Methods of Tomb Survey

The Theban Mapping Project's tomb survey method uses a theodolite to measure the azimuths (horizontal angles), zeniths (vertical angles), and slope (direct) distances between the theodolite and the architectural features within a component. The features measured include corners, jambs, pillars, niches, and any other element deemed significant. A rough plan and section of the component is sketched and each feature to be surveyed is numbered on the plan [17820].     17820
The measurements taken to each of these features are then lettered according to their vertical position [17821]. Following this method of notation, a measurement taken at the ceiling at corner 5 of chamber B would be designated B5a. If the corner appeared to be well cut and no intermediate measurements were considered necessary, the next measurement would be to the floor and would be designated B5e. All "a" measurements are to the ceiling, all "e" measurements are to the floor. The "e" azimuths and trigonometrically derived horizontal distances are those used in drawing the basic plan of the tomb.     17821
The letters "b" through "d" may be used to describe intermediate measurements down a wall when these are needed to describe a vertical curve or irregularity. The letters "b" and "d" are also used at doorways: "b" to describe the top of a jamb when it meets a lintel rather than the ceiling; "d" to describe the bottom of a jamb when it meets a step rather than the floor. Letters "b", "c", and "d" are also used to designate recesses, niches and benches.    
In a tomb where the walls of a chamber are irregular or where the ceiling is vaulted, extra measurements are taken along the walls or ceiling. The horizontal locations of these measurements are numbered on the plan and then lettered according to vertical position.    
The survey begins in entryway A, where a control point was previously established. The theodolite is set up over the control point, the features of the entryway are measured and a new control point (or "set-up," abbreviated "SU") is established in the next chamber or corridor to be mapped. As far as possible, set-ups are located at 90, 180, or 270 degrees from the previous set-up (and zero degrees is set at the previous set-up). We have also found it useful to have at least two measurements overlapping from one set-up to the next. For example, the "a" measurement to jambs C1 and C6 would be measured from both SU 2 and SU 3. The overlapping measurements provide a quick check to catch mathematical and measuring errors.    
A slightly different method for setting inside control points must be used in shaft tombs, because of the impossibility of sighting into a tomb chamber from an outside control point at the edge of a shaft. From the initial set-up, we measure angles and distances to the upper edge of the shaft [18145]. Then three plumb bobs (A7, A8, A9) are hung from a well-anchored pole so that the tips of the plumb bobs are visible from inside the tomb. Angles and distances are measured to the plumb bob strings just below the pole and then careful measurements are taken from these points to the top of the respective plumb bob (A7a, A7d).     18145
Next, the theodolite is set up on an arbitrary point inside the tomb and measurements are taken to the plumb bob tips (one of which is used as zero degrees). The horizontal position of the arbitrary set-up may be determined by using the azimuth measurements while the vertical position of the point may be determined by using the zenith measurements. (While only two sets of measurements are absolutely necessary, we usually use a third plumb bob as a check.)    
If the shaft is irregular, intermediate measurements may be taken at one meter intervals. The horizontal position of each corner can be fixed by measurements from at least two plumb bob strings. If there is more than one chamber within a shaft tomb, the mapping proceeds as with any other tomb.    
This procedure provides information that is easily adapted for a computer and also allows for a high degree of accuracy when dealing with irregularly cut tombs. It does take a bit more time than other methods, however, because more measurements are necessary and these must be reduced trigonometrically to derive horizontal distances and elevations. Once data reduction is completed (an easy matter with modern calculators), the measurements are as easily used for a manual drawing as for a computer-generated drawing of the tomb.    
During the initial Weld seasons of the Theban Mapping Project, when the majority of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings were mapped, measurements were recorded by hand. Angular measurements were read from the theodolite, and distances recorded with a steel measuring tape. Since then, the introduction of total stations (computerized theodolites) has simplified the surveying procedure. Angular measurements are read internally. For slope distances, a prism is held at each feature to be mapped and the total station's laser sighting measures the distance. All readings are stored electronically and data reduction is done automatically by the total station. The points mapped can then be downloaded directly to a computer as X, Y, and Z coordinates. The accessible parts of KV 5 and KV 10 were mapped in this fashion [15898].     15898
(Adapted from "Methods of Tomb Survey" by Catharine H. Roehrig; first published in Atlas of the Valley of the Kings, edited by Kent R. Weeks.)    

Published or last modified on: December 18, 2002
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