The present el-Kab corresponds to the ancient city of Nekhen, once very important city, the powerful capital of the 3rd nome of Upper Egypt.
To the north-east of the city is a sandstone hill filled with tombs which essentially date from the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty (see and ). All these tombs are fronted by a common terrace (see ).
Chapel N°5 of Ahmose - Son of Ibana is famous for its autobiographic text which tells the military campaigns in which the deceased participated, but the monument was never the object of a complete publication.
The chapel was created, according to its texts, by the deceased's grandson, Paheri, to celebrate this famous ancestor - and the lineage from which he was himself the descendant.
Ahmose has not been buried here: there is only one funeral shaft, dug in an annexe, and it was created after his death. Paheri, himself, has his own burial close by.
Our hero, with the real name of Ahmose - Son of Ibana (traditionally given as "Ahmose - Son of Abana") served as crew commander (literally "chief of the rowers"), perhaps classed as "admiral", of the king under three successive sovereigns from the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty: Amosis, Amenhotep I and Thutmosis I (between 1580-1520 B.C.).
Paheri, grandson of Ahmose by his mother, didn't fail to show his connection to this famous ancestor in his own burial (see ).
He was also the one who engraved the inscription in the tomb of his grandfather, Ahmose. This can be seen from the text above his image, where he is represented at the feet of his grandfather, on the east wall, to the left of the long autobiographical inscription:
"This is the son of his daughter, who lead the work in this tomb, whilst making live the name of his mother's father, the draftsman (lit. "scribe of contours")
, Paheri, justified (lit. "true of voice", thus "deceased")
In the tomb, this descendant considered the maternal side as being prestigious, and brought them to the fore everywhere, including the maternal forebears and the cousins, whereas the paternal side was ignored. Genealogy is not clear. Here is what I believed to understand: Baba and Ibana were the parents of Ahmose; Ipu was the wife of Ahmose; Hery-iry was the son of Atefrura (who was guardian of the royal prince, Wadjmose) and of Satamon. Paheri was the son of Atefrura and Kem, and therefore the stepbrother of Hery-iry
The nomarchs (governors) of el-Kab and their families were ardent supporters of the newly rising Theban Dynasty which had to face unceasing and exhausting wars, and there is no doubt that this loyalty had been extensively rewarded with gold, lands and personnel. Frequently, even the royal children were entrusted to them, which is explicitly indicated by Paheri. They ended up having control of the whole region situated between el-Kab and Esna.
The war chronicles of Ahmose - Son of Abana are very important texts for the knowledge of Egyptian history, because they constitute the only source currently known (together with the inscription of Ahmose-pen-Nekhbet) on the expulsion of the Hyksos from the valley of the Nile and the resumption by the first sovereigns of the 18th Dynasty of their African and Asian possessions, which had become independent during this occupation. According to Hodjache and Berlev (as cited in Vandersleyen's, L'Égypte et la vallée du Nil, p.213, but in French) :
"If we didn't have a biographic inscription of one of the comrade-in-arms of Amosis I, the chief of the rowers, Ahmes son of Abana, engraved at the time of Thutmosis I [?], our science could have been unaware of the merit of having shaken the foreign yoke by Amosis I".
Here is one of the examples of the lack of the historic sources on which rests the history of Egypt, because it is nothing other than a personal chronicle.
The Hyksos were Asian tribes driven back by the Indo-European invasions of the second millennia B.C. They installed two dynasties of sovereigns, whose power spread in Lower and Middle Egypt. Their capital was Avaris in the eastern part of the Delta. The memory of this foreign occupation of the Two-lands remained in the Egyptian imaginary for a long time. It was one of the major reasons which brought the Pharaohs to establish and to extend an empire which, besides the wealth which it procured them, protected the Valley of the Nile from new invaders.
These texts also show us what could be the career of an officer of value, and the honours and material advantages which he could recover.
The long siege of Avaris ended, the Egyptian army pursued the Hyksos who took refuge in their fort of Sharuhen, in the south of Palestine. Another long siege of three years then began, focally interrupted by rebellions in Egypt itself, which king Ahmosis had to return to subdue. The citadel finally fell, and the Egyptians pursued their thrust toward Syro-Palestine, at the same time to finish with the Hyksos and to take in hand this region.
This done, Ahmosis carried his army to the extreme south, to Nubia. The revolts had returned to this region, Egyptian until the end of the Middle Kingdom, had been practically autonomous. Two expeditions re-establish the Egyptian sovereignty.
Thus closed the wars and probably the reign of Ahmosis. Ahmose will thus have formed part of all the campaigns of this king.
Under the reign of Thutmosis I, Ahmose was always in active service in the navy. He brought the Egyptian army to Nubia for the first campaign. He is then named Admiral of the Fleet. The campaign concluded triumphantly with the return of the boats to Egypt, a killed enemy being suspended head down in the royal vessel.
Then came the famous expedition in Naharina, of which one only finds mention at el-Kab, in the tombs of the two Ahmoses.
The tomb consists of a rectangular chamber, the almost north-south axis (from entry of far end wall) being greater than the width. It has an arched ceiling, also oriented north-south. The entry is via an opening in the cliff face. At the end of the east wall is an opening giving access to a small annexe, also oblong, the north-south axis again being the longest. This floor of this chamber is almost totally occupied by a burial shaft.
As an be seen on the , the tomb of Ahmose is situated between two artificial rocky spurs: on the left, a rough quadrangular pillar (photo above, on the left), and on the right, a partially levelled protrusion which separates this burial from the one of Setau, much older. Between the two, can clearly be seen the circular entry of an anonymous tomb, never finished, blocked in more modern time period.
The photos above show the poor quality of the rock and its elevated degree of stratification. It can also be seen that the facade of the tomb slopes slightly backwards, and had no additional plaster or masonry.
The periphery of the entry has suffered a lot (see ). The area producing the lintel and two doorpost were engraved in inset relief. At the top, on the right, can be found a standing man, right hand raised, left hand tightly holding a piece of material. This represents Paheri, as informed by the remains of the text on the right doorpost (such text is also found inside the tomb) which indicates that this tomb was made for his maternal grandfather.
On the left side would have been a symmetrical scene and text.
Entry into the tomb is made via a small step. The two side walls of the small access corridor no longer include any decoration, assuming that they ever did. The first chamber is entered at the south end. The floor is covered by a modern tiles which hides the ancient level completely.
The quality of the decoration is very average. The imagery of the walls is in raised relief, but remain flat, with very few engraved details, and the painting has nearly disappeared, it is uncertain that it had been achieved everywhere.
The description of the decoration will begin with the west wall, which is therefore on the left on entry.
At the top of the wall, two horizontal lines delimit a white inset band which includes a hieroglyphic inscription in raised relief, without details. This is surmounted by a kheker frieze, which extends up into the arch of the ceiling (see right-hand side of ). The remainder of the vaulted ceiling does not appear to have been decorated.
The text of the horizontal banner states, reading from left to right:
"[… that they grant] an invocatory offering (consisting of) bread, beer, cattle, poultry, (vases of) alabaster, (pieces of) thin cloth, ointment, all good and pure things, […], all vegetables, to breathe the soft breath of the wind from the north, to take the form of the living ba, to drink water coming from the stream of the river for the ka of the crew commander, Ahmose, son of Abana, justified, and his wife, the mistress of house, Ipu. […] who makes their name live, the scribe Hery-iry, justified".
The underlying wall is only decorated in its northern area. The rest, which represents about 2/3 of the surface, remained flat, although some outlines in red are still visibly present.
Two superimpose registers can still be observed, both of the same height, but the lower one being wider than the one at the top.
At the extreme right are a couple seated on chairs resting on a platform (see ). Their bodies have disappeared above the waist, as well as the text, which certainly accompanied the image. Under the chairs can still be recognised a vase probably of ointment. In front of the couple is a single pillared table, on which are accumulated offerings of all various kinds: breads, birds, cuts of meat, vegetables and lotus flowers. Under the table, can still be identified tall vessels and baskets. The following scene provides the identity of the couple.
Facing the previous couple, is a man who walks towards them, his right hand held out forwards, with the palm flat and held sideways, the other hand tightly holding a piece of material. The stonework has been cut to form a short wig, round and curly, while an incised semicircle represents an usekh necklace. His loincloth, also highlighted, descends to mid-calf height.
The character is surrounded by an invocatory offering text:
"An offering given by the king (to) Ra-Horakhty, Osiris, The one who governs the West, Anubis, Lord of Ra-Setjau, and Hathor, The one who resides in the necropolis, so that they grant an invocatory offering (consisting of) bread, beer, cattle, poultry, (vases of) alabaster, (pieces of) fine cloth, incense, ointment, all good and pure things for my father's ka, the tutor of the carnal royal son, the scribe Itefruri (= Atefrura), justified. And for my mother's ka, his wife, the mistress of house, Satamon. It is their son who makes live their name, the draftsman of Amon, Hery-iry, justified".
Immediately under the top couple, can be found a second seated couple. This time, the image of the man has survived, as well as part of his wife. A text accompanies them.
Under the seats of the couple, can be identified a vase and a Hathoric mirror. The wife encloses her husband, the right arm passing behind his shoulder, the other hand clutching his left arm. The man spreads his right hand towards the offerings placed in front of him. These are for the benefit of his ka, materialised by the presence of the accompanying hieroglyphic sign placed on a stand. The short horizontal line of text which accompanies this scene, above his arm, is very lucid:
"Stretching the arm toward his ka".
The corresponding text, which reads from left to right, and begins above the middle of the offerings, states:
"The draftsman of Amon, Hery-iry, justified. His wife, the mistress of house, […]".
He looks very much like Hery-iry, in the register above. The accompanying text is an invocatory offering:
"An offering which the king gives (to) Osiris, The one who governs the West and Nekhbet of the White Crown, so that they grant an invocatory offering (consisting of) bread, beer, cattle, poultry, (vases of) alabaster, (pieces of) fine cloth, all good and pure things for the ka of my father and my mother. Their son, the draftsman of Amon, Paheri".
The register is subdivided in two, each part including children of Paheri (see and ).
The upper sub-register shows three sons. Each is squatting, one knee on the ground; his left hand is on his chest, grasping a sekhem sceptre, his right hand is stretched toward the small table of offerings opposite him. They represent, right to left:
"His son Paheri",
"His beloved son […]-menamon" and
"His beloved son Amenmes".
On the bottom sub-register are three girls, in precisely the same attitude. They hardly differentiate themselves from their brothers except for the length of their wig and the outline of the breast. They are named, again from right to left:
"His daughter, Nebettauy",
[His daughter, …] and
[His daughter, ] Nebu-[…]".
This is divided in two registers of unequal height, the top one presents about 2/3 of the decorated area. Both are similar in content and design, although the bottom one being in a smaller scale; they are also similar in content to the imagery of the west wall (already described). At the right-hand side are seated a couple, receiving the offering placed in front of them, at the other side of which stands a son who dedicates the offerings. Behind him, on two sub-registers, are other sons and daughters of the deceased.
The wall is destroyed to a great extent on the left-hand side, and in the mid-section to the right of centre.
As already stated, this looks in all respects like the imagery already seen on the west wall. However, under the seats this time is a monkey, familiar animal of the house, eating a fruit taken from the basket in front of it (see ).
Above the couple, starting level with his outstretched hand, can be read:
"Receiving all good thing by the crew commander, Ahmose, son of Abana, his wife, the mistress of house, Ipu, justified".
Very noticeable is the absence of the kheker frieze above the inscription. The upper curved section of the wall was not decorated.
He dedicates the offerings to his grandparents, whilst reciting the invocatory offering formula as stated in a column of text in front of him:
"Reciting (the formula) 'An offering which the king gives', by scribe Paheri".
The full offering text is written above the offerings, finishing with his identity being written above his head (see ), stating:
"An offering which the king gives (to) Ra-Horakhty, Nekhbet of the White Crown and Osiris, the lord of eternity, that they may grant thousand bread and beer, a thousand cattle and poultry, a thousand of all good and pure things, for the ka of Ahmose, the son of Abana. It is the son of his daughter who makes his name live, the scribe Paheri".
The red lines which delimit the columns of text can still be seen.
This end of the register is sub-divided, bearing images of the family members of Paheri, men at the top, women below.
Top sub-register. Here there are four male images, although of the rightmost only the top of his head has survived (see ). The exception of the first two (on the right), the naming text has disappeared, although the identification of the first is
"Father of Paheri, justified" and all that remains of the next is:
"His son", his actual name is lost. They are seated on stools (the first two seats are different, the third and forth have disappeared). With their left hand, they hold a sceptre across their chest, whilst their right hand is stretched towards the offerings placed on a small table in front of them.
Bottom sub-register. Here, all that remains is the representation of the first woman, surmounted by the short text
"His mother, Abana". She is squatting on a mat, one knee raised, a sceptre in her left hand held across her chest, the other hand stretched towards the offerings in front of her. The text above what would have been the second female only retains:
"Her daughter", the name is lost.
This is more damaged than the one above. The couple on the right consists of the daughter of Ipu, named Kem, wife of the scribe Atefrura, a high Theban dignitary who was the guardian of the royal prince, Wadjmes. It is certainly he who is seated in front of her.
Paheri (his name is inscribed behind him), whose head has disappeared, dedicates the offerings placed on and under the table in front of him. He recites an invocatory offering formula of which only a small portion now exists.
Behind him, the register is again sub-divided horizontally, then further subdivided into three edged rectangular areas. In the top are three sons of Paheri, and below are three daughters (see ). Due to the vast area of damage, it is uncertain whether others existed further to the left.
The name of the first son is lost, the second is
"His son, Djehutyemhat", the third is
"His son, who makes live their names, the draftsman, Paheri, justified".
The name of the first daughter is also lost, the second is
"His daughter, Emheb", and the third is
"His daughter, Satamon".