Working together, Harvard University and the Egyptian Tourism Board have created a true masterpiece of tourism-from-home art: a virtual tour of an Egyptian tomb.
Entry is free for your virtual visit to the tomb of Queen Meresankh III, and you’re guaranteed to have the place to yourself.
Made of high-resolution photography, digital reconstructions, and historical photographs from the 1927 excavation, it is an extraordinarily detailed experience. The Guardian says of the tour, “This is true vicarious travel, offering a tangible sense of one of the finest tombs in antiquity plus information and computer reconstructions at a click.” You can digitally make your way from point to point inside the tomb, even down the dark stairs into Meresankh III’s below-ground burial chamber.
Meresankh III, a granddaughter of Pharaoh Khufu, the first pyramid builder, died sometime around 2500 B.C. in her middle-age years and was buried in a tomb that had originally been made for her mother, Hetepheres II. Her mother’s name is also inscribed on the black granite sarcophagus in which Meresankh III was found, perhaps indicating that she died suddenly, years before her own funerary arrangements would have been made. Her tomb is a work of art, four small rooms filled with carvings and sculpture, mostly of the women in her family line.
Over the centuries, her tomb, which lies in one of the many structures at Giza in the shadow of the great pyramids, was plundered of all of her grave-goods, but it went unvandalized and was eventually covered with sand. It was rediscovered by American archaeologist George Reisner on April 23, 1927, with the queen’s remains intact within their stone sarcophagus, including the first known set of canopic jars. If you’re hoping for anything grisly in the tour, however, those were removed to the Cairo Museum.
You can take a virtual tour of other Egyptian sites, too, including the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq, the Coptic Red Monstery in Upper Egypt, and the Ben Erza Synagogue. Treat yourself and view all four, a trip through the centuries and cultures of Egypt you’d have a difficult time matching via plane.