Queen Nefertari’s Egypt » Nefertari’s Tomb

Nefertari’s Tomb

When Schiaparelli entered Queen Nefertari’s tomb in 1904, he found that robbers had looted nearly all its contents soon after it was sealed at her death. The objects that were recovered, however, hint at what must have been a magnificent treasure trove of furniture, precious oils, and supplies for the afterlife. Almost all that now remains of Queen Nefertari’s burial treasure is in this gallery. 

A Tomb Fit For A Queen

Queen Nefertari’s tomb was constructed around 1250 BCE, at the height of New Kingdom arts and craftsmanship. Pharaoh Ramesses II had the large and elaborately decorated “house of eternity” tunneled into the Theban Necropolis for his Great Royal Wife, Nefertari. 

The tomb consists of two primary parts: the upper area of antechambers and the lower burial chamber, connected by two descending staircases. The structure of the tomb was meant to evoke the convoluted path that the deceased had to follow to reach the afterlife. The vivid wall paintings represent elements of the spiritual journey that the Queen’s spirit would have made through the underworld in order to finally rest with the god Osiris. Also illustrated are various spells from the Book of the Dead. 

Wall Paintings In Nefertari’s Tomb

On one wall of the antechamber, Nefertari is shown seated in a pavilion and playing the game senet, which symbolizes the journey of the queen’s ka (vital spark) to the afterlife. She wears sandals similar to the ones found in her tomb. On another wall, the hieroglyphic text of the seventeenth spell of the Book of the Dead is accompanied by an illustration of the queen’s mummy in the form of Osiris. In an annex to the antechamber, Nefertari is shown giving an offering to the ibis-headed god of wisdom and writing, Thoth. On the walls of the staircase leading to the funerary chamber, the queen is represented giving offerings to several goddesses, including the winged, kneeling goddess Maat.

The lower burial chamber with the queen’s sarcophagus is supported by four columns decorated with djed-pillars, which signify stability and the backbone of Osiris. The chamber symbolically represents the realm of Osiris, where Nefertari was supposed to rest before her rebirth. The wall facing the sarcophagus depicts the resurrection of Osiris. The other walls are covered with spells and figures from the Book of the Dead.


Shabti Box Lid

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce) Painted wood
S. 05199
The distinctive shape of this lid found in Nefertari’s tomb suggests that it belonged to a box that held some of the queen’s shabtis. It is brightly painted and records the queen’s name and title.

[Artwork description: This wooden box lid is rectangular with a rounded surface. The two sides are straight while the top and bottom are slightly curved. It is highly decorated with green, yellow, black, and red painting. Stripes of green, black, and red, separated by thin white lines, adorn the sides while a wide yellow stripe with black hieroglyphs runs across the top of the lid at the highest point. The rounded ends of the lid have red, green, and black stripes that follow the curvature of the object, in a rainbow shape.]


Shabti Box Lid

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Wood (sycamore) and resin
S. 05198
This box lid is made of sycamore—a sacred tree associated with the goddess Hathor, known as “Lady of the Sycamores”—and painted black with resin. It bears the inscription “Osiris, the Royal Spouse of NefertariMerenmut.”

[Artwork description: This wooden box lid is rectangular with a rounded surface. The top and bottom are slightly curved and sides are straight. It is painted with a glossy black resin with the wood showing through in places, particularly in the lower left side where a round spot is highly visible. A smaller rectangular hieroglyphic inscription, topped with an orb, is centered on the lid and stretches from the bottom of the lid to just below the top. The orb has some flecks of resin but is mostly a dark yellow color, as is the hieroglyph.]


Sarcophagus Lid of Queen Nefertari

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Granite
S. 05153
These fragments come from the lid of Queen Nefertari’s pink granite sarcophagus—the stone container that protected the coffin of the queen. A few traces of the original painted decoration are still visible. The inscription is a prayer to Nut, goddess of the sky. The queen’s sarcophagus lid was destroyed when the tomb was robbed. These fragments, along with fragments of a gilded wood coffin, were found in the tomb’s burial chamber.

[Artwork description: Cracked and fragmented pink sand color granite of Nefertari’s sarcophagus. The top has a rectangular slab. The sides are mostly missing and there are large cracks on the top. There are small triangle shaped pieces at the bottom.]


Sandals

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Vegetal Fibers (Palm Leaves)
S. 05160/01 & 02
This pair of sandals, made of woven palm leaves and measuring the U.S. women’s shoe size 9, was found in Queen Nefertari’s tomb. Although their owner can’t be positively identified, their style indicates that they could have belonged to Queen Nefertari. On one wall of the antechamber of Nefertari’s tomb, the Queen is shown seated in a pavilion and playing the game of senet. She wears sandals similar to the ones found in her tomb.

[Artwork description: These woven sandals resemble a modern “flip-flop” with the flat sole following the contour of the foot: a rounded heel occupies one end of the sandal with a wide portion in the middle to accommodate the foot and a tapered part for the toes, ending in a point. A thin T-shaped metal wire band has been added to show where a strap would have held the foot to the sole, with the short end arching over the ankle and the longer band positioned between the first two toes. Some fragments of the original woven palm leaf strap still remain and are affixed to the modern metal insertion.]


Shabtis of Queen Nefertari

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Wood and resin
S. 05164 – S. 05197

[Artwork description part 1: This small statuette depicts a human figure standing upright with arms bent and crossed at the waist. A wig sits atop the rounded face, covering the forehead and extending behind the ears with two flaps resting at midchest. A skirt, which tapers downward, covers the lower portion of the body and is inscribed with horizontal bands of hieroglyphs. A slightly rounded piece projects out at the bottom of the figure, suggesting feet. The object is made of blackened wood with some of the original brown surface showing through. Such figures were found in tombs and represented servants expected to carry out agricultural and other menial tasks required of the deceased in the afterlife.

Artwork description part 2: This small statuette depicts a human figure standing upright. The head is split off and a gash in the wood continues down from the top to the figure’s midsection where the arms are joined to the skirt. A piece projecting out at the bottom of the figure, suggesting feet is also broken. The object is made of wood coated with black resin with some of the original brown surface showing through. Such figures were found in tombs and represented servants expected to carry out agricultural and other menial tasks required of the deceased in the afterlife.]


Shabtis of Queen Nefertari

Shabtis are small statues shaped like mummies holding farming or irrigation tools. They were intended to perform manual labor for the deceased in the afterlife. A set of thirty-four shabtis was found in Nefertari’s tomb, although the original group must have numbered in the hundreds. All thirty-four, made from wood and resin and displayed here, are inscribed with the queen’s name and a reduced version of the spell that was believed to animate the statues in the afterlife.


Knob with a Cartouche of Aye

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, reign of Aye (about 1327– 1323 bce)
Faience
S. 05162
This faience knob, possibly from a piece of furniture, was the most surprising discovery in Nefertari’s tomb. It is inscribed with the cartouche (an oval shape containing a royal name) of Aye, a pharaoh from the Amarna period who ruled just after Tutankhamun. Its presence in the tomb has given rise to the hypothesis that Nefertari and Aye were related.

[Artwork description: This large round knob is a brilliant blue with a cartouche covering much of the surface. The left edge of the knob has been chipped so the underlying ceramic material shows through. Likewise, part of the central decoration is chipped away. The cartouche is topped with two animal-like figures positioned back to back so their beaks point in either direction. The middle part of the cartouche has the eye of Horus positioned verticallt on both sides, symbolizing protection. Another symbol is at the base of the cartouche, extending almost to the bottom edge of the knob.]


Fragment of an Ibis Statue

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Painted wood
S. 05201
The African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) was once plentiful along the Nile but is no longer found in Egypt. The ibis was associated with Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing, who was often shown with the head of this distinctive bird. One of the frescoes in Nefertari’s tomb shows the queen greeting Thoth.

[Artwork description: This sculptural fragment of white and black painted wood represents the body of the sacred ibis. The head is missing; the sculpture shows the narrow portion of the chest where the water bird’s long skinny neck would be joined to the body. The body is oblong and tapers to the tail portion. There is a slight curvature along the top of the body suggesting where the bird’s folded wings would nestle. Two pieces hang down from the body, representing the upper portions of the bird’s legs. The long thin legs and feet of the bird are missing. The sculpture is suspended by thin wires onto a rectangular base.]


Fragments of Furniture Appliqués

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Painted wood
S. 05204.01, .02, .03
These fragments likely came from one or several pieces of furniture. Each carving depicts a djed-pillar, an ancient Egyptian symbol for stability. This common funerary symbol was said to represent the spine of Osiris, god of the underworld.

[Artwork description part 1: This square fragment of warm, stone-colored painted wood is decorated with four narrow pillars: one runs adjacent to the outer edge on both sides with two pillars spaced evenly in between. The pillars are separated by thin stripes that are in high relief. The top quarter of the square has a plain border, as does the bottom quarter, with the striped section that is in relief making up the middle half, in between the pillars.

Artwork description part 2: This square fragment of warm, stone-colored wood is decorated with four narrow pillars: one runs adjacent to the outer edge of both sides with two pillars spaced evenly in between. The pillars are separated by thin stripes in high relief. The uppermost section of stripes is intact while the second and third sections of stripes are missing pieces, particularly in the last section where a large chip reveals the darker brown wood underneath.

Artwork description part 3: This square fragment of warm, stone-colored wood is decorated with four narrow pillars: one runs adjacent to the outer edge of both sides with two pillars spaced evenly in between. The pillars are separated by thin stripes in high relief. The top quarter of the square has a plain border, as does the bottom quarter, with the striped section that is in relief making up the middle half, in between the pillars. There is an irregularly shaped piece of wood that juts out from the very top of the square.]


Djed-Pillar Amulet

Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Gilt wood and vitreous paste
S. 05163
The back of this amulet is inscribed with Nefertari’s name and title. It may have stood on one of four protective magical bricks (not preserved) that would have been placed at the corners of the tomb chamber. According to the Book of the Dead, a spell was “to be said over a djed-pillar amulet of faience … set firmly on an unbaked clay brick.” This object was the only one found in place in the tomb.

[Art description: This narrow, vertical amulet is a brilliant blue column that is shaped like an “I” with a slightly splayed top and bottom. Gold leaf edges all four sides of the wooden object; a thick strip of gold stretches horizontally across the center point. Above and below it, narrow strips of gold are positioned horizontally across the surface. The top four strips extend beyond the edge of the object, ending in points, while the bottom four do not project outside the edges. The amulet is believed to symbolize the backbone of the god Osiris, so the lines could be seen as individual vertebrae.]


Amphora

New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (about 1279–1213 bce)
Ceramic
S. 05207
Several fragments of ceramic jars and vessels were found in Nefertari’s tomb. Containers full of various foods, beverages, and precious oils were placed in Egyptian tombs to provide the deceased with everyday essentials in the afterlife.

[Artwork description: This terracotta vessel has a slender neck at the top with a thin lip. The neck attaches to a heart-shaped body that tapers to a point at the bottom. Two delicate rounded handles are placed on either side of the vessel, just below where the neck connects to the widest part of the piece. Most of the sand-colored surface appears unglazed, with patches of a brownish glaze visible, particularly in the lower half of the piece.]


Francesco Ballerini, Edoardo Baglione, and Michelangelo Pizzio

Italian

Model of Nefertari’s Tomb, early 1900s
Wood
Provv. 3749
This scale model was built shortly after Schiaparelli uncovered Nefertari’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Queens in 1904. All the paintings were carefully copied and reproduced at one-tenth scale. The model was so accurate that it helped in the conservation of the tomb in the 1980s.

[Art description: Dark wood model with glass covering the top showing the complex layout of Queen Nefertari’s Tomb. Queen Nefertari’s coffin lays in the center, the only object on that level. It is a light pinkish color with marbled gray. Stairs to the right and left lead to a slightly higher level that has two rectangular columns on both sides. A second set of steps on both sides lead to another level that leads out of the center chamber. The floor is brown and the walls are covered with paintings and hieroglyphics. There is a border along the top of the walls and columns that is reddish brown with repeated white ornaments that look like spear tops with a sphere underneath the top and a white cylindrical bottom. When entering from the left set of steps, the left wall has a large wall with about thirty columns of hieroglyphics. Large portrayals of Queen Nefertari on the left and multiple gods on the right. This theme is repeated around the walls. The large columns include different scenes that combine columns of hieroglyphics and images of Queen Nefertari and various gods. At the end of the level with the coffin are shorter rectangular boxes that are painted with repeated patterns of multicolored (red, brown, and yellow) columns with two human-like figures with black legs and red outlined arms and black outlined circles for heads.]


 

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