Fascinating! Isn’t it? The Tomb of Sennedjem is one of the most precious artworks ever in the history of mankind. There is not only to see this magnificent painting, but we read history and learn the wisdom of our past.
Sennedjem was an Ancient Egyptian artisan. Sennedjem lived in Set Maat (translated as “The Place of Truth”), contemporary Deir el-Medina, on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes, during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II. Sennedjem had the title “Servant in the Place of Truth“. He was buried with his wife, Lyneferti, and his family in a Tomb in the village necropolis. His Tomb was discovered on January 31, 1886. When Sennedjem’s Tomb was found, there was traditional furniture from his home, including a stool and a bed, which he actually used when he was alive.
Here we read another excellent presentation about the discovery of such a treasure by Marie Grillot. 🙏💖
Sennedjem was, under the 19th dynasty, one of the servants of the “Set Maât her imenty Ouaset” (“the Place of Truth to the west of Thebes”). A mason by trade, he belonged to the community of craftsmen dedicated to digging and decorating the eternal dwellings of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
His Tomb (TT 1) was discovered in January 1886 by “gournawis”. In “Hidden Treasures of Egypt”, Zahi Hawass recounts the circumstances as follows: “In 1886, Salam Abu Duhi, a villager from Gournah was awarded a concession in an area of Deir el-Medina close to his home. After only a few days of excavation, Salam and three of his friends made a spectacular discovery. At the bottom of a still new burial shaft, they found a wooden door whose ancient seals were intact. Salam immediately notified Maspero, who happened to be in Luxor for his annual inspection visit”.
La correspondance de Gaston Maspero à son épouse Louise (Gaston Maspero – Lettres d’Egypte) nous permet de revivre “à l’instant t” l’extraordinaire aventure … Ainsi écrit-il le 2 février 1886 : “On vient me chercher pour aller à la montagne : une tombe à laquelle nous travaillions depuis huit jours a été enfin ouverte. She is virgin ! It is a tomb of the 20th dynasty: the wooden door is still in place, and eleven mummies have already been counted. It’s a big find. I probably won’t have time to write before the mail boat leaves, because I don’t think we can be back before ten o’clock in the evening.”
Door to the Tomb of Sennedjem – stuccoed and painted wood
From Deir el-Medina (TT 1)
Discovered by Salam-Abou-Douy de Gournah and by the Antiquities Service in January-February 1886
Diary of Entrances to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo – JE 27303
He continues his story on February 3: “The vault is about 5 m long by 3 wide. It is vaulted, with a shallow vault and painted in the brightest colours; unfortunately, the paintings and the texts are only extracted. It was filled to the top with coffins and objects: eight adult mummies, two-child mummies, a family of those cemetery priests I told you about in the letters I wrote from Turin in 1880 (?) The mummies are superb, in a beautiful red varnish with elegant representations, but they are only the least exciting part of the find. You know that the mummies were carried to the Tomb on sledges, held by men or drawn by oxen. Our Tomb contains two of these complete sledges: first the floor, with the rings intended to pass the sticks, when one wanted to carry, then the movable panels of the catafalque in which one locked the coffin, then the lid in cornice… and c This is how we will exhibit everything at the Boulaq Museum. Alongside this, the complete furniture: eight large canopic boxes, around forty small funerary statuette boxes, around a hundred charming limestone figurines, around twenty painted earthenware vases, a new bed different for the shape of the first two,… In addition, a beautiful armchair with canvas bottom imitating the tapestry; two stools with canvas bottom imitating red leather, a folding chair, bouquets of flowers, a cubit, an ostracon containing a very curious, although concise, historical novel. Insinger and Toda photographed the magnesium chamber and will photograph some of the objects”…
The mummy mask of Khonsu, son of Sennedjem
from the Tomb of Sennedjem – TT1 – Deir el-Medineh discovered in 1886
Exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York – Accession Number: 86.1.4
Jan Herman Insinger is a Dutch banker who came to Luxor to benefit from a climate that could soothe his tuberculosis. He lives aboard his dahabieh “Meermin” (“The Mermaid”) and will soon have a somewhat “flashy” castle built on the banks of the Nile. Having become close to Maspero, he offers him, during his inspections, his services as a photographer.
Eduard Toda, with objects from the Tomb of Sennedjem
on the boat “Boulaq” en route to Cairo (1886)
Toda Fund Library Víctor Balaguer Museum (Vilanova)
As for Eduard Toda i Güell, Consul General of Spain in Egypt from 1884 to 1886, a genuine friendship and trust bound him to Maspero, which led him to entrust him with significant responsibilities within the archaeological mission. This is how he was at his side during the event that we are reporting. Which is described by Jules Daressy as: “one of the most interesting events in the history of excavations in Egypt”. Better still, the diplomat-archaeologist was given, by the Director of Antiquities, called to another excavation site, the “immediate responsibility” for clearing the Tomb.
The “discoverers” were “compensated” according to the terms specified by Gaston Maspero: “It goes without saying that we bought from the fellahs the half that was theirs: it cost us 46 guineas, and it is suitable for the museum, the sale of the mummies and superfluous objects will bring us at least 60 guineas, perhaps eighty which will pass to the excavations of Luxor and the Sphinx. Therefore, it will have been a good business in every way, from a scientific point of view, since it gave us monuments of which we had no specimen. And good from a financial point of view, since not only will the objects end up costing us nothing! But that we will have earned enough money to carry out new excavations”.
In the “Bulletin of the French Society of Egyptology” – 1988, Josep Padro reports: “In three days and with seven workers, (Toda) completely excavated the tomb and carried out the transfer of its contents onboard the ‘Boulaq’, the ship of the Antiquities Service. Once the transfer was complete, (he) drew up the inventory of the funerary furniture on the boat, with the objects collected and the mummies under his eyes. Toda also took 15 photos himself in the Tomb, with the technical assistance of Insinger, from which the plates illustrating his memoir were engraved, and he copied and translated the hieroglyphic texts with the help of Bouriant”.
According to Bernard Bruyère: “Tomb No. 1 is not only one of the finest and best-preserved in Thebes; it is, moreover, a perfect, complete and typical example of a large family tomb comprising the four components regulars, the courtyard and the chapels accessible to the living, the well and the vault reserved for the dead”.
Gaston Maspero, “ Letters from Egypt, Correspondence with Louise Maspero ”, Elisabeth David, Seuil, 2003 ” Deir el-Medina ” (Ifao)
Hidden Treasures of Egypt, Zahi Hawass
” Eduard Toda, Pioneer of Spanish Egyptology ” (Egyptophile)
” Eduard Toda i Güell ” (Amigos de la Egyptologia)
” Clarifications on two mummies from the old Toda collection “, by Josep Padro