The offering chapel of Hetepherakhty has been part the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden since 1902. Originally it belonged to a ‘mastaba’ in Saqqara, where this Old Kingdom tomb was excavated in the 1860’s by Auguste Mariette. He concisely described the decoration of the chapel in his Mastabas (1889), focusing mostly on the inscriptions. The unfinished work, without plates, was posthumously published.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Egyptian Antiquities Service directed by Mariette’s successor Gaston Maspero, instigated “the sale of entire mastabas from Sakkareh to the museums of Europe and America. It is hoped that when such can be obtained at a moderate figure the directors of museums will be less eager to buy odd blocks and fragments broken out by robbers, and that so the robbers will give up their detestable trade.” (Reference)

Thus, the tomb chapel of Hetepherakhty was excavated and sold for 200 Egyptian pounds to Adriaan Goekoop, a contractor and amateur archaeologist from The Hague. He subsequently donated the chapel to the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, where it arrived in the fall of 1902. In 1904, the chapel was first exhibited.

The tomb chapel as it was originally set up in the museum

In 1905, the Beschrijving (Description) of the Old Kingdom collection of the museum was published by curator Pieter Boeser. It contained black-and-white photographs of the chapel, but no extensive description of the relief scenes. In the 1930’s, Herta Mohr, an Egyptologist fled from Vienna, studied the chapel and published her findings (Mohr 1943). Unfortunately, she was arrested and transported to Camp Westerbork and subsequently to Auschwitz. She died tragically before the end of the war. Mohr had taken black-and-white photographs of many details of the tomb’s decoration, but due to inaccessibility of the chapel from 1939 onwards was forced to base her facsimile drawings on the older photos by Boeser.

A small number of articles have been written about details of the chapel’s decoration, but no academic work according to modern standards including high resolution photos and facsimile drawings. Other ‘museum mastabas’ have in the meantime been published satisfactorily, e.g. Simpson, W.K., The offering chapel of Kayemnofret in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1992) and Ziegler, C., Le mastaba d’Akhethetep (2007). The latter including a re-excavation of the site of origin at Saqqara.

Pencil drawing of a scene in the tomb chapel of Hetepherakhty by the author

The complete photographic documentation, recording through digital epigraphy and academic publication of the tomb chapel of Hetepherakhty (inv. no. F 1904/3.1-b). The photographic documentation was carried out during the summer of 2016 by Hans van den Berg, in cooperation with the National Museum of Antiquities. Funding has been secured from the LUF/Byvanck Fund and Huis van Horus for the purchase of a drawing tablet (Wacom Cintiq 22HD). Epigraphy will be carried out based on the digital Chicago House Method by Nicky van de Beek MA, collated by Dr. René van Walsem. The ensuing publication will appear in the PALMA series, with the provisional title:

Beek, N. van de and R. van Walsem, with photos by H. van den Berg, The tomb chapel of Hetepherakhty.

The work is meant as a definitive publication about the mastaba chapel with descriptions, photographs, facsimile drawings, translations, interpretation, (known) archaeological context, museum history, publication history and comparison with a selection of relevant scenes in other mastaba tombs of the period.


  • Mariette, A., Les Mastabas de l’ancien empire (1889), 340-348.
  • Boeser, P.A.A., A.E.J. Holwerda and J.H. Holwerda, De monumenten van het Oude Rijk, Beschrijving van de Egyptische verzameling in het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden I (1905), 11-18, pl. V-XXI.
  • Roeder, G. Spielende Jungen in der Mastaba des Achet-hetep-her, OMRO XX (1939), 18-20.
  • Mohr, H.Th., Een vechtpartij te Leiden: Vorm en inhoud van een reliëf in de mastaba van Htp-Hr-Axtj, JEOL 7 (1940), 535-541, pl. IX.
  • Mohr, H.Th., The mastaba of Hetep-her-akhti: Study on an Egyptian tomb chapel in the Museum of Antiquities Leiden (1943).
  • Leeuwenburg, L.G., Un groupe de sculpteurs égyptiens à Leiden, Bulletin van de Vereeniging tot Bevordering der Kennis van de Antieke Beschaving XXXIX (1964), 50-54.
  • Beek, N. van de, Two scenes in the Old Kingdom elite tomb chapel of Hetepherakhet: Catching songbirds and goat herding (unpublished Research MA thesis, 2014).
  • Beek, N. van de, Brood en bier voor Hetepherachet, in: 40 jaar Dispuut Pleyte (2015), 54‐63.
  • Beek, N. van de, Grafkapel te koop: De mastaba van Hetepherachet herontdekt, Ta-Mery 2015/2016 (2015), 70-87.
  • Beek, N. van de, Herta Mohr and the Mastaba of Hetepherakhty, in: Imaging and Imagining the Memphite Necropolis: Liber Amicorum René van Walsem (2017), 233-238.

Alternative spellings

Hetepherachet, Hetepherachty, Hetepherachti, Hetepherakhet, Hetepherakhty, Hetepherakhti, Hetep-her-akhti