Egypt: The Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

The Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The Tomb of Ramesses III (KV 11) is really a rather complex system. It has been known since antiquity, but was first partially explored during modern times by James Bruce in 1768. Later, William Browne gained access to the burial chamber in 1792, and Belzoni removed the sarcophagus and lid, which are now, respectively, in the Louvre and Fitzwilliam Museum. He named it the "Tomb of the Harpists", due to a bas relief representation of two blind harpists.However, European travelers often referred to the tomb as "Bruce's Tomb". The tomb is beautifully decorated with grand colors that remain vivid.

The Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

The tomb is 125 meters long and follows typical plans of the Nineteenth Dynasty's tombs, though it has an unusual number of annexes. From the entrance, a stairway leads to the first corridor, which has an annex on either side. This corridor leads directly two a second corridor that has four small annexes on either side. The second corridor leads to a dead end room, but with a third corridor leading off from the right side. This change in axis was due to the fact that workmen came across Amenemesses' tomb and so were required to make adjustments to avoid it. Up to the point of this change in axis, the tomb was actually built for Setnakht, who apparently abandoned the work at this point. Ramesses III offset the tomb, and continued the work as his own.

The Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

The Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

From the third corridor, we finally reach the ritual shaft, and then a four pillared hall with one large annex off to its right. After the pillared hall, a fourth corridor takes us to a two room vestibule, and then finally to the burial chamber. The burial chamber has one annex leading off from each of its corners, plus a fifth annex at the rear.

The Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

At the entrance to the tomb are unique, twin Hathor-headed columns. Between them is the standard solar disc with goddesses. The first several corridors were decorated for Sethnakhte, with remnants of his name still present. Passages from the Litany of Re adorn their walls. However, the side chambers were added by Ramesses III, and are decorated with unique secular scenes, including paintings of the royal armory, representations of boats, and the famous blind harpists. There are also scenes of the king's treasury showing luxury items, some of which were clearly imported from Aegean.

The Tomb of Ramesses III, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

After the offset, the decorative program clearly becomes that of Ramesses III's work. Scenes from the Amduat are found in the corridor leading from the offset, while standard divine scenes decorate the ritual shaft. The four pillared hall is decorated with scenes from the Book of Gates, with Ramesses and various deities on the pillars themselves. The final corridor is inscribed with material from the Opening of the Mouth ceremony.

In the antechambers, we find decorations depicting various deities. Within the burial chamber itself are to be found decorations form the Book of Gates and the Book of the Earth. Interestingly, there are no ceiling decorations, but the side rooms are decorated with texts an an example of the Book of the Divine Cow.

There was little in the way of funerary equipment found in the Tomb. Other than the sarcophagus mentioned above, with the exception of five shabtis figures cast in solid bronze, now in the British Museum, in Turin, in the Louvre, and in the Oriental Museum in Durham.

General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 11

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

  • Owner: Rameses III

  • Other designations: 1 [Champollion], 11 [Lepsius], 17 [Hay], 5e Tombeau l'est

    [Description], Bruce's Tomb, F [Burton], Harper's Tomb, K, plan K [Pococke]

  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 178.72

  • Axis orientation: South

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N

  • Longitude: 32.36 E

  • Elevation: 175.89 msl

  • North: 99,539.973

  • East: 94,050.193

  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10

  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt

  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 6.55 m

  • Mininum width: 0.75 m

  • Maximum width: 13.85 m

  • Total length: 188.11 m

  • Total area: 702.02 m

  • Total volume: 2174.29 m

Additional Tomb Information

  • Entrance location: Base of sloping hill

  • Owner type: King

  • Entrance type: Ramp

  • Interior layout: Corridors and chambers

  • Axis type: Straight


  • Grafitti

  • Painting

  • Sunk relief

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Human mummies

  • Tomb equipment

  • Vessels


History of Exploration

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

  • Bruce, James (1769): Epigraphy

  • Bruce, James (1769): Mapping/planning

  • Browne, William George (1792): Visit

  • Napoleonic Expedition (1799): Epigraphy

  • Belzoni, Giovanni Battista (1816, 1819): Excavation (removal of sarcophagus and lid)

  • Burton, James (1825): Mapping/planning

  • Hay, Robert (1825-1835): Epigraphy

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

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

  • Service des Antiquits (1895): Excavation

  • Marciniak, Marek (1981): Epigraphy






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 20th, 2011