Essential Architecture-  Egypt

Tomb of Setnakht




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




Ancient Egyptian




The Tomb of Tausert and Setnakht
by Mark Andrews

The tomb of Tausert (Tawosret) and Setnakht (Sethnakhte) (KV 14) is surely one of the most unusual tombs in the Valley of the Kings, as is the story behind this tomb. It is also one of the largest tombs in the Valley, encompassing two complete burial chambers. The tomb has been open and known since antiquity. Between 1983 and 1987, it was studied in detail by Hartwig Altenmiller.
This tomb was originally built by Tausert, a queen and wife of Sethos II who would later rule Egypt as Pharaoh. It shows four distinct phases of construction, beginning when Tausert was still simply the queen. The construction was thus originally ordered by Seti II. The second phase of construction occurred after the death of Seti II, under the reign of King Siptah, who allowed the construction to go on much as Seti II had instructed. During this period, a sarcophagus hall was created for the tomb, but was not of course designed as a king's burial chamber. Around 1190 BC, Tausert became the co-regent of Siptah, accepting the royal regalia and and began work on the second burial chamber with the proper dimensions for a king. In fact, the entrance to the tomb and the corridors had to be enlarged to accommodate the size of what was now to be a royal coffin. Around 1187 BC, Queen Tausert actually ascended to the thrown of Egypt as Pharaoh, and she ordered modifications to the tomb to reflect her exclusive royal status.

However, this is only part of the story. Setnakht, the father of Ramesses III had created his own tomb, KV 11 in the Valley of the Kings, as was the normal custom for kings of this period. While KV 11 was unfinished at the time of the king's death, there appears to have been plenty of time for it to be completed prior to the Kings burial. Yet, and apparently against the final wishes of his father, Ramesses III decided at the last minute to have his father interred in the tomb of Tausert, rather then his own. In fact, Ramesses III, against the current custom, would likewise not build his own tomb, but take his fathers original tomb as his own (KV 11). We know nothing about his reasoning on these sharp departures from custom. Almost all the other Pharaohs buried in the Valley of the Kings built their own tombs, which they then occupied upon their deaths. However, KV 14 is not really Setnakht's tomb at all, as it was almost exclusively built for Tausert.

Typically, the first part of the tomb includes an entrance and three corridors that lead to a ritual shaft and then a small hall with no pillars. A fourth corridor leads to a small antechamber and then to the first burial chamber with several annexes. Just past this burial chamber are several more annexes and then two more corridors that lead to the second burial chamber, which also has four annexes and a corridor leading off from its rear. Both the first and the second burial chambers have eight pillars. Interestingly, the axis of the tomb approximates an east-west alignment, but the various extensions constructed at different times shift slightly in their orientation.

In the first corridor, we find images of Tausert before deities, though some of these have been usurped to show a king rather then Tausert herself. These images appear to be about the only decorations which were changed for Setnakht. Most of the remaining decorative plan remained the same, with the exception that most of the places where the queens image or name appears, the area was plastered over and painted with king Setnakht's image and name.

Within the second and third corridors are passages from the Book of the Dead and in the ritual shaft are images of various deities. In the first small hall are again scenes from the Book of the Dead, and in the following antechamber are images of deities. Just prior to the antechamber to the first burial chamber, we find scenes from the Opening of the Mouth ritual. The first burial chamber has scenes from the Book of Gates and the closing scenes from the Book of Caverns, along with an astronomical ceiling.

After the first burial chamber, the corridors are decorated with scenes from the Amduat, and the second burial chamber has an astronomical ceiling, along with scenes from the Book of Gates on its walls.

Very little in the way of funerary equipment was found in this tomb, other then a smashed sarcophagus.


Maximum height: 6.01 m
Minimum width: 0.89 m
Maximum width: 13.31 m
Total length: 158.41 m
Total area: 628.55 m²
Total volume: 2128.83 m³

New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, Tausert (begun during the reign of Seti II)
New Kingdom, Dynasty 20, Setnakht (tomb taken over for burial of this ruler)
History of Exploration

Pococke, Richard (1737-1738): Mapping/planning
Napoleonic Expedition (1799): Epigraphy
Burton, James (1825): Mapping/planning
Franco-Tuscan Expedition (1828-1829): Epigraphy
Lepsius, Carl Richard (1844-1845): Epigraphy
Service des Antiquités (1893-1895): Excavation
Altenmüller, Hartwig (1983-1987): Excavation (conducted for the University of Hamburg)


Title Author Date Publisher Reference Number
Complete Valley of the Kings, The (Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs) Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H. 1966 Thames and Hudson Ltd IBSN 0-500-05080-5
Valley of the Kings Weeks, Kent R. 2001 Friedman/Fairfax ISBN 1-5866-3295-7
Valley of the Kings Heyden, A. Van Der Al Ahram/Elsevier

Special thanks to


NAME Setnakhte
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Also written Setnakht
PLACE OF BIRTH Ancient Egypt
PLACE OF DEATH Ancient Egypt
Preceded by:
Twosret Pharaoh of Egypt
20th Dynasty Succeeded by:
Ramesses III
Also written Setnakht
Reign 1186 BC–1183 BC

Userkhaure-setepenre (wsr-xaw-ra stp.n-ra)
Powerful are the forms of Re, Chosen of Re

Setnakht Meryamunra (stX-nxt mrr-imnra)
Seth Is Victorious ; Beloved Of Amon-Re[1]
Horus name

Kanakht Werpehti
Nebty name

Golden Horus Sekhemkhepeshder(kher)uef
Died 1183 BC
Burial KV14
Userkhaure-setepenre Setnakhte (also Setnakht) was the first Pharaoh (1186 BC–1183 BC) of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt and the father of Ramesses III.

Reign Length
He was originally believed to have enjoyed a reign of only 2 Years based upon his Year 2 Elephantine stela but his Third Regnal Year is now attested in Inscription No.271 on Mount Sinai[2] If his theoretical accession date is assumed to be II Shemu 10 based on the date of his Elephantine stela, Setnakhte would have ruled Egypt for at least 2 Years and 11 Months before he died, or nearly 3 Full Years. This date is only 3 months removed from Twosret's Highest known date of Year 8, III Peret 5 and is based upon a calculation of Ramesses III's known Accession date of I Shemu 26. Peter Clayton also assigned Setnakhte a reign of 3 years in his 1994 book on the Egyptian Pharaohs.[3]

While his reign was brief, it was just long enough for him to stabilize the political situation in Egypt, and to establish his son, Rameses III onto the throne of Egypt. Setnakhte started work on a tomb, KV11, in the Valley of the Kings, but stopped it when the tombcarvers accidentally broke into the tomb of the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Amenmesse. Setnakhte then appropriated the tomb of Queen Twosret (KV14) for his own use. Setnakhte's origins are not known, and he may have been a commoner, although some Egyptologists believe that he was related to the previous dynasty, the Nineteenth, through his mother and may thus have been a grand-son of Ramesses II. His son, Ramesses III, is regarded as the last great king of the New Kingdom, was named after Rameses II and took on many of this king's attributes.

[edit] Papyrus Harris
The beginning of the Great Harris Papyrus or Papyrus Harris I, which documents the reign of Ramesses III, provides some details about Setnakhte's rise to power. An excerpt of James Breasted's 1906 translation of this document is provided below:

"The land of Egypt was overthrown from without, and every man was thrown out of his right; they had no "chief mouth" for many years formerly until other times. The land of Egypt was in the hands of chiefs and of rulers of towns; one slew his neighbour, great and small. Other times having come after it, with empty years, Irsu ('a self-made man'), a certain Syrian (Kharu) was with them as chief (wr). He set plundering their(ie: the people's) possessions. They made gods like men, and no offerings were presented in the temples.
"But when the gods inclined themselves to peace, to set the land in its rights according to its accustomed manner, they established their son, who came forth from their limbs, to be ruler, LPH, of every land, upon their great throne, Userkhaure-setepenre-meryamun, LPH, the son of Re, Setnakht-merire-meryamun, LPH. He was Khepri-Set, when he is enraged; he set in order the entire land which had been rebellious; he slew the rebels who were in the land of Egypt; he cleansed the great throne of Egypt; he was ruler of the Two Lands, on the throne of Atum. He gave ready faces to those who had been turned away. Every man knew his brother who had been walled in. He established the temples in possession of divine offerings, to offer to the gods acccording to their customary stipulations."[4]
Significantly, the Harris Papyrus does not say that Setnakhte killed Chancellor Bay who is the only plausible candidate for this Irsu. Rather, Setnakhte is only credited with establishing order after an exaggerated period of chaos and civil war. This detail conforms well with the historical evidence which shows that Bay probably died in Year 5 of Siptah.

Siptah's Stele at Elephantine seems to have referred to these same events, referring to an expulsion of Asiatics, who fled, leaving the gold they looted from Egyptian temples behind. It is unsure the degree to which this inscription referred to contemporary events or rather repeated anti-Asiatic sentiment from the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose. Setnakhte also identified with the God Atum or Temu, and built a temple to this God at Per-Atum (Biblical Pithom}

Setnakhte may have been the first Pharaoh mentioned in Greek mythology. Marian Luban[5] quotes Diodorus Siculus: "A man of obscure origin was chosen king, whom the Egyptians call 'Ketes', but who among the Greeks is thought to be that Proteus who lived at the time of the war about Ilium." Ketes, from Egyptian Khenti, means the same as Proteios, meaning "first". The Elephantine Stela confirms Diodorus "He was chosen, His Majesty, l.p.h., as the "Khenty-Heh", the "First One of Millions", regardless of countless others being more significant than he." In other words, King Setnakht may have been a commoner or a prince of the royal blood who was somehow connected to the 19th Dynasty.

^ [1] Setnakht Meryamunra
^ Von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, 1997, p. 201-202
^ Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994, p.160
^ James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol No.4,(1906), pp.198-199
^ Luban, Marianne "Setnakhte and the Classical Memory"