El-Amarna South Tombs

In the larger group of officials’ tombs to the south of the Royal Wadi, out of a total of nineteen tombs, six are generally open to visitors and stretch along a wide expanse of the cliff. To my great disappointment, on the day I visited the South Tombs, photography was not allowed, but I hope to rectify this on my next visit. The tombs are around 5.5km to the south of the North Tombs, opposite the modern village of Hagg Qandil. The tombs described below run from south to north.

Cartouches of the Aten, Akhenaten and Nefertiti

Tomb of Ay (EA25)

Ay was a military man in the court of Akhenaten before he reigned briefly as king and successor to Tutankhamun. We know he was actually buried in his royal tomb at the head of the Western Valley in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, but his Amarna tomb reflects his earlier powerful position in the city. His titles include ‘God’s father’, ‘Fan-bearer on the Right Hand of the King’ and ‘Overseer of all the Horses of the Lord of the Two Lands’, as well as ‘Royal Scribe’ and ‘Chief of Archers’. He was obviously a favoured counsellor of Akhenaten and possibly himself a member of the royal family, either as Nefertiti’s father or a relative of Queen Tiye. In the entrance to the tomb on the left-hand wall Ay is depicted with his wife Tiye in a very beautiful carving below the royal family worshipping the Aten. On the right-hand side, Ay and his wife adore the Aten with a relief of the ‘Hymn to the Aten’ above, now partially destroyed.

The large pillared hall was left unfinished and entrances to an inner hall and statue niche were begun but not completed. Only four of the large central columns were completed and show carvings of Ay and Tiye worshipping cartouches. The western wall of the hall is the only completed decoration in the tomb, depicting Ay receiving rewards from Akhenaten who sits in the Window of Appearances. This is a very beautiful carving, although the upper parts of the scene have been cut away and are now in the Cairo Museum. The scene shows the royal family, including three daughters in seemingly festive mood, with dancing figures below. To the right of the Window of Appearances is the courtyard of the King’s house which contains many of the city’s inhabitants – soldiers, foreign representatives, officials and scribes. One of Ay’s rewards seems to have been a fine pair of gloves and he is depicted wearing these, along with his gold collars outside the gateway of the courtyard to the far right of the scene – this part sketched in ink only. Behind the Window of Appearances (over the entrance doorway) is a depiction of the King’s house which includes many details of the plan and the inhabitants. In the north-east corner of the hall is a long flight of steps which would have led down to Ay’s burial chamber, but this also was left unfinished.

Tomb of Any (EA23)

Any was a royal scribe whose tomb is just to the north of Ay’s tomb. His titles include ‘Scribe of the Offerings of the Lord of the Two Lands’ and ‘Scribe of Offerings of the Aten’. He was also ‘Steward of the House of Aakheperure’ (Amenhotep II). This tomb, a simple corridor with a statue shrine at the rear, was also left unfinished and there is little decoration. At the entrance to the tomb is an unusual double-porch protecting a series of niches. This leads into the entrance corridor which depicts large figures of Any drawn in red paint on both walls. The long hall is completely undecorated except for a coloured frieze along the top of the wall. At the rear of the hall is a shaft leading to Ay’s burial chamber. The small chamber at the rear of the corridor contains a rock-cut statue of the tomb-owner with offering scenes painted on the side walls.

Tomb of Maya (EA14)

The tomb of Maya (or May) is a little further to the north across a small wadi. He was also a military man and ‘General of the Lord of the Two Lands’. He held many other positions in Akhenaten’s court, including ‘Fan-bearer on the Right-Hand of the King’, ‘Royal Scribe’, ‘Scribe of Recruits’, ‘Overseer of the House of Pacifying the Aten’, ‘Steward of the House of Waenre (Akhenaten) in Heliopolis’, ‘Overseer of Cattle in the Temple of Re in Heliopolis’ and ‘Overseer of All the Works of the King’. These titles were inscribed during the early part of Akhenaten’s reign and later erased. In the entrance corridor of the tomb the figure of May has also been hacked out – perhaps after a fall from grace. On the left side of the entrance the royal family are depicted worshipping the Aten (with three daughters and Nefertiti’s sister Mutnodjmet with her two dwarfs) with a prayer to the Aten below. On the left-hand wall is a brief biographical text with details of Maya’s career.

The large hall, like the hall in Ay’s tomb was never finished and columns on the right-hand side of the hall were left uncut. There is little decoration, the only scene being to the right of the entrance (west wall) which was sketched out in ink but left uncarved. It depicted the Window of Appearances, probably a reward scene similar to those shown in other Amarna tombs, and illustrates the palace gardens and harbour below, with moored boats. A doorway to the inner hall was marked out but never cut. A statue niche on the northern side contains a rough rock-cut figure of Maya but a similar niche on the southern side was left uncut. In the north-east corner of the hall a flight of steps lead down to Maya’s unfinished burial chamber.

Tomb of Ipy (EA10)

Around a bend in the cliff face we come to the tomb of Ipy, who was a ‘High Steward’ and ‘Royal Scribe’, ‘Steward of Memphis’ and ‘Overseer of the Great Harem of Pharaoh’. The only decorated part of this small unfinished tomb is in the entrance corridor, showing a beautiful and well-preserved scene of the royal family worshipping the Aten, with three of their daughters. A short ‘Hymn to the Aten’ can be seen on the right-hand side of the entrance.

Tomb of Mahu (EA9)

The tomb of Mahu, ‘Chief of Police of Akhetaten’, although small is probably one of the most interesting of the South Tombs and contains many unusual scenes. The entrance corridor depicts the usual scenes of the royal family (with only one daughter, Meritaten, in this tomb) and Mahu worshipping the Aten with a text of the ‘Hymn to the Aten in front of him.

Mahu’s tomb is one of the more architecturally complete of the South Tombs and contains both an outer and an inner hall. On the west wall of the outer hall, to the right of the entrance, a fortified building is depicted to which men and women are carrying produce. Mahu can be seen warming himself by a brazier of burning coals while talking to two officials. On this wall Mahu is frequently depicted carrying out his duties in scenes which are sketched in ink only, especially on the lower parts of the wall, but the drawings are superb works of Amarna art and show the great skill of the city’s draughtsmen.

Almost the whole of the southern wall is taken up by a false-door stela depicting the King and Queen with Meritaten, offering food to the Aten. The south side of the western wall depicts the King and Queen driving in their chariot from the temple, with a police escort running ahead. In the scene below this and continuing round from the southern wall the royal family are again driving in a chariot, with Mahu shown both in front and behind. The scenes also show several buildings, one which may possibly be identified as the Northern Riverside Palace. Texts and hymns are inscribed around the doorway to the inner hall. On the northern end of the west wall the decoration is again a superb example of the draughtsman’s art drawn in ink. A scene of investiture on the right-hand side is damaged, but the courtyard before the Window of Appearances can still be seen with its waiting crowd behind Mahu who stands with his arms upraised. Below this Mahu visits the temple with his policemen.

The northern wall contains a curved stela with similar scenes to the stela on the southern wall. Little remains of the decoration on the eastern wall to the north of the entrance doorway, which once depicted another reward scene.

The inner hall which takes the form of a wide corridor, was left unfinished and undecorated and a doorway to a statue chamber was marked but never cut. On the southern side of the inner hall a long flight of steps wind down to Mahu’s large burial chamber.
 
Tomb of Tutu (EA8)

Tutu’s tomb is one of the most architecturally elaborate of the Amarna South Tombs and although also unfinished is similar in plan to Mahu’s tomb. He is among the most well-known of Akhetaten’s officials as a minister of protocol and foreign affairs. His many titles include ‘Chamberlain’, ‘Chief Servant of Neferkheperure-Waenre (Akhenaten) in the House of the Aten’, ‘Chief Servant of Neferkheperure-Waenre in the Wia-Barque’, ‘Overseer of all Craftsmen of the Lord of the Two Lands’, ‘Overseer of all the Works of His Majesty’, ‘Overseer of Silver and Gold of the Lord of the Two Lands’, ‘Overseer of the Treasury of the Aten’ and ‘Chief Spokesman of the Entire Land’. It is Tutu whose name frequently appears in the cuneiform clay tablets, the diplomatic correspondence known as the ‘Amarna Letters’.

The entrance corridor contained the usual scenes portraying the royal family and Tutu, but are now damaged or destroyed. This opens into a large transverse outer hall which is partitioned into three by rows of papyrus columns, some of which are still in situ. The second row of columns were linked by a low screen wall, a unique feature which separates the front of the tomb from the rear. There are the beginnings of statue niches at either end of the hall but these were left mostly unfinished. On the wall to the left-hand side of the entrance (east wall) Akhenaten sits on his throne to greet Tutu at the entrance to the royal palace and beyond this in the courtyard, where Tutu is waiting to be rewarded, there are groups of officials and decorated cattle as well as musicians in scenes of celebration.

Over the lintel of the doorway the scene continues behind the King with details of the King’s house. Part of this scene which once depicted the Queen with her daughters is now destroyed. On the wall to the south of the doorway Tutu is again rewarded with a royal appointment and congratulated by his friends and columns of hieroglyphic texts are incised above, giving the details in long speeches. There are many minor but interesting details shown in these palace scenes, such as men sweeping the floor below the Window of Appearances. Tutu then rides in his chariot to the Aten Temple, which is surrounded by a garden and is the only complete depiction of the temple in the South Tombs. In the north-east corner of the hall a long flight of stairs lead down to Tutu’s uncut burial chamber. The long inner hall to at the rear of Tutu’s tomb was left unfinished and is undecorated.

Many of the South Tombs are similar in plan to Theban tombs of the same period. The decoration, where carved was done in sunk relief but the subject matter is very different from their Theban counterparts. Most of the tombs, both in the Northern and Southern groups were in varying stages of completion and it seems unlikely that any of them were employed for the burial of their owners. Many of the tombs are beautifully decorated in Amarna style, but in each one it is the royal family, in various informal poses, who dominate the scenes. The populace, in contrast, are always shown in attitudes of subservience, almost grovelling with bent backs or kneeling with foreheads touching the ground. It seems clear that Akhenaten was to be considered as a god-like figure, however relaxed he may appear, and the common man may have felt that he had little chance of salvation in an afterlife where Osiris no longer welcomed him.

~ by Su on February 13, 2009.