B 350 - The Monument of Taharqo on the Jebel Barkal Pinnacle
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VI. The Evidence for Ancient Construction on the Pinnacle Summit

The holes cut on the pinnacle peak are shown from above in figs. 21a, b.  It remains uncertain how many of them were actually used, for one suspects that some may have been “trial and error.”  The holes certainly indicate that a number of beams were mounted vertically around the summit.  In order for these beams to stand securely in the vertical, it would probably have been necessary that they be attached to at least two levels of horizontal beams:  one resting on the pinnacle summit, and another higher up.   The latter, by securing their tops, would have prevented their bases from spreading outward, which would have caused the structure to collapse and the posts to fall.  Although I cannot reconstruct this framework with absolute certainty, some of the features offer important clues to what was built there. In order to discuss these features specifically, I have given them special numbered designations like the others.  Those on the eastern side of the pinnacle summit I preface by "PE"; those on the western side, I preface by "PW".

Fig. 21a: Roughly measured sketch plan of the summit of the pinnacle, seen from above, showing the relative positions of the cut features with their designations (Compare with figs. 11, 12, 21b).  Drawing: T. Kendall.

Fig. 21b: Drawing of the pinnacle summit from the west, showing the man-made features as they appear today, with their designations.  Drawing: T. Kendall.

Evidence for construction on the top of the pinnacle begins at a depth of about 6.8 m.  This includes shelf P9 at the rear side and another shelf in front, at the same or nearly the same level (figs. 11, 12). Both shelves are manmade, and both feature shallow round holes, ostensibly for posts set vertically.  It is very difficult, however, to understand how posts standing upright in these holes could have been secured at their upper ends.  The twin holes P9A and B, described above, were each 30 cm in diameter. They could also have supported horizontal logs (as they have been restored here). Holes PW9A and B, also paired, were each 20 cm in diameter and 1 to 2 cm deep.  Other holes like these may have existed on the east side (PE), but the ledge has fallen away.

The most important feature on the west side is PW1, a wide vertical cut in the side of the rock, the bottom of which is 4.8 m from the summit.  It is about 90 cm wide and 40 cm deep.  Immediately beside PW1 to the left there are a six  elongated “masons’ marks” – five scrape lines possibly used for whetting chisels and a vertical “rope burn,” where an ancient rope has left a cut in the soft sandstone.  Just above, within the vertical hollow of PW1 there are several more such cut, one group forming a sign like a backward “N”.  The right (south) side of PW1 intersects with a cut diagonal channel, PW2, that has an angle of about 50° (figs. 20, 21a-b).  PW1 supported a vertical post probably at least 6 m high, while PW2 supported another beam at least 9 m long.  The latter, once set into this diagonal groove, would have been locked in place by its weight resting against the bottom of PW1.  Its base, thus, would have locked into place the vertical beam set in PW1.  The forward end of the diagonal beam PW2 would have overhung the top of the pinnacle.  There can be little doubt, as I will explain below, that this was a crane arm.

Holes PW9A and B seem to be situated directly under the presumed overhang of the crane, as if the posts set within them had been intended to support the upper end of the crane.  It is difficult to imagine, however, how these two beams could have stood securely in the vertical here without other supports, but there is no obvious evidence for them.

Other holes or grooves that appear to have been prepared as mounts for vertical posts are: PW5 (20 cm in diameter and 21 cm high, at depth of 4.6 m), PW6  (21 cm in diameter, at depth of 3.6 m), PW7  (21 cm in diameter, 25 cm high, at depth of 5.6 m), and PW8 (21 cm in diameter, at a depth of 5 m).  If there were posts mounted in PW5 and 6, they would have stood immediately beside the crane arm and could have been partly held in the vertical by it. Two other holes, PW3 and PW4, are mysterious because they are square cut recesses, cut to hold horizontal beams, but there is no indication of what would have supported the other ends of their beams, which would have projected – apparently - into space. Perhaps they were cut as anchor points for square horizontal projections mounted on the sides of  vertical beams, to give the latter more stability.  Both PW3 and PW4 are about 20 cm square and lie at a depth of 2 m from the summit.

The east face of the pinnacle peak is much steeper than the west, and its features are clearer.   Here there are three deep vertical holes, suggesting that a line of round wooden posts had been mounted here (fig. 12).  Hole PE1 is 1.36 m deep and held a round post 20 cm in diameter.  Hole PE2 is 1.9 m deep and held a round post 16 cm in diameter (fig. 19). These posts were probably the most secure on the pinnacle, and they may well have been the anchors to which all the remaining construction was tied.  Hole PE3, parallel to the others, is 2.4 m lower down and suggests the emplacement for a very tall post 25 cm in diameter.  The base of this post seems to have rested in a round depression 80 cm below the floor level of the alcove, about 4.5 m below the level of the pinnacle summit.

It must be assumed that there were horizontal beams resting on the summit of the pinnacle peak that would have been bound to the vertical beams rising from both the east and west sides, so that the construction would have had stability. This framework may have provided a wider and more secure working space on top; it also likely provided a series of anchors for workmen hanging from ropes and working farther down on the sides of the pinnacle.  Part of this apparatus certainly involved a crane.  But why the need for all this construction?

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