KV 15

The tomb of Seti II is located in the Valley of the Kings close to the tomb of Tuthmoses I (KV 38). It was built to the same basic pattern as that of his father, Merenptah (KV 8), and follows the same iconographic program, but there are some differences.

The doorway to the tomb was cut directly into the face of the cliff rather than having steps cut beneath a retaining wall, and the walls of the entrance were smoothed and plastered white. The angle of descent in Seti’s tomb is less pronounced (the first corridor is almost horizontal) and there was a wooden door at the entrance to each chamber (as opposed to only the entrances to the antechamber and burial chamber). The niches by the entrance to the well room (which are only hinted at by shallow alcoves in the tomb of Merenptah), were fully cut here, an innovation which remained popular throughout the twentieth dynasty.

The entrance to KV 15, the tomb of Seti II (copyright Denis Jarvis)

KV 15 was never finished, and there is evidence that the construction halted and resumed at least once before the king died and was interred there. These pauses in construction provide us with a great deal of insight into the events of this turbulent period.

KV 15 consists of two descending corridors decorated with the Litany of Re, followed by a further corridor decorated with the Amduat leading into the well room. A doorway from the well room leads to a pillared hall with a shrine to Osiris and scenes from the Book of Gates. Beyond this lies a passageway which was adapted to form the burial chamber. This chamber is decorated with images of several deities including the image of Nut on the ceiling.

Three corridors, the well room, pillared hall, and a passage which would have led to the burial chamber were excavated. The chamber usually found in the right wall of the pillared hall had not been excavated, but a rectangular recess there may have been a doorway which would have led to that room had there been time to complete it. There is evidence that some of the cartouches of Seti were damaged or removed, and then reinstated at a later date. There has been some speculation regarding who was responsible for this damage, and who made the repairs.

Aldred suggested that Siptah may have been responsible for the damage, and that it was Tausret who reinstated the cartouches. This seems unlikely as Siptah never ruled without the support of Tausret and would have had no obvious reason to attack the memory of Seti. Spalinger proposed Bay as the defacer, and Setnakhte as the restorer, but again it is hard to see why Bay would hold a grudge against Seti who had granted him a tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Yurco has suggested that the damage to the front of the tomb was caused by Paneb stealing stone from the tomb (as referred to in Papyrus Salt 124), although the damage is not really consistent with the quarrying described in the text.

Altenmuller proposed that Seti was originally buried in the tomb of Tausret (KV 14) and later moved into KV 15 by Setnakhte (or Ramesess III) who reconsecrated the tomb and replaced the cartouches. However, this is largely based on the fact that the cartouches of Siptah in KV14 were replaced to refer to Seti after Siptah died. Tausret may have had her own reasons to makes these changes. When Seti died, KV 14 was not complete, and it is hard to imagine work continuing on that tomb if Seti was already buried in it!

Some of the decorations in KV15 as drawn by Lepsius in 1849

The most likely solution has been championed by Gardiner, Krauss, and Dodson. Carving of the decorations was completed with great skill in the first corridor and part of the second corridor, but in the rest of the tomb decorations were only marked out in red ink. It is suggested that work then halted because Amenmesse took control of Thebes. The cartouches carved at the entrance to the tomb (but not those in the descending corridors) were erased on his orders. When Seti regained Thebes, work resumed and Seti himself ordered the cartouches be reinstated.

Artists began decorating the pillared hall, but with low quality reliefs, which contrast with the quality of the work at the beginning of the project. This work was not finished, and the Litany of Re in the second corridor was not completed. Then work stopped again when Seti died. The corridor leading from the pillared hall was hastily adapted to form a burial chamber and decorations were crudely painted on the walls and ceiling. The well room was painted with images of funerary objects and statues instead of the images of the king with a series of deities that would be found in most tombs. For example, instead of a three dimensional skiff with the king standing upon it holding a harpoon there was just a painting of this scene on one of the walls.

Perhaps there was no time to create the required statues before the king’s burial. It is likely that his burial did go ahead, as fragments of the lid of his sarcophagus were found in the tomb and a mummy labelled with his cartouches was found on the cache in KV35.

The tomb was opened in antiquity, and so contains over sixty examples of graffiti most likely dating to the Greco Roman Period.

  • Altenmuller, Hartwig (2016) “Royal Tombs of the Nineteenth Dynasty” from The Oxford Handbook of the Valley of the Kings Edited by Richard H. Wilkinson and Kent R. Weeks
  • Dodson, Aidan (1999) “The decorative phases of the tomb of Sethos II and their historical implications” from The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology Vol. 85 pp. 131-142
  • Dodson, Aiden (2016) The Royal Tombs of Ancient Egypt
  • Reves, N and Wilkinson, R.H. (1996) The Complete Valley of the Kings
  • Wilkinson, Richard H. Editor (2012) Tausret: Forgotten Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt

Copyright J Hill 2018