B 350 - The Monument of Taharqo on the Jebel Barkal Pinnacle
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IV. The Evidence for Ancient Construction between Cliff and Pinnacle

Two types of holes can be seen in the ravine between the rock walls, and these normally occur directly opposite one other.  These holes vary in width from 13 to 30 cm.  One type is a square or nearly square recess, while the other is squared on the bottom and rounded or open on the top.  This reveals that the wooden beams (or their ends) were square in section.  One can also conclude from the holes that the squared recess was the initial insertion point for a beam, while the open-topped hole was that into which the other end was dropped and locked into place.  Plans of the holes visible on the cliff and pinnacle walls, showing their correct size, relationship, and elevation from the ground, appear in figs. 11, 12. Since these features require some discussion, I have assigned them numbers, with the lowest numbers designating the features lowest in elevation and first to be cut.  The numbered holes on the cliff wall I have prefaced by the letter "C", while those on the pinnacle shaft, I have prefaced by the letter "P".  The number shared by each indicates the pair of holes that I believe were used to support a particular beam.

Fig. 11: Measured drawing of the holes cut into the cliff wall (left) and pinnacle shaft (right), showing their correct scale and relationship.  Drawing:  T. Kendall.

Fig. 12: Profile of the upper part of the pinnacle and cliff, viewed from the northeast, showing the probable arrangement of beams set between the rock walls, based on the placement of the surviving cut holes.  Drawing:  T. Kendall.

I established the height measurements presented here with the help of our surveyor David Goodman, who accompanied us in 1989. First, he established the height both of the cliff edge and the summit of the pinnacle (to which, that season, I carried a reflector for the total station).  As stated above, the height of the pinnacle was 74.67 m, measured from the ancient floor level of B 500 (Great Amun Temple).  The height of the cliff behind it was 5.25 m higher, or 79.92 m. Once these points were fixed, I established the heights of the holes both on the cliff wall and pinnacle shaft by rappelling down each rock face and marking each meter of depth by a piece of tape as I descended.  This allowed me to establish the approximate relationship of all the holes, as well as to measure each for size and depth. Since it was difficult, while hanging from a rope, to record the dimensions of the holes with a tape measure as well as to hold and use a notebook and pencil, I took my measurements with the tape and shouted them up to team members on the cliff top.  It was they who recorded them in our notebooks.

The lowest pair of holes I observed (C1 and P1) occurred just below the level of the notch, at about 53 m elevation (counting from ground level, or 23 m from the top of the rubble embankment). These holes were on the east side of the pinnacle shaft just below the point where it merged with the mountain. These two holes revealed that it was the eastern side of the pinnacle against which the beams were lifted from the top of the embankment.   Hole P1 was the insertion point and C1 was the open hole.  These evidently held a beam that was about 15 by 15 cm in section and 2.5 m in length.  This beam created a foothold or anchor point for one or more men standing just below the level of the notch in order to guide other beams as they were being raised up.  How these men were able to climb the first 23 m. is still not clear, for there are no obvious indications.  Perhaps it involved a wooden scaffolding or ladder propped against the rock at this point.

The first beam actually raised into the open space of the gorge was set between holes C2 and P 2 at a height of 2 m above the previous beam and about 1 m above the notch itself. The notch, as we have seen, actually affords a narrow but precarious perch. The beam set here was also 15 x 15 cm. in section and about 1.25 m in length, which is the width of the gap between the rock walls at this point.

About 2.2 m above hole C2, the cliff wall exhibits three square holes cut in a line (fig. 13). Each of these holes (C3A, C3B, and C3C) is about 25 cm sq. and 15 cm deep, and they are spaced 26-30 cm apart.  They supported three square beams, whose opposite ends attached to the natural flat shelf (P3), just over 1.2 m wide and 30 cm higher, on the pinnacle shaft.  The distance between holes C3 and shelf P3 is about 2 1/2 m.  Since the “C” holes are shallow and roughly cut, they would not have provided a secure footing for the beams if the beams were simply laid on the shelf.  It is more likely that the beams were tightly fitted or wedged in place against the “P” side to keep them securely locked in the C3 holes.  This row of three beams could have created a work platform about 1.3 m wide, just over 14 m from the summit of the pinnacle and 59.5 m from ground level.  The C3 holes appear to have been cut by a mason standing on beam C2-P2, just as holes C4 and C5, 2 m higher up, appear to have been cut by masons standing on platform C3-P3.

Fig. 13:Photo of the holes “C3A, B, C,” taken from the natural shelf “P3” on the pinnacle.

Fig. 14: Detail of hole “C4.”

Hole C4 is a finely cut, open-topped niche, with a width and depth of 35 cm and a height of 60 cm (fig. 14).  This hole clearly supported and locked into place the two beams inserted into the twin holes P4A and P4B (13 x 13 cm and 14 x 14 cm respectively, and each 5 cm deep).  Again, these beams, about 3 m in length, could only have been made secure by fitting very tightly into their niches.

Round-topped hole C5 (20 cm wide and deep, 24 cm high) was nearly 2.5 m above the platform C3-P3.  Its corresponding hole, P5 (15 x 18 cm, 7 cm deep), was 3.7 m above the platform.  Because both of these holes are too high to have been made by men actually standing on the platform, one must assume that the stone cutters had a means of elevating themselves above the platform, perhaps by standing on ladders resting on the platform and propped against or secured by beam C4-P4.  Such mounts would also have enabled the same men to cut the open-topped hole P6 (20 cm wide, 30 cm high, 25 cm deep) and the insertion hole C6 (20 cm sq., 20 cm deep), which is only slightly higher.   Both beams at this point were about 3.5 m in length.

By standing on beams C5-P5 and C6-P6, and bracing themselves against the cliff walls, the masons would have been able to carve holes C7 (34 cm high, 24 cm deep; width not preserved) and P7 (17 x 17 cm, 10 cm deep).  The beam inserted in these holes would have been approximately 5 m long.  The left half of hole C7 is missing due to a later collapse of the upper western side of the cliff wall.  Because of this ancient rock fall, the higher holes on the cliff wall to the height of the pinnacle peak are no longer preserved.  There is no doubt, however, given the appearance of cut features P8-15, that beams continued to be raised into the gorge and mounted at increasingly higher levels up to the full height of the pinnacle.

One meter above beam C7-P7, the cliff wall inclines backward, creating a rounded shelf.  Although there is no cut notch on the preserved section of this shelf, there is an open-topped hole P8 (35 cm. wide, 30 cm deep) at the same level on the pinnacle.  This is an interesting feature, since the bottom of the hole lay at the bottom of an open-sided vertical tube, 1.7 m in depth, cut from the level of shelf P9, described below, which was its insertion point.   Hole P-8 indicates that a beam C8-P8, about 5.5 m long, extended across the gorge at the level of about 8 m below the pinnacle summit.

Above this level by 1.7 m, is a manmade shelf P9, about 3 m long and about 50 cm at greatest width, that cuts horizontally across the rear face of the pinnacle. This, seemingly, would have allowed for a platform up to 2 m wide to be erected here, 6 1/2 m below the pinnacle summit at an elevation of 67.5 m from ground level.  On the western side of this shelf there is a pair of open-topped holes P9A and B (each 30 cm wide and deep, 35 cm high).  These suggest emplacements for two parallel beams mounted at this level, connected to the cliff, and that these beams were at least 6 m long.

A partially preserved, shallow, angled socket C9 appears on the cliff wall at the level of P9.  It obviously joined the P9 features, but so much of the cliff wall has fallen away here that it difficult to understand quite how.

Above shelf P9, the rear of the pinnacle is badly weathered, but it bears indications of at least six more holes, suggesting six more horizontal beams (that is, if all of these holes were actually used).  These holes are as follows: square hole P10 (11 cm wide, 16 cm high, 5 cm deep), round-topped hole P11 (weathered, but about the same size), round-topped hole P12 (weathered, but about 18 x 18 cm), round-topped hole P13 (18 x 18 cm), square hole P14 (about 20 x 20 cm), and a cut notch P15 (25 cm wide) on the pinnacle summit, made to hold a horizontal beam connecting the pinnacle summit with the cliff.   The beams implied by these holes were square or rectangular in section and measured between 11 x 16 cm and 20 x 20 cm.  Their length at that level would have been between 7 and 9 m.  Obviously, the type of wood utilized here would have been of a hard variety, requiring strength and rigidity in long spans.  The thicker beams were likely used by men as work stations or as bridges to cross on foot between the cliff and the pinnacle.  The thinner beams, set higher and parallel to the former, were likely used both as railings or hand-holds for the men, as well as temporary rests or shelves for the beams being raised to higher levels.

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