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Volume 16 issue 6 June 2016





This month NETFISHING continues its look at the history of Egypt by seeing what the World Wide Web has to say about the tombs of the nobility in the Old Kingdom.

 The design and development of the ‘Nobles Tombs’ of the Old Kingdom reveal how religious aspirations and the belief in a divine monarchy slowly changed from the Fourth Dynasty to the Sixth Dynasty.

In the Fourth Dynasty the right to actually build a tomb (a house of the ka –the spirit or soul of the person) was the gift of the king himself.

It was pharaoh who would decide who could build a tomb and so it was he who granted an afterlife to those fortunate noblemen whose service had pleased him during their lives. As, at this period, the mastaba tombs were constructed in the shadow of the king’s pyramid it was quite explicit that they were there to actually form some sort of ‘court in waiting’ after their deaths, destined to serve their pharaoh forever in the afterlife.

It was the king who granted them the privilege to build a tomb, and the pharaoh was often generous enough to command royal workmen to construct and decorate the tomb, even going so far as to provide high quality stone from royal quarries for its construction. Countless tomb inscriptions show that the noblemen considered themselves in debt to the king for allowing them to have a tomb and thus in the Fourth Dynasty the king effectively controlled the afterlife of subjects.

The offering chapel of the Fourth Dynasty tombs was progressively cut within the solid structure of the mastaba itself so forming at first a corridor, and then, by the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, a series of internal rooms which provided a greater wall space upon which the scenes necessary for an eternal existence could be carved. The majority of these scenes were concerned with providing the necessities of life, in essence an eternal food supply to ensure the survival of the ka for all eternity. What was depicted on the tomb walls was a statement of ‘what would come to be’, an eternal food supply for the deceased. Food would be depicted being planted, and then harvested, the seed of which could then be sown anew. Animals would be shown giving birth (so providing the next generation), being fed and fattened, and then being killed and prepared for the table – again a cycle of life, renewal and death which would ensure the continued existence of the deceased.

Scenes of a religious nature were also incorporated within the decoration of the tomb, especially depictions of the funeral itself, for how could one enter the Afterlife without all the necessary rituals being performed to ensure a proper transfer of the ka into the realm beyond?

The tomb provided a focus for the offering ritual, believed necessary for the survival of the ka; it sheltered the grave goods and provided a place of protection for the mummy of the deceased. Even today it ensures the survival of the deceased, for some four thousand years later we still speak the namesof the Egyptian dead – so ensuring their everlasting survival in the Afterlife. Refer:




Niankh-Khnum and Khnum-Hotep (The Tomb of the Two Brothers) – Saqqara:



Mereruka – Saqqara: http://www.osirisnet.net/mastabas/mererouka/e_mereruka_01.htm


His Wife: http://www.osirisnet.net/mastabas/watetkhethor/e_watetkhethor_01.htm

His Son: http://www.osirisnet.net/mastabas/meryteti/e_meryteti_01.htm

Kagemni – Saqqara: http://www.osirisnet.net/mastabas/kagemni/e_kagemni_01.htm


Idu – Giza: http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/G7102.html

Qar – Giza: http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/G7101.html

Ptahshepses – Abusir: https://egyptsites.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/the-mastaba-of-ptahshepses-at-abusir/

Irikaptah – Saqqara: http://www.osirisnet.net/mastabas/iroukaptah/e_iroukaptah_01.htm


Ptahhotep – Saqqara: http://www.osirisnet.net/mastabas/akhethtp_ptahhtp/e_akht_ptah_01.htm


Ti – Saqqara: http://www.osirisnet.net/mastabas/ty/e_ty_01.htm


Mehu – Saqqara: https://egyptsites.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/tomb-of-mehu/

Nefer – Saqqara: https://egyptsites.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/tomb-of-nefer/



Victor Blunden

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