The tomb of Nyankhnefertem also known as Temi

Firstly, note that in the hieroglyphic version of his name, seen above, the "nefertem" or "nefertum" portion comes first and the "nyankh" part comes last.
The funerary complex discussed here belongs to the funerary priest Nyankhnefertem, also known as Temi (his friendly name). It was discovered in 1997 at Saqqara, below the west part of the surrounding wall of the step pyramid of Djoser, to the east of the "dry moat", by the Polish mission of Saqqara, controlled by Prof. Karol Myśliwiec. This discovery followed shortly after the one of the vizier Merefnebef (also known as Fefi), it's neighbour, just to the south.
The survey, the conservation and the publication of the monument of this last one took several years, and it was necessary to wait until 2003 for the work to commence on the complex of Temi.

The representations of the complexes of Temi and Fefi are difficult to consider one without the other. This is why we recommend to read the Osirisnet pages dedicated to the .
The chapel of Nyankhnefertem is - and will remain - closed to the public because of its fragility, just like the one of Merefnebef. Warm thanks go to Prof. Karol Myśliwiec, on the one hand because he personally made it possible for me (Thierry) to visit the Temi complex with him, and on the other hand in the name of all Internet users which, thanks to his agreement, can now discover this exceptional monument on OsirisNet.


The archaeological layers of the Old Kingdom were concealed under a thickness of several metres of sand, soil and rubble, in which were scores of newer burials, essentially dating of the Ptolemaic period, which added to the hundreds previously discovered. The survey of these superficial layers of the necropolis proved to be very fruitful, and gave rise to a special publication: Saqqara III, Upper Necropolis, Volume 2.
Some of the burials lately discovered revealed interesting funerary material, like a girl of about twenty years of age, whose mummy was accompanied by a magnificently paint wooden canopic chest, surmounted by a falcon with two tall feathers on its head (see ). There was also a statuette, also in multicoloured wood, representing a mummiform image of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris (see ). Another girl, between 15 and 18 years of age, carried on her mummy a beautiful two part cartonnage: a gilt mask on her face and a large usekh necklace on her chest (see ).

In the levels going back to the Old Kingdom, three chapels dating from the end of the 6th Dynasty have been discovered, revolving around a common courtyard, situated to the north of the one of Merefnebef, with which it joins. Some funerary shafts are connected to them, but their relationship with the chapels is not obvious, because none of them are finished and all have been reused during the time toward the end of 6th Dynasty and\or in the Greco-Roman period.

The three chapels which share the same courtyard (see ) is No.15 (the one of Nyankhnefertem, which is the subject of these pages), No.16 (anonymous, but fairly advanced) and No.17 (uninscribed, and at the stage of rough hewing). They present an architectural and structural consistency, making it possible to consider them as belonging to the complex of Nyankhnefertem, without knowing if the occupants were his family members (eldest son? wife?). Obviously No.15 preceded the other two.
The deluges of rain which marked the end of 6th Dynasty flooded all the chapels, forcing the abandonment of the cult worship which was carried out there. It is also during this period that the surface mastaba collapsed and when the funerary shaft No.89 was dug.

Besides the very important work of restoration, the archaeologists protected the chapels of Merefnebef and Nyankhnefertem, as well as chapel 16, by constructions made from bricks (see )

Chapel 15 - In general

This represents the one of Nyankhnefertem, also known as Temi, which is the subject of the following pages.
The total funerary complex is composed of four elements: the chapel 15 dug into the cliff, originally surmounted by a mastaba, via which were annexed two funerary shafts.

The mastaba of mud bricks was built on an already existing thick layer of sand and gravel, etc. This type of mastaba should not be confused with those of Mereruka, Kagemni, Nikauisesi and many others, which included within them the actual chapel chambers, often with the access to the burial shafts being located with one of the chambers. Today, that of Nyankhnefertem is almost completely destroyed, but the remains shows that it was the same as the adjoining tomb of Merefnebef, especially regarding the orientation, the direction and size (10.60m by 8.00m, or 20 by 15 cubits). Virtually no other details are known, except that its west wall, the one closest to the coving of the cliff, into which the entrance and chapel chamber was excavated, had been supported by a bed of stones, which was not the case with the one of its neighbour (see ). The area above the entry to Merefnebef's chambers actually collapsed and totally enclosed the entry and front part of the courtyard.

Two shafts, one of these is funerary (shaft No.77), the other ritual (shaft No.52) are associated with this tomb. A skeleton was found at the bottom of the first, but it is not the one of Temi. These shafts will be detailed more fully on page 5.

The rock-cut chapel chamber, situated down below, entered through the rock face, is approached by a courtyard. The distance between the southern end of the entry facade wall of this complex and the northern end of that of Merefnebef is 5.10m.
Unlike the one of its neighbour, the facade is not decorated apart from the long banner of text which overhangs the entry. The entry opens up almost in the centre of the facade, a little towards the south (right) and provides a small uninscribed corridor leading into a single chamber.
This inner chamber, which measures 6.53m by 2.83m, with a height of 1.90m, presents an irregular shape: none of the walls which face each other are actually parallel to the axis (see the plan above), which is especially obvious for the west wall (the entry wall) which curves roughly inwards from both ends (the entry forming the narrowest part of the chamber), but flattened and almost parallel with the east wall at its extremities.
The rocky ground, which remained irregular after the work carried out by the quarrymen, was levelled by means of a layer of mud.
At the time of the discovery, an offering table (actually a large decorated flat stone) was almost in the centre of the room, to where it had been moved by looters, from the bottom of a false door, its original position. The north part of the chamber was also full of rubble coming from the content of a neighbouring funerary shaft (No.89) belonging to a later burial: the layer of rock which separated them, which was too fine, didn't resist the collapse of the north wall of the chapel. The accident can be dated to the end of the 6th Dynasty or the First Intermediate Period.

The funerary complex of vizier Merefnebef exercised on the one of its neighbouring Nyankhnefertem a considerable influence and served as an indisputable model. However, both monuments also contain significant differences which translate as the evolution of the social and political context, as well as the new fears which emerged in the few decades which separate them.
Work in the three chapels 15,16 and 17 certainly started toward the middle of the reign of Pepi I, whereas the mastaba of Merefnebef, achieved in the first part of the 6th Dynasty, probably under Teti, was still in use, i.e. visited by members of the family.

Chapel 16

(see )

This opens up in the north wall of the courtyard. Its placement in the courtyard would have followed shortly after the one of Nyankhnefertem. The facade (4.36m by 2.33m) includes at the summit the remains of a banner consisting of a formula of offering. The owner's name has disappeared with the west extremity of the inscription. The inside of the chapel, which measures 9.00m by 2.40m, includes a main chamber, an annexe and a serdab. There are no inscriptions or decorations. It seems that the unknown occupant of the funerary shaft No.59, which is in the north-west corner of the courtyard, preferred to use this abandoned chapel for his funerary cult because it was nevertheless a lot more advanced than the nearer chapel 17; it was probably he who dug the niche which is in the west wall of the main chamber.

Chapel 17

(see )

This dates from the same period. Its entry is immediately to the left of the one of chapel 16 (see ). As already mentioned, close by, in the north-west corner of the courtyard, opens up a large funerary shaft, No.59. The incomplete facade measures 4.50m by 2.15m. The entry gives access to an oblong irregular chamber of 4.40m by 2.41m. The monument is completely uninscribed.


The owner: Nyankhnefertem

His name means "life belongs to Nefertem", this is often replaced by its abridged form: "Temi". As noted previously, in the hieroglyphic version of his name, seen left, the "nefertem" portion comes first and the "nyankh" part comes last.

His titles mentioned in the chapel are :
1. Overseer of the royal meal
2. Overseer of the noble places of the Great House
3. Overseer of linen
4. Assistant supervisor of the god's servants (funeral priests) of the pyramid of Unas (actually written and often known as "Wenis") (see )
5. Guardian of the king’s property
6. Divine servant of the pyramid of Unas
7. Divine servant of the pyramid of Teti (see )
8. Head steward of the Great House
9. Head steward of the king's house
10. The one privy to secrets
11. The one privy to the secrets of the House of the Morning
12. The one privy to the secrets of the god's words
13. The one privy to the king's secrets in his every cult place
14. The one privy to the secrets of his god (= the king) every day
15. Sole companion
16. Companion of the house
17. Companion of the Great House
18. Inspector of the royal estate
19. Inspector of the Great House
20. Inspector of […] of the Great House

Among all these titles, those appropriate to the funeral temples of Unas and Teti are the most meaningful, while the epithet "sole companion", very important in previous times, but no longer in the 6th Dynasty, was an honorary title serving to indicate appointment to the nobility. For the record, "Per-aa", the "Great House", designates the royal palace; from the 18th Dynasty it also designates the sovereign himself (from which we get "Pharaoh"), or as is said in modern times the "Royal Palace" or the "White House".

The family

A tomb is more than just a place of burial, it is also a place of memory, whose management was submitted to constraints, often contradictory and sometimes opposing, of the royal ideology, of the will of the deceased and his family's aspirations (Carlos Moreno Garcia) .

His wife

From the scenes and inscriptions, Nyankhnefertem had only one wife, named Seshseshet , who held just the following two titles: the "king's acquaintance" and "Priestess of Hathor, Lady of the sycamore".

His sons

Among the children, the eldest son, Meruka  (and on the facade banner , which would actually translate as Meruk), plays important roles: "wab-priest of the Great House" and "inspector of the king's house", he is represented in seven scenes. His special place is manifested by two iconographic occurrences (which are a lot more important than in the text). On the one hand, he is the only one to be represented in his father's model (wig, loincloth, etc.) ; on the other hand he is also the only one who has the privilege to have his feet placed along side those of his father.

The other sons are:
Djawy  : he is found in only two scenes and his only function given in the tomb is "under-supervisor of the Great House".
Tjetji  : he is also found in only two scenes and his only function given in the tomb is "functionary and attendant of the Great House".
Mereri   and  : Nyankhnefertem probably had three sons of this name, who is found in 4 scenes. Two of these are on the east wall, but the name of one of these images has been altered to Mereri, whilst in the other a child named Mereri appears both in front and behind their father. In these he is depicted as naked, possibly representing him as the youngest. Only once is he identified with a title (on the west wall) : "[…] of the Great House" (note that the first part of this title is missing).
These three sons named Mereri pose a problem, notably the two younger brothers which seem to have to fight to emphasise their rights (whether real or not is another problem). At least one of them tried to usurp (clumsily) part of the decoration. Nevertheless, all three seem to have had brilliant careers, with even a vizier amongst them. All have a tomb in the surroundings of the pyramid of Djoser. Karol Myśliwiec dedicated a special article to them: "The mysterious Mereris", see bibliography.

His daughters

Two daughters are pictured and identified in only one scene, on the south wall, standing in front of their seated parents:
They are Metjut  and Khenut  . In the hieroglyphic naming of the daughter Metjut, the "w" hieroglyph (used as "u") is missing. Before each of their names is written "His daughter, his loved". This is followed by the only thing known of them, their title, which is the same in both cases: "acquaintance of the king".


In the decoration of the four walls of the Nyankhnefertem chapel chamber is similar to that of the main cult chamber of vizier Merefnebef, but with several small differences, the main one being that the decoration is incomplete. Only the northern part was both carved and painted. The rest of the reliefs, sometimes coarse, were not painted.
Each side is occupied by a large original painting, except the north wall which is extended on to part of the west wall. Each has its own pattern border. Apart from the zone of the three false doors on the west wall, Here there is a wide uninscribed band (about 0.65m) between the bottom of the tables and the floor. Most of the figures and hieroglyphs are in raised relief, but not all, though logic can be generated underlying it.


Like that of Merefnebef, which is only 5.10m away (towards the right, see the plan above), the facade is in a recess in the cliff. It measures 5.45m in length and the average height, between the ground and the top of the upper band is recorded as 2.35m, the lower part of the south side of the entry (on the right) where its base merges into the rocky mass of the court. The cliff in which it was excavated (and on which was erected the mastaba) forms a kind of awning extending beyond the front wall by 0.68m.
The designers have done their best to try to make it look like the facade of that of its famous neighbour, imitating its tripartite arrangement. It is clear that the two panels underneath the banner, on either side of the entrance, were intended to be engraved, since the rock was smoothed and mortar was used to seal some cracks. But the decoration has never been achieved, maybe because of the owner's early death.

The banner is treated as a pseudo-lintel, 0.50m high, the inscriptions running from left to right. Large sections of the inscription have suffered from weathering, particularly above the entrance. The composition of the inscription, just like the shape of the hieroglyphs, imitates those of the facade of Merefnebef: for example, at the end of the inscription (left) is a representation of the deceased standing with his wife and their eldest son, all turned towards the south, however, the son's head is turned towards his parents (see the image opposite), the left hand end of the banner joins against the banner of the facade of chapel 16 (see ). Nyankhnefertem is wearing a broad necklace and a kilt with a projecting frontpiece, and is holding a long staff of office, which his son grabs with a hand. Seshseshet places an arm around the shoulder of her husband. Here, as mentioned above, his son's name is written with the hieroglyphic "k" and not the usual "ka".
Note: the hieroglyph representing a sledge, "tm" (Gardiner u15), intended to write the Temi nickname, has been altered deliberately, without a doubt after the owner's death (see ). Other identical cases will be found inside the monument and it will be seen than it represents a deliberate attempt to ridicule the deceased.
The text is in four horizontal rows (top down), with the identification of Temi in a vertical column in front of the family image and that of the the son is written above and in front of him. Note should be made that the wife in not named in the text.
Translation :
(1) "An offering which the King gives and Anubis, 'Foremost of the Divine Booth', 'Who is in embalming place', 'Who is upon his hill', lord of the Sacred Land, that he may be buried in the necropolis in the Western Desert, after he has become exceedingly old […] as a honoured one by the great god, and an offering which Osiris gives, Lord of Busiris, that he may travel upon the beautiful roads upon which honoured ones used to travel before the great god.
(2) An offering which Osiris, Lord of Busiris gives, (namely) an invocation offering for him, on the Opening of the Year Festival, the Festival of Thot, on the Beginning of the Year Festival, the Wag Festival, Festival of Sokar, the Great Festival, the Festival of Min, the Beginning of the Month and Beginning of Half-month Festival […] on (every) festival, every day, in eternity as (for) a honoured one by Anubis, Lord of Burial in the necropolis.
(3) He is honoured by the king, the one who is honoured by the Great God, the one who is loved among the people, the one who does justice which is beloved by the god. I was the one who spoke well and reported well, the one who did what the god likes. I was the one who caused peace and who lived in a state of reverence. I revered my father and my mother.
(4) God's servant of the pyramid of Unas, sole companion, privy to secrets of the king in all his cult places, inspector of the Great House, companion of the house, privy to secrets of the House of the Morning, inspector of […] of the Great House […] overseer of the king's repast, overseer of the noble places of the Great House […] overseer of linen."
(5) "Companion of the Great House, Temi."
(6) "His eldest son, his beloved, Meruka."