Sunday, 24 February 2013

Tombs of the Nobles

Girl band grace Nakht's tomb wall
Sunday 6 January: Following a light lunch at the Ramesseum Rest House I cross the road and, avoiding a handful of touts, climb up the hillside towards the beckoning tomb guards. Tour buses don't stop here and it's late afternoon so I have the tombs, and their guardians, all to myself.
Royal tomb art tends to depict scenes of gods and journeys to the afterlife whereas art in the tombs of ordinary folk tends to focus on more down-to-earth subject matter. 
Nakht's Tomb (# 69)
A scribe and astrologer during the reign of 18th dynasty ruler Tuthmosis IV (the pharaoh most famous for clearing the Great Sphinx of Giza of sand) Nakht's tiny tomb is one the West Bank's beauties. Among other scenes, the figures of a trio of female musicians playing the harp, lyre and pipes is one of the most elegant, seductive and endearing of all Egyptian art. Girl power preserved in painted plaster 4,500 years ago, don't you just love it.
Ramose's Tomb (# 55)
In contrast to Nakht's, Ramose's tomb is large, plain and incomplete. What it does have are surviving reliefs (most were desecrated by later rulers) relating to the rule of 18th dynasty rebel pharaoh Akhenaten who, during his short 17-year reign, changed Egypt's multi-god religion to the worship of just one god, the sun god Aten. He also moved Egypt's centre of worship to Tel Al-Marna, several days sailing to the north. Ramose, a local visor at that time, followed the court to Tel Al-Marna abandoning his unfinished tomb here in Thebes.
Sennofer's Tomb (# 96)
Sennofer was clearly a man after my own heart because when you duck under a low beam to emerge in the inner sanctuary of his tomb you find paintings of grape vines heavy with fruit growing up the walls and covering the whole ceiling. Absolutely fantastic but, sadly, just one photo and no flowing wine.
Wednesday 9:
Khonsu's Tomb (# 31)
Khonsu lived during the reign of 19th dynasty king Ramses II (the Great), around 3,250 years ago. There's many colourful scenes of Khonsu, the shaven-headed priest, making offerings to the gods, but more remarkable is the beautiful ceiling adorned with pastel-shaded birds swooping down from the sky.
Ushrhet's Tomb (# 51)
Much of the decoration here was chiseled out by tomb robbers in 1941 but the celestial ceiling remains. Ushrhet overlapped the reigns of 19th dynasty kings Ramses I and Seti I.
Benia's Tomb (# 343)
A golden false door in the first chamber was intended to lead Benia to the afterlife, wonder if it worked?
Thursday 10:
Roy's Tomb (# 255)
I was going to miss out Roy's tomb but as I'm cycling past it to Howard Carter's house today I've decided to drop in, and I'm glad I did. Only recently opened to the public, Roy's tiny tomb is beautifully decorated. There is a vibrant scene of Roy and his wife, Tawy, being introduced, by falcon-headed god Horus, to the seated god Osiris, ruler of the underworld. Next to it the couple make offerings to Hathor and Reharkhty. Roy was a steward to 18th dynasty warrior king Horemheb who ruled around 3,330 years ago.
Slideshow of the Tombs of the Nobles.

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