An ancient Egyptian map drawn on a scroll of papyrus paper was discovered between 1814 and 1821 by agents of Bernardino Drovetti, the French Consul General in Egypt. The map came from a private tomb in the ancient village of Deir el-Medina, near the modern-day city of Luxor (ancient Thebes) in Egypt (Figure 1). This village housed the workers responsible for excavating and decorating the royal tombs of the Egyptian New Kingdom (1539-1075 BC) in the nearby Valley of Kings and Valley of Queens. Soon after it was found, the map was sold to king Charles Felix, ruler of the northern Italian Kingdom of Sardenia and Piedmont. In 1824, this king established the Egyptian Museum in Turin, the kingdom’s capital, and here the map has resided ever since. The many map fragments were originally considered parts of three separate papyri that were designated as ‘Papyrus or P. Turin’ 1869, 1879 and 1899. Most of these fragments were eventually recombined to form a single map about 280 cm long by 41 cm wide (Figure 2).
The current reconstruction of the map in the Egyptian Museum, which dates to the early 1900’s, is incorrect in several of its details. A new arrangement of the map fragments has been proposed and this is shown in Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5 and Figure 6. The principal changes are the transposition of map fragments H-J and E, the placement of L at the bottom of E, and the narrowing of gaps between many of the fragments (which shortens the map to about 210 cm). This new reconstruction is consistent with the requirements that: (1) the adjoining fragments should correlate closely in terms of the features drawn on the map side, the texts and drawings on the map’s backside (Figure 7 and Figure 8), and the fiber patterns in the papyrus paper; (2) the width of the fragments and the spacing between the breaks within them should match for those fragments that are vertically juxtaposed; and (3) the topography and geology of the area shown on the map should be taken into account. Figure 3, Figure 5, Figure 6, Figure 7 and Figure 8 are computer-generated photo-mosaics derived from digital scans of photographs taken of the papyrus.
The map was rolled up when discovered and subsequently handled, and this explains the especially poor preservation of the rightmost portion in Figure 3, which formed the outer abraded surface of the scroll. An unknown amount of the papyrus has been lost at its right edge and so fragments K and N-P cannot be correctly placed. The map is not truncated here, but drawings of an unknown number of stone blocks and the accompanying texts are missing. The Egyptian Museum has many small map fragments that it left out of its reconstruction (and are also missing from Figures 3-8) and eventually these ‘pieces of the puzzle’ will be added to create a more complete map.