REL2011/Evans Course Module:
Cosmological Reflections in Egyptian Funerary Architecture

Types of Tombs

Instructions: Read the introductory paragraph on tomb types below. Then click on each of the thumbnail images to learn more about each tomb type. When done go on to Egyptian Tomb as Home for the Afterlife.

Pit graves

Mastaba tombs

Rock-cut chapels


Built mortuary chapel-tombs

The type of tomb that was used for burial evolved over time. The architecture was designed to fulfill a number of functions: provide a home for the deceased, provide structurally for the maintenance of his/her afterlife with an offering chapel, provide a link from the living to the spiritual world. For example, the burial chamber was placed on the west side of the structure so the deceased could accompany the setting sun on its journey to the underworld.

Spencer writes: It is well worth while to study funerary buildings in more depth, to obtain some idea of the range of structures produced over the three-thousand-year span of Egyptian civilization, together with their chronological development and methods of construction. ... One problem in classifying Eygptian tombs is deciding whether to distinguish the styles by variations in the form of the superstructure of substructure. In fact, the divisions have to be somewhat arbitrary, because many tombs have had their superstructures entirely destroyed, leaving only their underground parts for consideration. Basically, the following types of tomb can be distinguished:

  1. Simple pit-graves
  2. Mastaba-tombs
  3. Rock-cut chapels
  4. Pyramid-tombs
  5. Built mortuary chapel tombs.

Text from: A.J. Spencer, Death in Ancient Egypt (London: Penguin Books, 1982), p. 214-215.

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Last revised: Jan. 18, 1998