el-Kab Tombs

By the Editors of the Madain Project

  • This article is a stub as it does not provide effective content depth for the core subject discussed herein. We're still working to expand it, if you'd like to help with it you can request expansion. This tag should be removed, once the article satisfies the content depth criteria.
    What is this?

  • This article is undergoing or requires copyediting. Once done, this tag should be removed.

The el-Kab tombs or the elKab necropolis is a small but relatively well preserved ancient Egyptian rock-cut burial ground in the historic area of ancient Nekheb (modern day el-Kab), Upper Egypt.


The necropolis encompasses noteworthy sepulchers, providing insights into the formative period of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the subsequent unification of Egypt. The rock-hewn tombs dedicated to the provincial administrators of Nekheb during the New Kingdom include those of Sobeknakht II, a significant official credited with safeguarding the Theban Sixteenth or Seventeenth Dynasty from imminent destruction by invading forces from the Kingdom of Kush.

Additionally, the necropolis houses the tombs of Ahmose, son of Ebana, an admiral distinguished for his role in the wars of liberation against the Hyksos rulers circa 1550 BCE, and Setau, a priest who served during the reign of Ramesses II (1184–1153 BCE). The stylistic attributes observed in the wall paintings of the early Eighteenth Dynasty tombs exhibit a prescient quality, foreshadowing the artistic conventions employed in the inaugural tombs of nobility during the initial phase of the New Kingdom in Thebes.

List of the tombs in el-Kab Necropolis

circa 1550-1492 BCE

Tomb of Ahmose Son of Ibana
Dominating the east and south-east walls of the this unfinished tomb chapel is the autobiography of Ahmose, one of the most important historical documents from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth dynastic period (circa 1550-1492 BCE). Ahmose begins his autobiography with an address to future generations and introduces himslf as the "son of Ibana", his mother's name. His father Babai was a soldier and Ahmose rose from naval recruit to admiral, fighting in major conflicts for the first three kings of the eighteenth dynasty, Ahmose, Amunhotep I and Thutmose I. Ahmose describes the Egyptian siege of Avaris, in the eastern Nile Delta, and the expulsion of the Hyksos, during which Ahmose fought beside the king, who rode in a chariot (the hieroglyphs here are the earliestsurviving depiction of a chariot from ancient Egypt). During the reign ofThutmose I, Ahmose fought at the borders of the "known world" of his age, from the banks of the Euphrates in thenorth-east to the region of the Fifth Cataract of the Nile (today located in the modern day Sudan).

The north (rear) and the west walls of the tomb have unfinished offering scenes with Ahmose, his wife Ipu, his son Paheri, andadditional family members. Red grid lines show how the ancient artists laid out the scenes in preparation for the final carving. The large piles of offerings of bread, vegetables, fowl, and beef, provide sustenance for the spirit (ka; written as a hieroglyph with two raised arms) of the deceased, a sign visible in the lower right register of the west wall.

At the rear of the eastern side fo the unfinished chapel is a small adjoining chamber with a vertical shaft leading down to the burial chamber.

circa 1500 BCE

Tomb of Paheri
The tomb chapel of Paheri preserves brightly painted scenes of life on his estate, a large banquet and funerary rituals. On the tomb's facade are offering prayers for the spirit of the "mayor of el Kab, Paheri". A pit in front of the chapel entrance originally held Paheri's mummy and funerary equipment.

On the left (west) interior wall Paheri inspects planting, herding, and the loading and unloading of trading vessels on the Nile. The hieroglyphic inscriptions describe the events and some provide humorous dialogue between the farmers. In the lower register, a seated Paheri holds a reed pen as he records thenumbers of animals in herd of cattle, donkeys, and goats. Farther along the wall, Paheri holds prince Wadjmose (a son of king Thutmose I) in his lap. The final scenes of the wall show funerary rituals, with Paheri's mummy being transported to his tomb.

In the rear (north) wall of chapel is a niche (inspect) with life sized engaged statues of Paheri, his wife Henuterneheh, and his mother Kem. Flanking the niche is a hieroglyphic inscription requesting offerings and divine favours that reads; "O living ones, those who exist, peaople on earth... may your say an offering that the king gives". After emphasizing that the text does not exaggerate Paheri's life, the final sentence (in the bottom left corner of the wall) affirms the importance of the experience of visitors to the tomb chapel; "it is good that you hear!".

On the eastern wall, Paheri and his wife Henuterneheh receive offerings, a monkey tied beneath Henuterneheh's chair eating from a basket of fruit. The remainder of the wall depicts a large funerary banquet of Paheri's relatives, each one labeled by name and relationship to the tomb owner. The doorway cut in to the wall is later that the tomb it self.

circa 1125 BCE

Tomb of Setau
The late twentieth Dynasty tomb of the high priest of the goddess Nekhbet, Setau, preserves (on the west wall) important images and texts describing aspects of the jubilee celebration (a renewal of rule) during the thirtieth regnal year of Ramesses III (cica 1156 BCE).

On the exterior of the tomb, to the right of the entrance, is a rock-cut stela. Kneeling before the enthroned god Ra-Horakhty, and followed by his wife, chief of the musical college Aatmeret, Setau offers the hymn to the rising sun in the lines of text below. At the top of the stele is an image of the ever-changing sun in the form of the winged scarac, sailing in the back of the day between the pairs of baboons who represent thesouls of the eastern horizon.

On the interior western wall are the depictions of the sacred bark of the goddess Nekhbet sailing to (upper register) and from (lower register) Pi-Ramesses in the Egyptian Delta for the jubilee of Ramesses III, the vulture of the goddess perched atop the central cabin. Also occupying the west wall are scenes of agriculture, and the funerary rituals of Setau.

On the east wall are the senes of offerings and the funerary banquet, much essentially coped from the similar images on the eastern wall of the nearby tomb of Paheri. Inscriptions of a scrive Meryre, appearing on all but the west wall (and particularly clear on the east wall), are votive additions by a scribe whom Setau summoned from Esna "to insceibe his monument in regnal year 4" of Ramesses IX (circa 1126 BCE). On the northern wall is a unique hymn to the goddess Nekhbet.

Gallery Want to use our images?

See Also


Let's bring some history to your inbox

Signup for our monthly newsletter / online magazine.
No spam, we promise.

Privacy Policy