On the Threshold of the House of Eternity: Door Leaves and Tomb Doors

By Kelly Accetta

How many doors do you think you have opened, closed, or passed through in your life? The answer is likely in the tens of thousands. If someone asked you to describe them, you could only probably do so accurately for a dozen or so. Yet doors are one of the most important parts of architecture throughout history.

Fig. 1: The modern steel door of the tomb of Henenu (TT 313)

Doors as architectural features have appeared in almost every culture that has constructed buildings, both ancient and modern. They originated from a need for an entrance and exit from the structures humans created for shelter and protection.1 The movable barrier (at first perhaps a fabric mat or animal skin, later, door leaves) which closed the gap enabled the door to be both an opening and a wall; it served as protection from the weather, dust, animals, or other people.2 Over time, the designs of doors have incorporated technological advancements and a plethora of security measures.3 This has changed the form, but the basic function remains the same: all of the advancements are, or have been, attempts to control movement, by either facilitating it or preventing it.      

Doors in ancient Egypt were no different. Architectural deterioration of Egyptian monuments – including natural weathering, purposeful destruction, theft and re-use of materials – means that once-imposing barriers now stand leafless, empty, and open. As a result, the physical and psychological importance of doors sometimes goes unnoticed by modern day tourists, scholars, and archaeologists.

This paper briefly examines door leaves in the funerary context of ancient Egypt. It focuses on construction, surviving examples, and what the loss of door leaves means for the interpretation of the tombs being excavated by the Middle Kingdom Theban Project (MKTP) team.

Overview of research4

Door leaves are very rarely researched independently, and as such it is necessary to examine studies which include information on doors and door leaves as a part of a larger scope of research.

The most significant studies on doors and doorways to date are by Koenigsberger,5  focusing on physical construction, and Brunner,6 examining symbolic and religious meaning. Although not exclusively dedicated to doorways, two of Hölscher’s publications7 contain specific information on the construction and decoration techniques of doors, both in the temple and in the palace. Several other treatises on Egyptian architecture also dedicate a section to doors and door leaves.8

For tomb doors specifically, a few studies stand out. Hirsch9 attempted to create a typology of doorway decoration layouts for Old and Middle Kingdom royal mortuary complexes, whilst Harpur10 focused on specific designs used in the entry decoration of non-royal tombs of the Old Kingdom. Hornung11 and Roehrig12 examined the size and placement of doors in tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Doors in the funerary context

Although door leaves were (and are) physical things which played a tangible role in the real world, they also existed as magical things in the worldview of the ancient Egyptians.

Doors and doorways were mentioned in almost all funerary literature, including the Pyramid and Coffin Texts, the Amduat, the Book of Gates, the Book of Two Ways, and the Book of the Dead.13 When illustrated, they most often are represented by the frame of the door,14 but in several depictions, including in the Book of Gates, the door leaf is shown quite clearly, including details of the pivots.15

Fig. 2: Scene from the Book of the Dead of Ani, showing a door leaf with pivots 16

In these texts, doors usually appeared as transition devices between the ‘hours’; and the ‘Doors of Heaven’ on the western and eastern horizons as the entry and exit, respectively, into the underworld.17 These doors served as a division in space and time. Doors in the later texts typically bear names and were considered guardians of access to each hour. The only way to move forward through the underworld was to correctly name the door, so that it would open and permit entry.18 Many private tombs included these texts in the decoration of the walls, including Amenemope19 and Senenmut.20

Fig. 3: Scene from the Book of the Dead of Ani, showing doors and their guardians and doorkeepers21

Neither the god nor the deceased opens the door for themselves in the funerary texts. Instead, the door is opened and closed by one of the guardians or doorkeepers.22 In one instance in Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead, the deceased is questioned by the physical door itself; which is magically animate,23 indicating that the Egyptians may have viewed the door as an entity with its own agency, rather than just a tool to be used. It asks the deceased to name each of its parts individually, then present the name of the door as a whole,24 demonstrating that the Egyptians acknowledged the separate parts of the door and their individual roles in movement and access.

From these texts, it is clear that the door is an important site of transition, representative of the movement between worlds, and embodies all of the danger that represents.25 Spells, names, and other defenses are crucial for the deceased to successfully enter into the afterlife. This meaning was duplicated in the real world, both in funerary and non-funerary contexts.26 It is surmised from these texts and other depictions that rituals for the deceased were performed at the tomb door, including the opening of the mouth ceremony.27 An offering table and basins were carved in the stairs just before the entrance door of the tomb of Khety (TT311), which Winlock suggested “were provided for the offering of any pious passerby who might find the tomb door locked”.28

Fig. 4: Scene from the Book of the Dead of Ani, showing the Opening of the Mouth ritual before the door of the tomb29

The door leaf

A door is composed of two main physical aspects: a frame which gives it shape, and a barrier which serves as the arbiter of movement between spaces.

In ancient Egypt, the barrier originated as a matting cover, rolled up and secured against the lintel when opened, and unrolled when closed.30 This is thought to have been the origin for the stone drum motif which appeared below the lintel in Old and Middle Kingdoms31 and false doorways.32     

Over time, this barrier evolved into the ‘door leaf’ (),33 although matting or textile covers continued to be used simultaneously, and both are still used today in Egypt. The most commonly used material for the door leaf was wood, but unfortunately, few wooden door leaves survive. Those remaining are made of pliable woods such as cedar and sycamore fig.34 The leaf was made (rarely) from a single plank, or (more commonly) several planks put together with dowels or strips of metal between the planks.35 Since so few door leaves from ancient Egypt survive, much of the information about their material and decoration comes from textual records.

Fig. 5: Door leaf from the Ebony Shrine of Hatshepsut, showing the decoration (left) and construction (right) of the leaf36

Egyptian door leaves were installed using pivots. Although ancient Egyptians knew of the hinge, as is evidenced on hinged-lid boxes, they did not use them for door leaves, probably due to their weight. The pivot pegs were either carved as part of the leaf itself, or alternately were attached like large dowels. Sockets (pivot holes) in the threshold and lintel/soffit (ceiling) held the door leaf in place behind the exterior face. Due to the placement of the sockets behind the door frame, which blocked the path of the leaf, the door leaf opened inward only, and typically toward the right. The exception to this rule is small shrine doors, which had jambs set wider than the opening, and leaves that opened outward.

Figs. 6a-b: Sockets in the soffits of doorways at Medinet Habu

Double and single door leaves were used for doorways within the same building or tomb, as evidenced by surviving pivot holes. It is still possible to determine the number of leaves for each doorway by examining the sockets in the soffit (if surviving) and the threshold. Double leaves have also been associated with symbolic importance, as they appear on shrines, naos, and often along the main axis of temples.

Surviving tomb door leaves in collections and publications

Very few door leaves survive, from any context. Door leaves from temples and possibly tombs were presumably taken and repurposed or sold off, as their materials (gold leaf and plating, electrum, copper, wood, etc.) were valuable. This was also true in situations where the door leaves may have been less elaborately decorated: lack of architectural wood from domestic contexts suggests that when people moved, they took this valuable material with them.

This isn’t to say there are no examples of wooden door leaves. Around a dozen or so have been discovered during excavation, the most significant of which are described below in detail, and a selection of others cited afterwards. They are all presented in chronological order. For door leaves in museums, where possible, a link has been supplied to the online catalogue entry (see endnotes).


A wooden door leaf was discovered intact at the tomb of Nefermaat at Meidum, best known as the tomb containing the beautiful ‘Meidum Geese’ (JE 34571/CG 1742). It was found at the end of the corridor leading to the burial chamber, and was installed with wooden jambs and lintel. The door itself measures approximately 73 cm wide, and is composed of two large vertical boards held together with horizontal wooden strips. It is undecorated, and from its construction may open inward and to the left – the second, narrower wooden strip may have incorporated the pivots.

It is not mentioned where this door leaf was subsequently or is currently stored.


The lower two-thirds of a door leaf was discovered during the excavation north of the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum at Saqqara in 1970.39 This door leaf is unique from others discovered before or since, not because it has a secure context (several do!) but rather because it demonstrates the life cycle of this type of material. The leaf, along with two lintels, was found beneath the Causeway of King Unas, having been reappropriated to serve as filler to level the causeway. This act is truly striking, as wood was quite a valuable material, even in the Old Kingdom when many Egyptologists now believe the climate was less harsh and thus more hospitable to the growth of vegetation. For it to be used as filler and not re-used in other wooden art or architectural features may indicate that the builders of the causeway were more concerned with efficiency than cost.

Returning to the leaf itself, it measures 140 cm tall, 86 cm wide and is 5.5 cm thick. It was decorated on one side with three registers in raised relief, the top of which is half-missing. As might be assumed from its reuse, the surface is also damaged in places, and there is no evidence of colour. From the publication and accompanying image, it is not clear where the pivots were attached, but we can probably assume they were on the true right when looking at the decorated side, as the border is thicker on this side.40 The decorated side is presumably the front. As all of the figures are depicted facing the left, they would thus be oriented to be ‘entering’ the tomb when the door leaf was opened.

The top register, which is far larger than the bottom two, seems to depict the tomb owner, wearing a leopard skin robe, and his wife; depicted smaller between their legs are four figures which the excavator, Moussa, suggests are the deceased’s children. The second and third registers show men and women, right hand on breasts, the men carrying scepters in their left hands. They are all named, but whether they are relatives, children, or embodiments of concepts is unclear. At the far right of the third register are four women engaged in baking – each showing a different stage of preparation. These two registers may perhaps show the funerary cult of the deceased – with offerings being prepared and visitors to the tomb – Moussa does not offer any suggestions to interpretation.

Like the above leaf, it is not mentioned where this leaf is currently.

Tomb MMA 509(a) (MMA 23.3.174a-h)

During the 1922-1923 Metropolitan Museum excavations led by Herbert Winlock, the team excavated an unattributed tomb numbered MMA 509(a).41 At the entrance to the tomb the lower half of a door leaf still stood in place. It serves as our only intact example of the period from Thebes. Winlock wrote:

“Originally the caretaker of the tomb had kept it bolted and sealed-we found broken seals on the floor under it-but thieves had cut the bolt off and broken into the tomb ages ago. A fall of rock had caught the door as it stood ajar and half buried it, wedged in place. Wasps had honeycombed it for wood fiber to make their paper nests; ancient quarrymen had come and carted away the great stone door-jambs from before it; and later generations of Egyptians had been carried in their coffins over the top of it to be buried inside. The wasps, the quarrymen, and the later undertakers among them had destroyed the upper half, but we found the lower half still in place, and bracing it with a stick as we dug the fallen rock away, we were able to photograph it as it stood.”42

The leaf itself is formed of seven vertical boards of sycamore fig wood connected both by dowels between the boards as well as strips of wood horizontally across the back of the boards. It is coated in gesso.  Although it is only a fragment, it stands 215 cm tall, and is 151 cm wide and 11 cm thick.43 Although the jambs and lintel are lost, it would be reasonable to assume the door may have been twice the height.

Fig. 7: The reverse of the door leaf from MMA 509(a) on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

The largest preserved piece (MMA 23.3.174a,44 see image above) is undecorated aside from white gesso, but several of the smaller fragments (MMA 23.3.174b-h45) preserve incised hieroglyphs, including part of the name of King Mentuhotep in a cartouche. Unfortunately the name of the tomb owner is not preserved.

From the in-situ photograph, also published by Winlock, we can see the leaf was open inward and to the right when found.46 The surviving lower pivot confirms this is the direction the door leaf would have opened. It is preceded by a raised stone threshold with indentations for the jambs of the doorway, but there is no socket visible on the right side. It is likely, then, that there was a separate stone socket, or a second threshold slab which contained the socket.

The leaf was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1923 as a result of partage; it is currently on display in Gallery 106.

Sennedjem (TT1; Cairo JE 27303)47

The most complete surviving wooden door leaf is from the burial chamber of the tomb of Sennedjem (TT1) at Deir el-Medina (Cairo, JE 27303). It was discovered on January 31, 1886 by local residents who, inspired by Maspero’s new policy which offered compensation for the discovery of new sites, took trowels to the hills nearby their houses.48 Unfortunately, in their desire to preserve the door leaf (which was bolted from the inside) but gain access to the burial chamber beyond, the lintel and jambs of the doorway were irrevocably damaged.49

The leaf itself is made of sycamore fig. No strips are visible on either side of the door, which indicates this leaf was constructed using dowels between the boards – a far more complex technique.50 It is vividly painted on both sides, in the same colour scheme as the surrounding walls. The exterior of the leaf has two registers of decoration: the top shows Sennedjem, his wife, and his daughter presenting offerings and libations to a seated Osiris-Khentyatmentiu flanked by Ma’at, the lower register shows the seven sons of Sennedjem venerating a seated Ptah-Sokar-Osiris flanked by Isis.51 The orientation of the figures on the door leaf is purposeful: the gods and goddesses are on the left facing right, whilst Sennedjem and his family are on the right facing left. When the door leaf is opened, this orientation now presents as the deceased walking into the burial chamber to venerate the gods, who are already seated (or standing) inside.52

The decoration on the interior face of the leaf would only have been visible from the burial chamber when the door was closed. As such, the decoration is designed to blend with the scheme of the rest of the room, which is decorated with texts and vignettes from the Book of the Dead. At the top of the leaf is a vignette of Sennedjem, seated with his wife behind him, playing a game of senet. He has no opponent, instead, on the other side of the senet table is a round-topped table bearing food offerings. Below this scene is eleven columns of text. The text is from the Book of the Dead and is a combination of the postscript to Spell 72 and the introduction to Spell 17.53 Both texts center on the deceased’s ability to go out and return from the tomb; appropriate to the context of the door leaf.54 Spell 17 mentions going out to play a board game beneath a canopy, it is from this the vignette above derives; its placement on the interior of the door leaf, visible only to the deceased as he ‘leaves’ the tomb, is also purposeful.

Fig. 8: The interiior of the door leaf of the tomb of Sennedjem

Despite claims that the door was bolted from the inside, and thus necessitated the destruction of the frame in order to access the room, Bruyere notes that the bolt was actually installed on the exterior of the door leaf and would have slid into a hole in the left jamb, and then was tied and sealed. Unfortunately, he also mentions that “[l]e loquet et le sceau ont disparu en 1886”.55

Although many parts of the tomb, funerary equipment, and even the door frame itself were distributed to various museums around the world as a part of partage, this leaf remains in the Cairo Museum.

Khonsuhotep (BM EA705)56

Another leaf, nearly intact except for its upper pivot, is BM EA705. This 204 cm tall leaf is formed of six planks of sycamore fig, arranged vertically, which are held together by pegs and wooden strips horizontally across the back.

It is decorated with only a single vignette, centered on the top half of the exterior face of the leaf (based on the location of the pivot if the door opened to the right). The vignette is carved and some traces of white paint survive inside the incised lines. It shows a New Kingdom high priest of Amun called Khonsuhotep offering and adoring a seated Osiris flanked by Hathor of the West. Interestingly, the orientation of the figures is the reverse of that on Sennedjem’s door leaf. This may be because the leaf formed the external door to the entire tomb, and wished to portray the deceased as emerging from the tomb when the leaf was opened. Scholars at the British Museum also believe that this is the tomb’s external door due to its large size, thickness, and lack of painted decoration.

The leaf was purchased by Giovanni d’Athanasi from an antiquities dealer on behalf of the Earl of Belmore in 1817-18. Due to the decontextualization nothing else is known about Khnosuhotep, as his tomb has not been identified. In fact, it cannot be certain that the door comes from a tomb at all, however the excellent preservation and decorative theme heavily favours a funerary context. Additionally, an entry in the diary of the Earl’s physician, Dr Richardson, mentions that the door leaf was “found near one of the tombs that have been cut in the southern aspect of the mountain above the village of Gornou, a little to the west of the road that leads into the valley of the tombs of the kings”.57

The leaf was given by the Earl of Belmore to Henry Salt, who deposited the leaf with the British Museum.


A few others are mentioned in Porter & Moss, which are either only briefly mentioned in publications or museum catalogues. These include: “wooden door-wing[s]” from the Old Kingdom Saqqara tombs of Kaemhest (now in the Cairo Museum – JE 47749)58 and Kahersetef (half in Cairo – CG 1568; half originally in Musee Guimet, Paris);59 the door of the burial chamber of the Middle Kingdom tomb of Ukhhotep in Meir;60 a New Kingdom incised fragment held at the Musées royaux d’art et d’histoire in Brussels (E.05281) which is listed in Porter & Moss as being a door leaf, but on the museum’s online catalogue as simply a ‘wooden panel’;61 and “several wooden doors” listed as coming from Lepsius tomb no. 27 in Assasif,62 final storage location unknown. Koenigsberger also lists a door from Illahun (Cairo Museum No. 20/5/24/4)63 as an example of unusual leaf construction, and a large wooden door from the tomb of Sennefer, cited as being Berlin Museum No. 20368.64

Surviving royal examples not from tombs include the upper part of a door panel likely from the funerary temple of Tuthmosis I, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA 22.2.26),65 and one of two door leaves from the ebony shrine of Hatshepsut, found at Deir el-Bahari and now in the Cairo Museum (CG 70001, JE 30740).66

The doors of Ipi (TT 315) and Henenu (TT 313)

Two of the tombs which the Middle Kingdom Theban Project (MKTP) are currently working on are those of Middle Kingdom officials Ipi (MMA 516 / TT 315) and Henenu (MMA 510 / TT 313). Unfortunately, neither of these tombs preserve their stone (or wood) doorways or wooden door leaves. The roughly chiseled entryways which remain resemble in quality those of contemporary Treasurer Khety (MMA 508 / TT 311) and 26th Dynasty addition Vizier Nespakashuty (MMA 509 / TT 512), with which they are aligned. The latter tombs preserve evidence of well-formed stone blocks which would have served to line the rough walls of the tomb,67 and gaps at the entrance also seem to indicate that stone, mudbrick, or wooden doorframes would have been assembled separately.

Fig. 9: Entrance to the tomb of Ipi at the start of MKTP excavations

Whether there were internal doors in the tombs of Ipi or Henenu is unclear. Both tombs include a cult chapel below or behind which a corridor leading to the burial chamber was hidden. Winlock’s plans of Khety’s tomb, which also has this layout, show that he believed there was a second doorway between the corridor and the chapel.68 At the time of writing, we have found no physical indication of doorways in this location in the tombs of Ipi or Henenu, such as sockets or wooden door leaf fragments. Henenu’s tomb features a well-formed frame shape at the rear of the cult chapel, carved into the living rock so as to leave a large recess before it. It seems likely that something was installed here; whether that something was a doorway, a false door, or thick blocking stones to hide the corridor beyond is not yet known.

Fig. 10: The recessed frame-shaped wall in the cult chapel room of Henenu

The tomb of Ipi does preserve one block at the entrance which has been identified by archaeologist Mohamed Osman as a potential threshold. It shows evidence of two impressions which Osman suggests may be sockets for door leaves, and preserves a single layer of mudbrick on the eastern edge which may be the remains of a mudbrick door jamb. Possibly the threshold was formed of two stone blocks, and the bulk of the the jambs rested on a block (now lost) in front of this surviving one.

Fif. 11: Drawing showing the potential threshold block at the entrance to the tomb of Ipi

The author is somewhat hesitant to agree that the two impressions are door sockets simply because the shape and orientation of the sockets is not consistent with the majority of sockets studied by the author. The author suggests that the deeper cavity on the right side may actually be the socket, as it is similar in shape to other stone door sockets.69 This would indicate a single leaf opening to the right, which is more in line with other evidence seen in tomb doors.

Fig. 12: The reconstructed door sockets of the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut at Karnak. Note the similarity in shape to the potential socket in the Ipi threshold stone

Since we have no direct evidence from either tomb, the best approximation for what the main entrance door leaves would have looked like lies with MMA 23.3.174a, as it is the closest both in date and location to our tombs. For our hypothetical reconstruction, we can supplement with information from other door leaves examined above.

All surviving leaves are from doorframes which fill the size of the corridor, rather than built at a smaller size into a dividing wall between rooms. It is likely, then, that the frames at the entrance to the tombs of Ipi and Henenu would have been monumental, this being in proportion to the ceiling height of the tomb corridor. The leaves would also be monumental. As all of the leaves presented above, with the exception of shrine door leaves, are single leaves, the entrance doors to Ipi and Henenu’s tombs would likely also have a single leaf. They probably opened inward and to the right, as did the majority of other leaves recovered.

Decoration was in all probability incised, and perhaps gesso or plaster was added. Painted scenes do not seem likely for an external doorway – the only painted example from the above is the leaf to the burial chamber of Sennedjem and this comes from a later period, as well. Based on the other leaves discovered, the decoration may have included at least one scene of the deceased making or receiving offerings, possibly including his wife and children. The name of the king which Ipi and Henenu served may also be included in the decoration, as on MMA 23.3.174a. The back of the leaf was probably undecorated, held together with dowels and horizontal bands of wood.

For the internal doors we have two options – either decorated like that of Sennedjem or undecorated and utilitarian like that of Nefermaat. However, neither example comes from the same period as our tombs, and without a firm grasp of the decoration scheme of the tombs of Henenu and Ipi, it is impossible to suggest what any hypothetical internal door leaf may have looked like.

Conclusions and future work

Considering how important doors were to the funerary context in ancient Egypt, it is frustrating that the ravages of time and looters have removed much of the physical proof of the doorways in the tombs of Ipi and Henenu. Moving forward, we have three steps to take in order to find out more about the doorways of these two tombs.

Firstly, to have specialists studying the artefacts found throughout the tomb complexes. In the tomb of Henenu, hundreds of fragments of carved and painted stone have been found both inside the tomb and in the courtyard. Although many of the fragments appear to be from stelae and sarcophagi,70 there is a chance that some may be from stone door frames. Our epigraphers71 will look for this evidence in the phrasing and texts used on each fragment.

Secondly, in future seasons we would like to examine the entrances to other surrounding contemporary tombs to see if there is physical evidence beyond sockets or frames that may help us determine where the doorways in our tombs existed and what they looked like. Despite the fact that many of these tombs were excavated in the past, not every excavator focuses or publishes information regarding the doorways, and so a brief in-person survey will be invaluable.

Thirdly, we will excavate in the archives. Archival evidence from the original excavation from Winlock is invaluable, as archaeological publishing in the past was not as scientific and thorough as that of today, and as such much is still accessible only to researchers in-person.

Although we may never be able to fully reconstruct doorways and their leaves in these two tombs, it is important to recognize that their absence means that we need to be careful when interpreting access, movement, and meaning of the spaces they originally divided and united.

Note: Unless expressly indicated to the contrary, photos in this article are copyright of The Middle Kingdom Theban Project © MKTP. Figs. 1 and 7 are courtesy of Antonio Morales; figs. 2-4 are courtesy of the University of Heidelberg; fig. 5 proceeds from Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ägyptischen Tur; figs. 6 and 12 are courtesy of the author; fig. 8 belongs to Wikimedia Commons; and figs. 9-11 are courtesy of Mohamed Osman.


[1] Jéquier, Manuel d’archeologie egyptienne, 111.

2 Clery, Doors, 14; Latour “Where are the missing masses?”, 228.

3 Neufert and Neufert, Architects’ Data, 117–19, 186-7.

4 The author, although by no means attempting to assert herself as an authority equal to the scholars noted here, wrote her PhD dissertation on the construction and decoration of temple doorways in New Kingdom Thebes. During her research, she also briefly examined tomb, domestic, and military doors for comparative purposes.

5 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur.

6 Brunner, “Tür und Tor”; id. “Die Rolle von Tür und Tor im Alten Ägypten”.

7 Hölscher, The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Part I includes architectural investigations of specific doorways in the temple and palace; The Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, Part II,especially 34-37, focuses on construction and decoration.

8 Including: Jéquier, Manuel d’archeologie egyptienne, 65–76, 111–28; Spencer, Brick Architecture in Ancient Egypt, 131, 133; Clarke and Engelbach, Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture, 162–9; Arnold, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, 74–6 especially; and Goyon, Golvin, Simon-Boidot, and Martinet, La construction pharaonique, 370–73.

9 Hirsch, “Bemerkungen zu Toren in den Tempeln des Alten und Mittleren Reiches”.

10 Harpur, Decoration in Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom, 43–58.

11 Hornung, “Struktur und Entwicklung der Gräber im Tal der Könige”, 60–62.

12 Roehrig, “Gates to the underworld: the appearance of wooden doors in the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings”.

13 Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife.

14 For example: BM EA10478,4; BM EA10470,11

15 Hornung and Abt, The Egyptian Book of Gates, 90, 94-95, 140 (amongst other examples). An example showing leaves from the Book of the Dead of Nakht is BM EA10471,17

16 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 21-22

17 Brunner, “Die Rolle von Tür und Tor im Alten Ägypten”, 140.

18 In the Amduat, the text provided the deceased with the means “to know the gates and the ways upon which the great god [Re] passes” (Warburton, The Egyptian Amduat, 12–13). The Book of Gates literally gives the names of the doors and their doorkeepers for each hour (Hornung and Abt, The Egyptian Book of Gates).

19 Ockinga, The Tomb of Amenemope (TT148) I, 109–12.

20 Dorman, The Tombs of Senenmut, 119–24, pls. 66–71. 21 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 10-11

21 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 10-11

22 For instance in the Book of Gates, these are the serpent guardians (Hornung and Abt, The Egyptian Book of Gates, 26).

23 Leprohon, “Gatekeepers of this and the other world”, 84.

24 Von Dassow, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, pl. 116; Ockinga, The Tomb of Amenemope (TT148) I, 116–17.

25 This is not a purely Egyptian worldview. See Van Gennep, Rites of Passage; and Porter, “Thresholds and the Old Testament”.

26 Doors as a transition between worlds is also interpreted in the division between sacred/profane in temples, and public/private in domestic settings.

27 An excellent overview of some of these rituals is Mouron, “Les rites aux portes de la tombe”. An example from the Book of the Dead of Ani is BM EA10470,6, which shows the procession culminating in front of the tomb door.

28 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 15.

29 Budge, The book of the dead: the Papyrus Ani in the British Museum, 5-6

30 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 14.

31 Lansing and Hayes, “The Egyptian expedition: the excavations at Lisht”, 10.

32 Harpur, Decoration in Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom, 48; Arnold, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, 76.

33 Spencer, The Egyptian Temple: A Lexicographical Study, 179–82.

34 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 15.

35 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 16–17; Clarke and Engelbach, Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture, 162.

36 Naville, The Temple of Deir el Bahari II, pl. XXVI.

37 Information about this door comes from Petrie, Wainwright and MacKay, The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh, 25, pl. xvi (1).

38 The leaf itself does not name Itj.sn as it is broken off at the top. However, the discovery with two lintels which both mention Itj.sn suggests the leaf would also belong to this man.

39 All information about this door leaf is from Moussa, “Lintels and lower parts of a leaf”. No further information regarding its current whereabouts or research could be found during the time of writing in lockdown. If you know more, please get in touch!

40 It should be noted that this is an assumption and will need to be verified by examining the leaf or the tomb doorways. In the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, which, like the tomb of Itj.sn was ransacked for filler for the Unas causeway, there is a doorway which preserves decoration of baking activities on the thickness. The socket in this doorway indicates the door leaf opened in and to the left. In English, a good summary can be found on Osirisnet under ‘THE ENTRANCE OF THE FIRST CHAMBER’ heading

41 Allen (“Some Theban officials”, 20) suggests this tomb may belong to the Vizier Bebi, who served near the end of the reign of Mentuhotep II.

42 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 15. An edited version of this also appears in Winlock Excavations at Deir el Bahari 1911-1931, 70.

43 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544250

44 Ibidem.

45 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/743015

46 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 15, fig. 5.

47 An excellent reconstruction of this leaf and more information about the tomb can be found in: Shedid, Das Grab des Sennedjem.

48 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 1; Bierbrier, The tomb-builders of the pharaohs, 139.

49 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 2.

50 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 17.

51 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 22-23.

52 A clear visualization of this change in orientation can be seen in an animation of the opening of the tomb door created by Jon Hirst for Osirisnet and viewable here: https://www.osirisnet.net/popupImage.php?img=/tombes/artisans/sennedjem1/photo/sennedjem_jh_04.gif&lang=en&sw=1366&sh=768

53 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 23, 52-53.

54 For an English translation to these spells see Faulkner, Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, 40 (for Spell 17) and 87 (for Spell 72’s postscript).

55 Bruyere, La tombe n°1 de Sen-nedjem, 22.

56 All information on this door leaf was taken from the new British Museum Collection Online platform, launched 28 April 2020: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA705

57 Richardson, Travels along the Mediterranean, II, 2-3; https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA705, “Acquisition notes”.

58 Porter & Moss (III) 1981, 542.

59 Porter & Moss (III) 1981, 693.

60 Porter & Moss (IV) 1968, 249; Kamal, “Rapport sur les fouilles”, 109.

61 Porter & Moss (I) 1964, 818: https://www.carmentis.be:443/eMP/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=81290&viewType=detailView

62 Porter & Moss (I) 1964, 623; Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien Text III, 248

63 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 17.

64 Koenigsberger, Die Konstruktion der Ӓgyptischen Tur, 16. The author could not track this leaf down – if you know its location, please get in touch.

65 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544474

66 Naville, The Temple of Deir el Bahari II, 1-4, pls. XXV-XXIX; Porter & Moss (II) 1972, 355-356.

67 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 16-18; Pischikova “Reliefs from the Tomb of the Vizier Nespakashuty”, 58.

68 Winlock, “The Egyptian Expedition 1922-1923”, 16.

69 The author noted this shape existed, albeit sometimes greatly eroded, in many of the temple doorways studied as part of her dissertation.

70 See Gracia Zamacona “Imagining Henenu”; Morales et alii, “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: preliminary report 2017”; and id., “The Middle Kingdom Theban Project: preliminary report 2018” for more detail.

71 Great thanks to epigraphers Carlos Gracia Zamacona and Dina Serova for their work so far on the material from TT 313 and TT 315.


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MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Recuperando el pasado

El proyecto

El Middle Kingdom Theban Project tiene como objetivos la excavación, estudio y publicación de varias tumbas de la necrópolis del Reino Medio en Deir el-Bahari (Henenu, Ipi, Neferhotep, E1) y de las tumbas de Dagi (TT 103) y Djari (TT 366) en la necrópolis de Asasif.

MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Ministerio Egipcio de Antigüedades

Con la colaboración del Ministerio Egipcio de Antigüedades y las autoridades del Alto Egipto, Luxor y la Orilla Occidental.

Las tumbas

Las tumbas de Henenu (TT 313) e Ipi (TT 315) se encuentran en la colina norte de la necrópolis de Deir el-Bahari, donde fueron enterrados algunos de los oficiales más importantes de Mentuhotep II y principios del Reino Medio. 

La cámara funeraria de Harhotep (CG 28023) fue localizada en el patio de la tumba TT 314 y constituye uno de los ejemplos más interesantes en arquitectura, iconografía y epigrafía del yacimiento. 

En la planicie de Asasif, las tumbas de Dagi (TT 103) y Djari (TT 366) también representan monumentos a la memoria de altos cargos tebanos del reinado de Mentuhotep II que ayudaron a construir un gran estado.

MKTP - Middle Kingdom Theban Project - Patrocinadores - Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
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