Egypt: The Tomb of Merenptah, Valley of the Kings

The Tomb of Merneptah, Valley of the Kings

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Merneptah was a son of Ramesses II and Queen Isis-Nofret. His tomb (KV 8), located in a small, lateral valley on the right side of the main wadi, was discovered by Howard Carter in 1903. Of course, Howard Carter was not as famous then, as he would not make his well known discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb until 1922. Edwin C. Brock carried out additional excavations in the floor of the burial chamber and the shaft more recently.

The tomb is very near his father's huge tomb (KV 7). When discovered, the tomb was full of debris and had stood open since antiquity. From the Greek and Latin graffiti, we believe that the tomb was at least accessible to at least the first pillared hall.

While Carter discovered little in the way of funerary equipment and furniture, the tomb is very interesting because it marks a distinct transition between the tombs of the 19th and 20th Dynasty kings. Here, there is a material decrease in the number of lateral rooms, and a dramatic increase in the height of the corridors and rooms. He did away with the jogged axis used since the time of Horemheb and instead built the entire tomb on a single axis. Also, for the first time, the entrance was made considerably wider than earlier tombs, giving the feeling of a more imposing facade. However, while architecturally innovative, the tomb is much more traditional in its decorative themes.

The plan of the tomb is fairly straightforward. There are three initial corridors that first lead to the ritual shaft. The second of these has a stairway. In the first corridor we find the first decorations, showing the king in the presence of Re-Harakhty. There are also passages from the "Litanies of Re". The second and third corridors have texts and images related to the "Book of Amduat".

After the ritual shaft is a pillared hall with a two-pillar annex. Uniquely, this decorated room was dedicated to his father, Ramesses II. The cover of the king's sarcophagus is located in this annex. In the pillared hall, the decorations are from the "Book of Gates". After the pillared hall is a fourth corridor that leads to a vestibule and finally a fifth corridor before the burial chamber. The vestibule is decorated with scenes from the "Book of the Dead".

The burial chamber has four annexes, two on the left and two on the right, as well as a complex of annexes at the back. The astronomical vaulted ceiling of the burial chamber itself is supported by eight pillars arranged in two rows. Here, the main decorative theme returns to the "Book of Gates", though on the right hand wall there are solar oriented scenes from the "Book of Caverns". In the center of the burial chamber is part of the king's ornamental cartouche-shaped sarcophagus of pink granite. Actually, there were originally four stone sarcophagi, consisting of three outer containers of pink (or red) Aswan granite, and a fourth innermost sarcophagus of creamy white calcite. The outermost sarcophagus was huge, at 4.1 meters (about 13 1/2 feet) long.

It is interesting how the tomb reflects history itself. We know that Merneptah's father, Ramesses II, lived to a very old age and that Merneptah did not mount the thrown until late in his own life. In fact, he was probably around 70 when he became ruler of Egypt and ordered the construction of his tomb and "Millions of Years" temple. We know that he only ruled for about ten years, and was faced with attacks by Libyans and an uprising in Nubia that distracted him from his personal monuments.

We see all of this reflected in his tomb. Both decoratively and architecturally, the tomb is of higher quality and more impressive, echoing that of his fathers tomb, near the entrance and into the first half of the structure. However, the deeper one travels within the tomb, the simpler and less sophisticated it becomes. For example, towards the entrance of the tomb the decorations are excellent bas-reliefs, while further into the tomb the decorations are cruder, thought the techniques used are much faster. Obviously, Merneptah felt he was running out of time, which we know today to be true.

General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 8

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

  • Owner: Merenptah

  • Other designations: 14 [Hay], 8 [Lepsius], D, plan B [Pococke], I [Burton], IIIe

    Tombeau l'ouest [Description]

  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 280.85

  • Axis orientation: West

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N

  • Longitude: 32.36 E

  • Elevation: 178.964 msl

  • North: 99,599.361

  • East: 94,003.743

  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10

  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt

  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 6.46 m

  • Minimum width: 0.75 m

  • Maximum width: 14.86 m

  • Total length: 164.86 m

  • Total area: 772.54 m

  • Total volume: 2622.08 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Hillside

  • Owner type: King

  • Entrance type: Staircase

  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers

  • Axis type: Straight


  • Graffiti

  • Painting

  • Raised relief

  • Sunk relief

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Tomb equipment

  • Vessels

  • Writing equipment


History of Exploration

  • Pococke, Richard (1737-1738): Mapping/planning

  • Napoleonic Expedition (1799): Mapping/planning

  • Burton, James (1825): Mapping/planning

  • Hay, Robert (1825-1835): Mapping/planning

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

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

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

  • Carter, Howard (1903-1904): Conservation (installation of iron gate, brick entry stairs and lighting)

  • Carter, Howard (1903-1904): Excavation (discovery of fragments of sarcophagi, canopic

    chest and shabtis)

  • Brock, Edwin C. (1985-1988): Excavation (of shaft in well chamber E and floor pit in

    burial chamber J)






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

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

Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011