The tomb of Sety I is one of the longest, deepest, and most beautifully decorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Sety I (c.1294–1279 BC) was the second king of the Nineteenth Dynasty, and father of Ramesses II (the Great). His tomb, number 17 in the Valley of the Kings, is sometimes called “Belzoni’s tomb” after its discoverer.
Like the other tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the tomb of Sety I is decorated with various funerary texts, the aim of which was to ensure his successful transition to the afterlife. The tomb of Sety I was the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings to be entirely decorated. The elegant painted scenes and reliefs are of the exquisite quality that the reign of Sety I is so well known for. The funerary texts attested there are the Litany of Re, Amduat, and Book of Gates, in addition to the Book of the Divine Cow and the gorgeous astronomical scenes decorating the ceiling of his burial chamber, simulating the night sky.
Architecturally, the tomb of Sety I falls under the “joggled axis” type characteristic of his period. The first series of corridors and descending passageways terminate into the first pillared room, where, in the facing wall, but off-axis, another series of descending passageways cut into the floor of the room lead to the burial chamber. The tomb does feature a number of new and unique characteristics. Along the same axis of the first series of corridors and descending passageways, a doorway leads into a single room. This may have been intended to lead intruders to believe that this was the actual burial chamber. The tomb of Sety I is also the first tomb to possess a burial chamber with a vaulted ceiling. Perhaps most interesting of all is that the passage begins on the floor of the burial chamber, descending even further, deep into the earth. It is believed that this was intended to ritually connect the tomb of Sety I with the primeval and regenerative powers of the underworld.
In 1821, painted recreations of several rooms from the tomb of Sety I were displayed in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly in London. This exhibition, put together by the discoverer of the tomb, Giovanni Battista Belzoni, made an ancient Egyptian tomb available to various members of the public. It captured people’s imagination, and is one of the first monuments responsible for attracting popular attention to ancient Egypt.