KV 5 Excavation

Excavating a tomb is unlike any other kind of archaeology. Archaeologists are taught to dig from the top down, moving back in time as they expose deeper and deeper layers. In a tomb, it is usually necessary to dig horizontally. This makes it very difficult to keep track of the layers and the chronological stages they represent. Work in KV 5 is made even more difficult by the hardness of the debris filling its chambers. Pick axes must be used to cut through the debris [11497], but brushes and dental picks are necessary to remove the fragile objects found within [11494].     11497 11494
In KV 5, we never have more than two workmen digging at a time, in order to keep careful control of their progress. But depending on how far we are inside the tomb, as many as thirty men will form a bucket brigade to carry the debris up to the surface. Our workmen are recruited from nearby villages and many have worked for us for over ten years.    
Once the debris has been removed from the tomb, it is sifted to make sure no objects, however small, are missed [17118]. It is then loaded into a truck and dumped in the desert away from the archaeological zone.     17118
At every stage of the work, photographs are taken to record decorated walls as they are exposed. The same is done for objects lying in the debris before they are removed. A complete photographic record of the tomb is essential to help us solve the archaeological puzzles that KV 5 poses. Working conditions in KV 5 are difficult. It is hot, humid, and dusty. Spaces are cramped, and proper lighting is difficult to achieve. It may take three or four hours to set up the lamps and reflectors for a single photograph [16953].     16953
Not only must every wall relief and object be recorded, but they must be protected from further damage. The Theban Mapping Project conservator has one of the most difficult jobs on the project. KV 5 has suffered over the last three thousand years from ancient theft and vandalism, and most of all, from flooding. The latter has caused the painted plaster surfaces of entire walls to slide to the floor. The remaining plaster has to be cleaned and strengthened. Objects recovered, many badly broken, also have to be cleaned and pieced together [11545].     11545
Every part of KV 5 must be carefully measured. There is evidence that the tomb was carved in several stages. Even miniscule architectural details may tell us the order in which the rooms were dug. The Theban Mapping Project is using a sophisticated Total Station to survey KV 5 and to prepare plans, sections, and three-dimensional models [11776].     11776

Published or last modified on: August 1, 2002
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