Constructing the Sacred: Visibility and Ritual Landscape at the Egyptian Necropolis of Saqqara

3D Model Downloads and Full Metadata & Paradata

Egyptologists are avid users of legacy data and repurpose published field data from the early twentieth century through today in highly creative ways. In posting the digital files of all the custom 3D monument models, as well as the digitized topographic line files from the MHR maps, with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license (, I attempt to align this project with that admirable tradition. Equally important, digital archaeologists Huggett and Richards-Rissetto and von Schwerin argue that digital data ‘resilience’ and sustainability is substantially aided through data reuse, specifically reuse that allows for direct interaction or manipulation by others.1  In that vein, I encourage scholars and students to use this material in ways that fit their own research, teaching, and learning needs, with the hope that they understand and respect the caveats of scale, detail, and uncertainty discussed above.

3D Monument Files

Please note that, because most of the maps/plans used as basemaps for the models are still under copyright, these could not be included in the model downloads. 

A human figure, based on artistic representations found at Saqqara of Hesy-Re (Dynasty 3) and Niankhwadjet (Dynasty 4), is included with each monument model to provide a sense of scale. Hesy-Re measures 1.6m tall, and Niankhwadjet ~1.5m. The figure of Niankhwadjet is included when the primary owner of the tomb was female. 

Included here are the monument model files in their original format, saved in Trimble SketchUp Pro version 2018, as well as exports from that program into the open file format OBJ, which can be accessed with a variety of 3D software programs. Note that the proprietary SketchUp Pro 2018 files, as of the time of publishing, can be accessed by SketchUp's free online application, SketchUp Free.

3D Monument Metadata/Paradata 

(Parentheticals) are elements included in the online web viewer

Monument Name and/or # appears at the top of each table along with a link to download original model files

Original owner or sponsor of structure (Owner/Builder)

Type of monument (Type): Superstructure type: mastaba, pyramid, tomb chapel, palace (in one case refined as ‘royal resthouse’ for this project), pylon, temple (building), enclosure (wall), ramp, balustrade, catacomb, obelisk; terms based on the Getty Research Institute Art & Architecture thesaurus vocabulary:

Temporal period of original construction (First Period)

Dynasty of original construction (First Dynasty)

Royal reign of original construction (First King)


Modern scholar/explorer first documenting structure ('Discoverer')

Year of rediscovery/documentation in modern times (Years)

Type of structure (3D Model Type): Procedural model or custom model

Date of model construction or update (3D Model Date)

Name of 3D modeler

Software used for model build

Copyright (Copyright)

Sources/references for 2D base data (Citation): This is the basis for the 2D location of the model in the GIS system. Most of the 2D location information used to place the 3D models in the GIS was based on digital data gathered and published in Edda Bresciani and Antonio Giammarusti, eds., The North Saqqara Archaeological Site Handbook for the Environmental Risk Analysis, Progetti 1 (Pisa: Plus, 2003), this 2D data (in the form of 2D polygons) was updated in 2010 and shared with the project by GIS Supervisor and Senior Surveyor E. Brienza; additional 2D data was created exclusively for this project and is described as such.

Comments on 2D data (Annotation): Comments regarding the 2D location of the model

Basemaps/imagery utilized for geo-referencing 2D base data (Maps Used): When 2D location information was created by this project (and not shared by other scholars), the basemaps or satellite imagery were used to help geo-reference the model in the GIS system.

Description – original height of structure in meters (Height Original(m)): When the original height at the original period of construction is unknown, an estimate or the preserved height in modern times may be provided.

Description – original length of structure in meters (Length Original(m)): This measurement is based on the monument ground plan.

Description – original width of structure in meters (Width Original(m)): This measurement is based on the monument ground plan.

Description – original exterior decoration: This includes important structural decoration, like a niched facade or a well-documented exterior painting, often not included in the model reconstruction.

Description – original enclosure wall dimensions (if applicable)

Description – original exterior material (3D Texture): The exterior material of the main monument superstructure as visualized in the 3D model

Uncertainty level for 3D model construction:

1: Highest level of certainty: This is characterized by significant physical remains of the structure in situ at the time of excavation or in modern times, with detailed documentation by archaeological publications and clear evidence for original form and shape of the structure (such as casing stones with preserved angles for pyramids). Note that this highest level of certainty still presupposes significant monument deflation and includes ambiguity.
2: Medium level of certainty: This is characterized by less significant physical remains of structure in situ at the time of excavation or in modern times, with less detailed (but still clear) documentation by archaeological publications and less clear evidence for original form and shape of structure.
3: Lower level of certainty: This includes structures that have multiple alternative reconstructions with significant differences but with archaeologically documented remains of superstructures (such as foundations) that attest to basic elements of form. It includes all procedural models (highly schematic representations based primarily on the length and width of the original monument footprint, which do not incorporate any specific details of a structure).
4: Hypothetical: This is characterized by monuments based entirely on comparative examples, monuments without archaeologically documented remains of superstructures, monuments with uncertain ground plans (missing or uncertain walls, etc.), or monuments with very poor documentation by early archaeological publications.

Sources/reference used as basis for 3D model construction (3D Data Source): The modern publication(s) on which the 3D model was primarily based

Elevation (placement in model ASL): This is the base height for the main monument’s superstructure in the 3D model (usually the base of the main pyramid or pylon structure).

Discussion of virtual reconstruction and interpretative choices: A brief description by the modeler regarding some of the choices made in the 3D reconstruction

Terrain files

Eight digital files are included here for download and use by others: these are based on the original digitized MHR topographic plan of the Saqqara and Abusir areas, but modified to represent change in terrain at different chronological periods at the site. See Section 6.2 for detailed descriptions of the base data used to produce these files. Terrain files associated with the region and period of models can be downloaded via the links provided at the bottom of each model metadata page.

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