TT69, the tomb of Menna .
The tomb of Menna (TT69) is located in the necropolis of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna (see the location plans below), in the part known as the "upper enclosure". TT69 is one of a group of tombs which date to the end of the reign of Thutmoses IV and the beginning of the reign of Amenhetep III. This group includes the tombs of Nakht (TT52) and Djeserkareseneb (TT38). Although Menna calls himself "The eyes of the King in every place", the name of the actual king is not known, as no name is mentioned in the texts. The chapel provides an irreplaceable directory of scenes of everyday life and of funerary customs for all the publications on Egyptian art.
The tomb is of the classical style of the private tombs found on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). They are referred to as being T-shaped, although when the plan is viewed from the entry it appears as an inverted "T". Like so many of these tombs, it consists of an outer courtyard, entry corridor, a transverse (first) chamber, a short connecting corridor (facing the entry), leading to a rear longitudinal (second) chamber.
The main axis, from the entry to the rear of the inner-most chamber, is actually north-east to south-west. But symbolically the orientation is east to west, the sun rising at the entrance and the deceased being interred at the rear, in the west. This symbolic orientation will be used in the following description of this tomb.
The tomb was never completely finished, yet it is one of the most completely decorated tombs at Thebes. There is a great shortage of descriptive texts on the walls, even though in many places the area for their entry was marked by lines. After its construction, but still in this time period, someone maliciously hacked out the face of the tomb-owner in order to deprive him of his life in eternity. Also, the name of the god Amon has been removed in nearly all places. The rendering of the painting is however exceptional, which has resulted in it being the focus of study by not only Egyptologists but also art historians, since the beginning of the 20th century.
Modern history of the tomb
The tomb was cleared by members of the Mission Archeologique Francais in the eighteen-eighties and again in the early part of the 20th century, when work on the tomb included the excavation of a number of burials in the forecourt and chapel by Robert Mond in 1905, and a brief survey of the tomb's decorative program by Colin Campbell in 1910.
The tomb has been opened to the public since the 1960s, and has since been at the mercy of environmental forces and human contact, all of which have contributed to the deterioration of the wall paintings. It is possible to see the deterioration of the paintings by comparison of the original Robert Mond photos taken in 1914–1916, those taken in the 1960s and 1970s and the tomb’s present day condition.
|| Special permission has been given by the Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, to use the black/white photos taken by Robert Mond.
Photographs (more than 800) were provided by many sources, see the bibliography on page 8, however, not all could be used.
Today, glass panels, about a metre high, and the modern protective barrier, help to protect the wall decoration (see the north end view of chamber 1).
During November–December 2007, in a 5-week archaeometrical survey, using several analytical instruments, there was performed totally non-destructive investigations to examine the Egyptian painting technique (see report in PDF format).
MENNA AND HIS FAMILY
Menna held the positions/title of "scribe of the fields of the Lord of the Two Lands".
In the texts he is actually identified as:
• "The favourite of the good god (the king), the Scribe, the Overseer of the tillage".
• "Great confidant of the Lord of the Two Lands".
• "The eyes of the King in every place".
• "Scribe of the estates of the Lord of the Two Lands of the South and North".
• "The scribe, the overseer of the field-labours".
• "Overseer of the estates of Amon". This is found on the north wall of the first chamber, and note should be made that the name "Amon" was not destroyed. In this image the text highlighted reads "to the Ka of the overseer of the estates of Amon", the hieroglyphs for "Amon" are at the bottom.
In nearly all occurrences Menna's face has been either totally or partially removed, although that of his wife has survived in several places where his face is disfigured. The two instanced where he remains untouched are both on the same wall, the west wall of the northern wing of the first chamber (see facing image). This could be because the one doing the damage did not realise the two images were of Menna and his wife, because there is no attached text, but thought that they were guests.
Menna had a wife, two sons, and at least three daughters, all of whom are pictured in his tomb.
Henuttawi (meaning "Mistress of the Two Lands") is identified in the tomb as "his wife, the Mistress of the House, the Chantress of [Amon], Henuttawi, justified by the great god".
As in many cases in Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, the word for "wife" is replaced with "sister" ( ).
Throughout the scenes, Henuttawi wears various dresses. Her hair style is reasonably constant, a long black wig with braided ends, with a coloured (beaded) headband with a lotus flower at the front, which is either in bud or open flower. This broad headband is tied at the back of her head with a ribbon. She also wears a variety of arm bands and bracelets, also large round gold earrings. In nearly all occurrences she wears a fragrance ointment cone on her head. An exception is where she stands behind her husband on the right-hand side of the fishing scene in the second chamber, where she has a platted lock of hair resting on the crown of her headdress (see c2-n-c01-bg). An outline of this platted lock also exists on one of her images in the first chamber. This is also one of the occasions where her face has remained intact, whereas that of Menna has not.
His two sons
• Sa , "scribe of the grain [of Amon ?]" and also "scribe of reckoning of grain". In one place his image has been totally removed, bottom left of the north wall in the longitudinal chamber (see c2-n-bl-bg), possibly because his association with the god Amon, as a sem-priest. Note also in the image that the faces of Menna and Henuttawi have also been removed, also the name of Amon from her title in the text.
• Kha , the "wab-priest". The only time that Kha appears in the same scene as his brother, he is positioned behind, thus, even though it is never stated, it can be assumed that he is the younger of the two.
The couple had at least three daughters. These girls are displayed in many scenes, but without it being easy to identifying them by name due to the badly preserved text or deliberate damage. In the various sources many suggestions have been made for their names, so these are given in the following information. However, according to C. Campbell, (in his 1910 publication) they were first referred to as Henut, [Ne]hem-ta and Kasi (p.87), then later as Uy, Nofera and Kasi (p.91).
Two of the daughters held the same title as their mother ("lady of the house, chantress of [Amon]") and these are:
• Amen-em-weskhet (Henut) is identified as: "she whom he loves, the favourite of Hathor, the royal ornament, beloved of her lord (the pharaoh) [...] Henut".
• Nehem-awayt (Nehemet), identified as "she whom he loves, the favourite [of Hathor ... Ne]hemet, justified". From the inclusion of the terminating word "justified", she appears to have been deceased.
- These two daughters are also depicted with the platted locks of hair on top of their heads, on the north end wall of the first chamber.
The third daughter is:
• Ka-si (Kasy), identified as "his beloved, Kasi". This daughter is always portrayed smaller than the other two, thus the youngest.
GENERAL LAYOUT AND DECORATION OF THE COMPLEX
As stated above, the tomb is of the classical inverted T-shape of the private tombs of the nobles on the West Bank. Like so many others, it is preceded by a rectangular courtyard which leads, via an entry passage, into a wide transverse chamber. This extends to the right (north) and left (south) of this main axis. Another short corridor, which immediately faces the entry passage, leads into a longitudinal chapel chamber with a small niche at its rear end. The Tomb of Menna (TT69) is completely classic in its design and layout. As can be seen from the internal measurements of the tomb, it is slightly irregular in shape.
Two internal descents, one in the southern part of the transverse chamber and one at the rear of the longitudinal chamber, lead to burial chambers, located below the floor level of the tomb. The room beneath the south end of the first chamber is entered via a shaft (depth unknown) and is approximately 3m long (east-west) by under 1.5m wide, with the entrance being in the easterly end of the ceiling. The one in the longitudinal chamber descends to the burial chamber, possibly of Menna himself, via a flight of steps which lead to the right, curving through 90 degrees. The chamber itself being rectangular, approximately 2m long (east-west) by 1.5m wide, with the entrance being on the right-hand side of the east (narrow) wall. Currently, both of these chambers are closed and no further details are available.
What remains of the ceiling of the main entrance shows very faint traces of having been decorated (see entrance view). It was probably carried the same design as the inner chambers.
The ceiling of the passageway between the first and second chamber is now totally lost, only a rock surface remains (see passage view).
The two actual chambers were both decorated with a multicoloured carpet style pattern produced from red zigzag lines with infills of diamond shapes. These are of two different designs, one on an ochre background, the other on white (see the chamber 2 ceiling view opposite). Length-wise, each of the ceiling areas have a central broad ochre band and an outer one at the edge. These bands are edged with green stripes, then separated from the main design areas and the walls by red and white lines. This produces the overall design of two broad design areas, which run north to south in the the first chamber and east to west in the second. In the transverse (first) chamber, the ceiling decoration has only survived at the south end (see chamber 1 ceiling south view), and it is totally lost in the north end (see north view). The state of this part of the ceiling gives clear indication as to the thickness of mortar required to make it level for decoration, but it is possible that it was never achieved. The area between the entry and the second passageway was of the same design, but rotated 90°, as is found in other tombs; small pieces which still exist confirm this. In the second chamber, like the rest of its decoration, it is in very good condition.
In the transverse chamber, the design runs effectively in an end-to-end direction, with the central stripe running along the main north-south axis. However, in the area between the entrance doorway and the passageway between the two chambers, the design is rotated through 90 degrees. This is common in most tombs. Nearly all of this area of the ceiling, between the passageways, is lost, but enough remains to see that this was so. In the longitudinal second chamber, the design runs from east to west, again with the central stripe running along the main axis.
The wall borders
The walls of the two main chambers are edged, at the ends and top, with a decorative border, composed of coloured rectangles. These are alternately red, blue, yellow then green, separated by black/white/black lines, the whole being edged with a dark green line. The horizontal top border is accompanied by a more detailed frieze, either above it (see the upper north-west corner of chamber 1, where two different frieze designs are found) or below (as on the south wall of chamber 1). These are of an elaborate and varying design, and will be described more fully with the artistic content of the individual walls. The top frieze design of all the walls of the second (longitudinal) chamber are the same (see the north wall image), and are positioned above the band of rectangles.
The bottom of the wall decoration is edged with three broad stripes, two dark red ones separated by one of yellow ochre, as can be seen (in the image left) at the bottom of the south wall of chamber 2. These are edged and separated by narrow black lines. The very bottom of the wall (the dado area), under the three stripes, (approx. one sixth of the wall height) was originally painted, certainly black in the second chamber, but this has all but disappeared in the first chamber. The bottom height of the scene decoration area varies, as can be seen at the junction of the east wall with the south wall in chamber 1, where the three coloured bands can be observed (see corner view); note also the modern protective barrier and the remains of the black colour of the dado area, or was the dado area over-painted in an ochre colour?
THE COURTYARD AND FACADE
The entry to the tomb is fronted by an almost square courtyard (see general line drawing), the approximate size being 9 metres east to west (entry direction) and 10 metres across (north to south), see measurement plan opposite. The courtyard, in respect to the east-west axis of the inner chambers, is rotated slightly anticlockwise. A ramp leads into the sunken courtyard from the east. It is unknown whether this ramp was originally steps. Today the original surface of the courtyard is partially buried, making any burial shafts recorded by Robert Mond (1905), especially one in the north-east corner, no longer visible. Modern wall sections of stone and brick hide much of the original side-cheeks and facade. At the west of the south wall, at the TT69 facade end, is the entrance to the later tomb No.312, originally surrounded by old bricks.
Although the entrance and inner chambers were excavated into the solid rock, the facade was added to create a vertical surface, then plastered (see courtyard photo, above left). The original state of the whole wall is no longer discernible, as it is now, certainly on the left-hand side, based on a modern brick and stone construction. The actual entry surrounding (with its curved upper inner area) is certainly modern and undecorated. According to the written records of Mond, the tomb must have originally possessed a decorated door frame, but this is no longer visible, he stated: "Both the original door-jambs were inscribed, but the lintel is smooth lime plaster bearing no traces of ever having been painted." Above the facade is now a modern brick wall retaining a flat platform, also the whole outer area has been raised in the same construction (see courtyard photo, above left), the high west and side outer walls holding back a large amount of sand (see outer view from the west), which would, if not retained, once again bury the whole courtyard. The entry and its outer casing is offset to the left slightly.
THE ENTRANCE PASSAGEWAY
Unlike the new outer casing and surround, the entrance passageway does not have a curved ceiling, but a flat horizontal one. It is not quite symmetrical in size, as can be seen from the measurement plan obtained in 2005. At least the width (approx. 1m.) and height (approx. 2m.) makes it easy to enter the inner chamber. At first glance, from outside, it would appear to be devoid of decoration. However, both walls have retained some of the imagery at the rear, inner end (see closer view and the outline of surviving areas of decoration). Also, at the rear end of the ceiling, it can be seen that the front-most area has been lost.
Both walls were decorated with upper and side borders of coloured rectangles. There are also traces on the left wall of the lower border of three colour bands. The rear end of ceiling still shows faint remains of the decoration found in the two inner chambers.
The south wall
This south thickness wall has the remains of Menna and his wife facing out of the tomb, with one of their daughters standing between them. However, most of this decoration is lost.
Menna, at the front (although actually positioned in the rear half of the wall), has his hands raised, palms forwards, in adoration of the raising sun. He wears bracelets on his arms and a long semi-transparent garment with short sleeves.
Of his wife, who stands at the rear, very little remains. She is portrayed with yellow flesh and wearing (traces still exist) a white dress, her right breast exposed. Also seen is part of her broad necklace. On her right arm, still surviving, she wears armlets and bracelets. This arm is held across her chest, with the hand holding what remains of a yellow necklace. Her left arm can still be seen hanging down the side of her body holding a yellow sistrum.
Just discernible, standing between them, is their daughter, also with yellow flesh. In her left hand she holds a small vessel containing two white conical loaves. Very little else remains of her, even these are faint, but it can be seen that she is wearing a white dress and a blue and white headband, with a lotus flower at the front.
No identifying text has survived, but very visible above the figures, are several columns of multicoloured hieroglyphs. These would have extended from the outer edge of the wall to the rear, although now only the rear portion has survived. This is a hymn to Amon-Re, which would have been recited by Menna, as he raised his hands in adoration.
There still remains evidence that this scene was created over a previous, much older one.
The north wall
Less has survived on this north side of the entry. This time the scene portrays Menna and his wife entering the tomb. Here they both have their hands raised in worship. In this very damaged scene all that remains of Menna's wife is the palm of her hand. The image of Menna is also largely lost and his face has been destroyed. Only partially preserved, on his head, are his wig and a yellow cone of grease, whilst of his legs, only one part of his right thigh remains. Even though his hands and arms have survived, there are areas of deliberate damage. Menna wears a kilt, fastened at the waist with a belt, and a short sleeved shirt of a pink colour. There is still evidence of a multi-row necklace and on his arms there are both armlets and bracelets. There is no sign of any hieroglyphic text.