TT296, the Tomb of Nefersekheru


Located among the southern tombs of the Khokha district (see , from Kampp), the entrance to this tomb is found in the northern end of the west wall of a courtyard originally cut for the unfinished tomb of Nefermenu (TT365), from the time of Thutmosis III, which is located in the north wall. The courtyard was also used for the entrance to the tomb of Neferrenpet (TT178), located in the south wall (western end). Though both TT296 and TT178 are of the same period and come, by style, from the same workshop, TT178 seems to belong to a slightly earlier stage, and in fact a certain Nefersekheru (a wab-priest) is mentioned in the tomb. Because of the similarities in style between this tomb (TT296) and TT178, it is worth comparing the artwork of both.

The other two tombs accessible from this courtyard, are also available on OsirisNet: and ; plus which is accessible from inside that of Nefersekheru.

Having selected the west wall of the courtyard for its entrance, Nefersekheru was forced to design his upper cult area similar to one chamber tombs of the Ramesside period. This was due to the close proximity of his tomb to the forecourt of the tomb . The courtyard of TT295 is, today, covered by a great pile of rubble. TT295 is now accessed by a modern breakthrough at the north end of the west wall of TT296, the original entrance now being walled up (the distance from the west wall of the tomb of Nefersekheru to the original entrance of tomb TT295 being approx. 2.40m).

Nefersekheru could not advance further westward in order to enlarge his tomb with a second chamber and/or a longitudinal passageway on the east-west axis. He therefore placed, in the corresponding position, in the middle of the west wall of the main chamber, a niche in the form of a doorway with a cornice, forming a shrine. In this niche, the rock was cut to form a standing half-rounded figure of the god Osiris in mummy-form. Two half-rounded figures of the deceased flank the niche, as normally painted images adorn the entrance walls of the subsequent passageway or chamber.
Also, because the expansion of the tomb was not possible westward, a second chamber was positioned at the south end of the tomb. Vertical inscription lines flank its passageway, with the seated tomb owner portrayed beneath them. Over the doorway (as an entrance motif) the two gods of the dead, Osiris (left) and Anubis (right) in the company of goddesses, are seated back to back and are worshipped by the deceased. This formal scheme is a typical decorative element above entrances.

There are two separate subterranean complexes in the tomb. The first is accessed by a shaft located in front of the Osiris niche, in the floor of the first chamber. The other, a more extensive complex, is accessed by a descent located in the floor at the rear (south) of the second chamber.
Full details of the subterranean complexes can be found at the end of this article.


Nefersekheru occupied four functions, which were probably closely interconnected.

"Deputy administrator of the treasury" mainly with the addition of "of the Lord of the Two Lands" and frequently limited to Thebes; showing that there was again a royal treasury in Thebes in Ramesside times.

"Scribe" and/or "royal scribe of the treasury of the Lord of the Two Lands".

"Scribe of the divine offering of all the gods", sometimes limited to Thebes and to the temple of Amun. He was probably mainly responsible for the movement of religious objects of the treasury.

"Director of slaves", which occurs only twice in the tomb and probably refers to his command over slaves of the royal treasury or the Amun temple.
It is possible (though not certain) that he may have succeeded Neferrenpet (TT178) in these offices.

It seems that Nefersekheru had three wives. They and his daughter, like those of his presumed predecessor Neferrenpet, were chantresses of Amun. It must remain uncertain whether the women obtained this position because of the occupation of the men or whether the men had chosen the women from this class. The daughter of Nefersekheru will have obtained the position through her mother.
His wife Kah only appears on the walls of the entrance passageway. The other two, Nefertiri and Nedjemmaat-Mut , appear in the main chamber.
All three are referred to as "his sister, mistress of the house, chantress of Amun". However, only the latter two are also referred to as "his beloved".
Kah's representation in the prominent position of the entrance, not only in art but in a painted sunken relief, suggests an equally important connection with the deceased. Was she his first, deceased wife, or perhaps his last ?
Nefertiri appears exclusively in the scenes of the southern part of the main chamber, Nedjemmaat-Mut exclusively in the northern part. In the statue-niche, Nefersekheru appears between two women. The one on his right is identified as Nedjemmaat-Mut and although the inscription on the dress of the second woman is damaged, it can be assumed that it it is to Nefertiri. Also, her name is found on the architrave over the doorway of the south wall, whilst on this counter scene only the component -Mut of the name Nedjemmaat-Mut survives.
Because Nefertiri's name is substituted by that of Nedjemmaat-Mut in the final scene of the lower register on the southern section of the west wall (see ), this could be an indication that Nefertiri died before the tomb was completed (a woman named Nefertiri sits beneath the wife's seat, followed by three sons of the deceased). Also the style of the northern part of the chamber (containing exclusively Nedjemmaat-Mut) is less like that of the older, yet related, tomb TT178.
The adult daughter of Nefersekheru and Nefertiri, Hener (also translated as Heli), is mentioned three times. In the text associated with the 3rd portal, she is named, following the name of Nefertiri, as "her daughter"; but she does not appear in the scene. She appears with her two adult daughters (the grand-daughters of Nefersekheru) in the left lower scene of the southern section of the west wall, in place of her mother, and is identified as "his daughter". The final time she appears following Nedjemmaat-Mut (her step-mother), in the first scene of the lower register of the northern section of the west wall, and is again identified as "his daughter".

There are two definite occurrences which identify his sons. The first, "his son, the military scribe of the Lord of the Two Lands, Amenemipet", appears in the left upper scene of the southern section of the west wall. The second is "his son, the wab-priest", but no name is given; he is the first of the three sons mentioned above.


Only the entrance and first chamber is decorated, but, with the exception of the north wall of the entrance passageway (on which not all of the paint was applied), they were completed.
The decoration has been applied over a coating of white plaster, care being taken with the junction between the header frieze (at the top of the east and west walls) and the coloured bands surrounding the ceiling design, as this is applied over a curved moulding (see ).

In this tomb, only the east and west walls have picture registers depicting funerary and banquet scenes, etc. Although most surfaces of these two walls contain two picture registers, they occupy only about 50% of the wall height on the east walls and about 60% on the west walls.

The header frieze

At the top of each wall (with exception of the Osiris niche of the west wall), above the top picture register, is the header frieze of open khekeru (bound coloured bundles of reeds) which have a red disk on top and a gold disk near the base. Above this is a variable width yellow band, which separates it from the ceiling designs, and which is actually missing where the ceiling level is too low. Below the header frieze is a ladder (or Egyptian) band of coloured rectangles, edged top and bottom by narrow turquoise bands (see above) and also a separating white band. This is followed by a broad yellow hieroglyphic text band, bordered with red lines. On the west walls, a final narrow white band separates this from the upper picture register.
However, on the east wall, there is a further coloured ladder band, with its turquoise and white edges, followed by a dark blue band; which on the southern section (upper band only) definitely contains a row of white stars (see ).

Between the two picture registers is further group of borders.
On the west walls, this again consists of a coloured ladder band, followed by a yellow text band; but this time a further ladder band is added (see ).
On the east walls the bands are, as above the top picture register, a ladder band, text band, ladder band and finally a dark blue band without stars (see ).

Under all of the lower picture registers is a broad yellow then broad red stripe, edged and separated with thick black lines (see ). These are separated from the floor by a shallow undecorated dado.

The ceilings

The ceiling surfaces in the tomb, those of the entrance passageway, the first chamber and the statue niche of the north wall, have all been elaborately decorated. Each area has one or more central motifs (mainly geometric in style) providing five different designs, three of which can be found in the main chamber. The design areas are edged with coloured borders, and in the case of the main chamber, subdivided by text bands. Each ceiling will be described later, within the confines of the area to which it belongs.

General condition

Of the courtyard facade of the tomb only the right-hand door post has survived in reasonable condition. The lintel has been replaced by a modern one of concrete and rows of plastered brickwork.
Inside, damage and restoration extends over all of the picture fields, but there seems to be no fixed plan to the deliberate damage. The impression is that the hammering out of detail has been aimed particularly at the faces, but it is difficult to understand why in the courtroom scene, at the end of the upper register of the south-east wall, the faces of Osiris, the children of Horus and the court assessors have been spared, while the faces of all the other participants have again suffered. In some places it is only parts of the face (eyes, nose and/or chin) which have been affected, whilst again in others nothing has been touched. There appears to be no clear evidence of the hammering out of names in the hieroglyphic texts.
It is certain that restorations had already been planned and carried out in Pharaonic times, although some of this had obviously since fallen from the walls.
By studying photos taking between 1919 and 1931, when Harry Burton worked in Thebes, and later photos, it is can be seen that much restoration was carried out in modern times. The floor was covered with cement, and the shaft to the burial chamber, in front of the Osiris niche, was covered. In the Osiris-niche, the damaged part above the waistline of the god was smoothed, and the south wall was blocked with a cement wall (which has since been reopened). The damage to figures has been roughly modelled and the damaged parts in the images and text has been smoothed with cement. At the same time, the gap, over the entrance, from which the lintel was broken, was presumably filled and the rows of masonry placed above it and the height of the whole courtyard raised. Residents, whose house is located to the north of the courtyard, have erected a wall from mud bricks to protect their yard on the eastern part of this wall.


Located on the west wall of the courtyard, the narrow doorway originally had a facade similar to that of TT178, comprising a decorated lintel (now completely absent) and doorposts each containing three columns of inscription. From the fragments found in the courtyard it can be ascertained that the lintel design was of two scenes of the deceased before a deity, the deities being seated back to back, either side of a single royal cartouche of Ramesses II (the hieroglyphs look to the right). Not enough survives to identify the deities.
Very little survives of the right-most two columns of text on the left-hand doorpost, but all six contained the usual offering formulae to various gods (in the form "An offering which the king gives to…"). The gods identified are: from the left-hand side (column nearest to the door) - Amun-Re; and from the right-hand side columns (left to right) - Osiris, Anubis and Hathor (see and ).


The inner walls of the entrance are stepped back from the actual door posts to accommodate an inward opening door. This was hinged on the north (right) side, a bolt-hole still exists in the south wall. The passageway is approximately 1 metre square and just over 2 metres in height. The south and north walls of the entrance are, as usual for the time, the obligatory place for attaching the contrasting scenes of sun-worship (hymns to the sunrise and sunset) which in the Ramesside times relate to the worship of Amun-Re Harakhte and Osiris (the sun god and the god of the deceased).

In contrast to the remaining decoration of the tomb walls, which are executed in painted form only, those of the entrance walls are in painted sunken relief.
Both walls are topped with an ornate frieze (), above which is a coloured ladder band which extends down the ends of the walls. The frieze is composed of a djed-pillar between two tjet-symbols, a vertical line of inscription (containing a title and the name of the deceased) stands in front of a jackal-headed demon. On both walls the frieze is oriented to face the exit.
On the north wall, much of the colour has not been applied to the frieze or the main hieroglyphic text, and the painting of the couple is less well executed than on the south wall, perhaps indicating that this was last section of the tomb to be decorated and remained unfinished. Could this be a further indication that this wife, Kah, was his last.

Southern entrance wall

On the southern wall, Nefersekheru and his wife, Kah, face the outside of the tomb with Nefersekheru in a gesture of greeting (, and ).

There is damage to the greater part of the lower body of the wife and the rear leg of the deceased.
Nefersekheru's wig is magnificent in detail, though the detail of that of his wife has suffered with time. Both he and his wife are adorned with gold arm and wrist bracelets as well as wide neck collars. His wife has a perfume cone and lotus blossom on top of her wig, which also has gold hair bands. In her raised left hand, Kah holds the sistrum and a long papyrus stem, whilst in her right hand she holds a menit necklace.

The accompanying text is to the "Adoration of Amun-Re Harakhte" (the "Hymn to Re"). This version is quite lengthy and is located in front and above the couple ( and ). The inscription is divided by a large bolt hole for the door, however the text is not interrupted (the hole had therefore been created before production of the text), it also wraps around the raised right arm of Nefersekheru.

Northern entrance wall

On the northern wall, the couple are shown re-entering the tomb ().

Nefersekheru has both arms raised in adoration, while his wife has only her left arm raised. Again his hair is wonderfully sculpted and is two-layered, which is not quite so apparent on the southern wall.
Both he and his wife are adorned with gold arm and wrist bracelets as well as wide neck collars, as on the south wall. Her wig also has a perfume cone and lotus blossom on top and gold hair bands. A djed-pillar hangs from a wide ribbon over the right arm of the deceased. In the woman's lowered right hand she holds a papyrus stem, this time painted yellow instead of the usual blue-green; she also holds a menit necklace.

The accompanying text, which is much smaller than that on the south wall, is to the "Adoration of Osiris" (the "Hymn to Osiris"). It only extends above the heads of the couple.

Ceiling of the entrance passageway

The state of preservation is poor, only a small portion still exists in the north west corner, but enough to ascertain certain details.

The approximately square ceiling area is surrounded by a striped border, typical of this tomb, with the colour sequence (from outside to inside) of white-blue-white-red-white-blue-white. A coloured ladder band then surrounded the actual design area. Because so little remains, it is uncertain whether this ceiling contained a central yellow text band, which if it did exist would almost certainly have contained the usual offering formula (in the form "An offering which the king gives…").

The decoration is on a red background, and is formed from rows of blue disks whose blue-green centre is surrounded by a circle of white spots.