New York Collections

The Models of Meketre

During the Metropolitan Museum’s 1919 to 1920 season at Deir el-Bahri one of the most fascinating discoveries in the history of Egyptology was made. The excavation team was clearing an area outside the tomb of Meketre (late 11th Dynasty) when they came upon an small chamber carved below the walkway leading to the tomb. Inside were dozens of wood models of scenes of daily life from butchering cattle to recording the amounts of grain being stored in a silo. There were also numerous model boats which form a valuable record of travelling the Nile in the Middle Kingdom.

Fig. 1 – Meketre being rowed south against the current of the Nile.

At the time of the discovery a fair amount of rocks had fallen from the chambers ceiling and a large number of the models had to be repaired and it took three days of photgraphing and drawing diagrams before all of the models were removed. The Metropolitan’s team used the photos and hand drawn plans of the chamber to do the exacting work work of repairing and conserving the models. Today the models are divided between the Cairo Museum and the Met, here in New York.

Fig. 2 – a detail of the boat shown in Figure 1. Meketre is seated in the shades his crew row

The boat shown here is being rowed northward (against the prevailing wind). The large libation vessel in front of the seated firgure of Meketre may indicate that the seated figure is a statue of the nobleman and that this may represent a trip to Abydos as part of the funerary rituals. In this context, the figure of Meketre is likely a statue of him. The figure standing in front of Meketre with his arms reverently crossed may be his son or a priest.

Fig. 3 – Butchering Cattle

In figure 3 we see cattle two cows that have been killed and are being butchered. At the top of the steps a number of cuts of beef have been hung up to dry as part of preparing them to be eaten.

Fig. 4 – a scene in Meketre’s grain silo

In figure 4 we see grain being delivered to a silo. In the foreground scribes record the number of sacks of grain being brought in (on white-washed wooden boards?) while in the background workers have climbed the stairs to dump the sacks of grain into the silo itself.

Fig. 5 – one of the servant girl statues

Last, and most definately not least, were two beautiful wooden statues of servant girls. (figure 5). The lady pictured here carries a bird in her right hand and balances a basket of food stuff on her head. The statue is made up of several pieces of wood that have been carefully put together and then painted so that the joins of the individual pieces cannot be seen.

Montuemhat in the Brooklyn Museum

Montuemhat was the Fourth Prophet of Amun and served as the mayor of Thebes at the end of the 25th Dynasty and the begining of the 26th. He had three wives (Neshkhinsu, Shepenmut and Wadjerenes) and several sons.

During Montuemnat’s life the 25th Dynasty Pharaoh Tanuatamun attempted to regain Lower Egyptian territories that had been lost to the Assyrians. He marched north and defeated Necho I (who had been placed on the Lower Egyptian throne by the Assyrians). The Assyrian King, Assurbanipal attacked Egypt (about 663 B.C.) and chased Tanuatamun back to Nubia and then looted Thebes. When the Assyrians left, Thebes became an independent political entity that was led by Montuemhat and the God’s Wife, Shepenwepet II (who was a sister of the 25th Dynasty King Taharka).​

Archaizing Scribe from the tomb of Montuemhat – Brooklyn Museum

His tomb (TT34), which is near the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, is one of the largest burial places built for a nobleman at Thebes. It has more than fifty rooms and is famous for the quality and style of the reliefs on its walls. These carvings have an “archaizing” style which harkens back to the art work from as far back as the Old Kingdom, but contains touches that reflect the art of the 25th and 26th Dynasties. Note, for instance, the unusual portrayal of the scribe in the picture above, which harkens back to Old Kingdom art, but yet the scribe’s seating is shown like nothing in Old Kingdom art. Other examples of archaizing in this tomb include a relief of a woman nursing a child that was copied from TT69, the tomb of Menena.

Several reliefs from this tomb are (like the one pictured above) are in the Brooklyn Museum.

Logo curtesy of Christian Casey – All content Copyright (c) 2020 by ARCE/NY

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