The tombs of the wife of Ramses III and one of his top officials have been officially inaugurated after their restoration, writes Nevine El-Aref
In a bid to promote tourism to Egypt, which has declined since the 25 January Revolution, Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim this week inaugurated two tombs in the Valley of the Queens and Deir Al-Medina on Luxor’s west bank.
The first tomb belongs to queen Tyti, wife of the Pharaoh Ramses III, and the second is that of Inerkhaou, a senior official during the New Kingdom reigns of Ramses III and IV.
The tomb of queen Tyti is located in the Valley of the Queens and is smaller than its counterparts from the later 20th Dynasty.
When found, it was in a poor state of conservation, having been reused in antiquity.
The tomb consists of a corridor that ends with a burial chamber surrounded by side chambers. It is decorated with colourful paintings that follow the same decorative programme used in the tombs of the queen’s son Amenherkhepshef and Ramses II’s son Khaemwaset of painted scenes on white, grey or yellow backgrounds.
The walls of the corridor, burial chamber and side chambers are decorated with scenes depicting the queen worshipping deities protecting her or the canopic chests in the tomb. The most distinguished paintings are those on the front wall of one of the rear chambers featuring Tyti as a young girl with the braided hair of a teenager. On the left wall she is depicted as a middle-aged woman wearing more conservative dress and make-up.
“These kinds of representations are not common in ancient Egyptian art, and the contrast between the young girl and the older woman is striking,” Ibrahim said.
The ceiling of the burial chamber is painted with delicate white stars on a golden background, with the god Anubis depicted on the chamber’s front wall to protect the tomb. On the left side a lion-headed image of the god Nebnery stands in front of the queen, where there is also an image of the squatting youth Herimaat.
The tomb of Inerkhaou is located in Deir Al-Medina and is very well-preserved, containing painted scenes that have retained their original colours. The tomb is vast for an official, and it originally belonged to both Inerkhaou himself and family members.
Inerkhaou was in charge of the craftsmen who decorated tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. He has two tombs in Deir Al-Medina, indicating that he was a favourite of the pharaoh though not of aristocratic birth.
Tombs from the last period at Deir Al-Medina were rarely decorated, perhaps due to financial problems, a lack of qualified personnel or political unrest and an increase in poverty among the workers.
The period between the reigns of Ramses III and IV is known for its unrest and economic difficulties, and it was the first period in which workers went on strike due to non-payment of salaries. The government at the time seems to have been strangled by a lack of resources and corruption.
However, Inerkhaou’s skills made him a favourite of the pharaoh and ensured that he was able to build two tombs for himself in Deir Al-Medina. The first, the smaller one, was intended for himself alone, and this for the time being remains closed. The larger one, opened this week, was intended for his family.
The tomb is decorated with scenes depicting Inerkhaou with his wife Wabet, a singer to the god Amun, their children and deities. The most distinguished painting in the tomb is one dedicated to the cult of royal figures buried at Thebes. It depicts deceased pharaohs in the form of Osiris seated before Inerkhaou who is depicted as a priest.
The royal figures depicted include Ahmose-Nefertari and her son Amenhotep I, patrons of the craftsmen at Deir Al-Medina, followed by Ramses I and Montuhotep I.
The second chamber in the tomb contains exquisite decoration in three scenes that continue onto the arched roof of the chamber. They depict the funerary world as shown in the Book of the Dead.
Scenes of Inerkhaou paying homage to the gods are also found, as are scenes of daily life with his family. A collection of funerary objects has been found within the tomb as well as the remains of mummies.
Two stelae belonging to Inerkhaou are on display at the Museum of the Oriental Institute in Chicago and at the Louvre in Paris.
Both of the recently opened tombs have been closed to tourists until this week for restoration. The work included the consolidation of the walls and paintings. Cracks were repaired and colours strengthened and a new lighting system has been installed.