The Tomb of The Nefertari in The Valley of The Queens
The tomb of the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertari, the great royal consort of Pharaoh Ramses II in the Valley of the Queens ( QV66 ), was an expression of a love that was to endure death.
It is the most important tomb in the Valley of the Queens and is the culmination of the development of the Egyptian Queen’s Tomb.
Egyptology know little about Nefertari, the favorite wife of Ramses II, Pharaoh, who founded the New Kingdom of Egypt from 1279 to 1213 BC. BC ruled. Only one thing is certain: that he loved her. There is no other way to explain that the statue in Abu Simbel dedicated to her and the goddess Hathor is just as big as that of the God-King – an honor that no other Egyptian queen has ever been given. The epithets that Pharaoh gave her also testify to his feelings: “Mistress of kindness”, “sweet in love” , “beautiful on face”, ” for whom the sun shines” . And after her death, Ramses II gave her one last, spectacular gift: although she was not of royal descent, he had Nefertari buried in the Valley of the Queens.
The murals in her tomb are among the most beautiful of the pharaonic tomb art, unique in their vivid colors, their accuracy and their fullness. They show the way of the buried into the afterlife and their encounter with gods such as Osiris and Isis, strictly following the course of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The daily life at the side of Ramses II or her six or seven children unfortunately did not find its way into the depictions. Protecting the artistic paintings from decay required skill and ingenuity.
Discovery of the tomb QV 66
The tomb was discovered in 1904 by Ernesto Schiaparelli , who carried out the first systematic excavations in the Valley of the Queens between 1903 and 1905. After the buried entrance was uncovered, he found the tomb open, with no remains of the ancient closure, indicating that tomb robbers had preceded him. The few finds, including the remains of a mummy (leg bone fragments) that had been tampered with by the grave robbers, were transferred to the Museo Egizio in Turin, where he can still be seen today.
In the coffin chamber, Schiaparelli found the most important object to be the sarcophagus lid , which was blown up by looters , the fragments of which were largely put together again. Here he also found a Djed pillar, which was in one of four wall niches. Other finds include numerous shabhtis, a pair of palm bast sandals, two domed box lids and a blue faience pommel that bears the name cartouche of Pharaoh Eje, Tutankhamun’s successor from the late 18th dynasty.
The conceptual basis of the rock grave is a two-chamber system, which has been extended to two axially aligned spatial complexes by extensive extensions.
The main axis of the grave from the entrance to the sarcophagus is oriented (from the real-geographical directions) from south to north, which apparently contradicts the Egyptian ideology that a sarcophagus must be in the west. The scenes are mostly based on the ideal cardinal points, but there is also an integration of the real-geographical cardinal points into the design of the decoration program.
As in his own grave system (KV7), Ramses II had chosen a slightly “bent” shape in the design of the grave axis for Nefertari, which was common in the time before Akhenaten. This bend is a unique architectural element in the Valley of the Queens.
Another peculiarity of the tomb is that it has pillars. No previous grave in the Valley of the Queens has pillars. In the Valley of the Kings, with a few exceptions, pillars are only reserved for royal tombs.
As a queen, Nefertari was not allowed to use royal funeral texts, but chose correspondences from the Book of the Dead, the sayings and illustrations of which were available to everyone for otherworldly use and were also widely used in the burial places of the time. However, some motifs are also taken directly from the image program of the royal tombs and thus elevate them far beyond the level of civil servants and prince graves. Above all, this includes the design of the ceiling as a frontal sky, which has only been found in royal tombs since the Old Kingdom and embodies the idea of an afterlife intended for the king. The depictions of the heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt (lotus and papyrus and the goddess Maat) actually only belong in a royal tomb
The tomb’s murals follow a specific iconographic program. The journey of the deceased is shown on two axes: the first axis is oriented towards the interior of the tomb (religious west), where it reaches the realm of Osiris; the second axis faces outwards (religious east), where it regenerates and returns to the light of the Re. With her move into the “House of Eternity”, Nefertari embarks on a long journey and, after successfully overcoming all obstacles, arrives in the realm of the god of death Osiris. Her return to light takes place in the reverse order in which the transition from her state as Osiris to that of Re takes place. The highlight of this trip is in the lobby,
Rescue the mural
All the power of Ramses II could not protect the tomb from robbers and decay. As already mentioned, the grave had been looted by Schiaparelli before the discovery. About a fifth of the artistic paintings were destroyed, others showed damage, but as a result of natural processes: salt had penetrated from the surrounding limestone and crystallized under and on the painted plaster layer. Over the next few decades, visitors unintentionally continued the destruction, especially by touching the fragile surfaces, but also by the moisture from breathing and sweat.
Archaeologists and art historians expressed growing concern, and in the late 1920s the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art funded extensive photographic documentation of the murals (these shots complemented 135 glass plate negatives made by Schiaparelli’s hardworking photographer in 1904 and 1905 as well as later ones Image documentation). Finally, the paintings were damaged to such an extent that the Egyptian government closed the tomb to the public in the late 1930s.
Nefertari’s legacy lay in dusty silence, only visited by select scientists. Around 40 years later, experts from UNESCO, the International Center for the Study of Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property and the University of Cairo examined the respective state of preservation of various important graves, including that of the Nefertari. The situation was serious, and conservators from the Getty Conservation Institute and the Egyptian Antiquities Administration warned to save the remaining works of art.
On behalf of these two organizations, experts from a wide range of disciplines devoted themselves to this task from 1986 to 1992, including art historians, conservators, Egyptologists, chemists, ecologists, topographers and technicians. The team determined the microclimate and hydrology of the grave and developed appropriate measures to prevent further destruction.
Eight years after the completion of the work, the state of preservation of the paintings has proven to be stable – the project was a success. The wonderful pictures, the clear beauty of Queen Nefertari – visitors can admire them again. And in the original, not as replicas from the 20th century. Nothing has been painted over, and yet the pictures look like new; even blobs of paint that Pharaonic artists left on walls and floors over 3000 years ago can be seen again.
Admire this proof of great love on your Egypt study trip with trips to Egypt and let yourself be enchanted by the colorful wall decorations!