tomb of ramses vi

If this looks like a set from an Indiana Jones movie, it should. This magnificently-decorated burial chamber is hewn out of solid stone in the arid deserts of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Officially classified by archaeologists as “KV9,” it is the tomb of two pharaohs, Ramesses V and his uncle, Ramesses VI. The former’s body was removed by the latter who reused the tomb as his own. Ramesses VI is believed to have died in 1137 BCE, some 3,151 years ago.

You need to see the whole panorama from to appreciate how incredible this place is. Everywhere you turn you’ll see fantastic paintings and renderings of ancient Egyptian gods and mythology. As most people know, the Egyptians were virtually obsessed with death and the afterlife, and their civilization was built upon elaborate religious conceptions of what happened in the world beyond. Physical preservation of the body in the form of mummification was thought to maximize the deceased’s chances of success and glory in the afterlife. As the death metal band Nile has well communicated to heavy metal fans, the gestalt of death in ancient Egypt is almost indescribably bizarre and morbid to us in the modern day. Just reading a little bit about Egyptian funerary mythology is enough to give you nightmares.

Despite its magnificence as an art treasure, very little of value was found in KV9. The tomb was robbed in antiquity, probably not long after Ramesses VI was buried here. Thieves hacked off pieces of his mummy to get at the expensive jewelry that Egyptian rulers were typically buried with. Years, perhaps centuries later, somebody moved Ramesses to another tomb–the infamous “KV35,” basically a warehouse of surplus dead pharoahs that was discovered in 1898. The tomb you see above was left empty, a dark and ominous monument to a dead civilization which itself was obsessed with death.

This photographic panorama was taken in December 2013 by Salma ElDardiry.