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The Tomb of Neferrenpet (TT 178) on the West Bank at Luxor


The Tomb of Neferrenpet (TT 178) on the West Bank at Luxor

by John Watson


Statues of Nferrenpet and his wife in the back niche of the tomb

A scribe of the Treasury in the Estate of the Temple of Amun-Re, Neferrenpet was also known as Kenro. He served during the second half of the reign of Ramesses II. His tomb (TT 178) is located in the Khokha area, a small hill on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes), cut into the wall of a square pit a few hundred meters west of the funerary temple of Tuthmosis III. Khokha forms the north-eastern extremity of the Sheikh Abd el-Qurna hillside at the beginning of the causeway to Hatshepsut's memorial temple. This tomb shares a common courtyard with the tombs of Nefersekheru (TT 296) and Nefermenu (TT 365).

The tomb itself, which appears to have been entirely completed, has only two small chambers, with walls that were decorated with scenes laid out in unusually low registers. Some of them are less than 20 centimeters high. In fact, scenes often wrap around corners and continue along several walls. While such scenes that wrap around walls are not unknown in Theban tombs, they are unusual. The tomb of Khonsu (TT 31) also features this sort of decorative style.

Ground plan of the tomb

The decorations of the tomb were applied over a coat of white plaster, particular care being given to the ceiling. Indeed, all of the ceiling surfaces have been elaborately decorated with geometric designs. The workmanship in Neferrenpet's tomb is really only fair, hastily drawn and poorly proportioned, often lacking any detail at all. Such is not unusual for 19th Dynasty tombs. At the same time, the tomb is worth visiting because of the ways in which its artists appear to test the limits of Egyptian representation, especially in the second chamber. Many of the figures are almost cartoon-like, and the non-religious scenes tend towards a high level of informality both in composition and pose. The tomb is also interesting because the information it provides us on the Treasury of the Temple of Amun-Re, and because of its emphasis on religious topics.

In the entry portal, the Hymn to Atum is carved on the right (west) jamb, while on the left (east jamb) is a Hymn to Re. Each jamb carries a well executed figure of Neferrenpet, who is dressed in an elaborate costume with a broad collar and long hair. On the left side, he walks out of the tomb while on the right, he walks into the tomb.

Within the first chamber, the ceiling is decorated with four different ornamental designs, two with spiral motifs. Beneath the ceiling, the tops of the walls are adorned with recumbent Anubis jackals who face the tomb entrance and alternate with kheker-friezes. Underneath this are two principal registers that contain religious scenes. Below each register is a line of religious text that is written in large and detailed hieroglyphs. These registers are read from the entrance of the tomb on the north wall, across the side wall and then on the south wall where they end.

On the left, or eastern half of the chamber, the upper register is divided into several parts, each of which depict passage from chapter 145 of the Book of the Dead. This is the chapter that instructs the deceased on how to pass safely through the many locked gates of the netherworld. On the front, north wall, the first scene depicts Neferrenpet and his wife, Mutemwia, who holds a large floral bouquet, standing in front of a large portal, called a sebkhet. It is surmounted by a large snake and djed pillars, while Isis knots decorate its sides.

Four demons with flails on their knees

The following scene starts out on the front, north wall, and continues onto the left, or east wall. Here, Neferrenpet and Mutemwia stand in worship before another sebkhet. Their clothing is identical to that depicted in the first scene, though here, Neferrenpet carries a pectoral over his arm. The sebkhet, placed on a low socle with a kheker-frieze at its top, has three demons inside. One of them has a human head, while the second one is that of a lion's, and both have knives on their knees. The third demon is a recumbent lion with a uraeus on its forehead. To the right (south) stands an empty portal with Ma'at feathers on its top, and after that, Neferrenpet and his wife, once again wearing the same costumes, stand in adoration before an empty shrine. Mutemwia wears flowers, while the deceased has a pectoral on his arm. Further to the right, Neferrenpet, with a scribe's palette hanging from his arm, stands before a sebkhet surmounted by Ma'at feathers. Here, we find four more demons holding flails on their knees. Finally, we find Neferrenpet and Mutemwia standing before offerings of meats, geese, vegetables, lettuce and flowers piled upon four offering tables. Mutemwia holds a head of lettuce and a sistrum. Here, the colors are especially well preserved, and close attention has been paid to some of the detail. For example, the main figures are depicted with fingernails and toenails delicately painted white.

The deceased couple is led by Anubis to meet Osiris

The final scene in this religious sequence deals with the Weighing of the Heart of the deceased in the Court of Osiris. This scene is artistically formal, as well as complex in its iconography, as befits the profound importance of its topic, the judgment of the dead. Here, the god Anubis, with a human body and the head of a jackal, leads Neferrenpet and his wife into the court. Beginning on the left wall, Horus, on the left, and to his right, Thoth, weigh the heart of the deceased against the feathers of Ma'at. Horus steadies the balance, which is surmounted by a figure of a baboon and a feather. Above the scales are four offering tables alternating with seated figures. Thoth stands nearby with a scribe's palette, ready to deliver the verdict and announce the results to Osiris, Isis and Nephthys, who sit in an elaborate kiosk. A symbol of Anubis has been placed in front of the kiosk As typical of this sort of scene, before Osiris are small figures of the Four Sons of Horus rising from a lotus flower. A demon, now defaced, who originally stood in the corner just in front of Anubis, weights to devour the deceased should he be found unworthy. This is Ammit, She Who Swallows the Dead, an almost comically grotesque monster with a crocodile's face, a lion's head and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus.

The judgment of the deceased scene

Separating this register from the one below it is a band of hieroglyphs which is part of the Hymn to Osiris. In order to follow the lower register, one must return to the east side of the north wall of the chamber, next to the entrance. There, in a splendidly painted garden scene, Neferrenpet and Mutemwia dip water from a T-shaped pool, filled with lotus flowers and fish, and drink from their cupped hands. The transparent gowns of the deceased and his wife, as well as the sensuous curves of their long fingers, are well executed. Heavily laden with dates and birds' nests filled with eggs, three palm trees stand behind the pool. This scene originates from the vignette that accompanies chapter 62 of the Book of the Dead, a spell for drinking water in the afterlife.

Neferrenpet and Mutemwia drink from a T-shaped pool, while to the right, Neferrenpet is given offerings by a priest

In the next scene to the right Neferrenpet, holding a scepter, sits in a delicately adorned chair, his feet clad in white sandals resting on a footstool. Before him a priest offers bundles of flowers and baskets of bread.

Moving around the corner of the chamber to the left wall, we find elegantly coiffed and dressed figures of Neferrenpet and his wife, who sit on chairs placed on a low dais. Neferrenpet holds a scepter and bunches of lettuce and lotuses, while his wife affectionately rests her left hand on his shoulder. Unfortunately, the offering table that stood before them is no longer visible, but in a second scene the couple sits before a huge pile of foodstuffs, including loaves of bread, geese, lettuce and baskets of dates. In yet another scene to the right. In it, the well-dressed couple watches as Bakenwer, a sem-priest clad in the panther skin symbolizing his office, offers incense and pours water over the offerings.

Neferrenpet balances a playing piece on his finger as he plays senet


At the end of the wall, a harpist kneels in front of the kiosk in which Neferrenpet and his wife play a game of senet. This scene is from chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead, where the deceased is described as "going out into the day, taking any shape in which he desires to be, playing at draughts, sitting in a booth and going forth as a living soul..." In this scene, Mutemwia affectionately embraces her husband as he delicately balances one of the game pieces on his finger. Underneath Mutemwia's chair, a cat, wearing a collar with a string tied to the chair leg, hungrily eats a piece of meat.

Neferrenpet offers libations and incense to Amenhotep I and his mother

On the south, or rear wall, Neferrenpet offers incense and libations at an offering table before Amenhotep I and his mother, Ahmes-Nefertari. They are two of the most well known royal figures from the early 18th Dynasty. Ahmes-Nefertari was a woman of considerable political power and the first to hold the title of God's Wife of Amun. She also served as regent for her young son at the beginning of his reign. Amenhotep I and his mother were said to have founded Deir el-Madina, the worker's village on the West Bank at Thebes. They later became the focus of a major religious cult, particularly in the worker's village, that survived until the end of the New Kingdom. Usually, Ahmes-Nefertari is painted with black skin to symbolize her fertility, but here she is painted a somewhat unattractive gray.

A line of hieroglyphs below these scenes contains a prayer for the deceased.

A personified Djed Pillar holds a solar disk aloft

On the west, or right side, like the left half of the chamber, scenes also span three walls. Underneath a kheker-frieze and figures of a recumbent Anubis, Neferrenpet stands at the left of the doorway, his arms raised in prayer before piles of bead, lettuce, grapes and vessels wet out on mats. The intervening text is a hymn to the sun. Here, a large, personified djed pillar holds a solar disk aloft in its arms, while ten deities standing in two registers, all similarly posed and dressed, greet the sun disk. To their left, the arms of the goddess Nut reach out from a mountain on the western horizon and grasp the sun disk, preparing to carry it on its nightly journey through the netherworld. The mountain is painted in a manner that suggests it is made of red granite, which was considered more valuable than common limestone or sandstone.

Atum, wearing the double crown, wiht Sekhmet behind him

On the next right, or west wall, the scenes continue with Thoth sitting in a kiosk. Behind him stands the goddess Ma'at, and they face an offering table piled high with lettuce, lotuses, bread and meat. Here, Neferrenpet's image has been almost completely destroyed.

In another kiosk to the left, Atum is seated while Sekhmet stand behind him. He wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, while she wears a sun disk and uraeus on her head. Neferrenpet and Mutemwia, who holds a head of lettuce in her right hand, stand next to an elaborate offering table piled high with fruits, vegetables, fowl and jugs of honey.

A third offering scene at the left end of the wall, includes depictions of a seated Ptah, with Isis standing behind him. However, unlike the two previous kiosks, which have tent-pole columns, this one has djed pillars. Here, Neferrenpet and his wife stand in adoration.

Neferrenpet and his wife in an offering scene before Ptah

Finally, on the south, or rear wall, Neferrenpet and his wife offer praise to Ma'at and Re-Harakhty, who stand in a kiosk.

To fully examine the lower register of the right side of this chamber, one must return to the front wall. It begins with poorly preserved figures of the deceased couple seated next to a sycamore fig tree. Left of them, two half-registers that extend across the right half of the chamber depict Neferrenpet's funeral procession. These scenes are full of people who are represented in caricatures of overwhelming grief.

The Mummy of Neferrenpet on its sled

Here, a man with a whip drives four cattle pulling a sled that carries the sarcophagus. Neferrenpet's mummy is elegantly wrapped in fine linen and wears a funerary mask. His mummy is protected by standing figures of the goddesses Isis, on the right, and Nephthys, to the left. In the register below, nine dignitaries walk beside the sled. The second man in this procession turns his grief-stricken face to bid a final farewell to Neferrenpet. All of the mourners are well dressed in long gowns and white sandals, and each holds a staff, though two of them, the fourth and the eighth, are bare-chested. Their garments are wrapped around their waists. Three of the men hold their hands to their faces, overwhelmed by the death of their master. The names and titles of the first three men are provided, though the others are anonymous.

A part of the funeral procession


The sled congaining Neferrenpet's canopic chest

On the left wall, the funeral procession is continued. Here, on a second sledge at the top left, a boat holds a large and finely adorned chest containing Neferrenpet's four canopic jars. Surmounting this shrine is a recumbent figure of Anubis. Once again, the standing figures of Isis and Nephthys are depicted, as six men pull the sledge. Each of the six men have a slightly different costume, hairstyle and pose. Four or more men walk ahead of the sledge carrying boxes of grave goods. In the half register beneath this one, nine women mourners weep. Some hide their faces in their hands, while others pour dust over their heads. Their breasts are bare and their hair is undone. Next to them, to the left, are five male servants who stand between frames covered with flower garlands, while nine mourning women follow a priest and approach a large pile of bread, meat and various containers. The priest pours a libation, while behind him, a second priest approaches with papyrus and a scribe's palette. Still farther to the left, a sem-pirest purifies the mummies of the deceased couple.

On the rear wall, the mummies stand on a low mound of sand. On their heads are cones of scented fat and lotus flowers. yellow bands of cloth cross their fine linen wrappings. Two female mourners kneel at their feet, overcome with grief.

At the left, in the upper scene on a stela with a rounded top, stands Neferrenpet, who is worshipping Osiris and Isis. Beneath this scene, a priest offers incense before an offering table and seated figures of Neferrenpet and Mutemwia.

To the left, Neferrenpet's tomb itself is depicted. It has a columned portico, a large entrance gate with figures of Anubis at the top flanking a small pyramid superstructure. However, there is no archaeological evidence to suggest that this tomb actually looked at one point as it does in the representation.

Neferrenpet and his wife before Osiris

Surmounting the doorway to the second chamber are scenes depicting the deceased couple worshipping Osiris and Isis on the left and Re-Harakhty and Ma'at on the right. The ceiling of the entrance carries a drawing of the ba-bird of Mutemwia, shown with a human face, a cone of scented fat and lotus flowers on its head, and elaborately painted feathers. This is actually one of the most well executed scenes in the tomb.

Within the second chamber, the artisans used yellow extensively as a background color on the left, or eastern side of the room. Though this brightens the walls, the scenes themselves are cluttered, filled with texts, geometric designs, people praying and making offerings and craftsmen at work. Here, text is squeezed into every available space and the figures are loosely drawn and almost randomly placed. There is often no ground line. Indeed, these scenes lack the formal organization that so characterizes Egyptian wall art.

The doorway to the second camber

On the east, or left side of the doorway, we find Neferrenpet standing in front of an offering table adoring a jackal-headed Anubis. The fringe on his gown is unusual and finely painted. From there, the scene continues onto the left, or east wall, where Neferrenpet once again worships deities, this time Re-Harakhty and Ma'at, before a table of offerings. He is accompanied by his wife, Mutemwia and another woman only identified as a companion. A complete field of text has been destroyed that once stood before a second depiction of the couple. However, the eight offering tables holding cones and geese are well preserved in this scene. To the right, the hippopotamus goddess, Taweret, also known as Ipet, wears a crown of horns and a sun disk, while holding an ankh-sign.

Hathor emergies from the mountain


To the right, in the corner of this wall, one scene is particularly well executed. Here, Neferrenpet and his wife stand in front of an offering table in a pose of veneration. To the right, Hathor, Lady of the West, Lady of the Sacred Land, Eye of Ra emerges from a red granite mountain in her customary form as a cow. Her neck is adorned with a menit collar. Just above her, the Horus falcon rests on a stand with a Ma'at feather. On the mountainside, a small, stela with a round top is painted with a prayer to Osiris.

Between these scenes and those beneath, a prayer for dead is written in large hieroglyphs.

A list of types of offerings in the tomb

In the lower register, back on the front, or north wall, there are two crudely executed scribes of the treasury who are clothed in the apparel of lector-priests. They purify offerings in this satj-ritual, which is related to the offering scene around the corner on the east wall where the elegantly dressed deceased couple sits before a list of offerings. This list is recorded in a series of forty-five rectangles, each of which names a different commodity, including water, different kinds of bread, cuts of meat, wine, figs and other items. However, for some unknown reason, many squares were left empty, so the list was never completed.

A sem-priest purifies the couple as they stand on mounds

Behind Neferrenpet and Mutemwia, a sem-priest purifies offerings piled high on a table before seated figures of the couple. To the right, another priest holds the meskhetiu-tool, which is used in the Opening of the Mouth ritual. In the corner of this wall, Neferrenpet receives purifying water from another sem-priest. In both of these last two scenes, the couple stand on low hills of sand representing the mound of creation. Though these are very formal scenes, and the couple wear elaborate clothing and stand in stiff, formal poses, their bodies have legs that are far too long and thin, while their faces are more caricatures than portraits or idealizations.

A personified Djed Pillar in a Barque

On the right, or west side of this chamber, the scenes begin near the door. Here, the deceased couple is shown looking beyond five columns of text to a table piled high with a generous provision of offerings. Then, on the west wall, sailing on a small rectangle of water, an elaborately outfitted Osiris barque is depicted. This scene, complex and full of religious symbolism, is very nicely executed. An anthropomorphized djed pillar holding a flail and scepter in its hands and wearing the atef-crown and an elaborate costume, stands on the barque. The pillar is held by the Anubis. To the left, in the arms of an anthropomorphic ankh-sign, or possibly a was-scepter, are held the standards of the gods, Thoth and Wepwawet. Above the pillar are two falcons that hold shen-signs in their talons.

Neferrenpet and his wife adore a falcon with a flail

The couple, farther to the left, are shown in different clothing than on the front wall. Here, they peer through seven columns of a prayer to Osiris toward several offering tables and a shrine. Within the shrine, a falcon with a flail and a feathered crown sits on a chest. To the left, Neferrenpet stands in front of a small offering table, eight columns of text and a bark carrying Ma'at, Re and Osiris, while a winged wedjat-eye soars above them. Both scenes depicting the barque are references to chapter 183 of the Book of the Dead, which praises Osiris and Wennefer.

Neferrenpet before an offering table looks across text to Osiris, Ma'at and Re on a Barque

Once again, we must return to the front wall in order to follow the scenes in the lower register. This register begins a topic that is completely different than the profoundly religious scenes so far encountered in this tomb. It includes depictions of craftsmen who Neferrenpet supervised in the treasury. These scenes, which appear to have been much more hastily executed, and sometimes even appear as sketches, are far less formal than the religious scenes in the tomb. However, they are interesting because of the information they provide us on various activities that have been associated with specific rooms and courtyards in the treasury building storerooms. They depict the actual activities undertaken in various parts of the treasury and the scenes help us work out the design and functions of the building's elements.

Here, Neferrenpet stands with a scribe's brush and palette, recording deliveries to the treasury. Before him, in two registers, scribes deliver inventories of the work that is depicted at the right end of the wall. Represented in the lower registers are men who work with gold bars and copper vessels. One man operates bellows with his feet, while another uses tongs to transfer a crucible. In a fourth register, one man uses a straw to blow air into a hearth where metal is being smelted in order to increase the temperature. Above him, an artisan sculpts a gold statue that is lying on a sloping board. On the right, craftsmen use multiple drills to bore holes in beads. These types of drills were used in Egyptian craft shops well into the 19th century AD.

A view of the treasury building. Note the double doors on the right

The treasury building itself can be seen behind Neferrenpet. Its entrance consists of a double leaf door set into a small pylon. In typical Egyptian fashion, the building is sketched as an aerial view of the structure, combined with drawings of architectural features and storeroom contents that have been laid on their side to ensure ease of recognition. Within the building, at the top, or right of the entrance, the craftsman Pehemnetjer sits in a small side chamber carving a statue of a nobleman. In front of him stand small shabtis and a mummy mask. We also see a tree growing in the building's open courtyard. To the left of the court, at the bottom of the scene, and overseer with a whip faces three servants.

Workmen weighing gold in the treasury building


The scene continues on the right, or west wall of this chamber, where to the right, is depicted a doorway that leads into the treasury storeroom, guarded by a man holding a whip and sitting on a small stool. To the left and right of the door are small rooms. Neferrenpet sits at left, holding a palette and watching two men weigh bolts of cloth, using weights shaped like cow heads, on a balance. Above them, another four men deliver cloth.

A section of the treasury building

To Neferrenpet's back, men carry goods to the treasury storerooms. We can see four small rooms at the top, or right of the storeroom door, that contain amphorae, and into this room, four men deliver sacks, baskets and pots. On the left side, chambers hold pottery and amphorae, while the central room is piled high with rowing oars, some carved with ram heads, others with falcons. These were possibly used on sacred barques during temple processions.

The statue niche at the rear of the tomb

The rear wall is badly damaged, though we can make out four seated figures that are carved into a large niche. From left to right, they are Neferrenpet's mother, Wiai, his father, Piai, who was a priest in the Temple of Amun-Re, Neferrenpet himself, and his wife, Mutemwia. These statues were actually carved out of the living limestone and then carefully worked in stucco before being painted and ornamented.

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