Egypt: The Tomb of Amenherkhepshef in the Valley of the Queens

The Tomb of Amenherkhepshef in the Valley of the Queens

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The Tombs of the sons of Ramesses III are considered some of the finest monuments in the Valley of the Queens on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). One of these, QV55, belongs to Amenherkhepshef (Amun-her-Khepshef), his son by the Great Royal Wife, Tyti, who is listed in the tomb (QV52) as God's Wife and God's Mother. Her tomb lies nearby and includes some of the same titles on its walls.

Amenherkhepshef probably died in about the 30th year of Ramesses III's reign when he was around 15 years old (though some of his titles may indicate an older age), and was not one of the king's elder sons, though he did maintain a number of important positions within the court. We know from reliefs at Medinet Habu and the Karnak Temple that he was the fan bearer to the right of the king (a role more important then it sounds) a royal scribe and a cavalry commander. He was also the "Superior of the Two Lands, which probably saw him having a role in the management of the administrative affairs of the kingdom of Egypt. However, it should be noted that throughout his tomb, he wears the side locks of a youth. We find a stela in the Valley of the Dolmen at the sanctuary of Ptah and Meretseger with a partial image of the prince, which must have been an ex-voto in honor of him crafted by the artisans who worked on the construction of this eternal residence. He is also attested to by another fragmentary stela from Deir el-Medina, where he is in the presence of an unknown brother.

The tomb of this prince was discovered in 1903 and while it had been completely looted, probably during the 19th Dynasty, the structure itself and decorations were in excellent condition. It was discovered during the second excavation campaign conducted by the Italian Archaeological Mission conducted between 1903 and 1904.

Floor Plan of QV55

The tomb has a simple plan, consisting of a short flight of steps leading to a descending entrance ramp followed by an antechamber or entrance hall, which has an annex to the northwest. It is followed by the sarcophagus chamber, where the sarcophagus was originally discovered. This room also has an unfinished side annex to the northwest. Beyond the sarcophagus chamber is a chamber which was to provide access to the domain of the god Osiris, where the prince's sarcophagus is now located.

The decorative theme of this tomb features only Amenherkhepshef and his father, along with various gods, even though one of the inscriptions tells us that it was originally quarried at the request of the king for his "great royal children". We are fairly certain that it was not used by other princes.

Scenes on the left wall of the antechamber of Ptah, Ptah-Tatenen

Scenes on the left wall of the antechamber of Duamutef and Imsety

Scenes on the left wall of the antechamber of Ptah, Ptah-Tatenen above and Duamutef and Imset below

Hathor receives Ramesses III and prince Amenherkhepshef

After the initial entrance corridor in the antechamber on the left, we first find scenes depicting this pharaoh leading his son, who carries a broad fan of feathers, to meet the great god, Ptah, after which Ramesses III intercedes for his son before Ptah-Tatenen. This is followed by two genies, including Duamutef with the head of a black dog and Imset with a human head. These are sons of Horus and protectors of the canopic jars. In each of these, the crowns and royal headgear are different. Next we find a fragmentary depiction of Ramesses III between Isis and Thoth.

On the opposite wall to either side of the annex doorway, are scenes representing Ramesses III followed by the prince before Shu, Qebhsenuef, Hapy. On the rear wall of the antechamber are scenes showing Ramesses III introducing his son into the presence of the goddesses Isis (to the left and Hathor (to the right). On the left Ramesses III wears make up, and wars the nemes with the uraeus at the front. On the right wall, Hathor wishes the king "an eternity of jubilees and an eternity of life and strength". Then on the door jambs to the original sarcophagus chamber are depictions of Isis and Nephthys performing the njnj (purification) rite. Within the antechamber, we find Ramesses III wearing a rather rare three part costume, consisting of a tunic of fine, transparent fabric. The sleeves, bordered with beads, form a flounce. Over this is worn a corselet adorned by two embroidered falcons on the flaps, which clings to the upper part of the chest and the shoulders of the king. Finally, there is a loincloth at the front, with the classic apron over it. The annex leading off of this chamber is undecorated.

On the inside of the door jambs of the sarcophagus chamber are scenes to either side depicting Horus Iun-mutef. On the left wall we encounter chapters 145 and 146 of the Book of the Dead. Here, the pharaoh is followed by the prince before texts, doors and the genies Iukenty (with an ox's head) and Qutgetef, related to the seventh and eighth gates, respectively, of the kingdom of Osiris. On the opposite wall we also find the same chapters from the Book of the Dead, but here the genies are Heneb-reku (with a black dog's head) and Sematy (with a ram's head) from the fifth and sixth gates, respectively, of the kingdom of Osiris. On the architrave leading to the last chamber we find the winged solar disk representing the god Horus-Behedety above two uraei serpents representing the goddesses Wadjet and Nekhbet carrying Shen symbols surrounding the royal names. The last room is undecorated.

Left: The lintel leading to the rear annex; Right: Text from the Book of the Dead

Recent research has revealed that Amenherkhepshef was never buried in this tomb. As it turns out, another sarcophagus, originally designed for Queen Tausert, was altered for this son of Ramesses III and discovered in the tomb of chancellor Bay (KV13). We really have no idea why this tomb was not used for the prince's burial.

Little in the way of artifacts were discovered in this tomb. The unfinished pink granite sarcophagus was found in the sarcophagus chamber but was later moved to the rear most chamber. Schiaparelli discovered a small wooden casket holding a fetus which had originally been wrapped in the bandages used for the process of embalming in the Valley of Prince Ahmes, a lateral wadi opening into the lowest part of the southern side of the Valley of the Queens. Today, the remains are contained in a small urn housed in the rear chamber of QV55.

Ramesses III with Isis

Ramesses III with Isis






Reference Number

Guide to the Valley of the Kings

Siliotti, Alberto


Barnes & Noble Books

ISBN 0-7607-0483-x

Valley of the Kings

Weeks, Kent R.



ISBN 1-5866-3295-7

Valley of the Kings

Heyden, A. Van Der

Al Ahram/Elsevier