Tomb and tomb plan (TAA i.3.31)

Howard Carter's notes made in preparation of the complete publication of Tutankhamun's tomb

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The Sunken Stairway Entrance, common to all the later Eighteenth Dynasty royal tombs, comprises sixteen descending steps. The cutting, 168 cms. wide, is excavated in the bed-rock of the Valley (1), and where it recedes under the slope of the foot-hill (under which the tomb is excavated) it becomes first partially, and then completely, roofed in. The stairway leads directly to the doorway of a descending passage. The last six steps, the lintel and jambs of the doorway had been cut away to enable the larger objects such as the sarcophagus and panels of the sepulchral shrines to pass into the tomb, but these demolitions were subsequently renovated with stone and plaster, and the top of the doorway was repaired by means of a heavy wooden lintel to support the masonry that patched up the gap.

The Descending Passage, the same width as the stairway entrance, measures 808 cms. in length, 200 cms. in height, and it has a slope of about 1 in 3. It descends westward, and at the lower end it terminates in a doorway. This doorway, which has clearly cut lintel and jambs, leads directly into the centre of the Antechamber.

The Antechamber, a simple oblong room, has its long axis north and south, and it measures 785 cms. in length, 355 cms. in width, and 268 cms. in height. At the northern end a partition wall divided it from the burial chamber. This dry-masonry partition wall, 102 cms. thick, constructed of rough stones and rubble bonded with pieces of timber, was heavily plastered on both its outer surfaces. In the centre, piercing this wall, was a doorway 165 cms. wide, and 178 cms. high, which

(1) The crest of the foot-hill rises 70 feet (21.30 m) above the bed-rock of the Valley at this point.

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gave access to the Burial Chamber. Rough timber logs placed horizontally supported the dry-masonry above the door, and thus formed the lintel. When this partition wall was removed to enable us to deal with the great sepulchral shrines in the Burial Chamber, it was discovered that the dynastic workmen had had to cut away a large portion of the rock of the north-west corner of the antechamber, to allow sufficient room for the larger and longer panels of those shrines to pass into the burial chamber. Low down in the west wall of the antechamber is a 'putt'-hole for the timber beam used for lowering the sarcophagus, and in the south-west corner of the room is a small somewhat roughly cut doorway leading to the Annexe - a treasury or store-room - described below (1).

The Burial Chamber, also an oblong room, has its long axis east and west, and its floor level cut 94 cms. below that of the antechamber. Its dimensions are 637 cms. in length, 402 cms. in width, and 363 cms. in height. Its walls have been completely coated with gypsum plaster, which was painted and decorated with scenes deemed necessary for the dead. The rock ceiling was left plain in its rough unfinished state, and traces of smoke, as from an oil lamp or torch, are visible upon the north-eastern portion. In the centre stands the yellow quartzite sarcophagus; cut in the walls are four small secret niches for the magical figures, and in the north-east corner is a low doorway which leads directly into a room called the Innermost Treasury.

The Innermost Treasury is a simple rectangular chamber measuring 475 cms. by 380 cms., and 233 cms. high.

(1) See p. 3.

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The Annexe, a second treasury or store-room, is somewhat roughly cut, oblong in form, and measures 435 cms. long, 260 cms. wide, and 255 cms. high. The floor level like the burial chamber is cut 90 cms. below that of antechamber. The hole in the wall forming the doorway is only 95 cms. broad, and 130 cms. high. The masons' guide and measuring marks in red are still visible upon the unfinished surfaces of the walls.

With regard to the various levels of the tomb:- reckoning the top step of the sunken stairway entrance as zero, the bottom step is 300 cms., the lower end of the descending passage 680 cms., the floor level of the antechamber 710 cms., and the floor levels of the burial chamber and annexe are 805 cms. below the level of the bed of the Valley.

All the dimensions given above are 'mean measurement', i.e. the average of several measurements where the cutting of the tomb is irregular.

Excluding the burial chamber, which has its walls plastered and painted, the tomb is of extreme simplicity, there being no attempt at decoration; the rock-cut surfaces are unsmoothed, the marks of the final chiselling are still visible, in fact, three of the chambers and the passage are just as the masons left them: even here and there a few flakes of limestone from their chisels were left lying upon the floors. And in comparison with the other royal hypogea in the Valley, this tomb is the smallest and the most insignificant.

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The relative skill in hewing out the passage and chambers is on the whole good, but as usual those ancient Egyptian masons, to economize labour, utilized wherever possible the natural fissures in the limestone, with the result symmetry in places has suffered. The faulty places in the rock were patched up with plaster.

With the exception of the sunken stairway and the descending passage, throughout the interior of the tomb, the walls, ceilings, and floors have been much discoloured by damp arising from infrequent saturations that took place in the past. And in many places, particularly on the painted surfaces in the burial chamber, the walls are disfigured by a fungoid growth nourished by that moisture.

Unfortunately the nomenclature employed for the different parts of the tomb in the earlier reports is somewhat misleading, and I must now admit that from a fear of creating confusion I have been reluctant to change it. However, a clear conception as is possible of the component parts of the tomb is now necessary.

The word 'annexe' is inappropriate for the small store-room, and the term 'antechamber' for the large chamber is perhaps ambiguous, for although it is a room leading to the chief apartment - the sarcophagus chamber, this particular chamber, as we shall see, may possibly be a combination of two separate parts in the Eighteenth Dynasty tomb-plan.

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Commencing from the beginning of the Empire these rock-cut hypogea show stages of evolution, they gradually expand in importance, reaching their climax at the time of Thothmes IV, from which reign onwards, though we find certain additions, these additions disappear, and the tomb-plan in many ways gradually falls into decadence. It is only in the case of the tombs of the kings involved in the "Aten" heresy, that the orthodox pattern of the New Empire has not been adhered to. Hence, it is no surprise to find Tutankhamen's tomb orthodox in type, though he reverted to the older religion - the worship of Amen. Contrary to Tutankhamen and Ay, Horemheb, who supplanted King Ay and founded the Nineteenth Dynasty, in making his tomb in the Valley, reintroduced the orthodox plan in all its component parts. And in Horemheb's tomb one directly sees the transition from the Eighteenth Dynasty bent tomb to the straightened tomb form of his dynasty and of those which followed.

With regard to the names of those component parts, we gain not a little knowledge from the Turin Papyrus (1) - a project for the tomb of Ramesses IV, naming some of its divisions. In that document the fourth of the axial passages is called <> "The Passage of the God" which, as Gardiner rightly says, can be appropriately translated "Corridor" or "Passage." A room named <> "The Hall of Waiting," appears to be the antechamber preceding the sarcophagus chamber and, strictly speaking, it should precede the pillared portion of the earlier form of that chamber - compare the Cairo ostracon, (2) a plan for the tomb of Ramesses IX.

(1) Carter & Gardiner, The Tomb of Ramesses IV and the Turin Plan of a Royal Tomb, J.E.A., IV, p.130 ff.
(2) Daressy, Ostraca, pl.XXXII, No. 25184, Cat. Gen. Cairo Museum.

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The chief chamber called <> "The House of Gold, wherein One (i.e. the Pharaoh) Rests," is obviously the Sarcophagus Chamber. An alternative designation <>, "The Chariot-Hall" is, however, given on the verso. The designation "House of Gold" is, perhaps, the more appropriate, as its explanation may be the yellow ground-colour, the customary colour of these sarcophagus chambers, and possibly symbolical of the golden hue of sun-set in the West. It is also possible that the designations "Chariot-Hall" and "House of God, Wherein One Rests," may originally have been the technical names for the pillared portion and the sunken 'well' portion for the sarcophagus typical of the earlier form of sarcophagus chamber (see below).

The reference in the same legend to "the equipment of His Majesty on every side of it," evidently means the sepulchral-shrines and framework for the pall that surround and cover the sarcophagus; and the phrase "together with the Divine Ennead which is in De'et," may refer either to the texts upon the shrines or, perhaps, the statuettes of divinities such as have been found in Tutankhamen's and other royal tombs.

For the subsidiary rooms or annexes of the sarcophagus chamber we find the following terms used in the document:- <> "The Corridor which is the Shabti-place," or <> "The Corridor which is on the inner side of the House of Gold," which in reality is but an extension leading to (1) <> "The Resting-place of the Gods," (2) <>

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"The Left-hand Treasury," (3) ["The Right-hand Treasury"] missing owing to the loss of that portion of the papyrus, and (4) <> "The Treasury of the Innermost," also called <> "The Second Corridor which is at the back of the House of Gold."

Since the arrangement of these subsidiary rooms leading from the sarcophagus chamber is quite different to the corresponding treasuries in the Eighteenth Dynasty tombs, this tomb-plan being of a later and decadent period, and as some of the terms used by the architect are perhaps ambiguous, an explanation is called for here.

The term "Resting-place of the Gods" refers to recesses forming a sort of shelves cut in the north and south sides of the corridor called "the Shabti-place," - a short passage leading to "the Right and Left-hand Treasuries" and "The Treasury of the Innermost." The right and left-hand treasuries have Shabti-figures painted upon their walls, and were evidently intended for the purpose of housing those funerary statuettes. Upon the walls of the 'Treasury of the innermost' are painted Canopic jars, kiosks and various pieces of furniture, which suggests that the Canopic jars were stored there, much as Tutankhamen's Canopic equipment was housed in the treasury leading from his sarcophagus chamber. In the shelf-like recesses called "The Resting-place of the Gods" are painted twenty gods and goddesses in kiosks, and above each of them offerings such as loaves and vessels upon a mat. These gods, although represented in kiosks, should not, I think, be confused with the statuettes of divinities

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found in Tutankhamen's tomb. They seem to be different, in fact an innovation, and were possibly for the purpose of invoking the gods in favour of the king. In any case, whatever the intention, we learn from the document that these smaller rooms leading from the sarcophagus chamber were called 'treasuries', left or right-hand in accordance with their situation, and apparently the one containing the Canopic jars was named "The Treasury of the Innermost."

Now if we compare the plans of a group of four fully developed New Empire tombs, like those preceding and succeeding the Tutankhamen period, namely, the tombs of Thothmes IV, Amenhetep III, Horemheb, and Seti I, among which that of Thothmes IV is perhaps the better example for our purpose, we shall at once see that twelve component parts (1) are common to them.

(1) They are all represented in the Tomb of Ramesses VI.

The meaning of those twelve parts is not altogether uncertain, for they appear to symbolize the passage of the sun during the twelve hours of night, from West to East, as represented in the 'The Book of that which is in the Netherworld' passing from cavern to cavern until it regains the eastern horizon. Gardiner points out that "perhaps this is what is alluded to by <> the passage of the god,' " (1) The term <> "The Corridor of the Sun's Path," (2) on the verso of the Turin plan and on the Cairo ostracon, seems to confirm this.

(1) Op. cit., p.135
(2) Op. cit., p.145

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The twelve parts of the tomb are:- (1)

O. A Sunken Stairway Entrance, evolved from the vertical pit-entrance of the earlier hypogea (see the tomb of Amenhotep I), and which in due sequence gradually becomes and almost horizontal cutting, viz., a slightly inclined plane with imitation steps on either side (see tombs of Ramesses IV, VI & IX). In practically all cases this cutting begins by being open-air, but as it recedes under the cliff or foot-hill it is first partially, and then completely, roofed in.

(1) See fig. - a sketch plan of the Tomb of Thothmes IV.

In the Turin Papyrus it ranks as "The First Passage of the God,"(1) but was apparently named "The Corridor of the Sun's Path."(2)

(1) Carter & Gardiner, The Tomb of Ramesses IV and the Turin Plan of a Royal Tomb, J.E.A., IV, p. 135.
(2) Op. cit., p.145.

P. A Descending axial Passage or Corridor.

In the Turin Papyrus it ranks as "The Second Passage of the God."

Q. A Descending Stairway, with narrow recesses on either side.

This part of the plan is missing in the Turin Papyrus. In the tomb of Ramesses IV it is represented by a Third Corridor without stairway but with recesses cut high up in the walls.

R. A Descending axial Passage or Corridor.

In the Turin Papyrus is ranks as "The Fourth Passage of the God."

S. The Chamber of the 'Protective-Well.' This chamber is generally decorated: the subjects of the scenes being the king before various gods of the West - "Amentet." After the burial of the king and its inner doorway closed with masonry, plastered and painted over (4), its floor was then cut away and formed into a deep well with a chamber (the purpose

(4) Thus a hidden doorway, and not, as in other cases, a sealed doorway.

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unknown) at the bottom.

This section as well as the following four sections have been omitted in the tomb of Ramesses IV, and in their place we find a sarcophagus slide and two small recesses (1) at the end of the Fourth Passage.

(1) The recesses are referred to in the Turin Papyrus in the following terms: <> (op. cit., pl XXIX, w.d., p. 137.)

T. An Antechamber - (? a first "Hall of Waiting.").

The only instance of this chamber being decorated in the Eighteenth Dynasty is in the tomb of Thutmosis III, where a long list of names of gods cover the plastered walls.

U. A Sunken Stairway, cut in the floor of the Antechamber (T).

V. A Descending axial Passage or corridor.

W. A Descending Stairway with narrow recesses on either side, like (Q).

X. The Antechamber. This chamber is generally decorated: the subjects being similar to those in the Chamber of the 'Protective-Well' (S).

In the Turin Papyrus it is called "The Hall of Waiting."

Y. The anterior part of the Sarcophagus Chamber.

Z. The posterior part of the Sarcophagus Chamber.

The first section (Y) of the Sarcophagus Chamber has two rows of three pillars, and at the end of the central aisle are steps which lead down to the second section (Z), the 'Well' for the sarcophagus, cut at a much lower level.

When complete both of these sections were plastered and painted with scenes and citations

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from "The Book of that which is in the Netherworld."

In the Turin Papyrus the Sarcophagus Chamber (of curtailed design) is called either "The House of Gold," or "The Chariot-Hall," v. supra.

Adjoining the Sarcophagus Chamber are four small treasuries which, to avoid confusion, I have lettered Y, a & b., Z, c & d.

Now if the tomb of Tutankhamen is compared with this traditional Eighteenth Dynasty Theban tomb-plan, and if the above system of lettering the various parts is applied to it, we at once see that its so-called Burial Chamber is the equivalent to Z. the posterior part of the Sarcophagus Chamber (i.e. the 'well' for the sarcophagus) with one treasury Z, d., and that the so-called Antechamber is Y. the anterior part of the Sarcophagus Chamber, modified, with one treasury Y, b. But from the fact that the rear portion Z. was cut off from the front portion Y. by a masonry partition-wall, it is, in this case, admissable that section Y. may also have served as the Antechamber X., called "The Hall of Waiting." Moreover, if we apply to the Sunken Stairway Entrance the letter O., and to the Descending Passage the letter P., we see that at least seven parts (Q, R, S, T, U, V & W.) of the tomb-plan are missing. In fact, the architect who designed Tutankhamen's tomb has given the boy king the minimum number of chambers pertaining to the Theban convention.

As to the question, who was that architect? - we have some indication.

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In the tomb was found a shawabti-figure (1) dedicated to Tutankhamen by "The Overseer of the Treasury, Maya," who inscribes himself as "The Servant who is beneficial to his Lord." He also dedicated a miniature wooden effigy of the dead king, as the divine prototype, lying upon a funeral bier. (2) Upon this little monument, found in the same treasury as the shawabti-figures, he mentions himself as one "who makes excellent things in the August Place" (i.e. the tomb), "who seeks out excellent things in the Place of Eternity" (i.e. the necropolis), and he calls himself "Overseer of the Works in the Place of Eternity, Overseer of the Works in the West, the King's Scribe", and "Overseer of the Treasury." This I think leaves little doubt that he was responsible for designing and excavating the king's tomb.

This selfsame official with "his assistant, the Steward of the Southern City (Thebes), Thutmosis," was commanded in the VIIIth. regnal year of His Majesty Horemheb to restore the burial of King Thutmosis IV, which had evidently suffered in the hands of the tomb-plunderers. In the graffito (3) mentioning this historical fact, Maya bears the additional titles: "The Fanbearer on the Left of the King," "The Leader of the Festival of Amen in Karnak," and his parentage, "Son of the Doctor Awi, born of the lady Wrt", is given.

A statue of Maya, now in the Cairo Museum, was found in Karnak,(4) with the above titles he is also designated <>.

(1) See funerary statuettes.
(2) See funerary Statuettes.
(3) Graffito written with ink on the wall of the Antechamber (x) in the Tomb of Thutmosis IV, Carter & Newberry, Tomb of Thutmosis IV, (this, Mr. Davis' Excavations), 1902, pp. XXXIII-IV, figs. 7 and 8.
(4) Legrain, Annales, IV, 213; Rép. Gen. Onomastique, 330-1.

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Note upon seals.

Thutmosis IV tomb and Tut.ankh.Amen tomb.

(September 5, 2008)

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