The Tomb of Governor Nefermenu at Thebes (TT184)

Since 1995 excavations on tomb 184 on the southern slope of Khokha Hill has been carried out by a Hungarian group led by Egyptologist, Zoltán Imre Fábián. There stood the tomb and mortuary temple of Governor Nefermenu, erected in the late 19th Dynasty, probably following the reign of Ramesses II. The archeologists' efforts have been directed at comparing the so-called 'Khokha-tombs', including that of Djehutymes (TT32) excavated by László Kákosy et al., that of Tyai, Merneptah's Royal Scribe (TT23), the tomb of Nebsumenu, who also comes from a governor's family (TT183), the rock chamber and tomb of Ipi, the 'Overseer of the Royal Cattle' (TT264), and tomb 370, whose owner has not been clearly identified yet

sacrificial scene

sacrificial scene

Carved into the cliffs within a stone's throw from each other, the above monuments contain motives that show remarkable similarity in their architecture, ornaments a well as structure. Opening from a colonnaded forecourt, these rock-cut cultic places have a traditional T-shaped ground plan and three chambers. Its decoration resembles those of the 'Khokha-tombs': painted reliefs showing a significantly clear and settled style are laid in clearly separated horizontal picture straps. Their typical elements are reliefs and hierogliphics depicting scenes and images of Chapter 145 of the 'Book of the Dead' and the 'Opening of the Mouth' ceremony as well as scenes where offering is made to the dead man. The double false doors and the tomb-owner's half-statues prove that the tomb served as a cultic place as well. The ornaments show passage to the other-world, the motifs of which are arranged in a way so that the series of pictures and inscriptions purposely lead towards the inner part of the mortuary temple.

Unlike previous burial chambers, the niche carved in the main axis of the inner sanctum does not contain any representations of the owner or his family. The statues depict Osiris and other gods, which proves that the mortuary temple served as a holy place following the Amarna period. The owner and his family were pictured in free-standing statues, just like the two groups of statues of Djehutymes found there.

The decorations of several 'Khokha-tombs' including that of Governor Nefermenu indicate an affection for god Sokaris, which presents a new topic to study for historians of religion.

In the 'Khokha-tombs', to the left-i.e. to the south in accordance with cultic orientation-of the the third chamber, the sanctuary, derives a 1.1-1.2 m (3.5-4 feet) wide sloping or winding passageway of a man's height which leads to the burial chamber containing the granite sarcophaguses. The archaeologists managed to identify the inner sanctum and the passage in Governor Nefermenu's rock-tomb though it had partly fallen in or been walled up before an older one (TT 241) located higher up on the hill originating from the 18th Dynasty, where previous research suspected an independent tomb. It was not until 1998 that excavations could start in in the passage blocked up by debris, where the sooty walls show that the passage having a separate entrance was used as human dwelling during the years following the rockslide. The artifacts discovered under the debris such as coffin and papyrus fragments also suggest that following the first burial, the chamber and the passage were used as a burial ground but it was ravaged and raided later and the granite sarcophagus and the wooden coffins were broken and the mummies cut up.

New research seems to indicate that besides the rock temple and the rock-cut burial chamber, a pyramid-shaped structure of stone or adobe was erected a bit higher on the hill, which also belonged to the monuments of the nobility of the period. Its chamber was decorated with paintings connected to the cult. The painted plaster fragments found in the excavation of Nefermenu's Rock Temple could be its remains. The ruins of such a pyramid were excavated in 2001, which-though no written evidence was found-may have belonged to Governor Nefermenu's Rock Temple.

the tomb

the tomb

Governor Nefermenu, who had his burial chamber built in the vicinity of the oldest known tombs of the necropolis, next to the tombs of governors of the Old Kingdom, held several offices during his career. The inscriptions mostly mention his title 'Royal Scribe', which refers to his qualifications and 'Governor of the Southern City (i.e. Thebes)', which was his highest rank. The inscriptions also reveal that in his career he was closely attached to god Amon's estates, where he held various economic positions, including the 'Keeper of Amon's granaries' and 'Chief Steward of Amon's exstates'. He also had important high ranks in the state hierarchy. His title 'Chief Tax Collector of Two Countries' Lords' probably indicate that he had led valuable plundering campaigns. He also had the title 'Chief Steward of Silver and Gold House', which means he was in charge of the state treasury and controlled finaces. Like other Theban governors of the New Kingdom, Nefermenu kept under his control one of the most important sanctuaries on the west bank: he was the 'Chief Steward in Pharaoh Amenhotep I's mortuary temple'. Besides these titles, he often mentioned that he had led the ceremonial processions of Theban Gods.

Presentation of the TT184 Nefermenu tomb, April 8, 2001. Dr. Zoltán Fábián

The excavation of the tomb current information can be found page.