TT127, the tomb of Senemiah ,
and later of Piay and his son Pairy

Only a few documents exist on Theban tomb 127 (referred to from here as TT127), that of Senemiah (or Senemjah), literally "the son of the moon". A complete publication of the monument by M. Nasr-Wabah and Hartwig Altenmüller has, however, been expected for years.
In spite of its somewhat discouraging aspect today, TT127 was certainly one of the most beautiful Theban tombs from the beginning of the 18th dynasty. Besides being entirely decorated in raised relief, some of its decorative themes, notably those appropriate to products coming from the country of Punt, are very interesting.

Location and general aspects

TT127 is on the hill of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna (see ). The nearest tomb open to the public is is known as .
Until recently, the front yard was buried under modern constructions. Since the demolition of a great part of the Qurna village, there is no longer any parasitic construction, but it is necessary to recognise well that the surroundings have taken a somewhat lunar aspect (see views , , , ).
The access to the tomb is made by a narrow staircase, made from stone blocks, which runs along the original facade (see and ). The courtyard, which was in the front, has disappeared completely. The monument is oriented (more or less) south to north. The east-west canonical orientation is re-established thanks to the decoration.

What is immediately striking on entering into the tomb, is the blackened aspect of all the walls and ceilings, due to the scum and soot deposited during the human and animal occupation. As some of the photos show, a team of restorers have undertaken cleaning work, with a certain degree of success (see ) ; alas, the original iridescent colours have disappeared for ever. The walls are decorated entirely in a raised relief of a very high quality. It does not leave in doubt that this tomb, if it had been better preserved by time and especially by men, would have constituted one of the jewels of non-royal funerary architecture in the Theban necropolis.

History of TT127

Because of a passage of text in the autobiography of Senemiah , in which there is a reference to the sovereign as "the girl descended from the flesh of the God Amon" (followed by a destroyed hieroglyphic sign group , interpreted as "life, health and prosperity", shortened to L.H.P.), the dating to the time of Hatshepsut seems certain, even though the monument may not have been finished until maybe under Thutmosis III. Even with the absence of the king's name, it corresponds well at the hazy period where the two reigns intersected.

The monument had been reused, during the Ramesside period, by a man named Piay and his son Pairy .
This Ramesside dating rests on the style of the four representations added by Piay and on the fact that the name of Amon, contained in the titulature of the two men, is intact; whereas it is almost always erased in that of Senemiah.
It represents a legal reuse of the tomb, and not a wrongful occupation: where anything of that which appertained to the original owner would have been destroyed.
Whenever Piay is mentioned, it nearly always presents him as the son of Senemiah, which is biologically impossible: because even if the second occupation is dated to the beginning of the Ramesside period, there would be six to eight generations, at least, separating the two men. It is necessary to understand that it represents a supposed ancestral relationship.
However, things seem more complex: there exists, in the longitudinal chamber, verified inscriptions which mention the presence of a true son of Senemiah with the name of Piay (Kampp and M&P). He is represented in company of a sem-priest, which had been hammered out in the Amarnian period. This would mean, therefore, that the reoccupation during the Ramesside period was in fact by person with the same name as the son of Senemiah, an ideal functional filiation in a way. Obviously, a follow-up study is necessary to clear up this interesting point.

However, be that as it may, Piay and Pairy didn't erase anything, they actually added and even restored. It is very likely that the restitution of the name of Amon, hammered by the zealous of Akhenaten, is owed to them.
Numerous inscriptions are also theirs, which came to be harmoniously added to the original ones, filling every available space, without ever touching - and even less damaging - what already existed.
The squatting ladies which participate in the funerary meal, anonymous under Senemiah, see themselves endowed with a name and a relationship by Piay.
The scene of purification in front of the mummy, nearly destitute of text initially, was abundantly commented; thus, in front of the officiating priest, can be read: "His son, the wab-priest, who also makes to live, for the domain of Amon, Amenemhab, justified, known as Pairy". A little further on, in another scene of purification: "Offering beer (?) to [?] wab, superior of the treasury of Amon, Piay, justified, in the necropolis, by his son, who makes live his name, the wab-priest of Amon, Pairy".
Piay has named himself in the scene which shows his predecessor Senemiah and his father inspecting livestock and poultry. This inscription is placed under the seat of Senemiah.
On the other hand, the new newcomers only added four representations to those already existing, showing Piay and his wife in position of worship (see ) ; these are on each side of the passageway separating the transverse chamber from the longitudinal chamber, an area which Senemiah had not decorated.

Senemiah and family

Of Senemiah , the names are known of his father, Uadjmes , and that of his brother, Iahmes , but nothing is known about them.
He had two wives, probably successive: Senseneb and Tetiseneb .
References exist in the longitudinal chamber of a son named Piay , which seems strange due to the fact that the later user of this tomb also had this name, and so, as already mentioned, this probably relates to him.

Senemiah's career can be reconstructed from his autobiography and his titles. The full hieroglyphic texts of these exist in the German publication "Ürkenden IV", pages , however, only the titles have been translated as yet, the autobiography and other texts require further work.

In the beginning of his career, Senemiah, besides his ""royal scribe" title, he carried others, essentially appropriate to activities of control in the agricultural domain:
"The scribe who counts the breads" var. "The scribe who counts the breads of Upper and Lower Egypt".
" (He who) counts the clothes and cereals of Upper and Lower Egypt".
"Supervisor of all market products."
"Supervisor of the wine-cellar (lit. the place of the wine)."
"Overseer of fowl and fish.

Then, Senemiah came closer of the sovereign, as far as reaching the important position of director of the treasury:
"Porter of the seal, confidant of the Lord of the Two Lands".
"Supervisor/overseer of the two treasuries of the two houses".
"Confidant of the king in all responsibilities."
"Great of favour in the royal palace."

He was also described as:
"The unique", "the trustworthy", and "the greatly loved".
More details (hieroglyphic and transliteration) on his titles can be found in based on the German publication "Ürkenden IV", pages .

Senemiah followed, as director of the treasury, a certain Djehuti, who would have first passed on to him his function of being the person responsible for the drugs, then only his function of director of the treasury. This first position consisted of supervising the sorting and the registration of the incense and myrrh, and he was therefore associated with the expeditions of Hatshepsut to the country of Punt.
Senemiah carried amongst his ministerial titles, which further complicates the appreciation of his real functions: "Dignitary in the house of embalming", "He who enlarges the place in the House of Life".

An intriguing fact remains: the site and the model of the TT127 are too modest for a character who reached the high function of director of the treasury. It is therefore probable that the digging and the decoration of the monument date from the time when he was only accountant for the bread. Subsequently, it had the scenes of tribute added, which didn't include his first functions. Maybe he arranged for another tomb when he became director of the treasury, however, nothing is known of it.

General layout and decoration

The tomb includes an entrance, a transverse chamber, a longitudinal chamber and finally another transverse chamber. These three chambers are connected by narrow passageways.

The sizes of the various areas within the tomb are given hereafter as estimations only, from comparison with other tombs of known sizes in the same area.
The first (transverse) chamber is approximately 10 x 2.6m, the next (longitudinal) chamber being approximately 5.8 x 2m and the final (longitudinal) chamber approximately 5.6 x 2.5m.

In the angle between the north end of the west wall of the longitudinal chamber and the south-west end of the rear transverse chamber, is an annexe chamber of a later date, which is thought to include a funerary shaft.

In order to locate the various descriptions of the scenes and their related photographs, the descriptions of Porter & Moss (P&M) have been trusted, for which the P&M numbers have been used. Therefore, reference should be made to plan opposite. Because of this, it is possible that some images may be wrongly placed: these are followed by a "?" sign.

As can be seen from the plan above, the tomb does not lay on a true magnetic north-south axis, but is rotated anticlockwise by approximately 12 degrees. From here, the tomb's north-south axis will be taken as being along a line perpendicular to the main entrance.

The entrance passageway

In 1996 Kampp wrote: "Remains of the original facade wall are recognisable from limestone scraps and plaster traces on the nearly vertical facade. The door frame, created from the standing rock, is completely destroyed except for the remains of the right doorpost, which still carries some lines of inscription". It seems that things have changed since her time, because two doorposts have since been constructed.
The entry corridor is approximately 2m wide by 1.7m deep.
On the right-hand side of the small entry corridor is a representation of the deceased adoring the rising sun (see scene P&M 1, ).

The first transverse chamber

This transverse chamber extends either side of the entry from outside and the entry to the following chamber, and includes two wings, east and west. In total it is approximately 10m east to west and 2.6m deep (north-south). The two entries are slightly offset from centre, resulting in the south wall being divided in two portions of slightly unequal length (longer on the west), and in the same way for the north wall (longer on the east). This second passageway is thus not on the axis of the main entry, being further to the west than the entry passage.

a) - Left wing (west), south wall

Scene P&M 2


- The deceased receives products of the oases from the south and the north: see .
- Agricultural scenes, which continue on P&M 3: see , and a juxtaposition of agricultural images P&M2 et P&M3, according to Wreszinski: .

Scene P&M 3


- Piay is seated in front of a table decorated with offerings; underneath a harpist and some women beating time: see , , , .
- Continuation of the agricultural scenes of P&M 2: see .

b) - Left wing (west), west wall

Scene P&M 4


This includes the false door carved directly into the chalky wall (see ). It includes the seated representations of Senemiah and one of his wives, Tetiseneb (seen on the right, behind him).
On each side of the false door are three registers (see ), each including a single character, these are: two porters of offerings and a lector priest.

c) - Left wing (west), north wall

Scene P&M 5


- The deceased and his wife face another couple.
- A man and a woman make an offering. A priest makes a libation in front of the deceased and Tetiseneb.

Scene P&M 6


- Senemiah receives the products of the Fayum.
- Some girls offer some menat necklaces to the deceased.

d) - Right wing (east), south wall

Scene P&M 7 and P&M 8:

These, combined, consists of two registers (see ).

Lower register:

Hunting waterfowl with the help of nets, is a scene, which in a tomb of the old kingdom would not be out of place. On the right of the papyrus undergrowth can be seen to emerge the head of the master of the hunt, who gives the order to the men to pull on the rope to close the net in which a great many birds are to be trapped (see ). Two things are unusual: the first is the presence of a man, other one than the tomb owner, who gets ready to propel a throwing stick at the fowl which are attempting to escape. In his other hand, this man holds a second stick (in reserve) to his shoulder. The second is the presence of three more men pulling the rope, all having a triangular beard which gives them the air of being Asiatic.

Upper register:

At the extreme left (in P&M 8), are seated the deceased and his wife (or his mother), looking towards the right.

Three sub-registers show men bringing goods, with the inscription: "Receipt of the produce of Kush, by Senemiah, accountant of the bread of Upper and Lower Egypt, justified".
- Sub-register 1: three men of Egyptian appearance bring the bags, whose content is not visible. The scene recalls the return of the expeditions sent by queen Hatshepsut to the country of Punt, except that, in that case, the commodities were presented by Nubians.
- Sub-register 2: three men of Egyptian appearance again bring bags, of which the content is visible, filled with baskets, goblets and round balls (incense?), also bags with oval and long objects (of wood?).
- Sub-register 3: three men of Egyptian appearance bring more bags; also to be seen are baskets, goblets, round balls, and an oblong object as well as as jars looking like those intended to transport the ochre for paints.

On the right, Senemiah is found standing, inspecting livestock. Some beasts fight. A man prostrates himself.

The connection of the scene of the gifts from Kush with the capture of birds and the presentation of cattle is unusual. It would seem that Senemiah chose to combine some classic scenes with others appropriate to provisions, maybe because the usual decorative programs didn't suit him. Thus he makes allusion in the scenes of tributes of incense and myrrh to remind that he had responsibility for recording and inspection of these resins from the Punt, as mentioned in his autobiography. It should not be forgotten (according to Angenot) that "the Egyptian constantly takes advantage of the co-presence of text and image. He likes combining and dissonance which allows a superposition of sense, a sense which each on its own could not produce".

e) - Right wing (east), east wall

Scene P&M 9:

The wall is occupied by a round-topped stela which includes an address to the living and an autobiographic text. No photographs are available and although the hieroglyphic texts exist in Ürkenden IV, no translation is yet available.

f) - Right wing (east), north wall

Scene P&M 10:

- Senemiah and his father inspect men bringing cattle and poultry.
- (sub-scene) Bringing geese, cranes, donkeys and oxen (see ).

Scene P&M 11:

(see )

- Harpoon fishing (with his wife) and going hunting for the waterfowl with a throwing stick (see ).
- (sub-scene) Grape harvest (see ) : harvesting and pressing.

The middle passageway, P&M 12

This is located on the north wall of the transverse chamber.

a) The entry side (north wall of the chamber) projects slightly southwards from the surface and was decorated as follows:
- Lintel: list of festivals.
- Doorposts: texts of the son of Piay.

b) The passageway itself is 1.2m deep, the southern section, nearest to the first chamber is 5.3m wide by 0.6m deep. This then widens to 1.5m extending this entry by another 0.5m, thus providing a recess for an inner door. The passageway is rotated towards the west (as is the following longitudinal chamber) by approximately 3 degrees.
This is the only place where representations of the new occupants, have been added. The walls are undamaged.
- Entry part of the passage: Piay is shown in adoration with accompanying hymns to Re (located on the left).
- Internal part of the passage: the wife of Piay is represented playing a sistrum (see ). There are also texts with reference to Piay.

The longitudinal chamber

This chamber extends northwards. In size it is approximately 5.8m in length and just over 2m in width. As already mentioned it is rotated by approximately 3 degrees anticlockwise from the north-south axis of the main entrance, as are its entry from the first chamber and the entry (at its northern end) to the final chamber.

a) - Left (west) wall

Scene P&M 13:

The imagery of the wall is divided into three registers which include: the pilgrimage to Abydos (see ) and the funerary procession (see , and (?) , , and ), with the mysterious tekenu (see ) and the traditional muu dancers, recognisable by their curious wicker headgear (see ).

The rear (northern) end of the wall was opened during the Ramesside period to create an annexe, which has remained uninscribed. This annexe also connects with the rear chamber, and because of this it creates a pseudo pillar formed by the section of the walls which remain (see ), forming what resembles a pillar. The presence of a funerary shaft in this annexe is uncertain.

b) - Right (east) wall

Scene P&M 14:

Located at the southern end of the wall, this is divided into four registers of various ritual scenes: (see (all ?) , , and ).
- notably the transportation of the deceased's statue toward a shrine, in the top register.
- Rituals in front of mummies (see and ).
- The offerings are in a single register, at the bottom, which includes a priest at the right-hand end.

Scene P&M 15:

Located at the northern end of the wall, this dispays Piay making offerings to the deceased and his his wife Tetiseneb, in the presence of women of the family (see  ?).

The rear passageway, P&M 16

The outer decoration

(lintel and outer jambs) take up the whole north wall of the longitudinal chamber (see ).

- Lintel: this contains a double scene: one of Senemiah making offerings to his parents, the other being of his son Iahmes offering to the deceased and his wife Tetiseneb.
- Doorjambs : Offering texts recited by the son Piay (but is this really Senemiah's son?).

The passageway itself

is 1.3m wide by 0.9m deep. Currently there are no images/photographs yet available.

- Thickness: men carrying torches.
- Blocks: two of these are built into the entrance threshold, each bearing uraei.

The rear transverse chamber

This final chamber extends east and west of the entrance, the east extension being longer than the west one. In total it is approximately 5.6m east to west by 2.5m in depth. Unlike the previous chamber (and passageways) this lies on the same axis as the first transverse chamber. No images/photographs are yet available for this chamber.

a) - left (west) wing, south wall, P&M 17

Very little remains of this area, which is extensively opened into the additional annexe chamber, only the deceased's titles remain at the top part of the wall.

b) - left (west) wing), west (end) wall, P&M 18

The decoration is of two registers before the deceased and his wife Senseneb:
- A lector priest makes a libation and an offering of incense.
- A lector priest brings offering.

c) - left (west) wing, north wall, P&M 19

All that remains, at the top, are of porters of offerings.
In this western side of the north wall is an opening or beginnings of a passage, possibly destined to enlarge the tomb. Nothing is really known about this.

d) - right (east) wing, south wall, P&M 20

Two scenes:
- The deceased going forth 'on earth'.
- The deceased purified by six priests.

e) - right (east) wing, east (end) wall, P&M 21

A scene of Senemiah and Tetiseneb.

f) - right (east) wing, north wall, P&M 22

Finally, a scene of a man with offering-list standing before the seated deceased (but not confirmed), with monkey under his chair.