General information on Pay and Raia’s tomb

Like his neighbour in the necropolis, Iniuia, Pay held the title of Overseer of the Cattle of Amun. His main office, however, was that of Overseer of the Harîm in Memphis. Various details in the tomb’s decorations allow us to date his period of office to the reign of Tutankhamun (1333-1323 BC). The wall-reliefs show Pay’s wife Repyt and a number of sons and daughters. One of the sons, Raia, chose a military career but took over his father’s office of Overseer of the Harîm at the latter’s death. He may have lived on until the reign of King Seti I (1306-1290 BC) and adapted his father’s tomb for his own burial, a rather rare phenomenon. Thus, the monument should be designated as the tomb of Pay and Raia. It was excavated between 1994 and 1996 and is situated due east of the tomb of Iniuia and to the south of Horemheb’s forecourt.

Superstructure of Pay and Raia’s tomb

Originally, the tomb consisted of a vestibule leading into a peristyle courtyard, with a single north-east chapel flanking the vestibule and three further offering-chapels in the west. The vestibule and the corner chapels have mudbrick vaults and painted walls. The courtyard and the central chapel with its small pyramid had limestone wall-revetment with relief decoration, parts of which have been preserved. The superstructure measured 17.50 m from east to west and 10.50 m across. Then Raia added an outer courtyard of another 6 m long, provided with two stelae (now in Berlin) and a new eastern gateway. The original doorway was furnished with new jambs, the pyramidion was replaced, and some of the existing pictures were painted over. Although this rather looks like an usurpation, it is probably better to regard this procedure as a pious association of father and son.

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Substructure of Pay and Raia’s tomb

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The substructure of the tomb was adapted, too. A succession of three shafts leads to a total depth of 22.35 m. The chamber of the upper level was provided with a sloping ramp, and the second shaft and chamber were enlarged in order to manoeuvre Raia’s massive limestone sarcophagus into position. This had been smashed by robbers but could be completely reconstructed by the expedition. Otherwise, the subterranean complex held the plundered remains of the original burial gifts, as well as finds dating to the Late Period when the tomb was re-used for multiple burials.

Most interesting finds from Pay and Raia’s tomb

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Sarcophagus of Raia
The sarcophagus of Raia, Pay’s son and successor, is certainly the most important object discovered in the tomb. When found during the clearing of the subterranean chambers in 1996, it had been broken into about 250 fragments by robbers. After a lengthy reconstruction in 1998, it is now kept for future display in the forecourt of the tomb. The sarcophagus box has a tapering shape with rounded head end which is rather rare in the New Kingdom. The lid depicts the mummy of the deceased with a striated wig, crossed hands, and tranverse bands with inscriptions. The decoration on the side-walls of the box is of a classical New Kingdom type and represents the four Sons of Horus, two forms of Anubis, and two Thoth figures. The representations have been painted yellow, which undoubtedly imitates gilding and has solar or supernatural connotations.

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Mask of Pay
During the Late Period, the upper level of Pay’s tomb-chambers was reused for the interment of numerous poor mummies. Some pottery vessels date these burials to the Saite Period, between the late 7<sup>th</sup> and the early 6<sup>th</sup> centuries BC. Several of these mummies must have been covered with bead nets, since thousands of faience cylinder and ring beads were retrieved from the fill of the burial-chambers. Such bead-nets often comprised certain amulets, and indeed a number of scarabs and figurines has been found as well. Among these objects was this beautiful mask, found in six pieces which were dispersed all over the tomb. The oval mask has threading holes along its circumference so that it could be integrated into a bead net. The features are indicated in raised relief with accents in black glaze. Although cloth or stucco masks are fairly common, no parallels for this object are known.

Pay and Raia’s family relations

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Objects from Pay and Raia’s tomb in museum collections

  • Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum 7270: stela
  • Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum 7271: stela
  • Florence, Museo Archeologico 1605: door jamb
  • Florence, Museo Archeologico 1606: relief
  • Kuybyshev, Municipal Museum: door jamb
  • New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 04.2.527: stela fragment
  • Paris, Musée Rodin NI 104 and 235: relief
  • Paris, Louvre N.362: pyramidion
  • Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum 5908: pyramidion


During the season 1994, the mudbrick vaults of the lateral chapels were already restored in order to protect the precious wall-paintings inside. The next year, the central chapel received a flat roof and wooden door, and the north wall of the courtyard was topped by modern mudbricks. A section of surviving painted mud plaster decoration in the vestibule between the forecourt and peristyle court was protected with a permanent mudbrick facing wall, sealed with mudbrick at its head. In 1998, the reconstructed limestone sarcophagus of Raia was installed on a concrete plinth in the centre of the forecourt, and was then protected in a huge wooden box. Since this was locked and sealed, the beautiful sarcophagus became utterly invisible and inaccessible.

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In 2008, further interventions were carried out. Work commenced with the consolidation of the south wall of the peristyle court to prevent the continuing infiltration of sand into the excavated area. The new roof over the central chapel was raised, set to fall to the perimeter, and given a new bitumen isolation and mudbrick covering. The roof was also cantilevered on the courtyard side in order to shade the chapel within. The opening to this space was widened to parallel its original architectural layout, and to allow the chapel to be viewed through a steel mesh screen with double doors. The remaining exposed limestone blocks around the perimeter of the courtyard were protected with a series of ventilated opening timber cupboards. On the south and west sides, these were combined into a single larger ‘L’-shaped unit that also gave access to the southern chapel. The new wall erected in front of the painting in the vestibule was now perforated by a number of copper ventilation pipes to preclude condensation within the internal cavity. The wall was then plastered to differentiate it from the other, structural, walls which surrounded it.

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The reconstructed sarcophagus of Raia was found to be resting on a timber base which was replaced with stainless steel supports. After much discussion, and at the request of the local Inspectorate, the entire forecourt was roofed with a new treated timber structure on built up perimeter mudbrick walls. Although this space had never been roofed in antiquity, the decision was made in order to allow visitors a clear view of the entire sarcophagus which was surrounded with a simple wooden handrail on steel balusters. Steel frame and mesh doors were provided on both sides of this room, and a visitor information panel mounted at the entrance.

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Raven, M.J., et al., The Tomb of Pay and Ra’ia at Saqqara (Leiden and London, 2005).

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