The modest-looking structure of today bears little resemblance to its more-impressive appearance in years past, as depicted for example in an 1804 painting by Luigi Mayer. Among the most famous of the Silwan tombs, this above-ground edifice has been fancifully attributed to Solomon as a shrine for his Egyptian wife, the daughter of Pharaoh.

Hewn out of bedrock, the tomb bears on its front and sides an Egyptian-style cornice consisting of a broad band projecting from the top and two bands of molding, one concave, the other convex.

The tomb’s now-flat roof betrays signs of quarrying. In 1947 Nahman Avigad, of the Hebrew University, showed that the roof had originally included a pyramid on top of it. After removing layers of earth from the roof, Avigad noted small but distinct signs of a pyramid base, beginning about a foot from the edge and rising at a 45 degree angle.

In the second century C.E. the Romans built Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem, which they had burned in 70 C.E. following the suppression of the First Jewish Revolt. They quarried the Silwan necropolis extensively for the building of their new city. The roof of the “Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter” shows their method: The rock of the pyramid was first marked, and then a groove was cut into the stone; blocks were then forcibly extracted from the base. The roof today (photo and plan opposite) shows the grooves left behind when the lowest course of blocks was removed.

When hermits later occupied the “Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter,” they enlarged the doorway and in the process destroyed a funerary inscription above the entrance. All that remains of what had been about a 20-word inscription is the final letter, resh, and part of the next-to-last letter (photo and drawing opposite, bottom). Though the inscription is now lost to us, the shape of the final letter—in paleo-Hebrew—tells us that the tomb dates to before the Babylonian destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587 B.C.E.