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Tue
Jun 25 2013 4:00pm

Mummies and Curses and Tombs—Oh My! Digging Up the Valley of the Kings

The Book of the Gates from KV2, Tomb of Rameses IV

In the popular mind, Egyptian archaeology begins and ends with King Tut. The 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, however, was actually the culmination of a century of developments that turned grave robbing into a science. Advances during the late 19th and early 20th centuries transformed the fledgling field of archaeology; the exploration of the Valley of the Kings, where Tut was buried, exemplifies the changes.

For 500 years (from around 1500 to 1000 B.C.E.) pharaohs tunneled their tombs into the limestone hills lining a series of gullies in the desert across the Nile from the ancient capitol of Thebes (modern Luxor, 250 miles south of Cairo). Roman-era tourists added their names and graffiti to the tomb walls, but after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 642 C.E. the site was forgotten and ignored.

[But not for long! Mummies, millionaires, and scholars, below the fold...]