General information on Khay’s tomb

Khay (designated as Khay II in order to distinguish him from his namesake whose tomb was found in 1986) was connected to the temple of the Memphite town god, Ptah. He served the god as ‘pure priest of the front of Ptah’, presumably meaning that he carried the front part of the god’s bark during periodical processions. Pure priests (Egyptian wab) belonged to the lower clergy and often did their temple duties as a part-time job. Thus Khay seems to have a second title, that of ‘chief gardener of the garden of Pharaoh in Memphis’. The rather modest proportions of Khay’s tomb-chapel confirm that he was not a rich man. The chapel was built against the south exterior wall of Horemheb’s forecourt and Second Pylon. Its floor lies about 1 metre above that of Horemheb, indicating that he must have lived in the Ramesside period when the level of the desert surface had been raised considerably by dumping rubble excavated during the construction of tomb-shafts and underground chambers.

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Superstructure of Khay’s tomb

The tomb was constructed on a high bed of rubble which had accumulated between the mudbrick monuments of Horemheb in the north and Pay in the south. It was excavated in 2009 and proved to consist of a mudbrick forecourt, an antechapel with rear sanctuary, and a pyramid. The total length is 12.5 m and the width 3.25 m. The forecourt has no north wall of its own, using Horemheb’s south wall instead. It has a mud floor, whereas the chapel has preserved parts of its limestone flagstones. Some remains of the original wall-revetment in limestone have also survived in situ, including a slab along the south wall of the antechapel and part of the south screen-wall and door-jamb. These show offering scenes and three columns of hieroglyphs, all roughly carved and painted in yellow. The tomb’s mudbrick pyramid and limestone pyramidion had already been
found in 1992. The latter is also inscribed for Khay and his father.

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Substructure of Khay’s tomb

For his substructure Khay reused a large shaft probably dating to the Old Kingdom. It had already become overbuilt by Horemheb’s massive south wall, which runs over a bridge formed by one of the original covering slabs which had been upended on its long side. The now bisected shaft (one half lying on Horemheb’s forecourt and the other on that of Khay) was made accessible again by constructing a parabolic arch in the masonry of Horemheb’s wall, and then constructing some steps down this vault from the level of Khay’s forecourt. The Expedition tried to excavate the shaft in 2010, but gave up because of the dangerous condition of the shaft’s revetment and the cracks in the ‘bridge’. This means that we have no information on the depth of the shaft or
the layout of the subterranean chambers.

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Most interesting finds from Khay’s tomb

During the New Kingdom, the formal royal privilege to build pyramids was extended to private persons. Such private pyramids were part of a tomb-chapel or temple-tomb. Usually, they stood behind or around the central offering-chapel, or on the flat roof of these structures. Needless to say, their size was much smaller than that of their royal precursors. In Saqqara, the 18th-Dynasty tombs had mud-brick pyramids and only the tombs of the 19th Dynasty sometimes had limestone ones. The mud-brick examples usually possessed an apex made of limestone or an even more durable kind of stone. Parts of such pyramidions have often been found by the expedition, but is was rare to find this almost intact one. It is inscribed for ‘the chief gardener of the garden of Pharaoh in Memphis’, Khay son of Hadad. The father’s name is interesting because it betrays his Syrian origins, Hadad being the local designation for the god Baal. In spite of the differing title, Khay was probably identical to the owner of the chapel found in 2009, because the pyramidion was picked up from the area right next to his tomb.

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Khay’s family relations

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Objects from Khay II’s tomb in museum collections



  • Preliminary report:
    M.J. Raven, H.M. Hays et al., Preliminary Report on the Leiden Excavations at Saqqara, Season 2009: the tombs of Khay II and Tatia, JEOL 42 (2010), 5-24.

Restoration of Khay II’s tomb

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In 2009, the reliefs from the tomb were protected by a mudbrick casing erected in front of them. Horemheb’s south wall, which at the same time serves as the north wall of the tomb of Khay, was consolidated with new mudbrick masonry to a consistent height. The parabolic arch over the shaft reused by Khay was reconstructed, following the line of the original. To allow the excavation of the shaft, a steel lintel supporting half of the thickness of the wall was installed over the shaft. The edge of the shaft and the steps leading down to it were also reinforced, using new blocks of limestone.