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TT96, the Tomb Complex of Sennefer , Mayor of the "Southern City", Thebes

Located in a prominent position on the southern hillside of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, close to several other tombs from the time of Amenhotep II (of the 18th Dynasty, about 1439-1413 B.C.). It is usually referred to as the "Tomb of Vines", because a large part of the ceiling of the burial (or coffin) chamber and all of that of its antechamber are decorated to give the impression of standing under an overhanging vine arbour, hung with large bunches of grapes.

The tomb complex consists of the underground burial chamber (TT96B), opened to the public and the surface chapel (TT96A), is surveyed by a joint mission of the Centre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine ( Créa - Patrimoine) (= Centre for Research in Archaeology and Heritage) of the ULB and the University of Liege. The mission focuses on the study and conservation - restoration of the paintings and texts of the TT96A chapel.


The monument has been known since at least 1826. It was visited by the Englishman Robert Hay de Linplum, who made copies for the tomb's decoration, which are now in the British Museum. In 1895 the English Egyptologist Percy Newberry made it the subject of a very limited investigation, intended primarily to copy one of the texts preserved in the chapel. Later, in 1898, it was eventually published together with plans, line drawings and a complete record of the texts of the lower chambers. This was done by the Frenchman Philippe Virey. This publication is invaluable because several details from the antechamber were lost after his record was made. In none of these publications is there any indication of the presence of any grave goods; although some of the goods stored in the upper cult chamber may eventually be identified as such. There is no evidence to prove that Sennefer was actually buried in this tomb. It is possible that Sennefer received an unusual personal favour from the king, allowing him the privilege to be buried in the empty tomb (KV42) of the wife of Tuthmosis III, in the Valley of the Kings. Vessels with the names of Sennefer and his wife, Senetnay, were found in this tomb.

Over the intervening years there have been numerous attempts to rob the tomb of its paintings. One such scene is in the Florence Museum. Other scenes were returned but, although originally restored incorrectly, are now in their correct places. During 1994 the tomb suffered damage from a violent storm.

TT96B was opened to the public soon after its discovery and still receives several thousand visitors each year. However, the painting of the walls and pillars are now protected and secured behind glass, with fairly good lighting, although only placed at floor level. This addition of protection and lighting made good photography difficult, even when it was still allowed. Visitors are only allowed in the underground part of the complex, the burial chamber and its antechamber, accessed being made via the steep passage stairway from the courtyard. Fortunately, these two chambers, unlike most of the other private tombs of 18th Dynasty, are beautifully decorated. Access to the upper cult chambers has been unavailable, mainly due to its dangerous condition and the fact that they were used as store rooms.


Some confusion arises over the family relationship of Sennefer. These problems arise from the fact that the ancient Egyptian language does not differentiate between "brother" and "cousin", "father" and "uncle", or "sister" and "wife".

Two sets of parents, both identified as Sennefer's parents, are found in the upper chambers of TT96.
•  On the rear wall of the main chamber, Sennefer pays homage to "his father, the steward of the domain of the divine wife, (Ahmose) Humay" and his wife, Nub; these are also known through various references as definitely being the parents of Amenemope.
•  Appearing in four other locations are, however, two others referred to in relation to Sennefer as: "his father, the second prophet of Horus, lord of Qus (called Apollinopolis by the Greeks), Nu" and "his mother, whom he loves, the mistress of the house, Henutiry" (sometimes called "Ta-iry").
•  This confusion is resolved in Ahmose's own tomb, TT224 (as yet unpublished), also located at Abd el-Qurna, but in the lower necropolis, closer to the Ramesseum. Here there is an image of Sennefer, where he is identified as "the son of his (Ahmose's) sister, the one who is devoted to his brother, Sennefer". There are no known instances where "son of his sister" could be interpreted as "son of his wife", he would always be referred to as "his son". Thus, Ahmose is referring to Sennefer as his nephew.
•  The relationships are resolved: Sennefer and Amenemopet are cousins; Nu and Henutiry are his father and mother; Ahmose Humay and Nub are his uncle and aunt.

Sennefer took up his role as Mayor of the Southern City (Thebes) during the reign of Amenhotep II. His cousin, Amenemopet, was Vizier of Upper Egypt, which included Thebes. They both probably owed their position to Ahmose Humay, who actually managed to become overseer of the royal harem and tutor of princes, whilst Nub, his wife, was a lady of the court. These two cousins may have grown up together with the prince, who eventually became king Amenhotep II.

Sennefer himself:
As already stated, Sennefer's most important title was that of "Mayor of the Southern City", which during this period additionally included other cities, their ports and their surrounding lands. Even with this title, his position was subordinate to that of his cousin, who was the vizier and to whom he was responsible for the collection of the taxes of grain and other goods.
He also held a great many other titles, found as usual embedded in the inscriptions which accompany the scenes of the walls, ceilings and pillars of both the upper and lower chambers. The list is quite extensive, some being more honorary than practical in nature; but such a long list was not unusual for high officials.

In his autobiography, found on the ceiling of the longitudinal corridor of the upper chambers, he describes himself in the following manner:
"The well-beloved courtier, great of the great ones, the noble dignitary among the courtiers and (of) the Lord of Upper and Lower Egypt, he says: 'I reached the state of venerable old age under the king, in that I was the confidant of the Lord of the Two Lands. The king knew of my excellence and he knew that I did useful things in the service in which he had placed me. He investigated everywhere, but could find nothing bad of me. I was praised because of this and my every need was catered for. He appointed me as chief administrator and Mayor of the Southern City, as overseer of the granary of Amun, overseer of the fields of Amun, as overseer of the gardens of Amun, high priest of Amun in the temple Men-isut (the mortuary temple of Ahmose-Nefertari) ', Mayor Sennefer, justified by the great god".

Further titles will be discovered in the following pages, thus leaving the reader the enjoyment of creating a personal list.
However, at the end of 2013, Karl Mustafa, the webmaster of a site (in German) entirely devoted to Sennefer ( "Sen-nefer Interessantes aus dem alten Ägypten") gathered all the titles held by the character in a pdf file (in English), which he kindly sent to us, thus leaving the reader the enjoyment of finding them in the actual or our virtual visit of the tomb.

The wives of Sennefer:
Having resolved Sennefer's family relations, the problem of how many women Sennefer was married to must be answered. The names of six different women are found in the total complex and from the texts it certain that they could all refer to Sennefer's wives, even though they are identified as "sister", whilst omitting the qualifier "of the heart". These six names (even with hieroglyphic variations) are:
 • Senetneferet  • Senetnay  • Senetemiah  • Senetmy  • Senay  • Meryt •
For Sennefer to have had six wives is highly implausible, because generally the Egyptians were monogamous. Only if one partner died did a second marriage take place. Even then, for both wives to participate in the hereafter with their common husband, the first deceased wife is usually shown or named next to the second. Six successive marriages is very unlikely, so another explanation is required.
With the exceptions of Meryt (whose name only appears in the burial chamber) and Senetneferet (in the antechamber), all the other names appear in the upper chambers. Also, apart from Meryt, whose name name means "beloved", it can be seen that the other names are all formed from the element Sen(et) "sister" or "wife". It therefore seems likely that they are all just variants of the same name and thus the same person, Senetneferet being created by combining her name with that of Sennefer. In addition, several of these variants are given the same title "wet-nurse of the king" and it seems very improbable that Sennefer married several royal nurses with such similar names.
Senetemiah and Senetmy don't exist and actually result from mistakes of reading or transcription by Kurt Sethe, thus leaving four names. The name Senay would appear to be an abbreviation, which now leaves just three names. As already mentioned, Senetneferet is a name created from a combination the wife's name with that of her husband, so, now there are just two: Senetnay and Meryt.

From examination, it has been determined that the upper cult complex was created and decorated before the lower area, the burial chamber being completed last. Because Meryt only appears in this final chamber, with the others being located mainly in the upper cult chambers, it seems likely that if Sennefer was married twice, then Senetnay (or variants) was first, followed by Meryt. The tomb was thus probably finished during the lifetime of the later.
It would appear that Senetnay died before completion of the lower chambers, and that the pharaoh had possibly decreed that she would not be buried at the side of her husband, but close to him, in the Valley of the Kings (KV42). It is therefore quite possible that Meryt was actually the real sister of Sennefer, who would have taken on the role of the deceased's necessary female consort, indispensable to his regeneration, after death. Indeed, it should be noted that when a deceased was unmarried the iconography of his tomb nevertheless required the presence of a female companion, who could be either his sister or his mother.
Other tombs are known in which a single man or widower has not represented a wife but gave the feminine role to a female relative, such as his sister or mother (see for example Benia TT343).

So, Sennefer may in fact have had only one wife, Senetnay, with its many variants.

Sennefer's children:
Names exist for three daughters: Muttuy (or just Tuya), Mutneferet and Nefertiry.
It has been suggested that Muttuy, who is found only in the antechamber of the burial chamber and on a small piece of unpublished statuary, is actually just a diminutive variant of the name Mutneferet. Thus, there are only two named daughters: Mutneferet and Nefertiry.

Mutneferet was probably the eldest, bearing the titles "chantress of Amun" and "foster ('milk') sister of the Lord of the Two Lands". The other daughter, Nefertiry, seems to have died prematurely, and who was, according to the text in TT96, "buried in the king's favours"; her only title seems to have been the honorary one of "the very beloved servant of the king".

Other unnamed young females appear on the pillars of the main upper chamber, and they could be the daughters of Senetnay.

Found on the sides of a statue of a seated Sennefer and his wife Senetnay, located in the Cairo Museum, are the daughters Nefertiry and Mutneferet, the latter is also seen standing at the front between the legs of her parents.
It is possibly this same Mutneferet who married Kenamon, whose tomb complex is located towards the rear of that of Sennefer, TT93 (see necropolis plan). He became chief steward of Amenemopet II.

An unnamed daughter appears on two faces of the pillars of the lower chamber, once kneeling at the side of his chair (see view opposite) and next standing behind Sennefer's sister, Meryt. Because Mutneferet/Muttuy survived her sister, and is the only one mentioned in the lower antechamber, it seems quite probable that this is also her and not a possible daughter of Meryt.

There does not appear to be any sons, although, one of the daughters of Sennefer and Senetnay, probably Mutneferet, definitely did have one. He is depicted on the rear wall of the cult chapel of TT96A. He presents the bouquet of Amun to his grandparents, and is described as "his daughter's son", but his name is regrettably lost through damage and the daughter isn't named.

An image of a priest, purifying offerings to Sennefer and Meryt, can be found on the right entry wall of the burial chamber, stating that "you may go forth with your son". However, this does actually relate to the priest; it is a statement made by the priest, who refers to Sennefer as the Osiris, and the "son" he is referring to is Horus: "This is your purification, Osiris Mayor of the Southern City, Sennefer, justified. This is your purification, so that you may go forth with Horus, you may go forth with your son."

Sennefer's parents, uncle and aunt:
As discussed above, his parents were Nu and Henutiry, an image of whom is found in the transverse entrance hallway of the cult chapel. Ahmose Humay and Nub were his uncle and aunt.

Sennefer's grandparents:
According to Porter and Moss, the parents of Henutiry (Sennefer's mother) and Ahmose Humay were Senusert (the father) and Ta-Idy. As yet, there is no confirmation of this.

Amenemope, Sennefer's cousin:
Amenemope followed Rekhmire (TT100) in his position as vizier early in the reign of Amenhotep II, with whom he seems to have been very close, as were their tombs TT 29 and TT 96 ( view CreA). It was probably he who had, as was normal for the viziers of this time, the real authority in Thebes, even over his cousin Sennefer. This would mean that Sennefer would have to present all taxation accounts, etc., to his cousin. However, Amenemope and Sennefer were certainly united by ties of deep affection, as the iconographic program of the two tombs reveals: they both appear in each other's chapel, in the same location and, in the chapel of Amenemope, one sees the daughter of Sennefer exhorting her father to come "make a happy day in the tomb of his 'brother', the Vizier".
The wife of Amenemopet is found on the south wall of the longitudinal corridor, where she stands behind her husband as he receives an Amun bouquet from Sennefer. Her name is given as Weretma-etef.

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