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Egypt: The Abbott Papyrus: An investigation into tomb robberies held under Ramses IX


The Abbott Papyrus:

An investigation into tomb robberies held under Ramses IX

The examination of the tombs

(The year ...) 20th of the month of Thoth, of the reign of the king, lord of the world, sun, good being, approved of by the sun, lord of the diadems, Ramses IX, beloved of Amen, beloved of Amen-Re, king of the gods, and of Re, lord of the two horizons. May he live forever!


.... the masons of the main place, the scribe of the court, the scribe of the palace treasurer ...... , the rooms of the royal ancestors, the chapels and places where the citizens rest.

The ..... of the west of the district were sent by the governor of the town Sha-em Djemi, the royal official Nasiamen, scribe of the king, the scribe of the temple of the glorifier in the house of Amen-Re, king of the gods, the official of the king Ra-nefer-ka-em-a-Amen, deputy of the court and the magistrate of the west of the district, to convey to Ha, commander of the troops, to Pa-ur-aa the governor of the great main place, and to the governor of the west of Djemi [1] that which has been written by the magistrate.

Supervisors and officials of the court ...... present this day, Pa-ur-aa of the site

The ...... of .......men, Ur-na-ru, of the great place,
........................ of the great place,
........................ of the great place,
........................ of Amen,
the commander of the mercenaries [2]
Mentukhopesh-ef, of the great place,
Pa-bak, scribe of the court,
the great scribe of the storage rooms, Painefer of the treasurer,
the priest Pa-an-sha of the temple [3] ,
the priest Ur-amen,of the temple of Amen where the dwelling place of Atp is,
and the Medjay of the place where there are ........

Tombs, chambers and sanctuaries examined this day by the masons:

  • The eternal horizon of the king (sun king) giver of existence, son of the sun, Amenhotep I, 120 cubits of ..... from his funerary chamber ..... to ..... north of the palace of Amenophis in the kamu [4]. Ha, great chief of the town declares as commanded by the civil governor Sha-em-djemi, Nasiamen, official of the king, scribe of the court, head of the temple of the royal glorifier of Amen-Re, king of gods, and the official Ranefer-ka-em-a-Amen, deputy of the court: the great chiefs shall say where the malefactors have committed any violations.

    Examined on this day, it was found in good state by the masons.

  • Tomb of the king, son of the sun, Han-aa, which is north of the palace of Amenhotep, in the hall where his tomb has been constructed. His stela is placed before it. There is a statue of the king on the stela, having between his feet his cat named Buhaki.

    Examined on this day by the masons it was found to be intact.

  • Sepulchre of the king, golden sun of the creation, son of the sun, Inyotef.

    It was found to have been broken into by malefactors. They had advanced two and a half cubits into the revetment, and one cubit in the wall in the gallery of Aurui, superintendent of offering of the House of Amen. This is the only damage. It is intact. The malefactors were incapable of reaching it.

  • Sepulchre of the king, sun who discerns first the truth, son of the sun, Inyotef II. It was found to have been pierced by the hand of malefactors, in the spot where the funerary stela had been placed.

    Examined on this day it was found to be intact. The malefactors had not known how to enter.

  • Sepulchre of the king, the sun who is first to take care of the earth, son of the sun, Sobekmesef. It was found that the malefactors have damaged it, by forcing an opening into the main chamber of his tomb, through the passage wall of the sanctuary of Nebamen, superintendent of the grain stores of the king [5], support of the creation . In the funerary place the body of the king had been removed and the tomb of his royal spouse, the royal lady Nubshas, was empty. The robbers had laid violent hands on them. The magistrate, the chiefs and officials looked into it finding traces of the violence against the king and queen perpetrated by the malefactors.

  • The sepulchre of the king, the increasing sun, son of the sun, Ta-aa [6], examined on this day, was found to be in good state.

  • The sepulchre of the king, the increasing sun, son of the sun, Ta-aa [7], north of the one belonging to Ta-aa, examined on this day, was found to be in good state.

  • The sepulchre of the king, the sun which provides the creation, son of the sun, Kamose, examined on this day, was in good state.

  • The sepulchre of the king Ahmose, son of Pe-ar, [8] examined on this day, was found to be in good state.

  • Sepulchre of the king, sun, lord of words, son of the sun, Mentuhotep II which is in the To-sar. It is in good state.

The number of tombs of royal ancestors examined on this day by the masons: found in good state, nine sepulchres, broken into, ............ one, total .......... ten.

Sanctuaries of priestesses of the temple of the royal glorifier of the House of Amen-Re. Examined, two were in good state, the malefactors have destroyed two.

Sanctuaries and funerary chambers in which are laid to rest the common people, women who have lived on the town and men of the country, west of the town. It was found that the robbers had violated them all. They have broken into pieces the owners who were in their funerary coffins and in their sarcophagi and have left them in the mud. They have robbed the furnishings which had been given them, as well as any gold and silver ornaments which were in their funerary coffins.

The examination of a suspect

Ha, commander of the Medjay, Great Chief of the main place, the captain of the Medjay, the Medjay, the local builders, the scribe of the magistrate and the scribe of the treasurer made a report to Sha-em-djemi, governor of the town, to the king's official Nasi-amen, scribe of the court, scribe of the temple of the divine worshipper of Amen-Re, king of gods, to the official of the king Ra-nefer-kar-em-a-amen, deputy of the court and to the great chiefs.

The head of the west, the commander of the Medjay and the great chief of the place are sending in writing the names of the robbers before the magistrate, the chief and the officials, with a warrant for their arrest and examination of what has happened.

Year 15, 19th Athor, was the day when Sha-em-djemi, governor of the town, and Nasiamen, official of the king, scribe of the court, proceeded to the examination of the main sites of the royal family, the royal wives and royal mothers who are in the funerary chambers.

To them talked a worker and Pakharu, Kharui and Khaisherau from the west of the town, servants of the sun temple, guardian of the truth, beloved of Amen-Re [9], belonging to Amenhotep, great priest of Amen-Re, king of gods. These were the persons who had been found there. The worker had happened to be on the premises in the company of the three men from the temple, when the governor of the town Ra-neb-ta visited in year 14, and he had said: 'I was at the site of the queen Hesi, wife of the king, guardian sun of the truth, beloved of Amen-Re [9]. It was me who has taken the missing things. I have done it all.'

The magistrate and the royal official sent him ahead of them to the site ..... He seemed ready to flee. The chiefs told him: Go ahead of us to the places where you have taken the things.

He went ahead of the chiefs to one of the storage rooms of the royal family, the sun defending the truth, praised by the great god the sun [10]. No hand had touched anything there. He opened it with the house of the men, the priests and the slaves Ameneman and Hui, and said: Behold the place where I have been.

The chiefs made him force a way crossing to the end of the great valley. He found it not. He knew all the places but the two. Extending the hands he said: 'As my lord lives', touching his nose and ear and placing his hands on his head, he said: 'I do not know any place in the interior of these two sites, save for the spot where one opens and closes. Put your hands there.'

The great chiefs examined the things and the two great places which are in the best funerary chamber where there are the royal family, the royal wives. the royal ancestors, fathers and mothers of the kings relations, who rest there. They were found to be in good state. The great chiefs ordered the builders to go over the place and sent the men and the workers of the site, the head of the Medjay, the Medjay and all the people on the spot to the town.

The aftermath

The rest of the papyrus is in bad shape, but it seems that on the 19th Athor, year 16, the commission returns its mandate and a new commission is set up by the king. The next day the head of the west of the town reminds the other members of the commission of the breaking into the graves of Sobekmesef and of Queen Nub-shas. Later the facts ascertained by the old commission are found to be false and testimony in favour of the accused is cited.

In the last paragraph, dated 20th Athor, year 16, a gathering of sages and old men near the gates of the temple of Amen is mentioned. The report of the builders and of the chief of the town is submitted to this tribunal. Two persons are brought before it, Pakharu, son of Kharu, and Pakhet who is called a thief and is the main suspect, while Pakharu is suspected of false testimony.

The findings are recapitulated and the great chiefs gave the breath to the workers of the temple of Ramses III, i.e. they acquitted them.

Sources: Translated from S.Birch: La papyrus Abbott in Franois Chabas Oeuvres diverses vol. I, pp 275ff

[1] Djemi: Medinet Habu


[2] The Medjay are often mentioned as enemies of Egypt. In a papyrus Amenemhet I describes some of his exploits: I have hunted the wild animals, captured crocodiles, conquered the Wa-wa and taken the Medjay. The mercenary Medjay were officered by ur (generals), mer (colonels) and khennu (captains). The Wa-wa lived in Nubia, against which most of the Middle Kingdom's expansionary efforts were directed.


[3] of the king Amenhotep I


[4] The kamu may have been a storage place for wine


[5] Thutmose III


[6],[7] Senakhtenre Taa - Tao I (?) and Seqenenre Taa - Tao II (?)


[8] This Ahmose's father had not been a pharaoh. He was a contemporary of Amenhotep I


[9] Ramses III


[10] Ramses II

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