Opening the Tomb of Petamenophis in Luxor

Opening the Tomb of Petamenophis in Luxor

A First Look

by Jane Akshar

Today (December 7th, 2005) was the official opening of the tomb of Petamenophis (Padiamenope, Xry.y-Hb Hrj-tp) (TT33) by Dr Sabry Abd El Aziz, the deputy of Dr Zahi Hawass. It is located next to the tomb of Harwa (TT39).

The Official Gathering at the Tomb of Petamenophis

The tomb is hugely significant, being, well huge. At this point, it is the largest tomb in Egypt and yet we really do not know why the owner of it was so blessed, but perhaps future work may reveal this secret.

Indeed, he was a high official, describing himself as "Sealbearer and Sole Beloved Friend, Lector and Scribe of the Records in the Sight of the King". In this inscription the king is not named, but there is an inscription in the northern part of the great outer courtyard, discovered by Lepsius, with a cartouche containing the name of a King Haremhab (Horemheb?), next to the name of Petamenophis.

Plan of the Tomb of Petamenophis

However, stylistically, many scholars believe that Pteamenophis' tomb could not be dated as early as the 18th or early 19th dynasty. In this regard, the tomb appears to date no earlier than the Ethiopian Period (when Nubians ruled Egypt). Some scholars believe that Petamenophis may have lived during the rule of Psammetichus I, the first king of the 26th Dynasty. In any event, Petamenophis must have been, to judge from his titles, a learned man and theologian. It should be noted that there is a statue of Petamenophis in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo.

The tomb of Petamenophis, located in the Assasif section of tombs on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes), was first described in detail by Lepsius in his pioneering work, Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien.

Officials examining the reliefs within the tomb

The tomb was later visited and described separately by Wilkinson, by Duemichen and others, before Maspero, seeing its deteriorating condition and realizing the necessity of protecting it from despoliation, had it sealed at the end of the last century. It remained closed until 1936 when W. F. von Bissing obtained permission to reopen it with the purpose of performing a definitive survey and publication. Braving the billions of bats infesting the place and the thick air (the ventilation shafts left much to be desired) he persevered, and within two years (1938) published a detailed description of the finds. Thereafter, for decades, the tomb was used as a storeroom with boxes, some labeled, some not.

A blog in the Tomb of Petamenophis depicting various enemies of Egypt

There were boxes from the tomb of Tutankhamun with biological matter (plants), statues, sarcophagi and altogether some 1,000 objects. There were registers for some of these boxes. One from 1964 was compiled by the Polish team working at Deir el-Bahri, and showed lists which accompanied black and white photos. This material has now been moved to a storage facility near the Carter House near the Valley of the Kings.

Lately, actually over the last two years, a team from the University of Strasbourg, led by M. Traurecker, has been clearing the first three chambers of this huge tomb and it has just now been opened for a first official viewing.

Wall Releifs within the Tomb

The opening was attended by many important officials from the Supreme Council and other archaeologists working in the area, such as Francesco Tiradritti. The next stage will be the cleaning, restoration and conservation of the tomb. It has important texts such as the Book of the Dead which need to be studied. In fact it is one of the most important, if not the most important, source for sacred texts during the period of Egyptian history. For example, there is also a Late Period version of the Book of Caverns in the tomb, which has yielded otherwise missing parts of this text. But the most amazing thing about this tomb is it's sheer size, with some 330 meters of corridors. It may be some time yet before this tomb is open to the public, but perhaps now we may see an end in sight when the public will be able to explore this vast monument. Perhaps, more importantly, there may be more to learn as work progresses toward that end

Dr. Sabry Abd El Aziz and the Author, Jane Akshar at the Tomb Opening

Dr. Sabry Abd El Aziz and the Author, Jane Akshar at the Tomb Opening

Last Updated: 12/07/2005