Images in the Entrance Corridor of the Tomb of Raemkai Scenes decorating the entrance thicknesses of Old Kingdom tombs often included a movement of people and objects into the interior. This is also true of the two ships that appear in the uppermost registers of Raemkai's entrance corridor. Only the hulls are preserved, but the absence of rowing oars and the position of the steering oars show that both boats are sailing westward into the tomb, and thus into the realm of the dead. In the registers below, an enshrined statue of the deceased is dragged on a sled over ground moistened by a man pouring water from a jar. The inscription reads: "following the statue to its chamber." In the third register offering bearers march into the tomb. Even the slaughter of oxen in the bottom register is a fitting theme for an entrance corridor, as butchering usually took place outside the tomb. Note that on the right wall the backs of the oxen are shown, while on the left their bound legs face the viewer. In a tomb chamber like this one, which is entered from the north side of the east wall, the east and north walls are closest to the entrance and thus to life on earth. East wall decorations tend to be especially concerned with the fruitfulness of the agricultural land, which guaranteed continued offerings for the tomb owner's funeral cult. Depicted on this east wall are a presentation of animals and birds, a row of female personifications of agricultural estates, and the grain harvest. The figures face into the tomb and toward a large image of the deceased, which in turn faces the entry as if coming forward from the interior. The pictures on this wall should be viewed from right to left, the primary direction of writing in ancient Egypt. Bottom Register: The Grain Harvest Egyptian pictorial narratives often follow the comic-strip concept, in which activities are broken into separate stages, depicted consecutively. However, Egyptian artists did not isolate separate moments into individual frames but represented them side-by-side, as if they happened simultaneously. Raemkai's harvesting scene is an example of such a serial narrative. On the right, four reapers cut the grain stalks, which a fifth man ties up under the supervision of an overseer (inscription: …his barley for the funerary estate). Farther to the left the sheaves- now wrapped in cloth-have been loaded onto the backs of donkeys, who carry them to the threshing floor (inscriptions: go, you! taking [the grain] by donkeys). The threshing floor occupies the left end of the register. Beside a large pile of sheaves (inscription: sheaves) donkeys are driven to tread the grain (inscription: trampling out the threshing floor of barley). Finally, a man sweeps the threshed seed and chaff mixture into a conical container where it awaits winnowing. The container is festively decorated with papyrus umbels. Women Carrying Goods In the second register from the bottom, twenty-two women carry baskets on their heads that are filled with goods. They are not servants but exquisitely adorned ladies wearing collars, bracelets, anklets, and elaborate wigs. The inscriptions in front of each provide the names of the agricultural villages or estates that the women personify. They are thus comparable to figures such as Roma or Britannia, which in western art represent respectively, the city of Rome and the country of Great Britain. The names of this tomb owner's agricultural estates are, from right to left: carob grove, mouth of the blocked canal, Horus's hour, indigent field, melon field, Hebnenet grove, truncated field, non …. fishers' settlement, Inbebu, Shefet field, Isesi's mound, field of the acquaintances, field of the unique incarnation, pondweed plot, eye of Iunmutef, isle of Sobek, Hudu, two pitchforks, Iawetet, preeminent is its maker, new field. The Procession of Birds The Nile marshes teemed with one of the richest bird populations on earth, both indigenous and migratory. The ancient Egyptians were keen observers of their animal world, and there are specific names for many of the bird species in the ancient Egyptian language. The images created by artists are so accurate that modern designations of species can often be determined. We owe the identification of the birds depicted here to Peter Capainolo of The American Museum of Natural History. Large birds at right: gray crane (grus grus), Damoiselle crane (anthropoides virgo), young gray crane, gray crane. Upper line of birds, from right to left: gray goose (anser anser), white-fronted goose (anser albifrons), white goose, goose, duck (anas clypeata), duck (anas acuta), duck. Lower line of birds: gray goose (anser anser rubrirosris), ?, duck, ?, duck, pair of Nile geese (alopochen aegyptiaca), coot, dove. Men Accompanying the Birds The two men in front of the birds are the "Scribe Nebihuef, Ka-servant of the funerary estate" and a "Ka-servant." The men at left are the "Ka-servant Shedwi-Khufu" and the "Ka-servant Kaiemnesu." The Presentation of Desert Animals In the third preserved register from the top, the tomb owner's attendants bring six steppe animals before their lord. The beginning of a horizontal line of inscriptions describes the scene as "making (their) way to (let him) look at what are his, which are brought." The animal attendants are called Ka-servants, meaning they were employed on the estates that supplied the provisions for the tomb owner's funeral cult. Their names are, from right to left (after a first now-destroyed figure): Werka, Menka, Qaamaat, Nikaiankh, Nira, Ptahshepses, and Niptah. The animals they bring are identified as, again from right to left: two domesticated white oryx, a domesticated ibex, a domesticated female antelope, a domesticated gazelle, and a gazelle (which Ptahshepses carries on his shoulders). The Presentation of Cattle In the second preserved register from the top, three longhorn cattle (designated as stable bull, longhorn, and stable bull) are lead by unnamed herdsmen. They are preceded by the "scribe Nisuwesret." After the bulls comes a man leading a cow (stable cow). A calf (calf), a shorthorn bull (stable bull), and another man follow. The horizontal heading describes this cortege as "bringing greetings (to let the tomb owner) see what is brought from his estates that are in the Delta." In the rest of the line, now missing, other regions of Egypt may have been named. Dancers in the Uppermost Register Seven male dancers and five female musicians are extant in the uppermost preserved register. The dancers raise their arms above their heads, and lift their proper right feet. They wear collars and courtly kilts with starched fronts. The women, adorned with collars and anklets, clap their hands to accompany the men's dance. Singers and musicians playing flutes and harps may well have been depicted on the missing blocks above and to the left. The depiction of festivities involving lavish meals, music, and dancing introduced an atmosphere of exuberance into the tomb and thus contributed to the affirmation of life that was one of the main aims of all Egyptian funerary art. The Vertical Column of Hieroglyphs in Front of the Tomb Owner The words in the vertical column in front of the large figure of the tomb owner serve as a caption for the whole scene: "Seeing the greetings brought [from his estates at] the Thoth-feast and the Wag-feast." A feast for the moon god Thoth was celebrated in connection with the thirteenth month of the lunar year, which was periodically inserted into the Egyptian calendar. The Wag-festival was the first important feast after the ancient Egyptian New Year. Large Figure of the Tomb Owner The right side of the wall is dominated by the overpowering figure of the tomb owner. Beside him, grasping his staff and right leg, are his two small sons. As Egyptian children do in many representations, they carry hoopoe birds in their hands. Whether these birds were pets or served some symbolical role is not known. The inscriptions associated with the large figure were not altered when the tomb was adapted for Raemkai. Only the titles and name of the original owner, Neferiretenes, were erased, and even among them, the easily adaptable epithet "honored by his lord," located above the head, was left untouched. No attempt was made to insert Raemkai's name and titles. THE WEST WALL In ancient Egyptian mythology the west was the realm of the dead. Therefore, in all Old Kingdom tombs, west walls incorporate a symbolic doorway (called a False Door by Egyptologists) as a focal point for prayers and offerings. Along with the False Door, west walls usually present scenes that are closely related to the offering rituals. On this west wall, to the right of the large False Door, rows of attendants bring tables on which offerings are heaped. In the uppermost preserved register the tomb owner, seated on a lion-legged chair, receives the gifts. The butchering scene in the second register from the bottom is also appropriately placed on this wall, as meat was among the most important life-affirming offerings. Butchering and Meat Preparation The representation in the second register from the bottom is structured symmetrically. At right and left, groups of men work on butchered cattle, while in the center, a cook cuts meat on a low block. Choice cuts simmer in a basin over a terracotta stove, and more basins are positioned nearby. The scene includes some unusual details. Stages in the butchering like the one on the left that shows the animal's exposed ribcage were only rarely depicted. Even more unusual is the image at the far right, which shows small chips falling from a flint knife that is being knapped with a bone instrument for sharpening. Inscriptions were added only to the activities less frequently seen: "butchering" is written above the jointing on the left, "cooking meat" appears in the center, and "knife-sharpening" on the right. Thematically, the man roasting a duck at the far right of the register above should be part of this slaughtering scene, but there was no space for him below. Bird-Catching In the bottom register a large clap-net is pulled closed by five men. The net is tightly packed with all kinds of birds; lotus flowers and leaves float around them, indicating that the trap was placed in a pool in the marshes. The men's nudity further emphasizes their aquatic environment. The pool is surrounded by reeds and papyrus plants, but their depiction here is so stylized that they resemble a low fence. In reality, the reeds were higher than a man, so that the haulers could not see the net. Therefore, a signalman was stationed close to where the trap had been set to signal the haulers when it was time to pull. Since shouting would disturb the birds, the signalman raises a stretched piece of cloth. At left another man who has already collected a few birds presents them to the offering place at the False Door. The False Door A False Door is a stylized representation of an actual door. The rectangular slot-like niche at the center (here filled with the name and titles of Raemkai) stands for the opening through a real doorway. This niche-like feature is flanked by inner doorjambs on which figures of the deceased appear in relief and is topped by a lower lintel. Below that lintel is a flattened version of the drum representing the rolled-up matting with which a real doorway would have been closed. And above that lintel is a rectangular slab with an empty recess at each side, a configuration that conveys the impression of a partially shuttered transom window. On the slab the tomb owner is depicted seated before an offering table. An upper inscribed lintel and two outer doorjambs-here with four relief images of the tomb owner- surround the whole. In front of the False Door, relatives and friends of the tomb owner deposited offerings, in the belief that this was a place where the dead would come forward to meet the living. Text Changes on the False Door This tomb chapel was originally dedicated to the official Neferiretenes. Only later was it adapted for Raemkai. Changes are most extensive on the False Door. Traces of erased original text are still discernible on the lower lintel, enabling Egyptologists to decipher the titles "senior overseer of documents, royal property master, Neferiretenes." Fragments of additional titles are preserved above the inner lower left figure: "priest of King …'s pyramid…, priest of King …'s pyramid …," and "under-superintendent of priests of Re in every place of his." A longer list above the outer lower figures reads: "senior district administrator of preeminent rank, personal document scribe of the king, senior overseer of documents, senior document inspector, Neferiretenes." Raemkai's name and titles have been inserted at the left end of the upper lintel, above the two upper figures and above the right lower inner figure. The inscription in sunken relief at the center is the most prominent: "member of the elite, king's bodily son, chief lector priest, temple scribe, unique associate, representative of El-Kab, possessor of honor by the great god, Raemkai." Reconstruction by Henry George Fischer of the original decoration and texts on the False Door, when the tomb was dedicated to Neferiretenes Image Changes on the False Door When the tomb of Nefertiretenes was adapted for Raemkai's use, only a few changes were made to the reliefs. The most important concerned the upper standing figures of the tomb owner on the False Door. Originally, both of these were noticeably obese, and their kilts were of calf-length. During the Old Kingdom it was the custom to include among the mostly idealizing images of a tomb owner at least one representation showing him as a mature heavy-set man. Such images emphasized the deceased's success in life and his high social standing. For Raemkai, the full breasts and abdomens were removed, and the kilts were shortened. The prince was evidently of such a young age when he died that the mature representations common for elite men were deemed inappropriate. THE SOUTH WALL In a tomb chapel like Raemkai's, whose entrance is located in the northern half of the east wall, the south wall is farthest removed from the entrance. Most representations on south walls in such chapels reflect this innermost location. For example, the traditional offering list in its age-old grid often appears on the tomb's south wall. Quite rare, however, is the appearance on a south wall of two additional themes chosen to decorate Neferiretnes's/Raemkai's tomb chapel: the hunt in the desert and the boat journey in the west. It is tempting to assume that the selection and placement of these themes was a personal choice made by the original tomb owner. The Offering List The core offerings presented during rituals believed to guarantee a deceased's eternal life were not only actually brought to the tomb; they were also inscribed in order to ensure the continuity of the rituals, if a family failed to care for the tomb. Placed in a grid of vertical and horizontal lines, the fully developed standard list of offerings contained over ninety items. The upper third of Neferiretenes's (Raemkai's) offering list is missing. The preserved text records the following groups of items: bread and onions, meat, poultry, bread, beer and wine, fruit and vegetables, final offerings. The list ends with the phrase: "a royal offering of the requisite offering, prepared for [the senior document-overseer, Neferiretenes]." The original name and title have been erased, but astonishingly, Raemkai's were not substituted. The Hunt in the Desert The ancient Egyptians were blessed not only with richly fertile agricultural land along the banks of the Nile but also with abundant wildlife in the deserts beyond. During the Old Kingdom the climate of these deserts was less arid than today. In fact, the land bordering the Nile valley had more of the character of a savannah or steppe and provided ample nourishment for herds of horned animals as well as many species of small creatures, such as the rabbit and hedgehog seen here. The ancient Egyptians hunted both with the bow and arrow and with the lasso. Here we see hunters throwing the lasso and sending their dogs to attack the prey. However, as in many other hunting scenes in nonroyal Old Kingdom tombs, there is a noticeable reticence in the amount of violence shown, and most of the animals seem to be at rest in their hilly landscape rather then fleeing before a menacing hunter. This paradisiacal character of the scene is in tune with its placement in the interior of the chapel, where it was more appropriate to stress the benign nature of the land bordering the valley, which, after all, was also the realm of the dead. The artists took pride in specifying the names of the various animal species they depicted. In the upper register the following designations are given, from right to left: gazelle, gazelle (upper animal behind bush), hound, hound, hunter. And in the lower register the inscriptions read, again from the right: lassoing an ibex by a hunter, ibex, hunter. The Journey by Boat in the "Beautiful West" In common with other cultures, the ancient Egyptians imagined an underworld crossed by waterways. The four ships represented at the bottom of this wall are cruising on such a waterway. The inscriptions in the upper register read, from right to left: sailing in the beautiful west; make for starboard! And the inscriptions in the lower register say: the canal of the beautiful west; land well! The prows of all four boats face toward the right-that is, the west. Three are propelled by oars; one is paddled by sailors facing forward. At the prow of this fourth ship is the head of a hedgehog, probably a symbol of rebirth. In the upper register, in the boat to the right, an attendant presents a role of papyrus to the tomb owner. It may be inscribed with spells intended to help the deceased during his voyage through the underworld. The attendant in the boat below simply bows to the deceased. Canopies shield the decks of all four boats against any vicissitudes of the journey. THE NORTH WALL The following scenes are presented on this north wall: outdoor life with herds, fish preparation, baking and brewing, and offering bearers directed toward the niche in the lower part of the wall. The Life of the Herd The feet of men and animals are still visible in the uppermost preserved register. Scattered bushy plants indicate that this scene takes place on the steppe. Enough remains to reconstruct a bull copulating with a cow on the right, while on the left the birth of a calf is assisted by a kneeling herdsman. To his right, an overseer leans on a staff. The ancient Egyptians were extremely successful cattle breeders, and the frequent depictions of herds in tombs testify to their strong belief in nature's ability to continually renew itself. Baking The bakery activities on the right are represented somewhat out of sequence, probably because of lack of space. The narrative starts with the two female millers (inscriptions: grinding) in the third preserved row. They are kneeling and bend forward, the typical pose of ancient Egyptian millers, who ground grain on hard millstones. Above them are two other women who refine the flour before turning it over to the bakers. The inscription above the woman on the right says "cleaning," and she appears to be tossing the plate in her hands so that the flour is flung into the air, an activity that may help remove the last remaining husks. Her companion to the left sifts the flour (inscription: sieving). The two bakers at the far left of this register knead dough on a low table. The loaves are then baked in the oval molds that the man below them heats on a small fire. He stokes the flames with two sticks. Brewing The brewery scene begins in the bottom right register, with a woman heating conical bread molds. She shields her face from the heat of the flames. Behind her, a man bends over a large vat in which he prepares the dough that is then transferred into the heated molds, a row of which is standing ready above. Finally, the brewer seen left of center presses the baked loaves through a sieve into another vat. Facing him is a squatting man, who prepares the jars that will eventually hold the fermented beer. The Preparation of Fish On the left side of the second preserved register from the top, a man with the slight hump of an elderly laborer sits on a woven mat under a papyrus bush. He is gutting and cleaning a great number of fish, brought to him by two men who carry a huge basket on a pole over their shoulders.
Discovered by Mariette between 1858 and 1863; recleared in 1907-08 by Quibell on behalf of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and sold to the Museum in 1908.