The Rock Tombs of el-Amarna

Submitted to the Egyptologists' Electronic Forum (EEF).

The Rock Tombs of el-Amarna vol. IV.
The Tombs of Penthu, Mahu and Others.
by Norman de Garis Davies
Archaeological Survey of Egypt (F. Ll. Griffith ed.) 16th Memoir
London, 1906

CD-ROM by Brian Yare (
Version 1.03, 2003

As many Egyptologists know, the book which Brian Yare has transformed in electronic format is one of the six volumes dedicated to the private tombs at Amarna produced by de Garis Davies for the Egypt Exploration Society and printed between 1903 and 1908. They contain all the epigraphic material, as well as maps and plans, that was discernible at the time in which Davies was sent to Amarna. The only source about these tombs of a certain value before the work by Davies are the essays by Bouriant, Legrain and Jequier (MMAF I/1, 1883; MIFAO 8, 1903). After the work by Davies nothing appeared about what is to be considered one of the major archaeological and historical sources at Amarna. Therefore about 100 years separate us between the final printed editions of Davies' volumes and the still present, real and stinging need of having at hand the material made available by Davies. While the texts from the tombs (of the utmost importance for history and religion) were included in the, still fundamental (and, of course, no longer in print), volume by Sandman (1938) and their translations put forward in the recent book by Murnane (1995), nothing of the splendid, stunningly beautiful and enormously useful reliefs has been systematically produced and rendered available. I think there is no need to remind the reader that no copies of the volumes by Davies are available, unless in specialized libraries; to the best of my knowledge only one set can be bought in the entire world from the atiquarian market at prices that are, per unit mass, greater than that of pure gold. A recent personal inquiry to the EES revealed that there is no intention, nowadays, to reprint the volumes at all. The option of an electronic version is still under investigation and it would require, in my opinion, many years before the EES can finally produce it, even if in our times this requires less amount of time and money than a printed version. This is confirmed by the trend in the birth and growth of the many EOS systems available for free on the Internet with many fundamental books given in PDF format. And, more importantly, by the label that is given to these EOS projects by their creators. The label is: "to preserve" books.
Be that as it may, what we have here from Brian Yare is a real present to humankind. His project of creating browsable, searchable and hyperlinked electronic copies of the volumes by Davies is to be praised and highly thanked.

What the cd-rom contains is the entire 4th volume of the Davies' series, rendered as an HTML e-book, with all the texts, the plates and the indexes. He has completely rewritten the texts of the original book so that with simple commands of the user's browser (e.g. CTRL+F in many IE versions) one can search for specific words inside the current HTML page. This is a thing that in many currently available EOS PDF files for Egyptological books cannot be done. In fact the pages of the books are usually scanned and placed as images inside a final PDF file; this prevents the usual things such as copy/paste, save image, search etc. While the PDF technology (a real standard) can do these things, they are normally not implemented because the amount of work required is too much if the final aim of a project is to put on the Internet as many volumes as possible in as little time as possible. On the other side the advantage of this "scanned pages" PDF policy is to keep the old form and integrity of the original in its primeval status, for which the label "to preserve" is appropriate. In other words, the e-book by Brian Yare has the advantage of having useful extras with respect to other EOS strategies and the disadvantage of having the book not completely in the same format as the original. For Truth's sake it must be said that Yare has tried to be as strictly close as possible to the original. Images can be saved, manipulated, printed and inserted into other documents, as well as the texts and the footnotes. Hyperlinks link the indexes to the pages they refer to, the plates to the pages in the main text etc.
Since the idea behind this project is to give a useful book, rather than to preserve one (but of course the difference is too subtle to be seen, because of Yare's mastery), one may ask why no choice was made for the PDF technology completed with hyperlinks, re-written texts, isolated images etc. This would reduce possible problems related to browser compatibility with certain HTML features.
In any case the final result in this cd-rom is a very user-friendly interface with which to browse an complete electronic version of a fundamental book which otherwise would be unaccessible, or only accessible with great difficulty, and in any case, could not be bought privately or personally by thousands of persons. It must also be said that the price of the cd is quite low so that it is more convenient, for those who have Egyptological libraries in their cities, to buy this CD than to make photocopies of the original paper book.
It is possible that in the future the EES will produce a monograph with many photographs taken in these years of what remains of the Amarna private tombs, but they will be a poor thing without the possibility of checking the volumes by Davies. Moreover this cd provides the possibility to young students, scholars or recently founded libraries to buy books which are otherwise unavailable; even if these books are old they are still needed. And certain intelligent publishers, who have understood this concept, are making a lot of money thanks to the low cost reprints of the old (and also unavailable) books by Theodore Davis about his Theban excavations, for instance (but many other cases can be quoted). Both Brian Yare and these publishers (many print-on-demand ones among them) are again to be thanked for what they are doing now for us and for the next generations of scholars. It is hoped that the entire series of Davies' Amarna volumes will be e-booked by Brian Yare as soon as possible.
For further details see

Federico Rocchi


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