QV66 is the extremely well-preserved tomb of Queen Nefertari, the Great Royal Wife of Ramesses II. The tomb, located in the Valley of the Queens, is the largest in the valley, and was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1904. It is often referred to as ‘the Sistine Chapel of ancient Egypt’ due to its incredibly beautiful decoration.
The standard of the tomb decoration is truly astounding, and provides a wonderful example of the high quality of art found in the Ramesside Period.
Nefertari is depicted wearing a beautiful dress of semi-transparent white linen and the vulture headdress.
Chapters of the ‘Book of the Dead’ illustrate the walls, as well as representations of Nefertari in the company of various deities, including Thoth and Isis, and scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’. Other images include depictions of the Queen being welcomed by the gods, and making offerings to Hathor and to Isis and Nephthys. The passage to the antechamber is flanked by the images of Osiris (left) and Anubis (right).
A dark blue astronomical ceiling decorates the roof of the burial chamber. The chamber itself is decorated with scenes of Chapters 144 and 146 of the ‘Book of the Dead’.
Ramesses II’s devotion and love for Nefertari are evident throughout the tomb. Poetry written by the king to his wife appears on some of the walls of the burial chamber, including lines such as “My love is unique”, and “nobody can compete, because she is a woman more beautiful than the living”.
Unfortunately, QV66 had been robbed by tomb-robbers during the New Kingdom. Schiaparelli did recover a few items including some scarabs, shabtis, fragments of a gilded coffin lid, and the remains of the Queen’s pink granite sarcophagus (now in the Turin museum).
A pair of the Queen’s sandals also survived. A few pieces of her jewellery were purchased by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts when they appeared on the Luxor antiquities market in 1904.
Sadly, the fate of the Queen’s mummy is unknown. Schiaparelli only found part of her knees in the burial chamber, among shreds of mummification material. These remains are also in the Turin museum.
The Getty Conservation Institute – Tomb of Nefertari (1986–1992): http://www.getty.edu/conservation/our_projects/field_projects/nefertari/index.html – details of the QV66 conservation project and related articles and publications.
Osirisnet – QV66: http://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/pharaons/nefertari/e_nefertari_01.htm – including a 3-D virtual tour of the tomb.
Science Photo Library – Tomb of Queen Nefertari: http://www.sciencephoto.com/set/1444 – including more photographs.
antikforever.com – The tombs of the Valley of the Queens – QV66: http://antikforever.com/Egypte/Tombes/QV_1.htm#QV66 – including more photographs and a description.