The Tomb of Roy on the West Bank at Luxor
by John Watson
The Tomb of Roy (TT 255) on the West Bank of Luxor (ancient Thebes) in the region known as Dra' Abu al-Naja, at the northern end of the Theban necropolis on the hillside just before the road turns off towards the Valley of the Kings, is one of two in this area that have recently been opened to the public. It is a small tomb with only a single chamber, including a burial shaft, that measures about 1.85 by 4 meters. It is preceded by an open courtyard.
The tomb belonged to a royal scribe named Roy, who was the steward in the estate of King Horemheb and the Temple of Amun, and to his wife, Nebtawy (Nebettauy, nicknamed Tawy). His wife was a Chantress of Amun. The tomb therefore dates to the late 18th and early 19th Dynasties. There seems to be some question whether the couple had any children, or for that matter, many close relatives at all.
The tomb has been known since 1822, and was documented at the time by the Hay Mission of the British Museum.
The orientation of the tomb is south-east. Its walls are not flat and the surfaces are rather roughly hewn, and the corners are somewhat rounded. The depictions are applied to a thin mortar which fills the irregularities of the walls and ceiling.
Hieroglyphs are mostly black on a white or yellow gold base. The columns of hieroglyphs are separated by thick vertical red lines.
Though small, the tomb of Roy has a beautifully decorated ceiling, adorned with geometric patterns. The pattern consists of polychromic rectangles combined with small floral designs. Unfortunately, it is lower than an average person's height, and may very well be subject to damage by tourists who frequently bang their heads on its plastered surface. Other decorations in the tomb are of an informal style. They appear to be rapidly drawn sketches, and are less idealized than, for example, the decorations in the tomb of Ramose.
Within the tomb, there are four registers depicted on the front wall. In the upper register, a servant leads a young cow and brings jars sealed with leaves before Roy and his wife. The second, unusual register, portrays two cattle, one white and one brown, passing each other in opposite directions while plowing a field. Though the cows are themselves elongated, and appear almost as stick figures, the composition is nevertheless interesting. To their left is a man standing with a child beneath a crudely drawn tree that may be a sycamore. A water bottle and a lunch basket have been tied to the branches of the tree.
In the next register down, a laborer plows a field, and behind him, another man sows seed. Surmounting these figures, a young boy stands next to a tree, apparently drinking from the water bottle. In the final, lower register, a foreman in a white costume leans on a staff, supervising a woman and two men harvesting flax, but this scene now is largely destroyed.
Moving to the left (southern) wall, we find in the upper register five scenes from the Book of Gates. To the left, Amenemope, the overseer of the royal granary, and his wife Tai, stand in adoration before a shrine to Ma'at and Nefertum. To their right, Roy and his wife stand and offer food before Hathor and Re-Harakhty. Next, the couple stand before the Ennead. Roy's wife holds a sistrum and a roll of papyrus, though much of this scene has been destroyed. At right, Horus leads the deceased couple before a balance on which two Ma'at statuettes are in perfect balance against their two hearts. Paired hearts such as these are not unknown but are not common. Anubis and Thoth record the favorable judgment.
Finally, the couple is presented by Horus-son-of-Isis to the god Osiris with green colored skin, who sits in an elaborately painted nao. Roy is wearing a heart amulet around his neck. Here, we find an error in the drawing. It appears as though his right arm is caught up within the string holding the heart amulet. In front of Osiris stand the Four Sons of Horus, emerging from a lotus blossom. Behind the god are two goddesses, consisting probably of Isis and Nephthys.
In the lower register on the left wall, we find a depiction of Roy's funeral procession. Though this sort of decoration is a standard one, it is well painted and the details of the mourners' faces display a variety of emotion. Left of this, four officials who are probably friends of the deceased stand holding staffs in one hand while their other hand covers their mouths in a gesture of mourning. Here, a woman kneels below a casket, probably holding the canopic equipment (containing the viscera of the deceased), carried by four servants and surmounted by a figure of Anubis. Above Anubis are some additional hieroglyphs, smaller than the others, probably due to a lack of space.
Eight women, dressed in mourning, precede the coffin, which is being pulled on a sled. Roy's servant, Thutmes, who wears the panther skin of a sem-priest, fumigates the barque with incense. In front, men drive the four cattle that pull the sled. At right, six women and eight men are depicted in mourning. They are preceded by a badly damaged scene depicting a row of officials, two of whom make an offering of water. The funerary barque itself is adorned with two horizontal alternating rows of double Djed pillars and Tyet Knots. The white sarcophagus is decorated with horizontal and vertical yellow bands. It rests on a funeral bed with feet in the shape of lion's paws.
To the right, the mummy of Roy is stood upright as his wife kneels, weeping at its feet, and a priest wearing the mask of Anubis prays for the deceased. Here, the deceased has a large collar about his neck and wears a blue wig. To the far right is displayed the destination of the procession, Roy's tomb, which has a pyramid shaped superstructure built before the slopes of the Mountain of the West.
A frieze of a chapel surmounted by Anubis, faces of Hathor, double kheker friezes and a double column of text, repeated six times, in very well preserved colors, runs across the top of this wall. It is repeated, though without the texts, on the right wall.
All of the figures on the left wall face towards the rear of the tomb. Much of the rear wall has been destroyed. Here, the painted plaster was applied in a thick coat over rough-cut bedrock and it has now fallen to the floor because of its weight. The scenes were mostly those of adoration. They include the deceased before figures of the king's wife, who holds two sistra before the god Osiris. At the bottom, and to the left, a few traces remain of a scene depicting Hathor as the Lady of the Sycamore, emerging from her sacred tree before Roy and his ba. Above that, Roy stands before an offering table piled high with various kinds of bread, while Amenhotep I and his mother Ahmes-Nefertari, stand in adoration and offer bouquets before Anubis. There is also a double scene of Horemheb and his queen Mutnodjmet before Osiris.
The niche on the rear wall, which is not well preserved, contains a stela on which the barque of Re is adored by baboons. Roy and Nebtawy are depicted with the text of a hymn to Re. Part of the stela on the lower right is now missing.
On the right, or north wall, beginning on the left, Roy and his wife, an offering table between them, sit while receiving offerings from a sem-priest. Onions seem very prominent among the various offerings. Just behind the priest, two female mourners accompany two coffins. Further to the right, Roy and his wife again are once again seated and receiving offerings including a platter covered by a huge and elaborately made cover of reeds and flowers. Behind the couple, in an upper sub-register, sit Roy's parents, while below them in another sub-register, sit other relatives.
At the right end of this wall, Roy sits on a chair with his wife on an elaborate cushion before priests and two mourners. There is a large hole in the wall here at this point. It may have happened when a piece of chert fell from the surrounding limestone, or it could have been from a wooden beam used to help lower a sarcophagus down the shaft. The artist who completed the tomb filled the hole with plaster and painted bunches of grapes over it, similar to the technique used on the ceiling of the tomb of Sennefer (TT 96). All of the figures on the right wall face the opening of the tomb.
Interestingly, many of the scenes in this tomb have red-painted columns laid out to receive text, but no text was ever written on them. Some have speculated that the owner died suddenly before the decorations could be finished. Many others scholars believe that tombs such as this one were cut and decorated on speculation and the names and titles of their eventual owners were added later, after contracting for the property.
A statue of Roy kneeling with a stela, which probably originally came from this tomb, is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.