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Entrance to tomb 92   Balloons over Thebes

JHU’s home in Egypt from 1993-2001 was Theban tomb 92, built for the royal butler of Amenhotep II (ca. 1425-1400 B.C.). The exterior of the tomb was cut to resemble a pyramid form and was once mud plastered and white washed so that it gleamed in the morning sun. The view from the court yard looks over the nearby cultivation of western Luxor (Thebes), and this morning the balloons were all in evidence.

Betsy Bryan working

I’m here this year to do final detail photos, measurements, and notes as I write the publication volume on the tomb’s painting. The tomb was chosen as part of research on the techniques and organization of Egyptian painters in the mid-18th Dynasty, ca. 1500-1350 B.C., because it is unfinished and allows us to look at the processes.

Head of a man    Scene in tomb 92

Artists proportioned figures on grids, but when the painting is finished the grid is difficult to find, unless, as here, there is an area where paint has disappeared. Black pigment frequently disappeared, and on the head of this man who carried a large pink stork for a temple offering, the grid is visible where the black of the wig has been lost.

Seated couple    Monkey

The seated couple here were probably the parents of the tomb owner. They have been sketched on a grid the ends of whose lines are marked vertically along the right border. Only a single layer of paint has been applied, but had the scene been completed, further layers would have been applied, details added, and outlining done to finish the image. Notice that the pet monkey under the chair has also been proportioned to the grid, his eyebrow level being four grid squares in height. This is unusual, since frequently animals were drawn free hand.


Roxie Walker, a bioanthropologist, studied the human remains from TT 92, and she has arrived for a brief visit to do a final look at two individuals from the tomb. In her hands are vertebrae from the young woman we call “Tiny Lady”, who lived into her 20s with a undeveloped sacrum -- without the ability to walk and an adult height of less than 4 feet.


Certain techniques of painting are fascinating to note. The boy has been added to the scene with his parents, and his partially bare head therefore has a white background, instead of the plaster color normally seen here beneath unpainted sketches. The offering table behind the boy has only been painted with a few colors as yet, but note the lowest register where the outline of ducks has been expertly created by the background painter!!


Another offering table in this room was nearly complete when work stopped, and the lower portion had also been coated with a surface treatment over the yellows, blues, and greens. This has been found to be a plant oil, and it deepened the tones and gave a sheen to the paints. The detail of the lotus shows the brownish streaking over the yellow.


We were not the first to work in this tomb. Archives in Oxford include drawings of several scenes from TT92, and tracings must have been done before us as well. Unfortunately the need to care for monuments has not always been as well recognized as it is today. A detail of this scene, whose grid is quite plainly in view along the right margin, shows that someone in the past not only drew a pencil grid over the entire scene, but numbered the lines as well.

Jay, as always, has provided these remarkable photographs. Here he stands in the rear corridor of the royal butler Suemniwet's tomb. Thanks Jay!

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