Codified Information in Ancient Egypt. Mourners in the Tomb of Qar?

The Egyptian tomb of Qar has in its decoration program a funerary ceremony with all the main components. However it seems that there is missing a very typical image of Egyptian funerals: the lament.

Among all the images there is no scene showing a group of mourning women as we can see, for instance, in the mastaba of Mereruka or in the adjacent tomb of Idu.

Relief of mourners, one of them pulling her frontal lock of hair. Tomb of Mereruka in Saqqara. Ancient Egypt. VI Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Relief of mourners. Tomb of Mereruka in Saqqara. VI Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

But we know now that Qar (or the main artist) decide to codify or summarize the funerary rituals in the walls of his tomb. For that reason the Opening of the Mouth ceremony (the main Egyptian ritual for regenerating the mummy) seems to be represented (see posts of 13th and 22nd January), although not in an explicit way.

Dancing and clapping in fronnt of the tomb. The inscription above says: "mourning by the two acacias". Tomb of Qar in Giza. Ancient Egypt. V-VI Dynasty. Image: W. K. Simpson

Dancing and clapping in fronnt of the tomb. The inscription above says: “mourning by the two acacias”. Tomb of Qar in Giza. V-VI Dynasty. Image: W. K. Simpson

It could also be possible that something similar happened with the mourning practice. Reading at the translation of the inscriptions made by Simpson, we find that above the dancing women who are in front of the tomb (uabet building) the scribes wrote: mourning by the two acacias[1]. It is obvious that the women below are dancing and clapping hands and not mourning. And does it make sense two trees mourning?

The Egyptian word shenedjet mainly means “acacia”, but it is also the holy tree which mythically protects the tomb of Osiris[2], and in the text it is written with a dual form (shenedjety, so it refers to two. The pairing usually protecting Osiris is Isis-Nephtys, as it is proven in iconography and literature.

Could we then think that again we are facing a codified / summarized information? The expression “the mourning (made) by the two acacias” would be then referring to the image or the fact of the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys mourning for Qar.


[1] Simpson, William K., The Mastabas of Qar and Idu. G 7101 and G 7102.  Vol. 2. Boston. 1976, p. 6

[2] Wb IV, 521, 4

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