General information on Iurudef’s tomb

IMAGE: Iurudef_ov_RMO5750.jpg CAPTION: View over the tomb of Iurudef

Iurudef was a Scribe of the Treasury of Amun and Scribe of the God’s Offerings during
the reign of Ramesses II (1290-1224 BC). More significant for his career was his relationship with the Overseer of the Treasury Tia. He seems to have acted as the latter’s private secretary and may even have been responsible for the construction of Tia’s tomb at Saqqara. This would explain the fact that Iurudef is not only represented in a number of places in the tomb (and also on the walls of another monument built by Tia at Kafr el-Gebel, near Giza) but even had his own burial-shaft within the precinct of his master. If we add that Iurudef may have been the tutor of Ramose, the famous scribe of the village of Deir el-Medina, he becomes a fascinating figure in his own right.

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Superstructure of Iurudef’s tomb

Iurudef’s tomb consists of a small chapel on Tia’s outer courtyard, abutting the north face of the pylon of Horemheb’s monument next door. Thus, a priest standing in front of the stela faced south, not west as usual. All that remains of this miniature chapel are the floor and part of one door-jamb with a bit of the adjacent south wall – enough to show that it had relief decoration both inside and outside.

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Substructure of Iurudef’s tomb

A tomb-shaft opens directly in front of the chapel and was excavated in 1985. It is 8.08 m deep and leads to seven tomb-chambers: four on a first level (4.75 m deep) and three more at the bottom (one entered via a second pit and 9.98 m deep). These still contained considerable remains of Iurudef’s burial gifts. The total number of individuals buried here amounts to at least 32.

IMAGE: Iurudef_view.jpg CAPTION: One of the burials in the tomb of Iurudef CAPTION: One of the burials in the tomb of Iurudef

But Iurudef’s relatives were not the last persons to be buried here. At some stage, the tomb was robbed and its contents burnt. During the Third Intermediate Period (somewhere between 1100 and 850 BC), the four chambers of the upper level were re-used for the burial of about seventy people. This was a period of great impoverishment, at least in Memphis. Accordingly, there were badly-mummified corpses wrapped in palm-stick mats, children in papyrus coffers or rectangular boxes, and only 27 proper coffins. The latter are of great interest because of their obvious lack of craftsmanship. The construction is poor, the decoration full of ill-understood details, and the texts have been written in pseudo-hieroglyphs. The find of this intrusive cache has proved to be highly important for a better understanding of the post-New Kingdom use of the Saqqara necropolis.

The upper chambers still contained considerable remains of Iurudef’s burial gifts, including parts of inlaid wooden coffins, shabtis in stone, wood and faience, fragments of a fine openwork mummy cover, a scribe’s palette, a pectoral, a scarab inscribed for Ramsesses II, and cosmetic vessels.

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Most interesting finds from Iurudef’s tomb

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The tomb of Iurudef was reused as a burial-place for a large number of mummies dating to the Third Intermediate Period. The new mummies and coffins effectively sealed the remaining bits of Iurudef’s burial which lay in the layer of sand, rubble and ashes covering the floors of the tomb-chambers. Therefore the tomb of Iurudef is unique for the large number of original burial gifts it preserved. This pectoral is an example. It was meant to contain a double heart-scarab inscribed with spell 30B from the Book of the Dead, intended to protect the deceased when his heart was weighed by the gods in the hereafter. Although the scarabs have been robbed, the pectoral is still a wonderful object, made in faience with inlays in glass. One side shows Osiris adored by the owner, a royal concubine (?) Maka. The reverse has a depiction of Isis and Nephthys on a bark.

Painted coffin

IMAGE: Iurudef_coffin_3.jpg CAPTION: Painted coffin in the tomb of Iurudef

The secondary burial in the tomb of Iurudef consisted of about 70 individuals. They were buried in palm-rib mats, papyrus coffers, or wooden coffins. The most beautiful coffin was that of an old woman. It has a striated wig with a petal fillet and lotus flowers above the forehead. The face is finely modelled, the hands protrude from an elaborate collar with many ranges of petals, roundels, and other designs. There is a standing sky goddess on the abdomen, whereas the legs have been divided into panels depicting Osiris and other gods. The side-walls also have panels with various deities, often unidentifiable. The captions in hieroglyphs are no great help, since these contain mock inscriptions only. Obviously, the knowledge of hieroglyphs was already dwindling around 900 BC when this coffin was made. Other coffins from the same tomb show far worse craftsmanship, indicated how impoverished the people of Memphis were at the time.

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Iurudef’s family relations

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Objects from Iurudef’s tomb in museum collections

  • Durham, Oriental Museum N. 1965: stela (original position unknown)
  • Cairo, Egyptian Museum JE 99640: shabti of a woman named Hener


  • Final report:
    Raven, M.J. et al., The Tomb of Iurudef, a Memphite Official in the Reign of Ramesses II (Leiden and London, 1991).

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