Theban Tombs 286 and 159

Dra Abu El Naga is located on the West Bank of Luxor and contains hundreds of noblemen’s tombs dating from the Middle Kingdom, scattered periods in the 18-26th Dynasties, and the Ptolemaic era. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities wanted to increase tourism to the site by conserving and opening tombs and installing visitor information and navigational infrastructure like stairs and pathways, so funding was allocated through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) ‘Cultural Heritage Tourism in Egypt’ (CHTE) grant to enable the work.

Acting as the project implementer, the American Research Center in Egypt selected two tombs in Dra Abu El Naga for improvement: the Tomb of Raya (TT 159) and the Tomb of Niay (TT 286). TT159 belongs to the ‘fourth Prophet of Amun’ and his wife Mutemwia, and dates to the 19th Dynasty, while TT286 belongs to the ‘Scribe of the Table’ and dates to the 20th Dynasty. In addition to conserving and opening the two tombs via the training of 13 conservators from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, ARCE also provided upwards of 537 jobs to local workers who assisted in clearing the site and building visitor infrastructure. Conservation efforts and training schools at these two tombs ran from January 2015 to June 2017.

TT286 is a multi-chambered tomb with rich surviving wall decorations. The TT286 work involved finding and conserving an ancient mud brick wall outside the tomb entrance. New bricks were made to combine with the old wall, and the tomb entrance itself was strengthened. The guards at the necropolis had rescued some of the painted wall fragments after the villagers were evicted, so the conservation students examined the fragments and succeeded in reconnecting a few to their original locations on the painted walls. To accommodate visitors, a wooden floor was erected over the bedrock, with motion-activated solar lighting.

TT159 is a classic T-shaped tomb that includes a forecourt, transverse hall, and a shrine that once held a statue of the seated couple. As part of the project, the entrance of the tomb was rebuilt, and the painted wall and ceilings inside were cleaned and preserved. The team also found and filled a large crack that had formed over the main hall. At both tombs, the surrounding area was restored as close as possible to its natural state, with the goal of providing visitors an authentic as experience as possible.  

The conservation of both tombs was celebrated with an official ceremony in September 2019, which was attended by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, Thomas Goldberger; Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Dr. Khaled El Anany; USAID Egypt Director, Sherry Carlin; Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Mostafa Waziry; and Luxor Governor Councilor, Mostafa Alham.

After reaching the last stop (#16) on your tour of TT159, click to continue on to TT286. Model courtesy of David Anderson, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse ( and