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T52, the tomb of Nakht and his wife, Tawy

today about 210 decorated tomb complexes, more than half of which date to the 18th dynasty, with the remainder mainly dating from the 19th and early 20th dynasty. In antiquity there were probably about twice this number, half of which have been lost or destroyed. Approximately 50 tombs remain which were decorated during the reigns of Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III. It is located fairly close to tomb TT38 (Djeserkareseneb) and tomb TT69 (Menna ). These two tombs share many of the same decorative features.

TT52 presents the common type of tomb complex of the 18th Dynasty, which consisted of an open courtyard, then the two internal chambers in the form of an inverted "T" structure, plus a subterrean complex.  symbolically the courtyard should be oriented to the east (sunrise, the Nile, day and life), whilst the interior chambers should be to the west (to the setting sun, darkness and kingdom of the dead). The plan sections show this symbolic orientation
 The tomb complex of Nakht is of a modest size, with the internal structure consisting of a transverse chamber (approximately 5 x 1.5m.) followed by an inner one (approximately 2.5 x 2.2m. - only just longer than wide), thus combining to form the shape of an inverted "T". The wall of this rear second chamber is pierced by a niche, possible intended for a small statue
 This first chamber is divided by the entrance from the courtyard and the doorway to the inner chamber. The average height of the two chambers is just less than 2 metres.

• As with many Theban tombs, the one of Nakht is unfinished. Not only did the inner chamber not receive even the beginning of decoration (although it was plastered in readiness), but many incomplete areas can even be seen in the transverse chamber, particularly where columns created for the descriptive texts remain empty, and a totally missing lower register on the left side part of the entry wall, as seen when facing it. Some Egyptologists have proposed that this is evidence that Nakht’s tomb, along with others, may have been originally created and decorated as a generic tomb, to be assigned by the vizier to his favoured officials.

• A shaft descends from the floor of the inner chamber to the undecorated subterranean burial chamber, investigated by Davies. The stelephorous statue was found in this shaft.

The style of the paintings in TT52 are very similar to other tombs such as Djeserkarasoneb (TT38) and Amenhotep-si-se (TT75) and Nebseny (TT108), all of which are dated to the reign of Thutmosis (Tuthmosis) IV and contain a royal cartouche or inscriptions in their tomb complexes. The tomb complex of Menna (TT69) contains paintings of a similar style to those in that of Nakht and date to the period of transition between Thutmosis IV and his successor Amenhotep (Amenophis) III.

Details of the female figures, which in previous times were noble and austere, are now young, sensual and sophisticated. Their rounded proportions are revealed through the plaits of their hair and translucent dresses; additionally their large almond shape of their eyes are different from previous times. These things all indicate the decoration of TT52 was completed during the reign of Amenhotep III. Like many tombs in the Theban necropolis from this period, the short reign of Thutmosis IV meant that many tombs were actually completed in the reign of his successor, Amenhotep III.

One question worth asking is, that with the number of tomb complexes on the Sheikh Abd el-Qurna slopes, and the short period of time during which they were produced: "where did all the resources and man power come from?". Temples and the complexes of the pharaohs themselves were also being constructed, as well as other possible building and decorating projects. It is estimated that even a small tomb complex, like that of Nakht, would have taken about six months just to decorate it, which doesn't take into account the time required to excavate it and plaster the walls. There is no wonder that many of the images found in these constructions share great similarities.
 Modern history of the tomb

The tomb was found by European explorers in 1889, just a few years after it had been discovered by the local inhabitants of Qurna Village. Later, in 1889, the tomb was cleared by members of Antiquities Service.

Its details were recorded by Norman de Garis Davies between 1907 and 1910, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and published in 1917. It was during this survey by Davies, that he discovered that the Antiquities Service had not cleared the burial shaft nor chamber, due to the fact that no plans existed. It was during the undertaking the clearence of these, that among the objects found by him, in the debris of the burial shaft, was a fine stelophore statue of Nakht, measuring about 40cm in height. During its transport to America in 1915, on board the steamship "Arabic", the piece was lost in an attack by a U-boat, in the Irish Sea, leaving us with just a few black and white photographs.
Images of the walls of the complex, which appear in most modern publications, were created many years ago and show the original brightness and clarity of the colours. These have become faded in many places today, less than a century after the tomb's discovery. This is mainly due to the flood of tourists who have visited the tomb in the last decades. The ongoing decomposition can be seen in the fine cracks which have formed in the paint, which then flakes away from the wall in small particles. Also the breath from the many tourists causes a fungal growth, which also has a bad effect on the quality. This resulted in protective measures having to be taken by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, especially of the decorated walls. Before these measures, the tomb was already small, but with the addition of protective glass, there to prevent the hands (or breath) of the tourists from touching the decoration, the tomb became even more claustrophobic and a rather less pleasant place to visit. This restricted the number of visitors which were allowed to enter at any one time, even making access by wheelchair impossible. The reflective nature of the glass and the small amount of lighting (what there is comes from ground level) now made even the viewing of the decoration difficult. But, like so many tombs of the area, its content is still worth the effort of visiting because it contains some unique pieces of Egyptian artwork.

At the time of Davies

Another major change which has happened between the time of Davies and now, is that the courtyard has been filled and reduced to just a modern set of steps leading to the entrance. This difference can be seen by comparison of the two photos above.


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