|Last updated : April 28th, 2008
Deir el-Medina, Tomb TT1, SENNEDJEM , son of Khabekhnet and Tahennu
Sennedjem lived during the 19th Dynasty, under the reign of Pharaoh Sethy I and the first years of Ramesses II. He was probably buried in the chamber of his tomb TT1 around year 11 of the reign of Ramesses.
After three thousand years of peaceful rest, his burial was - alas for him and his family - discovered on February 2, 1886.
Tomb TT1 is exceptional.
Here is what Bernard Bruyère (the great French Egyptologist who cleared nearly all of the monuments of Deir el-Medina) said of it : "Tomb N°.1 is not only one of the most beautiful and better preserved of Thebes; but it is, besides, a perfect example, complete and typical of a tomb containing a great family, with the four regular components, a courtyard and chapel accessible to the living, a well shaft and a chamber reserved for the dead".
The following descriptive presentation is actually linked to a 3D virtual tour, which complements these descriptive pages. You will find the link at the beginning of this page and the end of the final one.
The tomb was discovered in January 31, 1886 by Egyptian workers at Qurna. On February 1st, Maspéro (accompanied by Bouriant and a Catalan diplomat, Edouardo Toda) set foot on the terrain.
At that time Deir el-Medina presented a miserable aspect. Maspéro described the state of the place as follows (according to Bruyère, and translated into English, of course) :
"The site, previously inhabited by the Theban cemetery employees, between the 18th and 21st Pharaonic Dynasties, then overrun by the Copts of the Byzantine era, was at this time a chaos of ruins. An exploitation deprived of scientific methodology driven in turn by Drovetti, Salt, Mimaut, Sabatier, Wilkinson, had left the ground strewn with the remains of statuary, stelae, ceramics, fragments of all kinds of objects and shredded mummies among excavation pits and the open burial chamber shafts. For the most part these were either demolished or burnt. After following such devastation and accompanied by ancient and modern plundering, the distressing aspect of the place was that of a battle field strewn in part with corpses, perforated by shell holes, bristly with funeral constructions in ruins".
And on the tomb of Sennedjem itself :
"In their impatience to arrive at the goal of their research and so as not to damage the door (which was bolted from the inside) they (the men of Qurna) broke the lintel and the doorposts, thus causing an irrevocable damage at the entry of the hypogeum. When the two French scientists and the Spanish archaeologist arrived upon the place, they could only note the damage but, on penetrating the chamber, they had the satisfaction to find it inviolate. This vaulted final room, constructed in brick, was decorated richly with multicoloured paintings and it was filled with coffins, with mummies, with funerary objects and with piles of furniture".
The complete clearance of the tomb and its appendices was completed after the two campaigns of 1917-1924 and 1928-1930.
The tomb of Sennedjem is nowadays easy to find : it is immediately above the rest stop for tourists (at the entry, can be found numerous Eptological publications, notably those of the IFAO, at very interesting prices). It is almost at the south extremity of the hill.
Immediately overlooking it is tomb TT2, that of Khabekhnet and Khonsu (two sons of Sennedjem). To the right and slightly above, can be found the courtyard of the group of tombs TT218 (Amennakht), TT219 (Nebenmaat) and TT220 (Khaemter). Below is another triplet : TT359 (Inerkhau), TT360 (Qaha) and TT361 (Huy).
The houses of Sennedjem and his family were close to their home of eternity, at the south-westerly corner of the village of Deir el-Medina. This part corresponds to an enlarging of the surrounding wall by Thutmosis I.
Sennedjem carried the simple title of , "sDm-aS m st mAat", or "servant in the place of truth". The place of truth designates the Theban royal necropolis. All workers of Deir el-Medina taking care of the royal tombs carry this title.
According to Marta Saura i Sanjaume, who has just devoted her thesis to him, Sennedjem (of whom the name means something like "gentle brother") was not a cabinetmaker, as Bruyère thought, but mason. He therefore practised a very widespread profession in the community of Deir el-Medina.
Which immediately raises a question : how is it possible that a simple mason had enough influence and means to have a tomb and splendid objects? The (present) hypothesis is that Sennedjem and his family could have been connected with the cult of Hathor, which would have given them a pre-eminence to the rest of the members of the community. This connection is indeed mentioned in the tomb of his son Khabekhnet. But it should also be recognised that the question remains open, ... and that it has very little chance of being resolved any day soon.
The tomb of Sennedjem can be considered as a collective, because at least three generations of the same family were united in the same chamber.
There were actually no less than twenty bodies discovered. Nine among them possessed very beautiful anthropoid, simple or double coffins, finely painted and varnished. They belonged to Sennedjem, his wife Iyneferti, his son Khonsu and his wife Tamaket; also of his other children : Parahotep, Taashsen, Ramose, Isis and finally, that of a small girl named Hathor. Eleven others did not have coffins. It is likely that these were the family's members not having had enough fortune to provide for themselves something other than shrouds and strips of fabric and to whom the head of the family offered to share his burial.
To this list, it is necessary to add two foetuses contained in uninscribed yellow wooden boxes.
Bizarrely, in spite of the importance of his tomb and the numerous objects which were discovered there, the character of Sennedjem himself has not been the subject of a closer study. Until, that is, the thesis of Marta Saura i Sanjaume.
By surveying the texts, she made clear the domestic relationships of Sennedjem : parents, in-laws, brothers and sisters and the children. This permitted the production of a family tree and the ability to study the relations between these characters.
This task was complicated by the fact that the proper names have different spellings. In the chamber, on the objects, outside the tomb, in the house of Sennedjem; the character's different titles can also vary.
This is how she could show that the father of Sennedjem, Khabekhnet, had two wives : Tahennu and Rosu. Likewise, the son of Sennedjem, also Khabekhnet, had Sakh and Isis. It was also possible to draw up a list of the sons of Sennedjem, and even to fix a chronological order of them : Teti, Khabekhnet, Bunakhtef (Pakhar, who is the same person), Rahotep, Irynefer, Khonsu, Ramesu, Anhotep, Ranekhu, Hotepu and Parahotep.
We see, amongst other things, that there were two called Khabeknet, respectively the father and son of Sennedjem.
The son is the possessor of the neighbouring tomb, TT2, which overlooks the rear of TT1.
The father of Sennedjem had a different title to that of his son, he was "Servant of Amon in the city of the South". Sennedjem, himself, was a "a Servant in the Place of Truth" or, more completely : "Servant in the Place of Truth to the west of Thebes", as were also his sons Khabekhnet and Khonsu.
Another point of note is that Tjaro and Taia, names of Hurrite origin, are in fact the parents of Iyneferti, the wife of Sennedjem and not those of Sennedjem, as Bruyère thought.
These two names are not the family's only foreign names, since Bunakhtef, son of Sennedjem and Iyneferti, were nicknamed Pakhar "the Cananite", without knowing why. Numerous other questions remain, and will always remain, without answer. Thus, why Isis, the wife of Khabekhnet, is buried in her father-in-law's tomb and not in that of her husband ?
The courtyard of the tomb is rectangular in shape, measuring 12.35m wide and 9.40m deep (see plan). Because of its location on a slope, its east side rests against an embankment, maintained by a 2m high wall of quarried stones. The wall, a type which can be found in all of the courtyards around the area, includes some stones engraved with a curious symbol, which seems specific to Sennedjem.
Because of the slope, a stairway was necessary for access from the village, and also a quasi-pylon (certainly a porch) of entry, of which nothing remains.
Toward the rear of the courtyard, to the west, the wall serves to retain the embankment of the courtyard situated above, that of tomb TT2, of Khabekhnet.
In the courtyard are located three pyramidal chapels, of decreasing size of south (left) to north, all resting on a common base of about forty centimetres in height. A wall originally cut the courtyard into two areas separating at one end the chapels of Sennedjem and Khonsu, and that of Tjaro on the other. This would have restricted the access to the two northern chapels only.
In the north end of the courtyard, standing against the surrounding wall, was a kind of bench (1 x 0.70 x 0.50 m) made of bricks, to which were associated small pieces of painted masonry representative of the feet of offering tables. Therefore this structure was certainly destined to receive some offerings.
The courtyard and the chapels, as they appeared in 1930, can be seen in a photo by Bernard Bruyère.
Southern pyramidal chapel
This was the first one constructed, and the largest, with a facade of 5m. The two other chapels had to take this one into account when they were constructed.
It is supposed to belong to Tjaro, father of Iyneferti - and not to Sennedjem, as the custom of the village would have liked it and as Bruyère thought it.
The pyramid was built entirely of mud bricks, which permits its dating from before the 19th Dynasty. Its height was about 7.50m (at and angle of 50° to the summit). No pyramidion is known to exist.
The chapel is entered through a door of 0.95m in width. This opened up, via a small corridor of 1.20m in length, on to a vaulted room (also in brick) of 2.95m in length (east-west), 1.40m in width and 2.20m in height. It was originally white in colour, but without obvious decoration and without any trace of a basic stela.
The wall, mentioned above, separated the chapel of Tjaro from the two others, making access for a funerary cult impossible. It provides an additional argument to see in this chapel as not belonging to the father of Sennedjem, because the wall was probably erected by descendants of another wife, other than Iyneferti. They would probably not have erected it if he had been a direct ascendant; but this remains a hypothesis ...
Central pyramidal chapel
(that of Sennedjem)
The facade measures 4.25m. The projecting framing for the entrance is 1.75m in height and 0.85m wide, and topped with a corniced lintel. The limestone door frame included a lintel and two doorposts which were engraved and painted in yellow.
The top part of the pyramid was re-installed in 1930, using blocks carrying the mark of Sennedjem.
Its front half is detached from the chalky wall into which it penetrates westward, towards the realm of the dead. Its original height is estimated at 6.85m (at and angle of 46° to the summit).
The east wall of the pyramid included a niche above the portal framing, intended to receive a stela. The stela appeared in 1940 on the Parisian art trade, but now seems to have been lost without trace. This stela, with a curved top, measured about 30cm high by 25cm wide.
Its central part was subdivided in two :
• at the top, the solar barque sailed from north to south. In the middle sat the solar disk, in which a divine figure sat with an ankh sign. On each side, and looking towards the disk, were two "shemset" signs. A similar representation can be found inside the burial chamber.
• at the bottom were at least eight columns of text. A mentioned of Sennedjem was made there, also his son Khonsu and Iyneferti. Khonsu was designated as "his son, who makes his name live", underlining the eminent role he had in maintaining his father's funerary cult. Moreover, it is he who is represented kneeling.
The "shemes sign (T18 of Gardiner's list) remains mysterious. It seems to be a package lashed to a crook or staff, with a knife protruding from the package. On the other hand, it is certain that the sign designates "the one who follows", so it is possible that this object represented the equipment carried by the king's attendants in ancient times. In this context, the sign represents the follower of Ra, cohort of gods and goddesses (and of the prestigious deceased) to which the dead want to belong, in order to share the future of the star. Some variants exists, notably with the addition of a leg, as found in the burial chamber.
More details can be found in Richard H. WILKINSON: "Reading Egyptian Art", Thames & Hudson 1992, p187.
A pyramidion in limestone of 0.66m height crowned the pyramid. It was partially reconstructed from 13 fragments found in the debris.
The chapel is entered by a small corridor of 1.20m in length. The inner room was vaulted and of 2.25 x 1.35 x 2.10m in size. This was whitened but uninscribed. A stela was recessed in the west wall, but nothing is known of it.
Northern pyramidal chapel
(that of Khonsu)
This is the smallest of the three, since it had to be content with the remaining space in the courtyard. So its facade only measured 3.10m, and having an estimated height of 6m. It is entered by a doorway 1.60m high 0.80m wide into a small vaulted corridor 1.20m long. This leads into the small chapel of 1.87m long and 1.20m wide.
The pyramidion (0.70m high, with 0.39m base edges) which topped the pyramid, was recovered almost intact, and is in the Turin museum. It details on its faces, Khonsu, his wife Taamakht and his son Nakhtenmut.
The chapel was only decorated with displays of these three, in high quality paintings on a yellow-ochre base, of which nearly nothing remains (see the Bruyère photo). The assignment to Khonsu is however expressed by some scraps of text.
It is very probable that Sennedjem and his sons Khonsu and Khabekhnet agreed between them to share their funerary monuments, thus reducing the cost of the group, and also insuring additional security for their afterlife by quotes and cross-references in the chambers and chapels.
So Khonsu must have taken on the responsibility for the surface chapels, in which his father, his brother Khabekhnet, and without a doubt other members of the family, had to appear prominently.
Sennedjem and Khabekhnet are likewise charged to ensure the appearance of Khonsu and his wife in their chambers. Finally, Sennedjem received the mummies of the whole family of Khonsu in his burial chamber, as well as their funerary furniture.
The funerary well-shafts
Four well-shafts were cut into the floor of the courtyard.
• shaft 1181 is not part of the underground complex of Sennedjem; besides it is located to the south (outside) of the courtyard. It is however connected with the 1182 by a robbers tunnels. At 4.40m in depth, it connects with three undecorated rooms.
• shaft 1182 descends to 6.10m, opening up on to two successive uninscribed rooms.
• shaft 1183 is rudimentary and leads nowhere.
• shaft N°1 is the one leading to the start of the burial complex of Sennedjem.
It opens up at 1.70m from the north corner of Sennedjem's pyramid. Well constructed, the shaft opening measures 1.40 x 0.70m. It descends downwards 6.05m. Every 50cm was dug a small crevice to aid in ascending or descending the shaft.
At the base of the shaft, a wooden door was surrounded by a limestone door frame. This had engraved reliefs carrying the names of Sennedjem, his spouse Iyneferti and two of their sons, Khabekhnet and Khonsu. This door was sealed after every funeral. Beyond is the actual underground complex.
The subterranean chambers
This underground complex is composed of four chambers.
The first of these is roughly excavated and is about 3 x 3.80m; this one communicates, by a set of four steps, with the vaulted room B situated about 0.90m below. It is square and uninscribed, having 3.50m long sides and 2.50m high. Three other opens are accessible, in addition to the staircase.
To the south is a recessed opening of about 2m in depth, of an undetermined nature.
To the west a small narrow shaft, with a set of steps, opens on to an uncompleted room of about 2.40 x 2.95m, whose function remains debated: perhaps originally this chamber was abandoned for technical reasons ? Or perhaps it was intended to be an extension of the underground complex ?
Finally, to the north, is located a small oblong shaft of 2.0m deep, originally closed by a stone slab, leading to the entry of the burial chamber, C.