In the three neighboring districts of Assassif, Khokhah and Cheik-Abd-el-Gurnah lay the imposing necropolises of the nobility of the Middle Empire dynasties. As compared to the Pharaohs’ tombs, these tombs are extremely simple from the architectural point of view and all feature the same layout: they are preceded by an open-air terrace, followed by a vestibule whose painted walls describe the earthly functions of the owner.
A corridor then leads to an alcove which very often contains the statue of the dead person, sometimes together with his wife of relations. The subjects illustrated in these tombs are characterized by an extraordinary freshness, vitality and realism and provide accurate, valuable evidence of what court life was like in ancient Egypt. The most frequent topics were funeral banquets, with music and dancing, farm work, craftsmanship and daily life in general.
Tomb of Sennefer
A flight of 43 steps cut into the rock descends into the tomb of Sennefer, Prince of the Southern Town and Administrator of granaries and the cattle of Amon under Amon-Ofis II. It is also called “tomb of the vine” because the anonymous artist painted a beautiful pergola of black grapes on the ceiling vault.
Tomb of Rekh-mara
This tomb, a fine example of Theban civil tombs at the time of the XVIII Dynasty, belonged to Rakh-Mara, Vice roy and Governor of Thebes and Vizier under Amon-Ofis II and Akhen-Aton. Both the vestibule and the chapel are decorated and the paintings are very interesting because they illustrate what must have been the relationships between Egypt and other countries at the time. The most lively scenes depict foreigners bearing offerings:
Envoys from Punt (Somalians) carrying ebony, ivory and ostrich feathers; messengers from Keft, maybe Crete, with curly hair and long plaits on their chests; negroes from Kush, dressed in panther skin, carrying a jaguar, a giraffe and monkeys and envoys from Ratenu (Syrians and Assyrians) leading two horses, a bear and an elephant.
Tomb of Usirat
Usirat, Royal Scribe under Amon-Ofis II, had this tomb built; its paintings are extraordinarily well preserved. It features the famous scene of the barber shaving his clients in a garden.
Tomb of Kha-Emhat-Mahu
Khaemat, known as Mahu, was the Royal Scribe and Granary Inspector of Upper and Lower Egypt under Amon-Ofis III. His tomb, decorated with refined basreliefs, is to be found at the bottom of a courtyard onto which other tombs of the same period face. In the alcove of the burial chamber, deeply carved into the rock one can admire six statues of the dead man and his relations, divided into three groups.
Tomb of Ramose
Ramose was Governor of Thebes and Vizier under Amon-Ofis III and then under Akhen-Aton. This magnificently sculpted tomb was never completed; having commenced construction, Ramose had to leave it incomplete to build another one in the new capital of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhet-Aton, now known as Tell el – Amarna.
Tomb of Neferhabef
The tomb of Neberhabef, Frist Prophet of the Royal Kâ under Seti I, is decorated in the sumptuous style of the XIX Dynasty.
Tomb of Nakht
Typical tomb dating back to the era of the XVIII Dynasty, it is one of the best preserved ones in the entire necropolis. The owner was a scribe and astronomist of Amon at the time of Thot-Mosis IV, whereas the wife was a singer of Amon. At the time of the heresy of Akhen-Aton, the name of Amon was systematically removed from all engravings.
The tomb looks like a classic hypogeum and the precise decoration only occupies the transversal vestibule.
Tomb of Menna
The owner of this tomb was menna, Cadastre Scribe under Thot-Mosis IV, who utilized a previous tomb, enlarging it. The scenes depicted are considered some of the most elegant of the entire necropolis on account of their liveliness; they illustrate hunting and agriculture.
Tomb of Nebamon
This tomb was prepared for two sculptors, both active under Amon-Ofis III and Amon-Ofis IV: the former, Nebamon, was chief Sculptor of the Maestro of the two Egypt’s whereas Ipuky was Maestro of the two Egypt’s. Also known as the tomb of the engravers, it is of great interest as its decoration shows us how craftsmen worked in ancient Egypt.
Tomb of Kiki
The tomb of kiki, the “Royal Administrator”, was avandoned for a long time, before being reduced to a stable. It is characterized by lively illustrations in bright colours. An entire wall was destined to illustrate the scenes of the journey of the corpse to Abidos. In fact, the Egyptians were supposed to make at least one pilgrimage in their lifetime to the temple of this holy city, dedicated to the worship of Osiris.
In fact, religious Egyptians aspired to having a funeral chapel or at least a commemorative stele in this sanctuary, where Osiris’s head is said to be kept.
Tomb of Kheruef-Senna
Keruef Senaa was the “Administrator of the Great Royal Bride”, that is Tiyi, Syrian princess famous for her beauty and dearly beloved wife of Amon-Ofis III and mother of Akhen-Aton, the heretic Pharaoh. The tomb that the Administrator had built is large but remained incomplete; it is worth mentioning the west part of the courtyard, where the celebration of a jubilee (heb-sed) of Amon-Ofis III is commemorated.
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