||The two tombs described below belonged to one of the
craftsmen of the community of the village of Deir el-Medineh, who worked at
the time in the creation of the royal Ramesside tombs.
A small general article has been published (here on
Osirisnet) about this community and its burials. It is recommended that you
quickly read this before starting your visit to this tomb: "The tombs of Deir el-Medineh"
The two tombs of Inerkhau , (TT359 and TT299).
The study of Inerkhau's circumstances proves to be fascinating,
because this character, important in his position among craftsmen but not
belonging to the Egyptian aristocracy, knew how to find the means to
construct for himself not only one but two tombs.
The tombs of this last period of occupation of the site of Deir
el-Medina are rarely decorated. Whether it was a lack of time and suitable
finances, lack of qualified personnel, uncertainty and political unrest or
increasing poverty of the monarchy engendering that of the workers? It seems
that the progressive decadence slowed down, then almost stopped the artistic
development of painters and their product.
Only the favoured, such as the chief of works Inerkhau and the
foreman Hay (tomb TT267), a contemporary of Ramesses IX, seem to have had
enough fortune or skill, enough authority and connections to make for
themselves beautifully decorated tombs with polychromatic frescos. The rest
of the corporation of craftsmen appear to have been content with chapels and
chambers merely covered in a plain white-wash covering.
It was also the period of socially unrest, the period situated
between the end of the reign of Ramesses III and the beginning of that of
Ramesses IV, the period well known for the first strikes known in history,
motivated by the non payment of the wages by a Pharaonic administration at a
time strangled by the lack of resources in the treasury and also for being
The first tomb of Inerkhau is reduced today to its chamber and
bears the number TT359: it is one of the rare tombs that the Supreme Council
of Antiquities hasn't (yet) closed. It also included a forecourt, which
proves to be complex as will be seen, and a decorated chapel of which
nothing now remains.
Inerkhau's second tomb is TT299 and it was probably this one
which was intended for Inerkhau himself, TT359 probably being meant for the
the use of his family. What remains of this will be examined within these
pages thanks to the reports of Bernard Bruyère's excavations. These reports
are exceptional and are first-hand documents of the study of both monuments
The name Inerkhau signifies literally: "Onuris appears" (Onuris was a Greek
inflection of the name of the god Iny-Hor); he was the son of Hay and his
wife was named Wabet.
He belonged to an old family of "foremen", being the leaders of
the craftsmen of Deir el-Medina working in the "Set-Ma'at" (= the
place of truth, the Valley of the Kings). These workers and craftsmen were
placed in charge of the digging and the decoration of the tombs in the
Valley of the Kings and in that of the Queens.
Inerkhau was in particular responsible for the work carried out
in the royal tombs, the prime directive of the institution which he
directed, as his titles show :
"Foreman in the Place of Truth in the
west of Thebes";
"Director of the works of the Lord of the Two Lands"
In his tomb, Inerkhau is accompanied by its wife Wab(et) ("the Pure") and many children. Wabet carries the
commonplace title of "Mistress of the House",
but also of "Chantress of Amon", which shows
that she had a function in the temple of Karnak.
The genealogical data that exists (Bruyère) appears confusing,
but it seems that :
• Huy, the owner of TT361, was the father of Qaha.
Huy is the one who painted the chamber of his great-grandson Inerkhau.
• Qaha was the grandfather of Inerkhau.
- This is the same Qaha who is owner of the chapel TT360,
with a preceding courtyard and additional courtyard with the peristyle
(pillared porch) decorated with stelae at its rear (see below).
• Hay was the father of Inerkhau. His name is
mentioned in the two tombs TT359 and TT299. In an inexplicable manner, he
doesn't possess a clear funerary monument in this group.
• Inerkhau (son of Hay, grandson of Qaha and
great-grandson of Huy), husband of Wabet, who is owner of these two tombs
which are the basis of these three related pages.
| COURTYARDS OF TOMBS 359, 360 AND
It is indeed necessary to consider this domestic group which
unites Inerkhau to his two forebears.
It represents a vast terrace of 28m from north to south and 14m
at its greatest depth (east-west). It is elevated artificially with the help
of embankments and thus raised by about 3 to 4 metres above the level of the
village of Deir el-Medina. It was surrounded by thick walls and decorated
with pyramids, made from thick stone blocks bound by a lime mortar and then
coated with a white plaster.
|top view||side and front
The chapel (TT360) of Qaha only partially survived at the time
of its discovery, because the south part had collapsed in an adjacent
chamber underneath and only 0.80m of the north walls and the shrine were
even present on top. Its measurements are estimated to have been 5.30m along
the facade and 3.20m in depth. The shrine of the chapel was surmounted by a
pyramid with sides of 5m and 7m in height.
The burial chamber of Qaha was decorated in a much more
interesting manner than that of Inerkhau: this was the work of a real master
from the time of Ramesses II and the result is close to that of the famous
tomb of Ipuy, TT217. It cannot presently be detailed here, on this web-site.
The pyramid of Huy stood to the right of the one of his son
Qaha; it measured 4m along its base sides and had a height of 5m. It
surmounted a room of 2.30m in depth by 1.40m in width.
To the north (on the right on the plan), Qaha extended the
courtyard which was in front of the chapel of Huy on a old layer of ashes
and "sebakh" mingled with straw dating from an even older time. It had
originally been the location of a previous funerary monument (and
independent of this chapel) and which now formed of a courtyard of 8.25m x
5m and a peristyle as wide as the courtyard and 2.65m deep with three 0.70m
wide full pillars and two half pillars.
The courtyard with the peristyle, of Qaha, was surrounded by
walls to the north and south with a communicating door towards the courtyard
of Huy. To the east, a pylon wall, more elevated and thicker, framed the
main entry, which explains the projection of this wall in relation to those
of the other two, because the final stage of the mausoleum of Qaha included
the fusion, into a single unit: the three courtyards and facades of the
The rear wall of the peristyle was decorated with two large
stelae of engraved limestone and it was painted and pierced by two doors
• The one at the south (left) opens up on to a small
room of 1.60m x 1.80m, which seems to have been a chapel and of which the
brick walls were probably decorated with frescos or bas-reliefs, but which
no longer exists.
• The one to the north (right) opens up on to a
staircase which first went up towards the west. It then turned through 90º
and proceeded north to exit the monument outside on to the path of the
necropolis. This went from the village toward the Valleys of the Kings and
Queens. It thus passed to the foot of the terrace courtyard of the funerary
concession of Sennedjem TT 1.
Between the two doors and behind the stelae of Qaha one would
have expected to find a central chapel having been the main goal of the
construction of the whole monument. In reality, this space was, at the time
of the discovery, just an empty space in the middle of which penetrates a
brick-lined funerary well descending to the burial chamber (TT359) of
Why did Inerkhau possess two tombs
The use of family tombs at Deir el-Medina goes back to the end
of the 18th Dynasty, but by this time encounters a problem of space: the
hill is not expandable and the considerable growth of some families caused a
difficulty for the location for new mummies in the lower limits, which was
restricted because of human habitation.
One would think that the accession to an important function such
as the one of chief of works, if it didn't give the right to a special
mausoleum, provided for the vanity of the newly elected sufficient reason to
assume this prerogative and that, in fact, all chief of works hastened after
their nomination to acquire a second tomb.
For these motives, Inerkhau, a member of a large family which
already included several chiefs of works, would first have dug and decorated
the burial chamber N°.359 to the north of the tomb of his forebears Huy and
Qaha, would have then, after his hierarchical elevation, created for his
personal use the large tomb complex TT299. Meanwhile, the grouping together
of the three tombs 359-360-361 was destined for the other family members.
Bruyère recovered the charred remains of the wooded case of
Wab(et), the wife of Inerkhau, in the burial chamber of his ancestor Huy
Why did Qaha have a chapel
separated from his courtyard with the peristyle ?
A religious principle which always places Horus to the left of
his father Osiris exists when this couple of gods faced the rising sun, and
it also imposes on mortals to place the son's funerary chapel to the left of
that of the father, when viewed facing east.
At Deir el-Medina, striving for this formation was constant and
often achieved only at the cost of modifying the layout conceived by
It is possible that Qaha, who already had his chapel N°.360 to
the south (that is to the right of pyramid N°.361 of his father Huy), when
he wanted to conform to the rules of divine and funerary precedence, created
a false facade for a chapel to the left of his father's tomb. The peristyle
decorated with stelae, which didn't open up on to anything but did create a
majestic porch at the rear of a vast courtyard.
This hypothesis necessarily implies that the place was already
occupied by Inerkhau and that (with the agreement of his son), Qaha would
have removed all superstructures of his descendant's tomb and thus providing
him with an access (only) to the burial chamber behind the peristyle.
This would thus resolve this ritual problem according to the
customs of the community, Qaha and Inerkhau both being on the left of their
The disappearance of his actual chapel could be an additional
prime reason for driving Inerkhau to make for himself a new separate tomb,
| THE BURIAL CHAMBER N°359 : ARCHITECTURE
The excavation of the subterranean region of the peristyle
found, in the north-east east corner of TT361, a previous well shaft of the
18th Dynasty, with a depth of 4.85m, which accessed a long and low burial
chamber to the west. This connected by a breach in its western side with the
bottom part of the well shaft of TT359, exiting opposite the door of
Inerkhau's first chamber (chamber F).
However the real access to Inerkhau's burial chamber was by the
vertical shaft of about 4.50m depth located in the chamber behind Qaha's
peristyle. This lead by a downwards sloping corridor, in a south west
direction, to a small arched corridor joining it at a right angle, which
then emerged into the first of Inerkhau's underground chambers (chamber F).
A comparison of the present state of the monument with the
plates of Richard Lepsius (middle 19th century) shows everything that has
since been lost.
The first room (chamber F), oriented south-west/north-east, is
4.70m long by 2.05m wide. The summit of its arched ceiling reaches a height
of 2m. Into the south wall is dug a niche (annexe) which occupies the whole
length of the wall. In the north-west corner, is a descent of four steps
permitting access to a second room (chamber G). Although not at right-angles
to chamber F, this chamber is still not aligned exactly south to north, more
south-south-east/north-north-west. Its dimensions are: length 4.85m and
width 2.30m. Its arched ceiling reaches a height of 2.17m.
The cross-sectional view better shows the underground
Dug into the rock, the two rooms constituting the burial chamber
of Inerkhau were however faced with mud bricks, these were then covered with
a coating of silt mixed with a yellow pulverised powder which settles after
the rains and which was used as binder. This was then whitewashed with a top
coat of plaster. Finally the representations were applied in a mixture of
colours on the typical yellow background of the time.
| THE DECORATION - IN GENERAL
Please refer to the general article quoted at at the top of the page. The monument is characterised by several original details: good quality of execution of paintings, painted ceilings of the first chamber, seldom found funerary vignettes, literary or religious texts, and an original provision of decorations (primarily
extracted from the Book of the Dead), which can be coherently analysed through the Egyptian concept of the beyond at the end of the New Kingdom.
It is necessary to remember that this is a burial chamber,
therefore the underground part of the tomb, whose access was forbidden after
funeral ceremony. Its decor was destined solely for the deceased and only
includes scenes of funerary concerns. No element of the social life of the
deceased is represented here: they were represented in the surface chapel,
but in the case of Inerkhau this has disappeared.
The distribution of paintings form a certain coherence which is
first divided into a "vertical" distribution of scenes.
The lower register is occupied by the representations of the
rituals accomplished by the family of the deceased.
The upper registers contain vignettes extracted of the funerary
The bases of the walls of the two rooms are decorated with the
motif of a surrounding wall with castlements, all on a white background,
This, together with two upper coloured horizontal bands, delimits the space
dedicated to religious and artistic decoration of the tomb.
The decor of the first chamber is centred around the arrival of
the deceased in the world of the beyond. In this, Inerkhau's wife Wabet
plays an important role. This role is much more discreet in the second
chamber which especially represents life in the beyond.
It seems that the decor has been created so that the walls
situated on the right, when heading from the entry of the first chamber
towards the rear of the second, favour the rituals of welcome and
transformation until the moment where Inerkhau presents himself in front of
Osiris and Ptah at the rear of the second chamber.
The opposite walls are inscribed from the rear of the second
chamber up to the western wall of the first, so that the transformation
which resulted in a new life, are outwardly manifested in the
representations of the south-westerly wall of chamber F.
A cyclic movement results from this, in an anticlockwise
direction, leading the deceased from the simple mortal stage to a complete
assimilation into the house of imak (=
privileged, blissful, favoured...) in the necropolis and in the beyond.
It should be noted that there is a total absence at this time of
evocation of funeral ceremony in the chamber: no funerary procession, no
scene of lamenting, no funeral banquet...
You can consult the set of the texts of the tomb [§108] produced by Richard Lepsius: