last update: 19.12.2008


TT353, the second monument built by Senenmut, was discovered during the excavation season 1926/27 in January 1927 by H. E. Winlock. The entrance of the tomb is located hidden in the western corner of a large quarry, which is called today "The Quarry of Senenmut". This quarry served in antiquity to provide material for the causeway to Djeser djeseru. Registered nowhere and covered by sand and debris in later times, TT353 was forgotten.

Winlock discovered TT353 coincidentally, when he examined the northern process of the enclosure-wall built around the Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep Nebhepetra. Following that wall he discovered the tomb of Inyotef (= Antef = Intef) located on the lower terrace of the temple of Hatshepsut, the tomb of queen Neferu, several remainders from mud brick walls built by Amenhotep I., four shaft tombs from the 3. period, and, altogether, 7 foundation deposits of Hatshepsut. During this action he came also to the northeast corner the district of Djeser djeseru. A little  bit outside of the holy district of Djeser djeseru there is a quarry (s. also the map with the Locations of the tombs of Senenmut), in whose center a large heap of debris was left by Naville during his "excavations" in the temple of Hatshepsut in the years 1893 - 1899.
As a precaution Winlock decided to examine the part of the quarry between the heap of debris left by Naville and district of Djeser djeseru - most likely he had the intention of storing his own excavation debris there. The entrance of TT353 was closed with mud-bricks  (see the following picture) and the tomb itself unfinished and completely empty.

Unfortunately again the information about  this excavation is rather unsatisfactory . Beside the excavation reports published by Winlock further publications exist (for example, several ostraca, which had been found in the quarry, were published by Hayes). Furthermore, the information given in publications of other authors is not  consistent with the information  published by Winlock and also not with the data found in his unpublished records. 

The filed records are - as judged by Dorman (1991) - "remarkably" poor, a journal with records of the daily executed work does not exist. The important "records" seem to have been written in 1928, i.e. 1 year after the excavation. However, during the excavations their progress was photographically documented by Harry Burton. Only  few of the photos are dated, but their temporal sequence could be reconstructed - an inestimable assistance in view of the poorly written records.

The described lack in the documentation inevitably leads to problems with the dating of the commencement of construction of TT353, which is dated into or around regnal year 16 of Hatshepsut. The dating of the commencement of construction of TT353 is of important interest, because this date is repeatedly used in the discussion about the life span of princess Neferu-Ra. The discussion about the dating of the commencement of construction of TT353 is summarized on its own page.

Floor plan of tomb TT353 (see also Dorman, 1991, or Tyldesley, 1996)

Eingang Entrance
Stele Stela
Nebenraum Side-Chamber
Raum A Chamber A
Raum B Chamber B
Raum C Chamber C
Schacht Shaft

Above the entrance of TT353, the photo was taken during the excavation; it clearly shows the level of debris (photo taken from Dorman, 1991)

TT353 consists of three long, linear descending passageways and three chambers (A - C), which were completely cut out of the rock. The last chamber C contains a shaft.
The first passageway (from the entrance to the Chamber A) is approx. 61 m long, 98 flat, roughly cut and irregular shaped stairs descend to Chamber A. The uppermost stair is cut about 6,4 m behind the entrance, the slope of the passageway is approx. 25°. About 58 m from the entrance on the left side of the stairs is a small, irregularly formed side-Chamber cut out of the limestone. Just a few stairs below this Chamber a round-topped niche is cut into the wall. On the opposite wall - on the right page of the stairs - a small area was smoothed in  the rock in the shape of a round-topped stela (see also "TT71 - Rock-cut Stelae Senenmut's"). This "stela" shows the well-known ink sketch of Senenmut (see main page Tombs).
The first chamber A is still outside the holy district of the temple of Hatshepsut but the two following are located under her courtyard.

Chamber A is the only decorated room in the entire tomb. The walls were carefully smoothed and the faults were filled with white mortar. The decoration of all walls and those at the ceiling has been completed. The fact, that Chamber A had been the only decorated room, has led to the assumption that originally the tomb was planned to end up with this chamber, and all following stairways and Chambers are a later extension.

The most remarkable decoration items of the chamber are the astronomical ceiling (see below) and a false-door stela on the west wall (see the following figure), which obviously should imitate completely a free standing construction.

The false-door stela carved into the western wall of Chamber A, looks almost identical to the one found in  TT71.
Again, the decoration shows the facade of a chapel with a torus molding and and crowned by a cavetto cornice like the false-door stela found in TT71. Several jambs form a false-door in the center. The stela is inscribed with Chapter 148 of the Book of Dead. On either side it is decorated with deities associated with this text: on the right exterior Anubis (top of the row) and the four mummiform rudders of heaven, on the left exterior again Anubis, below him the Sun God followed by the bull and the 7 cows of the Sun God.

Above the false-door a funeral banquet scene shows Senenmut and his parents. As already seen on the false-door stela from tomb TT71 Senenmut is shown sitting between his parents, behind him his father, who embraces him, and opposite to him his mother, who holds a lotus flower to his nose. Above the banquet-scene with his parents Senenmut is shown twice in opposite representations sitting at a dinner-table.
Above the false-door Senenmut himself is shown twice - kneeling on the right and the left side of a "tit" knot - both arms raised in adoration.

Above, the astronomical ceiling from Chamber A, TT353; it is the oldest astronomical presentation known - the next one was found in the tomb of Sethi I. - and naturally, it is the only one in a private tomb (photo taken from Dorman, 1991). The astronomical ceiling measures approx. 3x3.6 m at its greatest dimensions.

The ceiling of Chamber A is divided into two sections representing the northern and the southern skies. The southern - upper part shown in the picture above - is decorated with a list of decanal stars, as well as constellations of the southern sky belonging to it like Orion and Sothis (Sopdet). Furthermore, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus are shown and associated deities who are traveling in small boats over the sky. Thus, the southern ceiling marks the hours of the night. 

The northern - lower part - shows constellations of the northern sky with the large bear (Ursus major = msxtjw, Hannig, Großes Deutsch-Ägyptisch, Mainz 2000, S. 561; depicted as a bull with an oval body in which the name is written. The tail ends in 3 circles connected by a line and the 3rd circle is located a the top of a tall triangle) in the center. The other constellations could not be identified. On the right and left of it there are 8 or 4 circles shown and below them several deities each carrying a sun disk towards the center of the picture. The inscriptions associated with the circles mark the original monthly celebrations in the lunar calendar, whereas the deities mark the original days of the lunar month (after Meyer, 1982).

The astronomical ceiling is divided along its east-west axis by a text band composed of five registers. The central line which is wider than the other four registers bears together the titles of Hatshepsut and some titles as well as the name of Senenmut. The text  reads from the right to the left :

"Live, Horus powerful of kAs, Two- Ladies flourishing of years, Horus-of-Gold divine of appearances, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maat-ka-Ra, beloved of Amun-Ra, living; the sealbearer of the king of Lower Egypt (sDAwtj-bitj), the steward of Amun  (jmj-rA pr n Jmn) Senenmut, engendered  of Ramose (Ra-ms), justified, born of Hatnefret  (@At-nfrt)."

The fact that Senenmut and Hatshepsut are mentioned together in the same line of text, which starts with "Live...", is interpreted by Meyer (1982) in that way that Senenmut not only regards himself here as "equivalent" to the queen, but also that he had reached the highest point of his power or career when he built his 2nd tomb, TT353, - because this inscription could not be kept secret.

Directly on both sides of the entrance of the long passageway into the Chamber A there is Senenmut depicted on the walls standing and adoring the cartouches of Hatshepsut.

Directly above the passage which leads from chamber A to chamber B Senenmut passes - in the picture shown above - through the "Fields of Hotep (Satisfaction)".

Directly to the left of the entrance to Chamber A a second passageway of about 25 m (43 stairs) descends to Chamber B. The entrance was cut in such a way into the floor of Chamber A that the decoration of the western wall was not disturbed.

Chamber B is a rectangular room with a flat ceiling. The chamber was left completely unfinished. There walls were roughly cut and there has been no attempt to clean the walls or to close the cracks with plaster.
As in Chamber A another passageway opens left from the entrance and descends for about 10 m to the last Chamber C, whose doorway is approx. 96 m from the uppermost step of the entire tomb. 

In contrast to Chambers A and B, Chamber C has - in north-south direction - a curved ceiling. The chamber is unfinished, but contrary to Chamber B the walls had been prepared and smoothed, so that it was ready for the decoration. In the northeast corner of the Chamber a shaft was hewn about 1.5 m deep into the rock, above this shaft there are to two niches.

The decoration was never completed and work on the tomb was obviously stopped rather suddenly. Only the faces had been destroyed in all representations, Senenmut's name as well as the name of Hatshepsut were preserved. Dates with month and day still visible on the walls - however without giving the year - show how long the work iwas executed.


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Copyright: Dr. Karl H. Leser (Iufaa)