Tomb of Kheruef (TT192)

Kheruef, also called Senaa, was ‘Steward of the Great Royal Wife, Tiye’, ‘Royal Scribe’ and ‘First Royal Herald’ during the reign of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV. His tomb is found in the area of Asasif, to the south of Deir el-Bahri. The tomb complex is very large, as befits a man in his exalted position, but was unfinished at the time of his death (he was never buried in the tomb) and most of the inner rooms of the structure are closed off. Kheruef’s tomb is entered down a staircase and passage which leads to a large open court leading to several other later tombs.

Amenhotep III & Queen Tiye and the Autobiography of Kheruef

At the entrance to the passage a double-scene on the lintel depicts Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten) with his mother Tiye offering to deities and includes offering texts with a cartouche of Tiye at the bottom. The scenes in the passage are very damaged but can just about be recognised as Amenhotep IV adoring his deified parents (on the left), with Kheruef kneeling below. Representations of Amenhotep IV were defaced, presumably after the Amarna period, even though work on the tomb had ceased before he had become Akhenaten. Perhaps Kheruef was buried at Amarna. As a steward of Queen Tiye, he may later also have been part of Akhenaten’s court, but we shall probably never know.

The most important reliefs are on the rear wall of the portico on the western side of the court. This was originally fronted by square pillars and was the only part of the tomb to be completely decorated. The space between the pillars was filled in with a wall at a later date, turning the portico into what today looks like a corridor.

Beginning at the southern end of the western wall (the far end to the left of the entrance) there are two registers containing scenes of the first heb-sed (jubilee festival) of Amenhotep III, celebrated in Year 30, Day 27, of the second month of Shemu. Kheruef, as royal steward, must have played an important part in the organisation of the festival.

Female dancers at the sed-festival

Going back to the southern end of the wall, the bottom register shows the celebrations of the heb-sed festival with two rows of female dancers and musicians. In the top row the girls are probably Libyans and they are performing graceful dances with their heads held low and their hair hanging forward over their faces. Curiously, I have seen very similar dances performed in modern Egyptian religious festivals. In front of the row of the dancers is a frolicking calf, a flying bird and a baboon.

Princesses and frolicking calf & baboon

The bottom row shows women clapping, singing and playing instruments, with two male chorus-leaders and male dancers (one seemingly wearing a lion-mask) at the end of the row. The reliefs are beautifully and elegantly carved as one would expect during this period. To the right-hand side of the bottom row, four pairs of girls are depicted carrying jars and vessels which the text tells us are made from gold and electrum – there are similar vessels on offering-stands in front of each pair. The inscription also implies that these are daughters of foreign leaders, who may have been brought up in the Egyptian royal court. This is one of the most beautiful reliefs in the tomb. The princesses are wearing long elegant gowns with broad collars, have short, elaborately carved wigs with sidelocks and a curious square-shaped head-dress. Their feet are bare. Between the two rows of dancers and musicians is an inscribed text of a song to Hathor.

Beyond the princesses, to the right on the bottom register, is a badly damaged scene which originally depicted Kheruef and other officials being rewarded with the ‘Gold of Honour’ (the gold collars can still be seen on a table), as part of the ceremonies. He stands before Amenhotep III, who is seated in an elaborate kiosk, with Hathor as ‘Mistress of Dendera’ (holding a protective arm around the king) and Queen Tiye behind him. In this scene, which takes up the whole wall-space, the king is wearing the double crown, heb-sed dress, sandals and carrying the crook and flail, the royal insignia. The base of the kiosk is decorated with reliefs depicting rekhyt-birds which generally symbolise the populace of Egypt and perhaps also the rebels the king has subdued. The text in front of the kiosk gives full details of the titles of Amenhotep III, the date of his first sed-festival and names some of the officials who took part.

The wall at the northern end of the portico displays scenes from another sed-festival, the third of Amenhotep III, this time dated to Year 37 of his reign. The king’s second heb-sed is not recorded here. Beginning at the far end of the wall there are two registers. The top register is not well-preserved, but depicted a group of eight princesses with sistra, in two rows. Texts stated that these were the daughters of the king. In front of this, in a scene again very damaged, Amenhotep III followed by his queen performs a ceremony of ‘Raising the Djed-Pillar’. This is a ritual usually performed during the feast of Khoiakh to represent the stability of the ruler, here it is associated with Ptah-Sokar-Osiris and performed on the morning of the sed festival.


In the bottom register are three rows depicting celebrations of the festival. The top row shows offering bearers bringing food for the celebrations and men dancing, while to the left, male singers and clappers stand before a text of the Hymn to Ptah-Sokar. The row below depicts men boxing and stick-fighting with papyrus stalks (similar to the tradition of stick-fighting in modern Egypt), games which were popular in many of the festivals. There are also female dancers (thought to be from the Western Oases, from their costume and hairstyle) but they are not as graceful or well-carved as those on the southern side of the portico. At the far end, on the bottom row, cattle and donkeys are driven round the walls of Memphis – a ritual in which the cattle circle the walls of the town four times, we are told in the text. To the left a boat is bringing provisions to men who carry them away and a cow is being slaughtered.

The left-hand side of the wall on the northern end of the portico shows a similar scene to that on the southern end, with Amenhotep III seated in a kiosk with his Great Royal Wife, Tiye, behind him. This time the king is wearing the blue crown and a broad collar with the ‘gold of honour’ around his neck. Tiye’s throne is decorated with a female sphinx trampling female enemies and bound female Nubian and Syrian captives. Below the kiosk is a row of bound prisoners, each with a name-ring representing Egypt’s defeated enemies (known as ‘the nine bows’). The texts in front of the royal couple give their titles. Kheruef and other officials again stand before the kiosk (the scene is damaged) and receives a decorative floral vase, a pectoral bearing the cartouche of Queen Tiye and a pectoral with a scarab beetle and the king’s cartouche.

The entrance to the first columned hall is in the centre of the portico, and is covered by a locked grill, but the visitor can see the remains of cracked and damaged fluted columns. In this hall the lower part of a seated statue of the deceased was found, which gave the names of his parents. Fragments of another quartzite statue were also found. The chamber beyond is a long pillared hall with a statue niche at the rear.

It is a pity that Kheruef’s tomb was unfinished and damaged. The reliefs in the portico are among the finest of any tomb in the Theban necropolis, and the style of artwork suggests that they were carved by the same craftsmen who worked on the tomb of Ramose (TT55), a contemporary of Kheruef.


The tombs of Kheruef and Ankh-hor at el-Asasif are open from 6.00am to 4.00pm in winter. Tickets can be bought at the ticket office for EGP 25.

~ by Su on February 7, 2009.