Egypt: KV60 in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor

KV60 in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Stairway leading down to Tomb KV 60 in the Valley of the Kings

There is a certain glamour in Egyptology. Big discoveries have almost always produced stars in the field, perhaps the most notable of whom was Howard Carter for his discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Even today, success in the field, resulting in discoveries that attract public attention, continues to create personalities, such as Zahi Hawass, who's highly visible work on the Giza Plateau and in the Valley of the Golden Mummies must have certainly helped guide his career path resulting in his elevation to chairman of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

Unfortunately, making finds that attract public attention requires glamorous sites, often at the expense of less "attractive" sites. Hence, for example, undecorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings, such as KV21, KV27, KV28, KV44, KV45 and KV60 have typically received very little attention since the time of their initial discoveries. Yet surely almost any tomb in this important archaeological area should be of interest to us.

In 1903, an uninterested Howard Carter stumbled upon the anciently robbed tomb known to us today as KV60. It was located in the southeast branch of the southeast wadi immediately beside the entrance of KV19, south of KV20, in the eastern cliffs of the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). Unlike many of the Valley tombs, it was undecorated, but it had also not suffered from floods, recent occupation or modern vandalism. He tells us that it is:

"A small uninscribed tomb, immediately in the entrance of no. 19 (tomb of Ment-hi-khopesh-ef). It consists of a very rough flight of steps leading down top a passage of 5 meters long, ending in a low and rough square chamber, about 4 x 5 meters, which contained the remains of a much destroyed and rifled burial. Nothing was in the tomb but two much denuded mummies of women and some mummified geese."

Carter removed examples of the mummified geese, leaving two mummies and a coffin along with many other objects, and then reburied his find. He included neither a plan or a map in his notes. Later, Edward Ayrton investigated the tomb in 1906, taking the coffin and one of the mummies, after which he once again reburied the tomb. The mummy Ayrton removed was sent to the Antiquities Museum in Cairo, and was subsequently (tentatively) identified as Sitre In, the wet-nurse of Hatshepsut. This assumption was made because her coffin bore the name and title, royal nurse, In.

The blue rectangle marks the sealed, modern entrance to KV60, located in the entrance to KV19.

The blue rectangle marks the sealed, modern entrance to KV60, located in the entrance to KV19.

Thanks to the work of Donald P. Ryan under the patronage of the Pacific Lutheran University Valley of the Kings Project, some of these tombs are being reinvestigated finally (beginning in 1989) His examination of KV60, which was "rediscovered" on the very first day of work, revealed that this tomb was in much the same state as it was left by Carter and Ayrton, with mummified food-provisions scattered about, and near the center of the burial chamber, the second mummy was discovered. The door of the tomb had been blocked with boulders and the tomb was subsequently reburied in the Valley debris to the point of becoming "lost".

One of the female mummies found in KV 60

Interestingly, this mummy of a female, with her left arm bent at the elbow across the chest and with the left hand clenched, while the right arm held straight at its side, may indicate that she was a queen, or at least a member of the royal family during the 18th Dynasty. This woman had very long hair, and was quite fat, with well worn teeth indicating that she died after a fairly long life. One Egyptologist, Elizabeth Thomas, believed that the mummy might have been that of Hatshepsut herself (though Ryan appears to think this is unfounded), but regardless, further investigation may at least provide some answers regarding the whereabouts of the tombs of a number of queens of that period. This mummy remains within the tomb.

However, none of the pottery fragments recovered by Ryan can be dated earlier than the 20th Dynasty. It may be that during the quarrying of KV19, this tomb was unearthed and used as a storeroom. This could imply that one, or both mummies found within this tomb may have been later additions from the end of Egypt's New Kingdom. In addition, the rough and irregular nature of this tomb may also preclude the structure having been intended for at least any immediate member of the royal family. He also recovered a number of fragments of funerary equipment, including coffin surfaces which had been hacked with an adze during antiquity to remove the gold foil overlays.

After Ryan's investigation of this tomb, we now know that the structure is somewhat more complex, as well as more irregular then previously thought. There are very steep, and roughly cut stairs that lead down to a single corridor which features crudely fashioned niches, each with a roughly drawn wedjat-eye (perhaps the only decorations within the tomb). One eye looks to the burial chamber further in, while the other looks outwards to the tomb entrance. Past the niches, a side room opens off of the right side of this corridor, which narrows towards the left (northeast) end. Here, a side of beef was found. At the rear of the chamber was found large, limestone blocks. The burial chamber following the single corridor is entered by a set of steps, and is asymmetrical and thus was almost certainly never finished. The chamber seems never to have been decorated.

Regardless of the attention this tomb will probably always lack from tourists and Egypt antiquity enthusiasts, methodical excavation and investigation of such ruins may doubtless in the future fill in many of the missing elements of our understanding of ancient Egypt. And it will probably be the unsung heroes of Egyptogolgy such as Ryan and his team, who unravel many of ancient Egypt's remaining mysteries.

General Site Information

KV60 Tomb Plan

  • Structure: KV 60

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

  • Owner: Sit-Ra, called In (?)

  • Other designations:

  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 25.92

  • Axis orientation: Northeast

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N

  • Longitude: 32.36 E

  • Elevation: 188.43 msl

  • North: 99,545.755

  • East: 94,277.777

  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10

  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt


  • Maximum height: 1.92 m

  • Mininum width: 1 m

  • Maximum width: 6.57 m

  • Total length: 10.88 m

  • Total area: 41.16 m

  • Total volume: 63.39 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Base of sheer cliff

  • Owner type: Official

  • Entrance type: Staircase

  • Interior layout: Corridor and chambers

  • Axis type: Straight


  • Painting

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Carpenters' and sculptors' tools

  • Human mummies

  • Jewelry

  • Lighting equipment

  • Mammal mummies

  • Mummy trappings

  • Scarabs and seals

  • Tomb equipment

  • Vessels

  • Written documents


  • New Kingdom, Dynasty 18

History of Exploration

  • Carter, Howard (1903): Excavation (conducted for Theodore M. Davis)

  • Carter, Howard (1903): Discovery (closed the tomb again after a brief examination and removal of some mummified geese)

  • Ayrton, Edward Russell (1906): Excavation (removed the mummy of Sit-Ra)

  • Ryan, Donald P. (1989-1990): Excavation (conducted after re-locating tomb)






Reference Number

Atlas of the Valley of the Kings

Weeks, Kent R.


American University of Cairo Press, The

ISBN 9774245490

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