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Tuesday Tomb – TT52

View of the north-west corner of the transverse chamber (Source: OsirisNet).

TT52 is the New Kingdom Theban tomb of Nakht, the ‘Astronomer of Amun’, scribe, and priest who is believed to have lived during the 18th Dynasty reign of Thutmose IV. The tomb is located in Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, part of the Theban Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile.

The tomb was discovered by Qurna villagers before it was cleared by the Antiquities service in the 1880s. In 1917, Norman de Garis Davies and his wife, Nina, published The Tomb of Nakht at Thebes, a beautifully illustrated book which became immensely popular worldwide.

View of the west wall, depicting Nakht and his wife, Tawy, seated before offerings (top left), Nakht hunting in the marshes (top right), Nakht and Tawy receiving the produce of the grape harvest (bottom left), and grape harvesting, wine making, bird capturing, and plucking (bottom right) (Source: OsirisNet).

The tomb, although unfinished, is extremely beautifully decorated with daily life, agricultural, and offering scenes which Manniche argues ensured the potency of the deceased in the afterlife. The traditional funerary scenes are missing due to the tomb’s unfinished state.

The banqueting scenes which depict ‘The Beautiful Festival of the Valley’ are very well-known.

A group of three musicians (Source: OsirisNet).

A scene depicting three female musicians (right) is particularly noteworthy due to the way in which they are depicted. The usual Egyptian convention was to show groups of people standing side by side as in a similar scene in the tomb of Djeserkaseneb (TT38), however the group of musicians in Nakht’s tomb overlap, with the middle figure turning her head towards the figure at the rear. As a consequence, the group appears full of life.

Female guests and their attendants (Source: OsirisNet).


A scene depicting female banquet guests (left) is equally lifelike, showing a naked serving girl adjusting the earring of one of the guests, and one guest offering a piece of fruit to another.

A further scene depicts a blind harpist (his eye is a curved line, indicating blindness), his mouth open as if singing.

Finds from the tomb include pottery jars and a pitcher, parts of wooden boxes, furniture parts, three funerary cones inscribed with the name and titles of Nakht and his wife, the face from a man’s anthropomorphic coffin (hard red wood, with the wig painted in black with yellow stripes, and with inlaid eyebrows and eyes), the face from a woman’s coffin of a similar type, a third similar face painted yellow, pieces of a coffin covered with black pitch, part of an octagonal headrest, two pieces of a walking stick, a tiny stick for applying kohl to the eyes, and a wooden hairpin.

Replica of the stelaphorous statue of Nakht (Source: OsirisNet).

Side view (Source: OsirisNet).

The most prominent find was a stelaphorous statue of Nakht. The statue measured 40cm high, and was carved from white limestone. It was discovered in the subterranean chambers, and had presumably been thrown down there during the activities surrounding the Atenist movement of the Amarna Period – the name of Amun had been removed.

The statue was in excellent condition, having only received minor injuries to the left elbow and knee due to its fall.  The colouring of the statue was still in excellent condition. The stela is inscribed with a hymn to the sun god, Re, which reads:

An adoration of Re, from the time of his rising, until he sets in life, by the serving priest of [Amun], the scribe Nakht, justified. ‘Hail to you, Re at your rising, Atum at your beautiful setting. You appear and gleam on the back of your mother. You have appeared as king [of the gods]. Nut performs the nini-greeting before your face. Ma’at embraces you always. You traverse the heavens with a glad heart, the sea of knives (a locality in the celestial world through which Re passes) has become peaceful, the venomous enemy is felled, his hands are bound and knives have severed his vertebrae.’ ” (Source: OsirisNet).

The statue was shipped to New York in 1915, during WWI, aboard the steamer Arabic. Sadly, the steamer was torpedoed by a U-boat and sank in the Irish Sea. The statue of Nakht sank with it. All that remains are the original photographs taken by de Garis Davies and various replicas such as the one above which stands in a niche within the tomb.

You can watch a 3D virtual walk-through of TT52 here:

Further reading:

OsirisNet – TT52http://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/nobles/nakht52/e_nakht_01.htm – including lots of photos and a full description.

de Garis Davies, N. 1917. The Tomb of Nakht at Thebes.  New York: MMA – available from http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/davies1917.

Hartwig, M. K. 2001.The Tomb of Nakht’ In:  K.R. Weeks (ed.). Valley of the Kings: The Tombs and the Funerary Temples of Thebes West. Vercelli: WhiteStar and Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

Manniche, L. 2002. ‘The so-called scenes of daily life in the private tombs of the Eighteenth Dynasty’ in N. Strudwick, J. Taylor (eds.). The Theban Necropolis: Past Present and Future. The British Museum Press: London.

Murnane, W. J. 1981. ‘Paintings from the Tomb of Nakht at Thebes’. Field Museum of Natural History, Bulletin 51, 10: 13-25.

Werbrouck, M. and B. van de Walle. 1929. La tombe de Nakht.  Brussels: Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth.

Wildung, D.  1978. Ägyptische Malerei: Das Grab des Nacht.  Munich: Piper.


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