Turin Museum
The tomb of Kha
It is not difficult to build up a picture of Kha as an individual - it is demonstrated by the number of
items inscribed with his name or objects that belonged to him by virtue of his trade and rank during his
lifetime. We also have insight into his personal life through his clothes, jewellery, furniture, toiletries
and favourite pastimes. Approximately 196 objects can be attributed to Kha (Meskell,1998,372).
White painted box of Kha
Funerary statuette of Kha, that
had been garlanded and placed upon
a brightly painted and inscribed
chair of Kha.
Height: 43 cm
Senet was the most popular board game played by the Egyptians. It was played either on elaborate
inlaid boards or simply on grids of squares scratched on the surface of a stone. The two players each
had an equal number of pieces, usually seven, distinguished by shape or colour, and they played on a grid
of thirty squares known as
perw (houses) and arranged in three rows of ten. Moves were determined by
throw-stics or astragalus (knuckle-bones with 4 distinctive sides). The object was to convey the pieces
around a snaking track to the finish, via a number of specially marked squares representing good or bad
fortune. The senet game was usually, as here, on the underside of the board box. On the upper face of
the box another type of game - referred to as the Asiatic Game or Twenty Squares is shown below.
Kha's wooden gaming-board with a little pull-out drawer to hold the pieces was most likely to have been
used during his life. A sliding bolt kept the drawer from opening when the game was being carried
In the foreground, there are 4 wooden smoothers or
irons for papyrus or perhaps pestles to grind pigments
and a
wooden instrument, the function of which has
been debated by archaeologists for the last 100 years.
Most views concluded this was a balance. At the end of
July 2011 Amelia Sparavigna, a physicist at Turin
Polytechnic, suggested that it was a different
architectural tool – a protractor. The key, she says,
lies in the numbers encoded in the object's ornate
decoration, which resembles a compass rose with 16
evenly spaced petals surrounded by a circular zigzag
with 36 corners.
Perfume container imported from
the Mycaenian colony in Cyprus.
Sandals made from vegetable
fibre. There were also leather
sandals belonging to Kha found
among the goods.
Merit's bed was found made up with
sheets, fringed bed covers, towels and
a wooden headrest encased in two
layers of cloth. It is almost identical
to Kha's bed, except that it is
smaller. The rectangular board is at
the foot of the bed rather than being
a headboard. The bed rests on lion
feet, raised on cylindrical wooden pads
painted red. The rest of the bed is
painted white. The bed is no longer
displayed with a number of layers of
bedding that ranged from fine to heavy
linen as seen in the picture taken in  
The wig is probably the finest of Merit's belongings. It
was made of long human hair (about 54 cm long),
elaborately crimped (Vassilika,2010,54). It was
designed with central parting, the tresses are plaited
at the ends. Three long thick plaits are positioned at
the back of the wig, two thinner plaits frame the
face. The whole wig is held together by an elaborate
inner system of knots and weaves. The style, which
covered the ears, was popular during the second half of
the 18th dynasty.  
The gilded coffin depicts the
ibis-headed wind god whose role is
to restore the ability to breath to
the dead person's nose.
The tomb contained 26 knee-length shirts and about 50 loincloths,
including short triangular pieces of material that would have been
worn in the context of agricultural or building work. 17 heavier
linen tunics were provided for winter wear, while 2 items described
as "tablecloths" were among Merit's clothes. Kha and his wife each
had their own individual laundry marks, and it is known that there
were professional laundry men attached to Deir el-Medina.
Two shabtis of Kha were deposited in the burial chamber. One of them along with agricultural tools, was
placed inside a model sarcophagus, quite similar to the external coffin where the body of the deceased
rested (Inv. Supl. 8337-8341). Merit did not have funerary statuettes.
In the season of 1906 Ernesto Schiaparelli and his 250 workers had been working for four weeks at the
site of Deir el-Medina with little results to show for their relentless shift work until they came across a
tomb. They were working at the top of the western cemetery in the area of the decorated chapel,
surmounted by a small pyramid, already discovered by Bernardino Drovetti in the early years of the 19th
century. The name Kha was known from the walls of that chapel and strangely enough Kha's funerary
stele (below right) had made its way to the Turin collection decades before Schiaparelli's work at the
site. Kha's tomb's burial chambers escaped discovery because they had not been located beneath the
tomb chapel as is usual, but rather within the hill opposite.
"The mouth of the tomb was approached down a flight of steep,
rough steps, still half-choked with debris. At the bottom of this
the entrance of a passage running into the hillside was blocked by
a wall of rough stones. After photographing and removing this, we
found ourselves in a long, low tunnel, blocked by a second wall a
few yards ahead. Both these walls were intact, and we realized
that we were about to see what probably no living man had ever
seen before..."
Arthur Weigall, the Antiquities Service Inspector
(Reeves,2000, 126)
Ernesto Schiaparelli's bust,
Turin Museum
Photographed by Hans Ollermann 2008
back to Turin
Stele of Kha and Merit
Painted sandstone
Height: 74,5 cm
Top register: Kha is represented on
both left and right sides worshipping the
god Osiris and Anubis respectively
Lower register: Kha and his wife Merit
are sitting in front of an offering table.
Their son is standing on the right
The carving is executed in raised relief.
N.Cat. 1618 = N. 50007
From the Drovetti collection
Entrance to the
permanent exhibition
of the objects from
the tomb of Kha in
the Turin Museum.
View of the slopes of Deir el-Medina's western cemetery,
where the tomb of Kha is situated
When the flight of the steps near the hillside was discovered,
Ernesto Schiaparelli was accompanied by the Antiquities Service
Inspector Arthur Weigall to discover where the passage leads.
The two walls were removed. Now the two excavators were standing in a roughly cut corridor of about
standing height. Lined up against the wall on the left were pieces of burial furniture, several baskets, a
couple of amphorae, a bed and a stool and a carrying-pole. At the far end of the corridor was a simple
wooden door.  
"The wood retained the light colour of fresh deal, and looked
for all the world as though it had been set up but yesterday.
A heavy wooden lock held the door fast. A neat bronze
handle on the side of the door was connected by a spring to a
wooden knob set in the masonry door post; and this spring was
carefully sealed with a small dab of stamped clay. The whole
contrivance seemed so modern that professor Schiaparelli
called to his servant for the key, who quite seriously replied,
"I don't know where it is, sir"."
With no key to open the door, the lock was carefully cut with a fret-saw to gain access to the chamber
beyond. When the door swung open for the first time in more than three thousand years, the burial
chamber was revealed.
The whole burial was orderly and carefully placed within the space. The principal items were still covered
with dust-sheets that were still strong to the touch. The floor was neatly swept by the last to have
left. A single papyrus-column lamp-stand made of wood supported a copper-alloy saucer still containing
the ashes produced by its ancient flame.

"One asked oneself in bewilderment whether the ashes here, seemingly not cold, had truly ceased to glow
at a time when Rome and Greece were undreamt of, when Assyria did not exist, and when the Exodus of
the Children of Israel was yet unaccomplished".

The tomb and its contents reflected the owners' personal wealth, their particular position within the
society and their life history. It suggests a picture of a prosperous, 18th dynasty home, packed away in
preparation for re-use in the afterlife.
Low tables were piled with food offerings: vegetables, heavily seasoned minced greens ( Kha was nearly
toothless when he died), mashed carob, grapes, mumusops fruit and dates, salt, cumin, braids of garlic
and juniper berries.
Let us walk through this door in the Turin Museum and not only look around at the objects on display but
also look over our shoulder and look back across time, across centuries.
All photographs of the objects from the museum's collections are © of Museo Egizio di Torino.
Unless otherwise stated, the photographs were taken by Hans Ollermann in 2010. I would like to express
my heartfelt thanks to him for supplying me with his excellent photographs.
Sources :
1. Borla, Mathilde : Les Statuettes Funéraires du Musée Égyptien de Turin In: Dossiers d'Archeologie
2. KMT, vol. 14, pt. 1
3. Meskell, Lynn: Intimate archaeologies : the case of Kha and Merit. IN: World Archaeology, Vol. 29,
No. 3, Intimate relationships (Feb. 1998), p. 363-379.
4. Shaw, Ian, Nicholson, Paul: British Museum dictionary of ancient Egypt
London: British Museum Press, 1995.
5. Reeves, Nicholas: Ancient Egypt : the great discoveries : a year-by-year chronicle
London : Thames & Hudson, 2000.
6. Vassilika, Eleni: The tomb of Kha : the architect
Torino : Fondazione Museo delle Antichita Egizie, 2010.
7. Russo, Barbara: Kha (TT 8) and his colleagues : the gifts in his funerary equipment and related
artefacts from Western Thebes
London : Golden House Publications, 2012.
9. Raffaella Bianucci, Michael E. Habicht, Stephen Buckley, Joann Fletcher, Roger Seiler, Lena M.
Öhrström, Eleni Vassilika, Thomas Böni, Frank J. Rühl. "Shedding New Light on the 18th Dynasty
Mummies of the Royal Architect Kha and His Spouse Merit", in PLOS-One, July 22, 2015
Photograph © Lenka Peacock 2007
The middle anthropomorphic coffin of Kha
is also covered in bitumen. Horizontal and
vertical gilded bindings, containing texts
of prayer in raised relief, imitate the
mummy linen bindings. A winged gilded
vulture of Nekhbet in raised relief
protects the chest of the coffin.
The tomb belonged to Kha, a royal architect, and to his wife Merit. Kha was active during at least three
and possibly four reigns - those of Tuthmosis III (1504-1450 BC), Amenhotep II (1453-1419 BC),
Tuthmosis IV (1419-1386 BC) and Amenhotep III (1386-1349 BC), pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.
loaves of bread in a wide range of
shapes and sizes
Pottery vessels, some elaborately decorated, contained fine wines, grapes and flour. Some rims are
firmly shut with bands of linen.  
Baskets for the storage of food
Two-handled pottery storage jar. The body is
painted with rishi (feather) decoration, the
linen-covered neck with religious symbols: a
nefer-sign, a black neb-sign and a black
and white painted
wedjat-eye. It can be read
as "all good and healthy things". A hieratic
docket records Kha's name. The vessel might
have contained wine.
The decorated wooden linen chest is painted with naive scenes of the deceased and his wife seated
before a loaded offering table and attended by their son presenting a lotus bouquet. There are 10
columns of hieroglyphic inscription. The coffer was packed with 12 textiles and a small fringed rug.
stone shabti of Kha
wooden shabti of Kha
Kha's mummy is better preserved than that of his wife. The theory that neither body was embalmed
has been reinvestigated recently using new generation X-ray imaging and chemical microanalyses. The
team consisting of  Raffaella Bianucci, Michael E. Habicht, Stephen Buckley, Joann Fletcher, Roger
Seiler, Lena M. Öhrström, Eleni Vassilika, Thomas Böni and Frank J. Rühli provided evidence that both
individuals underwent a relatively high quality of mummification. In their article published in July 2015
they suggest that elucidated “recipes”, whose components had anti-bacterial and anti-insecticidal
properties, were used to treat their bodies and that the time and effort employed to embalm them and
the use of imported costly resins, notably Pistacia, do not support the previously held view that these
two individuals were poorly mummified. Despite a lack of evisceration, the approach allowed their
preservation as well as affording a fairly successful mummification (
view article).
In the past an X-ray analysis has shown that Kha has a gold "necklace of valour" around his neck under
the many layers of tight wrappings. This type of ornament was supposedly bestowed upon individuals by
pharaoh himself. His body is decorated with additional fine jewellery. He was buried with a wide collar
made up of a string of gold rings. A long necklace of spun and plaited gold supporting a heart scarab, a
tyt amulet probably of carnelian, a ururet amulet in the form of a snake's head, probably also in
carnelian, on his forehead; a pair of gold earrings and a bracelet on each arm made of a strip of gold
Merit's beauty case
Brightly painted wooden box
containing cosmetic vessels:
high-necked blue faience jar,
alabaster jar with silver handle, 3
covered alabaster jars, conical jar
of horn with bronze handle and
removable base decorated with a
Inside Merit's cosmetic and trinket
boxes were also her work-basket
with needles, 3 bronze razors, 3
wooden pins, wooden combs. Larger
decorated chests were packed with
From Kha's personal items we get sense of
his responsibilities, rank and Pharaoh's
admiration for his skills. His
cubit rule is
covered in gold leaf - it was a personal gift
from Amenhotep II as reward for the rapid
construction of a building. His
scribal pallets
and a writing tablet
are beyond the cubit rule
on the right.
Photograph © Hans Ollermann 2008
The tomb contained many pieces of furniture: apart from Kha's and Merit's wooden beds complete with
wooden headrests and linen, there were several decorated and white painted storage chests packed with
clothing and other objects of daily use; a brightly painted and inscribed chair, a painted stool, 2 white
wooden tables, a small wood and ivory box and a single, folding, duck-headed stool.
Photographed by Hans Ollermann 2008
Wooden stools
The low wooden stools belong among the most commonly found furniture in Egypt. Ten stools were found
in Kha's tomb. Some were painted white like the acacia one below on the right, some had lion paw feet.
There were two brown leather-bound stools and one folding stool. Two were thick tripod stools of the
type used by artisans in workshops.  
Photographed by Hans Ollermann 2008
Two blue faience rings belonging to Kha
Photographed by Dik van Bommel
Within Kha's coffin was one of the earliest copies of the Book of the Dead on papyrus. It is
13,8 metres long and is illustrated with high quality coloured vignettes accompanying 33 chapters.
Schiaparelli found it folded on the second sarcophagus.
Section of the well preserved funerary
papyrus. The deceased and his wife,
hands in adoration, are received into
the presence of Osiris, ruler of
eternity, enthroned beneath a
flower-bedecked canopy. A heaped
offering table stands before the shrine
to demonstrate the couple's piety.
Photographed by Hans Ollermann 2008
The mummy of Kha's wife Merit was contained in a rectangular outer shrine containing a singular inner gilt
anthropomorphic coffin and a mummy mask made of stuccoed linen. The striped wig was marked out
alternatively in blue paint and gold leaf. The face was gilded, eyebrows and eye sockets inlaid in blue glass,
and the eyes made of opaque white and translucent black glass. It is likely that she died before her
husband, as her body was placed in a coffin originally constructed for Kha, and inscribed with his name. It
was a less expensive assemblage than the series of coffins Kha was buried in. There is no evidence that
Merit died suddenly or prematurely, but it appears that afterlife preparations in Deir el-Medina were
concentrated around the lives of husbands, rather than their wives (Meskell,1998,373). The choices made
at the point of burial were made by Merit's husband and possibly their sons, Nakht and Userhat. Her own
personal possessions (e.g. wig, toiletries, clothes and furniture) were included for her use in the afterlife,
but although some 196 objects could be attributed to Kha, only 39 could be attributed to Merit individually.
6 items were inscribed with names of both of them (Meskell,1998,372).

Bronze vase stands. The stand on
the right has got pierced
decoration of lotus flower motif.
Photographed by Hans Ollermann 2008
Photographed by Hans Ollermann 2008
Two columns of a short
version also appear on
the front of the box.
Merit's body was not prepared and wrapped as well as Kha's. As a result her mummy is not as well
preserved. When Merit's mummy was x-rayed, it revealed a broad collar made up of eight strings of
hard-stone plaques, two pairs of gold earrings and a girdle hanging low on her pelvis consisting of eleven
gold plaques linked by five strings of glass or faience beads. These plaques are in the form of bivalve
shells, which were symbolic of female sexuality in ancient Egypt (Meskell,1998,373-375). Merit had
considerably less jewellery than her husband and it was made from less expensive materials. Evidence
from the Western Necropolis at Deir el-Medina reveals noticeable disparities in the quantity and quality
of goods provided for women throughout the 18th dynasty. This may reflect something of the relative
social status of men, women and children during life, not merely in death. For the elite at Deir
el-Medina, the tomb was very much a male sphere and revolved around a man's life on earth
The page was last modified on December 19th 2017
The page was created by Lenka Peacock.
The photographs were taken by Su Bayfield, Hans Ollermann, Dik van Bommel and Lenka Peacock.
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The only example
of a lightweight
linen tunic without
sleeves, for
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
Photographed by Su Bayfield 2008
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Funerary mask of Merit
Linen stuccoed and covered in gold
leaf, inlaid with stone and coloured
This mask was fitted over Merit's
head. The glass imitates more
precious lapis lazuli, turquoise and
carnelian gem stones. The mask
was found slightly crushed and
needed conservation. The left eye
was restored and recently the
mask was reshaped and
consolidated (Vassilika,2010,41).
Once the vessels and combs were
put inside the case, the internal
lid was put on to ensure extra care
against damage and then the lid
was secured with a cord, tied in a
"figure 8" between the
button-shaped knob on the lid and
the other one on the short side of
the box. The case was then sealed
with a mud seal
The years of exposure have taken
toll on these textiles and so they
were removed from artificial
lighting and the bed is now
displayed as seen in the picture on
the left.
Painted wood, fibre base
Height: 66.5 cm
Length: 177 cm
Width: 76.5 cm
Kha's bed
The bed is made of wood and for
comfort, the base has a central
rectangular cut out filled with
fibres. The bed is not painted like
Merit's bed is and is slightly
larger in size. It did not fit in the
tomb chamber itself and was left
in the antechamber passage
outside the door.
Kha's body was placed in a series of wooden
coffins. The large black outer rectangular
shrine-shaped coffin was covered with bitumen.
Two anthropomorphic coffins in black and gold
showing fine craftsmanship rested within it.
The outer sarcophagus is similar to the coffin
of Merit apart from the sled base, which is
missing on hers.
Length: 3 m
Bronze bowl with a handle
The bowl is inscribed on the outer
side with the name of Amenhotep III
and painted with the name of Kha.
Detail of the hem
The internal mummy-shaped coffin of
Kha is completely gilded by applying
gold leaf to a layer of stucco over
raised relief. The face is adorned
with glass inlaid eyes. Nekhbet again
protects his chest just below his
crossed arms.
Wooden coffer of Merit
The flat lid is painted with a
"trompe l' oeil" wood grain pattern
The carved and painted inscription
is a funerary offering formula
dedicated to Merit's ka-spirit.
Fringed textiles
The textiles show woven lotuses.
One was found on the high backed chair of the
deceased, under his wooden statuette.
bowl with seeds and fruit
salted meats (including duck)
faience bowl with remains of tamarind and grapes
Coffer with a pediment lid
One lid panel opens like a vent
from the apex outwards.
The text invokes the god Amun-Re.
The coffer was empty.
Photographed by Hans Ollermann 2008
The deceased is depicted with a gilded
face, the eyes are inlaid in glass, the long
is marked out alternatively in blue paint
and gold leaf. The broad
wesekh-collar is
painted gold, red and green. The arms are
crossed on the chest with gold fists
emerging from the bindings. A garland of
flowers was laid over this coffin.
Wooden coffer with ivory
inlays. It contained six tubes
of kohl. A black ink inscription
on the ivory inlay on the lid
names Kha.
Small wooden coffer.
This box with sliding lid contains
pebbles, dried fruit and four kohl
Wooden coffer with pedimental lid.
The coffer was sealed with a rope
wound around the knobs.
The sunk relief inscription reads:
"a funerary offering dedicated to
Kha's ka-spirit".
Wooden coffer with flat lid.
The simple wooden box, inscribed
for Kha, contains tubes of kohl.
Two-handled water-flasks.
The pottery water-flask
(so-called pilgrim's or travel
flask) was a pottery form
introduced in the New Kingdom.
Both flasks are decorated with
concentric circle motifs. The flask
on the right has got the carrying
cord preserved.
Bronze bowl on support stand.
Three bucket-shaped situla-vessels.
Bronze basin and jug.
Both were expertly hammered
from a single sheet of copper
alloy. Vessels like these were used
in ancient Egypt for washing hands
before and after meals.
Bronze bowl.
Bronze bowl on a tall wooden table.
Bronze shaving equipment.
Containers for kohl.
Tube shaped containers
for eye-kohl, capped
with linen.
Height: 9 cm
Length: 43 cm
Width: 13,5 cm
The wig was found in a wig box made of acacia
wood and measuring 111 by 49 cm. Its shape
resembles a shrine: the lid, which slopes towards
the back, closes against a palmetto cornice. It
was secured by a cord winding around mushroom
shaped knobs. A funerary offering formula in sunk
relief appears on the lid.
The figure of Kha wears a shoulder-length
wig, his hands are lowered and the palms
rest on the apron of his kilt on which a
funerary prayer is written in yellow
pigment. Small garlands of real flowers
adorned the chest of the figure and
another one was draped on its base.  
Kha's personal belongings were packed into numerous wooden boxes that were distributed around the tomb.
Faience dish decorated with lotus
flowers and buds.
Metalware. Kha's wealth was reflected in the number of metal vessels that were found in his tomb.
Vase for libation
To read the full article on Redazione Archaeogate, 28-07-2011, go to
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.