Wahtye Tomb: Virtual Visit

Wahtye Tomb: Virtual Visit

An innovative new approach to explore this amazing ancient Egyptian site (Wahtye Tomb) is through a digital 3D replica.

The Saqqara Necropolis, 30 kilometers west of Cairo, is the site of numerous ancient Egyptian pyramids and tombs. The Early Dynastic period (c.2900-2649 BC) saw the establishment of the burial cemetery close to the historic capital city of Memphis. Although its use lasted for more than 3,000 years, it experienced varying levels of popularity. At Saqqara, numerous tombs from the Old Kingdom (c. 2649–2152 BC) have been discovered, including Pharaoh Djoser’s Step Pyramid Complex (c. 2630–2611), which still dominates the surrounding area.

When the pharaohs decided to construct their pyramids at Giza instead, use of the site declined in the 4th dynasty. However, by the 5th and 6th dynasties, Saqqara was once again in demand. The Middle (c. 2055-1650 BC) and early New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC) saw the cemetery’s popularity decline once more, but elite burials resumed in the mid-18th Dynasty (c. 1480 BC) and persisted in the region for many years after.

wahtye tomb site
One of the Egyptian historical locations for which 3D models have been made to enable ‘visits’ during the COVID-19 epidemic is the beautifully painted tomb of Wahtye, a high-ranking officer in the 5th dynasty.

Through all of its highs and lows, Saqqara serves as a symbol for three millennia of ancient Egyptian history, politics, and culture. A well-preserved tomb from the 5th Dynasty (c. 2400 BC) was found in November 2018 by a team led by Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt. The tomb has been the focus of archaeological investigation for many centuries (CWA 103) and has yielded many impressive discoveries. According to the carvings on the tomb’s walls, Wahtye was a prominent official under King Neferirkare Kakai.

When Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb, a Netflix documentary, was broadcast in October 2020 and included the finding, physical trips to the site were still not feasible because to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wahtye’s tomb is only one of the many Egyptian historical monuments that are currently closed to most visitors because to ongoing travel restrictions. Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has started a project to provide access to some of these monuments from home in response to the current circumstance.

The Ministry commissioned 3D scans and digital models of numerous historic locations in Egypt as part of its “Experience Egypt from Home” project, including Wahtye’s tomb at Saqqara as well as the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo and Tomb KV9 in the Valley of the Kings.

Ahmed Attia, the creator of NAV3D, a business that specializes in 3D scanning and virtual tours, produced the 3D images in April 2020. They use a combination of infrared and laser scanning technologies, and then use Matterport and other complimentary platforms that host 3D models and virtual tours to offer the data as an interactive model online. Ahmed calls exploring and searching these deserted historical locations a singular and fascinating experience.

Wahtye Tomb Replica

pyramid djoser
The Saqqara Necropolis, which has seen the discovery of numerous ancient Egyptian tombs and monuments, is still dominated by the Pyramid Complex of Pharaoh Djoser.

The replica of Wahtye’s tomb (see it here) provides a fresh perspective on the most intriguing aspects of the site. The main rectangular gallery, which measures 10 by 3 meters and rises to a height of 10 meters, as well as the locations of the five shafts that held the graves of Wahtye and his family—his wife Weret Ptah, his four children, and his mother Merit Meen—are all clearly visible in the “Dollhouse View” feature.

Wahtye’s wife and children were buried standing up in little shaft graves without coffins, despite his seeming affluence and the exquisite décor of the main gallery, while Wahtye himself was mummified insufficiently and buried in a simple wooden coffin carrying his name.

Dr. Amira Shaheen’s examination of the skeletal bones discovered in the tomb indicates that the entire family was not in good health. Wahtye and his mother’s bones showed signs of cystic enlargement and distension, and the fact that his children all appeared to have passed away at a young age and around the same time suggests that the family may have been afflicted by a sickness. This also explains why their graves were performed more quickly and simply than was typical. Malaria has been suggested as the possible cause; if true, this would be the oldest known instance of the disease, furthering the significance of the discovery.

Wahtye Tomb 3D

layout wahtye tomb
You may view the design of the tomb and the locations of the shafts where Wahtye and his family’s tombs were discovered in the “Dollhouse View.”

The well-preserved and vividly colored decorations that grace the tomb’s walls may be inspected up close thanks to the 3D representation of the structure. The rectangular gallery is covered in hieroglyphic inscriptions that mention Wahtye as the “Purified Priest to the King,” the “Overseer of the Divine Estate,” and the “Overseer of the Sacred Boat.” There are also pictures of typical scenes meant to represent his afterlife, such as the making of food, pottery, and funerary items, as well as pursuits like hunting, sailing, and religious rituals. More than 50 statues of Wahtye and his family in varying sizes can be found in the tomb.

The reliefs on the walls of the tomb are amazing for their level of preservation and intricacy, but they also appear to provide hints that the true owner of the tomb was not the obvious contender.

A thorough examination of the statues and carvings has raised the possibility that Wahtye wasn’t the intended recipient of the building in the first place. In other spots, carvings are inconsistent, and names appear to have been wiped off and replaced, while in others, his name is present in so many inscriptions that it nearly seems as though he is trying to claim that it truly is his.

carvings and statues wahtye tomb
You can look at the intricate statues and carvings that line the tomb’s walls thanks to the 3D model.

Researchers have focused on the main figure because it stands out from the rest and seems to have been made by a particular sculptor. It is situated on the fake door and shows the owner of the tomb. Wahtye may have stolen the tomb from him given that his brother’s remains were not buried there. The inscription “to the spirit of my brother” on the eastern wall acknowledges this brother, but it makes no mention of his name. Could this be Wahtye’s guilty conscience showing?

The development of 3D scans of locations like Wahtye’s tomb is a creative response to the difficulties that COVID-19 restrictions present for the tourism and heritage industries. It provides a special opportunity for people all over the world to visit these locations at a time when it would not otherwise be possible. With interactive models, you can virtually tour tombs, churches, palaces, and museums at your leisure, looking into every crevice in great detail. However, their greatest strength may be their capacity to arouse a desire to actually visit these remarkable locations and take in the atmosphere when the opportunity arises.


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