The Valley of the Kings is the funeral place where tombs of the Theban pharaohs found. These pharaohs reigned Egypt during the 18th to the 20th Dynasties. They are decorated with magnificent paintings illustrating the Afterlife, the great magical religious writings of the time, and the otherworld destiny of the king. It was called The Great, Noble Necropolis of Millions of Years of Pharaohs, and for five hundred years, it was the burial place of Egypt’s New Kingdom rulers. Sixty-two tombs and twenty unfinished pits have been found here, seven of them in the large West Valley of the Kings, the rest in the East Valley of the Kings. It is the East Valley that is visited by most tourists. In the northernmost section of the Theban
necropolis, there is a valley of difficult access dominated by a mountain called the Theban peak: whose shape is quite similar to a pyramid.
These topographical features lent a sacred characteristic to the site, which is probably why it was chosen to house the royal necropolis and the tombs of leading dignitaries. François Champollion, the man who deciphered the hieroglyphic script, visited the site in 1828 and called it the ‘Valley of the Kings: a name used up to this day. The ancient Egyptians considered it the great and august Necropolis of the Millions of years of the Pharaoh (Life, Strength, Health) in the west of Thebes; as well as ‘ta sekhet aat’ (the great plain). No one was allowed to enter except during the funeral ceremony of a pharaoh.
A special police corps called the ‘medjay’ was responsible for the constant surveillance of the valley, guarding the access-ways and periodically making checks to make sure that the seals placed on the entrance of each tomb were still unbroken. Despite all these precautions, the royal tombs began to be desecrated by thieves as early as in the 20th dynasty and continued to be pillaged in the following centuries.
When the first European travelers visited the site in the 18th century, all the royal tombs except one had been completely emptied and their opened entrances faced the walls of the valley, hence bear the Arabic name Biban al Muluk, or Gates of the Kings. Tombs in both, the West and East Valley, follow a common numbering system that was first established in 1827 by John Gardner Wilkinson. Wilkinson numbered the twenty-one tombs, which were accessible in his day, from the entrance of the valley southward and from west to east. Since then, tombs have been added to the list in the order of their discovery, KV 62, the tomb of Tutankhamen, is the most recent.