This facsimile painting copies part of a scene in the tomb of Khnumhotep (tomb 3) at Beni Hasan. This detail depicts two men wearing garments, beards, and hair styles that identify them as people from western Asia. The facsimile was painted at the tomb in 1931 by Norman de Garis Davies who was director of the Graphic Expedition of the Museum's Egyptian Expedition.
The rock-cut tomb chapel of Khnumhotep II, overseer of the Eastern Desert under Amenemhat II and Senwosret II, was richly decorated in paint on plaster with scenes designed both to commemorate the life of this high official and to help ensure his eternal afterlife (Newberry 1893, pp. 39-72 and plates 2, 22-38; Kamrin 1999). The two men shown here are the leaders of a group that includes thirteen additional men, women, and children, all of whom are presented to the tomb owner by two Egyptian officials. One of these, a royal scribe, holds a writing board bearing the inscription: “Year 6 under the Majesty of . . . Khakheperre (Senwosret II): accounting of the Aamu that the son of the Mayor, Khnumhotep, brought because of mesdemet; being Aamu of Shu, number amounting to thirty-seven.” An abbreviated version of this text begins above the two figures in this facsimile and continues to the left: visible here is the name and title of the first man (to viewer right): “the ruler of the desert/hill-country, Abisharie” and the phrase: “brought to him 37 Aamu...” This procession forms part of a larger scene that shows wild and domesticated animals and birds being brought as tribute or taxes to Khnumhotep II. The two men shown here sport full beards, a distinctive “mushroom-shaped” hairstyle, and vibrantly colored garments adorned with geometric patterns that are most likely of dyed wool (Saretta 1997). Abisharie bends forward with his right hand extended, palm down, in a gesture of respect; with his left hand, he grips the leash of an ibex and a short crook, somewhat similar in shape to the Egyptian crook that was an essential item of royal regalia. His companion grasps a gazelle with both hands.
The term “Aamu,” the name Abisharie’s, and the clothing, features, and hairstyle of these men and the group that follows them suggests that they are from the Levant, with the area of Biblical Moab one possibility for the specific location of Shu (see Kamrin 2009: 24-25; Kamrin 2014: 162 and n. 58); another possibility is that they are nomads from the Eastern desert. The mesdemet that they bring is usually translated as “eyepaint,” but may also be the raw material (galena or malachite) from which this was made. Scholars disagree on the reason that these foreigners have come to Egypt: maybe they are part of a trading caravan, or perhaps they are be planning to settle in Egypt. In any event, this scene surely memorializes a key event from Khnumhotep’s career as overseer of the trade routes through the Eastern Desert, and help to identify this powerful provincial official as an effective delegate in both the royal and divine realms. In the context of the wall as a whole, he is shown protecting the Egyptian cosmos by keeping wild animals and foreigners, both of whom lived on the fringes of the ordered world and thus represented the forces of chaos, at bay. Janice Kamrin 2014
in.n.f aAmw 37: "... which 37 Aamu brought to him" HqA xAswt ibSA: "the ruler of the desert country, Abisharie"
Painted at Beni Hasan by Norman de Garis Davies for the Graphic Section of the Museum's Egyptian Expedition, 1931. Accessioned by the Museum, 1933.
Newberry, Percy E. 1893. Beni Hasan, Part I. Archaeological survey of Egypt, 1. London: Kegan Paul, Trench Trubner & Co. Ltd., p. 69; pls. 28, 30, 31.
Wilkinson, Charles K. 1979. Egyptian Wall Paintings: The Metropolitan Museum's Collection of Facsimiles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, new ser., vol. 36, no. 4 (Spring), New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 40, fig. 43.
Wilkinson, Charles K. and Marsha Hill 1983. Egyptian Wall Paintings: The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Collection of Facsimiles. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 43, p. 46.
Goedicke, Hans 1984. "Abi-Sha(i)’s Representation in Beni Hasan." In Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, vol. 21, pp. 203-10.
Kessler, Dieter 1987. "Die Asiatenkarawane von Beni Hassan." In Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, vol. 14, pp. 147-65.
Saretta, Phyllis 1997. Egyptian perceptions of west Semites in art and literature during the Middle Kingdom: an archaeological, art historical and textual survey. Ph.D. dissertation. Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, pp. 117–18.
Kamrin, Janice 1999. The Cosmos of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hasan. London and New York: Kegan Paul International, pp. 93-96, figures IV.26-.27.
Kamrin, Janice 2009. "The Aamu of Shu in the Tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hassan." In Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Interconnections [Online], 1 (3), pp. 22-36.
Kamrin, Janice 2013. "The Procession of ‘Asiatics’ at Beni Hasan." In Cultures in Contact: From Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean in the Second Millennium B.C., edited by Joan Aruz and Yelena Rakic. New York and New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 156-169.
Kamrin, Janice 2015. "Facsimile of a Tomb Painting Depicting the Leaders of the Aamu of Shu." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 176–77, no. 112.
Kamrin, Janice 2015. "The Decoration of Elite Tombs: Connecting the Living and the Dead." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 31.
O'Connor, David B. 2015. "An Expanding Worldview: Conquest, Colonization, and Coexistence." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 162.
Arnold, Dieter and Adela Oppenheim 2015. "Excavations by The Metropolitan Museum of Art at Middle Kingdom Sites." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 313.