The tomb complex is located at the south east corner of the lower enclosure of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna (see bottom right corner of this ), the whole hill being a burial site at this time and with more than 100 tombs of the 18th Dynasty in this lower area. TT38 was constructed during the reign of Tuthmosis IV and almost certainly extended into the early part of that of Amenophis III. The location well reflects the middle social status of Djeserkareseneb, because the dignitaries of this period were buried higher up the hill, to the north-east, in sight of Deir el Bahari. It was only later, when the place was full, that the dignitaries would use the lower part of the hill.
TT38 presents the usual shape of the tomb complexes of the 18th Dynasty, consisting of an open courtyard, then two inner chambers (sometimes with annexes, this one doesn't have any). The inner chambers took the shape of an inverted "T", with the entry from the courtyard being (usually) at the centre of the cross member. The burial chamber is normally accessible by a well-shaft, either located in the courtyard or in one of the internal chambers, in this tomb it's in the first chamber.
Symbolically the courtyard should be oriented toward the east (sunrise, the Nile, day and life), whilst the interior chambers should be to the west (to the setting sun, darkness and kingdom of the dead). TT38, like many of the tombs, deviates from this east-west axis to a more north-south one, because of the alignment of the hill into which it is constructed. The courtyard is at the northern end, with the inner chambers to the south.
The tomb complex was cut into a steep limestone slope which also consists of shale. As usual no major expense had been given to the quarrying of the tomb, and many of the internal walls are not straight, nor are the two ends of the first chamber symmetrical. Currently, a set of modern steps leads into the courtyard, which is also mainly of modern construction. The surounding walls consist of rubble set in mortar and then faced with soft lime plaster.
The poor quality of the rock would not have safely permitted the construction of a tomb of larger dimensions. To do this would have required the whole complex to have been cut at a much lower level in order to find a layer of suitable quality.
Although it is unfinished and damaged in places, it still reveals much about its owner's life and work. In many places the damage to the decoration was deliberate and took place during the Amarna period with the intention of removing all traces of the name Amun.
The tomb was cleared by members of the Mission Archeologique Francaise in the eighteen-eighties and again in 1908 by Weigall.
TT38 was documented for the French mission by Père Scheil. The walls were originally copied by Norman de Garis Davies. His intention was to use them for the purpose of comparison in a publication devoted to the tomb of Nakht, TT52. They were were finally published in the joint publication for this tomb and others, with his wife (Nina), in 1963. The tomb was also covered briefly by Bertha Porter and Rosalind B. Moss in 1927 and by Friederike Kampp in his German publication in 1996. See bibliography for further details.
Djeserkareseneb (Djeser-ka-re-seneb), also known just as Djeserka , held the positions/titles of
"scribe counter of the grain of Amun" and
"steward of the second priest of Amun", who is not actually named in TT38. Djeserka lived during the reigns of Thutmosis IV and Amenophis III. His title of "counter of the grain of Amun" is further extended on one of the walls to
"counter of the corn in the granary of the divine offerings and temples which were under their administration".
His personal character is given on the east wall as being
"The unique one of trustworthy counsel, loved by everyone, exact and just of heart, impartial, praised by his master every day, not [ . . .], a servant of his master, overseer of the milk-cows (?) [ . . .]", this last title seems strange (see the highlighted glyphs opposite, -- the cow determinative is lost).
In most texts in the complex he is simply named Djeserka, but his full name of Djeserkareseneb is found on the western half of the south wall of the transverse hall. In all occurrences of his titles the name Amun has been removed, and in some cases this also includes some additional text.
During the end of the reign of Thutmosis IV, the second priest of Amun (referred to in his titles) was Amenhotep-sa-se, the owner of tomb TT75, where Djeserkareseneb is named as the steward of his household twice. In TT38 Djeserka has based some of his scenes on those from TT75, especially those of the field measuring and of the musicians. It seems that during or after his service to Amenhotep-si-se, Djeserka was placed in charge of the corn lands of Amun, which probably included the control of the lands subject to an annual temple tax. Tomb TT75 is located in the upper el-Qurna enclosure.
His wife, named Wadjrenpet is identified in the tomb as
"his beloved sister of his affection, the mistress of the house".
- Menkheper is identified as
"his son, the scribe". The name is probably an abbreviation of Menkhepere. He is shown at the same height as his mother and father, on the east side of the north wall of transverse hall, almost certainly identifying him as the eldest of the sons.
- Neferhebef is also identified as
"his son the scribe" and
"the goose herdsman".
- Nebse[n]y , identified as
"his son, the scribe and overseer of the weavers of Amun".
- Nebtawi" , is identified as
"his beloved daughter, mistress of the house". Note that the term "mistress of the house" implies a married status, which the other daughter (below) is not given.
- Meryra" , identified as
"his beloved daughter".
As previously mentioned, the complex consists of an open courtyard, then two chambers, which were created in the shape of an inverted "T".
The slope of the hill, into which the chambers of the complex would be excavated, was cut back to provide a vertical surface in the limestone rock. The resulting horizontal surface in front of the entry thus provided a small courtyard. It would have been normal for stelae and offering tables to be set up in this area, but none have survived.
The entrance to the inner chambers is located at the centre of the rock face at the rear south end of the courtyard. Because these chambers were intended to serve as a house for the dead, a feature so important to the ancient Egyptians, it was metaphorically treated as lying on an east-west axis, even though it was physically orientated on a north-south one. This symbolic orientation represents the transition at death from the rising to the setting sun. However, the complex also served as a meeting point between the living and the dead, when at the time of the Great Festival of the Valley, (the equivalent of the Christian All Souls' Day), the living relatives would come to the tomb bringing flowers, food and drink to commemorate (in the courtyard) their dead ancestors.
Of the two connecting passageways and two chambers, only the left side of the main entrance passageway and the transverse hall appear to have been decorated.
The draftsman of TT38, who obviously had great skill, does not appear to display much originality. As stated above, he based his 'field measuring and musician' scenes on those of TT75. He also borrowed further scenes from TT52 (the tomb of Nakht, to the south-west), in particular the banqueting scene, which is actually more complete in TT38.