August 23, 2013

The mastaba tombs

The mastaba tombs
As has already been mentioned a mastaba is the tomb of a bobel or dignitary built to resemble the house in which the dead person formerly lived. The Sakkarah necropolis contains a considerable number of mastabas, some of which are among the most renowned for their beauty and the gracefulness of their decoration. The Nebet mastaba. dating from the end of the Vth dynasty, is a typical example because of the rare style of decoration found in the second chamber. This shows the queen herself in the palace harem (the area reserved for the women) where she is witnessing the presentation of offerings while sniffing a flower. The Visir Un- efert’s mastaba on the other hand is Vlth dynasty.

The mastaba tombs
He is depicted on a wall right at the entrance of the mastaba as an old man walking towards the interior of his sepulchre. The extant decoration in the Princess Idut’s mastaba is of particular interest. The mastaba contains ten rooms but only five are decorated. One scene shows two seated scribes intent on their work. The artist has been at pains to show the case for their quills, the boxes for the colours and even the two spare brushes which the scribe on the left has lodged above his ear. In the Kagemmi mastaba are to be found tasteful and lively genre paintings. One quite unusual scene depicted is of a servant pouring out bird-seed into an aviary while another shows a line of young girls engaged in an acrobatic dance. One the other side of the necropolis there is the mastaba of Ptah-Hotep, a high functionary of state, whose tomb is to that of his son Akhu-Hotep. This mastaba was discovered by the French ar- cheologist Auguste Mariette who arrived in Egypt in 1850.

The mastaba tombs
The magnificent bas-reliefs, which can perhaps be attributed to a certain Ankgen-Ptah, allow us to see with a wealth of detail what daily life in ancient Egypt must have been like. We can see servants bringing offerings and rowers in a boat whose gestures and movements resemble those of dancers. The most complex mastaba is that of Mereruka which was discovered in 1893 and is subdivided into three parts. It consists in fact of quarters for the owner, who is also called Meri or Mera, for his wife the Princess Uatet-Khethor, who was also a priestess of Hathor, and for their children. It was a mastaba appropriate to the rank of a person who like Mereruka had discharged various public functions during the Vlth dynasty. Particularly original in its conception is the scene showing hunting and fishing, in which plants and animals are freely distributed all over the available space in a manner bordering on the fantastic.

The mastaba tombs
The mastaba of Ti is perhaps the most beautiful of all. It was already finished in 2600 B.C. when Cheops was preparing to build his great pyramid. Ti, the husband of the Princess Nefr-Hotep, lived during the Vth dynasty. Today we would describe him as a VIP, he was the director of all the Pharaoh’s works, his close friend, his confidant, and the man in charge of building the pyramids, or at least this is how he is described in the inscriptions on the tomb. The bas-reliefs in the mastaba are considered to be among the most beautiful examples from the period of the Old Kingdom both because of the high level of artistic expression achieved and for the balance of their composition. Particularly noteworthy is the procession of women elegantly carrying tall baskets on their heads.

The mastaba tombs

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