TT31, the tomb of Khonsu , also called To (or Ta) .

Tomb TT31 is located in the necropolis of Sheikh Abd el-Qurnah and dates from the 19th Dynasty, more precisely from the long reign of Ramesses II (c. 1279-1213 B.C.) doubtless in its second part. It belonged to an official with the name of Khonsu. This is the same name as the god known as the "son" of the Theban triad (Amon - Mut - Khonsu). Additionally, in the inscriptions of the tomb, the name of Khonsu is repeatedly followed by his nickname, Ta or To. His family was traditionally connected to the cult of Montu, the ancient warlike god of the Theban region.
Khonsu was descended from a prestigious lineage, since his grand-father, Usermontu, seems to have been a vizier at the time of the Amarnian period. Many members of the deceased's family are represented in the tomb's chapel, as well as other characters who are more difficult to classify.
The tomb of Khonsu is one of the rare ones which can be visited nowadays. Alas, the glazed panels which cover the walls, though they are necessary for protection, change the view of some of the scenes and take away the emotional experience by the distance which they infer (it is only by looking at properly to appreciate the difference).

The god Montu is going to be referenced frequently and met in several royal representations, also, it is recommended that, before going further, the following special pages should be read, which were written to complete this presentation:
as well as .


A comment should be made on Jiro Kondo's article claiming that tomb TT31 may have been usurped. The author basing this on some quirks in the decoration and on somewhat obscure links between some of the characters. For him, the tomb may have been built for a person called To, at the end of the 18th Dynasty and then usurped by Khonsu during the Ramesside period. This hypothesis nevertheless relies on very thin presumptions and cannot be retained as is. So the classical version in which Khonsu has the secondary name of To, shall be retained.

The owner: Khonsu

As with many characters of this time period, he had a second name: To (or Ta) , used less often than the first. The name Tjay is also used in the chapel, and there is a possibility that it represents a variant of To.

The main function exercised by Khonsu was that of "High-priest (of the funerary worship) of Menkheperre" (Thutmosis III). He was probably attached to the king's main funeral temple on the west bank of Thebes, but he could possibly have been associated with a foundation of Thutmosis III in another city of the Theban Palladium, if a representation can be trusted showing the sovereign's statue on a ship which returns up a canal to the entry of the temple of Ermant. It could even be about that of the temple of Thutmosis III in Karnak?… Unverifiable speculations.

Khonsu was also the "High-priest of Montu, Lord of Tod".

He was likewise "Supervisor of the livestock of Menkheperure" (Thutmosis IV). It is possible that he exercised this function earlier in his career, because in the scene which makes reference to it, he is accompanied by his first wife, Ruia.

Doubt exists on the fact that he was also "High-priest (of the funerary cult) of Amenhotep II", a function which his father, Neferhotep, already occupied.

The family

The father of Khonsu was named Neferhotep , who was the high-priest of the cult of Amenhotep II.

His mother was a "chantress of Montu, Lord of Ermant", her name being Tauseret . Khonsu had a special affection for her, as testified by the eminent place which she occupies in the chapel. It is possibly to her that he owed his connection with the god Montu at Ermant.

Amongst his ancestors is mentioned a certain Nebhemhyt, a character who is designated as "his father", but it is not specified of whom and the hieroglyphic group jt=f could designate any ancestor, for example the grandfather. This "father" is quoted as "standard bearer of the great regiment of Nebmaatra" (Amenhotep III).

A prestigious ancestor, probably the great-grandfather of Khonsu, was Usermontu , who exercised the responsibility of vizier at the end of the Amarnian period, probably under Tutankhamun. He is represented several times in the tomb, as well as his brother Huy. One of the sons of Khonsu also carried the name of Usermontu.

Khonsu had two wives: the first was Ruia , who gave him two or maybe three children, then Mutia (y) (or Maiay, or Maay) , who gave him seven. The names and functions of the brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and nephews, who are found quoted in the chapel, are on the family tree; nothing else is worth adding. Note should be made of the implication that the whole family was in the service of Montu (Nb. "wab" = "purifying priest", a lower ministerial class who had the daily tasks in charge in the temple and some activities of worship. They are usually shown with shaven heads and bleached white linen robes, to indicate their purity, thus allowing them to touch cult objects even though they didn't have access to the intimate rooms of the temple).

About twenty other people are mentioned in the chapel, these will be discussed when they are encountered, as far as there is hardly much to say about them, because the nature of their relationship with the deceased is ignored.


The monument was known by Lepsius and Schiaparelli in the second half of the 19th century, but it was necessary to wait for Weigall, in 1908, so that a metallic door could be put in place, and Mond in 1925 to achieve works of consolidation, because the rear threatened to collapse. It was during these works that the well preserved niche, at the rear, was discovered. In 1948, Davies and Gardiner dedicated a study of the tomb; it is on this study that this presentation is essentially based.

From his succession, Ramesses II launched a vast country-wide construction program, entailing a large amount of work of the craftsmen to produce the enormous quantity of necessary decoration to cover the walls of the temples and other official monuments. It resulted in an artistic impoverishment of the artistic requirement anda standardisation of the representations. These observations also show the value of the decoration of the tombs, which not only lost their quality but especially the originality in relation to the previous period. This is how numerous iconic representations seem to have been transferred from one tomb to another. For example: the representation of a king, whoever it was, was characteristically copied from one to another, even Ramesses II. This is true in that of Khonsu, with the image of king Montuhotep, which is in the niche to the base of the longitudinal chamber.
Besides, there is often a connection between different styles in the same monument, indicating the existence of schools of craftsmen. So, relief work ignores the fashion completely and prefers to favour the experience of previous times, from which a contrast in the painting style evolved. For example here, in the entrance doorway, the son of Khonsu wears a wig engraved in a spiral pattern, of Amarnian and post-Amarnian style, abandoned after Sethy I (Eva Hofmann), whereas, in the rest of the tomb, the painted wigs followed the fashion of the time.

Preceded by a courtyard, the tomb of Khonsu is in a classic inverted "T"-shaped plan. Its geographical orientation is southwest by northwest (the entrance being at the south). It corresponds to the most classic design chosen for this type of edifice. Although the tomb is not oriented to conform to the ritualistic orientation used by the ancient scribes, the whole complex, including the courtyard, will be considered as being east to west, the direction of the journey into the afterlife, with the entrance at the east end.
Tomb TT31 has walls with painted decoration. For some strange reason, the walls of the doorways of the first and second corridors, as well as the facades of the second and third, the rock, once polished, were relief embossed before being painted. Apart from the north wall of the transverse chamber, the style and the themes are typically Ramesside, painted on an off-white background, without great originality. One recovers an example of the period, which could qualify as baroque, with an accumulation of detail and colour. The bodies are lengthened, sometimes well beyond physiological height.
Nowadays, the decoration which has survived is almost totally in the first (transverse) chamber and the niche at the rear of the tomb. Whilst the longitudinal corridor has nearly lost all of its coating. The small section, at the far end, which has been given the name of antechamber, never received any decoration, but only a yellow surface coating.
All of the chamber ceilings are painted, as are those of the ceilings (also referred to as soffits) of the three passageways.
It seems that the main part of the damage in the tomb is of geologic origin, due to sliding of the upper and lower rock strata, because the monument was cut in poor quality rock.

The courtyard

The main entry of the tomb of Khonsu opens up at the rear of a courtyard which is below the normal ground level, in a large area common to tombs TT30, TT50, TT51 and TT109. Tomb TT30 connects with TT31 via a narrow corridor which opens up into the antechamber of TT31.
The entry to the courtyard of this tomb (TT31) is via a descending set of steps, which have been restored. The walls surrounding the courtyard are of bricks, and must have been raised to adapt to the modern conditions of the ground level (view ). On the left (ritualistic south) side of the courtyard is tomb TT301, of Hori, "Scribe of the table of the Lord of the Two Lands in the domain of Amon" also of the Ramesside period. Almost nothing remains of its decoration, which didn't prevent the entry of this monument being sealed.

The facade


On both sides of the entrance to the tomb, two stelae were cut directly into the rock. The difference in size, shape and framing between the two is very noticeable. According to Kampp, this difference could come from the poorer quality of the rock of the one on the right-hand side. It is also noticeable that practically all of the framing of the upper part of the left stela has also disintegrated.
But another possibility exists, this is that only one stela (the one on the right in this case) belonged to TT31, the second would have been created a little later (but again under Ramesses II) for the occupant of tomb TT301. It would indeed be very unusual to find, in a same front courtyard, two stelae of which the size, shape, the iconographic motifs are so different.
These stelae are now nearly illegible.

On the right-hand stela can be recognised, in the upper register, a man whose name seems to be Usermontu, making an offering to Re-Horakhty (see ). The central register is lost. On the bottom register, a man and two women make offerings to two couples, whose first representative would be Khonsu himself. Mention is also found to Khenemet Waset and the Ramesseum.

On the stela to the left, in the upper arched section, two characters pay homage to Re-Horakhty seated on a throne. If the stela had been part of a pair, there should have been, on the other, Osiris. The register below is occupied by columns of illegible text.

First passageway: the entry into the tomb

Note should be made that the location of surfaces is, from here on, taken as the entry being at the east end of the tomb and that the far end, the niche, being at the west end, conforming to the journey into the afterlife, thus also to the ritualistic orientation used by the ancient scribes.
Approximate measurements have been obtained by using the line drawing in the "Die Thebanische Nekropole" publication, and height values by using the available photos.

The outer framing of the entrance doorway (doorposts and lintel) is totally lost. The doorway carries incised decoration and is also painted, of which fragments of the south (left) side have been put back in place.

1) - Entrance, south wall (left)

(See and ). The frieze which overhangs the scene is formed by an alternation of two khekeru and a representation of Anubis, in his canine form, on the roof of a chapel. This will be also found later in the tomb, in the transverse chamber. This frieze rests on the traditional band constituted of coloured rectangles. Underneath, can be found the upper half of the bodies of four characters who are turned towards the outside, seeming to leave the tomb.

At the front, left, is Khonsu, who wears the panther skin (as a rule, an attribute of a sem-priest) over his tunic with sleeves. Frequently this is also described as a leopard skin, but in these pages 'panther' will be used. He has his two arms raised, palms forwards, in worship. Above, is the remains of the text of a solar hymn: "[An adoration of Re] when he arises on the eastern horizon… [by the high-]priest of the lord [of the Two Lands] Men[kheperre] (Thutmosis III) , Khonsu, born of the mistress of the house, Tauseret."

Standing behind Khonsu is "His mother, the chantress of Montu, Tauseret". She wears a long wig whose locks are fastened by a ribbon below the ear and on top of the wig is the customary Theban ointment cone, which takes here the shape of a shell. This is supposed to represent a cone of perfumed grease trickling into the hair and onto the dress, caused by the heat, its material reality is put in doubt and numerous people think than it represents a metaphor to designate perfumes in general. Two lotus flowers, one open, the other closed in button form, complete the symbolic group evoking being in the body of Nut-Hathor, the Theban mountain, at night and returning to the world in the morning. Tauseret wears a large necklace and bracelets on her forearms and also her wrists. With the left hand, she waves two stems of papyrus (?) which surround a Hathoric sistrum, supposed to attract the goddess Hathor by the noise of the rattle which it produces when it is shaken. In her other hand, she holds the counterweight of a Menat necklace, equally related to Hathor.

The following character, of smaller waist, is "His son, head of the stable, Usermont living anew". He wears a wig which reaches his shoulders, a loincloth, but no upper garment. He holds in one hand two birds (probably ducks) by their wings. The duck was, in the Egyptian symbolism, related to sexuality and rebirth. He is followed by Mutia, the second wife of Khonsu. It can be seen that this one is represented distinctly smaller than his stepmother. Here, as elsewhere in the tomb, the deceased's mother always has precedence over the wives. If the end of the text is taken as a fact, two children had to come with their mother, but they have disappeared.
According to Davies, there was another underlying scene to this one: it is now lost completely.

2) - Entrance, north wall (right)

Only the top of the bodies of three characters have survived. This time they face towards the inside of the tomb.
Again the first is Khonsu, whose shaven skull reveals the priestly function. The names of those who follow him are lost, but, considering the scene which faces it on the south wall, it can be supposed that the lady is again Tauseret, the mother of Khonsu, represented as on the other wall, and that she is followed by the son, Usermontu. This time the text above the characters refers to the time of the setting of the sun: "An adoration of Re when he sets on the western horizon of heaven, that they (sic) may give me a happy existence in the necropolis, going in and coming forth from the earth for eternity, and that his soul is not withheld from its desire (?). For the Ka of the high-priest of Menkheperre, [Khonsu]."

3) - The ceiling

The soffit/ceiling of the first passageway (as the one of the third) is original: instead of the usual geometric pattern, it is decorated with flying birds, with their wings expanded, on a yellow background. The birds are light blue, with traces of white and red legs. The entry of the tombs, not being tightly closed, made it possible that the theme was about a simple transposition of the reality, but the idea of a link with the Ba-bird ("the soul" of the deceased) leaving the tomb to go out into the day, was certainly not displeasing to Khonsu, who made two of these unusual ceiling images, containing flying birds, in his tomb. The panel is surrounded by a chequered border of blue, red, blue and green squares.