The tomb of Ramesses I (Men-Pehty-Ra) 19th Dynasty (around 1315–1314 BC). Successor of Horemheb and founder of a new Dynasty, the 19th.


Ascending the throne rather old, he exercised the highest position of power for a long time under his predecessor. He bore the name of Paramessu at that time.


The non royal origin of Ramesses is attested on a statue recovered in 1913 by G. Legrain at the foot of a giant of Horemheb, under the Xème pylon of Karnak. It was dedicated to the "prince in the whole country, mayor of the city, vizier, Paramessu, who the chief of the archers Sethy begat".
The inscription sculpted on the loincloth stretched on the knees completes its titles thus: "chief of the archers, intendant of the horses, chief of the seal, transporter of His Majesty, royal messenger for all foreign countries, royal scribe, commander of the army of the Lord of the Two Lands, chief of the priests of all gods, lieutenant of His Majesty in Upper and Lower Egypt, ordering the mouths of the Nile, noble, mayor of the city, vizier, Paramessu".
From this non royal period survives two sarcophaguses, of which one will also be re-used by his great-grandson.

The Ramesside family is therefore, traditionally, a family of soldiers. He was from the East of the Delta, from the city of Tanis, situated on the edge of Asia, an origin which could have an influence on some aspects of Ramesside politics. It also explains the frequency of the Sethy name in the family: "the one that belongs to Seth ", a God particularly honoured in the oriental part of the Lower Egypt. One also knows, thanks to a stela dated from Ramesses II, and discovery in Tanis that, even before his advent, vizier Paramessu had sent his son Sethy to do homage to Seth in his city.
The wife of Paramessu, Sat-Ra, also of non royal origin, was the mother of his heir Sethy I.

One can wonder why Horemheb chose this man, who was already old, to succeed him. A general, like him, and a comrade-in-arms of Horemheb, this last one named him vizier, which allowed him to familiarise himself with the business of State, which he really had to know by the time of his accession to the throne.
Legrain found, in the feet of the Xth pylon of Karnak, two statues of Paramessu, at the side of two other statues representing Amenophis-son-of-Hapu; they had probably been placed there by Ramesses II to move closer to his ancestor of Horemheb, whom the official lists considered as the legitimate successor of Amenophis III.
Especially, it is possible to believe that he detected in the son of Paramessu, Sethy (future Sethy I), exceptional qualities. Besides, Sethy even had the advantage of also having a son, which assured in theory the stability of Pharaonic succession of which it had been deprived since the death of Amenhotep IV - Akhenaton.

Ramesses on the throne

Ramesses was regarded clearly as the founder of a new dynasty, as the choice of its name of crowning (Men-Pehty-Ra = Established (enduring) -is-the-power-of-Ra), shows; based on that of Ahmosis, the founder of the XVIIIth Dynasty (Neb-Pehty-Ra = Ra-is-Master-of-the-power).

The titulature adopted by Ramesses I insists on the bonds of monarchy with the Gods. It does not yet present the warlike aspect which those of his successors will have:
Horus name: strong bull who makes the monarchy green (ie. perpetually renewed, as vegetation in the spring).
"The two Mistresses" name: the one who appears as king as the equal of Atum.
Golden Horus name: the one who consolidates Truth and Justice throughout the country of two parts.
King of Upper and Lower Egypt name: Established (enduring) is the power of Ra.
Son of Ra name: Ra-ms-s ("it is Ra who put him in the world").

After the time of Amarna and the persecution of Akhenaton, Amon was re-established in his rightful place and to the list of rare achievements which one can assign to Ramesses I, one finds the original work of the great hypostyle hall of Karnak, which would be finished by his successors.
But it seems that, perhaps expressing same mistrust as Horemheb with regard to the Amon priesthood which had become very powerful again, he wanted to give an important place, also, to the beliefs of the Heliopolitans and Memphites.

The reign of Ramesses I would be very in short, less than two years. He apparently had the wisdom to associate his young son Sethy, which would allow the latter to follow his father without any major problem.

The tomb - General

The tomb of Ramesses I is KV16 in the Valley of Kings. It is located opposite that of Horemheb. It was discovered by Belzoni in October 1817. Considering the brevity of the reign of the king, it remained unfinished.
There are three theories to explain the small size of the tomb:
*The first postulates that the sovereign already old and could have been sick when he ascended the throne of Horus would have from the start would have envisaged a small tomb. Only the completion of it and notably that of the sarcophagus would have been done in haste.
*Another hypothesis is that the first room while digging, which should have acted as the antechamber, was transformed hastily into the burial chamber on the king's death.
*It seems in fact that it tomb was designed to be a much larger monument but that the health of the king quickly deteriorated and brought about, in a drastic way, a reduction to the initial program.


The tomb is rectilinear and measures only 29 m. in length. It includes two stairways separated by a corridor, culminating in a small oblong chamber flanked of two annexes and a niche. A sarcophagus, made of red granite, occupies a significant portion of the room ().
A more complete plan can be found

The decoration

The paintings of the tomb of Ramesses I are among the better preserved of those of the royal tombs. It takes again at the same time the style and the themes of the hypogeum of Horemheb. Besides, it is very probable that most of the craftsmen who worked on the tomb of Ramesses I had already been in charge of the one of his predecessor Horemheb.
One therefore find here the special blue-grey background (already present, it should be noted, in Amenophis (Amenhotep) III), with the same palette of intense and saturated colours. On the other hand, for lack of time, paintings are applied here directly to the plaster coated walls, without finding the splendid raised reliefs decorating the tomb of Horemheb. The king having reigned only eighteen months, it gives us an outline of what can be accomplished in so little time in a royal burial at that time.

The tomb remained sealed after the king's mummy has been moved from it, to protect it, in the XXIst Dynasty, by the devout priests of Amon.
The tomb remained sealed after the king's mummy has been moved from it, to protect it, in the XXIst Dynasty, by the devout priests of Amon. One finds no graffiti in the tomb from Greco-Roman times. There is only a little water damage. On the other hand the crackled ceiling threatened downfall and a structure in wood has been installed around the sarcophagus in order to support the vault.
It is in much the same way for the decorative program, with scenes extracted of the Book of Gates and which one only finds from the tomb of Horemheb (see below).

With this tomb and the one of Horemheb, one gets the feeling that they wished to abbreviate it. In fact, with the XVIIIth Dynasty one finds in the royal tombs of Thutmosis I, Thutmosis III, Amenophis (Amenhotep) II, Amenophis (Amenhotep) III, the Book of the Amduat, which will be very much reduced it is true for Tutankhamun and Ay. This book will disappear with Horemheb and Ramesses I. It will reappear with Sethy I, Ramesses II, Merenptah, …replaced by the Book of Gates.

The Book of Gates

The Book of Gates is a funeral composition whose original name is unknown. It appears in the Valley of the Kings in the tomb of Horemheb, then in that of the first representative of the XIXth dynasty, Ramesses I.
It is one of the books which describe the nocturnal journey of the sun.
It replaces in this function that which was previously used by the Book of the Amduat, by which it was extensively inspired.

As with the Amduat, the Book of Gates is divided into sections and takes the general description of the nocturnal journey of the sun in a barque within a framework including three registers.

The principal innovation, it is the appearance of a scene of judgement in front of Osiris, after the 5th division. Thus the late king also will pass to him in judgement. There is no doubt that this principal innovation was been introduced because of the Amarna episode: if by chance a new "heretic" came to occupy the throne of Egypt, it is quite out of the question to allow him to become a funerary - royal! - for Eternity, if he has not acted in accordance with Ma'at.
The very concept of the courtroom, unlike that of the "Book of the Dead", is very austire. Note that Osiris is the only judge; there is no assembly of the gods or accessers to assist him as in a tomb private. Another innovation is the use of cryptographs (a process, however, already present on the guilt chapels of Tutankhamun).

Finally, the main iconic characteristic of the Book of Gates is the presence of gates, which are twelve in number (the Duat itself includes eleven divisions). Note: the first hour is followed by the first gate, which gives entry to the second hour, and so on, until the twelfth gate gives entry to the day (the rebirth of the sun).
These gigantic portals which punctuate the different stages of the journey of the solar barque create the hours of the night and make reference to essential elements of an Egyptian temple or the royal palace. Just like the doors which follow one another in a building, they seem to lead the traveller towards the heart of architectural space.
These gates, already quoted in the Book of the Amduat on the other hand were never represented there.
A snake watches over each of them and its body extends to the full height of the three registers.

With Ramesses I one finds only excerpts of the 3rd and 4th hours.

The access to the tomb

After a first long flight of stairs, one arrives to the actual entry (). The one here is greater than those of the tombs of the XVIIIth Dynasty.
A downward corridor, with smooth walls but not covered with plaster leads into a second stairway built into the rock. On each side are two deep ledges, whose function is not obvious. They are not decorated.
The sarcophagus chamber opens up directly at the bottom of this staircase, where one would normally have expected the well chamber.

The sarcophagus chamber - Overall view

What strikes one straightaway it is the small size of the room, the immense sarcophagus with its rounded lid which occupies a great part of it, and the very colourful aspect of the walls in a good state.

The size of the room only permitted the storage of a small amount of funeral material, of which there already remained almost nothing any more at the time of the transfer of the mummy of the king in XXIst Dynasty. This material had to really much less in quantity to what has been recovered from Tutankhamun [nb. : for which some still bemoan that he was a "small Pharaoh" who had to have so few things in relation to others. I don't believe anything of it.]

The progress of the scenes gives a good idea of the progression of the deceased king in his journey in the hereafter.

This here is split in two, one part on the walls of the right, one part on the walls of the left, result from the walls being based respectively on Osiris and on Khepri. An interesting effect of symmetry results from this. That this, as always in Egypt, is never complete.
We will follow the king's path successively in its two directions, right and left from the entry.

Progression on the path to the right

A - The wall on the right of the entry :

Either side of the doorway, two pictures of the Goddess Ma'at welcome the deceased king. They are a reminder that – unlike what was practiced before - the king enters the room "of the two Ma'ats" (Ma'at (y)) that is to say a room of judgement, and we will review on the opposite wall where he is going to be brought before Osiris.

Ma'at receives the king :
"Words spoken by Ma'at, daughter of Ra when she welcomes her beloved son, the Osiris-king Men-Pehty-Ra, just of voice, and when she gives him the throne of her father Osiris, for eternity (twice) "

Behind the goddess : "Protection, life, stability, strength and an ever joyous heart are all around her"

The king is then represented making an offering of two vases of wine to the god Nefertum. He is presented once again as "the Osiris-king Men-Pehty-Ra, just of voice with the Great God Lord of Busiris (= Osiris) ". Before him : "Giving wine, so that he becomes (?) as Ra".

The God Nefertum is easily recognisable by the open lotus which he wears on his head. His name is also recorded above him. He carries in one hand the sign of life the Ankh, in the other the Was-scepter of power.
This representation makes reference to Chapter 81B of the Book of the Dead: "Formula to take the aspect of a lotus… Oh this lotus, this picture of Nefertum, I am someone who knows your name…" Thus the birth of the sun is symbolised, which left for the first time from the initial chaos, when the blue petals of the flower of the lotus opened.

This linking of Nefertum with the realm of the sun is very old, since Spell 266 of the Pyramid Texts proclaims that he is "the flower of the lotus at the nose" of the sun god Ra.
From the New Kingdom, Nefertum is considered as the god-son of the Memphite triad also including Ptah (who one will find on the wall to the left of the entry) and the leonine goddess Sekhmet.

Above him : "Words spoken by Nefertum, the Great God, Lord of Ta-Djeser (= the necropolis), who orders one to appear before the Mountain of the West. Lord for Eternity, Governor of Eternity."
Behind him : "Protection, life, stability, power, around him like Ra."

One finds a great "Tiet" knot (aka Knot of Isis) which refers to Chapter 156 of the Book of the Dead "Formula for the Tiet-knot of red jasper… You have your blood, Isis; you have your magic power, Isis; you have your magic, Isis; the amulet which is the protection of this Great God, that represses the one who causes him wrong". The exact significance of the goddess's symbol remains obscure.

B - The right wall.

Here one finds represented a part of the 2nd division (or 3rd hour) of the Book of Gates (reduced: the door (except the leaf), the upper register except the beginning of the text placed in the 2nd register, the nine characters after the snakes of the lower register, the end of the text in the bottom register.
The movement of the scenes is made right to left, so prolonging the initial phase of reception.
Above of the representations in the top register, is an "Egyptian cornice" surmounted by a Kheker frieze.
On this wall are dug, above the top of upper register, two small niches destined to contain magic bricks, in number–theory - 4, and which are supposed to be oriented according to the cardinal points. Obviously this is not the case here. Undoubtedly, the amulets contained in the niches must have compensate for this.

1) The first gate

This is represented solely by its leaf. The gate here, on a yellow base, has the gigantic upright guardian snake, Aqeby (, ).
The (in retrograde writing, with inversion of the sense of the signs) : "Aqeby, he is on this leaf, he it opens to Ra. Open for the one of the horizon, when he illuminates the dense darkness and who gives the light in the Duat ! (= the Hidden Chamber). This gate is sealed after this Great God enters there and Those-who-are-in-their-pylon (= the deceased) moan when they hear the gate close itself again on them."

2) Register of the barque

In the barque, is a ram-headed God surmounted by a solar disk (). It refers to the nocturnal form of the sun, who combines the bottom of Osiris and Ra. A clearer explanation is given in the (Great Royal Wife of Ramesses II).
The God stands under a canopy, a Was-scepter of power in his hand, before him stands a protective snake. The canopy is surrounded and protected by the folds of a great snake, Mehen.
One notes how much the crew of the barque is reduced: there is only the God Sia to embody the power of knowledge at the front, and the God Heqa for magic power at the rear.
The barque is hauled by four Dwawtyws (= inhabitants of the Duat, the underworld).
Before the hauliers, eight standing mummies carry the Barque of the Earth, which crosses a space symbolised by a rod or a gut (). Above this are seated seven divinities, and at each extremity is the form of a cow's head (with Hathorian ears ) and holding a bull. The rope of the hauliers enters the muzzle of the right cow and exits from that at the other extremity, showing that the barque is supposed to cross this gut, which makes of this crossing a passage of ritual and rebirth. It is probably necessary to understand (although it is not very clear) that it acts as an equal to the portage of the barque of Aker in his underground domain, the two bulls back to back which can represent the two mounds which one finds associated with this God. Notice that the mummy bearers all wear the bent false beards of a blissful death, which even pass in a non-realistic manner in front of the rod in order to better emphasise them.

Before the hauliers and facing them, are four Osiriform characters in white shrouds, their head dressed with the klaft () are designated as "the wtAw (= bandaged ones) of the earth".
Above these representations, the text in retrograde writing says :
"This Great God is hauled by the gods of the Duat, this Great God arrives with the Barque of the Earth, at (the craft) of the gods."

Ra says to them : "Oh gods who carry the Barque of the Earth, carriers of the craft of the Duat, which your forms have raised, the light is for your craft. Sacred (Djeser) is who is in it ! Does the barque of the Earth flinch before me (?), the craft of Duat elevates my form. Here, I cross the Mysterious Region to take care of those who are in it. The earth trembles (twice). The soul is honoured, the double bull rejoices and the God is satisfied with what he created."

These gods say to Ra : "Ra is honoured, his soul is powerful (when it is) with the One of the Earth (?). These gods honour Ra when he lies down. The barque rejoices, his duat is this craft. Then they lament when Ra passes close to them. Their offerings consist of fresh vegetables; their offerings are given them when (they) hear the voice of those who haul this Great God. Those of the Duat in the sacred barque, who are found in the land, command the wtAw of the earth."

"The roar of Khenty-mnt-f : Discover your heads! Hide your arms! The air is for your noses; that your bandages are untied ! You have the power of your gifts, you are satisfied with what I created !"

"Their offerings consist in breads, their beer is the djsrt-drink, their refreshment, that is water. What we gives them as offering, it is materials of lucid colour in the Duat."

The continuation of this text is a mutilated passage of the Book of Gates, 2nd division (or 3rd hour), 1st register :
" (The holy gods who are in the Duat) in their chapels, whose divine flesh the snake Sty guards the chapels."
Ra says to them : "Your chapels (are open) and my rays penetrate your darkness. I found you in mourning, your chapels sealed on you. I give (air for your noses)."

3) Bottom register

The God Atum leans on a stick before the representation of the enormous snake Apophis (). The god thus prevents Apophis exerting his malefic action and from reversing the solar barque. Curiously, the reptile is not shown as one so often sees him elsewhere.
Above of the annexe, towards the right, is an inscription : "The assembly of the gods, who repulses Apophis." The divinities themselves are not even represented.
Notice that the representation of Apophis is located directly under that of the divine barque.

4) On the left, after the annexe

We find Atum standing in the same pose facing nine divinities holding a sceptre and the Ankh sign of life, the "Lords of Provisions." (, )
The text above of these representations is in retrograde engraving and says :

"That which Atum does (for) Ra: to deify the God, to cast down the rebel. You are reversed, you who stand no more! You are charmed you who do not find yourself anymore ! My father is justified against you, I am justified against you, I repel you Ra, I punish you for The One of the Horizon !

The Ennead tells Ra (when he) repulses Apophis : "Your head is severed, Apophis ! Your folds are cut! You won't approach the barque of Ra, you won't descend toward the divine barque! The flame is against you coming from the Mysterious Region. We intended you to be annihilated !"

"They provide gifts for Ra, offerings for the One who is the Head of the Westerners (= Osiris). One makes them offerings of the land, presenting them refreshment to those who have right to the offerings before Ra."

Atum says to these gods who carry the sceptre and the sign of life, to those who lean on their sceptres: "Repel the enemy of the One of the Horizon, cut the flesh from the bad one !
These gods charm Apophis, they open the earth for Ra, they seal (the earth on Apophis)."

C - The back wall, on the right.

On the back wall are represented four separated scenes. Osiris and Khepris, terminate the two journeys, centre of the wall; each side are eight characters. The groups present a nearly symmetrical aspect, with the Egyptian cornice which takes the form of a roof above of the divine representations.

On the right, the dead king is lead by Horus, Atum and Neith in front of Osiris, seated on an archaic throne placed on a pedestal (). It is the culmination of the journey in the beyond on the right-hand path (Book of Gates, 2nd division (or 3rd hour)).

From the New Kingdom, the Egyptian theologists finally succeeded in combining the Solar and Osirian fates, a priori contradictory: Osiris became the nocturnal form of the sun. The Bau of the two gods join, as is expressed by the formula: "Osiris, (who) is the Ba of Ra, Ra who is the Ba of Osiris".

In front of Osiris, is a smaller character, an Iwn-mwt-f priest, dressed in the panther skin (). This priest represents the ideal son of Osiris who fulfils the function of funeral priest.
Before Iwn-mwt-f : Words spoken by Iwn-mwt-f, four times : "In peace, you are in peace, eternally and forever !"

Above of Osiris, is an inscription which reproduces the God's speech :
Words to be spoken : "I come, I will be your protection. I establish your throne like that of Ra in the sky. You rise (as the sun) eternally and forever in any place which you want, Osiris who is to the Head of the West, Wenen-nefer, king of the Living."

Horus wears the double crown and carries a sceptre. Above and before him : Words spoken by Horus, son of Isis: "Go and come, introduce him in the great palace which is in the Duat, in the middle of the land of the Mountain of the West."

Above the king : "I come before you, King of the Gods, Great God, Lord of the Sky."

Above Atum : Words spoken by Atum, Lord of the Two Lands and Heliopolis, Great God, Lord of the Sky, who resides in the Two Lands.
Before him : Words to be spoken: "I give you the appearances of Ra in the sky. That you may be like him."

Above Neith () : Words spoken by Neith the Great, divine Mother, Mistress of the Sky, Mistress of the Gods.
Before her : Words to be spoken : "I give you the throne of Osiris so that you rest in it, eternally."

The other representations, on the left-hand side of the back wall are the culmination of the royal progression from the walls of the left of the entry, we will visit these below.