Monday, May 25, 2015

Cenotaphs go 3D!

overview of the west bank with its 32 shrines

Other than the traditional Egyptologist, who per automatic knows the basics about Gebel el Silsila’s characteristic cenotaphs, anyone who has had the pleasure of sailing the magnificent River Nile could gaze upon these glorious shrines that lay scattered along the west bank to the south of the famous rock-cut temple and ends just north of the capstone. These cenotaphs – ‘false/empty tombs’ – were the object of extensive study by T. G. H. James and R. A. Caminos during an epigraphic survey conducted on behalf of the EES (Egypt Exploration Society) during the last century. James and Caminos published the shrines’ original epigraphy and iconography (hieroglyphic text and illustrations) and short comments on their layouts and style (James, T. G. H. and Caminos, R. A., Gebel es-Silsilah, vol. I: the shrines, London 1963). Since then, A. Kucharek has continued the study in her Master thesis Die Felskapellen der 18. Dynastie in Gebel es-Silsilah, followed by the article ‘Senenmut in Gebel es-Silsilah’ (MDAIK 66, 2010, 413-160).

photo by Scotty Roberts


Still, however, there are many aspects of these 32 shrines that await further study, including later additions (graffiti, quarry activity, reuse, etc.), for which we, as the current archaeological team, have taken on the task to re-document them. As part of this re-documentation more effort is placed on the monuments themselves, and making them available for the larger public also outside the academic world.

As such, we incorporate up-to-date digital technology in our work, such as 3D imaging/photogrammetry, which not only provides us with the most extraordinary ‘movable’ objects, but also the possibility to put fragmented/broken items back again without having to even touch the monument itself. As an example, we would like to share with you a preliminary reconstruction of three broken statues of shrine no. 4 (James and Caminos 1963, 16-18):  


shrine 4


The scanned monument is a room located on the southern side of shrine 4, with three statues that have been broken in three parts due to a fracture in the bedrock, plausibly caused by a natural catastrophe. The room initially measured 1.27 m deep x 1.50 m high. Three statues are seated on a bench, facing forward towards the northern-facing opening/door. The three figures depict two men (left/east and centre) and one woman (right/west). While there are no preserved inscriptions or decoration, it can be presumed that the main male figure depicts a man called Djehutmose, who was a scribe of the treasury during the 18th or early 19th Dynasty (based on an adjacent, plausibly associated hieroglyphic text) (James and Caminos 1963, 16). With the words of Stefan Lindgren, our 3D recorder from the Humanities Laboratory at Lund University: “At some point in time, the mountain where these three statues are carved, split in two parts and divided the group for a long time. But now, thanks to 3d-technology, we have been able to make at least a virtual reunion. I think they look happy about it.”



The southern group of statues

3D recorder Stefan Lindgren busy photographing an early Roman graffiti-panel


For those of you who want to ‘play around’ with the 3D image of the statues, you can find the movable object here, and below is a 'still' demonstration:






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