Ancient Egypt gives us again a good document. The tomb of Amenhotep, the Gater’s keeper of god Amun, has been discovered in Gourna.
Although it is still too soon for seeing the whole decoration, some images of the walls can help us to imagine how could be some complete scenes.
Funerary procession of Amenhotep, the gatekeeper of god Amun in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo www.thecairopost.com
This is the case of a part of the funerary procession, which can be seen on the right wall of the funerary chapel. Walking to an image of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris there is a depiction of a typical funerary procession of Ancient Egypt: In the upper register two oxen with ropes attached to their horns are moving forwards the West, one man stimulates the animal with a kind of branches (a natural whip), some men are holding the rope, two men are raising their arms, another one is burning and pouring; behind him there is a standing man with a long stick and dressed with a kind of shroud…
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Funerary practice in the mastaba of Qar with lector priest, embalmer and mourner Drt; the scene is closed by two images of an ox. V-VI Dynasty. Giza. Image: W.K. Sympson.
The ancient Egyptian expression “The Hand in the Mouth” (Djat Ra) as a way in Egyptian language of referring to the gesture made by the mother breastfeeding her baby. In the funerary sphere of Ancient Egypt that expression seems to be related to the mourning rite made by the professional mourner during the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. The dead, assimilated to a new-born, would need this gesture as a symbol of his first feed for the Hereafter.
In the relief from the tomb of Qar, this movement of approaching the hand to the mouth was also made by the embalmer. The expression Djat Ra related to a masculine figure cannot have a maternal explanation.
Sem priest opening the mouth with his little finger. Tomb of Rekhmire.
Looking at some depictions of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony from the New Kingdom we can see how, among the many practices made in favor of the deceased in Ancient Egypt, there is one in which the funerary sem priest opens the dead’s mouth (or the statue’s dead mouth) with his little finger. Had this ritual gesture made on the corpse or on the statue a resurrection purpose in Ancient Egypt?
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.
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 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.