Tomb of Kagemni

The large mastaba of Kagemni is situated on the northern side of Teti’s pyramid at Saqqara in the block of tombs belonging to the officials of the king’s Dynasty VI reign. Kagemni (also called Memi) is named as ‘Chief Justice and Vizier, Overseer of the Pyramid town of Teti, Overseer of the Priests of Teti’ and was married to a daughter of King Teti, Nebti-nubkhet. This princess, like the wife of Mereruka, was also known as Sesheshet. Although the tomb was first discovered by Karl Lepsius in 1843, it was first excavated by Jacque de Morgan in 1893, then later by Victor Loret between 1897 and 1899 and by Cecil Firth in the 1920s. In the final years of the 20th century Dr Yvonne Harpur and her team have been recording the reliefs in Kagemni’s tomb, pioneering their own methods of using photographic and epigraphic techniques to document the tomb-chapel. The tomb is renowned for its beautiful depictions of birds and animals.

Kagemni’s tomb is entered from the east and has a façade similar in appearance to that of Mereruka, with a double representation of the deceased on the entrance jambs, giving his names and titles. Inside the doorway Kagemni is portrayed as being rather fat! There are eight decorated chambers containing very fine reliefs as well as five store-rooms, but unfortunately the colours of the decorated walls are not as well preserved as those of Mereruka. The first chamber contains remains of the lower part of a standard scene depicting fishing and fowling in the marshes, with the deceased standing in a papyrus boat.

On the right, the next chamber is a long hall with three square pillars and on its northern wall there are some especially beautiful reliefs. Beginning on the right, the bottom register shows male dancers and female acrobats and clappers. The long wall contains remains of marsh scenes including a hippopotamus hunt, with crocodiles and hippos fighting. The fishermen are using nets and baskets to trap their catch and lotus plants can be seen floating in the water. Also look out for dragonflies, grasshoppers and frogs. Further along there are men tending animals – milking a cow with its hind legs tied together, lassoing a cow, feeding a puppy. On the bottom right a man is shown with a piglet around his neck and on the lower left cattle cross a canal with the herdsmen in boats. There is also an interesting scene of mat-making showing two men beating the fibres flat with mallets. The end wall depicts Kagemni receiving scribes who present accounts to him and there are river scenes beyond but only the lower parts exist. To the west of the pillared hall is a series of five store-rooms.

A doorway in the north wall of the pillared hall leads to another decorated chamber with more fishing scenes on its right-hand wall. Here too the crocodiles are competing with the men in snaring fish and battling with the hippos, making the pursuit look rather dangerous. On the opposite wall there are scenes of tending animals, including feeding hyenas, tending birds in a poultry-yard and force-feeding geese. The end of this chamber opens into another room on the left which has scenes of food offerings and granaries and men dragging plumed chests on sledges which seem to be part of a harvest festival.

Off to the right a doorway leads to the offering hall, its walls depicting men and priests bringing offerings, butchers slaying cattle and at its eastern end the false door of Kagemni. Although the top is missing we can see that the door is surrounded by a triple jamb with a text commenting on the offerings to be brought for the deceased – ‘thousands of loaves, thousands of sweets, thousands of jars of beer….’, which would help to sustain Kagemni in the afterlife. Scenes in the next room also depict Kagemni receiving offerings, including jars of various oils, ointments and linen and here the colours are well preserved.

Kagemni’s tomb also contained a serdab chamber which was completely separate from the rest of the tomb. On the roof there were two boat-shaped chambers or pits which are evocative of the boat-pits near the Pyramid of Unas and are unusual in a private burial. Kagemni’s burial shaft is at the northern end of the tomb. The burial chamber was decorated with offering texts and his sarcophagus and canopic jars were found here together with a few other funerary items which are now in Cairo Museum.


The mastaba of Kagemni is generally open to visitors but may be periodically closed for archaeological work.

~ by Su on February 20, 2009.