Thebes Excavation

From the October 2003 newsletter


Theban Tomb 147 is a tomb that has been known for many years. However, little work had been done on it before the work of our expedition.  The tomb has been no doubt neglected because of the state of preservation - it had been lived in at some time during the past and there was an accumulation of tar and soot from fires, obscuring the paintings; numerous wasp nests also covered the walls and ceilings and in three sections of the tomb the walls had also collapsed.  The Macquarie Theban Tombs Project applied for the concession to work on this tomb in the hope that after cleaning and conserving the walls it would be possible to gain further information on the tomb, its decoration and in particular its owner.

This season the debris from the chapel was cleared, repairs were made to the collapsed sections of the walls, a start was made on cleaning and conserving the wall paintings and a beginning made to the epigraphic study of the decoration.

The cleaning that has been done so far has proven very successful and in large areas the original freshness and brightness of wall paintings that have been revealed are still preserved.  The style and quality of the paintings is very similar to that of the well-known tombs of Nakht and Menna. Particularly attractive is the scene of the banquet with dancers and musicians, including a blind harper, on the north wall of the Long Hall.

A preliminary study of the inscriptions revealed that the tomb was in fact decorated for at least two different people.  One had the title "Head elder of the portal [of Amun] in Karnak", the other was a "Scribe who counts the cattle of Amun in Upper and Lower Egypt", but the names of both men have been systematically erased, as have the names of the men's wives.  There seem to have been two lots of erasures.  One was aimed at the names of the tomb owners and their wives; this involved rubbing out their names, which had been painted with blue frit, without actually damaging the plaster.  The other took place during the Amarna Period, when the name Amun and the word "gods" were systematically erased; in this phase of erasure the plaster on which the words appeared was also hacked out.  The northern half of the tomb seems to have been decorated for the "Head elder of the portal" and the southern half for the "Scribe who counts the cattle of Amun".  The names of sons of the two men have survived; that of the former is Kenamun, who was an "Elder of the portal", that of the latter Amenemhet, who was a "wab-priest of Amun".  Other names have been identified in the tomb.  A scribe Senmes appears on the stele set into the west wall of the northern half of the Broad Hall; a woman, designated "daughter" (whose daughter she was is not clear) called Iuy appears in a scene on the west wall of the northern half of the Broad Hall, and a wife (husband unknown) called Tanethewet, appears on the east wall of the northern half of the Broad Hall.

It has not yet been possible to positively identify either of the two tomb owners.  There is a possibility, however, that the "Scribe who counts the cattle of Amun in Upper and Lower Egypt” may be identical with a "Scribe who counts the cattle of Amun throughout the nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt" called Heby.  He is attested on a funerary cone from Thebes and his tomb is very likely to have been located at Dra Abu El-Naga since in the course of our work we found another of his cones, a stray surface find from the bottom of the hill to the north of the ghaffirs' hut.  On the cone the father and mother of Heby are mentioned, the latter being a "Scribe who counts the cattle of Amun" by the name of Senmes.  As mentioned above, a scribe Senmes also appears on a subsidiary stele on the west wall of the northern end of the Broad Hall of TT 147; whether his scribal title was also qualified by "who counts the cattle of Amun" can not be determined because there is a break in the plaster immediately below the word "Scribe". Unfortunately, we do not know whether his wife, like the wife of the Senmes of the cone, was called Ruia since the column of text where her name appears has been deliberately hacked out.  If the "Scribe who counts the cattle of Amun in Upper and Lower Egypt" of the tomb is identical with Heby, however, it would explain why there is a secondary stele for a scribe Senmes in the tomb. There are two other factors in favour of the identification: 1. The traces of the name of the "Scribe who counts the cattle of Amun in Upper and Lower Egypt" that survive in an inscription on the western end of the south wall of Long Hall suit the reading Heby; 2. The qualification "in Upper and Lower Egypt" of the tomb owner comes very close to the "throughout the nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt" found with Heby and both are otherwise unattested.

The northern end of the Broad Hall has not yet been systematically cleaned and it is possible that other names and their relationship to the owners of the tomb may be established once this has been completed. When the tomb and its burial apartments have been fully excavated, inscribed finds will hopefully also provide information on the tomb's owners.

Boyo G. Ockinga