ARTP Radar Survey of the Valley of the Kings
Part I: The Central Valley
Hirokatsu Watanabe, Masanori Ito and Nicholas Reeves


The Amarna Royal Tombs Project`s GPR (ground-penetrating radar) survey of the Valley of the Kings, undertaken in August 2000 by Hirokatsu Watanabe, was an experimental exercise carried out with the intention that it would be tested in due course by supplementary survey and actual excavation. Since ARTP was denied the opportunity of seeing through that vital second stage, the initial results, though promising, remained unproven. We could responsibly do little beyond keep the data on file, with a view to their eventual publication as an intriguing though sadly speculative annexe to ARTP`s final report.

In 2005, however, this impasse was effectively broken by Otto Schaden`s uncovering of tomb KV63 - one of the intriguing anomalies which ARTP had picked up in its 2000 survey (see Feature 6 below). This discovery conveniently provided what we had hitherto lacked: confirmation that at least one of our radar readings was valid, and on the basis of this it was possible to assess with a more informed eye the potential of our remaining data. The following year, 2006, ARTP ventured the possible existence of a second new tomb in this same central part of the Valley (Feature 5 = `KV64`) and, concerned by the implications, stressed the need for a state-of-the-art approach to any and all future work undertaken here.

It is a basic responsibility of all expeditions to publish their findings, though it is a decision in this instance which has not been taken lightly. With the uncovering of KV63 in 2005, however, it was evident that further intensive efforts in the Valley of the Kings were a foregone conclusion. The hope we expressed in 2006, and reiterate now, is that access to ARTP`s GPR data will at least permit excavators to focus their efforts, rather than dig wholesale through what little is left of the site`s unique stratigraphic record. In this context, Nicholas Reeves` comments in the final paragraphs of an interview given to Archaeology magazine on 3 August 2006 remain pertinent.

Time and distance have meant that the present document has taken rather longer to prepare than originally anticipated, but an extended stay in Tokyo during December 2008 has at last afforded the opportunity for detailed discussion between colleagues and a drafting of this first report on ARTP`s 2000 radar survey treating the central portion of the Valley. It represents the latest considered views of ARTP`s GPR specialist, Hirokatsu Watanabe, as collated by Masanori Ito of Pasco Corporation, Tokyo, and presented in English summary by Nicholas Reeves. Supplements or reassessments in the light of new information or insights will be posted as appropriate.

Equipment and method

The GPR equipment employed for ARTP`s preliminary 2000 survey was a custom-built 400 MHz system designed and built by Watanabe. The operating principle may be briefly summarised. A signal is emitted as a pulse by the antenna (a suitcase-sized body which is dragged across the surface of the ground along a predetermined route, the process repeated as necessary), with the time and the force of the reflection echo measured on a laptop and presented on screen as real-time data. These on-screen data, it is important to note, are mere patterns and do not represent the actual form or dimension of the object detected; the patterns, variously treated, must be analyzed as aggregates of arcs, with the display colors varying according to the force and velocity of the various reflection echoes. Because different types of underground features produce distinctive screen patterns - a pipe, for example, will generate a couple of nested arcs; a ditch a cross-pattern above a couple of nested arcs; and a void or underground chamber a distinctive pattern of radiating arcs - an opinion may be ventured by the experienced operator as to the possible nature of any feature revealed.

Two principal sites in the central sector of the Valley of the Kings were surveyed by ARTP during August 2000:

- survey area 18, lying to the east of KV62 (Tutankhamun) (`KV62`);
- survey area 19, to the immediate north of KV10 (Amenmesse) (`KV10`).

These two areas fell squarely within ARTP`s former concession, the limits of which were defined by the tomb of Horemheb (KV57) on the west and tomb KV55 on the east, and by the tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) to the north and the tomb of Ramesses I (KV16) in the south.

At `KV62` (survey area 18) a metre-squared grid (A) was established between the modern east wall of Tutankhamun`s tomb and the current tourist shelter, the sectors of this grid being numbered 1, 2, 3 etc. west to east, and lettered a, b, c, d etc. north to south. Subsequently, the 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 traverses of this grid were extended northwards to facilitate an investigation of the area immediately to the south of KV55.

At `KV10` (survey area 19), beyond the outer limits of the grid, various other test traverses were made, these additional runs being labelled B, C, D, E, F-1, F-2, G-1, G-2, H, I, J.

Summary comments on data generated

ARTP`s central Valley data are summarized on the accompanying (provisional) plan, in which the following conventions are employed:

- depth is indicated by colour graduation from dark to light where dark = deepest
- features represented by a circle or oval = a single reflection
- features represented by a square or rectangle = more than one reflection.

Feature 1:

A feature in this area, lying beyond the initial grid, is suggested by a series of reflections generated during the GPR traverses 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 (see fig. 1). The feature revealed on traverse 9 seems to be the deepest, with 12, 14, and 15 less deep than 7, 8, 10, 11 and 13.

Feature 2:

Traverses 13 and 14 produced separate readings at traverse e, with seemingly associated readings where traverses 7 and 8 intercept traverse e.

Feature 3:

GPR traverse 3 generated readings at i, j, k and l - these perhaps being reflections of the same feature and possibly a void. The reflection at traverse i appears to be slightly deeper than its fellows.

Feature 4:

Traverses 1 and 2 yielded readings at d, e, f and g, and a second, large, reflection adjacent to these.

Feature 5 [= `KV64`] :

Traverses I and J, lying to the south of the main grid. Traverse I displays two separate reflections - the first relating to Feature 5, the second to Feature 6 (see below). It is possible that the reflections detected in traverses I and J do not relate to the same feature, since the J reflection seems to be very much deeper - the deepest in the area. [For a different screen capture, see here.]

Feature 6 [= KV63]:

The data collected on GPR traverses F-2, G-1 and G-2 represent reflections of the same feature - as we now know, the single-chambered shaft-tomb KV63. [For a different screen capture, see here.]

Feature 7:

Traverses D, E and F-1. The data represent reflections of the same feature, similar in depth to Features 6 (KV63) and 8.

Feature 8

Traverse C. A single large reflection at the corner of the modern tourist shelter, similar in depth to Features 6 (KV63) and 7.

Feature 9:

Traverse E produced reflections at a similar depth to Features 6, 7 and 8.


ARTP`s 2000 GPR survey highlights nine points of significant interest in the central Valley area. The fact that one of these, Feature 6, proved on excavation in 2006 to be a single chambered shaft-tomb - KV63 - naturally raises the possibility that some or all of the eight remaining anomalies also represent undiscovered burials.

ARTP GPR survey of the central Valley, 2000: summary of results [Provisional map]
Survey area 18, 'KV62', traverses 1-4, S-N
Survey area 18, 'KV62', traverses 5-8, S-N
Survey area 18, 'KV62', traverses 9-12, S-N
Survey area 18, 'KV62', traverses 13-16, S-N
Survey area 18, 'KV62', traverses a-d, W-E
Survey area 18, 'KV62', traverses e-h, W-E
Survey area 18, 'KV62', traverses i-l, W-E
Survey area 19, 'KV10', traverses B-E
Survey area 19, 'KV10', traverses F-1-G-1
Survey area 19, 'KV10', traverses G-2-J