The  Tomb of Senneferi, Theban Tomb 99

Dr. Strudwick opened by inviting attendees to peruse his WEB site at:
to learn more about his work in TT99.

Dr. Strudwick and his wife, Dr. Helen Strudwick, have been working in the tombs at Thebes for the past 15 years and at Theban Tomb 99 since 1992. TT 99 has been known for about 100 years but has never been fully published.

Dr. Strudwick told his audience that the tomb has been rocked by earthquakes, robbed of much of its decoration and most of its artifacts, and exposed to changing environmental and climatic factors, all of which have damaged it.  He defined what he is cur-rently engaged in as “rescue epigraphy”, a race against time to record what remains.

TT99 is very near the well known tomb of Sennefer. When work in TT99 began in 1992 it was expected that it would be a quick epigraphic job.  As it happened, the archaeology is what has taken time, not the epigraphy. The original tomb owner, Senneferi, was an Overseer of Seal Bearers during the reign of Thut-mosis III, about 1420-1430BC.  Several monuments bear his name as does a papyrus in the Louvre.  From these sources as well as the tomb, we know that Sen-neferi was initially brought to Thebes to oversee the granaries.  He may have come originally from the Delta as he bears titles that connect him with Heli-opolis. His father was the manager of an estate vineyard.

Here Dr. Strudwick paused to discuss with the audience the standard architecture of Theban tombs. During the Rameside period - in the 19th Dynasty -  a pyramid-like structure was built above the tomb. Recent research has revealed the superstructure of 18th dynasty tombs, which did not incorporate a pyramid.  A dry stone and mud brick wall over the front and top of the tomb provided a U-shaped superstructure that formed a courtyard in front of the tomb, with a niche above the door for statuary or a stela. Funerary cones seem to have been imbedded into the upper course of the wall and formed a sort of frieze around the wall.   Dr. Strudwick commented that 11th Dynasty examples of similar tomb structures exist, but no 18th Dynasty examples have been found; however, more than 200 cones have been found at TT99 in the area of the courtyard, thus he has postulated a similar design.

Inside, the tomb is badly damaged. It is a typical Theban T-shaped tomb with a wide, shallow, chamber at the front that is perpendicular to a long corridor leading to a second, large, rectangular chamber at the rear, in which several tomb shafts have been found. The decorations that remain tell us that Senneferi was sent to Lebanon to get wood for the temple of Amun and had to go up into the forest to select the trees. He tells us that he had “…to go up through the clouds”, where he propitiated the goddess of the trees. Both text and decoration tell of his journey, and show the work-ers and horses who participated in bringing the trees down from the mountains. The decoration also inclu-des some sort of fortress, Syrian in type, and four in an attitude of adoration who are clearly Syrian. Perhaps it is the tomb owner they are adoring!  Interestingly, a rather crude version of the god Bes is depicted. No other depictions of Bes in 18th Dynasty or other New Kingdom tombs are known to exist. To the god’s left, a lady under a canopy is apparently making up a bed. Both the god and the lady are crudely done and not well defined. The textual inscriptions which remain in the tomb are, however, of high quality and excellent workmanship.

Dr. Strudwick discussed work done by Dr. Richard Mond in the courtyard of TT99, which is about 15 meters by 20 meters and was filled with debris to a depth of about 1.5 meters. Mond probably trenched across the courtyard. Dr. Strudwick believes Mond was attempting to excavate in the courtyard even as people were still living in the tomb and using the courtyard as a barnyard for animals. It is known that people lived in the tomb until about 1907. Dr. Strudwick’s team has found the remains of their chicken coop, etc., in the courtyard!

During clearance of the courtyard, a tomb shaft was found which has, so far, been excavated to a depth of approximately 11.5 meters. Dr. Strudwick believes that this shaft, designated “I”, will likely turn out to be the shaft in which Senneferi was buried when the excavation is complete. To date, Dr. Strudwick’s team has found nearly 2 million pottery sherds weighing nearly 2 tons in the courtyard. Some Coptic pottery is among the finds.

Inside the tomb there are 6 known burial shafts, 5 in the large rectangular room at the back of the tomb and one in the transverse chamber at the front of the tomb. Four of the shafts in the rear room are placed in the four corners of the room - an unusual config-uration - and the fifth is just forward of the middle of the back wall. Each is accompanied by a storage chamber. It is unusual for a Theban tomb to have more than 1 or 2 burial shafts, which has led Dr. Strudwick to the conclusion that the tomb was reused in later periods. In fact, most of the shafts date from the 3rd Intermediate Period. Though several 18th

Dynasty objects have been recovered, none of the shafts have yet been conclusively dated to the 18th Dynasty. 18th Dynasty objects identified to date are: a seated statue of one, Amenhotep, Assistant Overseer of Seal Bearers, who it happens is the son-in-law of Senneferi; a wooden Hathor head with a shrine atop which seems to have been part of a piece of furniture; and ostreca containing a list of names, written in 18th Dynasty hieratic. It is, perhaps, a list of workmen. The tomb has also revealed 18th Dynasty pottery that may have come from tomb offerings.

Lots of Third Intermediate Period and later mater-ial have been found. From the burial shafts inside the tomb, Dr. Strudwick’s team has recovered over 100 kilograms of linen, 31,680 small finds, 382,625 pottery sherds and 41,995 fragments of wood.

Dr. Strudwick contrasted some of the fragmentary finds with a similar whole object which now resides in a museum collection. The objects included fragments of the coffin of Horempe, a coffin fragment of Wedj-ahor, and fragments from at least 4 or 5 car-tonnage anthropoid coffins. A very unusual group of carton-nage cut-outs which Dr. Strudwick believes functioned like a mummy board, laid over the mummy, have been recovered as well. They are known to have belonged to the mummy of a lady who was the daughter of a priest of Khnum-pa-aten.

Dr. Strudwick and his team have recovered num-erous very crude ushabti, some formed free-hand from Nile mud. So far 70-80 different types have been identified. A type not seen before are worker ushabti carrying baskets on their heads. They are glazed blue, and quite unusual.

Fragments of leather “mummy braces” which often crossed the chest  of the mummy have also been recovered. Pottery throughout the tomb is badly scrambled. Dr. Strudwick said that sherds for any specific vessel have been found in nearly every tomb shaft and some amphora bear early Phoenician inscriptions. Fragments of beautifully woven textiles have been recovered which are from household linens that were reused as part of the mummy wrappings.

A fragment of linen used in wrapping the mummy of Wedjahor bears the cartouche of Shabaka and is inscribed, “fourth priest of Amun, year 10 of Shabaka”. Wedjahor is known from a statue which resides in the Cairo Museum (found in the Karnak cache). A mummy from the tomb and loosely associated with the inscribed bandages may well be that of Wedjahor himself.

Other bandages and a coffin piece bear the name of Horempe. The bandages refer to year 12, but the king‘s name is lost. As it happens there is also a statue of Horempe in Cairo which tells us that he was the son of Wedjahor. This being the case, Horempe probably died during the reign of Taharqa, in about 680BC.  Clearly the tomb was extensively reused by this priestly family. Dr. Strudwick believes that there will be at least 6 or 7 burials found in TT99.

Though TT99 is badly damaged and has had little conservation and care prior to his starting work in 1992, it still is revealing many interesting things, with many more yet to come. Dr. Strudwick closed his lecture by stating that, “…all Theban tombs have something interesting to offer and lots of things yet to be found”.

  • Nancy Corbin
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