AAMETJU (AHMOSIS), TT 83


 A glimpse !

Under this label we present the tombs for which only a few images exist, either because the monument is incomplete, or because it is severely damaged, or because only a few photos exist which have been achieved through the entrance doorway.


Halfway up the hill of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, in the area referred to as the "upper enclosure", is a tomb which can be seen from most of the valley below because of the portico and pillars which form its monumental entry. This tomb, which carries the number TT83, is situated below the famous tomb of Antefoqer/Senet, TT60, which is described in details HERE. See the location plan (according to Kampp).

The owner was called aAmtTw (Aametju) and had the nickname of iAhms (Ahmes, Ahmose or Ahmosis). His wife's name (based on the one of her husband) was tAamTw (Ta-aametju).

He carried the titles of Mayor of the City (Thebes) and Vizier, thus giving him the highest position of administration and the man who had to report only to the Pharaoh, in this case Thutmosis III. Only three people are known to have carried this combination of titles under this king: Aametju (TT83) during the first part of the reign, then, in the middle of the reign, his son User (TT61 and TT131) who took office during year 5 of Thutmosis III, and finally the nephew of this last one, Rekhmire (who had the very famous tomb, TT100) at the end of the reign and at the beginning of that of Amenhotep II.
The two major titles of Mayor and Vizier were retained therefore by three generations of the same family. The excessive power acquired by these titles could maybe explain why Rekhmire clearly ended in disgrace.

 The tomb 

The structure is of the type referred to as a saff-tomb dating back to the 11th Dynasty.
'Saff' is the Arabic word meaning row or line. The facades of these tombs consisted of rows of pillars cut into the hill slopes or into the ground, in front of the entry.
Friederike Kampp proposed a list of arguments which, according to her, prove that the tomb would had been dug in the XVIIIth Dynasty, and could not be a re-use of a monument of the Middle Kingdom; Which would make it an exception, being in the middle of all the nearby re-used tombs.
Kampp also proposed a clear vision of this evolution, with the transverse widening of the chapel, the decent of the funerary shaft (which unfolds), and the appearence of a transverse hall, giving the characteristic "T" shape used in the 18th Dynasty (see Kampp image).

After the work carried out by Wilkinson and the clearance, very little was found to remain of the original structure of the courtyard, cut in part into the cliff face (see is_018). The remains of a collapsed funerary shaft was found, but of doubtful origin.

The vertical facade stands in front of a portico, carved into the cliff. This contains eight nearly square section pillars, of 1.30m by 1.45m. At each extremity is a pilaster set into the cliff. The facade includes an additional part, which has also been elevated by a wall formed of limestone blocks bound by mortar. The holes which are present acted as supports for beams when Wilkinson built in the courtyard (see facade plan and view ur_08). All traces of plaster are those of the recent period of occupation.

The pillars, which are of a square section (with no base or capital) were created from the actual rock face. They were then plastered and decorated on their side faces and the internal surface, proving that they had been part of the original design. Thus a truly open transverse hall was created, 25m in length and 3m in depth, with decorated walls ( view ur_11 and view ur_12).

In the middle of the portico opens up a single corridor (at right angles to the portico). Currently this is walled up (see tb_2092). This penetrates 16m into the hill, with a width of 1.70m. The entrance is carved into the rock, with no additional stonework, proving that it dates from the time of the conception of the tomb and doesn't constitute a later addition. There are also proofs that the tomb is not, as many of the others of this period, a re-use of a monument of the Middle Kingdom. The vertical facade, with its slim, high and square pillars is very different to the tombs of the Middle Kingdom with their closely packed columns (as compared with the tombs TT167, 149, 150, with square pillars, of the same period).

The plasterwork. On the facade can be found a clear beige plaster (tibn), which also served as a filling material. In order to compensate for the irregularities of the pillars, several successive layers of mortar had been applied; the first was a base of gypsum, the second with additions of Nile mud mixed with the tibn (a mid-brown). The last layer was made of white gypsum. This also acted as an undercoat for the painted decoration. Two other layers of plaster date from a period of recent occupation: the bottom one is made of Nile mud enriched with roughly chopped straw (grey-brown), the top one is made of the same elements but is finer (clear beige).

The decoration had to have been of quality, judging by the few still visible fragments at the high part of the walls and columns, as well as on the ceiling of the portico (height: 3.10m), where are the remains of the inscribed titles of the deceased. According to Porter & Moss, in the corridor there were the remains of a ritual scene in front of mummies and with inscriptions mentioning the titles of his son, User. All of this has now disappeared.



Why did Aametju chose for himself this design of architecture? Without any doubt to attract attention to his monument. It is highly likely that the decorations placed in the portico were appropriate to his terrestrial functions, which the curious could therefore admire without the aid of a lamp. Naturally, the vizier hoped that the visitor would bring him some offerings, or make a libation of water while reciting the formulas intended to insure his survival in the beyond.

 The house of Wilkinson 

Because of the good situation, half way up the hill, and the possibilities of development offered by its portico, tomb TT83 acted as a house to several Egyptologists. It is necessary to say that the view is unbeatable: the Ramesseum, the Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu, the temple of Karnak in the distance, without counting the spectacle of the Nile valley at a time when the dams had not suppressed the floods. The American Egyptologist John Wilson wrote: "It is constantly a fascinating panorama, whose colours change every hour" (see is_008).
The first among them was one of the pioneers of British Egyptology, Sir Gardner Wilkinson, who stayed there in the first decades of the 19th century. The tomb still remains known as "the house of Wilkinson". He was especially interested in the Theban tombs of individuals, and made many sketches, always useful nowadays because since his passage some monuments have disappeared or have become greatly damaged. He was one of the first to have understood that the representations in the hypogeums could serve in understanding ancient Egyptian life, and, with his passing, his work "Manners and customs of the Ancient Egyptians" had a great success and truly created the interest of the British public for Egyptology.
Wilkinson saw another major advantage to living in a tomb: air remains cool there and the temperature is constant throughout the year. He partially filled with mud bricks some of the spaces between the pillars of the portico and the portico walls, as well as in the courtyard, achieving a great terrace. In its finished state, the house consisted of antechambers, bedrooms, a lounge, a dining room, a dovecote, rooms for the servants and a kitchen (see the plan according to Lepsius). For the record, at this time, fragments of sarcophaguses were used to make the fires, used for cooking foods.

Later, Robert Hay joined Wilkinson bringing with him a Greek woman, bought in the market of slaves in Cairo (!), whom he ended up marrying. Many visitors followed each other into the home, which became an inescapable passage known to all, and famous for its comfort. Parties and receptions were given regularly.
After the departure of the two men, the tomb did not remain vacant for long: Edward Hogg and his friend Fulgence Fresnel resided there, then Karl Lepsius, followed by Alexander Rhind and by the American artist Joseph Smith with his family. After them, the house was gradually dismantled by the inhabitants of Qurna who reused its bricks and its wood.

Bibliography
• KAMPP Friederike : Die Thebanische Nekropole, vol II, p.330-332, Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 1996 (thanks to Georges Engel for the translation)
• MANNICHE Lise : Lost tombs, p.87, Kegan Paul, 1988
• PORTER Bertha & MOSS Rosalind L. B.: Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings I: The Theban Necropolis, Part 1 : Private tombs, 2nd ed. rev. and augmented. Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1994
• THOMPSON Jason : Tomb-Dwellings in 19th Century Thebes: Sir Gardner Wilkinson’s House at Sheikh Abd el Qurna, KMT 7, 2, p.52-59, 1996

Text and web page by Thierry Benderitter
English translation by Jon Hirst
Photographs by Thierry Benderitter (tb), I.S. (is), Ute Rummel (ur)

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