Pharaonic brewer’s tomb found in Luxor

Archaeologists from Tokyo’s Waseda University have unearthed the richly decorated tomb of an ancient brewer on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. The team has been excavating the necropolis of El-Khokha since late 2007. Also called the Valley of the Nobles, it’s an area known for its tombs of royal officials and aristocrats mainly from the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties. The clearing of the modern hamlets of Sheikh Adb el-Qurna and el Khokha (a long and ugly controversy, see here for an overview) has left debris in the area that needs clearing and opened more of the site to archaeological exploration.

The Waseda University archaeologists were cleaning the courtyard of tomb TT47, final resting place of Userhat, overseer of the royal harem and an important official at the court of 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III (father of Akhenaten the apostate and grandfather of boy king Tutankhamun) when they discovered the entrance to a T-shaped tomb. Inside they found beautifully painted ceilings and walls that identified its owner as Khonso-Im-Heb, head of beer production for mother goddess Mut and the head of the royal storehouses during the Ramesside era (a period between 1292–1069 B.C. when eleven 19th and 20th Dynasty pharaohs took the name Rameses).

The murals are in excellent condition, brightly colored and mostly intact. They depict scenes of daily life in Khonso-Im-Heb’s family and religious rituals, some of which he participates in alongside his wife and children. One wall features the famous Opening of the Mouth ritual wherein priests of Anubis and the decedant’s heir magically opened the mouth of a statue or mummy so that it could breathe and speak in the afterlife. The ceiling is painted with colorful geometrical designs around a solar boat.

The tomb has two intersecting halls in a T-shape and a burial chamber. One side of it adjoins and is connected to another tomb belonging to someone named Houn. We don’t know anything more about him at this time. Once the tombs have been fully excavated and documented, the brewer’s tomb will be conserved with an eye to opening it up to tourists.

People like bright colors, and drawing tourists is a big problem for Egypt and Luxor in particular right now. The bottom has completely fallen out of the tourist trade because of the political upheaval of the past two years. Meanwhile, budget shortfalls have ministerial instability have left archaeological sites and museums unguarded and prey to looters. That’s why Mohammed Ibrahim made a point of announcing that security at the site would be increased while excavations are ongoing.

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