Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

Manual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt online

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danger was met either by driving a long passage into the rock, and then
sinking the shaft at the farther end, or by substituting a slightly sloping
or horizontal disposition of the parts for the old vertical arrangement of
the mastaba model. The passage in this case opens from the centre of the
end wall, its average length being from 20 to 130 feet. The sepulchral
vault is always small and plain, as well as the passage. Under the Theban
dynasties, as under the Memphite kings, the Soul dispensed with
decorations; but whenever the walls of the vault are decorated, the figures
and inscriptions are found to relate chiefly to the life of the Soul, and
very slightly to the life of the Double. In the tomb of Horhotep, which is
of the time of the Ûsertesens, and in similar rock-cut sepulchres, the
walls (except on the side of the door) are divided into two registers. The
upper row belongs to the Double, and contains, besides the table of
offerings, pictured representations of the same objects which are seen in
certain mastabas of the Sixth Dynasty; namely, stuffs, jewels, arms, and
perfumes, all needful to Horhotep for the purpose of imparting eternal
youth to his limbs. The lower register belonged to both the Soul and the
Double, and is inscribed with extracts from a variety of liturgical
writings, such as _The Book of the Dead_, the _Ritual of Embalmment_, and
the _Funeral Ritual_, all of which were possessed of magic properties which
protected the Soul and supported the Double. The stone sarcophagus, and
even the coffin, are also covered with closely-written inscriptions.
Precisely as the stela epitomised the whole chapel, so did the sarcophagus
and coffin epitomise the sepulchral chamber, thus forming, as it were, a
vault within a vault. Texts, tableaux, all thereon depicted, treat of the
life of the Soul, and of its salvation in the world to come.

At Thebes, as at Memphis, the royal tombs are those which it is most
necessary to study, in order to estimate the high degree of perfection to
which the decoration of passages and sepulchral chambers was now carried.
The most ancient were situated either in the plain or on the southern
slopes of the western mountain; and of these, no remains are extant. The
mummies of Amenhotep I., and Thothmes III., of Sekenenra, and Aahhotep have
survived the dwellings of solid stone designed for their protection.
Towards the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty, however, all the best places
were taken up, and some unoccupied site in which to establish a new royal
cemetery had to be sought. At first they went to a considerable distance,
namely, to the end of the valley (known as the Western Valley), which
opens from near Drah Abû'l Neggeh. Amenhotep III., Aï, and perhaps others,
were there buried. Somewhat later, they preferred to draw nearer to the
city of the living. Behind the cliff which forms the northern boundary of
the plain of Thebes, there lay a kind of rocky hollow closed in on every
side, and accessible from the outer world by only a few perilous paths. It
divides into two branches, which cross almost at right angles. One branch
turns to the south-east, while the other, which again divides into
secondary branches, turns to the south-west. Westward rises a mountain
which recalls upon a gigantic scale the outline of the great step-pyramid
of Sakkarah (fig. 137). The Egyptian engineers of the time observed that
this hollow was separated from the ravine of Amenhotep III. by a mere
barrier some 500 cubits in thickness. In this there was nothing to dismay
such practised miners. They therefore cut a trench some fifty or sixty
cubits deep through the solid rock, at the end of which a narrow passage
opens like a gateway into the hidden valley beyond. Was it in the time of
Horemheb, or during the reign of Rameses I., that this gigantic work was
accomplished? Rameses I. is, at all events, the earliest king whose tomb
has as yet been found in this spot. His son, Seti I., then his grandson,
Rameses II., came hither to rest beside him. The Ramesside Pharaohs
followed one after the other. Herhor may perhaps have been the last of the
series. These crowded catacombs caused the place to be called "The Valley
of the Tombs of the Kings," - a name which it retains to this day.

These tombs are not complete. Each had its chapel; but those chapels stood
far away in the plain, at Gûrneh, at the Ramesseum, at Medinet Habû; and
they have already been described. The Theban rock, like the Memphite
pyramid, contained only the passages and the sepulchral chamber. During the
daytime, the pure Soul was in no serious danger; but in the evening, when
the eternal waters which flow along the vaulted heavens fall in vast
cascades adown the west and are engulfed in the bowels of the earth, the
Soul follows the bark of the Sun and its escort of luminary gods into a
lower world bristling with ambuscades and perils. For twelve hours, the
divine squadron defiles through long and gloomy corridors, where numerous
genii, some hostile, some friendly, now struggle to bar the way, and now
aid it in surmounting the difficulties of the journey. Great doors, each
guarded by a gigantic serpent, were stationed at intervals, and led to an
immense hall full of flame and fire, peopled by hideous monsters and
executioners whose office it was to torture the damned. Then came more dark
and narrow passages, more blind gropings in the gloom, more strife with
malevolent genii, and again the joyful welcoming of the propitious gods. At
midnight began the upward journey towards the eastern regions of the world;
and in the morning, having reached the confines of the Land of Darkness,
the sun emerged from the east to light another day. The tombs of the kings
were constructed upon the model of the world of night. They had their
passages, their doors, their vaulted halls, which plunged down into the
depths of the mountain. Their positions in the valley were determined by no
consideration of dynasty or succession.

[Illustration: Fig. 156. - Plan of tomb of Rameses IV.]

[Illustration: Fig. 157. - Plan of tomb of Rameses IV., from Turin papyrus.]

[Illustration: Fig. 158. - Plan of tomb of Seti I.]

Each king attacked the rock at any point where he might hope to find a
suitable bed of stone; and this was done with so little regard for his
predecessors, that the workmen were sometimes obliged to change the
direction of the excavation in order not to invade a neighbouring catacomb.
The designer's plan was a mere sketch, to be modified when necessary, and
which was by no means intended to be strictly carried out. Hence the plan
and measurement of the actual tomb of Rameses IV. (fig. 156) differ in the
outline of the sides and in the general arrangement from the plan of that
same tomb which is preserved on a papyrus in the Turin Museum (fig. 153).
Nothing, however, could be more simple than the ordinary distribution of
the parts. A square door, very sparingly ornamented, opened upon a passage
leading to a chamber of more or less extent. From the further end of this
chamber opened a second passage leading to a second chamber, and thence
sometimes to more chambers, the last of which contained the sarcophagus. In
some tombs, the whole excavation is carried down a gently inclined plane,
broken perhaps by only one or two low steps between the entrance and the
end. In others, the various parts follow each other at lower and lower
levels. In the catacomb of Seti I. (fig. 158) a long and narrow flight of
stairs and a sloping corridor (A) lead to a little antechamber and two
halls (B) supported on pillars. A second staircase (C) leads through a
second antechamber to another pillared hall (D), which was the hiding-place
of the sarcophagus. The tomb did not end here. A third staircase (E)
opening from the end of the principal hall was in progress, and would no
doubt have led to more halls and chambers, had not the work been stopped by
the death of the king.[33] If we go from catacomb to catacomb, we do not
find many variations from this plan. The entrance passage in the tomb of
Rameses III. is flanked by eight small lateral chambers. In almost every
other instance, the lesser or greater length of the passages, and the
degree of finish given to the wall paintings, constitute the only
differences between one tomb and another. The smallest of these catacombs
comes to an end at fifty-three feet from the entrance; that of Seti I.,
which is the longest, descends to a distance of 470 feet, and there remains
unfinished. The same devices to which the pyramid builders had recourse, in
order to mislead the spoiler, were adopted by the engineers of the Theban
catacombs. False shafts were sunk which led to nothing, and walls
sculptured and painted were built across the passages. When the burial was
over, the entrance was filled up with blocks of rock, and the natural slope
of the mountain side was restored as skilfully as might be.

[Illustration: Fig. 159. - Wall-painting of the Fields of Aalû, tomb of
Rameses III.]

The most complete type of this class of catacomb is that left to us by Seti
I.; figures and hieroglyphs alike are models of pure design and elegant
execution. The tomb of Rameses III. already points to decadence. It is for
the most part roughly painted. Yellow is freely laid on, and the raw tones
of the reds and blues are suggestive of the early daubs of our childhood.
Mediocrity ere long reigned supreme, the outlines becoming more feeble, the
colour more and more glaring, till the latest tombs are but caricatures of
those of Seti I. and Rameses III. The decoration is always the same, and is
based on the same principles as the decoration of the pyramids. At Thebes
as at Memphis, the intention was to secure to the Double the free enjoyment
of his new abode, and to usher the Soul into the company of the gods of the
solar cycle and the Osirian cycle, as well as to guide it through the
labyrinth of the infernal regions. But the Theban priests exercised their
ingenuity to bring before the eyes of the deceased all that which the
Memphites consigned to his memory by means of writing, thus enabling him to
see what he had formerly been obliged to read upon the walls of his tomb.
Where the texts of the pyramid of Ûnas relate how Ûnas, being identified
with the sun, navigates the celestial waters or enters the Fields of Aalû,
the pictured walls of the tomb of Seti I. show Seti sailing in the solar
bark, while a side chamber in the tomb of Rameses III. shows Rameses III.
in the Fields of Aalû (fig. 159). Where the walls of the pyramid of Ûnas
give the prayers recited over the mummy to open his mouth, to restore the
use of his limbs, to clothe, to perfume, to feed him, the walls of Seti's
catacomb contain representations of the actual mummy, of the Ka statues
which are the supports of his Double, and of the priests who open their
mouths, who clothe them, perfume them, and offer them the various meats and
drinks of the funeral feast. The ceilings of the pyramid chambers were
sprinkled over with stars to resemble the face of the heavens; but there
was nothing to instruct the Soul as to the names of those heavenly bodies.
On the ceilings of some of the Theban catacombs, we not only find the
constellations depicted, each with its personified image, but astronomical
tables giving the aspect of the heavens fortnight by fortnight throughout
the months of the Egyptian year, so that the Soul had but to lift its eyes
and see in what part of the firmament its course lay night after night.
Taken as a series, these tableaux form an illustrated narrative of the
travels of the sun and the Soul throughout the twenty-four hours of the day
and night. Each hour is represented, as also the domain of each hour with
its circumscribed boundary, the door of which is guarded by a huge serpent.
These serpents have their various names, as "Fire-Face," "Flaming Eye,"
"Evil Eye," etc. The fate of Souls was decided in the third hour of the
day. They were weighed by the god Thoth, who consigned them to their future
abode according to the verdict of the scales. The sinful Soul was handed
over to the cynocephalous-ape assessors of the infernal tribunal, who
hunted and scourged it, after first changing it into a sow, or some other
impure animal. The righteous Soul, on the contrary, passed in the fifth
hour into the company of his fellows, whose task it was to cultivate the
Fields of Aalû and reap the corn of the celestial harvest, after which they
took their pleasure under the guardianship of the good genii. After the
fifth hour, the heavenly ocean became a vast battlefield. The gods of
light pursued, captured, and bound the serpent Apapi, and at the
twelfth hour they strangled him. But this triumph was not of long duration.
Scarcely had the sun achieved this victory when his bark was borne by the
tide into the realm of the night hours, and from that moment he was
assailed, like Virgil and Dante at the Gates of Hell, by frightful sounds
and clamourings. Each circle had its voice, not to be confounded with the
voices of other circles. Here the sound was as an immense humming of wasps;
yonder it was as the lamentations of women for their husbands, and the
howling of she-beasts for their mates; elsewhere it was as the rolling of
the thunder. The sarcophagus, as well as the walls, was covered with these
scenes of joyous or sinister import. It was generally of red or black
granite. As it was put in hand last of all, it frequently happened that the
sculptors had not time to finish it. When finished, however, the scenes and
texts with which it was covered contained an epitome of the whole
catacomb.[34] Thus, lying in his sarcophagus, the dead man found his future
destinies depicted thereon, and learned to understand the blessedness of
the gods. The tombs of private persons were not often so elaborately
decorated. Two tombs of the period of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty - that of
Petamenoph at Thebes and that of Bakenrenf at Memphis - compete in this
respect, however, with the royal catacombs. Their walls are not only
sculptured with the text (more or less complete) of _The Book of the Dead_,
but also with long extracts from _The Book of the Opening of the Mouth_ and
the religious formulae found in the pyramids.

As every part of the tomb had its special decoration, so also it had its
special furniture. Of the chapel furniture few traces have been preserved.
The table of offerings, which was of stone, is generally all that remains.
The objects placed in the _serdab_, in the passages, and in the sepulchral
chamber, have suffered less from the ravages of time and the hand of man.
During the Ancient Empire, the funerary portrait statues were always
immured in the _serdab_. The sepulchral vault contained, besides the
sarcophagus, head-rests of limestone or alabaster; geese carved in stone;
sometimes (though rarely) a scribe's palette; generally some terra-cotta
vases of various shapes: and lastly a store of food-cereals, and the bones
of the victims sacrificed on the day of burial. Under the Theban Dynasties,
the household goods of the dead were richer and more numerous. The Ka
statues of his servants and family, which in former times were placed in
the _serdab_ with those of the master, were now consigned to the vault, and
made on a smaller scale. On the other hand, many objects which used to be
merely depicted on the walls were now represented by models, or by actual
specimens. Thus we find miniature funeral boats, with crew, mummy,
mourners, and friends complete; imitation bread-offerings of baked clay,
erroneously called "funerary cones," stamped with the name of the deceased;
bunches of grapes in glazed ware; and limestone moulds wherewith the
deceased was supposed to make pottery models of oxen, birds, and fish,
which should answer the purpose of fish, flesh, and fowl. Toilet and
kitchen utensils, arms, and instruments of music abound. These are mostly
broken - piously slain, in order that their souls should go hence to wait
upon the soul of the dead man in the next world. Little statuettes in
stone, wood, and enamel - blue, green, and white - are placed by hundreds,
and even by thousands, with these piles of furniture, arms, and provisions.
Properly speaking, they are reduced _serdab_-statues, destined, like their
larger predecessors, to serve as bodies for the Double, and (by a later
conception) for the Soul. They were at first represented clothed like the
individual whose name they bore. As time went on, their importance
dwindled, and their duties were limited to merely answering for their
master when called by Thoth to the _corvée_, and acting as his substitutes
when he was summoned by the gods to work in the Fields of Aalû. Thenceforth
they were called "Respondents" (_Ûshabtiû_), and were represented with
agricultural implements in their hands. No longer clothed as the man was
clothed when living, they were made in the semblance of a mummified corpse,
with only the face and hands unbandaged. The so-called "canopic vases,"
with lids fashioned like heads of hawks, cynocephali, jackals, and men,
were reserved from the time of the Eleventh Dynasty for the viscera, which
were extracted from the body by the embalmers. As for the mummy, it
continued, as time went on, to be more and more enwrapped in _cartonnage_,
and more liberally provided with papyri and amulets; each amulet forming an
essential part of its magic armour, and serving to protect its limbs and
soul from destruction.

Theoretically, every Egyptian was entitled to an eternal dwelling
constructed after the plan which I have here described with its successive
modifications; but the poorer folk were fain to do without those things
which were the necessities of the wealthier dead. They were buried wherever
it was cheapest - in old tombs which had been ransacked and abandoned; in
the natural clefts of the rock; or in common pits. At Thebes, in the time
of the Ramessides, great trenches dug in the sand awaited their remains.
The funeral rites once performed, the grave-diggers cast a thin covering of
sand over the day's mummies, sometimes in lots of two or three, and
sometimes in piles which they did not even take the trouble to lay in
regular layers. Some were protected only by their bandages; others were
wrapped about with palm-branches, lashed in the fashion of a game-basket.
Those most cared for lie in boxes of rough-hewn wood, neither painted nor
inscribed. Many are huddled into old coffins which have not even been
altered to suit the size of the new occupant, or into a composite
contrivance made of the fragments of three or four broken mummy-cases. As
to funerary furniture, it was out of the question for such poor souls as
these. A pair of sandals of painted cardboard or plaited reeds; a staff for
walking along the heavenly highways; a ring of enamelled ware; a bracelet
or necklace of little blue beads; a tiny image of Ptah, of Osiris, of
Anubis, of Hathor, or of Bast; a few mystic eyes or scarabs; and, above
all, a twist or two of cord round the arm, the neck, the leg, or the body,
intended to preserve the corpse from magical influences, - are the only
possessions of the pauper dead.

[31] For a full account of the Twelfth Dynasty tombs at Beni Hasan and El
Bersheh see the first memoirs of the _Archaeological Survey of the
Egypt Exploration Fund_.

[32] The steps are shown in fig. 150. They were discovered by General Sir
F. Grenfell in 1885. Noting the remains of two parallel walls running
up from the water's edge to a part of the cliff which had evidently
been escarped and presented a vertical face, General Grenfell caused
the sand to be cleared, thus disclosing the entrances to several rock-
cut tombs dating from the Sixth and Twelfth Dynasties, as well as two
flights of steps on either side of an inclined plane leading from the
Nile bank to the door of one of the tombs. The distance between the
two walls is ten feet. The steps are eighteen inches deep, and 250 in
number. The steps were for the haulers, the mummies and sarcophagi
being dragged up the inclined plane. (See p. 209.) - A.B.E.

[33] M. Léfébure has lately produced a superb and elaborate volume on this
tomb, with the whole of the texts and the wall decorations faithfully
reproduced: _Mémoires publiés par les Membres de la Mission du
Caire_, Vol. II., fasc. I. - A.B.E.

[34] We have in this country two very fine specimens of inscribed
sarcophagi; namely, that of Seti I., of beautiful alabaster, in the
Soane collection (xixth Dyn.), and that of Queen Ankhnesraneferab
(xxvith Dyn.) in the British Museum. - A.B.E.



The statues and bas-reliefs which decorated the temples and tombs of
Ancient Egypt were for the most part painted. Coloured stones, such as
granite, basalt, diorite, serpentine, and alabaster, sometimes escaped this
law of polychrome; but in the case of sandstone, limestone, or wood it was
rigorously enforced. If sometimes we meet with uncoloured monuments in
these materials, we may be sure that the paint has been accidentally rubbed
off, or that the work is unfinished. The sculptor and the painter were
therefore inseparably allied. The first had no sooner finished his share of
the task than the other took it up; and the same artist was often as
skilful a master of the brush as of the chisel.


Of the system upon which drawing was taught by the Egyptian masters, we
know nothing. They had learned from experience to determine the general
proportions of the body, and the invariable relations of the various parts
one with another; but they never troubled themselves to tabulate those
proportions, or to reduce them to a system. Nothing in what remains to us
of their works justifies the belief that they ever possessed a canon based
upon the length of the human finger or foot. Theirs was a teaching of
routine, and not of theory. Models executed by the master were copied over
and over again by his pupils, till they could reproduce them with absolute
exactness. That they also studied from the life is shown by the facility
with which they seized a likeness, or rendered the characteristics and
movements of different kinds of animals. They made their first attempts
upon slabs of limestone, on drawing boards covered with a coat of red or
white stucco, or on the backs of old manuscripts of no value. New papyrus
was too dear to be spoiled by the scrawls of tyros. Having neither pencil
nor stylus, they made use of the reed, the end of which, when steeped in
water, opened out into small fibres, and made a more or less fine brush
according to the size of the stem. The palette was of thin wood, in shape a
rectangular oblong, with a groove in which to lay the brush at the lower
end. At the upper end were two or more cup-like hollows, each fitted with a
cake of ink; black and red being the colours most in use. A tiny pestle and
mortar for colour-grinding (fig. 160), and a cup of water in which to clip
and wash the brush, completed the apparatus of the student. Palette in
hand, he squatted cross-legged before his copy, and, without any kind of
support for his wrist, endeavoured to reproduce the outline in black. The
master looked over his work when done, and corrected the errors in red ink.

[Illustration: Fig. 160. - Pestle and mortar for grinding colours.]

[Illustration: Fig. 161. - Comic sketch on ostrakon in New York Museum.]

[Illustration: Fig. 162. - Vignette from _The Book of the Dead_, Saïte

[Illustration: Fig. 163. - Vignette from _The Book of the Dead_, from
the papyrus of Hûnefer.]

The few designs which have come down to us are drawn on pieces of
limestone, and are for the most part in sufficiently bad preservation. The
British Museum possesses two or three subjects in red outline, which may
perhaps have been used as copies by the decorators of some Theban tomb
about the time of the Twentieth Dynasty. A fragment in the Museum of Gizeh
contains studies of ducks or geese in black ink; and at Turin may be seen a
sketch of a half-nude female figure bending backwards, as about to turn a
somersault. The lines are flowing, the movement is graceful, the modelling
delicate. The draughtsman was not hampered then as now, by the rigidity of
the instrument between his fingers. The reed brush attacked the surface
perpendicularly; broadened, diminished, or prolonged the line at will; and
stopped or turned with the utmost readiness. So supple a medium was
admirably adapted to the rapid rendering of the humorous or ludicrous

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Online LibraryGaston Camille Charles MasperoManual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt → online text (page 10 of 21)