Classic Court

New Kingdom: Rock-cut Tombs

During the New Kingdom (about 1550–1070 bce), Waset (modern Luxor) was the political and religious capital of Egypt. The city of the living occupied the east bank of the Nile. The city of the dead filled the west bank, including the hidden royal tombs dug into the narrow desert wadi (valley) we call the Valley of the Kings.

In the hills between the cultivated fields and the desert are thousands upon thousands of graves and tombs. A private tomb for the wealthy was built like a miniature temple, honoring the deceased as a god. Some of its most important elements included:

  • An enclosed courtyard for ceremonies (A)
  • A chapel for ancestor worship (B)
  • An underground burial chamber reached by hidden stairs or a deep shaft (C)

The chapel was cut into the hillside and covered by a small pyramid facing the rising run. A chapel could have multiple halls decorated with statues and painted portraits of the tomb owner and his or her family members receiving offerings, worshipping Osiris, and enjoying life in the next world.