The tomb of the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertari, the great royal consort of the pharaoh Ramses II in the valley of the queens (QV66), was an expression of a love that would outlast death.
It is the most important tomb in the Valley of the Queens and marks the climax in the development of the Egyptian queen tomb.
Egyptologists know little about Nefertari, the favorite wife of Ramses II, the pharaoh who ruled the New Kingdom of Egypt from 1279 to 1213 BC. Ruled. Only one thing is certain: that he loved her. There is no other explanation for the fact that the statue dedicated to her and the goddess Hathor in Abu Simbel is just as large as that of the god-king – an honor that no other Egyptian queen has ever been bestowed. The epithets that the Pharaoh gave her also testify to his feelings: “Mistress of kindness”, “sweet in love”, “beautiful in face”, “for whom the sun shines”. And after her death, Ramses II dedicated a final, spectacular gift to her: Although she was not of royal descent, he had Nefertari buried in the Valley of the Queens.
The wall paintings in her tomb are among the most beautiful of Pharaonic funerary art, unique in their vivid colors, their accuracy and their abundance. They show the way of the buried into the afterlife and their encounter with gods such as Osiris and Isis, strictly following the sequence of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The daily life at the side of Ramses ’II or their six or seven children was unfortunately not included in the depictions. Protecting the ornate paintings from decay required skill and ingenuity.
Discovery of the grave QV 66
The grave 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 had been exposed, he found the tomb open, with no remains of the ancient closure, which made it clear that tomb robbers had come before him. The few finds, including the remains of a mummy (leg bone fragments) that had been scattered by the grave robbers, he transferred to the Museo Egizio in Turin, which he directed, where they can still be seen today.
In the coffin chamber, Schiaparelli found the most important object, the sarcophagus lid that had been blown by looters, the fragments of which could largely be put back together. Here he also found a Djed pillar, which was in one of four wall niches. The other finds include numerous shabtis, a pair of palm tree sandals, two arched box lids and a knob made of blue faience, which 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, however, has been
expanded to two axially aligned room complexes through extensive expansions.
The main axis of the tomb from the entrance to the sarcophagus chamber is oriented (according to the real geographical cardinal points) from south to north, which apparently contradicts the Egyptian ideology, according to which a sarcophagus chamber has to be in the west. The scenes are mostly based on the ideal cardinal points, but there is also an integration of the real-geographic cardinal point into the conception of the decoration program.
As in his own grave complex (KV7), Ramses II had chosen a slightly “kinked” shape in the design of the grave axis for Nefertari, which was common in the time before Akhenaten. This kink 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, too, with few exceptions, pillars are reserved for royal tombs.
As queen, Nefertari was not allowed to use royal funerary texts, but chose equivalents from the Book of the Dead, whose sayings and illustrations were available to everyone for other uses and were also widely used in the graves of officials of that time. However, some motifs are also taken directly from the image program of the royal tombs and thus raise them far above the level of the graves of officials and princes. Above all, this includes the design of the ceiling as a starry 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 representations of the heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt (lotus and papyr
us and the goddess Maat) actually only belong in a royal tomb
The murals of the tomb follow a specific iconographic
ram. The journey of the deceased is shown on two axes: The first axis is oriented towards the interior of the grave (religious west), where it reaches the kingdom of Osiris; the second axis is directed outwards (religious east), where it regenerates and returns to the light of 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 the dead Osiris. Her return to the light takes place in the rever
se order in which the transition from her state as Osiris to that of Re takes place. The climax of this journey takes place in the vestibule, where the “going out during the day” of the glorified queen who has merged with the sun appearing on the horizon takes place.
Rescue the mural
All power of Ramses ’II could not protect the tomb from robbers and decay. as already mentioned, the grave had been looted before it was discovered by Schiaparelli. About a fifth of the artistic paintings had been destroyed, others showed damage, but as a result of natural processes: Salt had penetrated from the surrounding limestone and had crystallized under and on the painted plaster layer. Over the next several decades, visitors inadvertently continued the destruction, primarily 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 taken by Schiaparelli’s diligent photographer in 1904 and 1905, as well as later ones Image documentation). Eventually the paintings were so damaged that the Egyptian government closed the tomb to the public in the late 1930s.
Nefertari’s legacy was stored in dusty silence, only visited by selected 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 grave and conservators from the Getty Conservation Institute and the Egyptian Antiquities Authority urged that the remaining works of art be saved.
On behalf of these two organizations, experts from very different fields 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 achieved state of preservation of the paintings proves to be stable – the project was a success. The wonderful pictures, the clear beauty of Queen Nefertari – visitors can admire them again. In the original, not as replicas from the 20th century. Nothing has been painted over, and yet the pictures look like new; Even the splotches of paint that pharaonic artists left on the walls and floor over 3000 years ago can be seen again.
Admire this proof of a great love on your Egypt Holiday with Egypt Holiday Service and let yourself be enchanted by the colorful wall decorations!