What are the Tombs of the Nobles?

The name "Tombs of the Nobles" is given to the tombs of the private officials situated in the necropolis on the West Bank of the Nile at Luxor. Luxor tends to be called by Egyptologists by its Greek name of Thebes; the Ancient Egyptian name was Waset, written thebes glyphs.

There are hundreds of these tombs, dating from most periods of Egyptian history. From the Old Kingdom (2650-2150 BC) there are only a handful of tombs belonging to the sixth dynasty, but many more from the First Intermediate Period (2150-2020 BC) and the early Middle Kingdom (2020-1770 BC), dynasties 11-12. The majority date to the 18th to 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom (1550-1079 BC). In the following period most burials tended to be placed in reused tombs, but from about 725-620 BC (dynasties 25-26) there was another burst of tomb construction.

The officials buried in these tombs formed the elite of the society of Thebes. We do not know for certain where the 'ordinary' people were buried, although recent suggestions have pointed to some possible sites in Dr abul el-Naga, at the north end of the necropolis.

412 of these tombs have official numbers, and are usually referred to as TTnn. There are at least 400 more dating to the New Kingdom (1550-1079 BC) which were not given numbers, and there are several hundred early (2030-1950 BC) Middle Kingdom tombs given numbers by their excavators in additional numbering series.

The following are some of the more well-known tombs:

  • Nakht (TT52). Dating to the reign of Thutmose IV, this tiny tomb is decorated with beautifully painted scenes of agriculture and offerings.
  • Ramose (TT55). This unfinished tomb is important as it was started in the reign of Amenhotep IV, before he changed his name to Akhenaten. It contains beautifully carved scenes in the 'traditional' style of that time, and then scenes were later added in the Amarna style. The tomb was never finished.
  • Sennefer (TT96). Known by many as the 'tomb of the vines', from its wonderfully decorated ceiling, this is actually the subterranean burial chamber of the tomb, and it is one of the very few decorated chambers known in Thebes.
  • Rekhmire (TT100). This man was the vizier (prime minister) in the reign of Thutmose III. His large tomb contains many interesting paintings, including many of building and craft activities. It also contains an important text known as the 'Duties of the Vizier', which tells us something about the responsibilities of that office.

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© Nigel Strudwick 1998-2002