Sandro Vannini’s Photography – Tomb of Seti I (KV17): The Burial Chamber

Seti I’s reign over Egypt is thought to have lasted between 13 to 20 years, and during this time he opened the kingdom up to trade with foreign nations and committed to the development of construction projects. This led to stability which united the country after the fragile rule of the previous Amarna kings. The sheer number and scale of building projects thatSeti I oversaw during his reign would go on to be one of the greatest artistic periods in Egyptian history. One of Seti I’s major accomplishment of the era was the completion of the Great Temple of Abydos, known also as the Temple of Seti as regarded as one of the finest temples built in Egypt.

Perhaps then, it is fitting that Seti I has the longest and deepest tomb that has been discovered to date in the Valley of the Kings. It is one of the few that was completed, and possibly the most impressive in terms of its beautiful wall paintings and intricate planning. The Tomb of Seti I (KV17) was discovered by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in 1817, but due to damage caused by ongoing excavations in the 1950s and 60s, it was closed to the public. Acclaimed Egyptology photographer Sandro Vannini went into the tomb and took several photographs in the various chambers of this stunning tomb. Sandro’s no stranger to capturing stunning tombs, as his new book “The Lost Tombs of Thebes: Life in Paradise” shows (also keep an eye out for the upcoming art book ‘A Secret Voyage’), in which hundreds of his beautiful photographs feature.You can also read Sandro’s own account of taking the Theban tombs photographs in this Heritage Key article, as well as watch the Lost Tombs video with Dr Zahi Hawass and Dr Janice Kamrin. In previous weeks, we’ve concentrated on the First Pillared Room and the Antechamber of the tomb, and this week, we’re looking at the ceiling of the Burial Chamber.

The Burial Chamber is separated into two sections – the front of the chamber consists of a six pillared room, and the rear has a crypt where an empty alabaster sarcophagus was discovered. The burial chamber does not form the end of the tomb though, as a mysterious tunnel leads down from the crypt to the water level – excavations continue in this section of the tomb, and you can watch the progress of it in this fantastic video with Dr Zahi Hawass.

Sandro Vannini’s Photography

Hundreds of amazing tombs across Egypt have been photographed by the skilled archaeology photographer Sandro Vannini, who has spent over a decade taking stunning photography of some of the most famous artefacts and tombs in history, such as the elusive Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun. Armed with his Hasselblad ELD Ixpress 528C, Sandro took these photographs of the beautiful wall paintings in Tomb KV17’s burial chamber of King Seti I and captured the breathtaking ceiling in this room. Although the tomb has now been closed to the public, we can still enjoy the magnificence of the Tomb of Seti I through Sandro’s lens.

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The Burial Chamber of the Tomb of Seti I(KV17)

Symbolically, the ceiling of the burial chamber is adorned with astronomical ideologies of the Ancient Egyptian era, bearing constellations and enforcing the strong influence that the night sky had on this civilisation. The interest in, and significance of astronomy is shown in many remnants of Egypt’s past (as well as in other culture’s pasts, such as that of the Mayans) it proved useful in their daily life. By observing the skies, the Egyptians were able to determine the best time to predict the annual flooding of the River Nile, which fertilised the soils, ready to grow crops on. Similarly, by devising a calendar based on these astronomical cycles, they would be able to work out when to harvest the crops.

This importance of astronomy is reflected on the roof of the burial chamber of Tomb of Seti I. The northern sky depicted a group of stars in Ancient Egyptian times which neither set or rose, and circled around the North Pole. The stars were then grouped into clusters, and portrayed with images of the gods. The constellations used were not the same the zodiac signs which we are used to today, which are based on Babylonian and Hellenistic models. You can find out more about Archaeoastronomy in Sean’s short guide.

The “Decans” were of particular significance to the Ancient Egyptians, as they represented thirty-six clusters of stars which would drop below the horizon and rise back up throughout the year.These Decans were listed on various sarcophagi discovered in other tombs, of which eleven are shown on the roof of the KV17 burial chamber.

The high vaulted ceiling of this chamber is the first found of this kind, although the tomb itself was designed with Horenmeb’s tomb as a template. Representing the direction of the sky and hence the gods, the ceiling painting shows the goddess Serket, the godess Tawaret (shown with a crocodile on her back) and the falcon headed god An.

HDVideo: Dr Zahi Hawass and the Mysterious Tunnel in the Tomb ofSeti I (KV17)

One of the most intriguing features of the tomb of Seti I is a long, descending passageway from the burial chamber, which goes down to an undetermined depth. It may be a passageway to mythical waters of the God Nun, or lead to somewhere completely new – Dr Zahi Hawass sheds some light on what may be in at the end of this mysterious tunnel in this fantastic must-see video!

You can see the transcript of the movie over on the Video Page, as well as seeing other fascinating films from the Valley of the Kings shot by Sandro in our weekly series. Additionally, you can find out more about Ancient Egypt on Heritage Key, as well as being able to explore the Valley of the Kings and the fascinating KV62 – King Tutankhamun’s tomb – in 3D in our exciting virtual experience! Also be sure to keep up to date on all new postings about Sandro’s photography from Egypt by subscribing to our feed, simply by entering your email address above.