May 9, 2012

Tombs of Beni Hassan and Life in the Grottoes | Luxor

Tombs of Beni Hassan, 1852
Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley

Tombs of Beni Hassan
These tombs of Beni Hassan are amongst the oldest monuments of Egypt . . . yet exhibiting, in the liveliest manner, hunting, wrestling and dancing, and curious as showing how gay and agile these ancient people could be, who in their architecture and graven sculptures appear so solemn and immoveable. Except a doubtful figure of Osiris in one, and a mummy on a barge in another, there is nothing of death or judgement here.

Life in the Grottoes, 1860
Mrs. M. Carey
We reached the Grottoes at last. They are cut along the side of the hill, at a distance of about two miles from the village. Those to the south pleased us extremely. They are of the oldest style of Egyptian architecture, and very elegant. The columns represent four stems of water plants, supporting a capital in the form of lotus or papyrus buds. The transverse section of these grottoes is very elegant, and the architecture resembles a depressed pediment, extending over the columns, and resting at either end on a low pilaster. The simplicity and elegance of the style and device strike the eye at once. The walls of all the grottoes are covered with various interesting coloured devices.

When the eye has become accustomed to the partial light within, these can be gradually made out, and we took great delight in tracing the following subjects:' the tillage of the ground; making of ropes; weaving of linen cloth; the manufacture of jewellery and pottery; various hunting scenes; men tending sick cattle; feeding the oryx; fishing-nets; clap-nets; pressing wine in a wine-press; men wrestling; women playing at ball, and performing various feats of agility in a most unwomanlike manner; both sexes receiving the bastinado, the men laid on the ground, the women sitting; playing the harp; games of draughts and ‘mora’; a barber shaving a customer; some cranes; a very curious procession of strangers, supposed, from their dress, beards and sandals, and boots, to be some Asiatic people, being presented, probably, to the owner of the tomb, and offering him presents of the produce of their country; finally, boats bearing the dead body to its place of sepulture; these, and many others, we examined with interest, by the assistance of Murray s Handbook and Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians. The curious custom is also seen here of writing over the subject represented the name of what it was intended to represent. In one instance, in particular, it appeared very desirable; if the artist did intend in this case to represent kids feeding upon a vine, we should certainly have wished to see written up over them, “This is a vine, these are kids.”

In 1930, Mary Chubb accompanied an expedition to Egypt to investigate and excavate the site of Tell al-Amarna, city of the ‘heretic’ pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife, the beautiful Nefertiti. Her description of the lifting of a heavy stone might have been given at any time throughout the millennia.

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