Chamber of Harhotep (CG 28023 > TT 314)

During excavation works carried out by the Council of Egyptian Antiquities in February 1883, Gustave Maspero found the entrace into the tomb of Harhotep. Access to this tomb was reached through a shaft located in the northeastern corner of the courtyard in tomb TT 314 (also identified as MMA 513). The burial chamber and the sarcophagus were immediately dismantled and taken to the Cairo Museum, where they were re-assembled and prepared for exhibition in the Middle Kingdom gallery. The painted walls of the chamber and sarcophagus represent one of the most elegant and colorful instances of mortuary decoration of the Middle Kingdom, certainly compared to the artistic quality and religious significance of Senwosertankh at Lisht, Siese at Dahshur, and Meru at Thebes (TT 240). The walls are painted with representations of false doors through which the ka-spirit of the deceased could go out of the netherworld. On the left wall, bags of pigments and vases containing sacred oils are depicted. Facing the entrance, there is a list of funerary offerings, while collars, arrows, sandals and other ritual objects for the afterlife are depicted on the right wall. The inscriptions include Pyramid and Coffin Texts, two of the major funerary compositions before the New Kingdom. The architecture, paintings, and hieroglyphs of the chamber and its sarcophagus reveal that the royal seal bearer Harhotep probably lived in the reign of Sesostris I (ca. 1956-1911 BCE).

Although in 2016 the MKTP excavated the area of the entrance into TT 314, the mortuary complex is currently under the concession of the Asasif Project, a research archaeological project developed under the auspices of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw. The archaeological work of the Polish mission will help to clarify several questions about the owner of TT 314, the location of the funerary chamber in the courtyard, and the date of construction of the complex, as well as the role and significance of Harhotep in the early Middle Kingdom.

A team of the MKTP is currently working on the mortuary chamber and sarcophagus of Harhotep, both at the Cairo Museum (CG 28023). The aim for our work at the Cairo Museum is to contribute to understanding the location and construction of the mortuary chapel of Harhotep in the courtyard of TT 314, examine the iconographic and textual programs employed in the chamber, and define the figure of this member of the elite. The research conducted by the MKTP, in disagreement with other positions, locates the construction and position of the mortuary chapel of Harhotep outside the rock-cut tomb, just in the northeastern corner of the courtyard, with the underground access located approximately 14 m away from the façade (see section A in our figure).

Harhotep was appointed “seal-bearer” in the reign of Sesostris I and is mentioned with two further titles in his monument: