The present El Kab corresponds to the ancient town of Nekhen, once a very important city, powerful capital of the 3rd nome of Upper Egypt.
At the Northeast of the city one finds a hill, made of sandstone, filled of tombs which essentially date from of the New Kingdom. Among these, one of the most famous is that of Paheri, which dates from the middle of the 18th Dynasty, under the reign of Thutmosis III.
The tomb is located at the east end of a modern walk way, giving access to several tombs.
With its shape as a tunnel, it is of modest dimensions, measuring about 8.30m. in length, 3.80m. in width and 3.50m. in height at its middle.
The original excavation included: a platform in front of the entry, where the funeral well was dug; one sculptured facade is now very ruined; an oblong chamber with an arched roof, entirely decorated by relief sculpturing and painting and finally a niche at the rear, containing three statues.
Later, a new entry had been dug in the east wall, through the sculpturing. Two crudely built chambers, with a funeral well had thus been added (see ).
The floor of the main chamber had then been cut away, leaving irregular hewn masses in the corners.
The facade of the tomb had been set into the hill, on both sides the two areas which carried vertical columns of hieroglyphs are today extensively destroyed (see and ). Then, as there was a high and wide space on the right: a representation of Paheri was added in the hollow relief (1), knelt addressing a prayer to the local goddess Nekhbet.
Work in the tomb is of a beautiful quality, although sandstone doesn't permit the sharpness of execution which is reached in the tombs in the limestone of the Theban region. All figures and hieroglyphs are sculpted in raised relief and are painted. Only the small hieroglyphs and those of the wall at the rear are hardly incised and filled with blue painting
The main chamber has the form of a tunnel with an arched ceiling, the two walls of the extremities presenting at their upper part a tympanum aspect.
To the right (2) (on the south wall) is a representation of Paheri, in his left hand his staff of office. Above him, is a boat, possibly an evocation of the ritual pilgrimage to Abydos.
The west wall (3) is divided into two sections, in the first are the owner's representations taking care of the farm work: harvests, hunting, fishing, loading of the boats, … and at the other end the accomplishment of the appropriate funerary rituals.
The east wall (4) presents indoor activities. The first is a great banquet to which many forebears, parents and friends, participate. The second is a scene of worship accompanied by a long inscription summarising the funerary program of the tomb. The side chambers, originally accessed through the northern end of east wall are of a later execution than Paheri.
At the far end, the rear (north) wall (5) is covered with a remarkably long inscription including the deceased's merits, and prayers for a happy future.
In the centre of the rear wall is a great niche (6) containing the remains of three statues.
On each of the side walls, above the scenes, is a line of large hieroglyphs, running the length of the chamber. Above this, on the start of the curve of the vaulted ceiling, there is a khekher frieze, followed by another line of large hieroglyphs. Down the centre length of the ceiling, runs another line of inscription. The space between the three ceiling lines of hieroglyphs is filled with a painted design of differently coloured zigzag lines, forming a diamond pattern, running the whole length of the chamber.
The tomb had already been located by the scholars of the Egyptian expedition in 1799. Cortaz gives a touching description of it: the tomb is "like a book which the ancient Egyptians have to us to instruct us in a great part of the customs and work which composed at home the economy of civil life".
In 1825 James Burton copied the scenes of the two walls of the main chamber. Champollion and Rossellini, then Robert Hay and Wilkinson worked at El Kab. The most meaningful publications were then those of Lepsius and Brugsches.
The mutilations which effect most representations of characters are due to the Copts. Otherwise the presence of recovery fillers on the scenes of the lateral walls of the main chamber show that flaking had already appeared at the time of the creation of the tomb and corrected by applications of mortar. The tomb had also suffered attempts at plundering by carving from the outlines, but the original images could be restored.
No matter what the custom is in writing the name of the nomarch "Paheri", the hieroglyphs which designate him are , or which is "Pahery".
To adhere to custom we will continue to use "Paheri".
The tomb of Paheri gives us, associated with that of his ancestor , sufficiently precise information to reconstruct the family tree, of this powerful provincial prince, for six generations.
His maternal grandfather was the famous Ahmose son of Abana, in the tomb of whom one finds unique historical inscriptions to be able to understand the confused period of the beginnings of the 18th Dynasty and the fall of the Hyksos.
By his wife Apu, Ahmose had a daughter, Kem, who married the scribe Atefrura, a high Theban dignitary who was the tutor of the royal prince Uadjmes. It is actually our Paheri (or could have been his brother, of the same name) who was responsible for the digging of the tomb of his grandfather. One can read there : "
it was his daughter's son who undertook the work in this funeral chamber, perpetuating the name of his mother's father, the scribe of the contours of the god Amon, Paheri " and also (a prayer) "
for Ahmose, son of Abana, by his daughter's son, who makes live his name, Paheri, justified (lit. "true of voice", thus "deceased") ". In the tomb this descendent from the maternal side, considered as prestigious, is located everywhere, including all maternal forebears and the cousins, while the paternal side is almost entirely neglected.
It is remarkable that Paheri doesn't possess, in his titulature, any of the titles usually carried by the courtiers, for example he is not qualified as "unique friend" (smr wat).
Indeed, it seems that Paheri only took advantage of his functions of great property owner and governor, enjoying the king's confidence. The titles commonly associated with Paheri are those of nomarch (= governor prince) and scribe. He is often called nomarch of Nekheb and Anyt (Letopolis or Esna) both are two main cities of the third nome of Upper Egypt.
Paheri was, as scribe, responsible for the grain from Ant (Denderah) to Nekheb. He was "
uppermost of the land with grain of the South district, (the one who) satisfied his master's desire, from Per-Hathor to Nekheb, ". Per-Hathor (literally: the house, the domain, of Hathor) can be likened here to Tentyra, capital of the sixth nome of Upper Egypt. Paheri is thus the person responsible for the grain in a very vast sector.
Like his father, Paheri carries the title of tutor of hereditary prince by the name of Uadjmes. But it cannot be about the same character since this one is represented here as a baby, while one sees represented the children and even the grandchildren of Paheri. It is probably about a child of Thutmosis I. The two princes Uadjmes had died very young, since neither of them ascended to the throne, or it was about even younger sons of the king.
Paheri also carried a ministerial title: he was chief of the priests of the god of his city : "
uppermost of the priests of Nekhbet ". Nekhbet is the great tutelary goddess of Upper Egypt, the vulture goddess often wearing the white crown, and his name is often associated with the title "
the White one of Nekheb ".
On the east wall, to the right of the entry of the tomb, one finds a representation of Paheri, knelt, the arms raised southwards. He is very simply clothed in a short loincloth. The inscription above his head is damaged, but can be restored. It concerns a prayer to the goddess Nekhbet :
It says "
Homage to You Mistress of the mouth of the two valleys (another name for the goddess Nekhbet), Mistress of the sky […]
The rest of the facade is very damaged, notably the two door posts which surround the entry. Originally, they carried inscriptions of 3m. in height, containing the prayers to various divinities, prayers included "
for the Ka of the nomarch of Nekheb, Paheri, justified " (see left column, ).
On the left, the two columns addressed to Amon-Ra asking him "for the soft breaths of the North"; the rest is damaged too much to be validly interpreted.
On the right, three columns address to Nekhbet, Hathor and possibly Osiris.
On the first, "
[…] mistress of the sky, Henut-tauy, that she gives all good things for his altar for the ka […] ".
On the second, more or less the same thing.
The third column includes the picture of the mummified vulture wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt. Some identify it as Kemhes, god related to the city of Hierakonpolis, situated on the other side of the Nile.
Another missing god, because the continuation of the inscription asks "
that they may give all things, all offerings for the ka […] "
Above these inscriptions were some others which are obliterated.
The entrance passage had to certainly include some inscriptions, but these have here disappeared completely.