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Shaft tombs

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Joined: 17 Jan 2004
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Location: London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2006 10:02 pm    Post subject: Shaft tombs Reply with quote

Apologies if this has been done already but...I was just watching a very interesting documentary where some people had to recreate an Egyptian underground 'shaft tomb' using, wherever possible, ancient methods (though they did cheat at times with cranes and concrete!)

It was interesting because it reminded me both of recent discussions here about how they built temples and raised obelisks. They lowered the huge heavy sarcophagus into the tomb using only sand and digging it away, and lowered the lid as well, using sand to flow out through special channels linked to timber posts propping the lid up, and lowering those posts. They also 'drilled' holes into rock by using copper tubes and 'drilling' them by hand into the rock, using yet more sand as an abrasive. I've always wanted to know how those holes in tombs were made-all that rubbish the fringeys say about 'they needed uber-advanced ultrasonic technology to drill perfect holes!' was instantly dismissed by the experiment!
They also used another method to bury the tomb with-they broke pots which were like seals attached to the tomb ceiling that were barriers for the sand-by breaking the pots the tomb was submerged in sand. A lot of these ancient sandy techniques actually reminded me of that movie-I think it was Land of the Pharaohs? The one where the princess is trapped in the pyramid at the end...seems Hollywood got something right, for once! Wink

Thing is-the programme missed out two very important things-when were these tombs built and where? Well, I guessed the last question since the site the reconstruction team were at looked like Saqqara, even though they didn't say so. So maybe old kingdom? I think they said 'after the pyramids' but no more on exactly when (were they built before the valley tombs?)
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Joined: 18 Aug 2005
Posts: 250
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The type of shaft tomb that you describe is typical of the burials of high officials in the Late Period. In this type of tomb they dug a large shaft - an example can be seen at Saqqara in front of the pyramid of Unas - and built a free-standing burial chamber at the bottom. Holes in the roof of the burial chamber were plugged with pots and the shaft was filled with loose sand. For the funeral the burial chamber was entered though a smaller shaft built at the side. Afterwardsl the pots were broken allowing sand to fill the burial chamber, escape being made by the side shaft. (A small diagram can be found on page 115 of Wolfram Grajetzki's Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt). I don't think that in previous periods burial chambers were built in this way; so breaking pots to fill the burial chamber may be confined to the Late Period. However, I'm sure that the general the techniques of engineering using sand have a much longer history.
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Joined: 08 Jun 2006
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Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The PhD thesis in Egyptology by a friend of mine here in Brazil was about shaft tombs from the Saite period in Saqqara. If you know Portuguese you can check here in 'Downloads'.
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