The Valley of the Kings is an area in western
Thebes which was used by the Egyptians to bury their dead. Burials
were held there during the rule of over nine dynasties of Egyptian
This area of Egypt was chosen for burial partly
because of the way the land is laid out. Firstly, there is the
flat plain leading to foothills that were perfectly shaped for
tombs. There were also flat areas which were used to build the
temples. This was all located above the flood plain, and western
Thebes faced west which is where the sun sets. Egyptian religion
identified the sun with the realm of the dead.
Tuthmosis I, the third king of the 18th Dynasty,
is thought to be the first to have had a tomb in the Valley of the
Kings. The Egyptians stopped using the Valley of the Kings as a
burial ground by the end of the 20th Dynasty. The exact reason why
is unclear, but it could have had something to with tomb raiding.
Many treasures were stolen from the tombs.
The Egyptians believed in the afterlife, which is
why they buried treasures (valuables thought to be useful in the
afterlife) with their pharaohs. They were also buried with all of
their earthly belongings.
There were many views about what the afterlife
was. The solar cult thought that the dead pharaoh would board the
sun's heavenly boat and accompany him on his daily voyage across
the world above. The cult of Osiris thought the pharaoh passed
into the underworld to become Osiris and rule the underworld as
he had ruled the Earth (or at least, part of pre-Dynastic Egypt,
perhaps in the region of 3300-3600 BC).
Osiris became the mortuary god. Egyptians thought
that 'after life' meant the soul left the body at death, but it
was expected to return to it throughout eternity which is why the
Egyptians mummified their dead - to preserve the bodies from decay.
Although the Egyptians needed to preserve bodies
and tried very hard to preserve the tombs which housed those bodies,
few of the treasures survived long. Most of them were raided,
despite the best attempts to keep them hidden.