Armchair Archaeology: 3D tours with

3D and Virtual reality are possibly my most favourite things to write about when it comes to Egyptology, other than actual artefacts. Virtual reality allows us to explore sites in new ways, increases accessibility and helps preserve sites by preventing physical damage by visitors.

The Describing Egypt site is a collaboration between Salma El Dardiry and Karim Mansour.
"We are working with a great set of advisors and collaborators who includes Dr. Thierry Benderitter of, the good poeple [sic] of The Theban Mapping Project , Hani D. Elmasri of Disney imagineering and Prof. Dr. Abdel Ghaffar Shedid Founder and head of the Art History Department, Faculty of Fine Arts."

This site has done an amazing job of creating some virtual reality tours of some fascinating sites.
Digging deeper into the site (pun intended) I was pleased to find some names I recognised from past studies as collaborators/contributors to the site. I particularly liked the optional information panel that accompanies the tours which is complete with maps.

To showcase the site and illustrate how it can be used as a teaching tool, I've selected some interesting aspects you don't usually see or are of interest to write about in this blog post from the tomb of Horemhab (KV57) in the Valley of the Kings, which lies in the mountains west of Thebes.

Horemhab is a fascinating individual for many reasons. Titulary suggests he was originally slated to ascend to the throne after Tutankhamun, but his reign was delayed by the accession of Ay. He has two tombs, one commissioned in Saqqara when he was a high ranking official, the other, in the Valley of the Kings - a Royal tomb where he was interred as a pharaoh. I've always been intrigued by the wall colour in this tomb. In most images I've seen it appears to be a silver-green but in these images it seems more blue, and there is more than one type of blue being used.
Horemhab meets the gods
In this image we see Horemhab meeting and offering to the gods. Royal tombs have no biographical information. Their function is that of a machine to resurrect the owner and send them on their way to a successful Afterlife in which they become part of the cycle of life, death and rebirth. From right to left: Horemhab is presented to Isis by Horus, then he offers to Hathor (although usually better known as a goddess of love, music and drunkenness, she also has funerary associations), and finally he meets Osiris who most people would recognise in his mummiform pose and in this case green skin (a nod to his role as an agrarian god and the role of resurrection).
This picture is from the "well chamber" - while some might imaginatively think this rather deep pit is a movie style trap, it function is actually essential and utilitarian. It is flood mitigation: the Valley of the Kings is prone to flash flooding from infrequent but nonetheless intense desert storms when water rushes down into the valley via the many wadis that feed into it. The well serves to catch any water that might enter the tomb and flood it: the deep pit acts as a sump.
Don't look down!

You might think this is unimportant in the grand scheme of things but alteration such flood mitigation features at the tomb of Seti I (KV17) by early explorer Belzoni caused considerable damage in 1818. Many other tombs in the valley such as KV7 (Ramesses II), 8 (Merenptah) and 11 (Ramesses III) have also suffered flood damage. In modern times there have been numerous significant flooding events in the Valley of the Kings.

Only those who have lived according to Maat may enter (and leave!)
In the next chamber we see more images of Horemhab meeting the gods including gods of the Memphite cosmology from the environs of Saqqara in the north: Ptah and Nefertem.
A nice little highlight often overlooked is the figure of the goddess Maat on either side of the door to the entrance to the burial chamber.
As ruler, Horemhab was obliged to uphold Maat as part of his royal duties.

And now to the pillared hall where we see the incomplete tomb decorations of magical texts illustrating the journey of Ra which show us how the ancient Egyptians planned and completed their artistic endeavours in the tomb.
Ra reborn travels on his celestial barque

After a grid pattern was laid out on the walls by snapping a cord soaked in red ochre against the walls, a draftsman would inscribe the text in red to lay out the blocks of text and decoration. A scribe would then refine the details and correct any errors in black. In the image above you can see this clearly where the hieroglyphs, figures and boat have been corrected on the left hand side.
Finally artisans with chisels would strip the background away to that the figures and hieroglyphs were raised (low relief). Lastly, the scenes would have been painted like those we saw earlier in the tomb.

The fact that the tomb is unfinished gives us valuable insights into the process of how it was planned and decorated. Usually only the borders and star field of the ceiling were painted prior to the funeral, the magical texts being part of the magical rituals associated with the internment.

While ordinary people aspired to enter the kingdom of Osiris, and notions of the Afterlife changed over time, the fate of the king in the Afterlife was always slightly different.
He would merge with Osiris and Ra - becoming reborn and joining the solar deity in his daily journey across the sky and nightly passage through the perilous underworld.

One of my favourite little details to be seen in this tomb and this wonderful digital version of it, is the hieroglyphs in the burial chamber that have been left as guides. These hieroglyphs record the cardinal directions according to the ancient Egyptian understanding of the world, and these directions dictated the location and placement of both text and ritual objects within the tomb and burial chamber. Here's the hieroglyph for "East" (iꜣbt)

See how many of these features you can spot while exploring this nifty site. If you like what you see, consider making a donation to the creative folk behind the project.

All images from
Visit the site by clicking the link below.

Describing Egypt

360° Virtual Reality tours in all of Egypt historical locations. We take you to places so remote and make you feel as if you are there.