Khâ, The Overseer of Works; In The Place of Truth.

Art: Khâ and His Wife, Meryt Before Osiris (detail) from the Book of the Dead
» Unknown artist, Egypt
Annenberg Learner

In ancient Egypt, the belief in an afterlife led to the development of a complex culture of funerary rituals and practices.

After death, it was believed that the soul would travel through the underworld in search of the Hall of Judgment of Osiris—whose tribunal would determine whether one could achieve immortality as an akh, or transfigured spirit. The journey involved overcoming a variety of perils and obstacles. Books of the Dead, which the Egyptians called Books of Going Forth by Day, were collections of magic spells written on papyrus and enclosed in the burial chambers of tombs. These spells were believed to help guide and protect the deceased on their complicated journey. More here.

Books of the Dead later developed in the New Kingdom, when Egyptians began copying the funerary incantations onto papyrus scrolls, accompanied by illustrations like the one shown above. This particular Book of the Dead was created for a man named Khâ, who served as the overseer of works at Deir el-Medina.

Theban Tomb 8, abbreviated TT8, was the tomb of Khâ, the overseer of works from Deir el-Medina in the mid-18th Dynasty and his wife, Merit. TT8 was one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of ancient Egypt, one of few tombs of nobility to survive intact.

Funerary stele of Kha, now in the Museo Egizio, Turin (Wikipedia)

Museo Egizio

With great thanks to Marie Grillot, we can read a brilliant description of this statuette of Khâ in perfect and sensitive art. 🙏💖

The statuette of Khâ, an essential figure in “the place of Truth, to the west of Thebes.”

via Egyptophile

Statuette of the architect Khâ – Wood – XVIIIth dynasty
From his tomb (TT 8) in Deir el-Medina discovered on February 15, 1906, by Ernesto Schiaparelli
Egyptian Museum of Turin – S. 8335

43 cm high, the statuette of Khâ (head of the royal necropolis under the 18th dynasty) is sculpted in dense wood that the sculptor has polished for a long time, tirelessly, until giving it an impeccably smooth touch. And it is certainly time, the patina of the years, which has “softened” the colour to provide it with this ‘caramel’ hue so warm to the eyes…

Whether by the quality of its craftsmanship, its aesthetic appearance, or the emotion and sensitivity it exudes, this statue is, in all respects, a model of perfection. “Exquisite work of an extremely sensitive artist, this intact statuette, with its modelling rich in vibrations and nuances, perpetuates Khâ in the full vigour of its best years.”

Statuette of the architect Khâ – Wood – XVIIIth dynasty
From his tomb (TT 8) in Deir el-Medina discovered on February 15, 1906, by Ernesto Schiaparelli
Egyptian Museum of Turin – S. 8335

Khâ is standing, left leg forward, arms along the body. His silhouette is indeed slender and youthful: he is represented in his youth before the years affect his appearance. The face with full cheeks, perfectly symmetrical, is expressive and pleasant while serious. The eyes are large, and the mouth, with generous lips, is closed. The black, curly wig, the fruit of patient and delicate work by the sculptor, extends to the shoulders.

Khâ wears a loincloth that one imagines in linen: it encloses his waist and goes down below the knee. On the front, vertically in the centre, is a column of golden hieroglyphs, a sincere prayer imbued with the hope that: “all that reaches the table of offerings of Amon, king of the gods, be for the ka of the Chief of the Great Square, Khâ, just of voice”.

The ka remains, for us, a complex notion. Here is a short excerpt from the definition given by Isabelle Franco: “The ka represents the immaterial double of being… It grows and prospers along with the being. In close connection with food, it is he who benefits from the offerings after death.”

Statuette of the architect Khâ – Wood – XVIIIth dynasty
From his tomb (TT 8) in Deir el-Medina, discovered on February 15, 1906, by Ernesto Schiaparelli
Egyptian Museum of Turin – S. 8335

The emotional pleasure aroused by this statue is tinged with infinite tenderness at the sight of this delicate crown of flowers – now dried – which adorns her shoulders so prettily. Even if only the braiding link remains, even if these flowers have lost their beauty and smell for centuries, they mean much more. They are among the last testimonies of affection or adoration enjoyed by the deceased before his tomb was closed. A second crown has been placed at his feet, on the statue’s base…

If Khâ “is supposed to have been originally a man of modest origin”, it seems that it was thanks to his merit and his abilities that he was able to “rise” to reach the highest functions within the community of artisans of “Set Maât her imenty Ouaset” (“The place of Truth, west of Thebes” the current village of Deir el Medineh).

Deir el-Medina craftsmen’s village – West bank of Luxor

Founded at the beginning of the XVIIIᵉ dynasty under the reign of Thutmose Iᵉʳ, this village – which will be extended and enlarged several times, notably under the reigns of Thutmose III and the first Ramessides – was “a royal institution”.

On February 15, 1906, Ernesto Schiaparelli discovered, in Deir el-Medina,
the inviolate tomb of the architect Khâ and his wife Mérit (TT 8)

The members of the community (architects, scribes, painters, sculptors, quarrymen, simple workers…) who worked on the digging and the decoration of the eternal dwellings of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, and perhaps even more distant necropolises, lived there, with their families, protected by a high enclosure.

Kha, whose life can be between 1400 to 1350 BC. J.-C. had the honour to work under the reign of three pharaohs of the XVIIIth dynasty: Amenhotep II (1424-1398 av. J.-C.), Thutmose IV (1398-1388 av. J.- C.) and Amenhotep III (1388-1348 BC).

Having become an important character and most certainly influential, Khâ was adorned with the following titles: “‘Hery Set-Aa’, ‘Head of the Grand Place’ (the royal necropolis), ‘Imy-Ra Kat em Set-Aa’, ‘ Superintendent of the works of the Great Square’, ‘Imy-Ra Kat Per-Aa’, ‘Superintendent of the works of the Great House’ (the palace) and ‘Sesh Nisout’, ‘Royal scribe’ “…

There can be no doubt that Kha spent a great deal of time preparing his eternal home: “A tomb of such magnificence must have taken years of preparation, a process that Khâ certainly supervised in person while still in life.”

On February 15, 1906, Ernesto Schiaparelli discovered, in Deir el-Medina,
the inviolate tomb of the architect Khâ and his wife Mérit (TT 8)
we can see the statuette of Khâ placed on the armchair (photo exhibited at the Egyptian Museum in Turin)

The inviolate tomb of Khâ and his dear wife Mérit will be discovered, on February 15, 1906, in the northern circus of the necropolis of Deir el-Medina, by Ernesto Schiaparelli and Francesco Ballerini of the Italian archaeological mission, in the presence of Arthur Edward Pearse Brome Weigall, Chief Inspector of Antiquities, responsible for the protection and management of antiquities in Upper Egypt.

It will turn out to harbour incredible riches and is, most certainly, one of the most beautiful Egyptological discoveries of the very beginning of the 20th century!

Furniture, statues, food, crockery, household linen, instruments and working tools of Khâ, toilet boxes and workbox of Merit…These are more than 500 objects which constitute as many highly instructive testimonies of the life of a couple who had succeeded remarkably well in this ‘microcosm’ that was then the community of artisans.

The inviolate tomb of Khâ and Merit when was discovered on February 15, 1906, by Ernesto Schiaparelli:
We can see the statue of Khâ placed on the armchair
Deir el-Medina (TT 8) – photo by the Egyptian Museum of Turin

It is: “in the centre of the funerary chamber, facing the tables loaded with food offerings and in the middle of the many stools deposited in the tomb that Schiaparelli finds a chair with a back decorated with floral illustrations and inscriptions aimed at guaranteeing the soul of the deceased ‘everything good and pure’ by the intercession of Osiris and furnished with different objects: Leaning against the backrest, one of the two ushabtis of Khâ (mummy statuettes intended to replace him in the chores of the fields of the beyond); in the centre, a wooden statuette with the effigy of the deceased, adorned with a garland around the shoulders and another at the feet.

Khâ’s mummy, which rested in the shelter of three coffins, arrived in a perfect state of preservation, as did his wife, Mérit. “X-ray examinations and CT scans not only revealed that the two bodies had not been eviscerated, but also that magnificent jewels, the materials of which have not yet been identified, were secretly buried in the bandages.”

Khâ “is adorned with a particular necklace called ‘Shebyou’, formed of many discs in the centre of which passes a small cord, which the king used to offer to his most deserving officials as ‘gold of the reward’. He also wears a small chain from which hangs a ‘heart beetle’, a pair of large earrings, four bracelets, two of which are anklets, five rings and two amulets in the shape of an ‘Isis knot’ and a cobra, placed respectively on the chest and the head….”

Khâ joined the kingdom of Osiris more than 3400 years ago, but, by this statuette, he remains eternally young for us, and his name continues to be pronounced…

Marie Grillot


Statuetta di Khâ (Museo Egizio)

Museo Egizio, Fondazione Museo delle Antichità Egizie di Torino, Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2016
Art Treasures from Museo Egizio, Eleni Vassilika, Allemandi & Co
Guide Museo Egizio, Franco Cosimo Panini editions
The Egyptian Museum Turin, Federico Garolla Editore
Egyptian art at the Turin Museum, Ernest Scamuzzi, Hachette, 1966
Pharaoh’s artists, Deir el Medineh and the Valley of the Kings, Louvre, 2002
Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology, Isabelle Franco, 2013
Who Was Who in Egyptology, Bierbier M.L., London, Egypt Exploration Society
Laboratorio Rosso
Researchers of the past 1798-1945: At the sources of archaeology, Ève Gran-Aymarich
“Archaeologists discover a new mummification technique”
“Turin Museum – The tomb of Kha”
Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs, and paintings I – The Theban necropolis part 1. private tombs by the late Bertha Porter and Rosalind l. b. Moss, (oxon.), f.s.a. assisted by Ethel W. Burne – 2nd edition Griffith Institute Ashmolean Museum Oxford
Schiaparelli Excavations. Francesco Ballerini documentary collection. CEFB, Como (Italy).
Shedding New Light on the 18th Dynasty Mummies of the Royal Architect Kha and His Spouse Merit”.

14 thoughts on “Khâ, The Overseer of Works; In The Place of Truth.

  1. Another brilliant ancient Egyptian article by Marie! Thank you for sharing this one Aladin. I loved all the photos included here too. Marie’s attention to detail throughout the post, including how the jewellery is constructed, is simply amazing! Whatever you’re doing this weekend, I hope you’re having a good one. Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, my lovely sister. It is only nerving to work at the time with this FB! I know I am not the good well-suited boy next door; I may post something which perhaps is most dangerous for the whole world, but if this post about ancient Egypt is also such a danger to the FB community (it sounds almost like a sect!) I don’t know what to say. You might not notice that this post is nearly banned! I can’t share it with any Egyptian group and can’t even comment on my own post. I am going to write a complaint on my wall if it doesn’t get censored!! Have a lovely time, dear.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    I’m always amazed by the skill of the artisans of this Egyptian period and a sense that their eye for beauty was connected to what came later in Greece. Thank you for sharing this. It’s hard to imagine that this could be censored, but it’s a crazy world with decisions made by bots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s it! Actually, it is not the post which becomes banned, but whenever I want to share more photos as comments, it stops me and says; The owner(I think it is me!?) doesn’t want to get comments!! It is a pity for this beautiful heritage.

      Liked by 1 person

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