The Tomb Of Yours And Yuya In The Valley Of The Kings

In 1905, the American millionaire Theodore Davis discovered the tomb of these two powerful characters in the royal Theban necropolis

In 1905, 17 years before the sensational discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter, the Valley of the Kings was the scene of another find that aroused enormous enthusiasm. Its author was Theodore M. Davis, a wealthy New York patron who financed excavations in Egypt as a summer entertainment. Davis achieved notoriety in 1903 when, together with a young Howard Carter, he located several tombs, including that of Thutmose IV. The one he found in 1905 was not a royal tomb, but it had an extraordinary trousseau; It belonged to Yuya and Tuya, a noble couple from the XVIII dynasty, parents of Queen Tiy, Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III.

Yuya’s Sarcophagus

In 1905, Davis was absent from the Valley of the Kings, but his team had been working in the area since January 25, at a site between the tombs of a son of Ramses III and the unfinished tomb of Ramses XI. On February 5, the start of a staircase appeared and when they cleared the sand they discovered the access door to a tomb. Between February 6 and 11, Egyptian workers removed rubble that accumulated in front of the entrance from the excavation of neighboring tombs in the Ramesside era, which contributed to the burial site being forgotten for millennia. After clearing away the rubble, a gate appeared, sealed with small stone blocks bearing the seal of the royal necropolis: a jackal and nine captives.


The hope of having discovered an intact tomb was dissipated when discovering, in the upper right part, an opening made in ancient times and that presaged that the tomb had been looted. As night fell upon them, they decided to post armed guards at the entrance. Furthermore, Arthur Weingall, a 25-year-old Egyptologist who had just been appointed Chief Inspector of Upper Egyptian Antiquities, decided to sleep there for added security.

The next day James Quibell – Weingall’s predecessor in his position –, Gaston Maspero – director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service – and Davis himself arrived at the scene; all three had been duly informed of the discovery. Gathered all before the entrance, the workers removed the blocks and a descending corridor could be glimpsed. Behind him was a second door, also sealed and with another hole made by the thieves, who had left scattered items in their flight. Gaston Maspero tried to squeeze through the hole, but he was a big man and couldn’t get through, so the impatient archaeologists had to wait to document the entrance to get inside.

Yuya’s car: As head of the pharaoh’s army, Yuya was buried with a light chariot.


Weingall described what they found in the burial chamber, a plain, undecorated room, in a letter to his wife: “For a few moments we could see nothing, but as our eyes grew accustomed to the candlelight we saw a sight which I can say Surely no living man has ever seen. The chamber was quite large, a crude cavern. In the center were two huge wooden coffins inlaid with gold. The lids had been ripped off by former looters and the inner coffins had collapsed so that the mummies had been exposed… Gaston Maspero, Theodore Davis and I just stood there gawking and almost shaking… Really stunned , we gazed at the relics of life from more than three thousand years ago».

In the midst of an expectant silence, the archaeologists glimpsed the objects that made up the funerary trousseau: Yuya’s light chariot, who was Commander of the Pharaoh’s War Chariots in life, weapons, chests, high-quality furniture (among which there were three beautiful chairs), musical instruments, toiletries, clothing and personal adornment… They also found a copy of the Book of the Dead in a papyrus almost 20 meters long. Some objects bore the name of Princess Satamón, granddaughter of the deceased, which suggests that perhaps the young woman placed them there as a gesture of affection towards her grandparents.

Mummies of Tuya and Yuya

The mummies of Tuya and Yuya were in sight. Their funerary masks had been thrown aside and the bodies had been undressed by the thieves, who rummaged through the linen to extract the jewels. Fortunately, the bodies were not badly damaged by looters, and were in excellent condition. At the sight of the owners of the tomb, the emotion got to Davis, who had to sit down. Standing before Tuya’s mummy, he apologized to her for breaking into her eternal abode.

Gilded wood and faience. It bears the names of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy.


All objects began to be packed and cataloged quickly to prevent possible theft. During the process, the archaeologists unsealed an alabaster jar and found that it contained a thick honey mixture that still gave off an odor. “When I saw that I almost fainted,” Weingall said. The extraordinary feeling of finding yourself looking at a jar of honey as liquid and sticky as the one you eat for breakfast and thinking that it is 3,500 years old was so paralyzing that you felt as if you were crazy or dreaming. In the room there were also containers of meat, part of the food that Yuya and Tuya would consume in the Afterlife.

For more than a week, the work continued and the objects were left inside the tomb to be taken by boat to the safety of the Cairo Museum. By February 25 the tomb had been completely emptied and Weigall breathed a sigh of relief when she returned to her regular job. But the young archaeologist could not forget the sensation that overwhelmed them when they contemplated the contents of the tomb and the vision of the ancient faces of Tuya and Yuya: «We all felt face to face with something that seemed to revolutionize all human ideas of time and distance”.


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