They confirm the precision in the construction of the tombs of the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa of Aswan in Egypt

They confirm the precision in the construction of the tombs of the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa of Aswan in Egypt

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Members of the Photogrammetric and Topometric Systems Research group of the University of Jaén have obtained 3D models of three of the most spectacular funerary structures in this necropolis.

Researchers José Luis Pérez García and Antonio Mozas Calvache, members of the Photogrammetric and Topometric Systems Research group of the University of Jaén (UJA), have presented the results obtained in a study consisting of the realization of3d models of three of the most spectacular funeral structures in theNecropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa in Aswan (Egypt), with which they have verified the precision with which they were built.

The three student tombs (QH31, QH32 and QH33) are independent and adjacent structures, excavated in the rock, that go tens of meters into the hill where the necropolis is located. They are made up of numerous rooms, corridors and vertical shafts, which reach up to 13 meters in the case of the QH33. Thefuneral structures They are dated between 1845 and 1773 BC and were built sequentially. Several governors of Elephantine, their families and some prominent members of their close circle were buried there.

Difficult to access tombs

For the realization of the 3D models, the UJA researchers used differentgeomatic techniques, among which terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetry stand out.

Due to the complex structure of the tombs, the field work involved an important effort to implement these techniques. It should be noted the difficulty in acquiring data in the differentvertical wells.

Each grave was studied individually to obtain a specific 3D model. However, the three models could be merged since all the data referred to the same coordinate system, obtaining a complete model that allows analyzing the spatial behavior of all the tombs together, thus contextualizing the entire environment.

Very reliable 3D models

As a result, it is worth highlighting the obtaining of reliable three-dimensional models of the funerary structures under study.

“These models constitute an important metric instrument for the documentation of the tombs. The quality of the products obtained allows a virtual tour [i], as well as their use by other researchers, such as architects or archaeologists, for their respective studies, avoiding the need to travel toAswan”, Highlight the UJA researchers.

In addition to the models obtained, the most surprising results appeared after merging them into a complete model. Thus, the intricate structure of rooms, corridors,grave wells that intertwine without any spatial intersection.

“More specifically, a close proximity between two graves (QH32 and QH33) has been detected, approximately 10 centimeters in some points, without, to our surprise, there being an intersection between them.

Egyptians with knowledge of orientation and measurement techniques

At first, it could be considered that this proximity could be the product of chance or fortune during construction. However, the fact that this centimeter proximity is detected in various areas of the tombs could demonstrate their premeditation, indicating how accurate the construction of these structures by the ancient Egyptians was.

"In fact, it can be concluded that the builders knew perfectly how the previously built tomb was spatially arranged and accordingly planned the construction of the next one," explain the researchers, who also indicate that this confirms that the ancient Egyptians had sufficient knowledge about orientation and measurement techniques to achieve this degree of precision, "avoiding interfering with adjacent structures."

The work has been carried out within the scope of the research project Proyecto Qubbet el-Hawa that the University of Jaén has led for more than a decade and directed by Alejandro Jiménez Serrano's doctor in Egyptology from the UJA.


The results of the study have been published at the ISPRS 2020 International Congress in Nice (France).

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