The decorative style of the Kheruef monument is somewhat affected, customary during the reign of Amenhotep III. The sculptures are of excellent craftsmanship, executed by real artists. In view of the position held by Kheruef, and of the high quality of the decor, it seems possible that the
"servants of the Place of Truth", the craftsmen of Deir el-Medina responsible for the royal tombs, were those who undertook the work here. It is known that their field of operation was not confined, as had long been believed, to the valleys of the kings and queens, but that they also worked in the temples of Thebes, and sometimes for individual people. Traces of their activity can be found elsewhere in Egypt, too, notably at Saqqara.
The decoration on the walls of the west pylon, and on the south wall of the passage leading to the courtyard, has been carried out in low relief (). Everywhere else the decorative inscriptions are in sunk relief: the hieroglyphs, incised into the white base colour of the wall, have been filled with blue ().
At the end the reign of Amenhotep III, towards year 30, the decoration undergoes a distinct change of style
Raymond Johnson wrote:
"In the later period of the reign of Amenhotep III, everything about the sculpture is unusual". The low reliefs become higher, and the sunk reliefs become deeper. But the change that is the most striking is in the treatment of the king’s face; the features now resemble those of a teenager, with extended almond-shaped eyes, upward-sloping towards the rear. It is in this self-same way that Amenhotep III is represented in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings ().
The king's clothing becomes exceedingly complex, featuring layers of loincloths, tunics and shoulder sashes, together with solar or funerary symbols not used before.
A further innovation has the king wearing the
shebiu necklace, made up of gold disks, usually reserved as a reward for dignitaries ().When this necklace is offered by the king to a particular person, the recipient acquires a new social standing. When placed around the neck of the king, it indicates a change to his status in the afterlife, the result of his assimilation and identification with
"his father, the sun". The floral
wah necklace, and the large bracelet around his wrists and arms, are also novelties.
Over the loincloth there is what appears to be a type of apron, or pouch, of virtually symmetrical design, shaped to resemble a falcon’s tail; or it might be decorated with erect cobras crowned with solar discs. This type of representation corresponds to the deification of the deceased sovereign and is met previously only in funerary contexts.
These changes are contemporary with the three jubilees (or
"Heb sed" festivals) and interpret two concepts:
the rejuvenation effect shows the regenerative power of the jubilee ceremonies upon the king, enabling him so reinvigorated to continue his occupancy of the throne.
the solarisation effect expresses a completely new phenomenon: the fusion of the person of the king with the sun-god, Re, and with the god’s physical manifestation, the solar disk - the Aten.
Thus, from the time of his first jubilee, Amenhotep III became a living god, and he can be seen as such praying to images of himself in the temple of Soleb, in Nubia. The notion of the reigning king being deified will gain ground, and will be taken up again later by Ramesses II and Ramesses III.
As is the case with the high dignitary Ramose (TT 55) but to a still greater extent — representations of the kings and the queen overshadow that of the owner of the tomb, a practice that will become even more pronounced during the reign of Akhenaten. In the case of the monument of Kheruef, however, the decorating was far from being completed, and it is likely that he would have been presented more prominently in the first, and especially in the second, pillared halls.
From the end of the reign of Amenhotep III, subordinate figures are portrayed leaning decidedly forwards (). This is the case below the throne, in the scenes of the third jubilee, and it is also the manner in which the two priests of Ptah are shown, taking part in the raising of the djed-pillar. Under the reign of Amenhotep IV — Akhenaten — displaying people leaning forwards in this way will be the rule.
Numerous mentions of the name of Amon are found at the Kheruef complex, along with a multiplicity of other gods. The word "god" is sometimes written in the plural (and will thus be attacked by the mono-theistic ‘Aten-ites’). Practically nothing in the Kheruef monument gives a hint of the radical religious changes the new king Amenhotep IV would, however, introduce very early in his reign. While the name "Aten" is to be repeatedly found, this is in reference to the physical solar disk, which is frequently mentioned in this way at the end of the reign of Amenhotep III.
When King Amenhotep IV was represented, as on the decorated edging of the entranceway in the vestibule, it was done in a perfectly classical style. The artwork in this case, therefore, must have been carried out before year 4 of his reign, the date on which the style so characteristic of the beginning of the new reign began to be imposed (see the general article ).
Entry into the monument is by means of a long modern set of steps between two rough-hewn high walls. These walls have not been smoothed, and lack any inscriptions. A metal grill gate gives access to a flat-floored entrance space or vestibule. This is just in front of the entranceway framed by short walls forming door-jambs, with a decorated lintel overhead. The recesses to the right and left are also decorated.
The lintel over the entranceway is divided into two virtually identical sections. In each of these king Amenhotep IV — represented in an altogether classical style — is seen with his mother, queen Tiy, in the act of making an offering to particular gods on the left and right. The king is wearing the the blue crown, or khepresh, and has a large necklace extending over his upper chest. Fastened around his waist is a loincloth with a triangular front-piece and the dangling tail of bull. The queen, in a tight-fitting dress fastened at the waist with a long sash, is wearing a crown consisting of a short cylindrical base capped with two tall feathers, after the style of the god Amun, together with a double uraeus over her forehead. She is shaking a sistrum of Hathor with her right hand. As depicted on the left side of the lintel, she is holding in her left hand an umbel of papyrus together with the ankh sign; on the right-hand side she is holding in the same left hand the curved floral sceptre of queens modelled on the flail normally held by kings.
In the lintel scene on the left, Amenhotep is offering round pots of wine (called ‘nu’-pots because of the sound value of the hieroglyph based on this item) to Ra-Horakhty, who is seated on his throne and watched over by the goddess Ma'at standing behind him. On the right-hand side, the king is wafting incense towards a seated Atem, watching over whom is the goddess Hathor.
Separating the two sides of the lintel is a complex arrangement of symbols comprising Amenhotep IV’s throne name placed in a cartouche held within the upright arms of the Ka sign. The throne name reads:
"Nefer-kheperu-Ra, wa-n-Ra" ("Beautiful are the apparitions of Ra, the unique one of Ra") Resting on the cartouche is a double-plumed crown, and twisted ram horns, both associated with Amun, together with various other symbols. At the top are hieroglyphs reading Behedet (i.e. Edfu).
For an outline overlay image of part the lintel scene, click .
Inscribed on each of the side panels flanking the entranceway are four columns of hieroglyph texts. Each of the columns of text features a prayer to a different god.
In the text columns on the entrance panel , from left to right, these gods are Amun-Ra (obliterated), Atem, Thoth and Anubis.
, from right to left they are the gods Amun (again obliterated), Ra-Horakhty, Osiris and Isis.
Hieroglyphic renderings of the name of Kheruef that were at the bottom of each column of text have been erased. However, in the side panel on the left, in the column of text nearest the opening, and just before the obliterations start, is a well-preserved finely executed cartouche featuring the name of queen Tiy. Note in particular the sceptre associated with the knee of crouched figure at the base: this is exactly the same as the sceptre image, mentioned above, on the lintel.
The wall on the right-hand side of the entrance vestibule has been engraved with columns of hieroglyphic text. The opposite, south, side was never so engraved. It is a long hymn to the setting sun. The text, to be read from right to left, is set around what was an image of Kheruef that was subsequently dreadfully deeply chiselled out.
The hymn text includes the names of Atem, Ra, Nun and Nunet (his consort goddess), and of Ma'at. It also includes reference to the gods (plural) of the mountain of the west. The plural of the word ‘god’ has been partially erased by adherents of Akhenaten, who oddly did not touch the names of Nun and Nunet. Yet Nun, the god of the primordial ocean out of which emerged the creation, "the beginning of time", had nothing to do with the Aten theology that banished the idea of 'first time'(See ' ').
The hymn ends, as always, in a supplication of Kheruef for himself:
"That I am among your favourites, contemplating your beauty every day, I am the one who grasps the rope for hauling the barque of the evening and to moor the barque of the morning".
The wall decoration in the entrance corridor is in two registers, upper and lower, each of which is further subdivided into two distinct scenes.
The two offering scenes on the south wall of the entrance corridor are particularly difficult to analyse owing to the unremitting efforts made in antiquity to destroy the images of Amenhotep IV.
On the right-hand side of the wall, in a scene preserved only in part, Amenhotep IV, facing inwards (i.e. towards the open forecourt) is making a libation to his father Amenhotep III and to queen Tiy. Here the complexity of the king's loincloth and frontpiece can once again be admired (). The presence of Amenhotep III in this scene is a matter of ambiguity. Some have put forward the idea that this senior king was already dead by this time, but insufficient evidence of this has so far come to light.
In the scene on the left, Amenhotep IV, now facing outwards (i.e. away from the forecourt, towards the east), is dedicating a considerable offering to Ra-Horakhty ().
Above the pile of offerings, and in front of the face of Amenhotep IV, there is a rectangular grid 1.48 m high and 1.36 m wide, composed of 14 columns and 13 rows. In each compartment or square of the grid there is an arrangement of hieroglyphic signs. These are each prayers of worship to the gods, to be be read by row and by column, as in crossword puzzles, except that in this case there are no blank spaces. There are several known examples of grids of this type in Egyptian history, but of these this one is the oldest (JJ Clère).
"every quadrant can be read, with difficulty, from left to right or from top to bottom as in a puzzle, criss-crossing, in unique and inseparable groups, the names of the two pharaohs, father and son, and those of the gods Amon-Ra gods and Ra-Horakhty. This is in effect an actual theological-political text"(Dr Francisco J. Martín Valentín)
In the lower register images of Kheruef (little of which remains) can be found twice, showing him in prayer, reciting a hymn of adoration:
- the scene on the left, where Kheruef is facing the entry, concerns a hymn to the rising sun; - the scene on the right, where Kheruef is facing towards the courtyard, is about a hymn to Osiris ()
There is a single register only on the north wall of the corridor taking up the full height of the wall. This consists of a hieroglyphic text in numerous columns, being a long supplication of Kheruef at the time of his entering into the netherworld. It concludes with the words:
"I have come in jubilation to the god of my city, Osiris, Ruler of Eternity, the lord of what is, and to whom belongs that which is not. May you permit the first royal herald, Kheruef true of voice, to go forth to behold the solar disk (i.e. Aten) when it rises, without opposing me or driving me away from any of the doorways of the underworld" (, and ).
On the ceiling of the entrance corridor there are three columns of hieroglyphs running east to west, together with four short 'transverse rows'. In the central column (), Kheruef makes a statement to the first door of the underground kingdom:
"Words spoken by the first royal herald and steward, Kheruef, justified: "0 you first portal of the netherworld, 'He desires entry, his abomination is egress', open for me, It is bearing Ma'at that I have come […]".
Immediately after the entrance corridor is the east colonnade of the open forecourt, the first such colonnade of the monument. Traditionally, however, this colonnade is not considered to be part of Kheruef tomb TT 192 — yet examination of the plan clearly shows that it is. Because of this denial, the publication of the Oriental Institute is completely silent on the subject of this colonnade other than in the general layout of the monument.
Fortunately we are able to make sense of this matter through the illustration by Porter & Moss on the left, in which the space forming part of the Kheruef monument is coloured purple, while the modern walls, intended to support the surviving columns, are shown in red.
The two wings of the colonnade to the right and left are very gloomy; but once one’s eyes have adjusted to this reduced light, the decor of some areas can be made out. The images here are not related to Kheruef, but rather are associated with other figures of a later period. On the right (north), two panels of reliefs frame the entry towards TT 189, the tomb of Nakht-Djehuty.
At the far southern end of the passage along the colonnade, there is an opening to the annexe of this tomb, TT189. In the wing of the colonnade to left (south), several further panels frame the entry leading to TT 194, the burial place of Djehutyemheb.
At the far end of this passageway there is an opening is leading towards another part of TT 195 and thereafter towards TT 196. We shall deal with these tombs in greater detail in a special page to be entitled "Around Kheruef".
Getting into the courtyard entails passing between two pillars. There is a stela on the back of the pillar on the right, which alone represents the tomb TT 193 of a certain figure Ptahemheb (). The courtyard is open to the sun. In various places around the sides there are fragments of mudbrick walls, evidence of later occupation. On the south wall here are various tomb openings, some clearly visible, such as TT 406, TT 26 () and TT264 (); on the north wall there are similar openings to TT 190 and TT 191. As can be seen, there is no trace whatever of columns on either side of the courtyard.
The west colonnade on the far side of the courtyard includes the celebrated decorations — yet to be described in the pages to follow — hidden behind a modern protective wall. And on the far right there is a remnant of the original work featuring the remains of a column embedded in a brick wall.
It is necessary to pass through a door to get into the colonnade.