Historical Overview of the Theban Mapping Project

In 1978, Dr. Kent Weeks established a project to conduct a comprehensive survey of the tombs and monuments of the West Bank at Luxor and to build a catalog of the archaeological remains of the region. Affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley, where Dr. Weeks was a member of the faculty, the project was known as The Berkeley Map of the Theban Necropolis.    
The project conducted its first season in March and June of 1978 with a team of eight consisting of Dr. Weeks, a chief surveyor, three assistant surveyors and architects, a cartographer, an Egyptologist, and an inspector of antiquities from the Egyptian Antiquities Organization [17188]. It was during the first season that the survey grid, upon which all future work has been built, was laid out [17813]. This grid was based on the existing grid established at the Temple of Karnak. During this season eight tombs in the Valley of the Kings were surveyed (KV 1, KV 2, KV 3, KV 4, KV 5, KV 6, KV 46 and KV 55).     17188 17813
The second season of work (1979) on the Berkeley Map of the Theban Necropolis focused on obtaining complete aerial photographic coverage of the entire necropolis. Another ten tombs in the Valley of the Kings were surveyed and planned and the survey grid network was extended north and south to the limits of the Theban necropolis [17812, 17811].     17812 17811
In 1980 the remainder of the accessible tombs in the Valley of the Kings were surveyed and planned and the necropolis-wide grid network was completed. Recent technological advances in computer technology allowed the team to begin entering survey data into a computer from which plans and axonometric drawings could be generated [17187]. During this season, more aerial photography was undertaken to acquire oblique aerial photographs that complemented the vertical shots taken in 1979. Work also began on establishing a standard for recording the English and Arabic terms for site types and geographic features and also for place and site names.     17187
During the 1981 season, the name of the project was changed to the Berkeley Theban Mapping Project. Concomitantly, the focus of the project widened from the Valley of the Kings to include the Valley of the Queens. All accessible tombs in the Valley of the Queens were mapped, as well as all archaeological features of interest (shrines, workers' huts, staircases etc.) in the area between the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings. The survey work continued to extend the necropolis-wide traverse to the limits of the archaeologically relevant West Bank area. Work also continued on developing the computer programming for the preparation of tomb plans and axonometric drawings as did the effort to complete the record of toponymy of the West Bank.    
In 1982, during its fifth season of work, the Berkeley Theban Mapping Project introduced hot-air balloons to Egypt for the first time as part of its aerial survey [17815]. This allowed the team to obtain low-level photographs [17814] and, at the same time, to explore the numerous wadis and cliff faces in the necropolis for previously unrecorded archaeological features. On the ground, work concentrated on establishing survey points in the valleys south and southwest of the Valley of the Queens and on planning the thrity-nine pit and cliff tombs located in these areas.     17815 17814
Between 1983 and 1987, the Berkeley Theban Mapping Project conducted a series of short field seasons whose purpose was to recheck and add to the survey notes of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens tombs. Some geophysical exploration was also conducted to test the usefulness of various geophysical techniques for locating subterranean anomalies, such as "lost" tombs. Testing focused in areas of the Valley of the Kings where touristic development had been proposed. It was at this time that the exact location of KV 5 was explored and the entrance to the tomb was uncovered [16993].     16993
In 1988 Dr. Weeks left Berkeley to be closer to the field on a year-round basis, becoming professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo. The name of the project changed to its current one: Theban Mapping Project.    
Between 1989 and 1997 project work focused on KV 5. The first two chambers were cleared in 1994 and a large number of rear chambers and corridors were located in KV 5 in 1995. The discovery that KV 5 was much larger than previously believed received extensive news coverage all over the world [11499], even becoming the cover story on the best-selling issue of Time magazine that year.     11499
In 1996 other sets of corridors and side chambers were found, bringing the total number of chambers and corridors located by 1997 to 108. During the excavation of these chambers, drawings were made of the inscribed walls in KV 5 and of important objects recovered [13322]. Details of all the material recovered and excavated from KV 5 were recorded on analysis forms and conservation and stabilization of the walls and objects was carried out [14978]. The excavation of KV 5 continues today.     13322 14978

Published or last modified on: May 26, 2003
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