On the east bank of the Nile a few kilometres south of Mallawi, officials of the 15th Upper Egyptian Nome were buried in a group of rock tombs cut into the side of the cliff. The area is named after a Muslim holy man, Sheikh Said, who was also buried nearby. The site is very close to Deir el-Bersha and marks the northern limits of the Amarna plain. Like Deir el-Bersha there are also many ancient quarries here.
During Dynasty IV the mastabas favoured by officials buried in the necropolises at Giza and Saqqara had developed into rock-cut tombs with a layout similar to that of a mastaba, and an entrance simulating the appearance of the earlier tombs. By Dynasty VI this development resulted in the full-blown rock-cut tomb, which was cut into the steep cliff-face at the edge of the valley. These tombs were particularly prominent in Middle Egypt and other regions of the Nile Valley where the terrain was unsuitable for the construction of mastaba-style monuments. The cemetery at el-Sheikh Said is among the earliest examples of this type of rock-cut tomb.
The necropolis contains the tombs of the governors of the Hare Province who were buried during Dynasty VI, including ‘Chiefs of the Palace’ Meru-bebi, Wau and Ankheti. They are simple structures containing a tomb chapel, a smaller inner hall and a statue or offering chamber. They usually contained one or more shafts leading to subterranean burial chambers.
The capital of the 15th Upper Egyptian Nome was at el-Ashmunein on the west bank of the Nile. The cemetery at el-Sheikh Said is important because of the absence of contemporary evidence from the capital of the province.