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The Old Kingdom Cemetery at Hamra Don.

The late Old Kingdom in Egypt witnessed a gradual breakdown of the central government headquartered at Memphis and a concomitant increase in the power of provincial leaders. One reflection of this transfer of power is the large rock-cut tombs constructed near the regional centers for the local authorities, who no longer felt compelled to be interred in the Memphite necropolis near the funerary complexes of their kings. Provincial cemeteries for late Old Kingdom local officials are numerous in Middle and Upper Egypt; notable examples include those at Dendereh, Sheikh Said, Deir el-Gebrawi, Deshasheh, and Meir. The cemetery at Hamra Dom, also called El-Qasr wa es-Saiyad after two nearby villages, is yet another necropolis in this category.

Although visited and partially studied by a number of earlier scholars, the Hamra Dom tombs are not well known, probably because of their undistinguished nature and poor state of preservation. Between 1975 and 1978, a team led by Torgny Save-Soderbergh studied several of the tombs in connection with a larger investigation (led by James Robinson) of the area where the famous Nag Hammadi Gnostic codices were discovered in 1945. The present volume focuses on tombs 66 and 73, which belonged to Idu Seneni and his father, Thauty, two nomarchs of the seventh Upper Egyptian nome during the reign of Pepi II. Among the many titles held by one or both of these individuals are prince, count, noraarch, and district governor, as well as inspector of priests of no less than three pyramids - those of Meryre Pepi I, Merenre, and Neferkare Pepi II.

The reliefs in tombs 66 and 73 generally offer the standard late Old Kingdom provincial repertoire. The inscriptions are straightforward and contain little of historical value outside of genealogical data. The pictorial material, which is of good quality, is dominated by scenes of hunting, fishing, fowling, butchering, and the inspection of cattle. Notable is the absence of agricultural scenes, perhaps, as the author suggests (p. 35), a reflection of the local environment, which during the Old Kingdom may not have been been suitable for agricultural activity. An interesting feature of some of the reliefs in tombs 66 and 73 is their stylistic and decorative relationship to scenes in the mastaba tombs at Saqqara (pp. 35, 54). At the same time, some of the personal names in the Hamra Dom tombs are the same as those who lived in the adjacent sixth Upper Egyptian nome at Dendereh, thus providing a possible link to that important provincial center.

This publication provides no especially important historical or artistic data, but it is useful for providing a solid report on a small provincial cemetery which is poorly known and in deteriorating condition. The author is to be thanked for his diligence and careful reporting on these tombs.

JAMES M. WEINSTEIN CORNELL UNIVERSITY
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Oriental Society
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Weinstein, James M.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1996
Words:466
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