Tomb of Akhethotep and Ptahhotep
This is a double tomb situated among a group of mastabas on the west side of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Akhethotep was ‘Chief Justice and Vizier’, and ‘Overseer of the Pyramid Towns and Inspector of Priests of the Pyramid of Niuserre, Menkauhor and Djedkare-Isesi’. His son, Ptahhotep, whose tomb is an annex on the southern side of that of his father, was also named as ‘Chief Justice and Vizier’, ‘Inspector of Priests of the Pyramids of Menkauhor and Djedkare-Isesi’ and ‘Inspector of Wab-Priests of the Pyramid of Niuserre’. They held office during the reigns of Djedkare-Isesi and Unas at the end of Dynasty V.
The entrance to the tomb is on the northern side and consists of a portico with two pillars, leading into a corridor which was incompletely decorated. The damaged remains of the painted walls include scenes of agriculture and fowling, watched by Akhethotep and his eldest son Ptahhotep as a child.
The corridor leads into a large hall with four pillars and on the western wall of the hall, a narrow doorway takes us into the chapel of Akhethotep, which is an inverted T-shape. Here the deceased can be seen seated before several registers of scenes showing men bringing papyrus and birds, boatmen jousting, herdsmen and fishermen and men making boats from papyrus. Above the doorway there is a scene of the papyrus thicket, with flying birds. On the end wall (south) there are depictions of offering-bringers and butchers. Only guidelines were sketched onto the unfinished walls. On the western wall of the offering chapel is the false door of Akhethotep which is surrounded by three jambs. Although part of the top of the stela is missing, six images of the deceased can be seen on the lower part (three on each side). The offering chapel also led to a serdab.
On the south-western side of the four-pillared hall is the entrance, through a small vestibule to Ptahhotep’s portion of the tomb. Inside the chapel and partly above the doorway, Ptahhotep can be seen seated while his attendants perhaps bring along his favourite pets, dogs and a monkey. Before him are eight registers including men bringing offerings and paying their respects. There are musicians, including a harpist and a singer, dwarfs making jewellery and scenes of butchers.
On the left-hand wall (east) there are several registers of scenes which are often very unusual. They depict colourfully carved images of gathering papyrus, children playing games, hunting in the desert, building papyrus boats and making ropes, and trapping birds and fishing. Ptahhotep and his young son watch over these activities. Many animals are colourfully and realistically portrayed in this tomb – leopards and lions, hyenas, antelopes, desert animals and domestic animals and birds. There are even two porcupines, one of which is eating a cricket.
On the opposite wall (west) Ptahhotep has two false doors. The southern stela has a double jamb, is elaborately painted and the deceased is shown on the left side being carried in a sedan chair and on the right side seated in a kiosk. Lists of festivals are shown above the lintel. Between the false doors Ptahhotep, wearing an animal skin, is seated at a table and smelling a perfumed ointment jar. There are offering lists for the deceased and priests and offering-bringers. The northern false door is uninscribed.
Ptahhotep’s burial chamber contained an inscribed sarcophagus bearing his names and titles. Fragments from intrusive burials from Dynasties V and VI were also found in the tomb. His tomb-chapel is by far the most interesting part of this mastaba and its reliefs are very beautiful with well-preserved colours.
The tomb of Akhethotep and Ptahhotep is usually open to visitors on request. Photography is no longer allowed inside any of the tombs.