Nestled among the entranceways to the tombs of the Valley of the Kings is a structure known to scholars as KV17. Despite its unpoetic designation, this tomb makes the hearts of Egyptologists beat faster: Built for Seti I, who died in 1279 B.C., it was discovered in 1817, surprising excavators with its richly decorated walls depicting religious beliefs through images of the dead pharaoh and the deities of ancient Egypt.
The Valley of the Kings was the burial site of many rulers of Egypt’s New Kingdom (circa 1539-1075 B.C.), when Egypt rose to new heights of power and influence. Building this great desert necropolis began during the reign of Thutmose I, the third king of the 18th dynasty, whose rule marked the resurgence of Egypt following a long period of instability.
A grand tomb was prepared for Thutmose, cut into the rock of the rugged desert valleys on the Nile’s west bank. The remote spot was chosen to hide lavish royal burials from tomb raiders. Other New Kingdom rulers placed their tombs there, and the necropolis grew. (Judicial power flowed from pharaohs—even after death.)
When Giovanni Battista Belzoni discovered the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I in 1817, he was astonished something so old could still be almost perfectly preserved.
“The tomb was intact, undisturbed for more than three thousand years. The colors were clear and bright as on the day it was finished, the brushes of the ancient artists still lying on the floor. A royal tomb of colossal proportions and beautiful carvings, it offered instant fame and fortune to its discoverer.”
By modern standards, most would today say Belzoni’s activities in Egypt were more like looting than archaeological excavations. Still, he is nevertheless credited with the discovery of Seti I’s tomb. In addition to this, he was also the first person to enter the pyramid of Khafre at Giza. The Italian amateur archaeologist is also credited with clearing the entrance to the great temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel.
What Was Inside Seti I’s Tomb?
Pharaoh Seti I had no intentions of being put to rest in a small insignificant tomb. He needed and wanted something quite extraordinary on his journey to the afterlife. Shortly after having been crowned, the Pharaoh ordered to start building his colossal tomb in the Valley Of the Kings. When Belzoni discovered Seti I’s tomb in 1817, he estimated the burial to be approximately 328 feet (100 meters).
However, Recent excavations and studies of the tomb revealed that it is much larger than previously thought. The tomb has multiple passageways and more than a hundred small chambers. Archaeologists still haven’t been able to locate its end! Today, we know it is much larger than this.
The tomb of Pharaoh Seti I the largest tomb and the longest tunnel ever found in any place in the Valley of the Kings. The tomb KV17, located in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings is also known by the names “Belzoni’s tomb”, “the Tomb of Apis”, and “the Tomb of Psammis, son of Nechois”.
The tomb of Seti I is artistically adorned and decorated. It features exquisite reliefs, colorful paintings, and an intricately carved column depicting Seti I with the goddess Hathor. Archaeologists also found clay vessels, fragments of the tomb’s painted wall reliefs, and a quartzite ushabti figure —a funerary statue.
The tomb of Seti I also “contains the most complete representation of the Ceremony of Opening the Mouth ever represented in a royal tomb. These scenes are unique in Egyptian art and their importance for interpreting the ancient ritual is essential. Reliefs in the corridor leading to the sarcophagus chamber represent King
The tomb of Seti I also “contains the most complete representation of the Ceremony of Opening the Mouth ever represented in a royal tomb. These scenes are unique in Egyptian art and their importance for interpreting the ancient ritual is essential.
Reliefs in the corridor leading to the sarcophagus chamber represent King Sety’s statues placed on pedestals as priests performed sacred rites that endowed them with everlasting life. Texts of the Liturgy of Opening the Mouth for Breathing were written below the images, shown in sequence on both walls.”
Every Pharaoh wanted a stunning burial chamber, but Seti I’s tomb is the most extraordinary tomb unearthed in Egypt. One can wonder why he should deserve a tomb that is the most splendid ever built.
Looking from the ancient Egyptians’ perspective, Pharaoh Seti I was unique and did more for the Kingdom of Egypt than most pharaohs.
“When a king died, the journey became crucial to the whole nation. The Pharaoh was the earthly incarnation of Horus, son of Osiris. When King Sety died it was one of the most difficult periods in Egypt’s religious life. The country had just endured the monotheistic “heresy” of king Akhenaten of the previous ruling family.
The gods had abandoned Egypt and the dynastic struggle was followed by losses of territory and prestige. The entire balance of Egypt was disturbed, and the Egyptian world could not survive without balance, Sety, the father of Ramesses the Great, had just reclaimed lost territories and restored the ancient religious orders.
The Egyptians were determined to get him to the other side, to eternal life. Sety’s tomb had to be the most glorious ever built. Deep inside the rocks of the Western mountain architects hewed out a vast network of corridors and chambers and artists carved delicate reliefs on every inch of space.” 1
The mummy of Pharaoh Seti I was remarkably well-preserved and revealed he died unexpectedly at the age of 40. Why Seti I died is unknown, but there was no evidence of violence on his mummy.
During the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in April 2021, his mummy and those of 17 other kings and 4 queens were moved from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.