The study of Inerkhau's circumstances proves to be fascinating, because this character, important in his position among craftsmen but not belonging to the Egyptian aristocracy, knew how to find the means to construct for himself not only one but two tombs.
The tombs of this last period of occupation of the site of Deir el-Medina are rarely decorated. Whether it was a lack of time and suitable finances, lack of qualified personnel, uncertainty and political unrest or increasing poverty of the monarchy engendering that of the workers? It seems that the progressive decadence slowed down, then almost stopped the artistic development of painters and their product.
Only the favoured, such as the chief of works Inerkhau and the foreman Hay (tomb TT267), a contemporary of Ramesses IX, seem to have had enough fortune or skill, enough authority and connections to make for themselves beautifully decorated tombs with polychromatic frescos. The rest of the corporation of craftsmen appear to have been content with chapels and chambers merely covered in a plain white-wash covering.
The period situated between the end of the reign of Ramesses III and the beginning of that of Ramesses IV, was also a period of social unrest, known for the first strikes in history, motivated by the non payment of the wages by a Pharaonic administration at a time strangled by the lack of resources in the treasury and also for being extensively corrupt.
The first tomb of Inerkhau is reduced today to its chamber and bears the number TT359: it is one of the rare tombs that the Supreme Council of Antiquities hasn't (yet) closed. It also included a forecourt, which proves to be complex as will be seen, and a decorated chapel of which nothing now remains.
Inerkhau's second tomb is TT299 and it was probably this one which was intended for Inerkhau himself, TT359 probably being meant for the the use of his family. What remains of this will be examined within these pages thanks to the reports of Bernard Bruyère's excavations. These reports are exceptional and are first-hand documents of the study of both monuments
The name Inerkhau signifies literally:
"Onuris appears" (Onuris was a Greek inflection of the name of the god Iny-Hor) ; he was the son of Hay and his wife was named Wabet.
He belonged to an old family of "foremen", being the leaders of the craftsmen of Deir el-Medina working in the "Set-Ma'at" (= the place of truth, the Valley of the Kings). These workers and craftsmen were placed in charge of the digging and the decoration of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and in that of the Queens.
Inerkhau was in particular responsible for the work carried out in the royal tombs, the prime directive of the institution which he directed, as his titles show :
"Foreman in the Place of Truth in the west of Thebes";
"Director of the works of the Lord of the Two Lands"
In his tomb, Inerkhau is accompanied by its wife Wab (et) (
"the Pure") and many children. Wabet carries the commonplace title of
"Mistress of the House", but also of
"Chantress of Amon", which shows that she had a function in the temple of Karnak.
The genealogical data that exists (Bruyère) appears confusing, but it seems that :
Huy, the owner of TT361, was the father of Qaha. Huy is the one who painted the chamber of his great-grandson Inerkhau.
Qaha was the grandfather of Inerkhau.
- This is the same Qaha who is owner of the chapel TT360, with a preceding courtyard and additional courtyard with the peristyle (pillared porch) decorated with stelae at its rear (see below).
Hay was the father of Inerkhau. His name is mentioned in the two tombs TT359 and TT299. In an inexplicable manner, he doesn't possess a clear funerary monument in this group.
Inerkhau (son of Hay, grandson of Qaha and great-grandson of Huy), husband of Wabet, who is owner of these two tombs which are the basis of these three related pages.
It is indeed necessary to consider this domestic group which unites Inerkhau to his two forebears.
It represents a vast terrace of 28m from north to south and 14m at its greatest depth (east-west). It is elevated artificially with the help of embankments and thus raised by about 3 to 4 metres above the level of the village of Deir el-Medina. It was surrounded by thick walls and decorated with pyramids, made from thick stone blocks bound by a lime mortar and then coated with a white plaster.
The chapel (TT360) of Qaha only partially survived at the time of its discovery, because the south part had collapsed in an adjacent chamber underneath and only 0.80m of the north walls and the shrine were even present on top. Its measurements are estimated to have been 5.30m along the facade and 3.20m in depth. The shrine of the chapel was surmounted by a pyramid with sides of 5m and 7m in height.
The burial chamber of Qaha was decorated in a much more interesting manner than that of Inerkhau: this was the work of a real master from the time of Ramesses II and the result is close to that of the famous tomb of Ipuy, TT217. It cannot presently be detailed here, on this web-site.
The pyramid of Huy stood to the right of the one of his son Qaha; it measured 4m along its base sides and had a height of 5m. It surmounted a room of 2.30m in depth by 1.40m in width.
To the north (on the right on the plan), Qaha extended the courtyard which was in front of the chapel of Huy on a old layer of ashes and "sebakh" mingled with straw dating from an even older time. It had originally been the location of a previous funerary monument (and independent of this chapel) and which now formed of a courtyard of 8.25m x 5m and a peristyle as wide as the courtyard and 2.65m deep with three 0.70m wide full pillars and two half pillars.
The courtyard with the peristyle, of Qaha, was surrounded by walls to the north and south with a communicating door towards the courtyard of Huy. To the east, a pylon wall, more elevated and thicker, framed the main entry, which explains the projection of this wall in relation to those of the other two, because the final stage of the mausoleum of Qaha included the fusion, into a single unit: the three courtyards and facades of the three chapels.
The rear wall of the peristyle was decorated with two large stelae of engraved limestone and it was painted and pierced by two doors
The one at the south (left) opens up on to a small room of 1.60m x 1.80m, which seems to have been a chapel and of which the brick walls were probably decorated with frescos or bas-reliefs, but which no longer exists.
The one to the north (right) opens up on to a staircase which first went up towards the west. It then turned through 90º and proceeded north to exit the monument outside on to the path of the necropolis. This went from the village toward the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. It thus passed to the foot of the terrace courtyard of the funerary concession of .
Between the two doors and behind the stelae of Qaha one would have expected to find a central chapel having been the main goal of the construction of the whole monument. In reality, this space was, at the time of the discovery, just an empty space in the middle of which penetrates a brick-lined funerary well descending to the burial chamber (TT359) of Inerkhau.
The use of family tombs at Deir el-Medina goes back to the end of the 18th Dynasty, but by this time encounters a problem of space: the hill is not expandable and the considerable growth of some families caused a difficulty for the location for new mummies in the lower limits, which was restricted because of human habitation.
One would think that the accession to an important function such as the one of chief of works, if it didn't give the right to a special mausoleum, provided for the vanity of the newly elected sufficient reason to assume this prerogative and that, in fact, all chief of works hastened after their nomination to acquire a second tomb.
For these motives, Inerkhau, a member of a large family which already included several chiefs of works, would first have dug and decorated the burial chamber N°.359 to the north of the tomb of his forebears Huy and Qaha, would have then, after his hierarchical elevation, created for his personal use the large tomb complex TT299. Meanwhile, the grouping together of the three tombs 359-360-361 was destined for the other family members.
Bruyère recovered the charred remains of the wooded case of Wab (et), the wife of Inerkhau, in the burial chamber of his ancestor Huy (TT360).
A religious principle which always places Horus to the left of his father Osiris exists when this couple of gods faced the rising sun, and it also imposes on mortals to place the son's funerary chapel to the left of that of the father, when viewed facing east.
At Deir el-Medina, striving for this formation was constant and often achieved only at the cost of modifying the layout conceived by previous generations.
It is possible that Qaha, who already had his chapel N°.360 to the south (that is to the right of pyramid N°.361 of his father Huy), when he wanted to conform to the rules of divine and funerary precedence, created a false facade for a chapel to the left of his father's tomb. The peristyle decorated with stelae, which didn't open up on to anything but did create a majestic porch at the rear of a vast courtyard.
This hypothesis necessarily implies that the place was already occupied by Inerkhau and that (with the agreement of his son), Qaha would have removed all superstructures of his descendant's tomb and thus providing him with an access (only) to the burial chamber behind the peristyle.
This would thus resolve this ritual problem according to the customs of the community, Qaha and Inerkhau both being on the left of their ancestor Huy.
The disappearance of his actual chapel could be an additional prime reason for driving Inerkhau to make for himself a new separate tomb, TT299.
The excavation of the subterranean region of the peristyle found, in the north-east east corner of TT361, a previous well shaft of the 18th Dynasty, with a depth of 4.85m, which accessed a long and low burial chamber to the west. This connected by a breach in its western side with the bottom part of the well shaft of TT359, exiting opposite the door of Inerkhau's first chamber (chamber F).
However the real access to Inerkhau's burial chamber was by the vertical shaft of about 4.50m depth located in the chamber behind Qaha's peristyle. This lead by a downwards sloping corridor, in a south west direction, to a small arched corridor joining it at a right angle, which then emerged into the first of Inerkhau's underground chambers (chamber F).
A comparison of the present state of the monument with the plates of Richard Lepsius (middle 19th century) shows everything that has since been lost.
The first room (chamber F), oriented south-west/north-east, is 4.70m long by 2.05m wide. The summit of its arched ceiling reaches a height of 2m. Into the south wall is dug a niche (annexe) which occupies the whole length of the wall. In the north-west corner, is a descent of four steps permitting access to a second room (chamber G). Although not at right-angles to chamber F, this chamber is still not aligned exactly south to north, more south-south-east/north-north-west. Its dimensions are: length 4.85m and width 2.30m. Its arched ceiling reaches a height of 2.17m.
The better shows the underground arrangement.
Dug into the rock, the two rooms constituting the burial chamber of Inerkhau were however faced with mud bricks, these were then covered with a coating of silt mixed with a yellow pulverised powder which settles after the rains and which was used as binder. This was then whitewashed with a top coat of plaster. Finally the representations were applied in a mixture of colours on the typical yellow background of the time.
Please refer to the quoted at at the top of the page. The monument is characterised by several original details: good quality of execution of paintings, painted ceilings of the first chamber, seldom found funerary vignettes, literary or religious texts, and an original provision of decorations (primarily extracted from the Book of the Dead), which can be coherently analysed through the Egyptian concept of the beyond at the end of the New Kingdom.
It is necessary to remember that this is a burial chamber, therefore the underground part of the tomb, whose access was forbidden after funeral ceremony. Its decor was destined solely for the deceased and only includes scenes of funerary concerns. No element of the social life of the deceased is represented here: they were represented in the surface chapel, but in the case of Inerkhau this has disappeared.
The distribution of paintings form a certain coherence which is first divided into a "vertical" distribution of scenes.
The lower register is occupied by the representations of the rituals accomplished by the family of the deceased.
The upper registers contain vignettes extracted of the funerary books.
The bases of the walls of the two rooms are decorated with the motif of a surrounding wall with castlements, all on a white background, This, together with two upper coloured horizontal bands, delimits the space dedicated to religious and artistic decoration of the tomb.
The decor of the first chamber is centred around the arrival of the deceased in the world of the beyond. In this, Inerkhau's wife Wabet plays an important role. This role is much more discreet in the second chamber which especially represents life in the beyond.
It seems that the decor has been created so that the walls situated on the right, when heading from the entry of the first chamber towards the rear of the second, favour the rituals of welcome and transformation until the moment where Inerkhau presents himself in front of Osiris and Ptah at the rear of the second chamber.
The opposite walls are inscribed from the rear of the second chamber up to the western wall of the first, so that the transformation which resulted in a new life, are outwardly manifested in the representations of the south-westerly wall of chamber F.
A cyclic movement results from this, in an anticlockwise direction, leading the deceased from the simple mortal stage to a complete assimilation into the house of
imak (= privileged, blissful, favoured…) in the necropolis and in the beyond.
It should be noted that there is a total absence at this time of evocation of funeral ceremony in the chamber: no funerary procession, no scene of lamenting, no funeral banquet…