The tomb of Djehutyhotep "Great Chief of the Hare Nome".

PAGE 1 | PAGE 2


The tomb of Djehutyhotep, Great Chief of the Hare Nome is the most important and the best preserved of the tombs of the site of el-Bersheh. It bears the number 17L20/1, (formerly n°2).
This tomb is famous for the representation, unique in all Egyptian art, of a colossus pulled on a sledge.
thanks to Raymond Betz
for the photographs
The first modern rediscovery of the tomb dates back to 1817, by two naval officers, Captain Mangles and Lieutenant Irby. Then Bankes and Beecheys recopied – very incorrectly - the image of the collosus, which was redrawn in 1832 by Rossellini. Nestor de l'Hôte provided interesting notes, preserved at the National Library in Paris. Wilkinson, then Lepsius also made some summaries and Major Brown had the great idea to photograph this, before the wanton cutting away of the important inscription behind it and other from other parts of the tomb. The tentative carvings of which one can clearly see the traces (view 20), still contributed to the deterioration of the monument.
Finally it was Newberry who published and restored the monument in 1891.
The Catholic University of Louvain has worked for several years on the site.

The necropolis, chosen by the princes of the Middle Kingdom of the region, is about ten kilometres to the South of the former capital of the nome, Khemenu ("the city of the eight"), the present Ashmunein, in a craggy valley, on the east side of the Nile.
The tomb has been greatly damaged by an earthquake which occurred in antiquity, which collapsed the antechamber entirely and caused very great damage in the whole monument. Subsequently, as we will see later, the degradation due to man himself added to this.

The tomb is reached by a sloping road, which was edged with statuary, leading to a platform from which the tombs were carved into the cliff. View 39 shows tombs 8, 9 and 10 (original numbering).
For a panoramic view see HERE and choose "North hill 2 panorama".

The facade must have been monumental and impressive, with its two palmiform columns supporting an architrave, the ensemble was painted in pink and finely veined with pale green to imitate rose granite, the hieroglyphs were painted in green. But now, all that can be seen of the monument is the porch, the main chamber and a chapel-niche. The recent work of the university of Louvain showed that a limestone wall existed.

Plan (tomb and mummy pit - restored) View 65: present state View N24: portico

The decor of the actual antechamber, which was behind the columns, could only be partially restored. It included scenes of hunting and fishing and probably of military scenes or fighting. The ceiling was blue, punctuated with yellow four-leaved motifs.
The engraved inscriptions name the three sovereigns under which the powerful nomarch served: Amenemhat II, Sesostris II and Sesostris III. It is therefore under this last king that the tomb had to have been finished and when he died. It is very interesting to find, also engraved, the names of the main persons responsible of this major creation of the Middle Kingdom. The director of works was thus a certain "Sep, son of Ab-Kau" and the principle decorator was Amenankhu.

From this antechamber, today open to the sky, is an inscribed passage, leading to an oblong room, which is the actual funeral chapel.
This room measures 7.9 m of depth, 6.1 m wide and 4.0 m high.
In the centre of the wall opposite the entrance, three small steps lead to a chapel-niche 1.26 m wide with a depth of 2.50 m and a ceiling at 2.48 m. Several funeral wells are present, creating a complex structure with an underground gallery running under the tomb (view 60).

  The nomarch Djehutyhotep and his family  

As always in ancient Egypt, the inscriptions are not very verbose on the life and career of the deceased and we don't know much about the end of Djehutyhotep.
Djehutyhotep was a "child of the king" under Amenemhat II, which is to say that he had been educated at the royal palace with the royal children. Then he held the position of "confidential friend" during the reign of Sesostris II, occupying an unknown function also under his successor Sesostris III, under the reign of whom he probably died.
The civil titles of Djehutyhotep: Hereditary prince, Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt, Confidential friend, Royal acquaintance of the king, Great Chief of the Hare Nome, Door to all foreign countries (probably meaning that he allowed entry and exit to foreign countries), Chief of high offices, Prince of Nekheb, the one who belongs to the City of Nekhen, Controller of what is in the palace.
The religious titles: Superintendent of the priests, Great of the Five in the Temple of Thoth, Regulator of the two thrones, Uppermost of the Mysteries of the temples, Uppermost of the God's Mysteries in his sacred places, Uppermost of the divine secret Mysteries, Director of divine offerings, Master Sem-priest of the tunics, He who influences the gods, Uppermost of the temples of Net, Priest of Ma'at.
Notice in particular the titles indicating Djehutyhotep as High priest of Thoth in Hermopolis.

Concerning the functions of the nomarch of the Old and Middle Kingdom, consult the useful article dedicated to them..

The members of the family mentioned in the tomb include Nehery, his paternal grandfather from whom he inherited the responsibility, his father Kay and his mother Sat-kheper-ka. Kay was Prince of the city of the pyramid "the apparition of Sesostris" and Uppermost of the priests. He was therefore, most of the time, away from the Hare nome and didn't follow his father Nehery. His tomb was probably far from the nome (possibly in Memphis), and it is probably why he is represented by his son Djehutyhotep in the chapel-niche, thus achieving in this way a cenotaph. Nothing is known of the parentage of his mother nor her titles.
The wife of Djehutyhotep was named Hathor-hotep, she carried the titles of Mistress of house and Priestess of Hathor. Two other female characters are represented next to her on the scene of female relatives, in smaller size, without knowing precisely who they are.
The deceased had eight children, three sons and five daughters. The eldest of the sons was Shemsu-khau-ef, frequently represented. The two younger sons were Sesostris-Ankh and Nehery. We know the names of the three eldest daughters: Nub-unut, Sat-kheper-ka and Sat-hedj-hotep.

  The decoration  

It is a combination of painted representations, applied on to a stucco sealer or wash applied to cover the limestone of the wall, and of areas sculptured in very low relief. The decoration was executed to a high standard. Here we are far from a provincial creation, and one can legitimately suppose that the artist/decorators came to him from the royal workshops.
The scenes, already very mutilated by the earthquake are, in a great many places (notably on the back wall), covered with large red Coptic crosses which hamper considerably our assessment. It is amazing that these genuine icons were not removed by the Service of Antiques, because it is difficult to consider them as precious vestiges of the past.

  The facade  

View N03
Détails de la colonne

As mentioned previously, this collapsed completely following an earthquake.
The jambs and lintels of the facade, as well as the columns and the architrave, were painted in pink streaked with green, to imitate the rose granite, and the hieroglyphs above of the door posts and on the architrave were incised and painted in green.
On the door posts, the inscriptions relating to Djehutyhotep mingle with inscriptions relating to the sovereigns which he served. So that the visitor would immediately be impressed by the favours bestowed on the nomarch during so long a period. He represented at the top of the column of writing, the Horus name of the king and below, the royal cartouche (view 59).

The architrave is inscribed, in front and behind, with inscriptions, at the centre of which is the word "r-pa (fully jry-pat)", Prince or Mayor, associated on either side with "h3ty-a", Hereditary (view 06). The full inscriptions runs left and right from the centre word. They mention that he was "born of Sat-kheper-ka" and both make reference to his title of Great Priest of Thoth.

  The antechamber  

Today it is open to the sky, some of the enormous collapsed blocks strewn on the ground (view 65). At first glance one notices several attempts to steal portions of wall which have been savagely achieved by chiselling (view 05).
The ceiling, now invisible, could be reconstructed. It included a blue background with an assembly of yellow four-leaved motifs. A transverse band of incised hieroglyphs are painted in blue on a yellow base. The inscription again emanates from a centre point, making reference to the titles of "Great Chief of the Hare Nome" and "chief of the mysteries of its temples", mentioning his mother Sat-kheper-ka and his father Kay.
The kheker-frieze of the outer chamber, which was only painted, is almost entirely destroyed.
The left wall of the room is destroyed completely and can no longer be described.

The right wall
View N06
On this wall is preserved the representation of a remarkable hunting scene, whose colours have unfortunately disappeared. The master is represented as a large sized heroic figure, sheathed in a tight garment (very different from those found in similar scenes of the New Kingdom), and supported by a long stick (view 03). He contemplates the register of hunting in the desert in front of him, filled with animals and men represented a lot smaller than himself (view 09 and view 61). Note the extraordinary diversity of gazelles, antelopes, oryx, buffalo and ibexes, which form the main portion of animals present. But smaller game can also be found, porcupine or hare. A lioness is even represented. Men hunt all this game with bow and arrow, or are shown capturing the wild animals with the lasso. Three of the hunters are named, they represents the sons of Djehutyhotep.
In the last register at the bottom, wild bulls seem to be directed into a kind of enclosure by men wearing in their hair ostrich feathers, like soldiers.
Notice that all these scenes are placed between two great vertical representations of nets, which shows well that the live capture of animals was also an important activity.
By delimiting this scene, which refers to a hostile (the desert) environment and a disorganised (savage animals) environment, these nets also have the major role of magic protection against the forces of disorder, which are thus contained.

The back wall, right-hand section

View N07

View 62
In the top register, under the eight vertical columns of inscription proclaiming "capture of birds by prince Djehutyhotep", is the remains of the hunting scene in the marshes. Standing on a reed skiff, Djehutyhotep wears a ribbon in his hair, a necklace around his neck and a short loincloth. He holds in one hand a throwing stick and in the other some birds. It is known that this scene can be read in two ways, entertainment for the deceased but also as an opposing force for the disorder embodied by the wild surroundings, the untamed environment, which the marsh represents. So by this gesture, the deceased repulses Isfet ("evil") and advances the order of Ma'at. This scene can also be interpreted as a hunt of the bad spirits which could try to prevent the good progress of the new gestation necessary for the deceased before his rebirth. This is why two women, probably his wife and his daughter, who stretch out a stick to him and who participate to this regeneration, accompany him in this frail craft. The whole left part of the scene, showing the actual marsh, has disappeared.
In the bottom registers are three boats laden with papyrus, which seem to float in emptiness, because the water, merely painted, has also disappeared.

The back wall, left-hand section

View N08


In a symmetrical scene, the nomarch fishes by means of a harpoon, as always accompanied by two women. His three sons are represented behind him.
Under the skiff are represented many fish and in the register below can be found more boats with men fishing (view 10 and view 11).

The back wall, centre section
Here, the framing of the entrance to the inner chamber, the equivalent of an architrave, is very much destroyed today.
It included, at the top, two lines of inscriptions which were engraved in opposing directions, again probably centred about the word jry-pat, only the right-hand end remains in situ. Below these is a broader band, of which only the remains of a figure remain.
Framing the entry vertically, on each jamb were four vertical lines of inscriptions surmounted by a horizontal line and, at the bottom, a figure of Djehutyhotep holding a sekhem-sceptre and a stick. Identical inscription lines ran into the thickness of the entry, leading to the interior chamber, in large hieroglyphs: "Hereditary Prince, great of the five, Djehutyhotep, revered lord"

PAGE 1 | PAGE 2