Egypt: KV4, The Unfinished Tomb of Ramesses XI In the Valley of the Kings

KV4, The Unfinished Tomb of Ramesses XI

In the Valley of the Kings

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Ramesses XI Tomb Entrance

Tomb KV4, located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) has been known and open since antiquity (though not open to the public now), and it received many ancient tourists, as evidenced by the Demotic Egyptian, Greek , Latin, Coptic and later, French and English graffiti on its walls, and was noted by the French expedition to Egypt in the late 18th century. It was used as a workshop during the 21st Dynasty by Pinudjem for the purpose of stripping the funerary equipment from KV20 (Hatshepsut), KV34 (Tuthmosis III) and KV38 (Tuthmosis I) during the process of moving the mummies to the other locations such as KV35's mummy cache. At this time, Egypt's economy was failing and apparently the valuable gold and other materials were needed to bolster its treasuries. During the Christian period, it became a residence and a stable, as did other tombs in the valley.

Later, Howard Carter used the tomb as a storeroom and dining hall while he worked to clear the tomb of Tutankhamen. However, it was only cleared in 1979 by John Romer for the Brooklyn Museum. More recently, Richard Wilkinson and his University of Arizona team completed an epigraphic and iconographic recording of this tomb, as well as others in the Valley. Though there is no evidence of any flooding within this tomb, KV4 has a crack between the columns and the roof of the burial chamber that was probably the result of the dessication of the limestone. Also, an apparent ancient repair was made to the lower edge of the overhand at the end of the entry approach. Here several beams had been placed to help support the ceiling, as evidenced by their holes. A substantial vertical crack zigzags through the center of the overhand and displacement slippage is readily evident. There are large cracks also in the walls of the upper corridors, that have resulted in the loss of plaster and the wall surfaces, particularly within the entrance and the first corridor.

Ramesses XI Tomb Plan

It would seem that while tomb KV4, located just outside the main eastern group of tombs and a little further up a narrow wadi beyond the tomb of Yula and Tuya, was dug for Ramesses XI, who was the last ruler of Egypt's 20th Dynasty, it was abandoned without ever being used for this king's burial (though it is relatively complete in the basic architectural elements of this period for tombs). In fact, the first pillared hall and burial chamber were left unfinished, with the decorative theme only reaching the first of the corridors. Were this tomb open to the public, it would be of little interest, its main attraction simply being that it was the last of the Royal tombs to be built in the Valley of the Kings.

The tomb consists of an initial entrance, a first corridor followed by a relatively sharp descending ramp, with a second, and then a third corridor prior to reaching the undecorated and undug ritual well room. The entrance and first two corridors have a shallow slope, and in the second corridor we find a pair of rectangular niches in the usual positions, near the corridor's entrance, on the north and south walls. The unfinished pillared hall follows, after which a ramp leads into the unfinished burial chamber with a deep burial shaft in its center. Interestingly, within the burial chamber the pillars are rectangular rather then square. The ceiling is vaulted. While there were no barriers in this tomb, pivot holes for door leafs were present in most of the inner corridors and chambers.

The shaft within the burial chamber was an unusual feature, leading John Romer to believe there might have been additional chambers below. He stated:

"Ramesses (XI)'s tomb had one feature which intrigued us: in the splendid vaulted burial chamber...., more than 250 ft. into the cliff face there was, instead of the usual granite sarcophagus...., a vast shaft, some 14 ft. by 10 ft., which dropped straight down into pitch darkness.... To clear it out was going to be an awkward job. But once we had done it, what might we not find? A hidden door to another corridor, and other chambers?"

Obviously, Romer was disappointed that the shaft led only down to its floor below, with no mysteries left to be found.

The only decorations discovered within the tomb were on the doorway between the entrance and the first corridor, and at the beginning of the first corridor. In the doorway lintel between the entrance and the first corridor, we find Ramesses XI kneeling between two goddess flanked by the sun disk, Atem. We also find the king's name on the door jamb.

Within the first corridor, which was plastered over with a thick, yellowish coating, only preliminary sketches in red are present. Here, the king is found before gods on either side near the corridor's entrance. On the south wall, the king faces Amun-Re Horakhty, who has four ram heads, and the Goddess of the West. On the north side the king stand before a hawk-headed Amun Re Horakhty. Part of this scene was repaired by Pinudjem, who was a High Priest of Amun. In the scene, Pinudjem substituted his own name for that of the king. It would seem that Pinudjem had thought to be buried here himself, but like Ramesses XI, he also ended up rejecting the idea.

Related to Ramesses XI, the major artifact finds in this tomb consisted of three foundation deposits inscribed with his name that were unearthed at the mouth of the burial shaft deep within the tomb. Other items included limestone chips left by the tomb builders, and small fragments of faience, gold gesso and cedar wood, mostly found on the floors of the inner corridors and chambers. However, due to the work of Pinudjem, intrusive items were also found. These items included a two large fragments of a blue faience vessel inscribed with the Horus name of Tuthmosis I and Ramesses II (though which king it belonged to is unknown), gilded gesso from the coffin of Tuthmosis III, as well as some chopped up funerary statuettes from that king's tomb, who of which bore hieroglyphs incorporating Tuthmosis III's throne name, fragments of the coffin of Queen Hatshepsut and a crude and three "lost contour" calcite shabtis of Ramesses IV. We are also told that a beeswax figure, basically a sculptor's model, of Ramesses XI standing before the goddess Ma'at was also found in KV4, though the references on this are scant.

There were also intrusive burials within the tomb, evidenced by 22nd Dynasty remains of a wooden coffin and the bones of as many as three bodies. They were found in the shaft of the burial chamber. Evidencing the Coptic occupation of the tomb were a mud floor between the second and third corridors and a stone wall between the well shaft and the pillared hall.

Currently, we do not know the location of Ramesses XI's actual burial, but it has been suggested that he may have been laid to rest somewhere in Northern Egypt. General Site Information

  • Structure: KV 4

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

  • Owner: Rameses XI

  • Other designations: 2e Tombeau l'est [Description], 4 [Hay], 4 [Lepsius], 6 [Champollion], Q [Burton]

  • Site type: Tomb


  • Axis in degrees: 68.23

  • Axis orientation: East

Site Location

  • Latitude: 25.44 N

  • Longitude: 32.36 E

  • Elevation: 168.921 msl

  • North: 99,677.341

  • East: 94,170.809

  • JOG map reference: NG 36-10

  • Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

  • Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt

  • Surveyed by TMP: Yes


  • Maximum height: 5.01 m

  • Minimum width: 2.75 m

  • Maximum width: 11.3 m

  • Total length: 104.09 m

  • Total area: 503.5 m

  • Total volume: 1682.19 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

Categories of Objects Recovered

  • Architectural elements

  • Sculpture

  • Tomb equipment

  • Vessels

  • Written documents


History of Exploration

  • Pococke, Richard (1737-1738): Mapping/planning (but not numbered)

  • Napoleonic Expedition (1799): Mapping/planning

  • Burton, James (1825): Mapping/planning

  • Lane, Edward William (1826-1827): Mapping/planning

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

  • Carter, Howard (1923): Visit (used tomb as storeroom and dining area)

  • Romer, John (1978-1980): Excavation (clearance of rear chambers and shaft in burial chamber for Brooklyn Museum)

  • Ciccarello, Mark (1979): Epigraphy

  • Romer, John (1979): Epigraphy






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

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2