Reassessing the Valley of the Queens:
Archaeological, social, and archival research with particular focus on the New Kingdom
Known in Arabic as ‘Biban el-Harîm’ (the Doors of the Women) and called tA s.t nfr.w (the place of royal children or the place of beauty) by the ancient Egyptians, the Valley of the Queens is certainly one of the most renowned necropolis of ancient Egypt. This necropolis hosts about one hundred tombs prepared during the New Kingdom, which have been intensively looted and re-used afterwards up to the Roman Period. After having been forgotten for centuries, the Valley of the Queens was rediscovered by G. B. Belzoni in 1816. From this moment on, many explorers and Egyptologists visited and documented it, but the first ‘scientific’ and in-depth investigation was performed in 1903, when the Italian Archaeological Mission directed by E. Schiaparelli, with the collaboration of F. Ballerini, started working there. During the seventies and the eighties, a French mission began a new investigation and cleared many tombs. However, not all the tombs have been the object of thorough publications, particularly the documentation of the 18th-dynasty shaft tombs being rather poor. In addition, attention has been addressed mainly to the archaeological aspects of the Valley of the Queens, without focusing on comparisons with the other coeval Theban cemeteries.
Therefore, by considering the current status of knowledge, it was apparent that a re-assessment of the Valley of the Queens was necessary. After having examined the published material, I decided to direct my research toward the following issues: 1) analysis of the landscape of the Queens’ Valley (criteria of choice of the burial ground; analysis of the location of the Queens’ Valley compared with the other Theban cemeteries; interpretation of the Queens’ Valley site according to theoretical aspects of landscape archaeology); 2) social identity of the people buried within this necropolis, with particular attention to the changes between the 18th Dynasty and the Ramesside Period (application of notions taken from gender archaeology; social archaeology; agency); 3) assessment of the unpublished archives containing E. Schiaparelli and F. Ballerini’s notebooks and reports (which Ch. Leblanc has never examined); 4) drafting of the catalogue of the New Kingdom finds from the Valley of the Queens, which are kept at the Turin Egyptian Museum (relating aspects like methodological issues, re-contextualization of objects, and comparison with finds from other coeval Theban cemeteries); 5) virtual reconstruction of funerals and mortuary practices in the New Kingdom Valley of the Queens.
By focusing on these above-mentioned points, going beyond the sole archaeological data, and using theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches, I will cross-reference the already published information with the unpublished materials (reports, archive, archaeological finds) in order to try to offer new interpretative perspectives on this necropolis during the New Kingdom.