The vast necropolis of Saqqara, which served as the cemetery of ancient Memphis, contains tombs from almost every period of Egyptian history. The New Kingdom (c.1550–1069 BC) cemetery south of the causeway of Unas is where several important officials of the Eighteenth to Twentieth Dynasties were buried. Among them are Ptahemwia, the “Royal Butler, Clean of Hands” under Kings Akhenaten (c.1352–1336 BC) and Tutankhamun (c.1336–1327 BC), Maya, the overseer of the treasury under Tutankhamun, and Tia, the overseer of the treasury during the reign of Ramses II (c.1279–1213 BC). This is also the site of the tomb Horemheb was planning for himself before he became king.
Like most private tombs, the tombs of this New Kingdom cemetery consist of two parts: a sealed underground section that includes the burial chamber, and the above‑ground, accessible, tomb chapel, where the cult of the deceased was practised. What sets the tombs of this cemetery apart, however, is the fact that they are neither mastabas nor rock‑cut, but free‑standing structures known as temple‑tombs. The larger tombs, like the great state temples of the period (hence their name), were entered through a pylon gateway that led into an open‑air courtyard that preceded the tomb chapel. The central chapel would have been surmounted by a small pyramid, a symbol of rebirth. A shaft in the forecourt led to the underground burial chamber.
This section of Saqqara was explored by tomb robbers and art dealers in the 19th century. Many statues and reliefs were taken without being recorded, and sold to museums and collectors abroad. A 19th century map of the area made by Prussian Egyptologist Karl R. Lepsius led to the rediscovery of the New Kingdom cemetery in 1975 by the Anglo‑Dutch expedition of the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) in London and the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden, led by Geoffrey T. Martin.