Irynefer’s Tomb no 290 at Deir El-Medina

The tomb lies at the far end of the Western cemetery and shares the forecourt with the earlier 
tomb of Nu and Nakht-Min 
TT 291. It consists of the entrance, antechamber and the burial chamber.
The tomb owner was Irynefer, a necropolis workman of the Ramesside Period. He lived in the village in 
the 19th dynasty during the early part of Ramesses II’s reign. His title was the “Servant in the 
Place of Truth”

The entrance to the tomb was identified by Bernard Bruyère during the season of 
Bruyère’s drawing of the exact position of the tomb and its surroundings can be found 
in his manuscript MS 2004 0144 017, dated Januray 31st 1923, which was digitised 
by IFAO. It marks the outline of the tomb and numbers it as 290:
Bruyère’s dig diary MS_2004_0144_018 from January 27th 1923 mentions excavations in the 
Northern area of the Western necropolis, where a large court with 2 tomb entrances was discovered. 
Each entrance had a shaft in front of it. Bruyère suggested that P1 (on his plan) could be entrance into 
Irynefer’s (AriNefer) tomb. Fragments of several ancient Egyptian objects and a lamp from Christian 
times were found in this area.

Another, later, plan dated February 9th 1923 comes from Bruyère’s manuscript 
MS 2004 0144 027 and shows the name of AriNefer with a question mark:

The photographs of the entrance 
to the tomb and its immediate 
surroundings in November 2011

The steps leading down towards 
the entrance into the antechamber

The tomb belongs to the most interesting corpus of the Ramesside tombs due to its beautifully decorated 
vaulted burial chamber. The brick vault was plastered and decorated with colourful scenes and inscriptions 
providing us with the names and titles of family members. The background to the scenes was painted 
yellow. The scenes include:
– mummification by Anubis
– illustrations from different spells of the Book of the Dead
– images of funerary divinities, demons and manifestations of the decease’s ba and his shadow
– Irynefer kneeling before a palm tree and drinking from a pool of fresh water (Dodson, 2008, 266-269)
– a depiction of a young bull-calf standing in between 2 sycamores, the sacred trees of Heliopolis,the calf 
being a prefiguration of the solar bull as it moves through the sky (Germond, 2001, 239)
– the frieze running the length of the walls, interspersed with protective symbols and hieroglyphs, where 
the baboon is followed by a uraeus, separated from the next one by a feather, symbol of Ma’at 
(Germond, 2001, 244)
– depiction of Irynefer standing in the solar barque worshipping the phoenix, symbol of the sun god of 
Heliopolis. The phoenix in the form of a grey heron wears the solar disk, the image of Re and assures 
Irynefer of his future rebirth in the manner of the sun (Germond, 2001, 258)
– Irynefer’s parents, their age indicated by their white hair, pay homage to Ptah, the patron deity of 
craftsmen. Irynefer himself kneels in the scene in front of Ptah’s throne and offers a figure of the 
goddess Ma’at (Hawass, 2009, 195-197)

To view the inside of the tomb with its well-known colourfully painted walls, follow the link to Claudia Ali 
and Ali Na’im’s web site at

In the summer of 2010 Irynefer’s tomb was briefly opened to visitors;  by autumn 2010 it was closed 
again. In the middle of December 2011 the tomb opened while Sennedjem’s TT1 closed. Jane Akshar 
described her visit to the tomb on her blog at

Objects from the tomb are scattered around the globe in several museums. The British Museum in 
London has 3 objects in its collection:

Stela of Irynefer
19th dynasty
From Deir el-Medina
British Museum, EA 284
The round-topped stela has 2 registers decorated in 
sunken relief. Both are incised with columns of 
hieroglyphic texts, the top one with 5, the bottom one 
with 4.
The upper register: the goddess Taweret stands on the 
left facing an altar heaped with offerings to her right. 
The bottom register: the necropolis workman Irynefer 
kneels in adoration together with his wife Mhy(t) 
who carries a brazier of incense in her left hand.
The top left-hand corner has been broken off. Small 
traces of red paint remain on the figure of Taweret, 
some on the offerings, the human figures and on the 
dress of the lady. There are traces of yellow on the 
altar and black on the wig of Irynefer.
Height: 30.5 centimetres
Width: 21.5 centimetres

Stela of Irynefer
19th dynasty
From Deir el-Medina
British Museum, EA 814
This round-topped stela is divided into 2 registers. It is 
decorated with scenes in sunken relief and inscribed with 
hieroglyphic text.
The upper register: on the right the necropolis workman 
Irynefer, kneels in adoration before an altar full of 
offerings. Irynefer himself makes an offering with his 
right hand. The name of the workman is garbled as the 
male determinative is placed before the nefer sign. On 
the left the goddess Hathor in the form of a cow is 
standing in a shrine on a sledge. Above her is a one-winged 
sun disk. The two registers are divided by a line of text. 
Below are 8 columns of text with a prayer to Hathor on 
behalf of Irynefer. He kneels in the bottom right-hand 
corner in a
position of adoration. The stela is well 
preserved apart from an ancient repair which has been 
inserted into its centre, possibly to replace a nodule of 

flint or some ancient damage. Several signs terminate at 
the edge of the repair which might indicate that they 
were fully carved before the damage and repair. The 
edges of the stela are battered in places. The upper and 
lower edges are covered in black paint, probably modern.
Height: 33 cm
Width: 22 cm

Shabti of Irynefer
19th dynasty
From Deir el-Medina
Painted limestone
British Museum, EA 64578
Contains hieroglyphic text.
Height: 21.2 cm
Acquired in 1946, donated by Mrs Marion Whiteford Acworth. Previous owner/ex-collection of Dr 
Joseph John Acworth
Photograph of the object in Bierbrier, Morris : The tomb-builders of the pharaohs. Cairo : The 
American University in Cairo Press, 1982. Fig. 3

Several objects are at the Louvre in Paris:

Stela of Irynefer
19th dynasty
From Deir el-Medina
Musee du Louvre. C311
Painted stela of the ‘Artisan of the Royal Tombs’, 
Irynefer and his family. The stela comes from the tomb 
Top register: from left: Anubis sitting behind Osiris, 
both facing the divine Amenhotep I and his mother 
The 2 lower registers show Irynefer and his wife 
censing before his parents and brothers. As a contrast 
to the wall painting in Irynefer’s tomb, where both 
Irynefer and his wife are wearing white wigs, this stela 
shows Irynefer’s father Siwadjyt as white-haired. The 
old age is indicated by these two examples, the 
instances of which are not very numerous. All seem to 
come from new Kingdom, especially from the tombs of 
Deir el-Medina (Janssen, 2007, 159-161).

Irynefer before a table of bread
19th dynasty
From Deir el-Medina
Musee du Louvre. E12965
Found in the tomb of Irynefer.
Irynefer is sitting on a rock, brandishing two knives. 
The short text above the offerings indicates that the 
knives are sharpened. The text of five vertical lines 
above gives the names and affiliation of Irynefer. 
The knives are thought to express Irynefer’s powers 
over evil. Perhaps this ostakon was intended to invoke 

1. Dodson, Aidan – Ikram, Salima: The tomb in ancient Egypt : royal and private 
sepulchres from the early dynastic period to the Romans
London : Thames & Hudson, 2008.
2. Janssen, Rosalind and Janssen, Jac. J.: Growing up and getting old in ancient 
London : Golden House Publications, 2007.
3. Hawass, Zahi: The lost tombs of Thebes : Life in paradise.
London : Thames and Hudson, 2009.
4. Germond, Philippe and Livet, Jacques: An Egyptian bestiary : animals in life 
and religion in the land of the Pharaohs.
London : Thames and Hudson, 2001.
5. Bierbrier, Morris : The tomb-builders of the pharaohs
Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1982.
6. Les artistes de Pharaon : Deir el-Médineh et la Vallée des Rois : Paris, musée 
du Louvre, 15 avril – 5 aout 2002
Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2002.

Author: DonFletcher

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