The Mastaba (G2196) of Iasen

The mastaba of Iasen (G2196) is located on the Giza plateau, in what is called the Western Cemetery, more precisely in the north end extending "en echelon" (ie. in military formation). This monument is unique for this part of the site because the natural configuration of the ground allowed Iasen to create a classic mastaba and to extend it southwards with a chapel carved into a natural rocky elevation.
This mastaba is architecturally connected to the neighbouring one of Penmeru, G2197, and the final part of this presentation (on page 4) is dedicated to it.


The necropolis of Giza covers an area of a slightly more than a square kilometre and includes about 2,300 tombs, with a majority of mastabas being made of bricks or stones, but also numerous rupestral tombs. The number of funeral shafts is estimated at 15,000 (Farouk).

The term of "cemetery of the west" designates the part of the necropolis situated to the west of the pyramid of Kheops.
[There is another cemetery on the east side of the pyramid; which has been briefly described on Osirisnet, with the tomb of ]

The western cemetery developed around essential pits (burial shafts). As soon as the rubble of the construction of a tomb had been removed, the free space was immediately used to begin a new monument, and so forth. The fact of being able to see the pyramid being an important element. The original plan of the west cemetery foresaw streets of regularly aligned mastabas, itself being rectangular.
Then, at some point, being able to be seen by people passing was considered a privilege, from which came a shift in the alignment of the tombs.

The term "en echelon" cemetery, means three rows of mastabas offset relative to each other, which helps a visitor viewing from the east to see part of each of them.
From 1905, this part of the necropolis became the concession of the joint mission of Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with at its head George Reisner, who searched the entire north area and part of the southern area between 1911 and 1916.
It is estimated that the cemetery has 427 levels of burials. Its northern part, in which is the mastaba of Iasen, contains tombs built between the end of the 5th dynasty and the first intermediate period.

How were concessions granted ? Little is known of how land use by the small mastabas was planted on the primitive pits (Der Manuelian). Was there a geographical sense, or the desire for a family reunion or persons in charge of worship? Or was it perhaps a competition for the best remaining places under the supervision more or less advised by the administration?
No study has shown a distribution of mastabas based on a hierarchy of titles of the deceased or the offices which they occupied. On the other hand, it was revealed family lines, whose tombs are side by side or close to each other. Furthermore, in the "en echelon" cemetery, over 50% of the sons bear the same title as their fathers. A notable fact is that characters with identical titles often have mastabas of roughly equal size.
In the limits which were assigned by the bureaucracy, it seems that the choice of the precise location of a tomb depended on the owner. However this was dependent of a number of constraints: the period of time (the space became scarce with the passing of the centuries), with the owners links to the royal family and his relationship with the staff responsible for the funerary cult, to whom he would have tried to get as close as possible. It is probably the links with the sovereign which constituted the main discriminating factor: 45 different types of interrelations are found in the cemetery.
Curiously, closeness to the pyramid of Kheops was not sought, and it seems that the cemetery would be extended in this direction only much later, due to lack of space elsewhere.

Later. The access to the previous constructions was preserved as long as possible, by descendants of the deceased - or by conscience - until the lack of space - or their deterioration - imposing their closure. There is no doubt that the struggle to see and to be seen became more and more harsh as the place made itself rarer.
The 'en echelon' cemetery remained for a long time easily accessible from its eastern part, an area which was probably used during the last phases of occupation; at this period, the other areas were blocked and, become inaccessible, deteriorated, what finally entailed the abandonment of the cemetery.


This is located in the "en echelon" cemetery. It includes a surface mastaba, a rock cut chapel and twelve funerary shafts. It was first cleared by the MFA teams in 1912, then in 1915.

The mastaba measures 13.20 x 5.80m and is built from stones in its periphery, whilst the inside is filled with rock debris, chips, and sand. On the photo, can be seen the square openings of some of the funeral shafts (B to F on the plan). During their progress southward, the masons met a rise of the level of the rocky plateau, of which they decided to take advantage for the chapel.
The mastaba of Iasen was built to the west of the one of Penmeru, G2197, its north end extending 2.25m north of the northern face of that of Penmeru. The total assembly was sufficiently ingenious to allow Iasen to have a small courtyard, into which one descends by a few steps. This courtyard, which gives access to a corridor created between G2196 and G2197, heads towards the chapel, situated at the south end. Geological luck permitted it to be dug in elevation of the rocky plateau. The layer of rock which overhangs the chamber however remains thin, the ceiling not exceeding 50 cm thick in places, as shown in the thief's hole (see ). The mastaba, at the surface, extends over this rocky outcrop, as shown in the plan.


The tomb owner, Iasen :

It is an infrequent name. His titles are as follows:
"Supervisor (of the) six tenant farmers of the palace" : this title is listed by Jones (p.189) ; the term "tenant farmer" must be understood as probably administrator of one of the great royal domains.
"Custodian (?) of the document containers of the king’s decrees"
"Wab-priest of the King"
"Known of the king"
"Priest of Kheops"
"Privy counsellor" (or "keeper of secrets") (Jones p.609)
"Tenant farmer"
"Supervisor of the Wab-priests"
"Supervisor of the tenant-farmers"

His wife, Meretites :

"His wife, his beloved"
"Royal acquaintance"

Another woman in the family, Nebuhotep :

"Royal acquaintance"

Meryankh :

is probably one of the sons of the owner.

"Wab-priest of the King"
"Royal acquaintance"
"Tenant-farmer of the palace"


The mastaba of Iasen has details in common with those of Sechemnefer II and III, as well as with the one of Kaiemneferet and that of Iimery, which appear notably in the motif of the west extremity of the south wall, showing Iasen seated in a special high backed chair, holding in his left hand a whisk over his shoulder, whilst he extends the other towards a stem of lotus, which is held by a smaller character identified as a son (see ). It is difficult to know if a same 'school' artisans achieved these monuments, or if Iasen imitated them.
The dating proposed for the mastaba ranges (according to Mastabase) from the reign of Kheops (4th Dynasty) to the 6th Dynasty.