The Resurrection Machine

How ancient Egyptian tombs were designed to transport the dead to the afterlife

Tomb of Nefertari (2009-04-09) by Kenneth GarrettAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The Ancient Egyptian Tomb

A properly built and decorated tomb was very important to the ancient Egyptians. Called the “House of Eternity,” it was the place where the deceased would reunite with the different aspects of their soul (the "ka" or soul of sustenance, and the "ba" or soul of mobility) to be reborn in the afterlife. 

Wall Scene from the Tomb of Tutankhamun (2004-01-12) by Kenneth GarrettAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The tomb was also a site where the living could interact with the dead and rituals were performed to nourish the deceased's "ka".    

Interior of TT69 with added handrails, floors, and lighting system (2009-12) by Project PhotographerAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Living Images

The paintings inside were important to express the identity of the tomb owner and ensure that the owner’s cult would be celebrated for eternity. The architecture and decoration were all part of the “resurrection machine” that would facilitate the passage into the afterlife.   

Plan of TT69 (2009-07) by Kai-Christian BruhnAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Ancient Architecture

During the New Kingdom, a tomb for an elite man like Menna had two basic parts.

The interior tomb chapel is in the form of an inverted ‘T’.

The Exterior of the Tomb (2010-01) by Project PhotographerAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The exterior has a sunken, enclosed forecourt where the relatives of the deceased gathered to honor the dead during special festivals. 

Remains of a Double Statue of Menna and his Wife (2009-12) by Project Staff PhotographerAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

At the end of the long inner hall was shrine with a statue of Menna and his wife. Here visitors could present their offerings and pray for Menna’s well-being, as well as their own.      

Plan of TT69 (2009-07) by Kai-Christian BruhnAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The underground burial complex was sealed after the funeral and protected the deceased’s body. 

Deceased receiving offerings from their son (2009-03) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Between Two Worlds

In addition to protecting Menna’s body and helping him move into the afterlife, the tomb was also the point of communication between the realm of the living and the dead, and the site of rituals and festival. 

Even after Menna died, visitors would continue to go to the tomb to give gifts, honor the deceased, and ask for favors.  

Discover More:

Credits: Story

The conservation and documentation of the tomb of Menna was sponsored by American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Georgia State University in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. 

Created by Elisabeth Koch and Tessa Litecky, ARCE 
Visit ARCE at

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps