Egypt: The Private Tomb of Khaemhat on the West Bank at Luxor

The Private Tomb of Khaemhat on the West Bank at Luxor

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Khaemhat (also known as Mahu) was the "Overseer of the Granaries of Upper and Lower Egypt", as well as a Royal Scribe. He was married to his wife named Tiyi, but strangely the tomb gives a lot of attention to another scribe by the name of Imhotep. We really do not no much about the rest of his family. For example, children do not appear to be pictured on the walls of his private tomb, (TT 57), located on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). It has been known since George Lloyd, an amateur archaeologist, botanist and traveler discovered it in 1842. It is a beautiful tomb, though somewhat ghostly these days due to the removal of most of its paint from the tomb's decorations.

The tomb has seen its hardships, as did its discoverer. Lloyd, who worked with the French Egyptologist Prisse d'Avennes at Thebes, was killed shortly after discovering the tomb when his gun accidentally discharged.

The tomb itself has suffered from fire, and damage to the reliefs at the hands of early explorers. In order to record the decorations, squeezes were performed using newspaper softened with water and pressing it onto the walls. This would transfer the color of the reliefs onto the newspaper, but at the same time, remove it from the walls. Today the tomb is almost devoid of color, though the reliefs are a wonderful display of art in motion and are full of life.

The squeezes have been useful. At first they were in the Egyptian Museum in Boulak, but in 1886 they were moved to the Boston Museum of Fine Art. They were later examined by Dows Dunham, who found previously unrecorded details. They have been invaluable in providing some missing text from the tomb.Regrettably however, had they not been made in the first place, the detail would have remained on the walls of the tomb and today it would perhaps be more of a treasure then what we are left with.

The tomb was apparently in use through Roman times with a number of burials. Afterwards, it apparently became the home of hermits who further damaged the interior with greasy fires.

The tomb is in the Abd el-Qurna necropolis. It is one of several tombs, including TT 126, 295 and 102 that are clustered around a courtyard in the western end of this cemetery. All of these tombs are well crafted and probably built during the reign of Amenhotep III. There owners were probably affluent, and in the king's favor, as each has depictions of Amenhotep III. Khaemhat's tomb, specifically, is one of only four private tombs from the reign of Amenhotep III to be decorated with reliefs. It is also noteworthy that this is one of the few tombs that is specifically dated, recorded as year 30 of Amenhotep III's reign.

The plan of the tomb is a somewhat complicated variation of the standard T shape of many private tombs. It is entered down a stairway into a court with a niche for a stele. Making a left through a short corridor, one arrives in the first hall. This room contains a number of agricultural scenes, which are somewhat rare. They might have celebrated a special harvest. These scenes include men threshing and women with baskets picking up the fields, sensitive depictions of animals, tillers bending to their task while another man scatters seed and many other wonderful representations.

Examining the left front wall, we first encounter scenes depicting the measuring of crops, the recording of grain and the deceased inspecting men measuring crops. There is also a scene depicting docks and a market. On the next small southern wall we find statues of Khaemhat and a royal scribe named Imhotep. Tucked in between the statues is a relief of Khaemhat's wife, Tiyi.. Then on the back left wall is a scene recording men bringing cattle before Amenhotep III, while on the right rear wall we find Amenhotep III rewarding officials. There are apparently no decorations on the short northern wall, though on the front right wall we find various agricultural scenes.

The short corridor leading from the first hall into a widened passage has a scene of Khaemhatt before deities. Entering the wide passage, we find scenes to the left and right. On the left, is the funeral procession and ceremonies, while on the right is the Book of the Dead, along with the typical pilgrimage to Abydos. This passage leads into the inner room of the tomb, with paired statues to the left, right and rear. One set of statues is that of Khaemhat and Tiyi, one set is of Khaemhat and Imhotep, and one is of Khaemhat and an unknown woman.

Within the inner room a short corridor leads to a shallow stairway that in turn leads to a tunnel that circles clockwise. It first reaches a set of small rooms and at the bottom, two larger rooms. One of these two larger rooms was probably the burial chamber, and the other meant to hold the owner's funerary equipment, though nothing was found.

A number of items were found in or near the tomb, mostly by Sir Robert Mond, a wealthy businessman and chemist. These items included wood and stone shawabtis, a shawabti box, a bronze spear-head and a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure. He also found three rock stele, one of which mentions Khaemhat, and the coffins of Pedamen and Khonsuiuefankh. The stele were discovered in the courtyard.






Reference Number

Valley of the Kings

Weeks, Kent R.



ISBN 1-5866-3295-7

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2