Tomb of Akhethetep
The Tomb of Akhethetep (French: Mastaba d'Akhethétep), also Tomb or Mastaba of Akhethotep, is a tomb complex that was built and completed at different times in Saqqarah, Giza, Egypt. It is the tomb of Akhethotep, a royal official, located near the western part of the Step Pyramid in Saqqara. Akhethotep and his son Ptahhotep Tjefi, grandson of Ptahhotep, were senior court officials during the rules of Djedkare (2414-2375 BC) and Unas (Wenis), towards the end of the 5th dynasty (2494 to 2345 BC).
The tomb was discovered in 1903 by Georges Aaron Bénédite and two female colleagues, Miss Petrie and Miss Murray. Akhethotep was a high dignitary of Ancient Egypt who lived during the Fifth Dynasty around 2400 BC and directed its construction initially. He was a son of Peseshet. Bénédite excavated the tomb and reassembled it in the Louvre in Paris. One of the depictions on the wall of the tomb was Akhethotep directing the building of the tomb.
A sketch plan dated 1940 prepared by Abd El-Salam Mohammed Hussein, architect of the Department of Antiquities, based on his explorations near the causeway of King Unas, shows a group of tombs located about 190–220 metres (620–720 ft) away from the pyramid of Unas, which among others included the tomb of Akhethotep. The tombs were found in a depression about 10 metres (33 ft) below a wall that protected the causeway.
Akhethotep, son of the first Ptahhotep, who served as the court official, was a third generation of his family serving the kings. He named his son as Ptahhotep Tjefi who also became a vizier. While the first Ptahhotep's tomb is also in Saqqara, his son’s and grandson’s tomb adjoin each other, as a complex, as the tomb of Akhethetep and its annexe; Ptahhotep Tjefi is credited with having authored the Deir el-Madina Maxims on a papyrus manuscript. Akhethotep held the positions of “vizier, judge, supervisor of pyramid cities and supervisor of priests.” His son Ptahhotep, who inherited all the titles and the tomb, was also buried in the tomb in an annex wing adjoining his father’s tomb. This tomb on the southern side of the causeway is a combined mastaba comprising two burial chambers, two chapels and a pillared hall. When the tomb was located during archaeological explorations they were in a good state of preservation undisturbed by human vandalism. It was dated as not later than the 5th Dynasty vintage. In 1903, the funerary chapel of the tomb was relocated in the Louvre under the direction of Georges Benedite, the Curator of the Egyptian Department of the Museum, after it was bought from the Government of Egypt. The reassembled chapel in the Louvre is a structure of limestone blocks with bas relief that also recreates the monument as it existed originally.)
Archaeologists, notably Christiane Ziegler, Jean-Pierre Adam and Guillemette Andreu-Lanoë, have identified over eight years (1991-1999) that the tomb was 32 metres (105 ft) long, 16.1 metres (53 ft) in width, respectively about 60 and 30 Egyptian cubits, 5.92 metres (19.4 ft) high present; the initial height can be estimated at approximately 6.4 metres (21 ft).
The mastaba is accessed through a narrow gate topped by a scroll on which is inscribed the name of the owner. The doorway is decorated in relief with a noteworthy scene of Akhethotep transporting statues to the tomb. The interior forms a small rectangular room whose left wall is pierced by a day that was formerly the tomb which contained the statues of the deceased. Akhethotep's body was buried in a subterranean vault at the end of a shaft. Excavations of the limestone chapel above it have found items which were used in offerings to Akhethotep, from offering tables and statues and the remains of the sacrament funeral in the crypt among which include a canopic jar with a limestone cover plate. It is highly decorated with bas reliefs, illustrating much about the life of Akhethetep on his country estate and feasts with live entertainment. The visitors would come to offer food and drink to his spirit, and recite texts to him, which would provide him with a flourishing afterlife. Among the noteworthy statues found in the vicinity of the chapel of the mastaba, is that of a man standing, probably Akhethotep, wearing a priestly garb wearing a panther skin and the insignia of the goddess Bat. It was also determined that the mastaba was plundered in antiquity and many subsequent burials took place until the Late Period.
A subterranean vault at the end of a shaft contained Akhethotep's body. However, the chapel above the tomb was accessible. The west wall with a carved false door, was considered a symbolic representation of a gateway between the land of the living and the dead. Engravings also depicted incense offerings by Ptahhotep Tjefi to his father's statues. Evidences of sacrificial offerings, funerary meals and Akhethotep's estates were noted. On one stele Akhethotep is called " prophet of the Unas pyramid Nefer asut" ; but on the other he is "prophet of the Unas pyramid Asut asutt".
The back wall is occupied by two high false door stelae mimicking the facade of the royal palace. The set was painted in bright colors that imitate wood and fabrics adorning the double door. Other walls show classic domestic scenes of life in 2400 BC, such as farm work, hunting in the marshes (including hippopotamus and fish, or the funeral of Akhethotep, meals and festivities and metaphorical images of boating down a river which allude both to his journeys in real life, and to his voyage on the waters of the dead which were to accompany him forever, on the serdab wall.
During the refurbishments of the halls of the Louvre in 1985, it was analysed further and restored. The analysis helped to highlight the technical characteristics that distinguish the wall of the false door from the other three walls. The wall of the false door is mainly composed of large slabs of stone, regular shape and symmetrical, surmounted by a series of smaller blocks. The other walls are conceptually different, the blocks are irregular, the most massive stones are placed on the ground, as bedrock.
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