Tomb of Userhet (TT56)
Userhet was a ‘Royal Scribe’ and a ‘Child of the Nursery’ during the reign of Amenhotep II of Dynasty XVIII. His title suggests that he was brought up in the royal court as one of the companions of the royal children and was a close friend of the king in adulthood. His most prominent title was ‘Scribe who counts breads in Upper and Lower Egypt’. Userhet’s tomb can be found in the village area of Sheikh ‘Abd el-Qurna, south of the tomb of Ramose (TT55).
The painted tomb of Userhet is well-preserved with unusual scenes of many subjects, although its decoration was not complete. The tomb is T-shaped with a transverse offering hall, leading to a chapel. The passage leading into the tomb is inscribed with texts of offering formulae to Amun-Re, Re-Horakhty and Osiris on the left and Osiris, Anubis and Hathor on the right. The lintel depicts Userhet and his wife before Osiris.
In the hall to the left of the entrance, Userhet can be seen in the company of his wife Mutnefert and a daughter, offering to Osiris and Hathor, Mistress of the West. The next five registers depict Userhet’s duties as a grain accountant and other agricultural scenes. These include inspecting rows of cattle and ‘overthrowing bulls’ in order to brand them. There are pictures of grain being reaped, measured and transported and below, women pulling flax.
The eastern end wall represents a painted stela which includes a double-scene of Osiris before offering tables and the tomb owner praising the god on either side. A winged sun-disc hovers over the scene and rows of offering bearers can be seen on either side.
The left-hand side of the southern wall again shows Userhet and his wife with two daughters and a son making offerings to them. A tiny monkey can be seen under Mutnofert’s chair, beside her mirror, and under Userhet’s chair his quiver of arrows and his scribal equipment. Banqueting scenes representing the ‘Beautiful Feast of the Valley’ follow on this wall with a harpist, a girl playing an oboe and clappers providing the musical entertainment. The upper register shows female guests at the banquet.
The right-hand side of the southern wall shows rows of military recruits. Barbers are giving haircuts to some of the men while others wait apprehensively in the queue in the shade of a tree or squabble over a shared chair. Another scene shows soldiers being given provisions and perhaps this was part of Userhet’s responsibilities. Officers appear seated in rows before plentiful supplies of food, wine and beer, but the troops are lined up waiting for baskets of bread. A supervisor with a whip checks the rations as they are taken from the storehouse. The right-hand side of this wall shows a red-headed Userhet offering a bouquet and fruit to the king in a kiosk. Amenhotep II is accompanied by his bodyguards.
The western end wall shows the traditional image of a painted false door. The tomb owner and his wife are seated before offering tables and their son Usi as sem-priest performs the ritual offerings and purifications at the beginning of the ‘Opening of the Mouth Ritual’.
On the right-hand side of the entrance wall there are more offering scenes. Seated women are depicted with children in their laps and servants behind suggesting that they may be the wet-nurses of Userhet’s children.
The doorway into the chapel is elaborately painted with a striped cornice and the lintel over the entrance shows the deceased Userhet before Osiris and Anubis, funerary gods, in a double-scene. There are offering texts on either side.
The left-hand wall of the chapel is painted in two registers. Userhet is shown hunting in his chariot, firing his arrows at a collection of fleeing desert animals, gazelle, hares, fox and hyena, with his military escort following behind. Below is a conventional fishing and fowling scene where Userhet, with his family (and cats), stands poised to throw a stick or spear fish from a papyrus boat. In the scene below men are trapping fowl in a draw-net and offering the produce to Userhet and his wife. Next depicted is a damaged scene of the grape harvest, with baskets of grapes and wine jars waiting to be filled. A scribe records the vintage. Userhet is making an offering to the serpent-goddess Renenutet (Termuthis).
At the end of the chapel is a statue niche which once held the statues of Userhet and Mutnefert, but little remains today.
The scenes on the right-hand wall are show in three registers and depict the funeral procession and the ritual of ‘Opening the Mouth’. The burial goods are shown transported to the tomb accompanied by mourning women in the traditional manner. ‘The Abydos Pilgrimage’ in the bottom scene shows Userhet’s sarcophagus in a boat being towed by four others on its sacred journey.
The tomb of Userhet is open 6.00am to 4.00pm in winter. A ticket for the tombs of Ramose, Userhet and Khaemhet can be bought at the ticket office.