2012/11/24

The Tomb of Menna

This tomb is one of the best preserved at Thebes, owing to its not having been exposed to modern ravages. It was found in the work of Mr. Robert Mond, who has done so much for the safety and care of these tombs, hitherto so strangely neglected by the Government and the Societies that have worked at Thebes. The painted chapels at the southern capital are hardly secondary in value and interest to the great sculptured chapels of Saqqareh.  In the frontispiece is a harvest scene which shows how the Egyptian could grasp actions in his memory, and reproduce them like a Japanese  for we cannot suppose that he got models to pose for all these lively little groups in action.








The Egyptian always cut off the ears of corn close, and left the straw to be pulled up afterwards whole and sound. The two men are carrying off a net full of ears to be threshed. Below them amid the standing straw are two girls fighting. The right- hand one (a) has evidently been kneeling down to gather up the ears that she has gleaned ; the other girl (b) has run forward to dispute her right to them, and B has seized the wrist of A with her right hand, and clutched the hair of A in her left, A retaliates as well as she can by seizing B's hair in her right. So far A is checked, but B cannot do anything, and is worsted in the matter of hair-grip.

There the squabble has waited for three thousand years.  Beyond is a sycomore fig tree, which casts its thick shadow, and bears its tough fruit close to its branches. A boy is sitting at rest on a stool, while another boy plays on a long pipe, like a modern zammareh, not a flute blown sideways, as has been described. Over his head hangs a water skin, hung up in the cool shade to evaporate, and give a cold drink ; observe that the neck is tied back separately, so that it should be loosened to get a drink, without shifting the skin.

It is a curious sign of the comfort of the times that boys out in the harvest field have well- carpentered stools to sit upon, and do not lounge as best they can ; certainly no modern Egyptian would think of such a luxury. In the lower scene are two more little gleaners. One has a thorn in her foot ; so she has seated herself on her gleaning bag, and stretches out her leg for her companion to remove the thorn. The friend's gleaning bag lies on the ground between them, just such a bag of coarse fibre as is commonly found in the period of the New Kingdom. A boy is stripping the heads off flax stems by pulling them through a forked stick fastened to the ground.

The general well-being of the people is seen by the gleaning girls the poorest people wearing a long maids down to the ankles. The boys and men naturally only wear the usual waist-cloth. Both the men and one of the boys, however, have the leather net over it, made of slit leather work, to take the wear of sitting and rubbing about.  On the previous page is a part of a scene of the wife and daughters in a boat with Menna, drawn with perfectly unfaltering and even lines. Below, the ducks flutter and quack in the lotus pool as the boat advances ; and one of the girls leans over the side to pick the lotus buds as they pass.

 It was in the clearance of this tomb that a charming statuette was found, two views of which are here given as the Portraits of this quarterly part. On comparing the profile with that of the wife in the boat scene, it is so precisely like that we must see in this figure the wife of Menna. Why is her face perfectly preserved while not a trace of her husband's statue is to be found? The state of the tomb shows that there was a special spite against him. His throwstick in the picture is cut in two ; his figure viewing the estate has the eye gouged out that he may not see; 'the measuring rope for his fields has the knots scraped away; his hand in spearing the fish is destroyed. Yet there was no ill-will to his gracious wife, her face and figure remain on the wall and in the statuette. For the photographs of the figure we are indebted to Mr. Mond, as also for the cast of the figure (which is now in the Cairo Museum), from which the portrait on the cover is taken. The tomb scenes I photographed in 1909.

Moon cult in Sinai

The monuments found in Sinai contain information which points to the existence of moon-worship in the Peninsula at a remote period in history. These records consist of rock tablets which were engraved by the Pharaohs from the 1st to the XlXth dynasty, over the mines which they worked at Wady Maghara, and of remains of various kinds discovered in the temple ruins of the neighbouring Sarbut el-Khadem or Serabit.

The Egyptians went to Sinai primarily for the purpose of securing copper and turquoise, which are found in a ferruginous layer that appears in the mountainous district of the western part of the Peninsula. The mines at Serabit lie in the vicinity of two adjacent caves facing an extensive site of burning, which has the peculiarities of the high-places of which we hear so much in the Bible. These caves formed a sanctuary which, judging from what is known of ancient sanctuaries in Arabia generally, was at once a shrine and a store-house, presumably in the possession of a priesthood or clan, who, in return for offerings brought to the shrine, gave either turquoise itself, or the permission to mine it in the surrounding district. The sanctuary, like other sanctuaries in Arabia, was under the patronage of a female divinity, the representative of nature- worship, and one of the numerous forms of Ishthar. In the Xllth dynasty, when the Egyptians gained a permanent foothold at Serabit, they identified this divinity as their own goddess Hat-hor. 




The figure of Hat-hor appears again and again on the wall-decorations of the temple buildings ; her head surmounts the columns of a chamber in front of the cave, and in the inscriptions she is called, at first, " mistress of the turquoise country "; and later, simply " mistress of turquoise."  turquoise country simply There are many Hathors in Egypt, but the form that is shown in Sinai is Hathor with a headdress of cow's horns which enclose the orb of the full moon. The form is familiar in Egypt also, and the association of Hathor with the moon-cult at home was apparently the reason why she was chosen as the Egyptian representative of the female divinity of Serabit in Sinai.

 Hathor appears on the monuments of Serabit from the Xllth dynasty onwards. In one instance we find her represented also at Wady Maghara. The Egyptian monuments at Wady Maghara consist of tablets that were carved on the living rock above the mines, in order to commemorate the hold which the Pharaohs here gained over the country. The tablet on which Hathor is seen is of Amen-em-hat III (XII, 6) and is throughout of a peaceful character. The king is represented facing the ibis-headed figure of Thoth, who holds out to him a staff on which are the ankh and the dad, signs of life and stability, and Hathor stands behind Thoth. This introduction of Thoth likewise bears on the moon-cult of the Peninsula, for the Egyptian god Thoth was originally a lunar divinity. His chief shrine  during historical times was at Hermopolis in Lower Egypt, where he was repre- sented as ibis-headed.

But he was also represented under the form of a baboon, or a baboon was associated with him. The tablet of Amen-em-hat III seems to indicate that Thoth, in this capacity of a lunar divinity and as the representative of the moon-worshippers of the Peninsula generally, was well disposed towards the Pharaoh of Egypt ; Hathor, mistress of the turquoise, was in attendance on Thoth as the representative of the neighbouring district of Serabit. This interpretation of the scene is confirmed by earlier monuments. A rock- tablet of Ra-en-user (V, 6) at Wady Maghara, which is much broken, shows the figure of Thoth, who probably faced the king. On the other part of the tablet the king is seen smiting the enemy, who crouches before him, and a large libation vase, supported on three ankhs, emblems of life, is accompanied by words to the effect that "the lord of foreign lands gave coolness." Here Thoth, the lunar divinity, also appears in friendly relation with the king ; the king smites the enemy, and by doing so gains the approval of the lord of foreign lands.  Again the tablet at Wady Maghara, of King Khufu (IV, 2) the great pyramid- builder (now unfortunately destroyed), represented the king smiting the enemy, and doing so actually before the ibis-headed figure of Thoth (Fig. 6).

The king here again is acting in agreement with the lunar divinity, whom he is honouring by smiting his foes. Other finds point in the same direction, confirming the belief that the Egyptians looked upon the inhabitants of Sinai as moon-worshippers.  Thus, the figure of a baboon, the animal or incarnation of Thoth, was iscovered at Serabit during the excavations of 1905- 1906. The figure is of andstone, worked in a rude style, and was found in the holy cave itself. This igure is now in Oxford. Another figure of a baboon, life-size, and worked in imestone with an. inscription around its base, came out of one of the store- chambers that adjoined the cave. If I mistake not, it was of the Middle Kingdom. These baboons, emblems of the lunar divinity in Egypt, were presumably onsidered for this reason suitable offerings to the sacred shrine of a people who ere themselves moon-worshippers. 

 The rude figure of the baboon that was found at Serabit is similar in character and workmanship to figures of baboons that were found at the primitive shrines of Abydos and Hierakonpolis in Upper Egypt. The baboon was here, perhaps, originally the holy animal, the cult of which was overlaid in predynastic times by the cult of the god Osiris. Many figures of baboons, over sixty in one instance, were found in the earliest levels of the temple at Abydos, that were excavated in the winter of 1903- 1904. Their position showed that they had been discarded at an early period of history-. The likeness in character of the baboon found in Sinai to the baboons found in the early levels at Abydos and Hierakonpolis suggested that the emblem of the baboon was carried to Sinai at an early period in history.