Anatomy of a Tomb: Ancient Designations

Two annotated ancient tomb plans are the principal sources for our knowledge of Egyptian terminology for the architectural components of the royal tombs. One of these documents, a papyrus in the Egyptian Museum, Turin (cat. 1885), gives the plan of the tomb of Rameses IV (KV 2) [14928]. It shows a drawing of the tomb plan from corridor D to corridor K and its side chambers behind the burial chamber J. On the other side of the papyrus, a series of hieratic notes give measurements of a tomb from entryway A to pillared chamber F. It is likely that this tomb is KV 9, as it was initiated under Rameses V.     14928
A limestone ostracon, discovered either in KV 9 or KV 6 by Georges Daressy in 1888 and now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo (CG 25184), provides a complete plan of KV 6. Unfortunately, the hieratic labels on this Cairo ostracon are now difficult to read. The drawing was probably not a plan to guide the tomb builders but a record of the completed work, the equivalent of a modern engineering "as-built" drawing.    
Other ancient sources that shed light on ancient terminology include papyri and ostraca found either in the Valley of the Kings or at Dayr al Madinah, and give reports on tomb construction activities. Because the majority of these documents date to Dynasties 19 and 20, we cannot say for certain if the same terminology was also used earlier.    
The God's Passage of the Empty/Open Path
Sometimes translated as "the god's passage of the way of Shu" or more accurately, "the open air passage" (literally "the god's passage of the empty/open path"), this term on the Cairo ostracon corresponds to entryway A. When this phrase was used in the Rameside period, the entryway was a ramp cut into the hillside, open to the sky, and leading to the first gate [11418].     11418
The Passage of Ra
"The passage of Ra" or "the passage of the sun" is the name given to the first corridor B on the Cairo ostracon. "The first god's passage of the sun's path" is another name given to the first corridor.    
Second God's Passage and the Niches in Which the Gods of the East and West Rest
The second corridor C is sometimes called the "second god's passage." The two recesses in C are called "the niches in which the gods of the east and west rest." This seems to indicate that figures of deities should be placed in them, although none have been found. However, figures representing some of the seventy-four forms of the sun god in the Litany of Ra were painted in these niches, beginning with KV 17 and continuing through KV 2 [15286].     15286
The Two Doorkeepers' Rooms
The two rectangular recesses at the end of the third corridor D, near the floor, are called "the two doorkeepers' rooms." [17150]     17150
The Hall of Hindering/Waiting
"The Hall of Hindering/Waiting" corresponds to chamber/well chamber E, although at the time this term was used in the Turin plan and the Cairo ostracon, well shafts were no longer being cut into the floors of these chambers. The name has been interpreted to mean hindering access when applied to the actual shaft excavated in the floor of this chamber [16232].     16232
The Chariot Hall
"The Chariot Hall" [14770] was the name given to pillared chamber F. What particular association it had with chariots is not known, although in most royal tombs this chamber could have accommodated chariots, especially if they were partly dismantled, as was done in KV 62. Evidence of actual chariots is known from some tombs, including KV 22, KV 43, and KV 46, although none were localized in this chamber, because of the activities of tomb robbers. On the Cairo ostracon, this chamber's name is partly preserved as "the hall…treasury."     14770
Opening (?) of Dragging
"Opening (?) of dragging" is used on the Turin plan to designate the start of a ramp running from the end of the third corridor D of KV 2, through chamber E, to the floor of the burial chamber J [17151], which would have served as a sarcophagus slide. On the Cairo ostracon, the descent in F is partly preserved as "the descent…"     17151
House of Gold Wherein One Rests
"The house of gold wherein one rests" refers to burial chamber J. In KV 2, on the Turin plan, the term is thought to allude either to the yellow background color of the walls [10542] or gold coffins and gilded shrines like those found in KV 62.     10542
"Treasury" is one of the terms used in the Turin papyrus to refer to chambers that lie beyond the burial chamber. It might also be translated as "store room" [10537].     10537

Published or last modified on: September 17, 2002
Support TMP Contact TMP Mailing List TMP Publications User Guide Credits