The small tomb TT277 is in the Theban necropolis, specifically on the hill of Qurnet-Murai. It belongs to Ameneminet (or Amenemonet), a priest in the service of the god Ptah-Sokar in the Temple of Millions of Years of king Amenhotep III. Although it is incomplete, this chapel-tomb is in a very good state of preservation. Its decoration as seen today features several features of the craftsmanship of the Ramesside period. For example, proportionality in art that was characteristic of work of the XVIIIth Dynasty was no longer respected by the end of the XIXth Dynasty, a trend that became more pronounced in the XXth Dynasty. It is likely therefore that the Ameneminet burial dates from this time.
The Ameneminet tomb was discovered in 1917 by Lecomte du Nouÿ, at the same time as was that of Amenemheb (TT278), its neighbour, with which it shares a courtyard.
His name means
"Amon of the Valley". The valley, sometimes called Valley of the West, refers to the valley on the West Bank at Thebes, at the head of which is the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari. The Hatshepsut temple, as well as that of Montuhotep alongside, are major elements in an event known as the Beautiful Festival of the Valley.
Ameneminet, son of the lady Tadjeseretka, was the husband of the
"chantress of Amon" Nefertari. There are five children who are featured in the tomb. A son, Kenamon, carries the title of
"Priest of Ptah"; four girls are mentioned, but their names are nearly illegible. No genealogical study is possible because no other forebears are noted.
Nothing is known of the career of Ameneminet, other than what is suggested by his title:
"Divine Father of Ptah (or of Ptah-Sokaris) " in the Temple of Million of Years of Amenhotep III, the Amenophium.
The Amenophium was built in the XVIIIth dynasty under the reign of the glorious Amenhotep III (approximately 1390-1352 BC). It was the most significant of the temples of this type (often belittled by the term 'funeral temples'), and was built on the site of Kom el-Hetan. (Subscribers to Newsletter Osirisnet would be aware that archaeologists frequently uncover statues in this location.) The Amenophium, now in a state of total ruin, once extended from the Colossi of Memnon for 500m in the direction of the Theban hills.
Operations within the Amenophium complex began well before the death of the king, as has been explained by Leblanc (Memnonia 2012) :
"…memorials with a liturgical function, but also economic and administrative centres. (…) Recent research has at last clearly shown that their original purpose was especially associated with deification of the king, this particular instance being able to be proclaimed during the reign of the sovereign (…). Works of a personal nature, conceived and put into operation during the lifetime of the Pharaoh, had as their aim his glorification and immortalisation (…) great acts intended to honour their respective constructors… That this worshipping of the king might continue as long as possible after the conclusion of the Pharaoh's terrestrial existence was unmistakably the intention, or rather the challenge, to which this particular institution had to rise, justifying its epithet: 'Temple of Million of Years' (…). An agency of considerable wealth, the temple was a real economic satellite of the central power, and a fortress maintained under a high degree of supervision".
The Amenophium was dedicated to a principal god, Amun, but also allowed for secondary divinities such as Ptah or Sokar. An idea can be obtained of what was lost with the destruction of this great monument of Amenhotep III by looking at various splendidly sculptured and painted re-used blocks that are at currently to be seen in . Merenptah was the son of Ramesses II, and in making his own temple he drew extensively on blocks taken from the nearby monument of his great predecessor, Amenhotep III. If the still mighty Colossi stood at its entrance, how much more mighty must have been the great temple behind them.
In tomb Ameneminet, after the decorated entrance doorway, there is a small room with bright paintings, in which the illustrations seem to spring out from a bluish-white background. The texts are written in colourful hieroglyphs on a yellow background.
In this period there is a noticeable increase in the extent of illustration in the chapels. This feature was already evident at the end of the XIXth dynasty. It culminated during the XXth dynasty, when the effort needed to give a third dimension to a flat representation of the image was completely abandoned. The painter was no longer concerned about the canonical proportions that had been in force previously. This does not mean that a grid was not used to help: the system of using a grid is independent of the canonical proportions (Robin). This is especially evident in the rendering of some figures having limbs and elements out of proportion. These new conventions, which did not take the skeletal structure into account, were sometimes pushed to the point of caricature by loss of proportion, in the fluidity of the strokes in the figure, and in the negligent attention to detail. This can be seen in tomb TT277, for example in the representation of the mourners accompanying the procession of the statues of king Amenhotep III and queen Tiy (see ), and in the height of the two coffins set upright in front of the entrance to the tomb (see ). Another Ramesside characteristic might also be noted here: the oversizing of clothes, tunics, loincloths, pinafores or aprons… with clothing linen set far from bodies, and simple sketching. Even representations of animals, hitherto carefully executed in Egyptian imagery, are now sometimes, in the XXth dynasty, reduced to the simplest expression and frozen in appearance. Thus, in TT277, the legs of the guards are aligned with those of the animals, giving a static impression (see ). In another novelty of the late Ramesside art, women are sometimes shown wearing colourful light-blue, grey, yellow or red clothes (as in the photo above left, where also notice the atrophied arms).
(See ) Owing to demolition and successive additions, it is difficult to identify the original courtyard plan. The courtyard today measures 8.5 x 5m. It is also used as a place to dump garbage, and as a latrine. This applies to the two tombs TT278 of Amenemhab and TT277 of Ameneminet, which are the subjects of these pages. Access is by a modern ramp. The floor level of TT278 is the same as in the courtyard (see ), whilst that of TT277 is by 2m lower (see ).
Workers had to excavate to find a good body of rock, and benefit of enough rock at the level of the ceiling.
Access to the chapel is by going down three or four steps. The fact of this lowering of the ground level has encouraged rainwater to flow down into the tomb, accounting for the degradation in the lower area of the walls inside it. The ancient facade of the tomb has disappeared altogether. There is, however, little doubt that it included a stone lintel and stone doorposts, and that a small pyramid once overhung the entrance door, as will be shown later.
Dating: according to Kampp, tomb TT278, contrary to what Vandier thought, preceded tomb TT277, and that this later dates from the XXth Dynasty.
It is at once apparent that the chamber is irregular in shape. While its general aspect might appear rectangular, in fact none of the walls are at right-angles to one another, and the corners of the room are rounded. The walls, floor and ceiling are all imperfectly levelled, and the effect is bumpy all over. The approximate dimensions are 3.40m in length north-south, with the north wall 2.50m long and the south 1.50m. In the west wall, opposite the entrance, there is a niche 0.50 x 0.65 x 0.45m in size, intended for a stela, statue or shrine (see ).
A short corridor (today blocked off) begins in the north-east corner, leading downwards to an undecorated chamber.
In the lower part of the room, in the south-west corner, there is another small opening, also blocked off (see ). Kampp’s plan shows that this links to a subterranean chamber that has no relationship to the Ameneminet tomb.
Separating the decorated scenes in the room from the ground below, there is six-stripe coloured banner: blue-yellow, blue red, blue white. Below this there is an unpainted zone of varying height. However, the north and north-west walls have only a black line to separate the decoration from the narrow unpainted space below.
The surface of the ceiling has largely broken down, and the decoration is incomplete. The ceiling itself is edged with five coloured bands in dark blue, red and white (see ). A pattern of squares, embellished with small flowers or points, was once above the entrance doorway.
A description of the walls follows, using designations provided by Vandier (see ).
Most of the walls are decorated with large-sized subjects, occupying the full height of the panels (as in A, A', F, F' and G). Wall H is divided into two registers. Walls C and D are quite different in aspect, being divided into five small registers each containing small figures. The lowest register shows that it received the least attention, the artist having had to work close to the ground and on a poorly prepared surface. By contrast, the artist demonstrated greater skill in the upper registers. Some scenes and details are notable for their originality, as in the register of the burial.
The scenes on each side of the entranceway had been well executed but are unfortunately in a sorry state today. On one side they show a couple of high standing, Ameneminet with his wife Néfertari; on the other, only Ameneminet. All the figures face towards the chapel exterior. The style achieved in these two representations is in strong contrast to the decoration of the rest of the chapel.
(See and ). The couple, facing towards the exterior, greet any visitors. Of the representation of Ameneminet, only a part of his tunic and the bottom of his torso remain. Nefertari’s depiction is better preserved. Dressed in a loose white robe, her upper body down to her waist is covered with a red tunic. A headband encircles her long wig, on which there is a cone of ointment. Her right hand is raised in a gesture of welcome, and in her left is a Hathoric sistrum with a floral stem entwined with lanceolate leaves resembling bindweed, indicating arrival on the West bank of the Nile where the tombs are to be found are (see ). She has earrings and bracelets, and is also wearing a usekh collar. Notice, too, the attention to detail in the white fingernails of her hands. The text once overhanging this scene has disappeared.
(See and ) Ameneminet, also facing towards the exterior, has both hands raised in an attitude of homage to the solar disk. He has neither wig nor cone of ointment on his shaven head. A usekh pectoral collar is spread out over his upper chest, and a strap passing over his right shoulder holds up a long translucent overlapping loincloth. There is an accompanying text in front of him, arranged in five vertical columns (the first column and part of the next two have been lost). The end of the text - a hymn to Osiris and to Re - surrounds his face:
[…] the sovereign of the necropolis, prince of eternity, master of everlastingness, who passes the millions (of years) in his time of life; the heir of Geb, who hits the enemies, Unnefer […] in front of the master of the universe, the prince of the princes, the master of the necropolis, the king of the kings, the great of the great, the divine god who is within the Enneads […] the master of the necropolis. What he grants to enter and to leave (freely) to leave the tomb and to drink to the deepest rivers (?) ; that the Ba leaves to the call of his funeral priest to receive lasting offerings for him, that he sits down on […] that he grants to adore Re in his rising, to receive two pieces of land in the fields of Ialu, with the Kaus of the gods and to receive the offerings, before the flooding, at the time of the festival of the New Year. For the Ka of the Osiris, the wab-priest, the lector priest, the divine father in the temple of Sokaris, the employee to the sacred in the house of eternity and the first of his companions in any city, Ameneminet, just of voice, in peace".