Where is Theban Tomb 45 situated?
Theban Tomb 45 is situated in the Theban necropolis on the west bank of the Nile, opposite modern Luxor. The Theban necropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and constitutes one of the largest ancient burial sites in the Near East. The site comprises numerous monuments, including the famous royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, but also more than 400 private elite tombs, as well as memorial temples, and remains of royal palaces and domestic communities.
Theban Tomb 45 is situated in the area of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, which has a large concentration of private elite tombs, most of which date to the 18th dynasty (ca. 1539-1292 BCE). Theban Tomb 45 is situated close to the well-known tombs of Ramose (Theban Tomb 55), Userhat (Theban Tomb 56) and Khaemhat (Theban Tomb 57) which are open to the public. One of the aims of our project is to prepare Theban Tomb 45 for opening to the public as well, by carrying out a range of heritage preservation and site management activities in close cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.
Who built and decorated Theban Tomb 45?
Theban Tomb 45 was built and partly decorated in the 18th dynasty during the reign of Amenhotep II (ca. 1425-1400 BCE) for a man named Djehuty and his family. Djehuty was charged with overseeing the estate of a high priest of Amun named Mery (the owner of Theban Tomb 95), and he was chief of the weavers that worked in the weaving workshop at Karnak temple. Djehuty is depicted in the tomb with an unidentified woman, probably his wife, as well as with his mother, whose name is also Djehuty.
Several hundred years later, in the Ramesside period, the tomb was reused by a man called Djehutyemheb, who was also a chief of weavers. His family members are also depicted in the tomb: his father Wennefer, his mother Isis, his wife Bakkhonsu, and their children and grandchildren.
Why is it important to study Theban Tomb 45?
Theban Tomb 45 is a fascinating case study of tomb reuse: the tomb was built and partly decorated with painted scenes and texts around 1400 BCE for Djehuty and his family. Several hundred years later, the tomb was reused by Djehutyemheb and his family. Even though the practice of tomb reuse calls to mind images of usurpation, tomb robbery and destruction, this particular tomb was reused in a non-destructive manner, with consideration for the memory of the original tomb owner. Instead of vandalising an earlier tomb and whitewashing its walls in order to replace the original decoration with his own, the second tomb owner left most of the tomb decoration in its original state. He added his own decoration only to walls sections that had been left undecorated by the first tomb owner, and he retouched and repainted a number of the original paintings. For example, he altered the garments, wigs, and furniture depicted in the tomb to conform to contemporary style.
Recycling the past: tomb reuse in Ancient Egypt
The double occupation of Theban Tomb 45 and the way in which the second occupant dealt with the original decoration make it an excellent starting point for a new research project on the mechanisms and motives behind tomb reuse in New Kingdom Egypt, carried out by Dr. Carina van den Hoven at the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (Leiden University).
Tomb reuse was a widespread mortuary practice in Ancient Egypt, yet there is a surprising lack of academic research on this topic. Traditionally, studies of burial monuments have mainly been concerned with their original construction, decoration, and owner(s), with marginal interest for their continued use and reuse. This is indeed surprising, because the continued (re)use of monuments forms part of their 'life histories'. Another problem in the study of tomb reuse is that the documentation of this phenomenon is usually restricted to individual tombs, with very limited consideration for its wider historical, cultural, and geographic context.
Van den Hoven’s research project takes an innovative interdisciplinary approach, which explores tomb reuse in terms of the theoretical concepts of space and memory. In doing so, she aims to go beyond the investigation of apparent motives associated with individual cases of tomb reuse, and to present an radical new understanding of why tombs were reused and how this phenomenon can be understood as an expression of memory and as a deliberate way of connecting with the past.
This new approach opens the way for cross-cultural comparison of the ways in which societies regard the dead and their own past, an important aspect of the wider phenomenon of cultural identity that is still relevant today. The fieldwork project in Theban Tomb 45 forms the starting point for this research project, but the evidence will be contextualised within the wider mortuary landscape of the New Kingdom Theban elite necropolis.
What are the aims and objectives of the TT45 Project?
Theban Tomb 45 was discovered by Robert Mond in the winter of 1903-1904. Not much is known about this tomb. Its highly interesting and beautifully preserved decorative programme was documented only in part in 1948 by Nina and Norman de Garis Davies. The textual programme of the tomb has never been examined and no art historical analysis of the painted decoration has ever been done. Furthermore, no active conservation programme has been carried out for this tomb so far. The main aims of the fieldwork project in Theban Tomb 45 are to carry out conservation, documentation, publication, art historical analysis, archaeological study, heritage preservation and site management activities. The acquired data are documented and published using the most recent tools and developments in the field of Digital Humanities. The project also provides opportunities for further training of young Egyptian archaeologists archaeological research, site documentation and conservation.
Full conservation programme
When Theban Tomb 45 was discovered by Robert Mond in the winter of 1903-1904, he quickly cleared the tomb of sand and rubble and copied some of the inscriptions. As the tomb was left without a protective door, it had been damaged when Nina and Norman de Garis Davies started work in the tomb in 1907. Some emergency repairs have been made in the past, but so far, no active conservation plan has been carried out for this tomb. One of the main aims of the TT45 Project is to carry out a full conservation programme for the tomb, so that its painted decoration will be preserved for future generations. The team also undertakes research in preventive conservation measures, especially in regard to protection of the tomb from flash flooding.
Non-invasive digital documentation and publication
Another important aim of the project is to fully record the entire decorative programme of the tomb as precisely as possible, using the most recent tools and developments in the field of Digital Humanities, including high-resolution digital photography, photogrammetry, digital epigraphy, digital reconstruction, and digital imaging technology. As such, this fieldwork project aims to contribute significantly to the development and application of non-invasive digital technologies to the documentation, publication, and accessibility of ancient material culture. The final digital documentation and publication of the tomb will be detailed enough to assist future generations of scholars in their research without the need of physical access to the tomb.
Art historical and material analysis of the painted decoration
Another important aim of the project is to systemetically study the painted decoration of Theban Tomb 45, through a combination of art historical visual analysis and non-invasive material analysis. The detailed analysis of the painted decoration of Theban Tomb 45 allows the team to determine precisely which areas of the original 18th dynasty tomb decoration were repainted in the Ramesside period, and to identify the various ways in which these repaintings and retouchings have been carried out. Non-invasive digital imaging technology is used to enhance pigment traces of poorly preserved colour, in order to improve the legibility of wall paintings that have faded over time, as well as to detect repaintings that were done by the second tomb owner and that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Archaeological study, heritage preservation and site management activities
Archaeological study, heritage preservation and site management activities are carried out in order to enhance our understanding of the history of use of the tomb, from ancient times until the recent reuse of the tomb by the people of Qurna, and in order to preserve the tomb for future generations. Towards the end of the project the tomb will be prepared for opening to the public. In this context, various site management activities are carried out in close cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, including the installation of barriers or glass panels to protect the paintings from incidental damage, the installation of a new protective door for the tomb, the installation of a new lighting system, and the installation of information panels in English and Arabic informing visitors about the tomb. Considering the proximity of the tomb to the parking area, possibilities for disabled access to the tomb will also be explored.
The team actively contributes to safeguarding the archaeological heritage of Ancient Thebes through the organisation of educational and outreach activities for the local community in Egypt as well as in The Netherlands, for the donors of the Luxor Archaeological Heritage Foundation and other interested persons. These activities include the organisation of an annual Luxor Day in Leiden, the development and maintenance of the project website, and the dissemination of the research results of the team concerning the TT45 Project as well as concerning Egyptology in general.
If you wish to support the project and join us in preserving Egypt's heritage for future generations, make a donation or become a sponsor!
Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, view on Theban Tomb 45 and the Ramesseum. © TT45 Project.
Entrance to Theban Tomb 45. © TT45 Project.
Theban Tomb 45. © TT45 Project, Matjaz Kacicnik.
Theban Tomb 45. © TT45 Project, Matjaz Kacicnik.
Plan of Theban Tomb 45. From: Friederike Kampp, Die Thebanische Nekropole: zum Wandel des Grabgedankens von der XVIII. bis zur XX. Dynastie. Mainz am Rhein 1996, p. 243, fig. 140.
Theban Tomb 45. © TT45 Project, Matjaz Kacicnik.