Egypt: King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

by Jimmy Dunn and Mark Andrews

King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

Amenmesses is generally considered to be the 5th ruler of Egypt's 19th Dynasty, though most Egyptologists believe he was probably not the legitimate heir to the throne. He succeeded Merneptah as pharaoh, but it was probably Merneptah's son, prince Seti-Merneptah who should have ascended the throne on his father's death. Various theories exist about why he did not. It is very possible that Merenptah may have died suddenly while the crown prince was away, and Amenmesses simply took advantage of the situation. Interesting, but not unpredictable, is that this disorder came only a generation after the strong, but long rule of Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great).

King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

However, it is also very likely that Seti-Merneptah was no other than Seti II, who ruled Egypt just after Amenmesses. It was probably Seti II who scraped the images and inscriptions from that kings monuments, and otherwise usurped Amenmesses' building projects. Therefore, very little is known about this king, who apparently ruled for three or four years.Various Egyptologists give him a reign from between 1202 - 1199 BC and 1203 - 1200 BC.

Amenmesses would have been his birth name, but a Greek version. Manetho called him Ammenemes and assigned five years to his rule, though we may also find his named as Amenmeses. His Egyptian name was probably Heqa-waset, which means "Fashioned by Amun, Ruler of Thebes". His throne name was Men-mi-re Setep-en-re, meaning "Eternal like Re, Chosen by Re.

It was long believed that Amenmesses was a son of Merneptah by a queen Takhat, though really his origins are unknown, and that he probably married a woman named Baktwerel. However, some Egyptologists have suggested that Takhat and Baktwerel were actually the mother and wife of Ramesses IX. Originally, his parentage was based on the fact that there were scenes and inscriptions related to these two women in Amenmesses tomb, but recent excavations seem to indicate that the tomb, originally meant for Amenmesses was actually usurped for these women. If so, this would probably negate any argument of them being his mother and wife.

King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

There is enough confusion surrounding Amenmesses that some Egyptologists actually place his rule after that of Seti II. Yet, Seti II's name has been written over the name of Amenmesses in several Theban locations, it is generally believed that Seti II succeeded him. Still others believe that Amenmesses usurped Seti II in the middle of Seti II's reign, sometime between years three and five of his rule, which would seem more probable then him ruling after Seti II. It is also possible that Amenmesses only ruled the southern parts of Egypt during Seti IIs reign. If this is true, he may have been a vizier over Nubia named Messui during the time of Merneptah, but this theory has recently been called into question. There has even been speculation that a queen Ti'a, supposed mother of Saptah, the penultimate ruler of the dynasty, may have been a wife of Amenmeses, thus making him the father of the successor to Sety II as part of a rival dynastic branch.

It should also be noted that Amenmesses usurped a number of preexisting monuments himself, and though we now believe that tomb KV 10 in the Valley of the Kings was originally began by this king, little other building work exists. Inscriptions bearing his name are mostly only found in Upper Egyptian sites, primarily in the Theban region and in Nubia. These include inscriptions at Karnak, a dedication inscription at the small temple at Medinet Habu, an inscriptions at a chapel at Deir el-Medine and a stela found at Buhen. Perhaps as many as six quartzite statues originally placed along the axis of the hypostyle hall in the Amun Temple at Karnak are thought to be his, though these were also usurped (in the name of Seti II). However, one of these statues thought to belong to Amenmesses has an inscription bearing the title, "the Great Royal Wife" Takhat, lending support to the argument that she actually was his wife. Amenmesses was also, among others, responsible for restoration work on a barque shrine dating from Tuthmosis III that stands before a small temple at Tod.

The Tomb of Amenmesses (KV 10)

Amenmesses' tomb cannot be visited as it is being excavated, and unless some sort of amazing recovery process is discovered, it may never be a popular tourist attraction. The tomb, located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) is mostly incomplete, and much of its decorations have been destroyed.

King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

The tomb has been known since antiquity, and there are signs that it has been visited from classical times. Pococke noted it on hs map of the area in 1743 and it was examined by Burton and Hays, Champollion, Lepsius and Wilkinson during the early 19th century. The decorations of the tomb were mostly recorded and published by Edgene Lefebure in 1883. In the excavation season of 1907 Edward Ayrton used the tomb's corridor as a dining or work room.

However, full scale investigation of the tomb is currently underway by Otto Schaden as a project of the University of Arizona and the University of Memphis. There is little doubt that the results will shed light on this dim corner of Egyptian history. It would seem though, at the moment, that we still do not know whether Amenmesses was ever interred here, or the actual relationship he might have had with Takhat and Baketwerel, for whom part of the tomb was redecorated.

King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings

Left: Ruined scene depicting Amenmesses

The tomb is a fairly simple affair, and as stated, unfinished. Three descending corridors lead down to a room where the ritual shaft was to be dug, but never was. Within these corridors, we find scenes of king Amenmesses (destroyed) before Re-Horakhty, passages (scenes) from the Litany of Re, the Amduat and in the well room, a scene of Takhat making offerings before deities.

After the shaft room, where the tomb becomes level, is the first four pillared hall, with several more scenes. They include Baketwerel making offerings before the gods, and scenes from the Book of the Dead. To the west of the four pillared hall is an unfinished annex. The ceiling of this chamber has been penetrated by the tomb of Ramesses III (KV 11). The original decorative program of the tomb never reached beyond the four pillared hall, though up to that point it was almost identical to that found in the tomb of Merenptah (KV 8). Later, the outer corridors, shaft room and four pillared hall were plastered over and redecorated for Takhat and Baketwere, who we know were royal women. We just do not know their exact position in regards to their son and husband, because the redecoration calls into question their relationship to Amenmesses. Some of this later decoration has fallen off, so that now we find some of the original and some of the later decorations.

After the four pillared hall there is another corridor leading to the burial chamber. However, the burial chamber is in reality another corridor that was adapted as for this purpose.

There were three mummies found within the tomb including those of two women and a man. They have never been identified. However, fragments of canopic jars and part of a red granite sarcophagus lid, usurped itself from someone named Anketemheb, both inscribed with the name of Takhat, probably indicate that at least she was buried here, so one of the mummies may be hers. Little else has been found (and at least reported at this time). Much of what was found within the tomb was actually intrusive, including fragmentary shabti figures from Seti I, sarcophagus fragments of Ramesses VI and a few other items.

General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 10
  • Location: Valley of the Kings, East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes
  • Owner: Amenmeses
  • Other designations: 10 [Lepsius], 16 [Hay], 4e Tombeau l'est [Description], G
    [Burton], L, plan L [Pococke]
  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 191.04
  • Axis orientation: South

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N
  • Longitude: 32.36 E
  • Elevation: 174.445 msl
  • North: 99,552.060
  • East: 94,071.652
  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10
  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)
  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt
  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 3.84 m
  • Minimum width: 0.98 m
  • Maximum width: 9.47 m
  • Total length: 105.34 m
  • Total area: 350.27 m
  • Total volume: 821.23 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Base of sloping hill
  • Owner type: King
  • Entrance type: Ramp
  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers
  • Axis type: Straight


  • Graffiti
  • Painting
  • Raised relief
  • Sunk relief

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Tomb equipment
  • Vessels


History of Exploration

  • Pococke, Richard (1737-1738): Mapping/planning
  • Burton, James (1825): Mapping/planning ( to rear of tomb)
  • Wilkinson, John Gardner (1825-1828): Mapping/planning
  • Hay, Robert (1825-1835): Mapping/planning
  • Franco-Tuscan Expedition (1828-1829): Epigraphy
  • Lepsius, Carl Richard (1844-1845): Epigraphy (copying of scenes in gates B, E and F and dry squeezes of Baketwerel)
  • Lefbure, Eugne (1883): Epigraphy
  • Ayrton, Edward Russell (1907): Excavation (most of corridor B for Theodore M. Davis)
  • Schaden, Otto J. (1992-1999): Excavation (clearance from gate C to end of tomb)
  • Schaden, Otto James (1997-2000): Conservation






Reference Number

Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt)

Clayton, Peter A.


Thames and Hudson Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05074-0

Complete Valley of the Kings, The (Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs)

Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H.


Thames and Hudson Ltd

IBSN 0-500-05080-5

History of Ancient Egypt, A

Grimal, Nicolas



None Stated

Monarchs of the Nile

Dodson, Aidan


Rubicon Press

ISBN 0-948695-20-x

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011