Senenmut

last update: 16.01.2007

Historical Data

Name Title   Origin Tomb
Senenmut
n-n-mwt
Title: Director of the Domain of Amun, etc.

see also
"Titles of Senenmut"

date of appointment: not known;
last documentation in year 16  (in year 16 the 2nd pair of Obelisks was erected) 
Armant
(Iuni)

 

Tombs:
TT71; TT353
names destroyed
         
Parents        
Father:
Ramose
Ra-ms
Title:
sab (zAb)
(Honorable, Senior)
   

Tomb: Sheikh Abd el-Qurna

Mother: Hatnefret
@At-nfrt
Title:
nebet-per (nbt-pr)
(Lady of the House)
    Tomb: Sheikh Abd el-Qurna
Grandmother:        
Sat-Djehuty   mentioned on a funerary papyrus from Hatnefret, that was found in her mummy bandages    
Brother(s):        
Amenemhet Title: Priest of the Barque of Amun      
Min-hotep Title: Priest of Amun      
Pairi Title: Overseer of the Cattle      
Sister(s):        
Ah-hotep        
Nofret-hor        

Among the persons who served Hatshepsut and made career during her reign, Senenmut is certainly the most well-known one. Senenmut, whose name n-n-mwt  means "brother of the mother", is well-known by his monuments TT71 and TT353 as well as by an unusually large number of other monuments, ostraca and other small finds. Only in the Old Kingdom there had been a few private people, who had left a similarly large number of statues, but before and after Senenmut there was no further private person, who was allowed to create such an abundance of monuments for himself. This was surely an expression of the appreciation of his person by Hatshepsut.

His advancement from common origin to the probably most important civil servant under Hatshepsut and his disappearing in the last years of her reign resulted in numerous speculations, including speculations about his character and a possible affair with Hatshepsut.


Origin
It is frequently argued, that parents of Senenmut were of common origin. This assumption is particularly based on the modest tomb of his parents. The tomb was found intact 1935/1936 under the terrace, which was built by Senenmut before the forecourt of his tomb (TT71) in Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. The tomb of his parents consists of a simple chamber (2.9x2.5x1.3 m) and contained two anthropoid coffins, which were marked with the names and titles of his parents. In addition, the tomb contained two other, unlabelled coffins.

The title of his father Ramose, "Honorable" (zAb), which was found only in first tomb of Senenmut, TT71, has no special meaning and was probably used to honor all deceased (who had no other title; after Tyldesley, 1996). Therefore, Ramose could have been just a farmer, because otherwise he would surely have decorated himself with a title.

Also the title of his mother Hatnefret - "Lady of the House (nbt pr)" - is probably rather the usual title for a wife, which most likely does not tell more than that first of all, she has managed her own household, and secondly, the family was at least "wealthy" enough, to live in their own house and not a house together with parents or parents-in-law.

Apart from the absence of special titles it was noticeable that coffin and mummy equipment of his mother had been much more precious, as those of his father. This suggests that his father died - at an age of approximately 60 years - several years before his mother, at a time Senenmut was still at the beginning of his career and not able to finance a more precious funeral equipment and an appropriate tomb for his father.


This heart-scarab has been found on the mummy of Hat-nefret 
(today the scarab is exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts, New York)

When his mother died between year 6 and 7 of the reign of Hatshepsut, he had already become the tutor of princess Neferu-Ra and the "Great Stewart of the King ("jmj-rA pr wr")"  of Hatshepsut. Therefore, he had access to the funeral equipment from royal magazines (as demonstrated by inscriptions, e.g. two mummy bandages of his father carried the label "Neferu-Ra") and he also could pay a more precious coffin. So, Hatnefret had been carefully mummified, bandaged in linen from Hatshepsut's royal estate and equipped with a complete funeral outfit (e.g. the heart scarab shown left, a gilded mask, funerary papyri, and canopic jars). 

The fact that the mummy of his mother carried a gold decoration labeled  with the inscription "Great Royal Wife" Ah-mose (the mother of Hatshepsut), led also to the assumption that Hatnefret  (also known as Hatnofret) had served queen Ah-mose. However, in that case Hatnefret would have carried an appropriate title, which surely would have been mentioned in the tomb.


As his mother died he had already selected a suitable place for his own tomb. Thus, he decided to dig a new tomb for his parents (just below his own one) and, after the expensive funeral of his mother, he took his father out of his original tomb and buried him together with his mother, whereby the mummy of his father was probably re-wrapped in new bandages bearing the cartouche of Neferu-Ra and put into a painted anthropoid wooden coffin.
Most likely, on this occasion also the two coffins of three women and their children were buried in the tomb, since the tomb does not show signs of having been opened again. Since no inscriptions were found on these coffins, the relationship of these persons with the family of the Senenmut is not known.

The social classification of the family has also been a central point of the discussion. Probably at that time about 5% of the population was able of reading and writing. Therefore, Tyldesley (1996) placed the family in the "upper" social class - which mastered these stages of civilization -, because in her opinion Senenmut would not have been able to start successfully into his career without these abilities. 


In this connection is also unclear, how or where Senenmut has started his career. Able to read and write he could have started his career as a low civil servant. However, it is also possible that he had started with a military career and then changed into the administration (see also Career and End (?)). As far as we know it was quite usual that retiring officers were awarded with an administrative position.


There is however no sufficient information that would clarify where he had started his career. Helck has pointed out that one must differentiate among persons carrying the titles "Steward, Chief Steward, or Chief Overseer of the Estate" from those who additionally carried the title "sesch nisut" (sS nswt = Royal Scribe) and from those without this title. Those who carried the title "sesch nisut" had passed an education as a scribe,  the others had held military ranks before they changed to an administrative position (which however did not mean that they could not write). Among his numerous titles Senenmut does not mention that he has been a "sesch nisut".

That let different Egyptologists (among others Meyer, Helck) to assume that he started with a military career, possibly his ancestors had also served as soldiers. Furthermore, promising children from common families were educated together with children of the king in the Corps of Pages, the so-called "kap". Later, they served the king as soldiers. It was assumed that Senenmut also joined the "kap", since this would explain his good education and his participation in military campaigns. Again, the inscriptions in his monuments do not tell anything about such an education (in contrast to others who proudly mentioned their education in the "kap" ).

His two sisters, Ah-hotep and Nofret-hor, both mentioned above, were initially regarded as his wives. However the representation in his two graves contradicts this assumption. Senenmut is always represented there without a wife (usually he would have been represented with his wife or wives). Furthermore, since also no children are known, one must assume he has not married. Later, he entrusts his brother Amenemhet with the execution of his funeral cult, which was usually the duty of the oldest son - if there was any.

Based on archaeological information the family probably came from Armant (Iuni), located approx. 25 km south of Waset (Thebes). In his lists of work and donations Senenmut mentions explicitly the temple of Armant, to which he dedicated three statues (Brooklyn 67.68; Fort Worth 85.2; Munich S 6265). Otherwise, only the temples of Karnak and Luxor were mentioned beside Djeser djeseru, although he served as the "Overseer" of the work done at numerous holy place in the provinces. Therefore, this emphasis of (the temple of) Armant is interpreted as note to the origin of the family.

Career and Fall (?) Tombs back

Copyright: Dr. Karl H. Leser (Iufaa)