Re-exploring the Queens’ Valley: Archival, Archaeological, and Social Research (Volume I: Text - Volume II: Catalogue of the Tombs).

Casini, Emanuele. Re-exploring the Queens’ Valley: Archival, Archaeological, and Social Research (Volume I: Text - Volume II: Catalogue of the Tombs). 2020, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.


Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/89549/

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Known in Arabic as "Biban el-Harîm" ("the Doors of the Women") and called "Ta Set Neferu" ("the Place of Beauty") by ancient Egyptians, the Queens’ Valley is one of the most renowned necropolis of ancient Egypt. This necropolis hosted more than a hundred tombs prepared during the New Kingdom, which were intensively looted and re-used over time up to the Roman Period.
After having been forgotten for centuries, the Queens’ Valley necropolis was rediscovered by G. B. Belzoni in 1816. From that moment on, several explorers visited and documented it, but the first scientific and in-depth investigation was carried out only in 1903 by the Italian Archaeological Mission (MAI), which was directed by E. Schiaparelli with the collaboration of F. Ballerini. Around seventy years later, a joined Franco-Egyptian mission began new investigations and cleared and documented dozens of tombs (the majority of which had already been discovered by the Italian team).
The in-depth assessment of all the published results of the abovementioned explorations and excavation campaigns made it apparent that a number of issues concerning this burial ground were little explored or even still unexplored. This awareness gave start to the present PhD research, which focused on a multidirectional research approach: archival, archaeological and social.
One of the most relevant research questions concerns the social identity of the New Kingdom tomb owners, with particular attention to the so far little explored 18th-dynasty period. By combining information from different sources (publications, unpublished archival documents and museum objects), the author aimed to reassess the identity of the individuals buried in the Queens’ Valley. This reassessment helped to highlight that the Queens’ Valley, during the 18th Dynasty, hosted the burials of a restricted circle of individuals, who were part of the royal court. The social analysis stimulated other research questions, among which those concerning the date of establishment of the necropolis, the aspect of the original necropolis landscape, and the place of performance of funerary and memorial cults on behalf of the deceased. With regard to the date of establishment of the necropolis, the archaeological record and little textual evidence suggest the reign of King Thutmosis I as a very likely option. This date may find confirmation in the presence of the funerary and memorial temple of this king close to Medinet Habu (therefore, not far from the Queens’ Valley) as well as in the proximity of Deir el-Medina, the settlement of the tomb workmen founded under the reign of the same Thutmosis I.
Another relevant issue connected with the social analysis concerned the necropolis landscape. The landscape of a necropolis represents the physical environment within which concepts and ideas of divinity and netherworld are projected. Interestingly, the Queens’ Valley is the first necropolis set in a concealed space. Making recourse to the Landscape Archaeology discipline, three aspects of the Queens’ Valley landscape (constructed, conceptualized and ideational) were analyzed. This helped to better understand the meaning and the function of such a concealed burial spot in the New Kingdom Period, which was possibly seen by ancient Egyptians as a place of transition between the world of the living and that of the dead, as a gateway into the afterlife. Additionally it was also highlighted that such specific hidden funerary landscape devoid of monumental (super)structures mirrors a specific social background, which includes people close to the king. In regard to the absence of tomb chapels, it was investigated the issue concerning the place where the funerary and memorial cults on behalf of the Queens’ Valley tomb owners were performed during the New Kingdom, suggesting several possible scenarios.
Another relevant part of this doctoral research concerned the examination of the unpublished excavation documents, which allowed the author to re-write the history of the Italian excavations in this necropolis at the very beginning of the 20th Century. Innovative results were achieved by combining the examination of published works, of the archaeological evidence, and of the unpublished archival materials. For instance, by cross-referencing the archival materials with letters sent in 1903 by F. Ballerini to his family, a detailed chronological reconstruction of the results of the first archaeological mission was suggested. Moreover, it was possible to identify most of the tombs discovered by the Missione Archeologica Italiana: at least 70 tombs were investigated in the years 1903 and 1904 by Italian team, 57 of which were new tombs.
The archival research gave the chance to attempt another interesting experiment: the re-contextualization of the objects found by the Italian team, which are currently housed at the Museo Egizio of Turin. This “re-excavation” of the Queens’ Valley through the analysis of findings allowed a number of relevant results: for instance, a fragmented canopic jar made it possible to identify a so far unknown royal consort named Satefmira, who was buried within the Queens’ Valley (supposedly in tomb QV 58). Moreover, the analysis of the unpublished documents concerning the excavations of tomb QV 39 confirms that it is possible to work on such re-contextualization of objects with relevant results: a lotus-shaped pendant (currently assigned to the burial equipment from QV 46) and a roughly-made coffin containing a mummy and other few grave goods (said to have been found in an unspecified cavity within the necropolis) can be re-located with certainty in tomb QV 39.
To conclude, through multi-directional research approaches and re-assessing little explored issues, investigating so far unexplored topics, and analyzing unpublished documents and museum objects, an up-to-date and innovative overview of the Queens’ Valley was elaborated.
Advisors:Bickel, Susanne
Committee Members:Betrò, Maria Carmela and Greco, Christian
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Altertumswissenschaften > Fachbereich Ägyptologie > Ägyptologie (Bickel)
UniBasel Contributors:Bickel, Susanne
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:14767
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:378, 146
Identification Number:
  • urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-bau-diss147679
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:20 Aug 2022 04:30
Deposited On:19 Aug 2022 10:29

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