The tomb of Roy

The tomb of Roy (TT255) dates back to XIXth Dynasty, after the reign of Horemheb.
The tomb is small but has been very well restored, even if the red waste-dust threatens to occupy the low register already again. Its very lively colours make it one of the most beautiful civilian tombs preserved in the region of Dra Abu el Naga.

Views from inside the entrance

The tomb has been known since 1822 and began to be documented at this time by the Hay missions of the British Museum.
It consists, in its above ground level, of one single decorated area chamber of small dimensions (4 x 1.85m.), built into the rock, and which includes at the far end a funeral stela in a niche. A funeral tomb-shaft (to the right of of the door) reaches down into the depth to the actual burial chamber.

The tomb is oriented south-east. No walls are flat, and the corners are rather rounded. All the surfaces are quite roughly hewn. The paintings are applied to a thin mortar which fills the irregularities of the surface. Mortar is only used for the ceiling and to fill certain gaps in the walls; a general wash of a bluish-white plaster forms the base, as was often the practice in the second half of the XVIIIth and start of the XIXth Dynasties.

The decoration, conventional but extremely well achieved, is the work of a master. The represented themes are those of a west chamber, but two small walls had reserved for agricultural scenes.
One notices that the decoration, in particular one of these walls, was not completed, as well on the level of the texts as of the figures. Which, however, enables us to retrace the method of working used, as we will re-examine.

The ceiling is treated in the fashion of the time like an immense stretched canvas of polychromic rectangles combined with small flowers. They doubtless imitate the hangings with which they dressed the arched cabins of the boats.

The hieroglyphs are essentially drawn in black on white base, or on a yellow gold base, this last especially is at the level of the frieze which runs at top of the south and north walls and in the cleanly divined context. This sustained yellow base, identical to the conventional colour of gold will become later the rule of Ramesside times. The columns of hieroglyphs are separated by thick vertical red lines.

The south walls (on the left when entering) and north (on the right) are asymmetrical and present a division into three registers on the south and two to the north separated by a wide black band drawing of a pt hieroglyph (the sign for the sky).


Roy was royal scribe, intendant of the domains of Horemheb and Amon. His wife was called Nebtawy (or Nebettauy), often abridged to Tawy and carried the title of Chantress of Amon, as with many nobles ladies from Thebes at this time. It is however difficult to establish the identity of some feminine characters in the chamber and their ties with Roy. Other masculine characters are named in the tomb: Imenemipet, Djehutymes (Thutmosis) and Amenemky.

Certain details suggest that the tomb was (as was the one of Nakht) prepared in advance according to a conventional model by "entrepreneurs in funerary pomp" (Maspéro), while leaving free only east walls and places to identify the participants.
So it is servants or handmaids who hold the place which should be occupied by family members (sister, daughter, brother or son). The very important place of sem-priest, which should normally be held by the deceased's eldest son is held on the north wall by "…his servant Amenemky". We notice furthermore that, above certain persons, the places reserved for their name remains vacant, in columns of otherwise finished hieroglyphs.
One guesses that the number of people, normal for an ordinary Egyptian family, were also raised by Roy and his wife, who had no children and few close relatives.
The idea of a "manufactured" tomb and secondarily personalised, thus seems acceptable.
However, it seems to me that a part of the tomb could possibly have been designed for another official, his names and titles have not been corrected at one position of the south wall, as an oversight. Or perhaps a later addition.


The south wall is divided into three registers, which rest on a base consisting of two large yellow and red bands. The characters all face toward the bottom of the tomb, which is to say toward the west to enter the tomb then into the domain of the gods. They accompany the deceased on the way to the hereafter from his tomb entrance.

The Lower Register

The first register, the lowest, is dedicated to funeral ceremony in the earthly world.
The funeral cortege advances, from the shore where one landed which is not represented, probably from lack of space.
On the route to the tomb, one hauls the catafalque on the barque-sled; the porters of the chest of canopic vases (where the embalmers put down the deceased's viscera) walk slowly because mourners give rhythm to the pace by their cries and their chanted verses who respond to the deceased's "friends" behind the catafalque: members of the clan, delegates of the brotherhood, who show their mourning by the use of gestures: holding of the hand to the forehead and exhaling their pain in a poignant muted cry, or holding an arm vertically, toward the ear, with the help of the other, palm towards the ground, as if this member is broken.
One will finally arrives in the courtyard of the chapel, for the rituals of "the opening of the mouth" in front of the eastern face of the Holy Mountain of the West, of which the pinkish colour recalls the rising sun and from which emerges the white pyramid itself which marks the concession.

Beginning of the wall

This starts with the rear of the procession, behind the casket of canopic jars. We only find there some men in big baggy ceremonial tunics, probably of Roy's colleagues. They all hold in their hand a rod, indicating their function as nobles. Their free hands are held in mourning before the mouth, as with a gesture of the suppressed sobbing. Before them the canopic shrine is carried by four bearers, which are classified, by their smaller body size, as servants. A maid of Roy, named Sachmet-hotep, laments, probably on behalf of the wife, kneeling under the canopic shrine.
Before them, the casket of canopic jars is transported by four porters. These jars served to collect the deceased's viscera at the time of embalming. They are placed in a very beautiful case encircled by three white and red vertical and horizontal bands. On its top sits Anubis, of which one of the roles is the protection of the viscera. Notice above Anubis some additional hieroglyphs smaller than the others which were added by the scribe who had initially poorly calculated the necessary space.
Below the chest, and according to Egyptian conventions, is a woman in great lament is designated as "the maidservant of Sekhmet-Hotep". Dressed in a linen dress without a strap, her youthful face is particularly successful.
Before the bearers, a short vertical inscription, is also added which proclaims: " (that) he rests in peace in his tomb as All Blessed One" ().
Then comes a group of eight professional mourners, whose attitudes are varied while the faces are relatively stereotyped. Before them, two male characters making gestures of mourning, the first in a large tunic, the second clothed of a simple pleated kilt. They are either members of the family, or rather servants. Roy's wife, Nebtawy, on the other hand is represented over to the right, behind the barque transporting the deceased's sarcophagus.

The funerary barque

The barque supports a catafalque with a convex roof (). It is decorated with two horizontal rows where double Djed pillars (signs of Osiris) and double Tiet knots (knots of Isis) alternate. These knots are almost always associated with the Djed-pillar, of which they constitute the counterpart. Their are usually red in colour, which is associated with the goddess's blood. The white sarcophagus () is decorated with horizontal and vertical yellow bands. It rests on a funeral bed whose feet are in the shape of lion's paws. The headboard is elevated slightly as with all ritual couches. So that the deceased is already in the position for standing and resurrection. At the front and at the rear of the catafalque are located the two goddesses Isis and Nephthys. They watch over the deceased as they had did previously for their brother Osiris. Two high floral columns complete the whole. (Details: , .

The barque rests on a sledge pulled by a harnessing of oxen, reminding us of the fashion of traditional transportation toward the tomb (and in a general way land transportation in Ancient Egypt).
In front of the barque, the place of sem-priest, recognisable by his panther skin, is held by Roy's servant, Djehutymes. He accomplishes two ritual gestures on the sledge on the way: a fumigation with incense and a libation with bright water. Before him stands an isolated character clothed in a pleated kilt holding in his left hand a vessel. The inscription to him means: "I cleanse the way before you with good wine."
The drover who precedes him uses his stick to drive the four harnessed oxen, of which the one at the back is represented with a bent spine to break the monotony of the whole ().
Isolated, before the drover, is a priest, master of the ceremonies, whose shaven head is surrounded with a white ribbon. His identity is not specified.

On the same wall, in front of the tomb

Next comes what one can consider as a new scene, although it seems to be a continuation of the previous. It contains the end of the journey, before Roy's tomb, in the western mountains.

The cortege is regrouped. The six mourners keep their traditional attitude. However, here again, to break the monotony and to better separate them, the faces have been painted alternately in yellow and pink (traditionally the colours reserved for the women) and in brown-red (colour of the men). The men who precede the mourners also all have this brown-red face. Also notice that one of the characters is covered by a grey wig. It could be in relation to his age, or perhaps to show his elder place in the domestic lineage (details: , , , ). All are situated behind two men and the kneeling wife, whose ritual importance emerges through their close proximity to the mummy of the deceased (this scene is very damaged). The sem-priest who makes a two-handed libation, while another character - who should theoretically be the deceased's son - holds in his hand an adze. With this instrument (and with others not represented), he is going to touch the different openings of the face of the sarcophagus successively: it is the Ritual of Opening of the Mouth.
It is practised here on a mummy which has been stood upright and which is held by a priest ritually dressed of a mask of Anubis of whom he holds the role ().
We can appreciate the sarcophagus better now.
With a white base, it is divided by yellow and red bands. A large collar is represented around the deceased's neck. It is endowed with the long false beard with the curved tip of blissful death.
The wig is dark blue, reminding of the lapis lazuli of the hair of the gods. On the head is arranged the "cone of ointment" which one could in fact, as proposed by Nadine Cherpion, only constitute a visible image, an icon, of perfumes and ointments which were poured. A lotus flower, symbol of solar rebirth, is also represented. The scene takes place in the forecourt of the funeral concession where a stela had been erected by the deceased; it is reproduced behind the sarcophagus. The text and the representations, in black on a white base, are damaged. The shrouded stela addresses Osiris, holding before him an Was-sceptre. The god is seated on an ancient low cuboid seat, which is also the hieroglyphic sign for the letter p, resting on a bevelled Ma'at-sign .
The stela () stood before the entry to the chapel surmounted by its clay-brick pyramid and which seems to come out of the Mountain of the west, home of the deceased. The small clay-brick pyramid was crowned when completed by a black Pyramidion. This design constructed with a pyramid, is responsible for the fact in Egypt such a tomb-type is called a pyramid tomb. Framing the pyramid are two Udjat-eyes, symbolising the fullness of the reconstituted body.

Text of the painted stela.

Curvature, right, over Osiris: "Osiris, Lord of Eternity"
Curvature, left, over Roy: "Osiris, director of domains, Roy"
Deceased's Offering speech: "An offering, which the king gives (for) Osiris-Chontamenti (=Osiris, who is first of the West) the Wen-nefer, the ruler of the living, who crosses millions (of years) in his location (= the location of the blessed, the underworld).
May he give a going in and a going out into the underworld.
May he receive the offering-food, which emerges in the presence of the altar of the Lord of Heliopolis……

(here follows a long Lacuna, in which the food/beverages, gifts and/or the celebrations were probably originally enumerated, at which the distribution of offerings took place) …… (for the Ka) of Osiris, the royal scribe, beloved of him, the director of domains in the temple of Hor-em-heb (and) the temples of the Amun, Roy, justified (lit. "true of voice", thus "deceased") , in the west of Thebes, praised according to your character, beloved of Ma'at."

We are now at the end of the south wall. The deceased, for whom one made a "beautiful funeral" compliant with the rituals is now going to pursue his journey, but this time in the world of the gods, on the upper register, separated of the first by a very large black band, which belongs to an immensely extended sky hieroglyph .

The Middle Register

We return once again to the entrance of the tomb and go along the wall another time.

A couple appear

clothed in festive garments. But it is not anymore about Roy and Tawy! ()

This time it is about the director of the Double granary Imen-m-ipet (Amenemipet) and of "his sister, his wife, his beloved, the Mistress of House, the Chantress of Amun Mut (tu) y" who makes the offering before the gods. They are located in a earthly domain as the hieroglyphs which surmount them, and which are written on white base, confirm.
The woman is clothed in an ample and transparent tunic leaving to guess the breast, treated at this time in light relief. Notice her clearer complexion than the one of the man. On the arm are sketched two bracelets. Her neck is surrounded by a large collar. On her head, she wears the obligatory cone of ointment - flower of lotus over to the magnificent curly wig and held with a small ribbon. Her right hand is raised in worship. In her left hand she holds a complete lotus flower, with part immersed, and in the other hand the counterweight of a Menat necklace, an attribute of the goddess Hathor and the instrument or service-insignia of a singer of Amun.
It is very much about symbolic association: Mut (tu) y is brought to play in the funeral world in the role of the goddess of love and to stimulate her husband sexually so that he comes out of his lethargy and can generate the new germ represented by the lotus flower which will come out of the water, which is to say of the amniotic fluid, to the term of gestation. This new germ is the deceased one who is born again therefore of his own works.
The man, also in full dress, doesn't carry a cone of ointment on top of his beautiful wig. A collar and two identical bracelets to those of his wife serve him of jewellery.
Before the couple is a table of offerings on a white tray signifies the calcite (Egyptian "alabaster") of which it had to be made. Crammed with meat, with watermelons (?), with breads, … under the table, two jars, probably of wine.

The couple thus also ask for their entry into the domain of the gods, while presenting themselves before two chapel-shrines and while invoking the gods which they contain: first Nefertem and Ma'at, then Re-Harachte-Atum and Hathor.
Entry will be granted them since a door, completely identical to those of earthly homes, is open. The door is also the determinative in the Egyptian verb for "open". In the middle of the door of the first shrine is installed a door-bolt , which in hieroglyphic writing is the sign vocalised as "s".
The door is gilded, returning the striking analogy with the representation of the gods in a golden shrine, permitting a double symbolic action. Remember that gold constitutes the material of the flesh of the gods.

The first shrine () at the top shows the god Nefertum, whose head is surmounted by the usual open blue lotus flower. According to the myth, it is the lotus from which the sun emerges in the morning. The goddess Ma'at (Truth, Justice, Equilibrium…) is his feminine counterpart in the shrine. The two gods are seated on the ancient cuboid throne which rests on a braid of papyrus. Before them, a gold ewer and a lotus flower are open there toward their face. They hold in their hand a Was-sceptre of power. their wigs are dark blue to imitate the lapis-lazzuli, of which the hair of the gods is made.

Then the Roy-Nebtawy couple reappear. The woman's wig is tied twice, by a golden head-band and also a red and white band. She always holds in her hands the counterweight of the Menat-collar and a papyrus plant. Again there is an offering table, more richly garnished than the previous; with still more geese, cucumbers, figs and a pomegranate. The blossoms around the wine-jugs under the table are this time open ().
In the second shrine, Ra-Horakhty is located in the top whose head is surmounted with an enormous solar disk. Below in the structure is located the goddess Hathor on whose head is a pair of cows horns enclosing a solar disk.

Then we find the couple who have just cleared the second door () : however, the materialisation of the divine domain is highlighted by the hieroglyphs on background which surround the couple and make it part of the nature of the shrine before which they made the offering. Thus a chapel is established, the one where will be played out henceforth forever the daily exit, which is their faith. The text addresses in the Great Ennead of Heliopolis represented before the couple. Unfortunately, the scene is badly damaged and the gods are not very recognisable.

The couple next pass into the Room of the Two Ma'ats (Maaty) where the judgement will take place. The scene is well known to us as chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead. It is not indeed about a psycho-stasis since the ancient Egyptians didn't have our notion of an immortal "soul". One weighed the deceased's heart to appreciate the quality of his/her terrestrial life and notably in respect of the Balance and Justice embodied by the goddess Ma'at. The scene happens before Osiris, supreme judge, who holds court at the extreme west of the wall.
The couple, in the traditional attitude of the deep respect, are introduced into the room by Horus ().
The weighing presents a rather unusual aspect since these are two hearts which are weighed versus two representations of Ma'at, justifying the name "Room of the Two Ma'ats" (). The significance of this duality remains rather obscure: one could propose that the two Ma'ats represent Isis and Nephtys, the two sisters of Osiris, or (and) the Double-lands (Upper and Lower Egypt), or (and) the two banks of the river… The two hearts could also represent the one of Roy and the one of his wife.
Be that as it may, the two trays, even though they are not at the same height, are in balance () ; it is verified by Anubis who adjusts the awl. The result is recorded by Thoth, patron of Writings and proclaimed: as always, it is favourable. The heart is neither heavier nor lighter than the feather of Ma'at; the deceased did not therefore commit the two "main crimes" in Ancient Egypt: too many bad actions or on the contrary not enough (good…) actions. The scene takes place before Osiris, the highest judge of the dead, the scene heads suitably to the extreme west side of the wall, its epithet on "Osiris, first of the West" (Osiris Chentimenti). The deceased is justified after the justification by Osiris, with the name maa cheru: "justified" or "justified".
The couple are then conducted by Horus toward their father Osiris (). Horus carries (wears) the double crowns which symbolises his sovereignty which he had retrieved, likewise, after his passage before the courtroom of the gods, which had returned him the kingship of his father Osiris in spite of his uncle Seth.



The God, silent as always, sits in a typical golden shrine, its roof is formed by a frieze of raised cobras, intended to protect him. Osiris is covered in green flesh, the sign of regeneration and resurrection, but there is also the theory that the composition with the green colour, which differs from other greener paint, could represent the colour of the corpse. He holds in his right hand the two instruments of his office: the Heqa-sceptre and the flail (fly swatter?) Nekhakha. In the left hand, he holds a long sceptre whose extremity has disappeared.
Before him and separated of him one finds the Four Sons of Horus () : Amseti with the human head, Hapy with the head of a baboon, Duamutef with the head of a falcon and Qebehsenuef with the head of a dog. The Sons of Horus, are the guardians of the canopic jars containing the deceased's inner organs. They are represented on the top of an open lotus flower testimony of rebirth, reincarnation and renewal. The central open lotus is accompanied on either side by closed lotuses, all in their aquatic environment.

Thus, the result is attained. This scene overlaps and matches the register below adjacent to where the dead enter into the vault. The deceased, justified (maa-kheru) is now going to be able to enjoy life in the world of the beyond, which will constitute the theme of the north wall.

Third register: the frieze

Particularly successful, the frieze (with additional sections; , , ) runs all along the south wall where it could be finished, which wasn't the case on the north wall.
It includes an alternating group which is normally only seen in the XIXth Dynasty:
- two columns of hieroglyphs on a yellow base (since we are now in a purely divine domain) which recalls the titles and functions of Roy and his wife.
- the emblem of Hathor topped by a red mortar crown and who rests on a basket of either green or left the original bluish white ().
- two bundles of kheker-signs (red, blue, green, tied with yellow) surmounted by solar disks.
- the image of Anubis, guardian of the entrance to the horizon of the sleeping, the reclining canine decorated with a crossed scarf, having behind him the golden whip of the shepherd (, ).