The tomb of Renni, numbered EK 7, is of great interest, not only in the setting of the site at El Kab, but more extensively because it is one of the rare Egyptian tombs which dates from the reign of Amenhotep I. From a decorative view point, one feels here the influence of the end of the Middle Kingdom, the cannon of the New Kingdom not yet being completely in place.
The tomb of Renni has been known since at least the time of the French "Expédition d'Égypte", as testified by the plate below, representing the funeral procession, taken from: "Description de l'Égypte", (T I, pl 70).
In 1801, W.R. Hamilton published in Aegyptiaca, the scene of the opening of the mouth. Champollion mentioned the tomb in his Notes (pp. 272-3) and in his Monuments (pl. CXLII fig.3) and published the inscription on the stock-taking of livestock. Brugsh did the same, he also described the demotic graffiti. Lieblein, in the Namenwôrterbuch (N°.572), publish several of the proper names.
On the other hand the tomb of Renni is hardly mentioned in the famous Urkunden, occupying only a half page in Urkunden IV, with the mention "Renni son of Sobek-Hotep", and also there is the stock-taking of livestock. Curiously Lepsius, who described El Kab in detail, and noted nine of its tombs, didn't mention Renni.
Who was Renni ?
Consider for a moment his name. All texts represent him by with the determinative of the man placed curiously in the middle of the name. This may be explained as follows : it may have been necessary to distinctly separate the two "n"s and the name had to be pronounced in two parts.
Ren-ny or even Ren-eny.
For the convenience of this exposition, and in respect to tradition, the deceased will continue to be called Renni.
As usual, for Ancient Egypt, we don't know much about him, and only his tomb provides us with the very rare details.
Nevertheless the characters are named systematically, their function and or their explicit family tie with Renni.
Renni was at the time Nomarch of El Kab for Amenhotep I, whose name (Djeser-Ka-Ra) is inscribed in a cartouche above the niche.
Renni was also great priest of Nekhbet.
A great many sons and daughters of the deceased are named in the tomb, as well as his parents and grandparents, also brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts.
At the time when J. J. Tylor published the tomb, no trace of Renni could be found elsewhere. Since, in 1981, Marek Marciniuk published a graffiti stela situated in an underground cave of the upper terrace of Deir-el-Bahari, which mentions Nefer-Hotep
"Neferhotep justified by Osiris, who created the prince Reneny, born of the mistress of the house Nehi, justified by Osiris". The author proposed to see our character there.
The plan of the tomb is very simple: an arched corridor, forming a kind of tunnel leading to, at the rear, a niche with a flat ceiling. The following measurements are derived from the plan of Tyler's plate XVII: 9.10m length for the corridor (11.3m for the niche), an average of 3.40m width and 3m in height.
At the rear, on the right (east) is an opening (now walled up) leading to a small room of about 3m square, in which the funerary well has been dug. It seems that it was part of the initial plan and that it is not an addition. This plan will be subsequently used again for .
The quality of execution of the decor is variable (I am not of the same opinion as Tylor, who considers them as mediocre) and the colours are often very well preserved. On the other hand, the hieroglyphic texts are studded with mistakes. The monument has suffered much from both time and men, and large sections of wall are missing.
However, it presents rare scenes which make it especially interesting.
Thus, on the west wall, close to the entry, the representation of a chariot harnessed to two horses, may be the earliest equestrian representation in Egypt ().
On the east wall, one of the best known performances of the mysterious Muu dancers, as well as a curious scene where a man receives an purifying libation whilst seated on a jar.
The vertical parts of the framing for the entrance are slightly cut back into the surface of the rock (about 30cms). Originally it probably had a paved surface. This is no longer visible today. The entry (if the modern door is ignored) was originally not as wide and had to include masonry and a wooden door that was opened by the deceased's parents, for their visits at the time of the ritual festivals. Many remnants of cult dishes have been recovered outside of the tomb, but none inside.
A small coving, decorated with colour bands on its under surface, protected the entry and its inscriptions from any rain streaming down from the rock above.
Indeed, all of the doorway is inscribed. The titles of Renni are found there: scribe, hereditary prince, chief of the scribes, chief of the divine servants, and it specifies that he is
"born of Ahmose, justified". It also tells us that he was given this tomb by royal favour.
One finds typical classical formulas of dedication
"hotep di nesu", which is to say "Invocatory offering which the king gives" to such-and-such a god, so that the deceased can benefit by a system of transfer of these offerings. Also adding a "call to the living", consisting here in exhorting the visitor to recite the magic formulas, to not damage the monument, etc. Promising in return a long and happy life.
The quality of the modern restoration can be seen from the photos, which provide additional detail than the , but the plate does privide easy reading of the text. In general, however, one should note the contrary phenomenon, that of the progressive disappearance of inscriptions and imagery over time.
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The ceiling is painted entirely. In the main room, a central axis represents a beam of wood which separates, on both sides a checkerboard motif. The squares have a background of turquoise blue (often faded to white), black now often dark blue) and yellow. They include a red, black or yellow four-leaved motif. This checkerboard design continues on the ceiling of the niche, at the rear, but it doesn't include the image of the central beam ().
The checkerboard design extends to the top of the walls, which are delineated by a kheker frieze, representing a bundle of reeds or maybe rushes (the interpretations are varied). The kheker are painted with red and turquoise on a black (now dark blue) background (). This rests on an "Egyptian frieze": seen as a band of coloured rectangles (red, blue, yellow and turquoise) each separated by three thin bands (white, dark blue, white), the whole band being edged by a thin turquoise line at top and bottom. This band also runs vertically down the end of the two long walls ().
Under the frieze and band of coloured rectangles, along both west and east walls, is found a broad white band including a long inscription in (sometimes poorly drawn) hieroglyphs and which have not been sculpted as elsewhere in the tomb. This could be due to having been hastily produced, after the death of Renni.
The actual decor begins under this text band and is divided in three registers.
At the bottom of the walls, below the major scenes, is a shallow dado bordered at the top by a red band edged with white.
The West wall is dedicated to the terrestrial, notably agricultural activities and a "ritual banquet" with the members of the family of the grandfather of Renni, Sobekhotep. The east wall is given over to scenes of funeral ceremony and to another "banquet" for his parents, his father is also named Sobekhotep. This distribution is strange because one would normally have expected the reverse, that is, the funeral procession on the west wall.
One of the features of the domestic decor of this tomb, which Renni obviously wanted, is the great number of named characters found there. All the speakers are named, including the more subordinate. It is very rare, and undoubtedly indicates the probable wish of Renni to offer life in the beyond to those who best served him (and had been associated with his life) before his death.
Many characters carry the name of Sobekhotep, a reference to the great crocodile god of the Fayum, which is geographically close to El Kab. This results in certain amount of confusion in identifying their relationships. This also appears with other names used withing the family.
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This is in a poor condition and includes a traditional offering formula to the gods. One can still read :
"Offerings which the king gives to Nekhbet, to Osiris Lord of Abydos […] Anubis the one who is in his bandages, master of the necropolis, Lord of the Amentit […] to prince Renni, Justified (meaning: "deceased" ; lit. "true of voice") ". Indeed, by a system of transfer, a part of the offerings thus dedicated to the divinities was supposed to be of benefit to Renni.
These scenes cover about the left 2/3 of the wall.
At the extreme left, with colours faded by the sun, can be found one of the first, if not the first, reproduction in Egyptian art of horses harnessed to a chariot (, ). The Egyptians are not well known for representing properly this animal, which had only just been made known to them, and this scene isn't an exception. The disproportion between the size of the animals and the chariot with that of the groom who holds the reins and a whip, is noticeable. It relates to Renni : the master who comes to inspect the work on his domains. The chariot being a reminder of some previous work in the domain, it is represented smaller than the continuation of the register.
The other early mention of horses and chariots is also in El Kab, in the tomb (behind the one of Renni) of .
Just above this scene, can be found an inscription in demotic, proof that the tomb was visited at a later date. Prof. Eugene Cruz-Uribe agreed to provide us with , for which he is thanked very much.
Under the scene is an offering inscription
"an invocatory offering which the king gives to Nekhbet the shining one of Nekhen, (to Horus of Nekhen ?), to Osiris-Khentyimentyiu, to Thoth […]".
The register continues with traditional harvest scenes (, ) : of the peasants with bronzed skin, and whose heads are protected by a yellow piece of cloth, cutting the ears of corn very high, as always in Ancient Egypt, with a stone sickle (). Women, with a pale yellow complexion, collect the ears which are then placed in baskets. These are here carried on the shoulders of three groups of two men (), suspended in the middle of a pole (or possibly two, with the effect of pseudo perspective).
The left-hand pair, Aha and Ka-met-heru, head toward the threshing area, whose representation is lost except a small left-hand part, on the far side of the heap awaiting threshing (). To one side of the basket which they carry, is represented the woman Ipu, clothed in a tight fitting white dress and holding in her hand two mysterious white objects ().
The scene concludes, after a break (), with the two supervisors, the overseer of the farm land and the overseer of the farmers, who are prostrated "nose to the ground" in front of the master (whose representation has disappeared) and exclaiming :
"Let's praise him ! May Ra give him a long life, our master". In front of him is his dog, a sort of greyhound, which turns its head toward him ().
The long inscription above, ends with the name (missing) of
"… the mistress of the house of Ahmose".
Under the characters, and establishing a separation with the register underneath, is a short inscription proclaiming :
"[May you drink] at the running water and receive the invocatory offering of bread, beer, meat, birds, and all good and pure things given by the sky or brought by Hapi (the god of the inundation)
Starting directly under the previous scene, which constitutes the continuation of the harvest, peasants are seen throwing the trampled ears of wheat into air, so that wind separates the chaff from the grain, this last being swept by other labourers (). The scene of the treading appeared in the register above, in the space between the heap created by carriers of the corn and the two prostrate foremen.
A small segment of wall show the vestiges of two women pulling the remaining straw from the field. This will facilitate the later passage of light ploughing and will provide fodder for the animals during the period of the inundation.
Then follow (heading towards the entrance) the farmers, bent on their plough and who are named, left to right : Kay, Se-uadj-nek-Usir (
"May Osiris cause you to flourish", lit. "turn green") and Sennuu. Each of the small ploughs is pulled by a pair of oxen, whose colour is either red or spotted black and white. On it is easy to distinguish the detail of the agricultural instruments, attached to the inner horns of the pair of beasts : the plough is formed of two curved branches, to which is attached the blade by means of a pin, thus creating the ploughshare, ideal for light soil.
In front of the animals is located the sower Djehuty-Ra. The grain which he sows will be buried, in time, by the plough and by the stamping of the animals, which will afterwards be released in the field and whose presence is only manifested by a remaining pair of horns on the wall behind him.
Arriving in the opposite direction towards them (and under the chariot of the upper register) can be found Renni, sekhem-sceptre and staff in his hands, wearing a small curly wig and flowing white skirt, preceded and followed by his servants, who are all named (). Behind him
"his servant Ahmose" carries the bow and arrows, then
"his servant Djehuty" carrying a battle-axe in his left hand and over his left arm is what could be an archer's glove, for protecting the arm (one such glove was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun), whilst on his right shoulder he carries a stool. The object over his arm, has previously been considered as either an animal skin or a piece of cloth for use as a towel or scarf. Between Renni and Ahmose, can be seen his faithful dog (already mentioned, above) held on a leash by Ahmose.
What, one may wonder, is this warlike material doing in this pastoral scene ? It is possible to suppose that Renni participated in Pharaoh's military operations and that it was there perhaps one reason was that of royal favour. Whatever the reason, this type of exhibition was especially aimed at increasing the master's prestige.
Situated between the middle register and the lower one, the text
"Inspecting the work accomplished by the hereditary Prince with the divine servants, the scribe, Renni, justified, who renews life" connects the two scenes; harvest, ploughing and sowing above, and stock taking below. By annual regeneration of the harvests and the increasing of the herds, the action of Renni thus fits into the Egyptian order, required by the gods : it is Ma'at in action.
Below the scene just discussed, is a very rare scene showing pigs with their herdsman Irnutu (?), with a stick on his shoulder.
Comparison with the photo from the time of Tylor shows that the scene has since deteriorated ().
The pig was considered as an impure animal in Ancient (and modern!) Egypt although it was extensively consumed, since the analysis of the waste around the ancient villages showed a great predominance of their bones in relation to those of other animals.
This scene is followed by a very large gap where a herd of cattle was represented, of which the first can be seen behind the chief drover, Senbet, who is accompanied by a small calf. The calf is there to underline (in the usual Egyptian manner) that, thanks to Renni, life perpetuates itself in the herds.
Senbet, stooping and with his right hand on his left shoulder, greets Renni, who arrives in the opposite direction, shown as described already, again holding the sekhem-sceptre, but curiously this time passing illogically behind his body (). He is represented a little larger than his servants. The first of those here, in front of him, is
"the scribe Djehuty". He holds his scribe's material and writes a stock-taking accounts of the animals. These are represented in the inscription above him :
"cattle 122, sheep 100 (?), goats 1200, pigs 1500" ().
Behind Renni is located
"his servant Ahmose", badly proportioned (), who carries his bow and arrows in his right hand and on this arm a possible archer's glove (discussed above), whilst over his left arm he holds a stool. Next comes
"his servant Djehuty" carrying a battle-axe in his right hand over his left shoulder, and in his right hand he carries a throwing stick.
Finally comes a very damaged scene, in which can be seen Renni's boat, it probably relates to the master's arrival in the harbour of El Kab (). A man's image can still be made out, seated at the prow. The text above him is damaged, but this must be Renni himself. A young woman offers him refreshment, and the hieroglyphic Ka sign, which could belong to an expression of the type "n Ka ek", literally "For your Ka !", i.e. "for your health !". The prow of the boat is partially visible after a damaged area, and a sailor hanging in the rigging announces that the harbour is in view. The rest of this part of register is definitely lost.
The real or symbolic nature of these banquet scenes remains debated in Egyptological literature, but they are present in nearly all tombs of individuals (even in the royal tombs).
Here these scenes occupy about 1/3 of the west wall, at the northern end, and are separated from the previous agricultural scenes by a vertical line. The very beautiful conservation of the colours is very noticeable, the representations themselves stand out clearly on a blue-grey background.
The banquet on this wall is for Renni's grandparents, Sobekhotep and his wife, Idy. The scene unfolds on four registers and all the guests are named. The two rows at the top are reserved for the men and the two below for the women.
On the top register, all the men are seated. Every guest has a napkin in his right hand and a blue lotus flower in his left hand, which he holds to his nostrils, a symbol of rebirth. The fourth and fifth characters from the right, are brothers of Renni's grandfather, both called Sobekhotep :
"his brother, the scribe, Sobekhotep" then
"his brother, Sobekhotep" (). Nothing distinguishes them from the other guests. Serving maids offer drinks, the first is called
"the cup bearer, Satesbu".
The register below, represents other guests, their position on the lower register suggests a lower elevated social standing. The characters kneeling on a mat () are two "curate priests", who have to participate in the ceremonies. The second, Djehuty, with his hand on his shoulder in sign of respect, turns to speak to the character behind him, named : Nema the elder, whose function is unknown.
Note the difference in treatment of the chairs, those of the upper register having straight legs, while those beneath have legs with curved ends ().
The third register, the first with females, is nearly completely lost, and it is necessary to refer to the bottom register to see the representation of these ladies. All are kneeling, up to the place where the register is going to pass under the representation of the master and his wife, Sobekhotep and Idy. The chair is an attribute of social importance, these females do not benefit from it, in spite of their ties of relationship with the master. Wearing a tripartite wig, they hold in their hands, as do the the men above, a lotus flower and a piece of material. Under the representation of Sobekhotep and Idy, these are the ten daughters who are represented standing, wearing long tight dresses, with their arms held straight down their sides.
This is located at northern extremity of the west wall and occupies the height of three registers (). It is separated from the rows of guests by a large offering table, of which only a part of the top now exists ().
One can wonder what was the tie of relationship of this character with Renni, to have received such a preferential treatment. Thus, Tylor thought to see the brother of Renni here, Griffith thought that it relates to his grandfather, which seems more logical, seeing that the woman is named Idy, whereas Renni's mother was named Ahmose.
The couple are seated, side by side, on a couch with a small sedate cushioned back, which in turn is on a mat. Sobekhotep wears a short curly wig and the straight beard of the living, as well as a large wsr-necklace around his neck. He holds out his arm towards the table of offerings in front of him, from which he is separated by five columns of partially mutilated text, of which the last three columns proclaim
"Hereditary Prince, Sobekhotep, true of voice, born of the Mistress of the House, Ahmose", thus adding more support to Griffith's claim to the identity of the couple. Above the couple, the line of text identifies the wife in the scene as
"His wife, mistress of the house, Idy".
The and show detail of the characters. Idy wears a long white dress, a tripartite wig and she also wears a wsr-necklace. She holds in one hand an open lotus flower to her nostrils and her other arm encompasses her spouse. Bracelets decorate her wrist and her arm. Under the chair, there is a Hathoric mirror with a polished copper disk, as well as pots of ointments and make-up which will serve her to fulfil the role which is hers in this context : she takes the function of the goddess Hathor and must, by her beauty and skill, stimulate the sexual functions of her husband in order to enable him to be reborn of his own works in the beyond. In front of the couple can be seen a child's legs. This is certainly one of their sons.
The wall is concluded by the vertical lengthening of the Egyptian frieze, already mentioned earlier.
Next, we visit and describe the east wall.