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8-10-2015, 03:39

Wall Paintings of the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom

In some locations tombs were cut, but the wall decoration was never carried out. Instead a carved and painted stela was set into a niche in the tomb and marked the location for cult offerings. At the large population centers, such as Aswan and the area of Middle Egypt, large tombs were carved in the hills and the decoration completed in paint on the stone walls, over which plaster was spread to cover any surface inconsistencies. The famous tomb of Ankhtify at Moalla has painted decoration on its interior walls and its rock-cut columns (Doret 1994; el-Masry 2008) (plate 13). The limestone walls were lightly plastered, but the background paint is difficult to identify in most places on the east walls. It appears to have been a brownish tone deeper than that of the plaster itself, but only the results of pigment analysis will identify what the tomb looked like in antiquity. The very lively scene of Ankhtify holding a fishing line on the west wall of the tomb exemplifies the style of First Intermediate Period twodimensional art. The figure of the tomb owner and the fish that he gathers are highly colorful and detailed, being predominantly blue and blue-green, and they contrast significantly with the largely red and brown tones in the tomb. However, these images, and those on neighboring walls, have not been proportioned using the eight-guideline method of the late Old Kingdom. Rather the fish appear on the wall not only as the tomb owner pulls them from the water in the vigorous activity depicted, but they also float on the wall without relation to the water or to a ground line. The identity and volume of the fish caught were painted into the scene as additional information by the painter, but alteration of the icon detracted from the scene as an action. Instead it suggested that the fish constituted provisions supplied by and for Ankhtify.

As in the Old Kingdom, the scenes in the tomb of Ankhtify identify his high status in the region as a military leader and local governor. They also show his control over local resources, particularly those concerned with food provisioning. On the columns, scenes of baking and brewing were shown alongside those of meat preparation. The tomb owner’s expectation that similar offerings would be provided to him in his tomb may be assumed from these paintings, but we know from inscriptions in the tomb that he had also claimed to be able to help provision the people of Edfu and Hefat, the ancient name of Moalla. Thus it is likely that the paintings of food provisions as well as of animals and fish were also intended to indicate Ankhtify’s largess to the population. A similar intent should be identified behind the representation of granaries in other tombs dating to this time, including the tomb of Sobekhotep at Moalla and that of Khety at Beni Hasan.

Regional relationships between tomb paintings in style and content can also be inferred during the First Intermediate Period. The coloring of cattle, for example, is very similar in the tombs at Moalla, although the general theme content is not repetitive. In the same way, at Beni Hasan large scenes of young male wrestlers were repeated in several tombs (2, 14, 15 17), although this motif was used in a more limited way elsewhere, e. g., Tomb 366 at Thebes of Djar (PM 1960) and B2 of Ukhhotep at Meir (Blackman 1915). On the other hand, one similarity between the tomb of Ankhtify and the Eleventh Dynasty tombs at Beni Hasan is the interest in displaying knowledge of the natural world. Just as the painters of the Moalla fishing scene represented numerous types of fish, those who painted the tombs of Khety and Bakt III at Beni Hasan were equally interested in depicting a wide variety of birds and animals, even labeling them by name (Shedid 1994) (plate 14). This display of knowledge was a characteristic of tomb decoration, and in these examples recalls the Egyptian penchant for creating written onomastica (Assmann 1996a). The Eleventh Dynasty tombs at Beni Hasan were carefully designed and laid out, relying particularly upon ground lines to structure the wall scenes, but the figures were not proportioned with discernible guidelines, although these may have disappeared since antiquity. As Robins has demonstrated, only with the advent of the early Twelfth Dynasty does mathematical proportioning of the human figure become a standard feature again, and the squared grid was introduced with the advent of the Middle Kingdom (Robins, 1994).

One of the earliest grids preserved in a tomb may be found at Meir in the chapel of Ukh hotep, son of Senbi, dating to the reign of Senwosret I (Blackman 1915) (plate 15). There are grids of various sizes on the unfinished scenes, and on the west wall the large seated figure of the tomb owner has been further divided such that five smaller squares divide up each larger one (Robins 1994: 86). The method allowed the artisans confidently to proportion each part of this major figure — the deceased at his offering table. The only part of the chapel that was complete was the statue recess in the west wall, but there we see a palette similar to that of Pepiankh Heryib. A gray-blue background contrasts with the brick-red bodies of the tomb owner and offering bearers, and the Hieroglyphic texts are carefully filled with bright Egyptian blue (plate 16). The unfinished scenes were similar in content to those of Senbi’s chapel (B1), showing desert hunting and bedouin shepherds on the south wall, with estate activities on the north, including animal husbandry, boating in the marshes, papyrus collection, games, and music. No specifically funerary scenes appear here or in the other Middle Kingdom tombs at Meir, but those may have been intended for the burial area or coffin. Clearly the nomarchs and priestly families of the region were among the elites who had access early in the Twelfth Dynasty to artisans trained in mathematical proportioning, very likely with the support of Lisht. The scene content, however, was in keeping with the local tradition, which itselfshowed a connection to the Memphite traditions of earlier periods (Blackman 1915; el-Khouly and Kanawati 1989). The tomb of Amenemhet at Beni Hasan is likewise dated to the reign of Senwosret I and shows evidence of a grid, although the general content of the scenes is quite similar to that of Eleventh Dynasty tomb chapels (Newberry 1893; Shedid 1994).

By the reign of Amenemhet II, elite tombs at Beni Hasan, Meir, and Aswan were laid out with gridded walls, including those of Sarenput II and Khnumhotep (Robins 1994). Both of these nomarchs indicated connections to the ruler in their chapels, Sarenput taking a nickname that included the prenomen of the king, and Khnumho-tep including a biography that gave pride of place to the ruler (Shedid 1994). The decorative scheme in the Beni Hasan tomb eliminated features seen in the earlier tombs at that site, such as the wall of wrestlers, and instead privileged the scene of the tomb owner fishing and fowling in the marshes, as was frequently the case in Old Kingdom tombs (plate 17). In this fashion the nomarch’s role as a local military leader was converted to stress his control over the mythological realm of the marsh and its wild denizens. The removal of this scene likewise would have made his loyalty to the king unquestioned. Thus in the first three reigns of the Twelfth Dynasty the combination of the use of proportional grids, the inclusion of allusions to the king, and the changes in scene content may indicate the regional connections to the Residence at Lisht and to the artisans trained at the royal center. The source of the artisans who decorated provincial tombs during the Middle Kingdom remains in question, since the content of tomb scenes does show variation from area to area, even though artisan techniques, such as the use of grids, were found at a variety of sites. It is likely that regional craftsmen were supplemented by itinerants, who traveled from the royal centers to the provinces to assist with tomb and temple decoration; the choice of wall scenes and texts may suggest the levels of connection between regional tomb owners and the court, e. g. the tombs at Assiut, where the display of religious and legal knowledge in the tomb of Djefaihap I is accompanied by the presence of the cartouches of King Senwosret (Kahl et al. 2008). The wall texts of the legal and financial details of Djefaihap’s funerary cult underlined his relationship to the ruler and the rejuvenation of private endowments that had been displayed in Old Kingdom tomb chapels. It is unlikely that the local artisans were prepared so early in the Twelfth Dynasty to place these complicated and erudite inscriptions on the tomb walls without the assistance of royally trained scribes.

At Thebes in the reign of Senwosret I the tomb of Senet, the mother of the vizier Antefoker, was built and decorated (Davies N. 1920). This is a painted tomb, but there are no traces of grids to be found, despite its date contemporary with grids seen at Beni Hasan and Meir. In the late Eleventh Dynasty the tomb of the General Antef was decorated in a combination of pre-and post-unification styles, using guidelines. It is likely that these proportion guides were used for Senet’s chapel as well (Jaros-Deckert 1984; Robins 1994). However, the scene content of the early Twelfth Dynasty tomb compared with that of the Eleventh Dynasty general’s shows remarkable change. Indeed, the earlier tomb contained traditional estate and offering scenes, as well as probable burial rites in the rear chamber, but, in concert with other First Intermediate Period tombs, also represented militaristic scenes from the wars of Mentuhotep. Yet the icons in tomb number 60 of Senet are nearly identical to those found in the first half of the Eighteenth Dynasty at Thebes, including a kiosk scene that apparently represented Senwosret I and a burial procession on the south wall of the front chamber, with estate and hunting activities on the north wall. The recitation of burial rites was depicted in the interior shrine on the south wall, and musicians appeared singing songs for the deceased (Davies N. 1920). The south wall of the corridor is most closely connected with later Theban tomb decoration and contained both the royal kiosk and the burial scenes. In a somewhat archaizing manner, these funerary icons showed elements of the journey to the West and to the mummification tent, the pilgrimage to Abydos, the dragging of the tekenu, and arrival at the tomb signified by the large seated figure of Senet looking back at the procession. The content of the scenes was very similar to that seen in tombs of the early Eighteenth Dynasty, such as tomb number 82 of Amenemhet (Davies N. 1915: XI; Vandier 1969: 433-4) and specifically departed from the Old Kingdom models by including offering-bearers carrying mummiform statues with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, as well as statues of the deceased - but without the image of a statue shrine. The offerings depicted are more in keeping with images from the coffins and burial chambers of the Middle Kingdom but were common in the early Eighteenth Dynasty scenes.