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Zone 4: Construction and Statuary scenes

This part of the south wall is very damaged. Four registers dedicated to the work of construction and decoration inside the Temple of Karnak unfold before a (now) vanished Rekhmire, who was followed by his assistants ( view xx-134). Above the Vizier one reads ( view xx-101): "Inspecting all work in the field of Amun at Karnak and teaching his daily work to each man, as part of his supervision of the work". This is enlarging the precinct of the God with new buildings of brick and earth, making large statues, transporting the stone blocks needed by the river and by land, and finally to organizing the work of teams.

First register (Top): The manufacture and transport of bricks

The slaves working here are "The captives that His Majesty has bought back to work in the temple of Amun". One thus understands the presence of light-skinned Asian and dark-skinned Nubians dressed in leather loincloths. Their task is explained: "Making bricks to rebuild nine workshops of Amun in Karnak".

The reservoir where men will draw water is represented as an ornamental pond, surrounded by trees, with a green bank and having rippled water with floating lilies ( view cm-150A7202). Two workers draw up water for the production of bricks. These are made using a mixture of the Nile mud and chopped straw, worked with hoes ( view bs-38575) or by trempling ( view bs-38573, view bs-38577, view bs-38576); the mixture is then brought to brick makers who mould the bricks using a wooden template ( view bs-38578), and then line them up in the sun to dry ( view bs-38574).

Transportation deals with white rectangular blocks (limestone) and pink (another stone?); the latter are stacked in front of an Asian who, kneeling, holding his hoe to the right ( view bs-38579). A heavily loaded Nubian is trying to stand up again ( view bs-38581) while one of his companions is already walking to his destination ( view bs-38583). A porter returns empty handed, yoke on shoulder and meets a man who carries a single block of limestone (white).

The building being constructed is difficult to imagine. The comment inscribed along the rising slope seems to be made by the worker who, with two stone hammers, taps the bricks into place: "Bring the blocks; the earth and bring a large number of mats; built by a dexterous man with his hands lively in his tasks. Grant that supervisors are men who listen to and grasp the advice of this Prince, who has experience of managing teams, who can provide the procedures to supervisors. and who provides for us ...good quality food and good. He is our director, motivated by the desire that the King last forever and that he, the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkheperre, may build a shrine to the gods so that in return they give him millions of years".
It could be the initial stage of a construction, building a platform with stone supports and between them (placing) a filling made of bricks, rubble, palms, reeds ... (the curved lines), branches (small circles) ( view sh-246/1).

Second register

It is dedicated to hauling blocks over the ground, but not much remains except a big white block at left, above. Two exhortations describe the work in progress: "Use your arms, comrades, to satisfy the desire of this noble in erecting the monument of his master in the temple of his father Amun It’s name is' Completed and durable as that which last down the years'" and "the construction foreman told me. 'Bring me the stone' (Then) Stretch your muscles, comrades and use your arms on the limestone building, which has eternity in it". According to this statement, we surmise at the placing of a block, pulled from the front and pushed from behind using levers. Above, a smaller second block, is probably being dragged on logs ( view dm-1243).

After a large gap, it is clear that some of these blocks are destined for statuary. Thus we see, surrounded by scaffolding, two colossi of red granite in progress. One is a standing ruler ( view bs-38587), the other the same sovereign seated ( view bs-38586); between these two ( view tb-259), other men are working on a sphinx ( view xx-4026).Some workers rough out blocks using stone hammers, other polish, others engrave details with a small chisel and a hammer. A painter fills with green paint the hieroglyphics on the back pillar of the standing colossus. One of the characters is awkwardly leaning over a limestone table of offerings shaped like a hotep sign above which we read: " stonemason at work in the temple of Amun ... who directs all the work at Karnak" ( view cm-632/01). On the right are two columns of incomplete text: "May your heart be glad, O venerable ... all the buildings that protect ...".

Third register

Three boats laden with stone blocks dock, a fourth leaves port having landed its cargo ( view cm-6575). Then follows a large gap and insignificant remnants of a building under construction. After another gap, a very interesting scene is found ( pl Davies-LXII/1, view xx-074): nearby some workers are in the process of finishing the roughing out of a block, others work to give them a perfectly flat surface or to ensure, by measuring the diagonals with a string, that the block is square..

Fourth register

The little (decoration) that remains shows the organization of workers into small gangs of six or seven under the supervision of a foreman. The young people are their sons and their apprentices. On the far right, some scribes are at work ( view dm-1240).

Western (right) side of the south wall: ritual scenes

The west end of both north and south walls is closest to the statue and the underworld, which explains why they are occupied by religious motifs. The wealthy Egyptians of the period tried to reproduce archaic funeral rites supposed to have been in use for the kings of Lower Egypt in ancient times.

By the image (which has its own semantic value) and texts (which are mostly drawn from the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead) complementing one another a magical universe is put in place. It leads to Rekhmire becoming an Osiris, a glorious spirit (akh), being true of voice (maa-kheru). For this to happen, effective ritual knowledge must be present besides priests who practice the ritual faithfully, especially the recitations.
 In the chapel of Rekhmire, many rituals are represented, but not always in a logical order. We will mention them briefly because there can be no question of presenting them in detail here - especially since many of them remain poorly understood or topics of debate (the mysterious Tekenu, for example). For the record, just because a ritual is represented does not mean that it was actually practiced, but that it provides an image, which by sympathetic magic can take performance of the ritual’s place.

 According to Hays, seven stages can be distinguished in funeral rituals in Rekhmire’s tomb ( Hays-ucla drawing)
A: Procession to the Necropolis ("docking")
B: Procession to the Place of Embalming ("landing", "approaching the divine pavilion")
C: embalming and mummification ("wrapping"), never represented
D: Rites after embalming, including D2, procession to Sais; D3, procession to Abydos and D4, procession to the Necropolis again.
E: procession to the tomb ("making a goodly burial")
F: ritual of Opening of the Mouth ("opening the mouth")
G: Mortuary Stewardship ("making invocation offerings").
On the south side, there are a number of processions, with events taking place along the way and at a number of different destinations. Their location on the wall is shown on this composition.

Many people participate in various stages of the ritual: in addition to parents, colleagues, friends and servants, a more specialized staff is specifically required. It comprises of different categories including priests and common mourners. We must also mention the two chief mourners who play the role of Isis and Nehphtys watching over their brother and husband Osiris; they are often referred to by the word "djeret", "milan" (according to legend, Isis transformed into this bird of prey, would have fluttered her wings to restore the breath of life to her dead husband Osiris then, by landing on his phallus, have conceived his heir Horus). Also one finds in the funerary procession the nine "Semerou" ("Companions" or "Friends") who play, among others, the role of the Four Sons of Horus these were originally acted by royal servants.

Tip: enlarge the image above by clicking on it, save it on your computer and print it before continuing.

At the far right end of the wall, we find four representations, one above the other, of the Vizier and his wife (or mother) before a table of offerings served by a sem-priest. Separated from the Vizier by a few columns of text stand four divine entities: the Goddess of the West, Anubis, Osiris, and a Hawk on a standard. Before these deities are found eleven registers laying out how the funeral is conducted. In the description which follows, we will follow a didactic (if not logical) order, starting with the lower register.

Registers 1-3: Scenes before the Goddess of the West in her Chapel

In the registers on the far left, 1 and 2, we find the boats that serve (fictitiously) for the pilgrimage to Abydos, the holy city par excellence of Osiris, where the dead are supposed to participate in the festivities given in honour of the Great God of the Dead; the voyage going (sails furled) is in register 1, the return trip (sails deployed) is in register 2. Of course, it is impossible for a dead person to physically accomplish on the day of his funeral a pilgrimage in the different cities where he is supposed to go ... In fact the ritual transfers these into a geographical space made sacred in the final stages of mummification and funeral procession. In this space, the offering of water can become a water journey and the coffin a boat (Quirke).

Register 1

Next to the boat, is found the coffin (which three men busy themselves over) covered with an open work catafalque placed on a sled. This is dragged along by some oxen and men; it is preceded by a Priest of Sokar recognizable by his large cloak without sleeves and a person who makes a libation of milk upon the earth. At the front, other persons raise their arms in a sign of joy, as they arrive at the cemetery where they are greeted by a lector priest ( view cd-080). Behind the sled follow the nine Companions holding in their hands their usual long canes. Then follows a gap and next the canopic chest is also dragged to the necropolis. These scenes, which are those of the arrival at the tomb, conclude the depictions and are found on the top register.

Register 2

On the second register after the boat, the carriers of funerary equipment advance - we find five on the register - ( view cd-072, view bs-38657, view cd-077). Register 2 ends with a scene of butchery ( view bs-38658) and two men immediately bring one leg, the ribs and heart of the animal in a pot ( view cd-080, view bs-38659) to a stack of offerings piled on a type of altar to the Goddess of the West in her ornamented chapel ( view cd-026).

Register 3

At the furthest left are two boats each carrying a mummiform statue wearing the red crown, which will be discussed below ( view bg-425); a lector priest reader is there to receive them. The two mooring posts are mummiform with tapered ends; and we must remember that posts and mooring ropes are sacred objects likely to be worshipped. Next, in what is today a wide gap, was depicted a lustration over Rekhmire, probably seated upon a vase ( view xx-032) as illustrated in the tomb of Renni at Elkab ( view 16) by using a kenmet-uret strainer (basketry?), of which two examples as seen from above are found on an awning ( view bs-38651). Next come four mourners attending on the purification of the mummy of the deceased in his coffin under an erected canopy ( pl Davies-XCIII).
Two men appear to drag the rectangular sarcophagus in the opposite direction, which takes us to a building crowned with a frieze of khakérus before which stands a ritual priest. Then watched over from bow and stern by the two great mourners, Isis and Nephthys, the deceased sails under a canopy in a papyrus boat towed from the bank; he is greeted by a priest holding a long roll who stands before two buildings ( view xx-038, view cm-6606). One of them has a central door and is topped by two small chapels "khem", with two palms; the other has a front pierced by two windows and is surmounted by four fine columns. Then come two Muu dancers currently performing their characteristic dance ( view dm-1264).


The Muu

Mentioned from the Old Kingdom, these are ritual figures that appear and act in four areas of the necropolis, such guardians. ; they have the status of gods of the necropolis, receiving the dead in his floating coffin at Sais and on the funeral sleigh at the gates of Buto. In the New Kingdom a river journey was added to the palace of Heliopolis.  The main attribute of Muu dress is their reed headgear that looks like the central part of the atef crown, but from the start of the New Kingdom this attribute may be missing; they are often wearing the royal kilt Chendyt. The Muu reside in a specific place, the pavilion of Muu, located at the edge of the necropolis, in a landscaped garden filled with pools.
Typically, they represent the "souls" of the dead kings of Buto who hasten to come and meet the funeral procession. Responding to a call signaling the arrival of a deceased, the Muu leave their shelter with a large stride or jump marking the passage from one world to another; they point three fingers at the ground, a gesture of magical protection for the path taken by the procession ( an example of this is in the tomb of Antefoker TT 60).
The dance of Muu ("khebet muu") is performed by two dancers facing each other, one leg crossed behind the other; one arm outstretched, clenched fist, they touch the thumb of their partner ( view cm_6605).
The Muu therefore are responsible for the safety of the mummy’s path in the necropolis. Mythologically, they are also the watchmen of the necropolis and ferrymen of heaven, who greet the deceased during his celestial journey to the horizon in the east, and announce his arrival to the sun god. The Muu are the representatives of all the blessed who have obtained a normal burial and live in the necropolis as "transfigured", including ancestors of the deceased, and in this role, they can also appear in the dress of a priest or an official. It appears that the dance of Muu had been replaced at the end of the New Kingdom by a dancing dwarf.


The following, again virtual, river journey takes the deceased to Sais: "Guiding Rekhmire ... berthing at Sais, where the Great God lies". Sais, located in the western Delta, is the main centre of worship for the warrior goddess Neith. The city is famous for the quality of its woven linen, which was associated with Osiris’s mummy, and because the tomb of the Great God of the Dead is supposed to be located there. The boat is pulled by four men ( view cd-076) to a door before which a kneeling officiant consecrates a leg of beef.

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