Reproduced in many books on Ancient Egypt, perfectly preserved, it is with this wall that the tomb owes a great part of its reputation. Nevertheless, its symbolic wealth was maybe not entirely exhausted by some of the descriptions which have been made.
Here we find the solar barque Wj3 (Wia), greeted by two baboons, which travels from north to south.
The location of this scene appears logical : it is located in the "sky" of the east wall, the baboon of the north greets the setting sun, and the one of the south, its early rising. The chattering which the baboons make at dawn and at twilight, were taken as greetings by the Egyptians.
The barque ()presents a stern in the shape of a papyrus umbel, framed by two striped rudder-oars, affixed to posts which are themselves striped. The prow is concealed by what seems to be a red curtain hanging to the level of the water, from which extend what look like loops, drawn with dotted lines. [N.B.: I (TB) never found a satisfactory explanation to these, which (in other representations) more closely resemble a net of pearls]. Perched above this is a swallow, only seen in the tombs of Deir el-Medina. It is appropriate to the deceased's transformation; it is also a symbol of regeneration, as well as a messenger and companion of the sun during his journey.
A hawk-headed solar god is seated in the centre of the barque, his head surmounted with an enormous solar disk encircled by a uraeus. He holds in his hand an ankh-sign, the symbol of life. In the text he is named :
"Ra-Horakhty-Atum, Lord of the two Lands of Heliopolis, Kheper-Re". Thus the two different phases of the solar life are joined. The star is born in the form of the Kheper scarab, on the eastern horizon; Ra at the zenith, his power decreasing and it as Atum that he will lie down in the western horizon; Atum being for a time 'the one who is' and 'the one who is no longer', he will restart the cycle during the nocturnal journey of the star in the Netherworld.
In front of him, can be found a large shemes sign, which was discussed earlier, but here it is graphically represented with the leg. It represents the followers of Horus, that is to say, the blissful dead, of which Sennedjem wishes to be part.
Behind the god is a small structure in the shape of Per-nu, the primitive shrine of Buto, in Lower Egypt.
IThere could be much to say [N.B.: and I will probably do so one day] on the exact significance of these agricultural domains. Their symbology would be difficult to understand if reference wasn't made to §110 of the Book of the Dead, of which this vignette is often associated. There the following introduction can be found :
"Here begins the spells of the Offering Fields, the spells of going forth by day, of entering and going forth from the realm of the dead, of being provided for in the Field of Reeds, which is in the Field of Offerings of the abode of the great goddess, the "Mistress of Breath", of being powerful there, being enlightened there, ploughing there, and harvesting there; eating there and drinking there; making love there; and doing everything that used to be done on earth by N." (in this case Sennedjem).
In §72 of the Book of the Dead, (already found on the inner surface of the entry door, lines 1-7), can be found the reference of leaving the Netherworld for the Field of Reeds.
Thus, the deceased has right to a personal domain (which he has to work), and to the natural products.
But the deceased doesn't want to spend eternity taking care of the fields ! Sennedjem represented the scene on the wall of his chamber, in order to magically identify his property with regard to the gods and the other deceased; but actually work there, that is something else !
To avoid this boredom, he had the precaution to place in his chamber Funerary Servants (whose number varies according to the period). These shabti (or ushabti) have a clear role : to replace the deceased, as found in §6 Book of the Dead. Often written on the figurines is :
"Oh shabti (servant), allotted to me, if I am summoned or if I am detailed to do any work which is to done in the realm of the dead, it will be your turn to assume the responsibility, to cultivate the fields, to irrigate the banks, to transport the sand from east to west and vice versa. Then, you will say 'I am present' when I call on you, at any moment that it is"
A good example of a shabti is at the Fitzwilliam Museum (e.g. 1887), see image above left. Notice that he carries on his shoulders a hoe and a sickle.
Some channels full of water surround and partition a central area, itself subdivided into several horizontal registers. In the right upper corner (south-east), some black and white tiles could symbolise an entry, a sluice, representing the source of the water, which would be taken from the Nile.
In the horizontal registers, the upper one can be considered as separate, being rather mythological in nature, from the lower agricultural areas, which are themselves subdivided in three parts. At the right (south) extremity of each register is a small rectangle, reserved for a complementary element.
It is useful to compare the scene of this tomb with the one from the .
On the left (north), Sennedjem and Iyneferti kneel on a kind of hillock with rounded sides, they are
"on their sand", , which means in the desert of realm of the dead. They recite a prayer of praise to five gods, squatting on a Ma'at sign. The first is Ra-Horemakhty (Ra-Harmakis), wearing a large solar disk; the second is Osiris-Khentyamentiu, wearing the white crown edged with two large feathers; the third is Ptah-Neb-Ma'at (Ptah, Lord of Truth), wearing his usual blue skullcap. Then follow two anonymous gods or genii representing the great Ennead of gods (among whom these two always appear).
Then comes a scene whose significance remains obscure () :
)"his beloved son, Rahotep, Justified" sails southwards in a small papyrus craft. The young man turns his shaven head towards to rear of his vessel and to the gods. The oar or pole which he is supposed to be using is not represented, although faint traces do exist, in particular above his raised upper hand. This is indeed strange, and is interpreted usually as the painter's mistake. With the image and the scene being so perfectly executed, it seems that the oversight must have been voluntary : could it have been that artist didn't want the oar to pass over the top of the body ?
This is another son of Sennedjem, Khonsu, who performs the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, with the help of two adzes, on his father's coffin (and thus by magic on his mummy) () :
"Your mouth, Osiris Sennedjem Justified, is opened". It is also likely that the hidden meaning to this ritual is also to enliven the funerary servant who is supposed to carry out the work in place of the deceased…
The small rectangle, at the right, includes the name and title of Sennedjem, above which are three green ovals. By referring to other versions of the Book of the Dead, they are designated as the
"field of battle", the
"place of offerings" and
"the great one". They therefore relate to three regions of the underworld.
Divided into two sub-register, this area is dedicated to work in the fields
With the aid of a curved wooden sickle, of which the cutting edge is encrusted of flints, Sennedjem cuts the ears of corn very high. Thus, most of the straw won't be damaged by the trampling of the animals at the time of threshing.
Iyneferti follows Sennedjem and collects the ears which have fallen to the ground in a basket. It should be noted in passing that the height of the stems and the expanse of the field, which suggests that the field has no limits. In the idyllic world of the hereafter, the harvests are always extraordinary; there are no birds to devour them, no locusts which will ravage everything in minutes. It is in order to show the abundance of the harvests, the scene of ploughing and sowing have, without any logic, been displaced to the sub-register below.
It is also very strange to see the deceased couple achieving this work in their beautiful attire and best occasion wigs : even more proof of the eminently symbolic character of these agricultural scenes.
Firstly, harvesting flax. This plant is primarily used for the manufacture of linen, but it is also grown for its seeds (linseed) for the production of oil. Sennedjem pulls the stems, Iyneferti follows him and collects the flax into sheaves. The action could take place at different periods of the year, according to the use to which the fibre was destined, which controlled the size of plant required.
Finally, ploughing and sowing. Sennedjem pushes at the rear of his plough pulled by two cows (oxen are never used for this work) scratching the land rather than ploughing it. He encourages the animals with the help of a whip with two thongs, of which the shape of the handle is a reminder of the hieroglyph "hem", servant. Iyneferti is behind him and appears to scatter the seeds rather than sowing them precisely.
This scene is rather misleading. In fact, there were two ways to sow the seed. The first consisted, on a land made soft by flooding, of throwing the grain on the soil and then releasing a herd of animals whose trampling buried it. The second consisted, on the harder land, of firstly scattering, then passing the plough over it to bury the grain. In both cases, the sower would not have anything to do behind the ploughman. Notice that here, the extremity of the field is limited by a sycamore tree.
The rectangles to the right of the sub-registers. ().
In the first, upper one, Sennedjem kneels on a green mat, which separates him from the dark soil. Facing south, he holds an open lotus flower toward his face, a symbol of rebirth. In front of him is an offering table garnished with breads and plants [N.B.:
The lower one includes four green ovals which are probably the
"place of the offerings",
"luxuriant green" and
"mistress of the two lands". All of these place names are taken from the Book of the Dead.
This is divided into two by an irrigation channel, but it is actually one area. On the upper banks is represented an orchard, with date and dum palms alternating between fig sycamores; all are laden with fruit. The representation below, on the other side of the irrigation channel, is a flower garden (), filled with red poppies, blue cornflowers and yellow flowering mandrakes.
Although not fully completed, the artist created yet another individual rectangle, at the right-hand side of this register (). A small island surrounded by channels of water. In one of the channels is the Djed-tefet barque of Re-Harakhte (Harmakis). The craft is symmetrical, with the prow and stern being indistinguishable and in the shape of a snake. It is powered by oars, both at the front as well as the rear. The barque can thus travel in the two directions, diurnal and nocturnal. At its centre is constructed a flight of four steps, leading north to south. The significance of the vessel remains debated.
Above are again two green ovals, named in other texts from the Book of the Dead, "strong" and "landing place".
This is decorated with representations from the funeral world, completely different from the east wall which has just been examined.
The composition is symmetrical in relation to a central axis. This axis is composed of a white pedestal, forming an altar which supports a labelled canopic jar, surrounded by two overlapping lotus flowers. Above is a vase surmounted by the 3 wavy lines representing "Nun" (the primordial ocean from which the world arose), and topped with the circular "shen" hieroglyph. This is framed by two simplified udjat eyes, a witness of the reconstituted body.
This group, a highly symbolic image of rebirth, is protected by two lapis-blue Anubis jackals, one on either side, reclining on tomb-shaped structures. Around the neck of each jackal is a red bow, and a black flail projects from its back. The interpretation of the red ribbon remains controversial, possibly a chthonic symbol. The facade of the tomb-like structure, on which the jackals rest, is pierced by a door, which corresponds to the entry of the deceased's funeral chapel, and generally to the underground world, represented by the ancients as a mastaba. They also assume the same position as the baboons on the tympanum opposite, except here they represent the termination of the daily course of the sun, its setting in the west.
Only one activity occupies the space : the couple, Sennedjem and Iyneferti, advances in confidence, paying homage to the gods of the Duat who sit in a chapel :
"Praise be given to the gods of the Duat, on behalf of the Osiris, the servant in the place of truth, Sennedjem, justified, his sister, beloved by him, the mistress of the house, Iyneferti, justified".
The chapel is a large building surmounted by a frieze of erect cobras, whose heads are each surmounted by a solar disk. Under the coving at the entrance, can be found the Osirian representation of the grapevine.
The gods are all seated on a Ma'at sign and look southwards. They are arranged in two rows, on a white background :
- at the top, six divinities follow each other, led by Osiris. He wears a beard with the hooked tip, and also his traditional crown, as well as a necklace with a counterweight. The following gods alternately wear a hooked beard, and alternate between wearing either red or ochre garments.
- Ebelow, can be seen the falcon-headed Ra-Horakhty, followed by six divinities, which, like those of the row above, are anonymous, but these likewise are gods of the Duat. Also as in the row above, they alternate between wearing red or ochre, and having or not a hooked beard.
- The two registers are separated by three lines of hieroglyphic text, an excerpt from §190 of the Book of the Dead :
"A text to distinguish the deceased in the heart of Re, giving him power before Atum, to let him become great before Osiris, to let him become strong with Khont-Amenti, to give him authority before the Ennead. A treatment of the heart of the Akh-spirit (the deceased)
, so that he may step out far and that he may regain his stride, to drive off deafness and to open his face in the company of the God."
In front of the chapel is Sennedjem and Iyneferti, represented life size (). His arms are both raised in adoration. He wears the fashionable Ramesside loincloth with the front opening. He wears no jewellery, but has a headband and an ointment cone on top of his wig. Iyneferti, who stands behind him, wears a long pleated dress, but she is also without jewellery. In addition to the headband and ointment cone, she has a lotus blossom in her wig. Her right hand is raised, while in her left hand she holds an open lotus stem.
This is magnificent, and perfectly preserved.
It has already been mentioned that it has a vaulted shape, in order to imitate the lid of a Nubian style sarcophagus, and also that it is sub-divided into sections by bands of text which would fasten around a mummified body, or that of a celestial vault. It is bordered and partitioned, longitudinally and transversely, by the white bands carrying black hieroglyphic texts. This produces 8 "panels", 4 to the north and 4 to the south. Each panel contains an individual scene, reflecting the deceased's involvement in the celestial life, and notably the solar life through its different phases. Sennedjem wants to be part of the gods and become one with the sun for infinite time, eternity.
The panels of the two halves of the arch are inseparable from the adjoining walls, both of which have already examined, as one smoothly curves into the other. They are, however delineated from the actual wall surface by the horizontal band of text, running the length of the chamber. The panel scenes of both sides are intended to be read from east to west, following the solar journey.
These carry the traditional offering formulae () and, like the decorated panels, are to be read from east to west.
"An offering which the king gives to Hathor, first of the necropolis, and to the gods and goddesses who are in the Duat. May they provide the coming in and going out again of the underworld. (N.B. : the entrance and door of the burial chamber are directly under these words).
Not to be refused at the door of the Duat.
For the Ka of the Osiris, the servant in the place of truth in western Thebes, Sennedjem, justified."
"An offering which the king gives to Osiris Wenennefer, first in the west, eldest son of Geb, the greatest of the five, father of all the gods, Lord of Aker, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ruler of eternity, (for) Ptah-Sokar, Lord of the hidden place, that he may give me air and water. The Osiris, the servant in the place of truth, Sennedjem, justified."
An offering which the king gives to Re-Harakhte-Atum, Lord of the Two Lands, the Heliopolitan, that he may give me glory in the heavens, power on Earth, to be justified in the underworld, powerful at the head of the gods. May you seize the bow of the Meseketet barque (barque of the sun god during the night)
and the stern of the Manedjet barque (barque of the day)
, for the Ka of the servant in the place of truth, Sennedjem, justified."
Dividing equally the two ceiling areas, north and south of the longitudinal central band, and edging the east and west limits, they all read from the central band downwards to the appropriate other longitudinal text. They each hold the name of a divinity (see opposite).
The east west extremity bands all have the name of Thot, thus he is represented four times, designated as
"Lord of the divine words (hieroglyphic writing)
"Lord of Khemenu (Heliopolis)
". Anubis occupies both middle bands. The four others are the "sons of Horus", who guard the canopic vases, where the mummified viscera of the deceased is placed : Amsit, Hapy, Duamutef, Qebehsenuef (for more of details, read : ).
It is necessary to understand the scene (the quality of which should be noted) as the immediate continuation of the east tympanum. It is taken from §109 of the Book of the Dead, which starts with :
"Formula for knowing the Souls of the East". The new sun is born again on the horizon, in the form of a small white calf with black markings. On its back it carries the deceased, who has regenerated and who participates in the rebirth of the star. His new vitality is manifested by the colour of his flesh.
As always in this type of scene, two trees are represented; their greenish blue foliage suggests the sunrise at the edge of the Arabian desert and further, from the Sinai from where turquoise is extracted. It represents the
"two turquoise sycamores between which Ra emerges".
It is necessary to understand therefore that the calf doesn't pass behind the trees, but between them.
In numerous other tombs, behind the animal, is represented the mountain of the west, the domain of the goddesses Nut and Hathor. It is therefore natural that the Egyptians gave the animal this bovine form, as the son of the celestial cow, Nut; besides, a homophony exists between the Egyptian name of the sycamore and that of the goddess.
A large red sun announces the future triumph of the star, symbolised by the presence of the god
"Ra-Horakhty-Atum, Lord of the two lands, the Heliopolitan", who wears the same disk, but this time surrounded by a uraeus snake.
Sennedjem is regenerated ! He is presented, as in the two remaining panels, standing, his hands raised in adoration. Why does he wear here a skirt with a front opening, whilst in the two following scenes he wears a more standard long skirt ? This is a mystery.
Be that as it may, here he pays homage to three divinities seated on a Ma'at sign; Horus with the head of a falcon, followed from two of the four sons of Horus, Amsit and Hapy.
The scene is taken from §112 of the Book of the Dead :
"Formula for knowing the Powers of Buto".
Although none of the names appear in either the text or as emblems, they do appear in other sources of §112. The actual text, as spoken by Sennedjem, starts with a praise to
"All gods of Truth" (Netjeru nebu Ma'at).
The full §112 relates to an injury caused to the eye of Horus by Seth (who had taken the form of a black pig).
Sennedjem comes closer of the west, and the scene comes from §108 of the Book of the Dead :
"Formula for knowing the Souls of the West". Although not quoted here, the full text describes the punishment of Apophis by Seth :
"A snake is at the summit of this mountain; it is 50 cubits long and 3 cubits of his front part are of flint. I know the name of this snake : the one who is on his mountain, the one who is in his blazing breath is his name". This explains the representation of the snake on a sign of the horizon : he intends to try to oppose the passage of the barque of Ra towards its setting. Above this, using the remaining space on this side of the panel, sits an anonymous god against a red background. the area is surmounted by a sign for the sky.
In front of this, Sennedjem pays homage to two anonymous divinities of the west seated on the usual Ma'at sign. The first has the long muzzle of a dog, white speckled with black.
The text of Sennedjem is a praise to
"All the gods of the Duat" (the underworld).
Now almost at the west. Sennedjem once more faces three seated gods, which once again sit on a Ma'at sign. The first, easily recognisable by his ibis-billed head, is Thot, which is confirmed by the text which applies to him :
"Praise to Thot, Lord of Hermopolis, the scribe of Truth of the Ogdoade"; the second is Sia, the knowledgeable one; the third is Atum, the god of creation who is wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
The scene is not obvious, because the vignette doesn't relate to any precise chapter of the Book of the Dead. In fact, it relates to at least §114 and 116.
Sia is often associated with Hu, the personification of the word "expressive". In the Book of the Amduat, Sia and Hu (or sometimes Heka, "the magic") are the only gods to travel with the nocturnal sun in his barque.
This is a very beautiful piece of craftsmanship.
Sennedjem and Iyneferti have just entered the underworld, whose border is shown by the door of the mastaba on which they kneel. They are dressed in festive garments and with a cone of ointment on top of the wig. They drink water from a libation vessel, which is poured by the goddess into their cupped hands.
The tree-goddess is
"Nut, the great". Her body merges seemlessly with the trunk of the sycamore. This tree represents, for the Egyptians, the proof of the presence of water, as well as a dispenser of shade and figs. This abundance of benefits is symbolised by the tray which the goddess holds and on which are arranged flowers, fruits and breads.
The vignette illustrates §59 of the Book of the Dead :
"Formula of Breathing the Air, and Controlling the Water in the Realm of the Dead"
The scene, beautifully created, is one of the most often reproduced in the books of Egyptian craftsmanship. It was also chosen for the poster of the great exhibition organised by the Louvre in 2002 : "Pharaoh's Artists".
Sennedjem and his wife, standing, facing the west, are this time to the right of the panel. Sennedjem wears his pleated, front fastening kilt. He has no head band, ointment cone, nor beard. Iyneferti wears her usual long pleated dress. Contrary to her husband, she has the fragrant cone and head band through which has been pierced a blue lotus. It is worth noting that on the abdomen of Sennedjem are what are referred to as folds of fat and not a sign of obesity. The two characters greet, with both hands raised, a group of five genii, who sit against a blue lapis background, on a pedestal in the shape of the Ma'at hieroglyph.
All of the genii wear similar wigs, an Osirian beard and a large pearl necklace. Their faces are of varied hues, as are their shrouds, possibly to avoid monotony. Above them, seven yellow stars, arranged in two rows of three and single one below, are pictured alongside a red disk. The number and disposition are absolutely arbitrary and don't have the intention of representing any known constellation, as shown in other examples in Deir el-Medina.
The deceased's soul has to take his place among the Imperishable stars and the Indestructible, these innumerable stars of which Osiris is the primary representation, as Orion.
The red disk, which accompanies the stars, is sometimes surrounded by a white circle, which is intended to indicate that it is the dead sun, which means the nocturnal sun, the moon. This dead sun, which is Osiris himself, is sovereign of all the stars. Erik Hornung (Das Totenbuch der Ägypter, p.262) suggested that it could also refer to a solar eclipse at the time of a new moon, and not that of the moon itself. The vignette would thus be closer to §135 of the Book of the Dead :
"Another formula spoken When The Moon Is Seen On The First Day Of The Month And Rejuvenates Itself".
Here, Sennedjem praises
"All the gods of the sky", which is the same as saying : "all who are elected and assimilated with the stars in the celestial court of the sun"
This is the illustration of §100 of the Book of the Dead :
"Book Of Making Perfect a Deceased and allowing him to descend into the Bark of Re with those who are in his retinue".
Ra-Horakhty-Atum stands in his solar barque. It is represented with a stern and a prow in the form of an papyrus umbel. It displays an udjat eye at both the front and the rear. It travels from west to east on the underground Nile.
In front of Ra stands the Benu bird, the Nubian heron with variegated plumage, wearing the Atef crown, symbol of fatherhood of all the gods. In spite of what can often be read, this bird is not the equivalent of the Phoenix, it is the
"Ba of Ra" (his soul).
Behind Ra are five men standing in a single row, with arms hanging at their sides. Each have a curved beard and the legend calls them :
"The gods of the great Ennead who are in the barque". These divine beings, or those elected to be among them, which the deceased is allowed to take place, are the courtiers of the Master and are the sailors of the craft. They replace the symbol which follows Ra, the Shemes.
This vignette is also well known. It is however richer in symbology than is normally thought. Usually, the scene is described as : Sennedjem, who has arrived in the west, pushes the yellow door with black laths and thus he can enter in the underworld. Moreover, in another tomb, this door is designated as
"The great door the Duat".
It is a little more sophisticated.
First of all it should be noted that the door appears between the sign of the sky at the top and the double hill of the horizon below. Then, looking at the hinges, they are located in the middle and not on the sides. It is therefore clear that we do not have a double door, but two different doors, corresponding to the two horizons; those of the divine world (sky) and the land of the living (hill).
It is not by chance that the adjacent panel 7 shows the solar barque : it has just left by the western leaf of the door, while Sennedjem is about to return by the eastern leaf. If he is part of the crew of the barque, he also leaves by the western leaf…
These are, alas, distributed between several museums. All the objects have been listed in the thesis of Marta Saura i Sanjaume (see the bibliography below). However, the thesis is only available in Spanish, but it is still worth visiting.
Of the items found in the surface chapel, were two ostraca bearing excerpts from the tale of Sinuhe: , and the much larger (though not apparent from the photo) , which is actually over 1 metre in length.
For a complete survey on Sinuhe by myself [JJH], .
On the site of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts are very beautiful images of some of the objects from the tomb. The coffins of Khonsu, Sennedjem's son, are especially impressive : ; also in the Met, of Iineferty.
In the Cairo Museum are several objects from the tomb, notably the magnificent sarcophaguses of Sennedjem (, ) and Iineferty ().
In 2011 the IFAO has published a catalogue of funerary objects from the tomb (see bibliography below)