Tuesday Tomb – KV57

View of the chamber looking towards the rear of tomb, following the installation of modern floor railings and ceiling supports (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

KV57 is the tomb of the last pharaoh of the Amarna Period, Horemheb, located in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. It was discovered in 1908 by the English Egyptologist, Edward Ayrton, who was working for Theodore M. Davis, an American lawyer who funded excavations in the Valley of the Kings between 1902 and 1914.

Debris in tomb at time of excavation (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

The tomb is located on the valley floor, and when Ayrton made his discovery, he found a tomb filled with debris from the occasional flooding of the valley. The tomb had also been broken into in antiquity.

KV57 is notably different from the other royal tombs of the Amarna Period because the decoration is painted bas-relief rather than painted walls. The layout is also different, representing a transition from the bent axis plan, characteristic of the 18th Dynasty, to the straight axis plan, characteristic of the royal tombs of the 19th and 20th Dynasties.

Photograph taken during the excavation of KV57 showing part of the antechamber decoration: (from left to right) Nefertem with tyet-knot, Osiris receiving wine from Horemheb, Hathor with Horemheb, Horus receiving wine from Horemheb, and Isis [with Horemheb] (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

The decoration within KV57 is unfinished – the only completely finished areas are the well chamber and the antechamber, both of which contain images of Horemheb with a vast variety of gods and goddesses (above). In the burial chamber of Horemheb’s tomb, passages from the Book of Gates appear for the first time (below), indicating a change in the way the sun’s nightly journey was viewed by the ancient Egyptians.

Book of Gates: first gate and first division/ second hour, scenes 7 and 8; painting unfinished (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

Detail of Osiris, Anubis, Horus [with Horemheb] (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

Detail of Hathor receiving wine from Horemheb (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

The variety of deities depicted within Horemheb’s tomb indicate the move away from the Atenist religion of the Amarna Period and the return to the more formal traditional religious beliefs and practices of the following Ramesside Period.

The painting in the tomb is, in part, based on a grey-blue background, and is filled with vibrant colours which give it staggering beauty (above and right).


Upon its discovery, KV57 was found to house several items of interest, including a calcite canopic chest, several wooden figures of gods, and two life-sized wooden statues of the king (reminiscent of those found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, but without gilding). Some human remains were also discovered – in the Osiris room, the bones of two females were found, and in the sarcophagus chamber, those of two females and a male.

Red granite sarcophagus with depictions of Serqet, Duamutef, Anubis, Imsety, and Nephthys (lid placed in the reverse of its original position) (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

A red granite sarcophagus stood in the sarcophagus chamber. It is extremely well-preserved and very beautifully carved in relief. The decoration features the four protective goddesses, Isis, Neith, Serqet, and Nephthys at each corner. The Four Sons of Horus, Qebehsenuef, Imsety, Duamutef, and Hapi, who traditionally protected the intestines, liver, stomach, and lungs respectively, are also present. Anubis, the protector of the dead and embalming, is depicted twice, in the centre of each of the long sides of the sarcophagus.

The sarcophagus also contained human remains; however, these could not be identified as either male or female by the excavators. Several hieratic inspection dockets from the 21st Dynasty may record temporary caching of burials in the tomb of Horemheb which were later moved to KV35.

The mummy of Horemheb was not found and has still not been identified.

Bibliography and further reading:

Theban Mapping Project – KV57: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_871.html – including a description and many beautiful images.

OsirisNet – KV57: http://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/pharaons/horemheb/e_horemheb_part1.htm – including a full description and many images.

Egyptian monuments – The tomb of Horemheb (KV57): http://egyptsites.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/tomb-of-horemheb-kv57/

Davis, T. M. 2001. The Tombs of Harmhabi and Touatânkhamanou. London: Duckworth Publishing.

Reeves, N & Wilkinson, R.H. 1996. The Complete Valley of the Kings. Thames and Hudson: London.


4 comments on “Tuesday Tomb – KV57

  1. Reblogged this on Amarna Princess and commented:
    Another wonderfully written ‘Tuesday Tomb’ post by Egyptiana Emporium, this time on KV57, tomb of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Horemheb. He was the last in the line of the “Amarna Kings”, despite simply being an army general and not of royal blood. He succeeded Ay, who was the successor of Tutankhamun. The tomb really is fantastic!

  2. Such a beautiful tomb. I hadn’t realized that some of the photos I’ve seen in my books came from Horemheb’s tomb until now.

  3. Thanks. This is fab. As a student of the Amarna, I always saw Horemheb as a bit of a baddy! I recall he has an unfinished tomb near Cairo too…

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