Monuments and Sites of Ancient Egypt

- The Memphite Tomb of Horemheb -

  Saqqara Private tomb of Horemheb:    
  Private tomb of Horemheb   Location and Structure    
        First Courtyard Reliefs    
        Second Courtyard Reliefs    


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Four shafts leading to subterranean structures were found in the mortuary temple. A first shaft was found in the north-west corner of the First Courtyard. Shafts ii and iii, which may perhaps be of Late Dynastic date and part of some intrusive burials in the temple, are located on either side of the Offering Room. Shaft iv, which was prepared to receive Horemheb's burial, was found in the Second Courtyard.

Both shafts i and iv were part of the Old Kingdom mastabas that were originally located at the site where Horemheb built his tomb. Both older tombs had long since been abandoned and looted by tomb robbers looking for treasure.  Part of the remains of at least to mastabas have been used as filling material in the pylon of Horemheb's mortuary temple.

Shaft i

The rooms connected to shaft i, in the First Courtyard, contained material that dated from the early 19th Dynasty, from the reign of Ramesses II. Two ushebtis belonging to princess Bintanath, a daughter of Ramesses II, were found, along with a so-called heart-scarab and a golden earring showing a king as a sphinx.

Fragments of painted Mycenaean pottery were also found, belonging to three different vessels. Even though they were found along with material from the time of Ramesses II, it is argued by some that they are actually a century older.

The presence of Coptic pottery in this tomb is evidence of christian activity in the tomb several centuries after it, too, had been abandoned.

Shaft iv

Shaft iv had originally been prepared for the burial of Horemheb and his first wife, the lady Amenia, whose name was found in the tombs superstructure. When Horemheb became king, and he thus required a royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings on the Theban west bank, the tomb was taken over for the burial of Horemheb's second wife, queen Mutnedjemet.

The tomb lies at a depth of 28 metres below the surface. The main shaft itself descends to a depth of 10 metres, from where a high corridor opens to the south. Part of the original blocking, intended to seal of the tomb, was still in place when it was discovered in 1977, but it had not prevented tomb robbers from finding their way to the treasures and riches once contained in the tomb.

After the blocking, a small, poorly executed antechamber was made, which gave access to a second shaft that descends another 6 metres. At the bottom of this shaft a corridor was found. The doorway of that corridor had once been blocked and sealed, during the reign of Eje, the successor of Tutankhamun and Horemheb's immediate predecessor. It is therefore assumed that this burial chamber had been used by the lady Amenia, who appears to have passed away before her husband had become king. The ceiling of this room is barrel-vaulted, with stripes of decoration running across it. There are two false doors, one at each end of the room, through which the deceased Amenia could pass into the world of the living to receive the rich and abundant offerings that would have been made for her.

A second corridor was found in the north of the second shaft. It led to a third shaft, that was filled with blocks of stone,after which a small passage opened onto a large room with two sets of false doors. The walls of this chamber were decorated with the recessed panelling motif also found in the ancient Old Kingdom royal monuments. The use of the recessed panelling decorative pattern is tell-tale of two things:

  • first of all, the use of a pattern that dates to the Early Dynastic Period during the late 18th Dynasty shows either that the Egyptians had kept track of it, or that they re-introduced it, perhaps after visiting some of the ancient royal tombs that had already been ransacked in antiquity
  • secondly, the fact that Horemheb as a private person used an ancient royal decorative pattern in his tomb shows, once again, his powerful position in the Ancient Egyptian government.

A doorway and stairs were found in the north-east corner of this majestic room, which leads down towards another chamber, followed by yet another passage. This passage lead to a hall, the ceiling of which was supported by four pillars. The excavators found some of the tools  used by the workmen. They were perhaps left behind when word arrived that Horemheb had become king and would not be using this tomb.

Despite the fact that Horemheb's tomb had been abandoned upon his accession to the throne, work at some point during his reign was taken up again, but this time for the king's second wife, Mutnedjemet. A new shaft was sunk in the floor of the pillared hall, giving access to yet another, large but undecorated room, which would have served as the queen's burial chamber.

Fragments of a skeleton, including a skull and a pelvis, were found in the pillared hall. They belonged to an adult woman who had given birth several times. She had lost all of her teeth and was therefore only able to eat soft foods most of the time. Her age of death is estimated at her mid-forties. The presence of the bones of a foetus or new-born child has led to the belief that she may have died in childbirth. It is also possible that the skeletal remains were once located in the burial chamber below and that they belonged to the queen herself.

An hieratic text on an amphora found (left) in the main burial chamber mentions the 13th regnal year of Horemheb. This may perhaps be the year that the tomb was last entered (officially), and it is tempting to assume that it was the year when Horemheb's queen passed away.

This amphora has also provided us with the highest know year of Horemheb's reign.


Hieratic text found on an amphora in the main burial chamber. It mentions Horemheb's 13th year, his highest known regnal year to date.