|The Tomb of Ramesses VIII|
In 1974, during my second season in Thebes, I spent a magical night in the Valley of the Kings. It was during the summer, and there was a full moon.
I asked Sheikh Nagdy, the chief of the guards on the West Bank, to accompany me to climb the Qurn, the pyramidal peak that stands sentinel over the Valley. Sheikh Nagdy was the son of Sheikh Abdel Maugoud, who had known Howard Carter personally. Sheikh Maugoud told me once that he had seen Evelyn Herbert, the daughter of Lord Carnarvon, enter the tomb of Tutankhamun at night several times. He believed that Howard Carter was in love with her, not, as many people think, that she was in love with him but he was indifferent. When I climbed the Qurn that night, I felt magic in the silence that surrounded me.
Later, I became interested in pyramids and spent most of my life excavating around them. But my eyes would always turn again to the Valley of the Kings. A few years ago, there was an English expedition working in the Valley, looking for the lost tomb of Nefertiti. They used radar to see what might be hidden below the ground, and found an “anomaly” that they tentatively identified as KV 64, an unknown tomb. This anomaly is very interesting, and the area should be explored some day, but right now we are working in a different area of the Valley. We are hoping to find the tomb of Ramesses VIII, which has never been discovered, somewhere between the tomb of Merenptah (KV 8), son and successor of Ramesses II, and the tomb of Ramesses II himself (KV 7).
The team that I have appointed to search for the tomb of Ramesses VIII is headed by Afifi Rohiem, who has worked with me for many years at Giza. We began our work to the north, south, and west of the tomb of Merenptah. We have rediscovered ancient graffiti recorded by the great scholar Jaroslav Czerny. One of these was written by the 18th Dynasty vizier Userhat, who says that he built a tomb for his father, Amennakht, in this area. The site is littered with large blocks, which we are moving in our search for lost tombs – and we are finding tantalizing clues that something is hidden here. In the area to the south of Merenptah’s tomb, we found a cutting in the bedrock, but the rubble at the entrance to whatever lies beyond has been disturbed. If there is a tomb here, it is unlikely to be intact. However, another cutting, to the north, appears to be undisturbed. We have also found workmen’s huts, which we have recorded carefully. We are planning to bring in very sophisticated radar that can see 20 meters down, and hope that this will help guide us in our work.
There are many secrets still hidden in Valley of the Kings, and on the West Bank of Luxor. The real tomb of Amenhotep I is still being debated. Some scholars believe that he was buried in KV 39 (in the Valley of the Kings), and others believe that his tomb is at Dra Abu el-Naga, at the northern end of the Theban necropolis. Now a Polish archaeologist is exploring his theory that the tomb is hidden in the rocky cliffs behind the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, and, although the king’s mummy and coffin were found in the first royal mummy cache, he dreams that it is still intact. The tomb of Thutmose II is also still not definitely identified. Was he buried in KV 42, or DB 358, or is his tomb still unknown? (Again, it is unlikely to be intact, since his body was in the first royal mummy cache.) Where is the Amarna royal family: Akhenaten (whose body may be the one that was found in KV55), the elusive Smekhkare, Nefertiti, and their princesses? There are many other queens of the New Kingdom whose burials have not yet been found; any of these, if found intact, are sure to be absolutely spectacular; if robbed, they would still be fantastic. As I always say, you never know what secrets are hidden beneath the sand of Egypt.