Digital Epigraphy (Second Edition)

Chapter 2, Section 3 - Archaeological Elements

Publications August 23. 2018

Written by W. R. Johnson, M. De Jong, S. Osgood, and K. Vértes

The carved reliefs and inscriptions which are the focus of the Epigraphic Survey documentation efforts are usually found in an architectural setting (except in the case of decorated block fragments) on interior and exterior walls, portals, columns, four-sided pillars, architraves, and sometimes ceilings. The architectural “frame” or boundary of the relief decoration, when included, is rendered in the following ways:

Juncture of two walls (corner):

Basic dashed architectural line, shadow line weight (1/.50), rendered vertically. (1)

Juncture of wall and ceiling:

Basic dashed architectural line, full shadow line weight (1/.50), rendered horizontally. (2)

Juncture of wall and floor:

Most ancient Egyptian decorated walls feature an undecorated dado at the ground level (sometimes a meter and a half high) that is rarely, if ever, included in Epigraphic Survey facsimile drawings. The juncture of floor and wall is usually shown in schematic “key plan” drawings of entire walls, where it is indicated with a strong, solid line (1/.50). (3)

Doorframes: Doorframes, which consist of two vertical doorjambs supporting a horizontal lintel, usually project a centimeter or two above the surface of the wall and form a distinct architectural unit unto themselves. All edges of the doorframes (interior, exterior, top) are rendered with a solid shadow line (usually 1/.50).

The left and right edges of each pillar should be rendered in a solid shadowweight line (1/.50) on all inscribed faces. Damage at the side limits of the pillar or cement should be drawn out to the edge to correct perspective.

The juncture of the side pillar faces (in line with the balustrade) and the architrave block above it is indicated in a dashed shadow-weight architectural line (like a ceiling line).

The balustrade itself where it abuts the pillar should be rendered in the same dashed architectural line, and if there is a scar on the pillar face where the top of the balustrade was later cut back, the chisel marks of that modifiication should be indicated.

The chiseled cutting of any similar late modifications such as patchstone holes or shaved-down areas around patchstones should also be indicated by the artist.

Cylindrical Columns:

Decoration on curved column surfaces is always “unfolded” (usually by tracing) and drawn flat, with no reference to outer edges indicated on the facsimile drawing. Reduced-scale elevations provide the contextual information elsewhere on key plates.

Faceted Columns:

A separate, detailed study volume provides an accurate depiction of the architectural features of columns. For context, the general arrangement of architectural elements are illustrated on facsimile drawings of the decorated surfaces. Facets are drawn with sun lines (4x0/.18). Raised facets with inscriptions (such as MHB 171 and MHB 173) are outlined with the architectural line convention (1/.50). Bases of the columns are shown resting on the current floor level.

Border Elements:


Raised Relief (left) and Sunk Relief (Right)

Wall and pillar scenes are often “framed” on all four sides by a double border element consisting of two parallel plastic bands that are connected with perpendicular crossbars spaced at regular intervals (often just painted).

At MHB and elsewhere, the border found beneath the carved ground line of the lowermost register is sometimes rendered only in paint, and does not survive. In our conventions for both raised and sunk relief, the two bands are treated as one element, (even if appearing with no more depth than a scratch) and represented as illustrated.

Sometimes, particularly on pillars, steel beams or other types of modern structures - have been affxed so that they cover inscribed areas. In this case, the ink lines simply end where the carving is completely covered and the obscured area is left blank. In the publication, the reason for the blank area is explained in the commentary.


The top of the balustrade, from a front view, is drawn with a solid architectural line (1/.50). It can be an irregular line. The juncture of the front face with the receding bevel is drawn with a sun line (4x0/.18).


On pillar faces, a bevel (resulting from the cutting back of the inscribed surface for architectural fitting) can be rendered three dimensionally by stippling.

Torus Molding:

  • Architectural features - only the existing torus molding is drawn, using a solid architectural line (1/.50) for the outer edge and dashed architectural line (1/.50) for the advancing plane at the juncture with the wall. Modern architectural reconstruction of any kind is omitted. When the torus molding is faceted, it can be indicated with a sun line (4x0/.18). Depiction of architectural curvature by modeling or stippling is omitted. Damage is shown where the torus is broken off at its upper or lower limits. Existing plaster may be drawn within damaged areas to show the repaired area where there is an indication of a torus emplacement remaining. However, plaster on the surface of the existing torus molding is omitted.
  • Surface area - any carved relief and/or incised decoration on the torus molding is drawn with a sun line (4x0/.18). Damage and paint are drawn with trace weight lines (6x0/.13).

Additional Architectural Information:

For context and alignment, it is helpful to pencil the architectural features adjacent to the scene being recorded. For instance, in the MHB Kushite Portico drawings the “screen” blocks are inked and the torus molding, column bases, and adjacent side columns are penciled only.

Patchstones, Holes:

Post-antique period architectural modifications to the inscribed walls in the form of chiseled patchstone, tether, and beam holes, etc. should be carefully indicated by the artist since they provide important archaeological information concerning the latest, pre-modern phases of the monument’s use.

When a patchstone projects beyond the carved surface it is outlined with a shadow weight line (1/.50). If the patchstone is flush with the carved surface, that juncture is indicated with a trace weight line (6x0/.13).

MHB 84 (detail) - Drawing by di Cerbo and Vértes

Intact inscribed patchstones (reused blocks) are outlined similarly but the carved surface is inked in a single, sun weight line (4x0/.18). If decided, a detail of the reused block will be drawn separately with regular sun/shadow conventions.

Patchstone emplacements, where patchstones have been removed or have fallen away, are treated as damage with the characteristic dimensional shape and chiseling clearly recorded.


Holes piercing the full depth of the wall or pillar should be outlined in a solid shadow weight line (0/.35).

MHB 75 (detail) - Drawing by De Jong  

Modern Modifications:

When steel beams or other types of modern structures or constructions have been affixed to walls or pillars so that they cover inscribed areas, older photographs can be used for reference, when available, to complete the facsimile drawings. In the event there is no reliable reference, the ink lines simply end where the carving is completely covered and the obscured area is left blank. In the publication, the reason for the blank area is explained in the commentary.

*All the explanatory drawings appearing in this article are drawn by W. R. Johnson and M. De Jong and the property of the Epigraphic Survey © All rights reserved.




Chapter 2, Section 4 - Architectural Obstructions

Written by Krisztián Vértes

In the history of a monument, several stages of development can have occurred over time. When later buildings, walls or other edifices have been added so as to nearly obscure earlier inscriptions, it might be possible to record those carvings by employing any number of resourceful methods.

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