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

The Private Tomb of Userhat on the West Bank at Luxor

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Userhat, a commoner of the 19th Dynasty, had a most unusual position, apparently with grave responsibilities. He was called Neferhabef, "First prophet of the Royal Ka of Tuthmosis I". Of course in ancient Egypt, the Ka was a person's soul. Actually, this means that he served in the cult temple of Tuthmosis I, probably "the Mansion of the Ka of Aakheperkare, as the Temple of Thutmosis was named. He actually served during the reigns of Ramesses I and Seti I. We know that his mother and father were Khensem and Tausert, that he had another wife named Shepset (Hatshepsut), along with two other wives and probably one son and one daughter. The names of the second two wives, however, were obliterated from his tomb, TT 51, in the area know as the Tombs of the Nobles on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). This tomb is not to be confused with an apparent other Userhat who occupied tomb number 56.

Offerings are presented to Userhat and his wife, Shepset

This tomb was discovered by Sir Robert Mond on January 10, 1903. It appears that he never completely cleared the tomb. That task was left to Norman de Garis Davies who, working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, began finishing the clearing in 1909. Davies published his work in the tomb in 1927 under the title, Two Rammeside Tombs at Thebes.

The tomb is said to be one of the most beautiful in Thebes. Yet, in 1941, vandals and thieves cut out five large pieces of the walls, and then apparently proceeded to chisel out the eyes of most of the figures. Some of the work has been restored, and luckily, we have Davies' drawings that were completed prior to this destruction.

Priests dressed in leopard skins perform purification rites while women grieve.

The tomb has a typical T-shape, with a courtyard, followed by a short corridor leading into the vestibule. Only this section of the tomb is open to the public, but the tomb continues through another short corridor into a four pillared hall with a ritual shaft in its northern corner. This room finally leads through a third short corridor into the burial chamber. Only a stelae located in the courtyard and the vestibule are decorated.

The stelae in the courtyard has fragmentary scenes of the funeral ceremony prior to the mummification of Userhat. On the lower part of the stelae is text describing offerings.

Entering the vestibule and turning left, on the first wall we find several scenes, including the weighing of the heart (or soul) of the deceased, a representation of Osiris and Hathor, Userhat worshiping before a falcon-headed Re-Harakhty, and again the funeral ceremony prior to Userhat's mummification. On the left rear wall of the vestibule are more scenes showing men bearing gifts, the deceased leaving a temple and priests with flabellum and the cartouche of Tuthmosis I serving his ka.

The first scene on the right rear wall shows Userhat with probably two of his wives and a son making an offering to Osiris and to two other gods. Next, on the same wall we find priests dressed in leopard skins and grieving women. The priests are carrying out a purification rite and fumigations while the woman make offerings before the deceased and one of his wives.

On the next short wall the deceased is depicted with his wife, Shepset, and mother, Tausert. They are seated under a fig tree with three small birds perched on its limbs. Overhead there are three spirits in the form of birds with human heads. The tree goddess serves them water, bread, figs and apples. This scene is the earliest known Egyptian art with shading.

Userhat, dressed as a priest, kneels on a slap of ritually pure alabaster while undergoing purification rights

The front right wall of the vestibule begins with a scene depicting Userhat kneeling before a offerings, Userhat and his family bring offerings to a shrine of Harmachis. (behind the shrine is a goddess of the Underworld called the 'Lover of Silence'): Here we also find scenes of a pilgrimage to Abydos, a common decoration in private tombs, as well as Userhat and his wife before Osiris and Anubis. These are followed by scenes of worship, depictions of the gods, Anubis, Osiris and Thoth, purification rites, and the deceased before the offerings.

Userhat's wife, along with either other wives or other female relatives Not much was found in the way of funerary equipment. Mond apparently found a large stone shawabty figure along with a number of small terra-cotta shawabty, while Davies reported finding only one other shawabty figure made of charred wood.






Reference Number

Guide to the Valley of the Kings

Siliotti, Alberto


Barnes & Noble Books

ISBN 0-7607-0483-x

Valley of the Kings

Weeks, Kent R.



ISBN 1-5866-3295-7

Valley of the Kings

Heyden, A. Van Der

Al Ahram/Elsevier