Tomb of Sennefer (TT96)
Sennefer was ‘Mayor of the Southern City’ (Thebes), an important official during the reign of Amenhotep II in Dynasty XVIII. His tomb, called by nineteenth century travellers the ‘Tomb of the Vineyards’, can be found in the upper enclosure of Sheikh ‘Abd el-Qurna, high on the hillside above Rekhmire’s tomb (TT100).
The tomb’s name, ‘Tomb of the Vineyards’ comes from the beautiful decoration on some of the ceilings which give the impression of standing under an arbour hung with big bunches of grapes.
The upper parts of the tomb are used as storage, now inaccessible to visitors and the modern entrance leads down a steep staircase directly into an antechamber to the four-pillared burial chamber. Both of these rooms are decorated, unlike most of the other private tombs of Dynasty XVIII which had an undecorated burial chamber. The upper chambers contained funerary representations of harvesting, banqueting and offering scenes similar to those in other private tombs.
The walls of the underground chambers were covered with a mud plaster which left the surface uneven, then painted in bright colours which are extremely well-preserved. In the antechamber Sennefer sits under his grape-arbour ceiling, while his daughter Mut-tuy, a ‘Chantress of Amun’ leads a procession of priests bringing offerings of bread, beef, torches and linen. Mut-tuy herself offers two necklaces and a heart amulet to her father. On the right-hand wall another procession of offering bearers carry the burial goods to the tomb.
By the door to the burial chamber a lady named Senet-nefert ‘beloved sister (wife) and Chantress of Amun’, appears with the deceased and holds a sistrum and a menat necklace. She is named as the wife of Sennefer and ‘Royal Wetnurse’. There is some confusion over Sennefer’s wives, as the ladies names are Senet-nay in the upper chambers and Senet-nefert in the antechamber, with other names bearing the element ‘Senet….’ elsewhere. Only the name of the lady Meryt appears in the burial chamber. Either the deceased had several wives over a period of time, or they are variations of the same name, with ‘Meryt’ used as a title in the burial chamber, meaning ‘beloved’.
The decoration in the short passage to the burial chamber is badly damaged but above the doorway inside the chamber is a double-scene of Anubis jackals sitting on top of pylon-shaped shrines on either side of an altar.
The ceiling of the burial chamber is spectacular in its decoration. The grape design gives way to a multicoloured carpet of geometric designs on the uneven surface, giving the impression that the visitor is standing under an undulating canvas tent. This first impression is perhaps reinforced by the four square pillars which support the ceiling.
Looking into the burial chamber, to the left of the doorway Sennefer is depicted standing, with his wife Meryt – ‘beloved sister (wife), the Chantress of Amun’ behind him. Sennefer holds his staff of office, his wife holds her sistrum and menat and the caption states that they are ‘going forth to see the sun-disc’. Further scenes on this wall show the couple seated on a loin couch in their festival clothes, with a text of traditional offering formulae.
The left-hand wall is damaged, but the scenes are those of the funeral procession, with men and oxen dragging the sarcophagus, shrines, statues and food to the tomb. The bottom register shows dancers and mourners taking part in the funeral ceremonies, which include setting up two obelisks and a depiction of the ‘teknu’ on a stool. At the end of the wall Sennefer and Meryt are shown before Osiris and the Goddess of the West (now almost completely gone).
The rear wall of the burial chamber shows Sennefer and Meryt before an offering table and three registers of priests offering hes-vases, censers and torches. Sennefer is playing a board game called ‘senet’, which had religious significance. Here also in two registers, charming scenes of the ‘Abydos Pilgrimage’ are depicted with the deceased couple seated in a cabin in their boat during the voyage. This is a traditional funerary scene in New Kingdom private tombs, as every Egyptian’s wish (either actually or symbolically) was to make the holy journey to the cult centre of Osiris at Abydos. There they would participate in the ceremonies of the Resurrection of Osiris which took place there since ancient times.
The wall on the right-hand side of the chamber shows Sennefer and Meryt worshipping Osiris and Anubis (as funerary gods) who are seated in a shrine. The grape motif winds around the tops of the walls and hangs in vines around the next scene – a collection of funerary texts from the ‘Book of the Dead’ (Spell 151) depicted in a large square frame. The following scene shows Sennefer and his wife being purified with water from a nemset-jar by a sem-priest wearing a leopard skin. Sennefer wears a double heart amulet around his neck and holds a bouquet of stalks and lotus buds. Meryt also holds a bouquet as well as her sistrum and menat. This purification ritual is the beginning of the ritual of the ‘Opening of the Mouth’.
The wall on the right-hand side of the doorway depicts the deceased couple seated before an offering table, with their son as a sem-priest burning incense and offering libations to them. The texts give the traditional offering formula – ‘1000 of bread, beer, cattle, fowl, and all good and pure things to be offered for your Ka’. The texts above also explain the scene.
The four pillars are decorated on each side with representations of Sennefer and Meryt mostly in offering scenes which are also part of the funerary rites. On three sides of each pillar, Meryt is seen offering flowers, ointments, food, or protective amulets to her husband. On the fourth side of each pillar the scenes differ, with portrayals of the Goddess of the Sycamore and representations of parts of the ‘Opening of the Mouth’ ritual.
The tomb of Sennefer is open 6.00am to 4.00pm in winter. A ticket for the tombs of Sennefer and Rekhmire can be bought at the ticket office.