairways (A-D) : undecorated.
Well chamber (E) : Scenes before various deities.
Well shaft chamber (Ea) : undecorated.
Upper pillared hall (F) : undecorated.
Corridor and stairways (G-H) : undecorated.
Antechamber (I) : Scenes before various deities.
Burial chamber (J) : scenes from the Amduat;
pillars with Amenhotep before various deities.
Side chamber (Ja) : undecorated.
Side chambers (Jb-Jbb) : undecorated.
Side chambers (Jc-Jcc) : undecorated.
Side chamber (Jd) : undecorated.
Side chamber (Je) : undecorated.
The current entrance to the tomb of Amenhotep, found at the bottom of the cliff face is strangely unimposing, given that this great pharaoh was well known for the grandeur of his building accomplishments.
The tomb is entered by way of a steep flight of steps (A). These lead into a moderately inclined corridor (B). This is followed by yet another steep stairway of 16 steps (C). Yet another moderately inclined corridor (D) finally leads into the "well chamber" (E).
So far, this journey of about 36 metres has descended to a depth of nearly 14 metres below ground. These entry stairways, corridors and intermediate gateways (including that leading into the well chamber) are completely undecorated, and have brought us at last to the first decorated chamber: the well chamber.
The chamber itself is 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, which gives the chamber its name, desecends approximately 5.9m below it. Its original purpose is still uncertain, but three hypotheses have been proposed:
It may have been dug to help deter tomb robbers. In Amenhotep III's tomb, as in Thutmosis IV's before him, the corridor leading to the deeper interior parts of the tomb was bricked up and stuccoed over in the vain hope of making tomb robbers believe they were in a cul-de-sac.
The well may have been a safeguard against the rare but violent rains that wash through the tomb. But the presence of the room at the bottom then is less explicable.
Finally, the well may have been symbolically connected to Nun and the primordial ocean.
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 well-chamber above, 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 in an attempt to disguise what lay within. Only three of the interior walls are decorated, the left (north) wall, the right (south) wall and the rear (east) wall which faces 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 and in the tomb of . 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. Underneath 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, as for example above the exit doorway.
This wall contains four scenes. Starting from the entry end and proceeding into the tomb, the first scene shows Amenhotep III accompanied and protected by his father's Ka being embraced by Hathor. The Ka holds in his right hand a feather of Shou, while his left hand holds a long baton. Similar scenes can be found in the tombs of Toutankhamen and Ay, but in those cases the buried pharoah's own Ka accompanies the desceased ruler.
The remaining three scenes in turn show Amenhotep III receiving the Ankh sign 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 show 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.
This wall also contains four scenes. Starting from the entry end and proceeding into the tomb from (right to left), the first scene again shows Amenhotep III accompanied by his father's Ka but this time before the goddess 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). In passing we note the stylistic almond-shaped eyes, lifted up toward the back of the head, typical of the reign of Amenhotep III.
This wall originally contained six scenes, but two were painted over the area of the doorway leading to the lower part of the tomb, blocked after internment of the pharaoh, and subsequently destroyed by grave robbers. Now only the narrow portion over the doorway remains (see ). 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 and then Hathor.
On the far left of the doorway is the remains of what appears to be another image of Hathor (see ), from whom he again receives life.
The chamber is 6.2m wide and 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 spaced 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 excavation of the chamber was not completed all of the way to the ceiling.
A steep stairway at the end of the upper pillared hall connects to corridor (G), which leads to another steep stairway (H), which leads to the antechamber (I). The journey from the floor of the pillared hall to the floor of the antechamber is about 17 metres, over about 9 metres descent. The depth below the main entrance is now about 23 metres. The two sets of stairways and the corridor (G) 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 mysetrious inscription may have been placed here on the day of internment of Amenhotep III, but if so it wouldn't be referring to his reign, but possibly to a period of coregency with his son Amenhotep IV, who had not yet assumed the name Akhenaton.
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 after the burial of Amenhotep III, 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 certain 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.
This wall contains six scenes. Starting from the entry and proceeding into the tomb, the first shows Amenhotep receiving Ankh, the sign of life from Hathor. The remaining scenes show him with Nut, the Western Goddess, Anubis, 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.
[Sorry but full photographic coverage of this wall is not available]
This wall has 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.
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, and then before Anubis.
The two right-hand scenes were originally painted over the area of the doorway to burial chamber, blocked after internment of the pharaoh, and are now almost lost. These two scenes showed the king and his (or his father's) Ka before Nut, then Hathor. This is the ) above the door.
The work accomplished by the restorers on this composition can be seen in this view.
The burial chamber is entered through an undecorated doorway situated in the south-west corner of the chamber's pillared hall, and down two steps.
On entering the chamber, the complex returns to the original East-West direction of its axis, turning 90° to the right. The sarcophagus would have been in the East end of the chamber in the east, unlike that of his father, where the sarcophagus end would have been in the west, a more logical position.
The burial chamber has two levels. The first, upper level, is buttressed by six pillars, in two rows of three along either side of the new west-to-east axis. Between the easternmost pair of pillars, a flight of five steps leads down to the lower section of the chamber, where the sarcophagus of Amenhotep III once resided.
The overall width of the burial chamber is just over 8m and it is 15.5m in length, approximately 10m of which includes 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.
Also, in the lower sarcophagus section of the chamber, four niches were carved out of the rock for "magic bricks", two on the east wall and one beneath each of the two end pillars of the upper part of the chamber, (see and ).
The sarcophagus itself must have originally rested on two blocks, as two parallel rectangular slots in the centre of the floor of the lower section of the chamber indicate. The sarcophagus is lost and only fragments and the broken red granite ) now remain.
At the south-west end of this area, a was dug which may be where the canopic chest would have been.
The walls, pillar faces and ceiling were all at one time decorated, the ceiling with pale yellow stars on a dark blue background (see ), much of which has fallen to the ground.
The walls were plastered and decorated with painted representations of the book of Amduat, one complete as well as an abridged version. The text and figures were reproduced in the cursive style typically found on papyri. Each version of the Amduat, 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 and right). This shows Amenhotep facing the Western Goddess from whom he is given life.
Originally were applied to assist the artists, and some of these are still visible on certain 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 above) depict the Western Goddess.
all sides facing north (i.e. to the left on the plan above) depict 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.
Please refer to 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.
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 Jb.
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. Here also the floor level is lower than that of its adjoining chamber.
ad Chamber Jd
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.
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. 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.
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, and the head had even been broken off, although the internal sarcophagus in wood remained in a decent state. A docket, available at the 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. [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 III must have been buried with a range of goods similar to those found in .
As already stated, 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 nevertheless well constructed well finished.
The grand representations of the sovereign and principal divinities enumerated occupy whole sides of the walls, limiting the variety of overal scenes depicted. Their youthful aspect is moreover characteristic of the end of the reign of the king. Though their realisation exemplifies attentive craftsmanship, there is nothing exceptional in their design. 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 rites.
Indeed, considering the length and the richness of the reign, the tomb could have been completed during the lifetime of the king. We touch here on 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 a controversial question. 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 during his lifetime, or even the balance of the world. One would have thus awaited the death of the sovereign in order 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 the most potentially endangering were only completed after the pharaoh's death, within the time remaining, and thus often left incomplete.
This intriguing problem remains however without real answer to this day.