Giza 3D is the virtual world of the Giza Plateau reconstructed from the thousands of archaeological photographs, first hand sketches of artifacts and monuments in situ, dig diaries, aerial and satellite imagery, and all the resources the Giza Archives have to offer, “a real-time virtual reconstruction of the Giza Plateau, based on actual archeological data gathered by Harvard and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) expeditions to Egypt in the first part of the 20th century” (Forbes: “How Harvard Students Explore Ancient Egypt From Cambridge With New 3D Technology”).
Here at Em Hotep we want to provide you with a set of travel guides to the virtual tours conducted by Peter Der Manuelian, where to go and what to see when you enter the free-style navigation mode that lets you wander around, and how to make the best of the many resources Giza 3D offers. Join us for the first Travel Guide as we explore a series of three connected Fourth and Fifth Dynasty mastabas, the G 2100 Family Tomb Complex.
The G 2100 Family Tomb Complex—How to Get There
When you first arrive at the Giza 3D website you will be on the Discover Page, as pictured below. If you have not done so yet, you will be prompted to install the 3DVia software which comes free from the site. If you are like me, you are reluctant to install third party software to your browser, but I assure you this is spyware and spam free. Not to name-drop, but keep in mind this is coming from Dassault Systèmes, Harvard University, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. They have better things to do than sell you to an advertising agency!
Once the 3DVia software is installed you are ready to journey to the virtual Giza Plateau. Giza 3D is the most accurate representation of the Giza Plateau ever made and is the product of the most recent surveys, aerial photography spanning from World War I to the present day, and satellite imagery far exceeding anything you will find elsewhere on the internet. The entirety of the Giza Archives will eventually be incorporated into this virtual world. This is not just visually appealing—although it is certainly that down to the last detail—it is a research and education tool that has been made available to you to explore for free. If you are an Egyptophile, this is as good as technology gets. Click on the red Play icon to on the right-hand side of the top menu bar and you are on your way.
Next you will see the loading screen, above. The loading screen is your new friend and you will see variations of it more than a couple times as you explore Giza 3D. Keep in mind that a virtual world is being downloaded to your computer and it might take a minute or two. It is worth the wait. Once the sections are loaded they run incredibly quickly and smoothly, and I have found they resist crashing very nicely. As I wrote this guide I was constantly taking screen shots and porting them into Photoshop for editing, flipping back and forth between the simulation and Word to take notes, and otherwise hogging resources on the computer, and Giza 3D never once crashed. So like I said, the stability and thoroughness of the simulation makes the occasional loading screen worth the wait.
After the loading screen has done its thing, you will be at the Main Menu, above. The Giza Plateau, with its pyramids, monuments, temples and cemeteries will be rotating before you, and on the left of the screen will be a menu of options. The Giza Plateau, the pyramid complexes, Hetepheres’ tomb, and several mastabas are listed for you to explore. Since we are headed for the G 2100 Family Tomb Complex, click on that option. You will zoom in on a section of the Western Cemetery and the G 2100 Family Tomb Complex menu, pictured below, will pop up.
You are now ready to begin exploring the world of Giza 3D with the G 2100 mastaba complex. We will start with the Guided Introduction, a brief tour of some of the highlights of this complex hosted by Peter Der Manuelian, the Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University and Director of the Giza Archives Project and the Giza Mastabas Project at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston.
Click on the Guided Tour option and after a brief visit from your new friend—the loading screen—you will be off on your first tour.
The Guided Introduction
As we enter the Guided Introduction to the G 2100 Family Complex, we are in the Western Cemetery hovering over a set of three connected mastabas which Peter explains dates from the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties. Peter explains that the oldest of the three, the one on the right-hand end (G 2100 A) is the oldest, and that the owner is not readily apparent, but he hints that we do have some clues—some classic foreshadowing of a little Giza sleuth work to follow. He goes on to identify the middle mastaba (G 2100-I) as belonging to an important official named Merib, and the smaller house-like mastaba on the left side (G 2100-II) as belonging to Merib’s daughter, Nensedjerkai.
We begin to zero in on the roof of the “anonymous” mastaba, the one whose owner we are not yet certain of. We can see that there are openings for four burial shafts, but one of them stands out both because of its size and its peculiar T-Shape. Peter will explain the significance of this shape when you take the actual tour, and we don’t want to give away all of the details here. But as we begin to take the plunge into the shaft to visit the burial chamber below, you will clearly be able to make out the layer of finer casing stones on the surface of the mastaba, the rougher stones that make up the interior of the mastaba, and finally the smooth sides as the burial shaft penetrates the limestone bedrock.
At the bottom of the shaft we move through a short, narrow passageway into the burial chamber, where Peter says no one has been since 1906, but thanks to Giza 3D you are now able to see it as the Harvard University/Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition discovered it when they first excavated this mastaba. You see the tumbled blocks as the plunderers left them, scraps of wood and bits of bone scattered across the floor, and as we move over to the canopic pit we discover further clues to who this chamber’s original owner may have been. Peter explains that the careful photography, detailed drawings and exacting archaeological documentation have made it possible to show this room exactly as it was in 1906. Later, when you explore on your own, you will have an option that allows you to see the chamber recreated as it probably looked after it was first sealed and before it was plundered. I will explain how to do that in the next section, Where to Go, What to See.
After we look around the burial chamber for a short while, we step out of the chamber and into the limestone bedrock where we can see the burial shaft and chamber in context. From this underground perspective we are able to see other burial shafts nearby and the Giza Necropolis begins to take on a new vibrancy. We can see not only how the different parts of the mastaba’s substructure (the underground part) relate to the superstructure (the above ground part), but how the substructures of other mastabas are laid out in relation to one another. This virtual swim through the bedrock of the necropolis gives a new appreciation for the ancient engineers who not only had to lay out the system of streets and avenues of superstructures above ground, but had to keep from tunneling into existing substructures as they built new ones.
From here we rise up through the ground to see the exterior walls of the mastabas and where Peter begins to give us some more clues as to who the owner of the “anonymous” mastaba very likely is. Spoiler Alert! We are about to reveal who she is, but I promise, this will not take away from the excitement of the Guided Introduction tour. But we will be talking more about her mastaba in the next section and it makes it easier to identify her by name.
Peter next takes us through the doorway to Merib’s funerary chapel, where his relatives would come to make offerings to his spirit. The interior of the chapel really shows off the detailed work that has gone into Giza 3D. You begin to get an appreciation for the fact that it is not just a powerful tool for research and education, it is a work of art by its own right. We see the two false doors on the western wall beautifully rendered down to the smallest detail. We see the decorated walls with their portraiture of Merib and his mother, Sedit. Based on Sedit’s prominence in Merib’s chapel art, along with other evidence Peter lays out, it seems very likely that the earlier “anonymous” tomb belongs to Sedit. After you take the tour, I believe you will be convinced as well.
We take a look around the chapel as Peter describes what we are seeing, the history of its discovery, and where it is now. Hint: It isn’t at Giza, and the only way you can see it as it was discovered—intact and in place—is in Giza 3D. That concludes the Guided Introduction tour. In the nest section we will get you started exploring on your own in the Interactive Tour with a short walk-through.
The Interactive Tour—Where to Go, What to See
The Interactive Tour allows you to go back to the places Peter took you in the Guided Introduction and look around on your own. You also have the freedom to explore some of the places the Guided Introduction did not go, such as into Nensedjerkai’s funerary chapel and down some of the other burial shafts. You can also move around the avenues between the mastabas and get an idea of how their exteriors looked. Also, in the Interactive Tour you will find icons which you can click on to get actual photographs of the places and things you will be seeing in the virtual world. You begin by clicking on the Interactive Tour option from the G 2100 Family Tomb Complex menu. You will probably have a load screen, but after that you will find yourself floating in front of mastaba G 2100-II, Nensedjerkai’s mastaba.
Take a minute or two to familiarize yourself with the movement controls. The Default Camera Mode gives you a sort of floating disk which you can position where you wish to go, and click on the mouse to travel there. You use the mouse to look around. This works sort of like how you move around in the “Street Level” part of Google maps, so if you are familiar with that interface, the Default Camera Mode may be for you. I prefer the Free Camera Mode, which uses the arrow keys to move around and the mouse to look around, as well as orient yourself to move up and down. This comes in handy when you want to get on top of a mastaba or travel down a burial shaft. Click on the Free Cam icon in the bottom right to toggle between Free Camera and Default Mode. Click on the question mark (?) in the upper right corner to get help with the controls.
After you have moved around a bit and feel comfortable enough with the controls to explore (be patient, you will get better as you explore!), click on the Viewpoints menu on the right-hand side of the view screen. You will have a menu of four locations—Front, Tomb Chapel, Underground View, and Tomb View. Click on Front to return to the beginning position in front of Nensedjerkai’s little house-like mastaba. You will notice that there is a picture icon next to the entranceway to her mastaba. Click on that. You will be treated to a photograph of how the mastaba looks today and this will give you a pretty good idea of how detailed the model is. Pretty impressive, huh?
Go ahead and close the photo and let’s go explore some. Using the camera mode that works best for you, move down to the entranceway to Nensedjerkai’s small, porch-like courtyard. If you are using Free Camera mode and find yourself too close to the ground, or higher than you want to be, remember that you can use the mouse to ‘tilt’ yourself up or down and then use the arrow keys to travel in that direction. Once you are at the desired altitude, level off and use the arrow keys to move around. I found that I was pretty much constantly adjusting my height because I like to look around a lot, so I was moving up and down quite a bit. But as you use the interface it really does become more intuitive, so like I said, be a little patient and soon you will be zipping around like a Giza 3D native.
Inside the courtyard you will see two decorated pillars and beyond them a small antechamber before leading into the funerary chapel. Look around the courtyard and antechamber a bit, and when you are ready, move into the funerary chapel. Nensedjerkai’s chapel is not as finely decorated as Merib’s, but there are some nice surprises here. The picture below is from the perspective of the top of the northern wall, looking across the chapel to the south wall. To the right are two false doors in the western wall, and a priest is performing rites before the southernmost false door. There are photo icons in front of the two false doors, and if you click on those you will see actual photographs of the false doors. You should move in close to the false doors to really explore them and see the details up close. Keep in mind that what you are looking at has been meticulously recreated, and if you could visit this chapel in real life, this is what you would be seeing.
Now, for a surprise, there is something you can see here you will not be able to find in Merib’s chapel when we return to there. If you go to the western wall, high up between the lintels of the false doors you will find a narrow niche, and if you look inside you will be able to peek into Nensedjerkai’s serdab chamber and see her ka statue. After you have finished looking around Nensedjerkai’s chapel, click on the Viewpoints menu and go back to the Front. By the way, if you click on Tomb Chapel in the Viewpoints you will return to Nensedjerkai’s chapel. But we want to go back to Merib’s chapel, so return to the Front.
So you should again be hovering at an angle from Nensedjerkai’s house-like mastaba. Just beyond it, over the courtyard, you can see G 2100-I, Merib’s mastaba, so if you fly in that direction, over Nensedjerkai’s courtyard, you will find yourself in the street in front of Merib’s mastaba. The picture below shows what it might look like if you were sitting on the wall of Nensedjerkai’s courtyard looking down on the street. Merib’s mastaba is the one with the cat on top of it. If you float down to street level you will find that there are some photo icons on front of the chapel entrance and the niche in the wall. Check those out, and when you are ready, move over to and through the entranceway to Merib’s tomb chapel.
While there may not be a niche to look into Merib’s serdab, there is quite a bit of chapel art here to see, including portraits of Merib and his mother, Sedit. You are encouraged to spend a few minutes in here and enjoy this chamber as it was discovered.
When you have had your quiet time inside Merib’s tomb chapel, you might want to back out to the street and take a stroll around these three connected mastabas. There are other photo icons to check out, and you will meet people also walking around and they will help give you an idea of the proportions of the mastabas. After you have explored the exteriors for a bit, let’s go back again to the Front view from the Viewpoints menu. This time lets climb up high enough to see the tops of the mastabas. You will see openings for multiple burial shafts in each mastaba, and all of these are open for you to explore. Some of them simply end at the bottom of the shaft, but a couple of them open into chambers for you to climb into, all of which gives you an idea of the complexity of the substructures of these mastabas.
For our walkthrough we have one last destination. Well, technically two—lets’s go check out Sedit’s burial chamber again, and then pull out into the bedrock to explore the substructures in context. Click on Viewpoints again, and this time select Tomb View. You will find yourself back in Sedit’s burial chamber, but this time you are free to move around and explore. Take a closer look at some of the artifacts laying about the floor, such as the bones which helped identify the tomb’s owner as a woman in her 30s. Look a little closer at the canopic pit. And when you think you are finished exploring, here is another surprise—click on the Phases menu and toggle Old Kingdom. Now you are sealed in the tomb chamber, 4,000 years ago! I will not include any screen captures from the Old Kingdom view because I want you to go there and explore for yourself.
When you are finished looking around inside the burial chamber, click the Viewpoints menu and this time click on Underground View. This puts you back out in the bedrock where you can swim around and see the substructures in context. Enjoy the view and feel free to move around, but a word of caution: if you enter a chamber or go above ground you will be “stuck”—to get back to the underground view you will have to go back to Viewpoints and select Underground View again.
There are still a few options on the G 2100 Family Tomb Complex you will want to explore to get the full Giza 3D and Giza Archives experience. The Photo Gallery will let you review the photographs you saw inside the simulation, as well as some you may have missed. The Research Process will presnt you with a slideshow that allows you to see the various steps involved with modeling the mastabas, including graphs, site drawings, wireframe models and lighting and texture tests. The Database will take you into the Giza Archives where you can access all the archival data on the mastabas including much more photography and published as well as unpublished papers and documents relating to the G 2100 mastaba complex.
That concludes the Em Hotep Travel Guide to the G 2100 Family Tomb Complex. We hope you found this guide interesting and informative, but mostly, we hope it helped you get into the Giza 3D world. This is truly an amazing place in the virtual universe, and it will only grow and grow as more tombs, temples and monuments are added. Look for the next Giza 3D Travel Guide soon—The Mastaba of Nefer!
Copyright by Keith Payne, 2013. All rights reserved.
All images of Giza 3D are copyrighted by Dassault Systèmes, Harvard University, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, all rights reserved. Used by special arrangement.