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"Mother's Brother"

Statue of a kneeling Senmut at the Brooklyn Museum, New York.©

Dynasty 18th Dynasty
Pharaoh(s) Thutmose IIHatshepsut
Titles Royal Tutor
Chief Steward
Steward of the God's Wife
Overseer of the Works
Royal Scribe
Father Ramose
Mother Hatnofret
Burial TT353

Senmut (ancient Egyptian: sn-mwt, "Mother's Brother") was a high official of the Eighteenth Dynasty during the New Kingdom.

Origins and Family[]

Senmut was of low commoner birth, born to Ramose and Hatnofret, literate commoners from Hermonthis (modern Armant). More information is known about Senmut than many other non-royal Egyptians because the joint tomb of his parents (the construction of which Senmut supervised himself) was discovered intact by the Metropolitan Museum in the mid-1930s and preserved. Senmut is known to have had three brothers named; Amenemhat, Minhotep and Pairy, and two sisters; Ahhotep and Hornofret.[1] However, only Minhotep is named outside chapel TT71 and tomb TT353, in an inventory on the lid of a chest found in the burial chamber of Ramose and Hatnofret.[2]

Christine Meyer has offered compelling evidence to show that Senmut was a bachelor for his entire life: for instance, Senmut is portrayed alone with his parents in the funerary stelae of his tombs; he was depicted alone, rather than with a wife, in the vignette of Chapter 110 from the Book of the Dead in TT353 and, finally, it was one of Senmut's own brothers, and not one of his sons, who was charged with the execution of Senmut's funerary rites.[3]

Some Egyptologists have theorized that Senmut was Pharaoh Hatshepsut's lover. Facts that are typically cited to support the theory are that Hatshepsut allowed Senmut to place his name and an image of himself behind one of the main doors in Djeser-Djeseru, and the presence of graffiti in an unfinished tomb used as a rest house by the workers of Djeser-Djeseru depicting a male and a hermaphrodite in pharaonic regalia engaging in an explicit sexual act.[4]


Senenmut first enters the historical record on a national level as the "Steward of the God's Wife" (Hatshepsut) and "Steward of the King's Daughter" (Neferure). Some Egyptologists place Senmut's entry into royal service during the reign of Thutmose I, but it is far more likely that it occurred during the reign of Thutmose II while Hatshepsut was queen-regent and not pharaoh. After Hatshepsut was crowned pharaoh, Senmut was given more prestigious titles and became "Chief Steward of the King".

Senmut supervised the quarrying, transport, and erection of twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, at the entrance to the Temple of Amun at Karnak. Neither stands today though they were commemorated in the Red Chapel, which was intended as a barque shrine and may have originally stood between the two obelisks. The remaining obelisks of Hatshepsut were erected in Year 15 as part of her Sed Festival; one still stands in the Temple of Karnak whilst the other is in pieces, having fallen many centuries ago.

Senmut was also Chief Architect of Hatshepsut's works at Deir el-Bahari. Senmut's masterpiece building project was the Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, also known as the Djeser-Djeseru ("Holiest of the Holy"), designed and implemented by Senenmut on a site on the west bank of the Nile, close to the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. Djeser-Djeseru sits atop a series of terraces that were once graced with gardens. It is built into a cliff face that rises sharply above it. Combined with the other buildings of the Deir el-Bahari complex it is considered to be among the great buildings of the ancient world. The building complex design is thought to be derived from the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II built nearly 500 years earlier beside it.[5]


Senmut was granted prime construction sites at the Theban Necropolis; Sheikh Abd el-Qurna for his funerary chapel (TT71), near the the tomb of his parents, and Deir el-Bahari for his tomb (TT353), near Hatshepsut's mortuary temple.[6] They complement each other and are only, together, a full burial monument.[7]

TT71 is a typical Theban tomb chapel, but there are no burial chambers inside. Contruction was started late in Year 7, "shortly after Hatshepsut's accession, the death of Hatnofret, and Hatnofret's interment with the exhumed remains of several family members", while the "excavation on the chapel seems to have continued until after Year 7" of the female pharaoh's reign.[6] Senmut's tomb appears to have enjoyed Hatshepsut's favour and "his portrayal in the Punt reliefs certainly postdates Year 9" of Hatshepsut.[6]

TT353 is fully underground without any overground chapel. It contains the earliest known star map in Egypt as a main part of the decor. The astronomical ceiling is divided into two sections, representing the northern and southern skies. This indicates another dimension of his career, suggesting that he was an ancient astronomer as well.[8]

Both TT71 and TT353 were heavily vandalized during the reign of Thutmose III, perhaps during the latter's campaign to eradicate all trace of Hatshepsut's memory.


The whereabouts of Senmut's mummified body remains unknown. A mummy known as Unknown Man C, found in a cache of royal mummies in TT320, has been proposed as belonging to Senmut. However, this remains speculative.


  1. Dorman 1988, p. 165-166.
  2. Lansing & Hayes 1937.
  3. Meyer 1982, p. 8-9.
  4. "Senenmut and Hatshepsut".
  5. Edwards 1986, p. 218.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Dorman 1988, p. 172.
  7. Dorman 1988, p. 109.
  8. Novaković 2008.


  • Dorman, P.F., 1988: The Monuments of Senenmut: Problems in Historical Methadology. Kegan Paul Ltd., London.
  • Edwards, I.E.S., 1986: The Pyramids of Egypt. Penguin Books (Revised Edition).
  • Lansing, A./Hayes, W., 1937: The Egyptian Expedition, 1935-1936. BMMA 32, Section II.
  • Meyer, C., 1982: Senenmut: Eine Prosopographische Untersuchung. Verlag Borg GmbH, Hamburg.
  • Novaković, B., 2008: Senenmut: An Ancient Egyptian Astronomer. Astronomical Observatory Belgrade, No. 85.