The Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced that a tunnel in the tomb of King Seti I (1314-1304 BC) has been discovered by Dr. Zahi Hawass and his team in the Valley of the Kings. They’ve been searching for this tunnel for over twenty years in the West Bank necropolis.
Dr. Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the head of the mission, finally succeeded in completely excavating the 174m long tunnel after several seasons of work that began in November 2007. The tunnel was cut into the bedrock near the end of the beautifully decorated tomb of Seti I. In addition to excavating the tunnel, the team braced the walls and ceiling with metal supports. They also built a wooden walkway over the original stone staircase of the tunnel to preerve it and installed a mining car system to remove rubble from the team’s excavations. During their work, the mission uncovered many shabtis and pottery fragments that dated to the Eighteenth Dynasty (1569-1315 BC). Several limestone ostraca fragments, as well as a small boat model made of faience were also found. During their excavation of the staircase, the team found that three of the steps were decorated with red graffiti.
The only other excavation of the tunnel took place in 1960 under the direction of Sheikh Ali Abdel Rassoul. His team was able to reach a depth of 136m but they had to stop their excavation because it was too hard to breath. Upon reaching the end of the 136m section, which had been partially excavated by Abdel-Rasoul's workmen, Dr. Hawass’s team were shocked to uncover a descending passage which measures 25.60m in length and 2.6m wide. The mission eventually uncovered a fifty-four step, descending staircase.
After the first descending passage, a second staircase measuring 6 meters long was cut into the rock. At the beginning of this passage the team found a false door decorated with hieratic text that reads: “Move the door jamb up and make the passage wider." These written instructions must have been left from the architect to the workmen who were carving out the tunnel.
Dr. Hawass said that when he went inside the tunnel of King Seti I for the first time he noticed that the walls were well finished and that there were remains of preliminary sketches of decoration that would be placed on the walls. Unfortunately none of this was every completed. Dr. Hawass added that he was very surprised to find a second staircase inside the tunnel. It appears that the last step was never finished and the tunnel ends abruptly after the second staircase.
Dr. Hawass believes that the workmen and artists first finished the original tomb of Seti I during his twelve-year reign and then began to construct the tunnel. It appears that Seti I was trying to construct a secret tomb inside a tomb. It is likely that when Seti I died his son, Ramesses II (1304-1237BC), had to stop the work and bury has father. Dr. Hawass believes that Ramesses II continued where his father had left off and constructed his own tunnel within his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The Egyptian mission is currently working in the tomb of Ramesses II to preserve the wall paintings and to look for a similar tunnel to the one in the tomb of Seti I.