TT192, the tomb of Kheruef whose birth name is Sesh

Kheruef was for a time the steward of queen Tiy, the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III ().
TT192 is Kheruef’s ‘funerary complex’ (a more suitable term than simply that of 'tomb'). It is imposing, even gigantic, indicating the power and the wealth of this individual. The monument was far from finished when, for reasons unknown, the site was abandoned.

What is at present designated as "the tomb of Kheruef" now includes only the entry and west portico at the far end of the open courtyard, an all too small remnant of the entire original monument. With its dark aspect, due partly to its blackened walls and almost complete absence of colour, this monument is hardly an inviting destination. In fact tourists are rare here, most being unaware of its existence even though it is close to the temple of Deir el-Bahari.

In this Kheruef presentation, featuring a monument of great artistic quality and historical significance, an attempt has been made to provide an insight into, and understanding of, the troubled period in ancient Egyptian history at the pivotal point of the reigns of Amenhotep (Amenophis) III and his son and successor Amenhotep IV (later to be known as Akhenaton). In particular it will seek answer to the question of the co-regency of these two sovereigns— although it will not arrive at any conclusions.

The tomb was first studied by Adolf Erman in 1885, then by Alan Gardiner and Nina de Garis Davies in 1923, followed by Ahmed Fakry in 1943, all of which investigation was preceded by the necessary work of clearance and documentation. Finally, the Epigraphic Survey of the University of Chicago completed its documenting of the monument over the years 1950-60, the resultant findings being published by the Oriental Institute in 1978. It is this final study that serves as the basis for the pages on this website.


As mentioned above, the tomb is on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor, at the foot of the el-Assasif hill, close to the walkway leading to the funerary temple of Hatshepsut, at Deir el-Bahari.
In a highly unusual manner the tomb had been dug into the bedrock below the surface of the desert. Over the subsequent centuries, dust, sand and rubbish have accumulated so that, together with its deep location, the monument is no longer visible today, and a descent down a rather long slope is required to reach it.

A courtyard in front of a portico, below the level of the desert floor, is a rare innovation in the customs of the 18th Dynasty: only the tombs of Ramose (TT55), Khaemhat (TT57) and Imhotep (TT102) provide a number of comparable features. In the Assassif [??] area, only the funerary chapel of Senenmut, TT353, displays the particular characteristic mentioned, although in a different arrangement.

Plan overview

The tomb of Kheruef is in five parts:

1) - From the right in the accompanying illustration, a 15° slope leads in a westerly direction down to the first decorated doorway, being part of a vestibule. Photos taken before the construction of the modern protective walls show that the axis of entry is in line with the pyramid-like peak of al-Qurn in the Theban hills, which can be seen in ().

The entry for the monument is in the east. The inclination of the outwardly sloping walls on either side is 7°, close to the 7.5° slope of the pylons of Karnak. As a result, the entranceway resembles the entry to a temple, and the whole complex (excluding the underground chambers), could be taken as such.
2) - The entranceway leads to a large open forecourt. The original intention was probably for it to be surrounded on all four sides by a portico supported by 39 columns. Two of the columns formed part of the west pylon, itself preceded by a small upwardly sloping ramp, which in turn led into the first pillared hall.
3) - This first pillared hall, arranged transversely on a north-south axis, is filled with pillars, in three rows of ten.
4) - A second pillared hall, representing the funerary chapel, is laid out perpendicularly to the previous hall and is thus almost exactly on an east-west alignment. This hall is also full of columns, in two rows of ten. At the far west end of this hall there is a niche chamber, which is entered by means of a narrow opening. In it there would have been one or more statues of the deceased.
5) - Making up the fifth part of the tomb complex are the underground chambers, the access to which is in the south-west corner of the second pillared hall.

The monument at the time of the abandonment of the site

At some point the ceiling in the south-wesern corner of the first pillared hall collapsed, blocking the entry to the corridor leading to the burial chambers. At the time of this accident numerous of the columns would have broken. A second collapse affected the western portico, the south wing of which was as a consequence filled to a considerable height with debris. This catastrophic collapse did, however, have the beneficial effect of protecting some of the reliefs; by being hidden by the rubble these also became difficult to reach. It was here that the only full surviving representation of Kheruef was to be found.

While the blocking of the underground corridor leading to the burial chambers was probably the reason why the site was abandoned, it is not the only possible explanation. There might have been political reasons, especially if consideration were to be given to the chiselled erasures of names dating from the reign of Akhenaten: Kheruef might have been perceived as the disgraced former "strong man" from the time of Amenhotep III. Or it could be that Kheruef simply died, with the consequent the stopping of the work on the site even before its structural collapse. Without new documentary discoveries this matter is likely to remain uncertain, just as it is unknown what happened to Kheruef himself, since he was never laid to rest in this tomb.

1. The main work

The quarrymen who roughly cut the basic monument, had accomplished a considerable amount of work. This completed work included the access ramp (the side walls of which were left in a rough state), the vestibule, the entry corridor and passageway leading to the courtyard.

2. The east corridor

There are corridors (i.e. open covered galleries or walkways) on the eastern and western sides of the courtyard. The eastern corridor is the first to be encountered on entering the monument. It is not exactly parallel to the the western corridor partly owing to the difference in length of the walls on the north and south sides of the courtyard, and partly because the alignment of the courtyard itself deviates as much as 7º with respect to the central axis of the whole monument.
In fact there are several significant architectural anomalies in the monument as a whole, all of which appear likely to be the result of human error.

3. Northern and southern walls of the courtyard

The north and south walls of the courtyard are aligned parallel to the central axis. The north wall, however, is 1.2 m longer than the south wall. There is no geological circumstance to account for this anomaly. Columns that might have lined these two walls were not even provisionally roughed out, although sketches in red ink indicate that they had been intended at part of the structure.

4. The west corridor

The corridor on the western or far side of the courtyard was not completely finished. The walls (and the roofing) were cut and polished to a height of 3.5 m in its southern wing (i.e. to the left as one enters the courtyard) and likewise up to 5.0 m in the northern wing (i.e. to the right with respect to the entry passage).

The ground or flooring, and the four columns of the north wing of this western corridor, as well as the the architrave (the decorated panel over the entranceway to the first pillared hall) together with the passageway itself, were completed. This was not the case, however, with the recesses to the north and south, which were only crudely sketched out.

The four pillars of the north wing of the corridor, which appear to have been smoothly finished, are aligned at an angle of 4.5º off a right angle with respect to the main east-west axis. Note too that, if the walls to the right (north) and left (south) wings have retained their initial alignment, they would not have been parallel to the line of the columns. They no longer maintain the same axis the one with respect to the other.
Resulting from this fact is the considerable difference in thickness of the rock between the west corridor and the first pillared hall: 0.5 m to the north, but as much as 3.55 m to the south (). At the present moment it would seem that there might be a corridor on either side of the entrance, but this is not so. To avoid a further cave in, the rest of the columns opening onto the courtyard have been strengthened with the addition of masonry. Thus the whole has been made secure, but daylight no longer reaches the walls.

5. The first pillared hall

The walls of the first hall had been aligned and squared, and smoothed. A few of the columns have been finely carved. They feature abacus but no capitals.

6. The second pillared hall

The walls of this second hall were completed to about half their initially planned length.

7. Underground corridors and chambers

The subterranean spaces were constructed on two levels, both sets of such spaces being completed. The upper chambers were artificial, being designed to to mislead looters; those on the lower level were genuine.

8. The sculptors’ work

Work undertaken by sculptors was much less advanced. These artisans had only partially completed the entrance and wings to the north and south of the east pylon. At the entry, reliefs were completed on the north wall of the vestibule, but only the red guidelines were achieved on the south wall. The reliefs for the ceiling of the passage were complete, also those of the doorway and passage in the west corridor and on the ceiling in front of it.

9. The painters

Work by the painters was also only partially completed: the wall to the south of the entrance passageway, the upper registers of the of the wall in the north wing, the ceiling of the south wing, and various inscriptions. The long inscription, in celebration of the pharaoh’s Heb Seb festival to mark the 30th year of his reign, found in the south wing had been given its whitewash coating as a preliminary to actual painting.


The entry to the access corridor is in the south-west corner of the first pillared hall. A steep descent, including two right-angle bends, leads to a point 20 m below ground level. While the length of this route, according to measurements made by Nims, is 37.50 m, a calculation made from the site plan yields a figure of 41.70 m. The passageway leads to the first undergrounds rooms. These consist of an antechamber and a transverse hall, annexed to which are three small cubicles. It would appear that this complex constituted a pseudo-funeral apartment, a device intended to deceive any tomb robbers. In the upper part of the north wall of the transverse chamber there is an opening, which must have been blocked up after the burial, that provides access to another corridor leading a further 8.5 m downwards. (Here once again, study of the site plan leads to disagreement with Nims, who puts the length at 23 m, whereas, according to the scale shown on his own plan, it is in fact 34.60 m.) At the far end of the corridor there is a new complex of chambers, this time almost certainly the genuine ones.

The deterioration undergone by the monument

The collapsing of the ceiling has already been mentioned. The columns in the two pillared halls are also damaged, but the ceilings in those spaces, although weakened, on the whole have held. It is likely that earthquakes, which sometimes shake the region, were responsible for this damage. The engraved and painted areas have also experienced damage, in part at least due to the seeping of salt from the rock although the result can at times be impossible to distinguish from acts of vandalism, notably in the south wing of the west colonnade.

The artistic embellishments of the monument suffered greatly from human interference. This defacing took place after the collapsing of the ceiling, and therefore either after the site has been abandoned, or at the same time. These acts of defacement fall into two categories, occurring during and after the reign of Akhenaten.

1)- Defacement during the reign of Akhenaten

a)- The inscriptions

Consistent with his belief in a single god, Aten, in place of previously perceived multiple gods, the “heretic” pharaoh Akhenaten zealously ordered the removal of the name of the god Amon, and in several places this name was indeed chiselled out, although never when occurring as part of a royal cartouche (e.g. as in ‘Amen-hotep’). It is interesting to note that while no gods other than Amon were so treated, plural references to "gods" were subjected to erasure defacement.
The name and titles of Kheruef were also largely removed.

b)- The images of people

Any image of Kheruef was chiselled out wherever it was accessible. The only place where such an image survived is to be found in the south wing, under the throne of the sovereigns (whose names were left untouched everywhere). Nearby, slightly above, there is an instance where his image has been chiselled away — but only in part, to the level of his loincloth. Perhaps this was because it is precisely in this zone of the monument that the collapse occurred, with the resulting rubble saving Kheruef from total obliteration. But it was not just Kheruef who was targeted: the same destructive treatment was meted out to all of his companions who participated, as he did, in the jubilee festivals. All were to be erased when their images could be reached. It should be noted that images of two priests of Ptah, dressed in leopard skins, were also so erased. This is not unique case: in many monuments, likenesses of those priests featuring the skin of this animal have also been erased, for no discernible reason.

The fact that it was not images of Kheruef alone that were effaced but also those of his companions seems to indicate that it was not (at least not solely) the individuals themselves that were targeted so much as the Heb Sed festival of the royal jubilee. This festival must have been deemed to have had too many connections with the traditional religion that had become anathema to Akhenaten.

c)- Were the names erased at the same time that the images were erased ?

It is generally agreed that the persecutions attributed to Akhenaten took place in the last third of his reign, after the death of Queen Tiy. This queen, as mentioned above, was the wife of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, and Akhenaten was their son. Amenhotep died in c.1353 BC, with Queen Tiy surviving for about another 14 years. If images or references to Kheruef could have been defaced at any time, it is possible (a hypothesis of Nims) that representations of Amenhotep III’s jubilee were not touched until after Queen Tiy’s death, out of respect for her.

2)- After the reign of Akhenaton

Further defacement of the artistic embellishments was to take place after the death of Akhenaten. In this phase, however, it was traces of Akhenaten himself that were to be eliminated. This revision did not extend to restoring the name of Amon where it had previously been removed. Representations of the late king were so violently sledge-hammered away that significant portions of wall were to fall down.

Later changes to the Kheruef complex

During the 19th Dynasty eight tombs were excavated in the east colonnade of the courtyard, as well as in its north and south walls. A stela was carved on the south face of the unfinished pillar in the east colonnade, north of the line of axis. This stela identifies the tomb TT193 of Ptahemheb, but is of an uncertain date. Several funeral shafts were dug in the courtyard, while around about a complexity of interlacing of galleries developed. These comprised more or less finished chambers, which were sometimes vaulted, and which were for the most part unidentified. Rooms in the course of being excavated often accidentally broke into existing spaces, and galleries are sometimes separated from one another by barely a few centimetres thickness of rock. On this Osirisnet website a special page entitled "Around Kheruef" will, as early as possible, be dedicated to these tombs.

At some time during Ptolemaic times, part of the north wing of the first colonnade (on the eastern side of the courtyard) was isolated by a mudbrick wall; this continued into the courtyard and was covered by a roof.


Kheruef served during the reign of Amenhotep III and of his son Amenhotep IV, at the time when the latter was not yet known as Akhenaten. These two sovereigns are represented in the funerary monument, as is queen Tiy who had risen to political and religious influence by the end of the reign of the ailing Amenhotep III. It was around this time that Kheruef was authorised to construct Amenhotep’s funerary complex, which was at the time of, or just after, his third jubilee festival.

It was while the artistic embellishments were being carried out that either Amenhotep III died, or had given power to his son by making him co-regent. At this stage the son had not imposed his own new artistic style, which would become so characteristic of the beginning of his reign — and neither had Queen Nefertiti made any appearance.

What is known about the person of Kheruef comes in part from his tomb, but also from four complete or broken statues surveyed by Labib Habachi and Jocelyne Berlandini, together with some jar plugs, and funerary cones that bear his name.
Two of the statues were recovered from the funerary complex, shattered into pieces. The first was broken off at waist level, the whole upper portion being lost; as to the second, all that remains of it is the head, and some some inscriptions, and these pieces are currently held in a private collection ().

From this assembly of elements some things can be learned, although nothing of the private life of the very high commissioner Kheruef, nor of the progress of his career.

1)- Kheruef and his family

The name Kheruef was not the birth name of the owner of tomb 192. This was Sesh (meaning "scribe"). This name occurs five times in the tomb, three in the form "Sesh, who is called Kheruef".

His father was called Siked. He was "Scribe of the army of the Sovereign of the Two lands", a prestigious post.

His mother was named Ruiu, and carried the titles of "Royal ornament, chantress of Isis, the God's mother", as well as "chantress of Amon". It is likely that she exercised her talents of singer during the first Jubilee. There is no proof that Kheruef was married, because the lady quoted as Henutneferet in the tomb is qualified as "snt-f" a word which is able to signify "his sister" as well as "his wife". No children are mentioned.

2)- Kheruef held important titles

a)- Some general titles

The following titles indicate that Kheruef was a man close to the royal couple, and particularly to the queen.
- "Royal (or True) scribe"
- "Noble and count (or governor) "
- "Porter of the royal seal"
- " First Herald of the king",
a frequently mentioned title
- "The one who is efficient for his Horus" (= his king)
- "Steward"
- "Steward of the Great Wife Royal Tiy"
- "Steward of the Great Royal Wife in the domain of Amon"
. This last title implies a close relationship between Kheruef and the temple of Amon, and also with its clergy, which could explain his state of disgrace under Akhenaten.


b)- Additional general titles related mainly to the first and third jubilee festivals

Kheruef appears to have had responsibility for arranging the jubilee festivals marking the 30th and 37th years of the reign of king Amenhotep III:
- "Governor of the palace"
- "Governor of the palace in the function of the jubilee"
- "Servant of the king at the time of the jubilee"

A statue of Bubastis in the delta of the Nile, and graffiti far upstream in Aswan, reveal that Kheruef was obliged to travel from the north to the south of the country in connection with the preparations for these imposing festivals.

It is possible to appreciate the favour in which he was held, from reading the dedicatory inscription to him, fulsome in its praise, composed at the time of the third jubilee: "The prince, the governor, the great companion at the foot of the king's throne, excellent confidant of the king, the favourite of Horus in his house, he whom the king promoted greater others, whose character satisfies the Lord of Two Lands, the royal scribe, and steward of the Great Royal Wife Tiy, Kheruef [..]"