Anatomy of a Tomb: Modern Tomb Designations

The designations used by the Theban Mapping Project for tomb components are taken primarily from the work of Elizabeth Thomas, Royal Necropoleis of Thebes (Princeton, 1966). The letter codes are specifically related both to the position and to the function of each component in the tomb. Each tomb component can have a number of architectural features. Some of these are unique to specific types of components, and are described along with the component, and others are found in various parts of the tomb and will be dealt with at the end of this article.    
Entryway A
The first component is either a stairway, a ramp or a shaft cut into the rock of a hillside or cliff face. In Dynasty 18, it takes the form of a steep stairway [11791, 13681]. In the second half of Dynasty 19 the slope of the stairway substantially decreases. In mid-Dynasty 20, the entry became a much larger opening than previously and the slope became very shallow. Rubble walls occasionally augmented the tops and front ends of the sides of Dynasty 20 entry cuttings. The sides of the entryway often were plastered, but except for two instances in Dynasty 20, were never decorated. In KV 11, two pairs of pilasters topped with the heads of horned animals were carved at the far end of the entryway sides, beneath the overhang, just before gate B. A similar set of two pairs of pilasters was begun in a similar position at the rear of the entryway of KV 6, but the cutting was left unfinished. Some tombs simply had a vertical shaft entrance.     11791 13681
Corridors (B, C, D, G, H, I, K, L)
The number of corridors varies depending on the date and the amount of time available to complete the tomb. In general there are three corridors between the entryway and well chamber E and one or two between pillared chamber F and the chamber that precedes the burial chamber. For the most part, ceiling and floor are parallel and flat and the side walls were straight. As with entryways, corridors tended to increase in width and height over time. There was also a tendency for the slope of the floor and ceiling of the corridors to decrease, until, by the second half of Dynasty 20, there was little slope at all [14907, 13643].     14907 13643
Ceiling Recesses
These shallow recesses occur directly after gates in sloping corridor ceilings [15288]. They were intended to accommodate the horizontal tops of door leaves serving to close the gates, when they were opened. Even when corridors later became more level these ceiling recesses are retained.     15288
Beam Holes
These specialized recesses were cut in pairs in corridor walls, one square and the other rectangular, increasing in depth from the front to the back of the tomb [16174]. One end of a wooden beam was inserted into the square hole and the other swung in an arc into the rectangular hole [17132]. Ropes were passed around the beam and attached to a sarcophagus down-slope, and then would be carefully released to control the descent of the sarcophagus to the horizontal surface between the bottoms of the jambs.     16174 17132

Published or last modified on: June 24, 2004
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