doorway in the centre of one end, usually the north, to which access was
gained by a vertical shaft which occasionally had a sloping bottom. In
size these vaults vary considerably, the majority being large enough to
hold ten or twelve coffins, others holding only three or four, and one
having been constructed to take a single burial.
Mr. Droop has worked out the constructive detail of these much
damaged tombs, and the result of; his researches is to confirm the
inaccuracy of Mariette's reconstruction of them as surmounted each by a
small pyramid. The vaulting, which begins practically at the floor, was
built without centering in the following way: Beginning at one of the
vertical end walls the successive courses or arches of the vault were laid,
not straight across the building parallel to the end walls as is done when
a centre board is used, but at a small angle to this direction in such a way
that each leaned against and was supported by the last. It will be seen
that with this arrangement there would be at each end several incomplete
arches resting partly on a side wall and partly on the end wall. The
vault having been thus constructed a second coating of bricks was usually
laid over it, and the space between it and the side walls was filled up
with bricks and mud so as to give on the exterior a perfectly flat roof.
This roof lay on the level of the desert sand or perhaps just above it.
Over it was still to be placed the superstructure. This consisted, in
nearly all cases where any degree of certainty was possible, of a low
truncated pyramid formed by laying seven or eight courses of bricks
each slightly back from the last over the outer walls of the vault. This
mastaba, for such the superstructure may be called, was apparently
hollow and was filled with sand or gravel. In one case it had no batter
and had the appearance of a parapet or skirting to the flat roof.
These tombs had all been badly plundered with one exception, which
had been saved from violation in a curious manner. At a date certainly
not very much subsequent to its construction another vaulted chamber
had been built directly over it with almost precisely the same plan. The
new vault, itself completely plundered, had successfully concealed the
older from the tomb robbers. This latter contained a large number of
bodies of persons of varying ages, each carefully mummified and enclosed
in a rough limestone coffin sealed with a white cement (Fig. 1). In
several cases the cartonnage, which always included the usual five pieces,
was in good enough condition to be preserved and brought home. The
mummies were in fair preservation, hut only one, that of a small child,
was fit to be kept. No objects were found with these burials.
Another tomb of the same type yielded an incomplete set of amulets