You’d be forgiven for thinking that the KV5 level of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was rather dull and forgettable. There are no real tombs to explore and no noteworthy treasures to find. In fact, you spend most of your time driving a jeep through sand dunes, dodging grenades, and avoiding deadly spike pits.

Perhaps the level designers just didn’t realise that the real KV5 would turn out to be the largest tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings.

KV5 as seen in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
KV5 and the Valley of the Kings as seen in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. Image credit: Katie’s Tomb Raider Screenshots.

KV5 – “King’s Valley 5” – is a huge subterranean rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Kings.  It was originally built for the many sons and daughters of the pharaoh Ramses II. The tomb was first recorded by the British Egyptologist James Burton in 1825 and later visited by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun fame. However, the outermost chambers were full of centuries’ worth of flood debris, some of which had been dumped there by Carter in the early 1900s. Thus, both men dismissed it out of hand, completely unaware of what lay beyond the rubble.

The tomb’s true importance and scale was not known until 1995, when the Theban Mapping Project, led by Dr. Kent R. Weeks, cleared the outer chambers and discovered long corridors leading deep into the hillside. The team had unwittingly made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in Egypt since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

The layout of KV5
The known layout of KV5. Image credit: Theban Mapping Project.

Over 100 chambers have been mapped since 1995 but only a small percentage of these have been cleared of debris. Archaeologists expect that this work will continue for years to come. KV5 has proven to be an extremely expensive tomb to excavate due to its scale and its high maintenance and conservation costs; many of the chambers have been badly damaged by flooding.

Nevertheless, it has yielded some spectacular finds, including painted reliefs of King Ramses’ sons and the Egyptian gods, a rock-cut image of the god Osiris, and a large 16-pillared hall thought to be the largest chamber in any of the valley’s tombs to date. And who knows what archaeologists will discover when they’ve finally cleared the tomb of debris.

Perhaps Ms Croft should have spent less time driving around the desert like a maniac and more time exploring KV5’s labyrinthine corridors.


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