Tag Archives: Egyptian Mourner

Isis and Nephthys, two Essential Images in the Ancient Egyptian Union of Re and Osiris.


The union of Re and Osiris supposed a challenge to the Ancient Egyptian Art, since new iconography was needed for decorating the tomb walls and the papyri.

From the XVIII Dynasty, some passages of the Book of the Dead were introduced in the royal tombs decoration and that meant to depict moments and gods from the Myth of Osiris into a royal space. However the monarchy was assimilated to the sun god, so some Osirian images suffered a solarization. That forced the ancient Egyptian artist to think of an Osiris-Re iconography.

The mourner (left) and Isis the kite (right) in the decorative program of Sethos I. Ancient Egypt

The mourner (left) and Isis the kite (right) in the decorative program of Sethos I.

We saw that in the XVIII Dynasty the figure of Khepri rising up between two images of a kneeling Osiris was the image of the first hour of the Amduat. But the Osirian world was maybe too important in ancient Egyptian belief for reducing it just to this iconography. The conception of the dead god, which resurrected thanks to the action of two women (Isis and Nephthys) was maybe too stablished in the ancient Egyptian thought.

Not for nothing in the XIX Dynasty Sethos I introduced Osirian iconography in royal monuments and he did not forget the two professional mourners…

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Offering the Make-up in Ancient Egypt. Funerary rites get into Egyptian Art.


We usually think that the decoration from the Egyptian tombs does not change in the whole history of Ancient Egypt. But in fact, there are  some images, which appear in some periods and become usual during some time.

Mourner offering make-up in the tomb of Rekhmire. XVIII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt.

Mourner offering the make-up. Detail from the south wall in the tomb of Rekhmire. XVIII Dynasty.

That is the case of a typical Egyptian scene of the professional mourner in some tombs of the New Kingdom: the tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100), the tomb of Sobekhotep (TT 63) or the tomb of Sennefer (TT 96). The mourner appears with no mane of hair kneeling in front of an altar and offering globular vases. According to the inscription in Rekhmire’s tomb, she if offering green make-up for the eyes (Hodel-Hoenes, S., Leben und Tod im Alten Ägypten. Thebanische Privatgräber des Neuen Reiches. Darmstadt, 1991, p. 130).

Offering make-up in the tomb of Sennefer. Ancient Egypt.

Offering make-up in the tomb of Sennefer.It is similar to the scene in the tomb of Rekhmire. Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

We could think that, if the scene appears now it is becuase it refers to something belonging to the Egyptian funerals of the New Kigndom,  but in fact it is not so.

This action happens just after the Opening of the Mouth ceremony; ; a group of Ancient Egypt sacred practices 8And also secret) for giving back the life to the deceased. We have already seen that, according to the documents, it seems that in these ceremony the mourners were shaven just after the official mourning rite. It was the moment of offering the Udjat eye to the mummy and reviving this way the myth of Osiris, in which the god received the Udjat eye as a sign if his final resurrection. And in the rite it happens when the ox (as a sethian victim) has already been sacrificed.

Offering make-up in the tomb of Sennefer. Gourna. Ancient Egypt.

Detailof the offering make-up in the tomb of Sennefer. Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

At the end of Ancient Egypt funerals the dead had to receive the Udjat eye. The funeral staff symbolized it shaving the mourners and giving make-up for the eyes. The fact of presenting make-up is already documented in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (Pyr. 54b-55; Pyr. 609) and the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom (CT VII, 934; 936) as a gesture which symbolizes “to fit the eye in the face” (Wb, IV, 370, 12).

In many cases the mourners offered green make-up for the left eye and black make-up for the right one. This was a way of representing the whole lunar cycle, and therefore the victory of Horus over Seth. A belief, which was very rooted to Egyptian though from immemorial times. So, to give the make-up at the end of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony would be much older than the XVIII Dynasty.

For some reason, the practice of offering the make-up could be during the XVIII Dynasty represented. As it happens with some other gestures of funerary rites, the artists of the New Kingdom were more aware than before of what happened during the Egyptian funerals. The secret funerary rites of Ancient Egypt, got into the Egyptian art.

 

 

 

 

 

Shaven Mouners in an Ancient Egypt Funerary Boat.


Ancient Egypt wooden models were frequent during the Middle Kingdom and thanks to them we know much today about everyday life of ancient Egyptians: butchery, bread production, granaries… Among them there were also many dedicated to the funerary boats which Egyptians utilized for transporting the mummy on the Nile to the necropolis.

These funeral barges show the body lying on the bier and being flanked at both ends by the two professional Egyptian mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys and sometimes accompanied by one priest. The attitude of that two women depicted by the artist is quite static and not too much can be deduced from it, except that they accompany the deceased.

wood model of a boat with mummy and mourners. British Museum EA9524. XII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

Wooden model of a funerary boat with the mummy and the two professional mourners. Their scalp is well visible in pink color and with black spots. XII Dynasty. Photo: British Museum.

However, piece EA9524 in the British Museum, dating from the XII Dynasty, represents the funerary boat with the corpse and the two mourning women and both extremes; in this case there is no priest, but a helmsman. And the image of both women gives some interesting information about them.

The two professional Egyptian mourners are not in such a static posture as usual. They appear with their left arms raised and the hand on the head, while the right arms are extended towards the mummy. So, they are not just standing, but making the typical gesture of mourning in Ancient Egypt.

But the most important point in this piece is in the head of those two professional Egyptian mourners. They are not with long hair, and their hair is not covered by a scarf. In both women (and also in the helmsman) the scalp can be seen. Their heads were painted in pink color with small black spots. So, the Egyptian artist indicated that their hair was very short or that their head had just been shaved.

The two Drty (two kites), offering nw vases to the four pools. Relief from the tomb of Pahery in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

The two professional mourners with short hair at the end of the funeral. Relief from the tomb of Pahery in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

That links perfectly with one of our affirmations: the hair of two professional Egyptian mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys was cut and that short hair was a distinctive of the professional mourner in Ancient Egypt. The short hair became a resource for the artists of Ancient Egypt for depicting these two professional mourners and differentiate them from the common mourners.

Four Egyptian Mourners, Four Egyptian Locks of Hair.


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. Ancient Egypt

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. Temple of Abydos. Ancient Egypt.

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.

But…who?…Any idea?…

We will see in the next post.

An Egyptian Ostracon with Professional Mourners inside the Tomb.


Ostracon with funerary scene. New Kingdom. Manchester Museum. Ancient Egypt

Ostracon with funerary scene. New Kingdom. Manchester Museum.

Last week we could read about ostracon 5886 in Manchester Museum. In that skecht the Egyptian artists represented what happened outside the tomb. Let’s see now what happened inside.

Inside the tomb, a man is descending and some others appear in the funerary chamber carrying the coffin. But there are two important things: a man with a jackal head is next to the corpse and two kneeling figures are in a corner of the chamber.

Acccording to Campbell Price the coffin would be being  placed into the tomb, which is completely true. But was it necessary for placing the coffin a man with a jackal-headed mask and those two kneeling figures?

Ostracon with funerary scene. Detail of the inside. New Kingdom. Manchester Museum. Ancient Egypt.

Ostracon with funerary scene. Detail of the inside. New Kingdom. Manchester Museum.

The schematic scene would in fact represent what happened inside the tomb for reviving the deceased. We have already seen that the Egyptian Opening of the Mouth ceremony would happen inside the tomb and that the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys were a part of the party making a mourning rite in favour of the mummy.

The man with the jackal-headed mask as a living image of Anubis would play the role of the embalmer. In our opinion these two kneeling figures would be the two representatives of Isis and Nephtys.  In fact the scene shows the members of the common Egyptian scene in which Anubis assists the mummy while Isis and Nephtys are (standing or kneeling) at both ends of the corpse. The difference here is that these ones stay apart in the chamber and already with their short hair.

Isis and Nephtys at both extremes of the corpse with shen rings. Tomb of Siptah. XIX Dynasty. Valley of the Kings. Ancient Egypt. Photo: www.thethebanmappingproject.com

Isis and Nephtys at both extremes of the corpse with shen rings. Tomb of Siptah. XIX Dynasty. Valley of the Kings. Photo: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com

The man on the right seems to hold with his hand a long straight object, which seems to be more similar to a kind of strike than to an incense burner, Could we consider it as the adze used in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony?

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Both men are holding the mummy as if they wanted to place it down in the shaft after having finished the rites.

It does not seem too ridiculous to think that such schematic skecth would represent the end of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and the moment in which the mummy is finally buried. Meanwhile the two professional mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys would wait kneeling and already with no mane of hair until the dead is placed in the burial place and the shaft is sealed.

While that was happening inside the tomb, outside the common mourners would be lamenting, three of them with raise arms and one of them with hair on her face and her arms hanging down.