Amenemhat lived during the first half of the 18th dynasty and had his tomb prepared during the reign of Thutmosis III, in the necropolis of Thebes, on the hill currently occupied by the village of Sheikh Abd el-Gurnah.
If one is primarily interested in his main offices,
"steward of the Vizier", and
"scribe who reckons the corn in the granary of divine offerings of Amun,” he appears to us as a subordinate personage. He seems the servant of another, and a simple scribe in an immense institution which has hundreds of such servants.
Yet Amenemhat is a rich and cultured dignitary. Indeed, he has a large tomb, inventoried today as TT 82, and whose decoration seems to be completed. This included texts and images necessary for his survival in the afterlife following the different models of rebirth available in Egyptian thought. In this, Amenemhat follows the tradition of his social class. But TT 82 includes a number of features which make it all the more interesting. Thus, Amenemhat reused the great funerary corpus of the Old Kingdom, the Pyramid Texts, as very few notables of his time did. In addition, the tomb is particularly rich in information about the Egyptian conception of death and rebirth, and about divine beliefs in general. Thus, although it corresponds fairly well to the norm of contemporary Theban tombs in its architecture and its iconography, it also includes many original features. Each tomb is a reflection of the choices of its owner and the means he can devote to his burial, tomb 82 is quite unique within the achievements of the 18th dynasty.
"Amun is in front," bears a widely known name in Theban onomastics, for Amun is the chief divinity of Thebes.
His family is well known. In fact, in his tomb and on the other monuments which he had built, he represented his parents and ancestors as well as his brothers, sisters, and his descendants.
The paternal grandparents of Amenemhat were Kemy (or Kay) and Antef. Kemy was
"overseer of ploughed lands" and
"master of ceremonies". His maternal grandparents were Antef and Iahhotep. Amenemhat does not mention the titles of his maternal grandfather Antef. The two grandmothers simply bore the title
"lady of the house", reserved for married women.
The father of Amenemhat was named Djehutymes. He had the same titles as his father. It is also referred to as "worthy". The mother of Amenemhat was called Antef. She was
"lady of the house".
Due to the vagueness induced by the paucity of Egyptian family terminology, it is often difficult to determine the relationship between two persons. Thus, the terms "brother" and "sister" (senet) are applied not only to siblings but also to half-siblings, cousins, and spouses of first cousins. Above all, the word senet is often enough to tenderly indicate a wife. Therefore, in the iconography of the tomb of Amenemhat, it is difficult to determine who are his true brothers and sisters, who are his parents by marriage and his more distant relatives: for example, when a lady who is sitting at the side of a man in a banquet scene is defined by the term senet, is she "loved by her husband" (seated by her), or "sister of Amenemhat"?
The most important brothers and sisters are still identified with certainty: the main sister of Amenemhat is Iahmes, the mother of Baket-Amon. His brother Amenmes is a scribe of the granary of the divine offering, just like him. He is well placed in family banquets and must actually be a brother. Amen - [...] (the end of the name is missing) is a scribe of the vizier, and always follows Amenmes.
Amenemhat is married to Baket, also called Baket-Amun. She is initially referred to as
"the daughter of his sister". She would be his niece. The definition of allowed and forbidden marriages in ancient Egypt is unknown to us. We know nothing of the Egyptian taboos in this matter, except that they are different from ours. We know that Egyptians marry young, often at puberty, mostly in the local neighborhood, in the same social milieu, and sometimes even with members of the family: a geographical, social and familial endogamy. The marriage of Amenemhat and Baket should not appear shocking, and it is not exceptional.
Amenemhat has many children, who are depicted on the walls of his tomb making him the object of funerary worship or simply participating in banquets. Five sons are shown in the monument. One of them is called Amenemhat like his father and makes offering to his parents three times: he must be the eldest, and the most important. Upon one wall the artists of the tomb appear and the first represented is one of his sons, who directed the works, but his name is erased. Amenhotep must be the younger: in the third hall and the vault he makes an offering to his father on the walls opposite those upon which the eldest son acts. Only two daughters are named in the tomb, Satamon and Amenemheb. In the chapel they are always represented together.
The choice of first names in the family shows a real attachment to Amun. We also note that the same forenames continue from one generation to another, and even within the same generation. Finally, the ancestors of Amenemhat, in his family or that of his wife, bear titles identical to his own.
The titles of Amenemhat reflect his public functions in Egyptian society. In ancient Egypt, there is no separation between the state and the priesthood and one can be employed in both: Amenemhat is a good example. Like all literate people, he has above all the title of scribe, but rarely alone.
His first function is probably that of
"scribe who reckons the corn in the granary of divine offerings of Amun." This indicates that he is responsible for the entry, the counting and the removal of the grain preserved in a particular granary of the temple and reserved for the preparation of the loaves and cakes served at the offering table of the god.
After that of accountant of the grain of Amun, his most important title is that of
"steward of the vizier". The vizier is the second personage of the Egyptian state after the pharaoh, and even though they are two at this time - one for Upper Egypt and one for Lower Egypt - the steward of such a politician has great power: he is responsible for the management of a household whose size must be on the scale of its function for the vizier. This is by far the most important position of Amenemhat’s. He must take care of the various sources of income of his master and keep strict accounts of personnel, fields, grain, and precious metals belonging to the estate of the vizier.
In addition to this, he is commonly being entrusted with various constructions and similar works, not only in the name of the vizier himself, but also in the name of the king: his autobiographical text in the tomb mentions this. Obviously, the vizier Amenemhat serves is User, who is well known elsewhere. But perhaps he also managed the house of User's father, the vizier Iahmès , since he pays tribute to the latter in the first room of his tomb.
Besides his main titles, Amenemhat has three other minor ones. He is quite regularly called
"head of the weavers of Amun". The weavers were attached to the temple of Amun and made the fabrics of the priestly clothes. They belong therefore to that immense crowd that creates the life of the temple. Amenemhat is responsible for the production of linen cloth for the priests.
He also bears the title of
"overseer of ploughed lands", which occasionally appears in the 18th dynasty. We do not know whether Amenemhat performs this function in the temple of Amun or for the civil administration.
Finally, his most mysterious title is that of
"elder one of the forecourt". This very old function remains unknown.
His titles are not very numerous, but Amenemhat has important responsibilities in the temple of Amun and with the vizier.
But neither his tomb nor the other references made to him on other monuments make it possible to retrace his career with certainty and in detail, amongst other things because the information we collect in TT 82 relates mainly to his function of steward.
Of course, he first became a scribe and carried this title, a sign of his indispensable intellectual competence, to enter the administration. He inherited four of his five titles: from his father and his paternal grandfather those of
"overseer of ploughed lands" and
"elder one of the forecourt"; Father and paternal grandfather of his wife those of
"steward of the vizier" and
"head of the weavers of Amun". So only the title of
"scribe who reckons the corn in the granary of divine offerings" was not transmitted to him. But for him, it seems that his role with the vizier counts the most.
The first mutilations suffered by the tomb seem to be an act of the Amarna period, which tells us that the chapel was always open and accessible more than 100 years after its decoration. The faithful of the god Aton hammered out with the chisel and hammer the name of the god Amon, the three signs forming this name, wherever they appeared in the chapel (with rare exceptions), as well as the word "gods".
We do not yet know when the figures of the priest wearing the leopard skin were destroyed. The memory of Amenemhat has in any case not suffered from a Damnatio memoriae, as was often the case during politically troubled periods.
How long did Amenemhat and his family benefit from a funeral service, or family visits during the ‘Beautiful festival of the Valley’? There is no evidence to let us say.
The vault and chapel were reused for anonymous burials during the Pharaonic period, but they were also completely plundered, as thieves left only pieces of broken bodies and coffins, some fragments of the funerary equipment, Cones, canopic vases, nearly 150 coarse Ushabtis and a magic brick.
Later, the presence of Coptic hermits in the Theban necropolis was responsible for other irreparable damage in the tombs. In Amenemhat’s, the monks cut away the feminine figures of the first two areas, fearing perhaps the forbidden desires that would arise among the monks in the face of these superb images. The same is true of many tombs used for habitats or churches, for example that of Userhat, TT 56. On the west wall of the passage, they scribbled several signs, a few crosses, and a word. The chapel was therefore reused, perhaps as a living place or as a church, in the Coptic period and perhaps even later.
In the entrance corridor, an oval hole the size of a body has been dug in the ground, it is a rather late, perhaps post-Pharaonic, burial. In the transverse room, two areas and a recess were roughly cut, destroying the paintings on the east and south sides (east wall), and in the northwest corner. On the scenes of offering to ancestors and artists, we see the effect of natural degradation of the wall, but hammering out is also evident.
Then once more the chapel was abandoned to the desert.
The last period of destruction of the tomb dates from the beginnings of Egyptology. The tomb was visited by Robert Hay (Tomb no 16, described in his notebook: British Museum Add., MSS 29824, pp. 60-65), and copied by James Burton and John Gardner Wilkinson. Richard Lepsius, in turn, visited the chapel and the vault and was followed by many others. The increasing demand of the West for the images of Pharaonic Egypt led the inhabitants of Luxor to cut out fragments of the paintings in Amenemhat’s as well as in the other chapels, before a metal door arrived in 1907 to protect the tomb from looting . However according to the description of Robert Hay, the tomb was by his time in the state in which Alan Gardiner saw it in 1914. Finally Norman de Garis Davies and Ernest Mackay emptied the pits of their contents and restored the whole tomb in 1914.
The tomb is fragile and should remain closed to the public
The tomb of Amenemhat is located in Sheikh Abd el-Gurnah, one of the hills that border the cliffs of the western desert in Thebes. During the first half of the 18th dynasty, the largest number of private tombs was dug there.
Amenemhat prepared his burial near those of the two viziers whom he represented in his tomb, Iahmes and User (TT 83 and TT 61), three first priests of important deities (TT 86 Men-kheper-Re-seneb, TT 59 of Qen, TT 225 probably belonging to an homonymous Amenemhat), and of persons possessing the highest positions in the royal administration and in that of the temple of Karnak (e.g. TT 81 of Ineni, TT 87 of Min-Nakht, TT 84 of Iamunedjeh, TT 99 of Sen-neferi). The tomb of Amenemhat is thus among those of the administrative and religious elite of his time, for whom the top of the hill was reserved, and among important notables of the temple of Amun that he had rubbed shoulders with.
Like most Egyptians, Amenemhat had his tomb prepared on the west bank of the Nile. In Egyptian thought, the sun "dies" every evening in the West to be reborn the next day in the East. By being buried in the West, the departed hopes to follow the sun in its nocturnal race and to be reborn with it in the morning. More simply, they seek to identify with it.
In Thebes, certain topographical peculiarities accentuate the funerary character of the western shore: thus the Cime, the highest summit of the plateau behind the desert cliffs, is a solar symbol because of its pyramidical form and as a hathor symbol: in their funerary beliefs the mountain is the cow Hathor, the incarnation of the West propitious to the dead but also the cow of the sky that swallows the sun every night to give it back reborn in the morning. Thus, at Thebes, the deceased, when buried in the belly of the goddess, acquires a solar destiny.
Traditionally, a tomb is oriented along an east-west symbolic axis. Thus, the wall furthest from the entrance is nearest to the kingdom of the dead, in the west. This wall is occupied by a false-door stele, a means of communication between the living and the deceased, using a statue of the deceased. It is through the false door that the deceased returns to participate in the funeral meal in the form of his ka (his vital energy).
Tomb TT 82 is oriented along an almost south-north geographic axis (i.e. the entrance is south south-east), so that the most sacred space at the furthest part of the tomb, is northwards and not towards the west. In Thebes, the tombs built in the hills at the foot of the western cliff cannot all be oriented along an east-west axis, due to topographical constraints. Artisans and owners did not worry, and considered that the tomb was properly oriented in spite of everything along an east-west axis, the symbolic axis.
Note : the architectural presentation of the chapel and the placing of the scenes will be followed here according to their geographical orientation. The "left / right" directions refer to a person entering the chapel. The registers are numbered from top to bottom because it is generally the higher registers that are best preserved.
The tomb of Amenemhat is preceded by an immense forecourt dug into the hill, a transitory space between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The hypogeum is composed of two distinct excavated spaces: a funeral chapel at the forecourt level and an underground complex.
The chapel, that is to say the upper part of the tomb, was always accessible to the living after the burial, and comprises four rooms in succession.The first is a lengthy entrance corridor about 6,60 m long.
We then penetrate into a transverse room perpendicular to the axis of the tomb, which is about 11 m wide.
The third room is the passage, a long room which follows the axis of the tomb, whose ceiling is a little lower than the previous room and it measures 5.50 m long.
The last room is almost square about 3.25 meters on each side. This space is called here "the sanctuary" and is the most sacred area of the chapel. The back wall is pierced by a very large niche which probably contained the statue of Amenemhat and his wife. Today there is nothing left.
Access to the underground rooms, which was closed on the day of the funeral after the deceased and his funerary equipment had been placed below, is through a vertical shaft 8.50 m deep from the sanctuary. In the underground area there are several rooms, but only one is decorated, the vault itself. It is a rectangular room 2.60 m wide, 3.60 m long. The entrance is through the eastern end of the north wall, while at the west end of the same wall a deep niche appears.
The structure of the tomb of Amenemhat follows the general pattern of a "reversed T", a plan common to most tombs of the 18th dynasty. The first room is parallel to the facade of the tomb and then a second room is perpendicular to it, all completed by a sanctuary and a niche. But TT 82 is not a real "T shaped tomb", the entrance corridor being exceptionally long. In fact the tomb was dug in the Middle Kingdom, two hundred years before Amenemhat who neither completed it, nor adapted it to his taste. At the beginning of the 18th dynasty, while the country was rebuilding and the kings of Thebes reaffirmed their power by large constructions, the wealthy nobles found little skilled labour to dig their tombs. They often contented themselves with tombs already roughly excavated which they then completed. There would be as many Middle Kingdom tombs as of the New Kingdom in the Theban necropolis.
Like its neighbors, the tomb of Amenemhat is not adorned with bas-reliefs, but simply painted. Indeed, lying high on the hill, it is dug in a layer of limestone of poor quality that cannot be sculpted. The roughly cut limestone wall is first covered with a layer of crushed limestone and then with a layer of finer limestone mortar before the paint pigments are applied.
All ceilings are divided up into sections by long yellow bands inscribed with large blue hieroglyphs and elaborately painted (). The patterns are flowers and geometric figures in white, ochre, brick and blue tones.
The style of the door jambs (these are the lines and columns of hieroglyphic texts surrounding the doors) varies little in the tomb, and like that of the ceilings, it is quite traditional (). . The painted formulas are mainly prayers to the gods or repetitions of the titles of Amenemhat. These jambs break the continuity of the scenes.
The scenes do not occupy the whole area of the walls. As in most Theban tombs, the background is plastered and left white. Here it measures 55 cm below the scenes and at least 75 cm around the door frames. A black band of 10 cm separates this empty space from the figures. Different borders surround the scenes on the sides and up above. Everywhere above the scenes, the upper border is surmounted by the khekheru pattern in friezes 17 to 19 cm high, its colours are blue, green and red.
Finally, in the chapel, the main inscriptions of the scenes are meticulously drawn and painted with various colours, while the minor texts, descriptions or speeches, are smaller in size and always painted in blue.
A preliminary remark is necessary: In the Egyptian civilization, the image has, above all, a specific purpose. What for us is a work of pictorial art is, for the Egyptians, a necessary element in their funerary concepts. Its artistic quality is important but secondary. This is why the artist has often remained anonymous. The sources allowing identification of the author of a work of art are very rare, but the tomb of Amenemhat is one of them, as we shall see ...
From the large repertoire of iconographic themes available at Thebes in the New Kingdom for tombs, Amenemhat selected some scenes and ignored others. The decorative program he chose therefore reveals his thought and his needs in funerary matters.