From An Archaeologist Note Book
13-June 2001

The Hidden Chamber of Seti I

Zahi Hawass

 I stayed in the West Bank of Luxor for two months.  I was working with the University of Pennsylvania expedition.  We were excavating the palace of King Amenhotep IIIat Malkata, and near the palace was a beautiful lake.  It was in this lake that the King and his Queen Ty, the strongest woman at that time, used to go for excursions in a boat called Aton to enjoy themselves.  I met at that time two great Egyptologists: one was David O’Connor from the University of Pennsylvania, and the other was Barry Kemp from Cambridge University.

 I used to work with them to learn excavation techniques.  Every night I used to meet my friends who were working in the Valley of the Kings with various different foreign expeditions.  Abdel Fatah El-Sabahi was Inspector of Antiquities for the West Bank, and he was the one who came to pick me up every day and who introduced me to Sheikh Aly at El-Marsam Hotel.

The stories and memories of Sheikh Aly cannot be forgotten.

One night he said to me, “I will tell you a secret.  I can tell that you are the only one who can discover the hidden chamber inside a tomb in the Valley of the Kings.”  He continued, “I am a man who can foretell certain things, and I can see that, though you are young now, one day you will become a famous archaeologist and you will fulfill the dreams of our family.”

Sheikh Aly began to explain the story of this hidden chamber.  The story began in 1922 after the discovery of the golden tomb of Tutankhamon.  “Many members of my family were working with Carter, including myself, though only a young boy.  We spoke to Carter in the last season, before he started his excavation, and advised him to work between the tombs of King Meremptah, Son of Rameses II, and the tomb of Rameses VI.”  I was shocked when he told me this, because Carter never mentioned any of this sage advice in any of his publications, but I felt that the man was speaking the truth. 

Sheikh Aly continued, “Carter used the tomb of Seti I as a storage room for the artifacts that came from the tomb of King Tut.  They did the restoration and conservation of the artifacts inside that tomb.  Our cousins and myself used to stay in the Tomb of Seti for long periods of time during this work, and we examined every inch of it.  We know that there is a hidden chamber inside the tomb that has not yet been discovered.  In the time of Dr. Sarawat Okasa, we were able to start the search for this hidden tomb, but for unknown reasons we were stopped and could not continue.  We were almost in front of the entrance of the hidden chamber, but we were stopped.”  I thought about what Sheikh Aly said; no other artifacts from the tomb of Seti had been discovered, and so it was almost certain that there was another hidden chamber.  Sheikh Aly never lost his hope of finding it, and tried everyone in his attempt to get permission to search for this tomb.  An Egyptian Egyptologist who headed the Antiquities Organization at that time refused to give him permission, saying that his ideas were based on talk and legend, not scientific analysis.

But, I thought to myself, he could be right.  After all, most of the great discoveries came through people who lived on the site.  Sheikh Aly decided to get married to a young lady who was twenty years old.  He invited us to his wedding and asked my friend El-Sabahi to give him some vitamins for potency.  El-Sabahi played a joke on him, and instead of giving the old man vitamins, he gave him sleeping pills.  Sheikh Aly slept beside his bride and woke up at noon the next day.  This story was the laugh of the people in the village of Qurneh. 

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