TT55, the tomb of Ramose Vizier of Egypt

Situation of the tomb


Theban Tomb No. 55 ("Stuart's Tomb") is located at the foot of the hill of Sheikh Abd el-Qurnah, not far from the mortuary temple of Ramesses II – the Ramesseum. Its importance lies in its documentation of the funerary changes from Amenhotep III to Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten.

There are two representations of Akhenaton in the tomb itself. It is worth mentioning that the royal couple are depicted without one of their daughters. This absence suggests that the scenes were created during the first years of Akhenaten's reign. As an aside, this appearance of the different styles and the problem of the exact appointment of Ramose's term of office has played some role in the debate about a co-regency between the two sovereigns.

The suppression of the god Amun under Akhenaten led to damage to this tomb, as happened elsewhere. "This damage was crudely rectified, in deep-set relief, and faced up with liquid plaster in the clumsiest possible way" (Davies) after the Amarna period, when the names and images of Akhenaten and Nefertiti were in turn erased. Ramose himself does not seem to have suffered the same fate; his family may have been too influential.

Not much later after completion, the rock ceiling of the tomb collapsed. Possibly the burial chambers hollowed out in the neighbourhood during the Ramesside period were indirectly to blame for this collapse. The tomb was then inaccessible and so its reliefs and paintings are extremely well preserved. In the Ramesside period, the tomb's inaccessibility did not prevent another individual from converting what remained usable into his own tomb. The brick wall that "borders" the courtyard today and perhaps also the two sandstone bases and stumps of columns beside the entrance may originate from this person. These columns may once have been part of a portico.
Furthermore he probably also erected two parallel walls of mud brick in the middle of the transverse hall, separating the route to the burial chamber from the heaps of rubble. Two uninscribed tombs have been cut in the rock walls one in the north of the court, one in the south. The south one (TT 331) belongs to the Ramesside period and is partly decorated.

Before Henry Windsor Villiers Stuart drew attention to the tomb, it was already known, and the upper part of the inner door opening had been detected. It was visible above enormous heaps of stone and sand. Until then, however, no one had done any further investigating. Villiers Stuart was the first person to take a closer look at this site. In February 1879 he recognized the radiant sun of Akhenaten and he saw the outlines of the relief appear. In 1882 he uncovered a considerable part of the south wall. In 1884-85, Gaston Maspero authorized further excavation revealing parts of the south wall. But all these works were carelessly done and lead to the destruction of the sliding debris.

In 1904, A.E. Weigall, with support from Robert Mond and the Metropolitan Museum of New York, cleared a passage round the south nave and worked on this site between 1924 and 1927. Mond began a systematic exploration of it and removed the enormous overburden. The direct management of the work was in the hands of Walter B. Emery. The entrance, the courtyard and the wide hypostyle hall were uncovered. The front wall was rebuilt up and twelve replica columns in the hall on the bases and stumps of the original columns were erected. It is worth noting that Davies doubts this reconstruction "…all columns in the great hall had plain shafts from the neck downwards and that there is no clear evidence that those of the nave differed in any way from the rest, since all decorative detail below the necks may come from the columns of the inner hall." In addition, the burial chamber was uncovered and various loose fragments found during this work were replaced.
In 1927-28 the Service des Antiquités commissioned the engineer Émile Baraize to build a flat roof with a large amount of glazing areas to let in light. He also added a thirteenth sandstone column to avert falls of overhanging rock.


Tombs north of Ramose Tombes au nord de celle de Ramose
Tombs south of Ramose Tombes au sud de celle de Ramose

The tomb complex was left unfinished because of the political circumstances at the time. Leading down to the large forecourt of the tomb was a broad stairway of 25 steps cut out of the rock. A ramp down the middle of these steps was for the lowering of a sarcophagus. The forecourt was irregular in form because the architect had chosen to respect earlier tombs (e.g. TT342 and TT346). The original courtyard enclosure is no longer visible today.

East wall and entrance to the tomb Mur est et porte vers la salle longitudinale
West wall and entrance to the inner room Entrée dans la tombe par le mur ouest
The layout of the tomb is conventional, but its dimensions and elaborate decoration are far more extensive than usual, corresponding to the high rank of the tomb-owner. Only three walls of the transverse hall were decorated, while the northeast wall and the rest of the tomb's walls were left blank.
This hall was transformed into a large columned hall. Four rows of eight papyrus-bundle columns once supported the roof. Only bases or stumps remain. The axis to the longitudinal hall is emphasised (). In the adjoining room there were once eight columns, smaller than in the transverse hall, which are now destroyed (). Three niches were started in this room.

The descent to the sloping passage is formed by a staircase with a central ramp, and starts in the south-west corner of the transverse hall and runs in a westerly direction. After three bends in a northerly, westerly and northerly direction, one reaches the burial chamber (to know what a sloping passage is, see on this site) .

The burial chamber

It is an impressive four-pillared room, with an axis running east to west, about 4,5 m below the floor of the tomb.
The central nave of the ceiling is cambered, the side aisles are flat. The back wall is pierced by three openings. Each shows a projecting framing and a cornice (). The central door leads to a farther room. Davies accurately describes the completed as well as the planned chambers and niches: "The right hand doorway, also furnished with a roll and cornice above the lintel, is incomplete, the inside being sunk only some 3 inches (about 7,6 cm)".

Rooms were also projected close to these two doors in the side walls of the hall, again with corniced doorways. That on the left was only roughed out. That on the right (south) led into a small chamber, the walls of which are very rough, except in the upper part near the entrance ().

Low down in its side walls are two of the little niches often hewn in burial chambers to contain ritual bricks or figurines. They protected the deceased (see Spell 151 of the Book of the Dead). These niches appear as if they may once have been used and then sealed with a slab. There is also a deep excavation in the north-west corner of the hall: this is roughly cut and may be a later provision, for a cradle-shaped pottery coffin of a late type which still lies in the hall ().
The eastern doorway in the axis was provided with a cornice so large that it was easier to carve a socket and insert shaped stones than to hew it out of the rock (). A small room within has an arched ceiling and a door beyond was to have led into an inmost room. But the arched doorway to this, as well as the room within, is only excavated for half its height… Of the fifteen small burial pits on the upper level, the two in front of the second door might be contemporary, serving to house relatives who died during the construction…


West wall, southern part Mur ouest, partie sud

Only at the foot of the mountain of Sheikh Abd el Qurnah is the limestone so firm and fine that it was possible to carve reliefs in the tombs located there. However, here too, holes and cracks had to be filled in and sometimes even slabs of limestone had to be inserted into the walls to provide a firm surface for decoration. Because of the labour involved to create them in the poor limestone, The tomb of Ramose is therefore one of the few private tombs that shows reliefs. Moreover, they are extraordinarily carefully and finely crafted here. A remarkable aspect is the absence of colours from these reliefs. Some persons though, already show a preliminary trial of colour about the eyes. However, one may safely assume that the reliefs were planned to be in colour, as was customary. This assumption is confirmed by fragments of ceiling patterns and texts. The representation of the burial rites was also planned to be in relief. However, the work on this obviously had to be abandoned due to lack of time. Today, coloured reliefs and paintings can be seen there. The adaptation of the scenes not worked in relief is so well done that the observer hardly notices the difference. The northern wall is only smoothed, but otherwise completely unfinished ().



Bust of Ramose wearing the vizier's robe - Granodiorite. Überseemuseum, Bremen Buste de Ramose portant la robe de vizir - Granodiorite. Überseemuseum, Bremen
Ramose became vizier in the last years of the reign of Amenhotep III and still held this office under Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton. Inscriptions from Bigeh and Sehel as well as pot inscriptions from Malqatta suggest this. In Soleb he is represented together with his colleague Amenhotep at the Sed Festival in the 30th year of Amenhotep III. A representation of him is also known from the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. Ramose was apparently not vizier of the entire country, but it cannot be definitively determined whether Ramose or Amenhotep was vizier of Upper or Lower Egypt. Ramose probably followed Akhenaten to Amarna, although a tomb at Amarna has never been discovered. It is possible that Ramose even retained his position as vizier in Thebes for a short time under Akhenaten. If Ramose held at all the post of vizier in Amarna, it was only for a short time. None of his relatives are recorded here except his nephew Ipi. In Amarna, a door lintel by him is known and he wrote a letter from Memphis to the king, who was already in Amarna.

The wife and parents of Ramose

Ramose's wife is named Meryt-Ptah, which could refer to Memphite origin; she is entitled "ornament of the king, chantress of Amun, favourite of… (Hathor or Mut?)". It seems they were childless. His mother was named Ipuya, "favourite of Hathor" and his father Neby/Heby, "overseer of the cattle of Amun in the Northern District", a title related to Memphis, "overseer of the double granary of Amun in the nomes of the delta, and scribe". The father's name is written "nb (Nebi") in Ramose's tomb. This is probably an incorrect spelling of the name. Perhaps by mistake, the hieroglyph for ֚"ḥb" (Gardiner W3) did not have the inside drawing made, so that the hieroglyph reads "nb" (Gardiner V30). This hypothesis is supported by a funerary cone of a tomb of a Hebi now in Florence. He was "cattle counter of Amun in the nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt". The immediately similar titles lead us to assume that this is indeed the father of Ramose.

The brother of Ramose

The brother of Ramose is named Amenhotep – not the vizier! – he is "the prince and noble, confidant of the good god (the king), overseer of all craftsmen of the king, truly beloved of him, great steward of the king in the Memphite nome, overseer of the double house of silver and gold, leader of the festival of all the gods in the Memphite nome, true scribe of the king, beloved of him, beloved of the lord of Egypt, whose rank was created by his abilities, whom the king set higher than those who were greater than he."
It has been suggested that the mother of this Amenhotep was a Tutuja, the first wife of Neby/Hebi. Amenhotep's wife is named May, "chantress of Amun, favourite of the lady of Egypt", their daughter Meryt-Ptah is the wife of Ramose.

Titles hold by Ramose


"Vizier, governor/mayor of the town, superintendent of documents, superintendent of works on great monuments, administrator of South and North Egypt, a mouth that give satisfaction in the whole land, regent of the whole land."


"Judge, judge of the high court, mouth of Nekhen (Hierakonpolis), priest of justice, judge in the decision of business affairs, dispensing justice, dispensing justice daily and presenting it to the palace of her lord, one who does right and hates wrong."


"Overseer of the priests of South and North Egypt, overseer of the temples of all gods, greatest of seers, over the secrets of sacred writ, leader in offering to the gods, over the secrets of the two serpent goddesses, knowing the mysteries of all the gods, knowing the mysteries of South On (Hermonthis/Erment), knowing the secrets of the underworld, entering into the secrets of heaven and earth, Sem-priest, director of all officials (lit. all šndyt-skirts)"

Not mentioned are honorific titles and titles related to the king, the bureaucracy, and the people.