Egypt: Seti II and his Tomb (KV15) in the Valley of the Kings

Seti II and his Tomb (KV15) in the Valley of the Kings

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews & Jimmy Dunn

King Seti II

Seti II was probably the fifth or sixth king of Egypt's 19th Dynasty, depending on the treatment we give Amenmessses who may have ruled before, concurrently or even after him (though that is less likely). Seti (mer-en-ptah) was this king's birth name, meaning "He of the god Seti, Beloved of Ptah". He is also sometimes referred to by his Greek name, Sethos II. His throne name was User-kheperu-re Setep-en-re, meaning "Powerful are the Manifestations of Re, Chosen of Re".

It was not unusual in ancient Egypt for the successful, long reign of a king to be followed by succession problems. Of course, few kings had a longer, more successful reign than Ramesses II, and when he died, he left a son who was now old himself as the new King. This was Merneptah, who was almost certainly the father of Seti II. We believe that an usurper named Amenemesses probably ruled either before him, or concurrently with Seti II during the early part of his rule. It may have been Amenemesses who erased the name of Seti II in his tomb and elsewhere, but it was likewise Seti II who probably did likewise to the names and images of Amenemesses after taking complete control of Egypt. We believe that Seti may have only reigned for about six years, from about 1199 until 1193 BC.

We do know that Seti II took at least three wives, consisting of Takhat II, Tausret and Tiaa (Sutailja??). Tausret apparently was the mother of his oldest son and heir named Seti-Merenptah, but that child did not live to inherit the throne. Instead, it was Siptah, a younger son who replaced the king, though probably only as a child under Tausret's regency even though his mother is considered to have been Queen Tiaa. In fact, Tausret appears to have outlived this young king, taking full possession of the throne herself with full royal titles much as Hatshepsut had done some 300 years earlier. Seti II's reign was apparently relatively peaceful. We have no evidence of foreign policy during his reign, though there was probably activity at the mines around Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai. He made a number of claims regarding building projects, though there is little indication that his words translate into physical accomplishments. We find surviving trances of his work at Hermopolis, where he apparently finished some decorations in his grandfather's, Ramesses II, temple. He also did some work in Karnak, where he was probably responsible for a new way station of the sacred barks in the First Court of the temple of Amun-Re, and he probably also completed some work in the temple of Mut.

KV15, the Tomb of Seti II

KV15, the tomb of Seti II, has been known since antiquity and must have lied open during most of the classical period, judging from the 59 Greek and Latin graffiti found on its walls. The tomb was investigated superficially by Pococke, along with others who followed after him. However, it was Howard Carter who cleared most of the tomb between 1903 and 1904, though apparently the ritual well was never excavated. One may find the entrance to KV15, rather than having steps cut below a retaining wall, directly quarried into the base of an almost vertical cliff face at the head of the wadi running south west from the main Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). However, at present the tomb has been temporarily closed to allow the installation of new flooring, hand rails and lighting. It is expected to soon.

The history of the tomb is really unknown at this time. It is very likely that Seti II may have originally been buried with his wife, Tausret, in her tomb and later moved to this tomb which appears to have been hastily and incompletely finished, by Sethnakht (Setakht). In fact, the tomb may have originally been started for Seti II but the work interrupted at some point. This may have had to do with the reign of Amenmeses, if that king ruled concurrently with Seti II rather than before him. It appears that within the tomb, Seti's name was carved, erased, and then carved out once again. The erasure may be attributable to Amenmeses, or possibly to Saptah. It has been suggested that his wife Tausert then had her husband's name restored.

The tomb, which takes a Northwest to Southeast axis, consists of a short entryway corridor followed by three long corridors in turn followed by a well room. The well room then communicates with a four pillared hall and then a makeshift burial chamber, formed from what would have been another corridor, where the king's sarcophagus was located.

This tomb is literally a straight shot leading 75.38 meters into the cliff face with only a mild descent for the most part leading about 6.53 meters deep, and with no lateral rooms. However, a rectangular niche on the right side of the pillared hall may mark the location where the usual annex would have been cut. Missing also is the high trapezoidal niches often found at the beginning of the third corridor.

Much of the painted decoration is intact and the plaster appears to be relatively stable. None of the well-preserved relief was ever painted. Breaks in the surface of the walls have recently been filled in by Antiquities Inspectorate restorers. Due to the hurried completion of the tomb, decorations in clearly take two forms. While those in the initial part of the tomb are well formed using both sunk and raised reliefs, they give way to less accomplished work executed in paint only deeper within the tomb, with the four pillared hall being the only exception. There, the decorations again revert to sunk reliefs, though paint was not always applied. In some of the deepest corridors, only preliminary sketches were made on the plaster surface. Throughout the tomb, even including the first corridor where we find the raised and sunk reliefs, there are stylistic differences within the craftsmanship of the work that might suggest the use of different artisans.

While the tomb may have been unfinished, unusually, the walls of the entrance were carefully smoothed and covered with a layer of white plaster, as elsewhere within the tomb. However, no decorative theme was applied to the entrance and entrance corridor walls.

However, in the next, longer corridor (Corridor One) on the doorway lintel is depicted the kneeling goddesses Isis and Nephthys, and between them a sun disk with a scarab and a ram headed god. Inscribed on the jambs of the doorway are the names of Seti II with an image of Ma'at, also shown kneeling. Within this corridor, are depictions of Seti II making offerings

to Re-Horakhty and offering vases to Nefertem followed by the initial passages of the Litany of Re on the east wall. The scene of Seti II and Nefertem were cut over the original opening vignette of the Litany of Ray which was then reinscribed further down the corridor. On the west wall are scenes of Sokar and Seti II making offerings of incense and libations to Re-Horakhty. The remainder of the corridor continues with the tests of the Litany of Re. On the ceiling of this corridor we find painted flying vultures, some with the head of a cobra and not completely painted. Between the vultures the king's name is inscribed, and along the edges of the ceiling are texts relating to Osiris and Re-Horakhty.

The scenes on the next two corridors are oriented towards the rear of the tomb on the eastern walls, while on the west they run towards the tomb's entrance.

Over the outer lintel of the second corridor is found a winged disk, while on the doorjambs the Litany of Re is continued. On the walls within this corridor, the decorative theme is executed in red, preliminary sketches only. On the east wall we find Seti II making offerings to Re-Horakhty, while on the west wall he makes an offering to Sokar. The remainder of this corridor continues with sections of the Litany of Re, including the 75 forms of the sun god. Further on, we also find the second and third hours of the Amduat on both the east and west walls. In this corridor, the ceiling once again portrays Isis and Nephthys, this time as kites, on either side of a sun disk containing the ram headed bird representing the ba (soul) of Re. This scene is followed by more text from the Litany of Re. Stars were to have filled the remainder of the ceiling, but were never completely rendered.

The outer lintel of the third corridor is decorated with a winged disk, while on the door jams we find the names and a depiction of Seti II. Within this corridor, the east wall is inscribed with representations from the fourth hour of the Amduat, while the west wall depicts the fifth hour.

Within the well room (ritual shaft) the niches at the entrance are, for the first time, fully cut. Here, an innovation is the depiction of various divine statues, many imitations of actual wooden figures similar to those found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Normally we would find the depiction of protective deities such as the Four Sons of Horus and the related goddesses, but for unexplained reasons these figures have been omitted.

Double scene of Seti II making offerings

The walls within the four pillared chamber are rendered with the fourth and fifth divisions of the Book of Gates. On the rear wall is a double scene of Seti II offering an image of Ma'at and two vases to Osiris. Here, the pillars depict Seti II, Horus-Iwn-mutef, Ptah, who is in a shrine, along with other deities. The innovative decorations on the pillars, which have only one figure on each side and two adjacent sides forming a "scene, was a development used consistently from this time forward.

Scenes from within the Well Room

Finally, in the makeshift burial chamber are several registers. The upper of these contain images of Anubis the jackal on a shrine and two rows of deities representing the followers of Re and Osiris. On the lower registers are scenes of mummified figures on snake style beds representing the fifth division of the Book of Gates. Along the length of the ceiling is Nut, with down swept wings, and above her head perhaps the remains of depictions of ba of Re. James Burton tells us that:

"It seems they bought in the body before the tomb was finished and then went on working - a large figure of a Deity with outspread wings painted on the ceiling of above the sarcophagus - very rough. Some beautifully drawn figures of the king in red lines."

Not much in the way of funerary equipment was discovered within this tomb, and the body of Seti II had been removed during antiquity to the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV35), along with the mummies of other royalty, for safe keeping. Fragments of his red granite sarcophagus lid were present within this tomb, but no trance of the actual box was ever discovered. These fragments remain in the tomb, and have been restored and placed on supports so as to suggest the original appearance of the sarcophagus. On the top of this sarcophagus is an Osirian depiction of Seti II, while the goddess Nut stretches across the reverse side. Unfortunately, the top of the lid is missing, along with the face of the king. However, the head of the goddess Nut is now in the Egyptian collection at the Louvre in Paris. Because this is the smallest of any New Kingdom sarcophagus ever discovered, it has been suggested by Aidan Dodson that it might in fact have been meant to nest within a larger sarcophagus, similar to that of Ramesses III.

General Site Information

Structure: KV 15

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

Owner: Seti II

Other designations: 10 [Champollion], 15 [Lepsius], 21, T [Hay], B [Burton], I, plan H

[Pococke], VIe Tombeau l'ouest [Description]

Site type: Tomb


Axis in degrees: 223.75

Axis orientation: Southwest

Site Location

Latitude: 25.44 N

Longitude: 32.36 E

Elevation: 192.62 msl

North: 99,355.431

East: 94,001.317

JOG map reference: NG 36-10

Modern governorate: Qena (Qina)

Ancient nome: 4th Upper Egypt

Surveyed by TMP: Yes


Maximum height: 3.5 m

Mininum width: 2.17 m

Maximum width: 8.06 m

Total length: 88.65 m

Total area: 298.11 m

Total volume: 816.53 m

Additional Tomb Information

Entrance location: Base of sheer cliff

Owner type: King

Entrance type: Ramp

Interior layout: Corridors and chambers

Axis type: Straight




Raised relief

Sunk relief

Categories of Objects Recovered

Human mummies

Tomb equipment


New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, Seti II

Graeco-Roman Era

New Kingdom, Dynasty 19

History of Exploration

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

Napoleonic Expedition (1799): Mapping/planning

Burton, James (1825): Mapping/planning

Franco-Tuscan Expedition (1828-1829): Epigraphy

Lepsius, Carl Richard (1844-1845): Epigraphy

Carter, Howard (1903-1904): Excavation

Last Updated: Aug 4th, 2011






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

History of Ancient Egypt, A

Grimal, Nicolas



None Stated

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2