|Neferabu's tomb no. 5
at Deir el-Medina
|Neferabu was a worker from Deir el-Medina, whose title was "The servant in the Place of Truth". He
was active in the necropolis during the first half of the 19th dynasty. Thanks to the surviving textual
evidence from the village the dates can be narrowed down to years 36 (O.Gardiner 133) and 40 (O.BM
5634) of Ramesses II. (Davis,1999,158)
The tomb of Neferabu (which is numbered TT5) is an excellent source from which his family tree can
be constructed. Neferabu was the son of "The servant in the Place of Truth" Neferrenpet and his wife
Mahy. In the tomb's inscriptions Amenmose is referred to as the "father" of Neferabu, but it has
been proven that Amenmose was in fact the father of Neferabu's wife Ta-Isis (or Isis or Taiset).
The names of his numerous children are recorded on the tomb's walls. He had sons Nodjemger,
Neferronpet, Ramose and Meriunu and the daughters Henuttu, Mahi, Tenthaynu, Hotepy, Mutemopet,
Istnofret, Henut-iunet and Roruti.
|The stele above may have come from his tomb TT5 or perhaps from one of the shrines at Deir el-Medina.
The relief shows the sons and relations of the deceased and the draftsman Pabaki, the draftsman Pashedu
and the scribe Ipu(y), carrying assorted funerary goods to place in his tomb. These include various boxes
and stools. Merysekhmet is referred to as a sn (brother) of Neferabu on the stele, but Jac Janssen
identifies Merysekhmet as Neferabu's nephew. He argues that Merysekhmet is not his true brother, but
a member of the same generation, which, according to Janssen sn refers to. (Gleanings,1982,128). The
argument is supported by identification of at least 11 so-called brothers (sn) from several monuments
attributed to Neferabu. The filiations recorded in Egyptian funerary reliefs do not always reliably reflect
a particular blood relationship and closer investigation in certain cases enables Egyptologists to ascertain
the true relationship with the persons involved (Davies,1999,158).
It is in good but incomplete condition. In literature it is always cited together with
stela 150 (as BM 150+1754). It has been published by Kitchen in his Rammesside Inscriptions, Vol 3, p.
774, Part of 154. It has also been published in The British Museum hieroglyphic texts from Egyptian
stelae etc., edited by T. G. H. James, Part 9: Plate XXX
Registration number: 1931,0613.11
|Fragment of a stele of Neferabu
From Deir el-Medina
British Museum EA 1754
Location: Gallery 63/11
Height: 17.5 centimetres
Length: 52 centimetres
Acquired in Luxor
|History of the discovery
We know almost nothing about the discovery of the tomb of Neferabu. Most probably it goes back more
than two centuries. Maspero suggested 1818 as the year of discovery on the basis of Neferabu's stele
now in the British Museum (EA 589, more details below). The stele came from a collection of Count
Belmore and is said to have been found in a tomb at Thebes in 1818. Although this votive stele may have
come from his tomb, it is more likely that it originated in one of the shrines at Deir el-Medina, or possibly
from the rock shrine between the village and the Valley of the Queens.
Further evidence disinclines us to accept Maspero's claims.
1. From a papyrus kept in the Louvre, we know that the tomb was violated during the Ptolemaic times
when it served as the catacombs:
"Appointed Horus leaves to each of his sons a quarter that belongs to him in Neferabu's catacombs, and a
quarter of the dead."
2. The tomb was most probably inhabited by Copts. In the first hall and in the two connecting rooms,
there were numerous burn marks on the ceiling and walls. This does not prove with certainty that the tomb
was inhabited by Copts (some markings are modern and were caused by the Arabs) but they can often be
seen as a sign of the presence of Copts, and it is very likely that the tomb of Neferabu, after serving as
the catacombs, was used as dwellings by Copts.
3. After his visit to Deir el-Medina in 1880s Alfred Wiedemann describes 19th dynasty tombs but does
not mention the tomb of Neferabu in his article published in 1908.
4. In 1929 Bernard Bruyère discovered another stele in the shaft of pit No. 1195. That again proves the
stele from Belmore's collection, found in a tomb in Thebes, does not have to come from the tomb of
However it is not impossible that the tomb of Neferabu was known already in 1818 and as forgotten
rapidly thereafter. The fact is not without precedent in Deir el-Medina - wall scenes in tomb No. 3 were
copied by Hay between 1825 and 1838 and then the tomb was again discovered by Howard Carter in
1910. This hypothesis might be likely. The tomb known in 1818 could have filled with sand shortly
afterwards. There is another example of this happening at Deir el-Medina: the tomb of Inherkau was
partly drawn by Lepsius in the middle of 19th century, consequently lost and rediscovered by Bruyère in
A conclusion cannot be drawn on whether the tomb was known in the early 19th century, and we cannot
answer the question about who discovered the tomb of Neferabu and when. (Vandier,1935,1-4)
|The tomb of Neferabu is nestled
against the Theban hills in the
northern part of the western
necropolis of Deir el-Medina.
The tomb belongs to the category of chapel tombs. It had the following plan: at ground level a small
open courtyard, the vaulted chapel of one room surmounted by a brick pyramid topped with a stone
pyramidion and with a large funerary stele beyond. The vaulted chapel was very brightly decorated. The
shaft near the courtyard leads into the underground passage and into two burial chambers.
This type of tomb was widely used during the 19th and 20th dynasties.
The tomb consists of two distinct parts: the underground part for the deceased, and the outer side
visited by family and friends and functioning as a place for worshipping the dead. This part was almost
completely destroyed, but the preserved remains and other data gathered from other tombs can help in
reconstruction of its shape.
The courtyard was a square measuring 6.5 meters on each side, surmounted by walls of stone and mud
brick. The entrance, which was on the southern side, undoubtedly consisted of two brick pillars, and was
approached via a ramp or stairs. At the end of the courtyard a pyramid shaped building was located.
A small chapel, the layout of which, as noticed by Bruyère, is the same as the hieroglyphic sign for the
house, was built of mud brick and stone, and measured 2 x 3.10 meters. The door, located on the
longer side opened towards the south. At the end of the chapel - opposite the front door - was a niche
where the floor was elevated to the height of one step. The niche measured 2 meters by 1.5 meters.
This was where the funerary stele and a table of offerings were usually placed.
In his report of 1926 (p. 86) Bruyère says of the chapel that "the fact the slope collapsed, the
remains were all but demolished. We can just about assume a room that had to be arched, constructed
of brick, with a west-east axis parallel to the front."
Multicoloured figures were painted on the chapel walls against a yellow background.
Pyramid. The walls of the chapel were the basis on which stood a brick pyramid, topped by a
pyramidion. The pyramidion was made of painted limestone and had inscriptions honoring the sun engraved
on it. Each of the four sides represented one stage the sun went through during the day.
On the south side of the pyramid, a niche containing the round topped stele, found by Bruyère 1929 in a
neighboring pit No. 1195, was placed.
The inside of the pyramid was hollow to avoid putting too much weight onto the walls of the chapel. The
outer walls of the pyramids were lime washed. (Vandier,1935,5-6)
|The text on this page was written by Lenka & Andy Peacock
Photography © Lenka Peacock, The Trustees of the British Museum
With many thanks and gratitude to Jaroslav Bican, my brother, for the translations of the French
text into the Czech language.
|At the end of the burial chamber there is a special
and interesting detail: there are small oblong vertical
niches, located on the east and west walls about half
a meter from the northern corner. Bruyère thought
they were intended to hold a wooden beam that would
take the weight of the sarcophagus while lowering it
into a room underneath. In 1929 he made a probe
into the floor at the foot of the north wall, but
found nothing apart from a small empty cavity at 1.5
meters. The purpose of these niches thus remains
|To view and browse the digitised version of The Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic
Texts, Statues, Reliefs and Paintings, (also known as Porter & Moss or TopBib) for this tomb, go to
Material for the Bibliography is gathered from an ever-expanding range of multi-lingual sources,
encompassing both specialist and semi-popular Egyptological and Near Eastern publications, periodicals,
museum guides, exhibition and auction catalogues, together with the growing wealth of web resources. The
Bibliography also analyses a range of unpublished manuscripts, including those housed in the Griffith
Institute Archive. Published in May 2014 by the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford, the volumes are
constantly revised and augmented.