The religion of Ancient Egypt developed during the New Kingdom sophisticated religious texts, which combined the solar theology with the Myth of Osiris. As a consequence, the art of ancient Egypt included in its corpus of images a new solar-Osirian iconography.
As we saw in the previous posts, the artists of Ancient Egypt started painting during the XVIII Dynasty the solar god Khepri in the company of two human kneeling figures of Osiris in the eleventh hour of the Amduat. In the XIX Dynasty, Isis and Nephthys, the two mourners of Osiris took part of the solar imagery and they were depicted at both sides of Re-Osiris and of the solar disk.
Isis and Nephthys with the rising Ositis and Re. Chapter four of the Book of the Caverns. Tomb of Ramses V-VI. XX Dynasty. Photo: The Theban Mapping Project.
During the following history of Ancient Egypt this tendency was even more evident. In the XX Dynasty the artists of Ancient Egypt created for the Book of the Caverns and The Book of the Earth new icons of the solar rebirth with the assistance of Isis and Nephthys…
Ancient Egypt iconography is usually clear and understandable. Some other times, although the scenes are explicit, the sense of the image it is not so clear. That happens especially with religious images accompanying sacred texts from XIX Dynasty. That is the case of the resurrection scene from the tomb of Ramses IX belonging to the Book of the Caverns, in which four women pull their front lock of hair towards the mummy.
Women pulling lock of hair over the dead. Tomb of Ramses IX. Valley of the Kings. XX Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.
We know that this was a gesture made by mourners as one of the practices for helping in the dead’s restoration. But we also know tha these mourners making that were the two representatives of Isis and Nephtys.
The scene from the tomb of Ramses IX shows four women instead of two. Now the question is why?
Four mourners for Osiris with their front lock of hair falling forwards. Temple of Abydos. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín
Looking for more exmaples the only similar scene we found is an image from the temple of Osiris in Abydos. Here four women appear in a sorrow position with a front lock of hair falling forwards. Although they are not pulling the hair, it is clear the realtionship of it with the Osiris resurrection. But the inportant point here is that they are four and not two.
In the Egyptian Book of the Caverns from the tomb of Ramses IX, these four women are named as “...the Goddesses who mourn together in the secret place of Osiris…“. So, it would not be crazy to think about these four female figures in the temple of Osiris in Abydos, also as women with a divine nature.
We will see in the next post.