Season Winter 1990

A Preliminary Report to the Permanent Committee
of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization

by Peter A. Piccione
Field Director
© 1990

Note: Not included here are sets of photographs taken in the 1990 season that were originally submitted to the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (now the Supreme Council for Antiquities) as part of the field report documenting the wall surfaces of Tomb no. 72. Typically, as a preliminary report, some of the findings and tentative conclusions reported in this document have been superceded by findings in later seasons.

I would like to acknowledge the representatives of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization in Luxor for their support and assistance in the conduct of this project, Dr. Muhammed Sagheir, Director General of Antiquities, Luxor, and Dr. Muhammed Nasr, Director of Antiquities, Qurna. Special thanks for his diligence and help are due to Chief Inspector Muhammed Abdullah, who served as the representative of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization.

General Description

The purpose of this continuing project is to document the architecture and inscriptions of the New Kingdom tombs of Ahmose, Lector Priest of Menkheperre (Tomb 121), and Rây, First Prophet of Amun and Menkheperre, (Tomb 72) in Western Thebes. The tomb of Ahmose dates to the reign of Tuthmosis III, while that of Rây was decorated under Amenhotep II. They are located near each other at the top of Gebel Sheikh Abd el-Gurna, at the northwestern edge of the Upper Enclosure of the necropolis, where they overlook the village of Gurna and the Assasif. Significantly, they are situated on either side of the upper tomb of Senenmut (Tomb 71): Ahmose on the north side; Rây on the south side.

During the Winter Season 1990, fieldwork on the Theban Tombs Publication Project lasted eight weeks from 10 February to 8 April. The work consisted of four phases: 1) initial examination of both tombs (interior and exterior) in order to survey their conditions and to plan the campaign of documenting their wall-inscriptions and recording their architectural features; 2) preliminary survey of the exterior architecture of Tomb 72; 3) photography of the wall decoration of Tomb 72; 4) drawing hand-copies of the decoration and hieroglyphic texts inscribed on the walls of Tomb 72.

Initial Examination

The initial examination of the two tombs has indicated that the architectural and epigraphic surveys of Tomb 72 should be completed before beginning those of Tomb 121. However, the texts of the two tombs are related to each other, and they reveal that the owner of Tomb 121 was the father of the owner of Tomb 72. For these reasons, it has been necessary this season, and still remains so, to consult the inscriptions of Tomb 121 in order to restore lacunae in the damaged texts of Tomb 72.

Preliminary Architectural Survey: Tomb 72

In preparation of a full-scale architectural survey of the tomb (to include drawings of the plan and section), a preliminary survey of Tomb 72 was made in February. This was accomplished through close inspection of its architectural details without the movement or clearance of any dirt. Tomb 72 is cut out of the slope of Gebel Sheikh Abd el-Gurna at a level very near to the top. Above the tomb on the crest of the hill is the Muslim prayer-shrine dedicated to Sheikh Abd el-Gurna, where local supplicants often come to pray. The style of the tomb imitates an Egyptian terraced temple. Its owner, Rây was high priest of the terraced temple of Tuthmosis III at Deir el-Bahari.

Description of Tomb 72

The axis of the tomb is oriented east-west. At ground level is a colonnade consisting of four square rock-cut pillars, flanked on each side by a trapezoid-shaped pylon. Of the two pylons, the northern one is made of stone, while the southern is of mud brick. The area before the colonnade and between the pylons functions as a forecourt.

Above the colonnade is an upper court which is cut from the native rock. This courtyard is accessed by a rock-cut central ramp projecting from the center of the colonnade below in the forecourt. This ramp divides the colonnade into northern and southern sections. The upper court is a terrace, at the rear of which is a low broad platform forming an upper terrace. This platform is flanked by carved niches on its two sides which contain the remains of false doors, the elements of which are fashioned out of mud plaster. Above the platform--in the rear wall of the upper terrace--is a doorway to the interior of the tomb. This doorway is accessed by another rock-cut ramp that ascends from the floor of the terrace and rises above the platform. Built on the slope of the hill surrounding the terrace on at least three sides is a mud-brick enclosure wall, now mostly destroyed.

The interior of Tomb 72 is typical of private New Kingdom Theban tombs. It is "T-form" with a transverse hallway aligned north-south and a long corridor nearly perpendicular to the latter, oriented east-west along the axis of the tomb. At the rear of the long corridor is a vaulted niche cut into the rock and plastered smooth, which held at one time a statue or stela of the deceased. The burial shaft, currently filled, is located at the south end of the transverse hallway. The main architectural elements of Tomb 72 which parallel a terraced temple are its lower collonade and its system of two terraces (upper and lower) and two central ramps (upper and lower).

Despite all the planning and thought that went into the design and construction of Tomb 72, no corner of any wall makes a proper right angle, nor are the different elements of the tomb in alignment with each other. The main ramp is misaligned with the door, which is misaligned with the interior long corridor. The transverse corridor is not truly perpendicular to the axis, but is turned slightly to the southeast. The north colonnade is misaligned with the south colonnade. The south wall of the terrace does not align with the south wall of the forecourt. The entire facade of the tomb is turned slightly to the southeast, the ramp even moreso, whereas the south pylon and enclosure wall are turned to the northeast.

The Terrace

The dimensions of the terrace are as follows:

south wall 13.49 m. east side 11.44 m.

north wall 13.12 m. west wall 9.65 m.

central axis 13.53 m.

The floor of the terrace north of the main ramp is cut unevenly with the rest of the terrace. Hence, to even up this irregularity, a layer of mud bricks is laid into the floor above the northern colonnade. These bricks cannot be seen from below, since they are covered by mud plaster which is plied over the facade of the colonnade, except for a small section where that plaster is broken away.

Mud-Brick Platform. Extending along the entire length of the west (rear) wall of the terrace is a shallow mud-brick platform 9.65 m. x 2.87 m. The edge of this platform extends several centimeters beyond the eastern margins of the false-door niches on each of the side-walls. The bricks are still in situ on the south side of the ramp, where they abut the south wall of the terrace.

Upper Ramp. Cutting through the platform and rising above it is a rock-cut ramp 3.71 m. long. It extends beyond the width of the mud-brick platform .74 m. This ramp rises from the floor of the terrace to the doorway cut into the west wall, the threshold of which is 1.30 m. higher than the floor of the (lower) terrace.

Doorway. The doorjambs of the tomb, which were made of limestone and inscribed with the name and titles of the tomb owner, are presently located in the Berlin Museum. They have been replaced with mud-brick jambs set into the same ancient recess cut around the doorway into which the original jambs were inserted.

The Enclosure Walls

At one time, a mud-brick enclosure wall surrounded the terrace on at least three sides. Presently, remains of this wall are found only on the north side ascending the slope of the hill and on the west side--south corner (where it is up to nine courses high). The south wall is completely lost, but it is indicated by the remains of bricks and mortar that turn the southwest corner above the upper terrace. The bricks of the north wall are being destroyed systematically, since the local villagers walk on them and use them as a path to ascend to the prayer-shrine above. Presently, the north wall is 48 cm. wide. To stabilize the placement of the bricks up the slope, the native limestone is carved roughly in a step-like pattern and the bricks laid into this.

The northeast corner of the north wall joins the abutment of Senenmut's retaining wall above the northern colonnade. However, because none of the walls of Tomb 72 are square with each other, the north wall is turned slightly to the northeast and angles into the wall of Senenmut's adjoining tomb (even though the facade of Tomb 72 is actually angled slightly to the southwest). Where it meets Senenmut's wall, Rây's wall is reduced to a thickness far less than 48 cm.

The Pylons

The north pylon of Rây's tomb was appropriated from the south pylon of the earlier adjacent tomb of Senenmut (TT71). It is made of small flat limestone blocks that are smooth-faced and carefully placed into position. However, the south pylon, which was built later as part of the tomb of Rây, is made of a core of limestone rubble, stone, shards, mud, etc. faced with mud-brick. Only 19 courses of mud bricks remain of the south pylon. While presently, it does not reach its original height, the light discoloration of the limestone wall behind it indicates that it extended at least as high as that wall. The mortar between the bricks is not the black mud plaster characteristic of the rest of the tomb, but is very sandy and light colored.

The Lower Main Ramp

The main ramp of the tomb, which rises over the colonnade to the terrace above, is cut out of the native limestone of the hill. The solid massif of the ramp extends into the area behind the columns, forming a thick wall that divides the northern colonnade from the southern colonnade. The ramp is actually the core of a mud-brick stairway, most of the bricks of which are now destroyed or eroded away. In its construction, the ramp was roughly cut, covered and leveled with mud bricks and coated with plaster. Significantly, the mortar is identical to the light sandy material found in the south pylon.

The ramp is not aligned on the axis of the tomb; it is shifted north of the axis, so that it does not communicate with the main door of the tomb above. Indeed, that door is aligned with the first column-opening south of the ramp. Also, the ramp is not perpendicular to the facade of the colonnade. It is turned and angled to the southeast.

The Lower Colonnade

The facades of both colonnades are battered, although that of the north is not as great as the south, being closer to 90 degrees than the latter. However, while the facade and front of the columns are battered, the back faces of the columns are straight (90 degrees). The two colonnades, on each side of the central ramp, are not even with each other. The northern colonnade is set back further to the west ca. 80-85 cm. from the southern colonnade. Also the northern colonnade is not straight, but curves inward to the west on its northern end.

The interior of both colonnades is ruined. The walls and ceiling are covered with the remains of heavy plaster, some of which is now fallen to the ground. Similar plaster is found around the upper sections of the columns. However, where it has fallen from the lower sections of the columns, the stone is eroded. There are no remains on the ceiling and walls of any fine gypsum plaster.

The Interior of Tomb 72

Internal Dimensions. Although the formal architectural survey was reserved for the forthcoming season (1990-1991), selected measurements of the interior were made to facilitate the photography and epigraphy of the walls. These measurements show that the interior of Tomb 72 is as irregularly planned as the exterior. The Long Corridor is 9.055 m. long (along the north wall) x 2.955 m. high (at the northeast corner) x 2.04 m. wide on the east end. However, it widens to 2.142 m. on the west end.

The four walls of the Transverse Hall are slightly battered. The Transverse Hall is 2.22 m. wide along the north wall, although 2.17 m. wide south of the central axis. In the southern extension, the east wall is 6.90 m. long, while the opposite west wall is 6.10 m. This disparity is one of the reasons why the main doorway is misaligned with the axis of the tomb. The hall is 3.59 m. high (at the northeast corner). Thus, the ceiling of the Transverse Hall is .635 m. higher than the ceiling on the east end of the Long Corridor. The width of the southern extension is equal to the width of the mud-brick platform outside on the terrace. Presently, the burial shaft of Tomb 72 is filled in. It is located on the south side of the transverse hall, and its presence is indicated by the loose soil of the floor there.

The Cleft in the Rock. Inside Tomb 72, a large cleft in the rock cuts longitudinally across the Transverse Hall. It is a continuation of the same fissure that arcs through the neighboring tomb of Senenmut. The cleft travels from the north section of the east wall through the ceiling to the upper south corner of the west wall. The cleft is wide and open above the main entrance of the tomb and toward the north, probably the result of a collapse in antiquity. The Egyptians encountered the cleft as they cut the Transverse Hall, since they filled it in on the wall and ceiling with very thick mud plaster in order to level the surface.(1) The plaster is identical in color and composition with that of the rest of the tomb. The ceiling on the east side of the cleft has dropped about 3-5 cm. lower than the ceiling on the west side of the cleft. Only about 10% of the ceiling decoration survives in the Transverse Hall, showing typical geometric weaving patterns and fragments of three vertical invocation-texts for the deceased.

The Plaster. The decoration of the interior walls of the tomb consists of painted plaster over native limestone of poor quality. The walls are roughly carved and coated with a layer of dark mud plaster (muna). The muna survives in many areas where it is thickly applied over the deep recesses of the soft rock. In turn, the muna is covered with a layer of fine white gypsum plaster which is painted and decorated. Most of the painted plaster is lost from the walls and ceilings; only about 35% of the painted decoration survives inside the tomb.

Clearly, the muna was applied in a single thick layer. However, the upper surface is colored red (penetrating to half its thickness), while the lower surface remains dark brown. The color and texture of the red plaster is very similar to that of baked mud brick, suggesting that the muna was subject to an intense heating before it was covered with gypsum plaster and painted. It may be that the builders used torches or braziers to speed the drying of the plaster.

The Sooted Walls. The three walls of the southern extension of the Transverse Hall are partially covered with thick black soot, resulting from the cooking fires of a later domestic occupation which was almost certainly of the Coptic period.(2) The soot overlies various offering and daily-life scenes and a great depiction of Amenhotep II hunting in the desert.(3)

The entire south wall is covered with soot, while slightly more than half of the east and west walls are covered:

length of west wall = 6.10 m; length of soot = 4.90 m.

length of east wall = 6.90 m; length of soot = 3.59 m.

The margins of the soot are regular and square, forming distinct vertical and horizontal lines where they stop. On the east and west walls of the Transverse Hall, the vertical edges of the soot are directly opposite each other--one side of each black, the other side painted with original pharaonic decoration. This pattern denotes a partition which at one time divided the southern extension of the hall into two rooms, one of which contained a smoke source, the other of which did not. The soot is heaviest on the south wall and in the southwest corner above the burial shaft. There the soot goes down to the floor. Elsewhere on the three walls, it does not extend below the horizontal colored margin of the lower register, denoting perhaps the height of the floor at that time. Similarly, the soot extends to the ceiling on the south wall and near to the southeast and southwest corners of the hall. Elsewhere, it is usually several centimeters below the ceiling. The pattern of the soot would suggest that the smoke source was located in the southwest corner of the Transverse Hall, either at groundlevel or slightly below.

Scorching. On the east wall of the Transverse Hall are two prominent scorch marks in the plaster, each vertical and narrow in shape. One is located along the lower portion of the vertical edge of the soot on the north side. The upper portion of the edge is free from scorching. The second burn mark is located on the decorated painted plaster .54 m. left (north) of the edge of the soot, and is centered in the wall. Here the characteristics of the scorching (its height, the shortly-spaced narrow flame marks) indicate that a vertical flame (e.g., from a torch or standing brazier) was permitted to come into contact with the wall for a short duration of time. Preliminary conclusion is that the scorches are unrelated to the sooting in the tomb.

The Long Corridor. The ceiling of the Long Corridor is divided into two sections. The eastern half has a horizontal and level height of 2.955 m., while the western half angles upward sharply from that height to the top of the west wall. This feature is also found in Tomb 121 (Ahmose) where the ceiling inclines upward to a statue-niche at the top of the west wall. The inclining ceiling also occurs in the contemporary tomb of Rekhmire (Tomb 99), although there the ceiling inclines upward along the entire length of the Long Corridor to a statue-niche. However, in Tomb 72 there is no evidence of a statue-niche at the top of the west wall. Indeed, a large section of the ceiling has collapsed over the west wall due to bad rock, forming a large and irregularly-shaped vaulted cavity in the ceiling at the back of the Long Corridor. That this collapse occured during the building of the tomb is indicated by the thick plaster and mud brick (some covered with painted decoration) used to fill in the cavity and level the adjoining wall.

Carved Decoration. Sculpted elements surviving in the tomb are few. In the north wall of the Transverse Hall, a very shallow rectangular niche is centered between the floor and ceiling for the inlay of a stela. In the west wall of the Long Corridor is a tall vaulted niche, smoothly plastered and unpainted. This would have contained a statue or stela of the deceased as the cult-focus of the tomb. Due to the apparent collapse of the west wall and ceiling during the cutting of the tomb, the wall and sides of the niche were built out and finished with mud bricks from the floor to the ceiling. Only the two lowest courses of bricks on the north side of the niche survive to this day, although the original height of the remainder is indicated by the distinct edge of the plaster high in the adjoining wall. Although the niche seems fairly shallow today due to the lost masonry, when completed it would have been deeply recessed with a wide vaulted ceiling.

The Photographic Campaign in Tomb 72

The third phase of this season's work was the photography of the walls and ceilings of Tomb 72. The intention of this project is to document every square centimeter of the interior surface of

the tomb in black and white photography (with special attention to the details and scale of the inscriptions), as well as all of the painted decoration of the tomb in color photography.

Initially, key plans of the wall decoration were devised, which are the basis of the photographic and epigraphic work. Mr. Daniel Lanka, photographer of the Epigraphic Survey, Chicago House, assisted in the photography, and Chicago House provided logistical support and the loan of tripods and electrical equipment.

Using a 4x5 film format, we began to photograph every scene and text at a consistent scale. Interchangeable film packs on the back of the camera have allowed us to make duplicate photos of the same scenes in both black-and-white prints and color transparencies without moving the camera or changing the dimensions or scale.

About 160 photos were taken of 21 different scenes and/or portions of walls, including the Long Corridor north, west, and south walls and the Transverse Hall north wall and southern extension. This figure includes 18 scenes in black and white and 12 in color in the 4x5 format (whereby 6 were shot in black and white only, and 12 were shot in both black and white and color). In addition, photos were made of decorative details in several scenes of the Long Corridor in a black-and-white 35mm. format, often using color filtration to enhance the contrast and rendition of faint paint traces. At the request of Dr, Muhammed Nasr's office, a special set of 35mm. black-and-white photos was taken to document the condition of the sooted walls in the southern extension of the Transverse Hall. Unfortunately, due to the constraints of time, we were unable to finish the general photography of the walls this season, as we had hoped. However, we are confident that we will accomplish this in the forthcoming season.

The Epigraphic Project: Copying the Inscriptions

The epigraphic phase of the project began late in the season, after the preliminary architectural survey was completed and the photographic campaign had begun. Our intent is to make hand-copies of all the decoration and inscriptions before beginning the larger and more detailed tracing effort. We began the hand-copy effort with the scenes and texts on the east wall of the Transverse Hall. In general, the hand-copies will provide a reference during the tracing effort; they will serve as the basis of translations and commentaries on the texts, as well as clarify any uncertainties in the black-and-white photo enlargements--until the tracings are completed. It was during the process of making the hand-copies, that we had recourse to examine texts in Tomb 121 (Ahmose), in order to restore lacunae in the inscriptions and to complete the translations. We anticipate completing the hand-copy process early in the next season.

The Proscription of Rây

The decoration and inscriptions of Tomb 72 were the objects of attack on several occasions in antiquity and later. In every figure of Rây, where he appears on the walls, the decorated plaster has been carefully chiselled out along the entire outline of his body. In addition to his figures, certain accompanying hieroglyphic inscriptions were carefully squared off and excised. The proscription was very neatly and delicately executed so as not to damage the surrounding decoration nor to cut deeply into the underlying layer of mud plaster, nor were any of his family attacked. However, despite the attack on the figure and selected texts of Rây, nowhere in the tomb is his written name attacked. Hence, the campaign against him appears to have been inconsistent and uncoordinated.(4)

In another campaign of proscription, all instances of the name of the god Amun were hacked out of plaster. Here the destruction is conducted with a heavy hand, cutting deeply into the underlying plaster. Clearly, this was done by the agents of Akhenaten during the Amarna Period. Finally, there are only sporadic examples in which the eyes of figures, usually small mummies, have been attacked, probably dating from the early Christian era or later.

Preliminary Historical Findings

Examination of the texts and decoration in the tomb of Rây (Tomb 72) reveals the following: Rây was a contemporary of Amenhotep II. Specifically, he served in an official capacity very early in the reign of that king before (or very near to) the time when the king took his first wife (as revealed by the scene depicting Rây offering a bouquet to Amenhotep II enthroned with his mother, Merytre-Hatshepsut). According to the texts in the tomb, he holds very significant titles in the temples of Western Thebes:

Hm-nTr tpy n Imn m Hw.t Hnq.t-anx
First Prophet of Amun in Hw.t HnK.t-anx (the mortuary temple of Tuthmosis III)

Hm-nTr tpy n Mn-xpr-ra
First Prophet of Menkheperre(5)

Hm-nTr tpy (n) Hw.t-Hr Hry.t ib Hnq.t-anx
First Prophet of Hathor who resides in Hnq.t-anx

Hm-nTr tpy n Imn m Dsr-st
First Prophet of Amun in Dsr-st (the Eighteenth Dynasty temple at Medinet Habu)

Hm-nTr tpy n Imn m Dsr-Axt
First Prophet of Amun in Dsr-Axt (the temple of Tuthmosis III at Deir el-Bahari)

Hm-nTr tpy n Imn m Mn-(i)st
First Prophet of Amun in Mn-(i)st (the temple of Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari at Gurna)

Hm-nTr tpy imy-r pr-nbw Hw.t Imn
First Prophet and Overseer of the House of Gold of the Temple of Amun(6)

Thus, Rây holds seven major titles in four of the most important temples in Western Thebes at that time, as well as the powerful position of Overseer of the Treasury of Amun. In addition, texts in the tomb identify his brothers as:

Hm-nTr tpy n Imn [. . .]
First Prophet of Amun, [. . .]

Hm-nTr tpy n Imn Nb-Imn
First Prophet of Amun, Nebamun

Xry-Hb tpy n Imn Imn-Htp
First Lector Priest of Amun, Amenhotep

Rây identifies his father as Ahmose, the Hm-nTr [tpy] n Imn m Hw.t Hnq.t-anx, "the [First] Prophet of Amun in the Temple of Hnq.t-anx," and his mother as Rây, the Xkr.t-nswt, "king's concubine." However, in his own tomb (Tomb 121), Ahmose holds only the titles:

Xry-Hb tpy n Imn m Hnq.t-anx
First Lector Priest of Amun in Hnq.t-anx

Hm-nTr sn-nw n Imn m Hnq.t-anx
Second Prophet of Amun in Hnq.t-anx

Ahmose's promotion to high priest may have occurred after his tomb was decorated, or else it was granted after his death by the king, i.e., as a posthumous elevation.

From these names and titles, it is apparent that this one family, which controlled the high priestly offices in four west Theban temples, including the three establishments of Tuthmosis III, held a position of power and responsibility very close to that of the royal family.

1. A section of the ceiling may well have collapsed while they were building the tomb. (return)

2. Based upon a Coptic graffito inscribed on the north wall of the Long Corridor.(return)

3. Porter and Moss, Topographical Bibliography I/12, p. 142, (1)-(5). (return)

4. The proscription is limited only to the tomb, since objects inscribed with his name in the Cairo and Oriental Institute Museums indicate no malicious attack. (return)

5. This title is sometimes combined with the first as Hm-nTr tpy n Imn n Mn-xpr-ra m Hw.t Hnq.t-anx, "First Prophet of Amun and of Menkheperre in Hnq.t-anx." (return)

6. Inscribed on his funerary cone, so Davies, Macadam, Corpus of Inscribed Funerary Cones, no. 116. (return)

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