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TT192, the tomb of Kheruef , whose birth name was Naa .

The gigantic funerary complex, TT192, of Kheruef (a more suitable term than that of simply 'tomb') has been considered as imposing, which indicates the power and the wealth of the person who was for a time the steward of queen Tiy, the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III ( view CD_04), at a time when Egypt was at the summit of its glory and its prosperity. The monument was very far from being finished when, for an unknown reason, the site was abandoned.
What is nowadays designated as "the tomb of Kheruef", only includes the entry and the west portico at the far end of the open courtyard, an all small portion of the monument itself.
With its dark aspect and partially blackened walls, its nearly complete absence of colours, the monument is hardly inviting. Tourists are rare, as most are unaware of it presence. Whereas, it is nevertheless close to the temple of Deir el-Bahari. It represents one of the very rare tombs at luxor which are still open to the public.
In this presentation, which is about a monument of a great artistic quality and great historical importance, an insight and understand will be attempted into the troubled period situated at the pivotal point of the reigns of Amenhotep (Amenophis) III and hiss son and successor Amenhotep IV (who will become Akhenaton). In particular seeking answers, but achieving no answers, to the question of the co-regency between the two sovereigns.

The tomb was initially studied by Adolf Erman, in 1885, then by Alan Gardiner and Davies in 1923, followed by Ahmed Fakry in 1943, which was preceeded by the important work of clearance and documentation. Finally, The Epigraphic Survey of the University of Chicago completed their documentation of the monument in the years 1950-60, with the resultant work being published by the Oriental Institute in 1978. It this final work which acts as a basis for these pages.


As mentioned, the tomb is located to Luxor, on the west bank of the Nile, at the foot of the hill of the Assassif, very near of the pathway leading to the funerary temple of Hatshepsut, at Deir el-Bahari.
In a very original manner, the tomb had been dug into the bedrock, below the surface of the desert. After centuries of accumulation of dust, sand and rubbish, the deep location of the monument is no more visible today, since it is necessary to descend a rather long slope to reach it.

The presence of a courtyard in front of a portico, below the level of the desert, presents a rare innovation in relation to the customs of the 18th Dynasty: only the tombs of Ramose (TT55), of Khaemhat (TT57) and of Imhotep (TT102) presenting a number of common features. In the Assassif, only the funeral chapel of Senenmut, TT353, presents this characteristic, but in a different layout.

 Plan overview 

The tomb of Kheruef consists of five parts:
1) - a 15° slope, leads, in a westerly direction, to the first decorated doorway, being part of a vestibule.
Photos taken before the construction of the modern protective walls show that the axis of entry is in line with the Theban summit, which can be seen in ( view oi_10).
The entry for the monument is located to the east, and the backwards slope of each side wall is 7°, very close to the 7.5° of the pylons of Karnak. Therefore, the whole thing thus imitates the entry of a temple, and the total complex (with its underground chambers), could be taken as such.
2) - through the entry is a large open courtyard. The original intention was probably to surrounded on all four sides by a canopy supported by 39 columns. Two of those actually produced form the west pylon, which is preceded by a small upwards sloping ramp, which in turn leads into the first hall.
3) - This first transverse hall, which lies on a north-south axis, is filled totally with pillars, three rows of ten.
4) - A second pillared hall, represents the funerary chapel. Its axis is perpendicular to the previous one and is almost perfectly east-west. It has two row of ten columns. At the far east end is a niche chamber, entered by a narrow opening. This enclosed one or more statues of the deceased.
5) - finally, the underground chambers, the access to which is located at the south-west corner of the second pillared hall.

 Abandonment of the complex 

At some time, the ceiling of the south-westerly corner of the first pillared hall collapsed, obstructing the entry of the corridor which lead to the burial chambers. This accident certainly came with the numerous column breakages.
A second collapse effected the portico, the south wing of which was filled to a reasonable height with debris. This catastrophic collapse, did however protect some of the reliefs, which were hidden by the rubble also making them difficult to reach. It is here that the only full surviving representation of Kheruef survived.
The obstruction of the underground corridor leading to the burial chambers was probably the reason of the abandonment of the site. But it is not the only possible explanation. Political reasons can also be considered, especially if consideration is given to the hammered out erasures dating from Akhenaten's reign: the disgrace of the ex "high-ranking man" from the time of Amenhotep III is very possible. It could be that Kheruef simply died, which resulted in the stopping of the work on the site even before the the collapse. Without a new documentary discovery, it will remain unknown with certainty, in the same way as it is unknown what happened to Kheruef himself, since he never rested in this tomb

 The monument at the time of the abandonment of the site 

The stone masons

The quarrymen who roughly cut the monument, had accomplished a considerable amount of work, achieving the following results:

The main entry
The ramp (whose side walls, however, remained rough), the vestibule, the entry and corridor leading to the courtyard, were finished.

The open courtyard
It is very irregular in shape. A possible fault in the bedrock was suggested as the reason for this off-axis shape, however, there is now no evidence of this. Only having pillars along the east and west sides, these form two porticos.
  • the east portico
It is described more fully below, and was not completely finished. Initially the walls, about 3.5m to the right (north), and 5.0m to the left of the entry passage are aligned at 90° to the main axis. These sections were smoothly finished. However, the alignment of the pillars, which had only been roughed out, is 4.5° anticlockwise rotated from this. The ends of the walls were adjusted to copy the alignment of the pillars. The north and south ends, between the pillars and the east wall, are only roughly cut and not completed to the length required to meet the north and south walls.
  • the north and south walls
Both are parallel to the central axis, but the north wall is longer by 1.20m than the south, with no geological reason to explain this anomaly. The planned columns had only been sketched in red outline, ten for the north colonnade and nine for the south.
  • the west portico
Because of the difference in lengths of the adjoining walls, it is even further inclined (7° anticlockwise) from the 90° to the main axis. As a result of this northern end has only a 0.5m thickness wall to the inner wall of the first pillared hall, at the south end it is about 3.55m ( view oi_11). The four columns of the north wing appear to have been completed and fluting applied on the northern two partially preserved columns.

The first pillared hall was completed except for finally shaping the two southern columns in the rear row. The walls had been squared and levelled.

The second pillared hall: the walls were completed to about half their initially planned length.

The subterranean corridors and chambers:, were created on two levels, the upper chambers, being aimed to foil looters, were finished. However, the lower level true counterparts were unfinished.

The sculptors work

It was carried out after the that of the quarrymen, and was much less advanced. At the entry, reliefs were completed on the north wall of the vestibule, but only the red guidelines were achieved on the south wall. The reliefs for the ceiling of the passage were complete, also those of the doorway and passage in the west portico and on the ceiling in front of it.

The painters

The painters, however, had only accomplished some of the important work: doorposts and lintels of the entry, south wall of the entry corridor, upper and middle registers of the north wing of the west portico, some areas of ceilings (notably that of the south wing of the west portico), and the hieroglyphs in a certain number of inscriptions. The great inscription of the year 30 festival had received its preparatory white background wash, but no actual painting.

 the subterranean complex 

The entry to the access corridor is in the south-west corner of the first pillared hall. Steep descents, including two right angle corners, lead 20m below ground level. This route measures, according to Nims, 37.50m; whereas, measurement from plan gives 41.70m.
The decent thus leads to the first chambers which are composed of an antechamber and a transverse room behind which are three small annexes. It seems that this group constitutes a false funeral apartment, a lure destined to deceive the pillagers. Indeed, in the upper part of the north wall of the transverse chamber is an opening, which would have been blocked after the funeral. This gives way to a new corridor which leads 8.5m further below. Here again, the plan is in disagreement with Nims, who fixes his length to 23m, whereas, according to the scale of his own plan it is 34.60m. At the extremity of the corridor is a new complex of chambers, probably the real ones.

The excavation seems enormous.Thierry made some calculations:
"The tomb of Kheruef by numbers".

 The deterioration undergone by the monument 

The collapse of the ceiling has already been mentioned. The columns of the two pillared halls are also damaged, but their ceilings, although weakened, on the whole have held. It is likely that earthquakes which sometimes shake the region were responsible for these damages. In the engraved and painted areas, the seeping of salt from the rock created some damage which it is sometimes impossible to differentiate from acts of vandalism, notably in the south wing of the west portico.

The decor of the monument suffered greatly at the hands of men, which happened after the collapse of the ceiling, and therefore after the site has been abandoned (or at the same time).
These human damages fall into two categories, during and after the reign of Akhenaten.

1) - During the reign of Akhenaten

    a)- The inscriptions
The zealous of "the heretic" found the name of the god Amon, and in several places hammered it out, but never when it was in a royal cartouche (Amen-hotep). The plural "gods" was also attacked, but strangely none of the gods others than Amon has been touched. The name and the titles of Kheruef have also largely deleted.

    b)- The characters
Kheruef has been hammered out every time that his image was accessible. The only place where it survived is located in the south wing, under the throne of the sovereigns (who, naturally, remained untouched everywhere). On the other hand, close by and slightly above, his image has been hammered, but only to the level of his loincloth. However it is precisely in this zone of the monument that the collapse, whose rubble saved Kheruef from total extinction, occurred.
The same thing is true for all of his companions who participate, as he does, in the jubilee festivals: they have all been erased when they could be reached.
It should be noted that two priests of Ptah, dressed in leopard skins, were also hammered-out. This is not unique, in many monuments the priests dressed of the skin of this animal have been erased, without the reason appearing to be obvious.

The fact that not only was Kheruef effaced, but also his companions, seems to indicate that it was not (at least not solely) the characters themselves that were targeted, but probably the ceremony of the royal jubilee, which had to have had too many connections with the traditional religion.

    c)- Is the erasing of the names contemporary with those of the characters ?
It is generally agreed that the persecutions due to Akhenaten occurred in the last third of his reign, after the death of queen Tiy.
If Kheruef's chambers could been defaced at any time, it is possible (a hypothesis of Nims) that, out of respect for her, the representations of the jubilee weren't touched until after his death.

2) - After the reign of Akhenaton.

This time it was the traces of the latter which were made to disappear, without however taking the trouble to restore the name of Amon. The representations of the king were violently hammered, which resulted in the collapsing of significant portions of wall.

 Later changes to the Kheruef complex 

During the 19th Dynasty, eight tombs were dug in the east portico and in the north and south walls of the courtyard.
A stela was carved on the south face of the unfinished pillar of the east portico, north of the line of axis. This stela identifies the tomb TT193 of Ptahemheb, but is of an uncertain date.
Some funeral shafts have been dug in the courtyard, while around the complex there appears an unimaginable interlacing of galleries, of more or less finished rooms, sometimes arched, most of the time anonymous. Numerous collisions occurred, and some galleries are only separated by a few centimetres of rock.
A special page will (as early as possible) be dedicated to these tombs: "Around Kheruef"

During Ptolemaic times, part of the north wing of the first portico was isolated by a mud brick wall, which continued into the courtyard, and was covered by a roof.


Kheruef served during the reign of Amenhotep III and his son Amenhotep IV, at the time when the latter was not yet Akhenaten. The two sovereigns are represented in the funerary monument, as well as queen Tiy, who had acquired an important political and religious influence at the end of the reign of a sick Amenhotep III. Kheruef was given authorisation to construct his funerary complex at the end of the reign of the old sovereign, at the same time or just after the third jubilee of the latter.

Whilst the decoration was being achieved, Amenhotep III died, or had given power to his son by making him co-regent. The son had not yet imposed the new artistic style which would be so characteristic of the beginning of his reign, and queen Nefertiti is not even present.

What is known about the person of Kheruef comes not only from his tomb, but also from the survey by Labib Habachi and Jocelyne Berlandini of four whole or fragmentary statuaries, as well as of jar plugs. Some funerary cones with his name are also known.
Two of the statuaries were recovered in the funerary complex, smashed to pieces. The first is cut at waist level and the whole upper part is lost; the second is only represented by some inscriptions and a head that are currently in a private collection ( see image).

By collecting these elements, some things can be learned, but nothing on the private life, nor the progress of the career of this very high commissioner.

1) - Kheruef and his family

The name Kheruef was not the birth name of the owner of tomb 192. This was Naa (or Naai, meaning "smooth"), the name which appears five times in the tomb, of which three are in the form "Naa, who is called Kheruef".
  • His father was called Siked (or Nebked). He was "Scribe of the army of the Sovereign of the Two lands", a prestigious post.
  • His mother was named Ruiu, and carried the titles of "Royal ornament, chantress of Isis, the God's mother", as well as "chantress of Amon". It is likely that she exercised her talents during the first Jubilee.
- There is no proof that Kheruef was married, and the lady quoted as Henutneferet in the tomb is presumably his sister (the qualifying snt-f is able to signify 'his sister' or 'his wife"). No children are mentioned.

2) - Kheruef carried some very important titles

    a) - Some of the general titles
These show that Kheruef was obviously a man very close to the royal couple, and particularly the queen.
 - "Royal (or True) scribe"
 - "Noble and count (or governor)"
 - "Porter of the royal seal"
 - " First Herald of the king",
a frequently mentioned title
 - "The one who is efficient for his Horus" (= his king)
 - "Steward"
 - "Steward of the Great Wife Royal Tiy"
 - "Steward of the Great Royal Wife in the domain of Amon"
. It implies a close relationship between Kheruef and the temple of Amon, and with its clergy, which could explain his disgrace under Akhenaten.

    b) - To the above general titles can be added some others, more specifically appropriate to the first and third jubilee festival.
Kheruef therefore had responsibility for the preparation of the jubilees of year 30 and then year 37 of Amenhotep III.
- "Governor of the palace"
- "Governor of the palace in the function of the jubilee"
- "Servant of the king at the time of the jubilee"

A statue of Bubastis and the graffiti in Asswan manifests that Kheruef had to travel to the north and south of the country within the framework of the preparation of these imposing festivals.

It is possible to appreciate the favour which he enjoyed by reading the dedicatory inscription at the time of the third jubilee, which is particularly praiseworthy: "The prince, the governor, the great companion at the foot of the king's throne, excellent confidant of the king, the favourite of Horus in his house, he whom the king promoted greater others, whose character satisfies the Lord of Two Lands, the royal scribe, and steward of the Great Royal Wife Tiy, Kheruef [..]"

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