Journal entry for Monday 2 November 1998
At the beginning of our third week in Egypt and following a hectic weekend in Aswan I decided Kit and I needed a restful day, so a leisurely breakfast on the hotel roof terrace was stretched out until lunchtime. Catching an arabeya from outside on the street, we went as far as the taftish (ticket office) where we bought tickets for the three tombs of Neferonpet, Djutmose and Nefersekheru at Khoka. El-Khoka is an area of the West Bank just to the south of Deir el-Bahri, on the hill that divides it from the village of Sheikh ‘Abd el-Qurna, so we strolled along the hot and dusty main road as far as the Ramesseum where, deciding we needed a cold drink before going any further, we went into the cafeteria there for a Coke.
The three tombs are grouped together on one ticket and share the same courtyard entrance. There were no other tourists around and I was once more reminded that mid-day is the best time to visit sites if you like peace and quiet. Even the dogs in the tomb courtyard were fast asleep in the sun, hardly raising their ears as we approached. A guard came out and ushered us first into the tomb of Neferonpet (TT178), who was a temple scribe and held the title of ‘Scribe of the Treasury in the Estate of Amun-Re’ during the reign of Rameses II. This tomb consisted of a large hall leading into an inner chamber with a statue niche at the rear.
The tomb of Nefersekheru (TT296) was next and this is built onto the eastern end of the tomb of Djutmose, so that they almost seem like one tomb, except that we had to scramble from one to the other through a small opening. Nefersekheru held the titles ‘Scribe of the Divine Offerings of all the Gods’ and ‘Officer in the Treasury of the Southern City’ during the Ramesside Period. In the entrance hall there are scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’ in which Nefersekheru appears with his wife Nefertari as well as a judgement scene where his heart is weighed against a feather before Osiris, Isis and Nephthys. I especially liked a lovely picture of Nefersekheru and his wife drinking from a pool in a garden and another of him playing the game of Senet, which is said to have had a religious significance. There is also a well-preserved scene depicting the cult images of the deified Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari who are seated in a kiosk.
The Dynasty XVIII tomb of Djutmose (TT295) is just a single chamber entered from the previous tomb with other parts now inaccessible. Also called Paroy, he was a mortuary priest and embalmer, probably during the reign of Amenhotep III, and held the titles ‘Head of the Secrets in the Chest of Anubis’ and ‘Sem Priest in the Good House, Embalmer’. I love this tomb because it has a rare and mysterious picture of a sem-priest performing part of the ‘Opening of the Mouth Ritual’ in a scene from the ‘Book of the Dead’. We can usually identify the sem-priest, the mortuary priest who oversees the burial, by his leopard skin worn over a white robe, but the one in this tomb looks like he is wearing his nightshirt, a garment with horizontal red stripes! In the scene, usually referred to as the ‘Waking Priest and Sleeping Priest’, the priest is first seen kneeling upright on a low couch before a statue of the deceased and next he is lying down on the couch before the statue. This seems to be some sort of mysterious ritual where the priest (often the son of the deceased) may be in a trance state or perhaps communicating with the dead (according to Sir Wallace Budge). There is a similarly clad sem-priest in the tomb of Rekhmire, but it is not a scene which is common. It intrigues me, and I am reminded of the ‘Tekenu’, another mysterious depiction of a figure lying on a sledge.