Egypt: KV19, the Tomb of Prince Ramesses-Mentuherkhepshef

KV19, the Tomb of Prince Ramesses-Mentuherkhepshef

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The entrance to KV19 in the Valley of the Kings

Tomb KV19 is cut into the end of a short spur protruding from a cliff between KV20 and KV42, at the head of the second eastern branch of the main wadi of the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes).

The tomb was discovered by Belzoni, the strongman of Egyptology, in 1817. It was later visited by a number of 19th century adventurers and scholars, including Burton, Hay, Lane, Champollion, Lepsius, Prisse d'Avennes and Lefebure. Many of them complained that the entrance was difficult to access due to boulders and debris, so in 1904 Howard Carter trenched an entry passage to the tomb. In 1906, Theodore Davis had his excavator, Edward Ayrton completely clear the small tomb of debris.

Though unfinished, this tomb is in fairly good condition, as are the painted plaster decorations. However, during the flood that occurred in the winter of 1994, some water entered the tomb, but did not reach the level of the painted decorations. Nevertheless, there is some minor damage revealed in the scenes closest to the entrance. The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has now installed glass paneling, a wooden walkway and a metal gate. This tomb is currently the only tomb of a prince open to the public in the Valley of the Kings.

KV19 Tomb ground plan

KV19 was originally begun for a prince named Ramesses Setherkhepshef, as noted on the reveals of the tomb's entrance jambs. However, this prince later became Ramesses VIII, so we assume it became inadequate to his royal needs, though his eventual tomb has never been found. Furthermore, when the entrance approach was cut, it intersected the top of the entry steps of KV60, a non-royal tomb of the 18th Dynasty. KV19 was finally taken over and decorated for Prince Ramesses-Mentuherkhepshef, a son of Ramesses IX of Egypt's 20th Dynasty. He was probably interred here during the reign of Ramesses X.

KV19, which is cut on a northwest-southeast axis, was never finished. It has a length of 38.51 meters and is 5.72 meters deep. At first, the approach ramp which is in the open passes over the entrance steps of KV60. This passage is plastered but undecorated, and has a deep overhand above the first gate that shelters the southeast end of the entrance. The initial open air passage in turn leads down to a flat landing at the inner edge of the gate. Here, the doorway to the first corridor is of royal proportion, only exceeded in size by the first doors and corridors in the tombs of Ramesses VII (KV1) and Ramesses IX (KV6). The original explorers of the tomb noted parallel walls of rubble that may have been the remains of the original blocking for the tomb. The gate was once sealed by a pair of wooden door leaves, and the recesses in the ceiling and floor for their placement may still be seen.

The decorated first corridor of KV19

The first corridor is also large, and gently slops downward. The walls of the corridor are covered in fine, white plaster and decorated, though there is no decorations on the ceiling. A second doorway with only one door pivot hole in the ceiling of the left jab leads into the possible makeshift burial chamber. Since the tomb was left unfinished, there were probably never any doors installed. Within this small chamber, once the beginning of a second corridor, are two rectangular niches flanking the interior of the doorway. These niches were a regular feature of Royal tombs during the 20th Dynasty. We believe that a rectangular pit, cut into the floor just inside the doorway may have served for a burial. It was perhaps originally covered with stone slabs. However, whether Montuherkhepeshef was buried here, or another intrusive burial, we cannot say.

Isis and Nephthys as fire spitting cobras

The only decorations within this tomb are found in the doorway of the first corridor, and on the walls of the first corridor itself. They are not unlike those found in the tombs of the royal sons in the Valley of the Kings, except here, as an adult son, Mentuherkhepeshef is shown alone rather than escorted by his father. The entrance jamb to the corridor are adorned with red, dedication text on their outer faces, and with black text in three columns on each thickness of the jamb. Below this text are pairs of fire-spitting cobras representing Isis and Nephthys on the left, and Serqet and Neit on the right.

Behind the door at the beginning of the first corridor, beneath the ceiling recess, a door leaf was painted on each of the plastered wall. Aurthur Weigal states that:

"On entering the tomb one notices on either side the drawings of the swing doors, which, as may be seen from the pivot-holes at the top, actually stood here."

Mentuherkhepshef making offerings to Amun

Mentuherkhepshef making offerings to Amun These paintings were then overlaid with hieratic text of spells 123 and 139 from the Book of the Dead. This is a speech made by god, Thoth. Seven other scenes within the corridor depict Mentuherkhepshef worshipping and making offerings to various gods. From the beginning of the corridor back, we find Osiris, Ptah Ta-tjenen, Khonsu, Bastet, Imsety, Qebehsenuef and Amun-Re on the northeast wall, while Ptah, Thoth, Ba-Nebdjed, Hapy, Duamutef, Meretseger and Sakhmet are portrayed on the southwest wall. The reason we believe that Mentuherkhepeshef was the son of Ramesses IX is because the belt buckle on the figure of Thoth is inscribed with that king's cartouche. Each scene is separated from the others by a single vertical text column containing polychrome glyphs on a yellow background. The figures depicted in the various scenes contrast brightly against the clean, white plaster background of the walls and the golden yellow bands. Though limited, this work is some of the best in the royal valley.

The goddess Meretseger from the Tomb of Prince Mentuherkhepeshef

An examination of this tomb reveals why we have so many problems with the different names of ancient Egypt kings, and even commoners. Here, we find Prince Mentuherkhepshef's name inscribed a number of times, in at least nine variations. We also note the splendid variety and detail of the young prince's costumes.

The Prince in one of his fine costumes

The Prince in one of his fine costumes

Belt buckle showing the cartouche of Ramesses IX

Not much in the way of funerary equipment was discovered in this tomb, and even less was recovered. According to Ayrton and Davis, Champollion reported fragments of black stone objects that were perhaps part of a sarcophagus, but this cannot be confirmed. There were also foundation deposits similar to those found at KV2 near the entrance, which included ostraca, faience and calcite plagues with the name of Ramesses IV. The material in the foundation deposits may have been taken from KV2. Another limestone plaque bearing the name of Ramesses X was also found along with faience wig inlays for a coffin, beads, and pottery shards from the burial pit. Also, fragments of a limestone stela were discovered, inscribed for an individual named Hay, that matched another fragment found in the Coptic debris outside KV2.

Notably, Belzoni found the remains of multiple intrusive burials. Though their existence was confirmed by James Burton and Nestor L'Hote, the number of mummies discovered is unknown. We do believe, from the style of the cartonage covering, that the bodies may date from about the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt's Third Intermediate Period.

Depiction of an Offering Table

General Site Information
  • Structure: KV 19

  • Location: Valley of the Kings, East Valley, Thebes West Bank, Thebes

  • Owner: Mentuherkhepeshef

  • Other designations: 11 [Champollion], 13 [Hay], 19 [Lepsius], 5 [Belzoni], S [Burton]

  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 135.47

  • Axis orientation: Southeast

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N

  • Longitude: 32.36 E

  • Elevation: 188.43 msl

  • North: 99,547.781

  • East: 94,279.512

  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10

  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt

  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 3.79 m

  • Mininum width: 2.74 m

  • Maximum width: 3.69 m

  • Total length: 38.68 m

  • Total area: 132.83 m

  • Total volume: 240.13 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Base of sheer cliff

  • Owner type: Prince

  • Entrance type: Ramp

  • Interior layout: Corridors

  • Axis type: Straight


  • Painting

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Architectural elements

  • Clothing

  • Human mummies

  • Jewellery

  • Vessels

  • Written documents


History of Exploration

  • Belzoni, Giovanni Battista (1817): Discovery

  • Belzoni, Giovanni Battista (1817): Excavation (conducted for Henry Salt)

  • Burton, James (1825): Excavation (re-opening of entryway A and discovery of rubble cross-wall)

  • Lane, Edward William (1826-1827): Visit

  • Franco-Tuscan Expedition (1828-1829): Epigraphy

  • L'Hte, Nestor (1840): Visit

  • Lepsius, Carl Richard (1844-1845): Epigraphy

  • Carter, Howard (1903): Excavation (conducted in entryway A)

  • Ayrton, Edward Russell (1905-1906): Excavation (complete clearance of tomb for Theodore M. Davis)

  • Weigall, Arthur E. P. (1908): Visit






Reference Number

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