Ancient Egyptian workers carve out and embellish the tomb of Seti I in a cutaway illustration.
Painstakingly chipped into high limestone cliffs above the Valley of the Kings, also home to the tomb of King Tut, Seti I's tomb is among the hardest to reach but most rewarding. The tomb is the most ornate and largest in the valley—and it's growing.
The newly excavated stairway beneath the tomb isn't the only tunnel to surprise archaeologists and expand the tomb's square footage in recent years. In 2008 experts announced they'd found a new tunnel in the tomb proper, which expanded the crypt's length from 328 feet (100 meters) to 446 feet (136 meters).
Seti I (ruled 1290–79 bc) was a successful military leader who reasserted authority over Egypt’s weakened empire in the Middle East. The Mitanni state had been dismembered, and the Hittites had become the dominant Asian power. Before tackling them, Seti laid the groundwork for military operations in Syria by fighting farther south against nomads and Palestinian city-states. Then, following the strategy of Thutmose III, he secured the coastal cities and gained Kadesh. Although his engagement with the Hittites was successful, Egypt acquired only temporary control of part of the north Syrian plain. A treaty was concluded with the Hittites, who, however, subsequently pushed farther southward and regained Kadesh by the time of Ramses II. Seti I ended a new threat to Egyptian security when he defeated Libyans attempting to enter the delta. He also mounted a southern campaign, probably to the Fifth Cataract region.
Seti I’s reign looked for its model to the mid-18th dynasty and was a time of considerable prosperity. Seti I restored countless monuments that had been defaced in the Amarna period, and the refined decoration of his monuments, particularly his temple at Abydos, shows a classicizing tendency. He also commissioned striking and novel reliefs showing stages of his campaigns, which are preserved notably on the north wall of the great hypostyle hall at Karnak. This diversity of artistic approach is characteristic of the Ramesside period, which was culturally and ethnically pluralistic. Well before his death, Seti I appointed his son Ramses II, sometimes called Ramses the Great, as crown prince.