QV66 (Tomb of Nefertari)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The tomb QV66 belongs to Nefertari, the Great Wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II, in Egypt's Valley of the Queens. It is called the Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt. Nefertari, which means "beautiful companion", was Ramesses II's favorite wife; he went out of his way to make this obvious, referring to her as "the one for whom the sun shines" in his writings, built the Temple of Hathor to idolize her as a deity, and commissioned portraiture wall paintings.

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The tomb itself is primarily focused on the Queen's life and on her death.

Nefertari may have been very clever, and possibly have been a writer in her lifetime. This can be alluded because of a painting in the tomb of Nefertari coming before the god of writing and literacy to proclaim her title as a scribe. Nefertari lived an elegant life on earth, and she is also promised an elegant afterlife. Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead, which tells a spell for the Queen, is inscribed on the tomb. This spell is supposed to guide Nefertari on how to transform into a ba, which is a bird. For Nefertari to become a bird in the afterlife holds a promise of freedom to move around.

Tomb Layout

circa 1250 BCE



circa 1250 BCE

Chamber A: Antechamber
A flight of steps cut out of the rock gives access to the antechamber, which is decorated with paintings based on Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead. This astronomical ceiling represents the heavens and is painted in dark blue, with a myriad of golden five-pointed stars.

circa 1250 BCE

Chamber B: Entrance Hall
The eastern wall of the antechamber (chamber A) is interrupted by a large opening flanked by representation of Osiris at left and Anubis at right. Along its north and west sides, at a height of just over 1 metre, is a rock-cut bench or long table, originally intended for offerings and possibly funerary equipment.

circa 1250 BCE

Chamber C: Upper Annex
this in turn leads to the side chamber, decorated with offering scenes, preceded by a vestibule in which the paintings portray Nefertari being presented to the gods who welcome her.

circa 1250 BCE

Corridor E
On the north wall of the antechamber is the stairway that goes down to the burial chamber.

circa 1250 BCE

Chamber F: Burial Chamber
The burial chamber is a vast quadrangular room covering a surface area about 90 square meters, the astronomical ceiling of which is supported by four pillars entirely covered with decoration. Originally, the queen's red granite sarcophagus lay in the middle of this chamber. According to religious doctrines of the time, it was in this chamber, which the ancient Egyptians called the "golden hall" that the regeneration of the deceased took place. This decorative pictogram of the walls in the burial chamber drew inspirations from chapters 144 and 146 of the Book of the Dead: in the left half of the chamber, there are passages from chapter 144 concerning the gates and doors of the kingdom of Osiris, their guardians, and the magic formulas that had to be uttered by the deceased in order to go past the doors.

Conservation Efforts


Conservation Program of SCA and GCI
The Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO), now known as the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the Getty Conservation Institute first established a partnership in 1986 to conserve the wall paintings. The project first focused on documenting the condition of the tomb and scientific investigation methods and emergency measures for areas in danger of collapse. Subsequent work focused on conservation treatments and training of EAO staff. Environmental monitoring both inside and outside the tomb was also undertaken to understand the impact of cisitors on the tomb environment. The project was completed in 1992.

Since 1995, the tomb has only been opened to limited numbers of cisitors because of concern about the impact of visitation on the paintings. An objective of he current SCA-GCI conservation project will be to re-assess this impact and determine a safe level of visitation.


See Also


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