5. Archaeological Problems

As this was to be an archaeological reconstruction, it was imperative that as much information as possible was collected about the tomb before building the model commenced. This was to ensure that the model was as archaeologically sound as possible, with no glaring errors that anyone familiar with Egyptology would immediately condemn. As the model was to be an educational piece, it was necessary to try and rely on reality at all times, rather than make a virtual world which looked fantastic but had no real archaeological substance.

Access to relevant literature was limited. The three main publications that the model relies on are the two archaeological reports by Daressy (1920) and Bruyere (1959), and the photographic record provided in Das Grab des Sennedjem (Shedid 1993). Other reading about tombs at Deir el-Medina was undertaken, backed up by general reading on the construction of Egyptian tombs (Aldred 1996; Bierbrier 1982; Campbell 1912; Dodson 1991; James 1985; Lesko 1994; Romer 1984; Schafer 1986).

The major problem, after this was carried out, was that the tomb was not as well documented as first thought. The tomb was discovered in 1885, Daressy published the first reports in 1886, but the archaeological report was not fully published until 1959 by Bruyere. As a result there was much information which had not been included in the preliminary reports, and Bruyere could not rectify the omissions. These related to artefacts found within the tomb which were destroyed unintentionally by the tomb excavators, and parts of the tomb itself which were broken or smashed to increase access. Doorways, lintels, covering slabs and various artefacts were all destroyed without sufficient archaeological reference. The reports failed to take comprehensive measurements of major surfaces, and there was little documentation about the courtyard and the main entrance. Bruyere, however, did create an artistic impression of the outer view of the tomb based on the archaeological findings, and this had to be referred to to gain an impression of the outer aspect of the tomb; a wholly unsatisfactory source of information in archaeological terms.

The plans of the tomb supplied were very basic. Drawn with a poor implement to a strange scale, they did not provide the information required for the construction of the model. John Baines, Professor of Egyptology at Oxford University, and Lynn Meskell, a specialist in Deir el-Medina also at Oxford, were consulted to investigate whether any modern plans exist. When new plans were not forthcoming it was decided that the best option would be to grid out the plans on architectural graph paper and use the scale given to calculate the relative measurements of walls and surfaces using the grid provided. The archaeological reports were also studied, and any measurements given were added to the plans. For the most part, these seemed to correlate with the scale on the drawings.

The possible inclusion of virtual artefacts within the computer model also posed some archaeological problems. The use of artefacts from Kelvingrove was discounted at an early stage, because there were none from a similar period, and would therefore prove educationally misleading as well as being archaeologically incorrect if included in the installation. Instead, it was decided to try and track down the actual artefacts found within the tomb. However, out of the twenty mummies noted in the archaeological reports only six could be identified and of those only four could be traced, the rest presumed destroyed (as noted in the reports) or lost due to the confusing and bloodthirsty art historical market which surrounded Egyptian antiquities at the turn of the century. It was decided to try and include the actual mummy of Sen-nedjem in the tomb. This would require good images of the coffin, mummy and canopic jars. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which holds Sen-nedjem's funerary artefacts, granted permission to use images from a catalogue detailing all the remaining artefacts of the tomb of Sen-nedjem. However, the catalogue was not published at the time the model was being created, and Cairo would not supply any images in the meantime. Although a few of the objects were available in various exhibition catalogues it did not prove possible to obtain enough views of any one object on which to base accurate virtual models. As a result, it was decided that the tomb would have to be presented without any artefacts.

Although the archaeological evidence was used wherever possible, it soon became evident that there was not enough information to make an entirely accurate model, a problem which will probably be encountered when using old archaeological reports for any type of model. This results in problems with representation and authenticity, as the user cannot tell which areas of the model are based on archaeological fact and which are an artist's impression.


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Last updated: Mon Nov 29 1999