EXHIBITS: Tombs With a View

Science  16 Aug 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5584, pp. 1099a
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5584.1099a

Long before Westminster Abbey and Arlington National Cemetery, there was the Valley of the Kings, where for more than 500 years the ancient Egyptians enshrined their illustrious dead in sumptuous tombs. Tour the valley with this multimedia atlas from the Theban Mapping Project, an international effort to document the geology and archaeological treasures of this part of Egypt, many of which are crumbling due to pollution, floods, looters, heavy-footed tourists, and age.

Sixty-two tombs puncture the walls of the valley or lie nearby, including King Tutankhamen's, one of the few not pillaged before archaeologists could excavate. The Atlas, a huge expansion of an existing Web site, lets you explore each burial by calling up and manipulating floor plans and 3D reconstructions, browsing a photo gallery, and watching a film narrated by Egyptologist Kent Weeks, director of the project. Weeks also leads a tour into the depths of a rare double tomb, built for the pharaoh Tausert around 3200 years ago but hastily refurbished to hold the body of her successor Setnakht. Combining photographs with computer reconstructions based on precise laser measurements, the exploration reveals the tomb's grandeur and uncovers some shortcuts the builders took during renovation.

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