Last updated: 09/02/2007  


TT343, the Tomb of Benia ,
better known as Pahekamen (or more correctly Paheqamen)


The tomb of Benia TT343, supervisor of construction work, is situated at the foot of the south-eastern hills of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, in midst of further tombs of the 18th and 19th dynasty. Dating the tomb precisely is a difficult task and is still debated, because there are no names of rulers mentioned anywhere in the tomb. The next tomb maybe contemporary and certainly the next geographically is that of Amen-hotep TT345 from the time of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III.
According to Helck, there is a vertical (social level) and a horizontal (chronological) sequence in the tombs of the el-Qurna hills. The location of Benia's tomb is therefore within the inferior limestone area at the foot of the hill, which matches his middle class position in the hierarchy of royal officials, whereas his horizontal tomb position suggests a date at the time of Hatshepsut. Scholars date Benia's career, because of this, into the second half of the reign of Thutmosis III. But art-stylistic reasons come from the time of Hatshepsut until Amenophis II, even leading into the late 18th dynasty:
  • The ground plan, in the form of an inverted T, is typical for the time of Amenophis II- Thutmosis IV, but there are earlier examples from the time of Hatshepsut onwards.
  • The style and clothes are typical for the early 18th dynasty.
  • The combination of painting plus relief comes either from the time of Hatshepsut/Thutmosis III or Amenophis III/Akhnaton.
  • The lozenge and zigzag pattern of the ceiling starts from the time of Thutmosis III, but are predominant between Amenophis II to Thutmosis IV.
  • The wigs only occur between Thutmosis III - Amenophis II.
  • Tombs naming the valley temple of Thutmosis III belong to the time of Thutmosis III - Amenophis II.
  • The title imj-rA-saAw.tjw "overseer of the Seal-bearers" disappears after Amenophis II.
Texts apart from tomb inscriptions make it possible, that Benia belonged to the time of Hatshepsut/Thutmosis III.

All criteria listed, together give the highest accumulation of dating to the time of Thutmosis III.


 Names and titles 

The name of the tomb owner "Ben-ia" is Asiatic, that is to say more explicitly a Hebrew name, with the meaning "Son-of-Jah(we)". Therefore he has a theophore name, including the short form of the name Jahwe, a God which some scholars believe to have its origin in the land of Midian. He was most certainly an Asiatic, maybe a Hebrew foreigner, working in the middle class of administration. Therefore he received a second, Egyptian court name "Pahekamen" with the meaning of "The-ruler-remains". The construction and meaning of the name indicates, that this is a typical court name. The formula Ddw n.f (=called) always introduces a court name after a foreign name. The element HqA (-heka-) within court names is typical for the 18th dynasty. He calls himself with his court name 23 times, and never just by his birth name, Benia.
His parents also bear foreign names, (see below).
His main titles are:
  1. crd n kAp "Student of the Royal School". As to his being a student of the royal school and a foreigner suggest during New Kingdom, that he was of a somewhat lower rank of officials and lower priests. He was educated either at court with the princes or in the residence. But his rank was not predestined to reach a higher social and official level.
  2. imj-rA-kA.wt "Overseer/supervisor of the (construction) Works". Sometimes there are epithets to this title like "all construction of the king" or "in Thebes" or "of the king in Thebes" or "in Karnak". One Scene in his tomb depicts him receiving a supply of silver, gold, ebony and ivory from the pr-aA, "pharaoh".
  3. imj-rA-Hmwt n nb tAwy "Overseer of the Craftsmen of the Lord of the Two Lands".
  4. imj-rA-saAw.tjw "Overseer of the Seal-bearers". In this function he had to inform the vizier once a month about the income and expenses of the pr-aA, "pharaoh", in presence of his subordinates.
Two of these are titles of construction work.

 His relationship with the king 

The titles and education make it obvious, that everything he has received in Egypt he owes to his king, which is expressed in his second name, the court name. He was a courtier or attendant (Smsw) of the pharaoh. The anonymity of the king in the tomb, is remarkable. He is called the "Lord of the two lands", "the perfect God", "king" or "Lord". It was suggested that this was due to the unclear relationship towards the throne in the interim period of Hatshepsut to the reign of Thutmosis III.

 His family 

The names of his parents may suggest, that he was born of a mother, who originally came from Mitanni, Tirukak. The name of his father is possibly Hethite or Hurritic, Irtenena, or El-tau-na-na.


 Current condition and former restoration. 

The forecourt is surrounded on three sides by a stone wall made of limestone, to prevent falling stones and garbage from the surrounding houses of the current inhabitants of Qurna.
Ongoing reconstruction and restoration work has been done and changed the state of the tomb since the last photographic documentation of 1927 by Mond and Emery. The tomb has been under restoration since 1925-26. After the tomb had been thoroughly cleaned, an iron door was set into the entrance and the disturbed architectural areas and reliefs were infilled with concrete. Later there was some more work done by Siegfried Schott between 1931-37.
Some destruction goes back to ancient times, especially to the faces of the people in the tomb. Some destruction has been as a consequence of erasure of the name of Amun during the Amarna period.
It is not clear, who made the very obvious and large number of drops of paint all over the tomb painting. Some scholars propose, that this was done in antiquity, some propose this was due to the restoration work at the beginning of the 20th century.
The tomb itself is in a very good condition, which results from the fact, that it has never been inhabited by people as a house.
A metre of sand and debris were found on the tomb floor, which contained the relics of 5 plundered mummies.

 Architecture and general layout. 

Tomb plan
The tomb has a very common feature of this time: An undecorated forecourt, cut into the cliffs and two rooms above ground, describing an inverted "T". A transverse room, as wide as the forecourt and a narrow longitudinal room with a niche for statues of the tomb owner and closest family members.

Within the forecourt are two openings, which are actually shafts: a round one and a rectangular one, which are the entrances to a subterranean system of corridors, which are connected with the corridor system of the shaft in the transverse room. The corridor gravel was thoroughly searched in 1926, without giving any hint towards the burial equipment or tomb owner.

Entrance door
The entrance door was heavily restored with cement, but parts of the titles and names are still visible (view 02).

Transverse Room

Transverse room, south

Transverse room, north

Two roughly hewn steps lead down into the transverse room. The ceiling of this room is slightly higher towards the entrance. The walls are carefully chiselled. The ceiling becomes steeper toward the north. In the floor of the south-western side is the opening of a burial shaft (view 03), to the right of a false door.

Longitudinal room

Longitudinal room
An uneven, rough threshold leads from the transverse room into this second room. The ceiling is inclined 20 cm. from east to west. Into the upper west wall has been hewn a niche for three seated statues.

Decoration: general remarks
There are the usual forms of decoration within the decorated rooms:
- there is an undecorated base part of 75 cm. in height, which is topped by a ribbon painted in yellow, black and red of 14 cm. height.
- the scene panels are surrounded by a ribbon of alternating red/green/yellow/blue/red/green rectangles or alternately yellow/green/red/blue/yellow/green, in which the singular colours are separated by two thick black strokes.
- the uppermost part of each wall consists of a painted kheker-frieze .

The general background colour of the walls is white. The hieroglyphs received a white layer first, before being painted in there final colours. This usually makes the colours brighter. The range of colours, as so often, uses black, red, green, rose-red, red-brown and white, but seldom uses blue or yellow. The colours blue, black and green are very faded, especially the black, which has faded in different stages between real black and several tones of grey.
The outline drawing was done in a red-brown around the brighter areas.

The style is static, quiet and homogenous or even uniform. This is mainly due to the lack of real contrasts, partly because of the lack of outline drawing or the faded black. The tones are more pastel colours. In part, this effect is produced by mixing or painting over one colour with another. The transverse room is executed in bas relief, the longitudinal room is executed in painting.
The hand of the painter was more at ease and was more creative than the engraver, but this may be the result of the technique. Here more details are expressed by painting.


In the forecourt, excavators uncovered an offering table, now on the top of the northern enclosure, which accompanies the stairway into the forecourt.
It was found in the 1 metre deep gravel inside the forecourt and had been placed in his current position by the excavators at the beginning of the 20th century. There was no decoration or inscription to be found on it, so either it was not finished, or erosion wiped the inscription away. This typical Htp-form offering table belongs to the New Kingdom, which was most common in Deir el-Medina.
The tomb has been looted in antiquity as most of the Egyptian tombs we know. Only the tombs of Sennedjem and Kha in Deir el-Medina in Thebes and the tombs of Tutankhamun and Psusennes still held most or nearly all of their tomb equipment.
Mond and Emery found a block, maybe from a jamb and which must have fallen to the ground, which depicted a sketch of a girl. Beside this there have only been found two funerary cones, one of them with both names and most important of all, the "student of the royal school" title of Benia; the other had the full titles and court name and therefore both belonging to the original burial.
There are some finds of later time, mainly made of wood from intrusive and later burials. There have been found five plundered mummies in the debris of the tomb chambers and sixteen plundered mummies in the corridor from the tomb shaft to the burial chamber, which seem to belong to the intrusive burials along with remnants of later period tomb goods.

The full detailed description of the tomb complex itself now follows.