Recent archaeological research in the Unas South Cemetery: On the accidental discovery of a New Kingdom tomb

The modern investigation of the late Eighteenth Dynasty tomb subsequently identified as belonging to Ry,1 Chief of Bowmen and Overseer of Horses, started in 2002. At the time a joint archaeological mission between Leiden University and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, the project was focused on the underground burial spaces of the late Eighteenth Dynasty tomb of Meryneith (Fig. 1, 2). This monument is situated in the south sector of the Unas South Cemetery at Saqqara. The underground burial spaces of Meryneith connected to a complex of corridors and chambers of a Second Dynasty tomb. It provided the excavators access to a further maze of underground passages cut into the rock during various periods of Egyptian history. From one such passage the excavators entered burial chambers dating to the New Kingdom, situated south of Meryneith (feature no. 2002/17).2 It was suggested that these underground chambers were connected to the remains of a mud-brick chapel located in an area due east of the tomb built by Pay and his son17-18 Raia. Parts of that chapel had been seen protruding from the desert sand when the former joint mission of the Egypt Exploration Society and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden worked there in 1994 (Fig. 3).3 At the time, it was decided not to further excavate the chapel. As a result of that decision, the chapel gradually disappeared under the sand.

The burial chamber in underground complex 2002/17 was fully excavated in 2002. Originally it would have been entered through a tomb shaft which led into an antechamber. A descending stairway then gave access to the burial chamber.4 The latter space yielded no inscriptional evidence to identify the original tomb owner. Instead, the excavators found a 20-cm-thick layer of dark fill at floor level. It contained New Kingdom pottery, decayed wood, glass beads, and flakes of gold leaf.5 There were also several fragments of loose relief-decorated blocks that had fallen down the burial shaft at some time. Some of these blocks had been subsequently brought into the subterranean spaces to be reused in secondary burials. The blocks included one specimen inscribed for a Ramesside official named Mery-Iunu.6 Another block was shown to derive from the nearby tomb of Tia, the brother-in-law of Ramesses II.7 The pottery collected from the dark fill at floor level in the burial chamber was dated to the Eighteenth Dynasty.8

The tomb of Ry in its spatial context. Images: Google Earth 2018, adapted by the author.

Map showing the location of New Kingdom tombs in the south section of the Unas South Cemetery, Leiden-Turin concession area, 2019. The tombs coloured in blue are of late Eighteenth Dynasty date; those coloured in red date to the Ramesside period. Image by Nico Staring, after tomb plans by Kenneth Frazer, Willem Beex, Annelies Bleeker, Pieter Collet, and Paolo Del Vesco.

View of the tomb of Pay and Raia at the end of the EES-Leiden excavation season of 1994, looking south-east. The arrow indicates the mud-brick remains of a tomb chapel in front of the forecourt built by Raia. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, adapted by Nico Staring.

Observations on the architecture of the tomb

The area of the cemetery situated south of the tomb of Meryneith and east of Pay and Raia was not excavated until 2013. During a short season of fieldwork, the perimeter walls of a mud-brick superstructure were cleared from the sand.9 In the next fieldwork season, in 2015, the tomb shaft was cleared and the underground complex 2002/17 once again entered.10 The fill of the shaft (consisting of sand and debris) did not yield evidence to identify the tomb owner. Therefore, the anonymous structure was henceforth referred to in the literature as “tomb X”.

The east-west oriented superstructure built of mud bricks consists of a gateway, an open courtyard, and a single cult chapel to the west (Figs. 4–7). The south wall of the courtyard is formed by the pre-existing north exterior wall of Ry’s presumed neighbour to18-21 the south. The east and west walls of the tomb are not bonded with this pre-existing wall.11 The overall layout of Ry’s tomb is somewhat asymmetrical. The tomb entrance, burial shaft and west chapel are aligned, but the entrance to the cult chapel is not situated in the centre of the courtyard’s west wall. The walls of the courtyard are not bonded with the walls of the chapel, which might indicate that the courtyard was built sometime after the chapel. At an even later stage, a north-south-oriented “porch” was added to the east gateway.12 This annex delimited by an L-shaped wall, clearly not part of the tomb’s original design, is broadest in front of the tomb entrance. The narrower north extension has a mud-brick floor which descends from an elevated exterior surface.13 The single cult chapel in the west part of the tomb may seem to be unusual when compared to the similarly-sized tomb structures located in the same section of the necropolis.14 Indeed, most of the tombs excavated to date have three chapels. The layout of the tomb of Ry, however, is comparable to that of the nearby tomb of Iniuia (temp. Akhenaten-Tutankhamun), which comprises an open court and a main chapel to the west (as well as a second, vaulted chapel in the northwest corner).15 There are numerous other examples of tombs comprising a single chapel with a forecourt in the Teti Pyramid Cemetery; it should be noted, however, that they are considerably smaller.16

The tomb superstructure measures ca. 17 m in length (including the annex) and ca. 11 m in width. A large, rectangular tomb shaft off the centre of the courtyard gives access to the subterranean complex, which is situated at a depth of ca. 8 m. One of the shaft’s covering slabs was found in its original position. The courtyard provides traces of a rubble floor and the interior walls were originally plastered. Limestone floor slabs and limestone revetment of interior walls are limited to the entrance doorway and the cult chapel; these are the only parts of the tomb bearing a relief decoration.17 Stone bases originally supporting stelae are preserved on either side of the entrance to the west chapel. A remarkable feature connected to (and partly built over) them is low enclosures built of mud bricks.18 These features, excavated in 2015, contained a large amount22 of broken offering pottery dating to the late Eighteenth Dynasty.19 It included red funnel-necked jars and blue-painted ovoid jars. Their contents suggest that the platforms served as repositories for used offering pottery. Additional examples of such offering pottery from the Ramesside period was found at floor level in the tomb courtyard.20

The cult chapel is accessed through a 1.0 m-wide doorway in the courtyard’s west wall.21 A raised sill lies across the entrance and a pivot hole for a wooden door is situated on the north side of the doorway. The chapel walls were preserved to a height of ca. 1.3 m. Their original height would probably have been in the range of ca. 1.5–2.0 m.22 The architectural layout includes an antechapel, 2.0 m deep and 2.28 m wide, and a narrower inner sanctuary, ca. 0.9 m deep and 1.25 m wide. The chapel’s west wall had a thickness of ca. 1.7 m. The inner chapel’s thick walls, the now-missing lintel, the screen walls and the stone revetment presumably supported the roofing slabs upon which a mud-brick pyramid once stood.23 The thick walls surrounding the inner chapel may indicate that this pyramid only stood over the central chapel.

Fig. 4

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The tomb of Ry, photographed at the end of the 2013 excavation season, looking northwest. Photo by Nico Staring.

The tomb of Ry, photographed at the end of the 2013 excavation season, looking northeast. The southwest corner of the chapel (visible in the foreground) had been completely removed, possibly in the 1820s, and was reconstructed in 2013. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden/Anneke de Kemp.

Plan of the late Eighteenth Dynasty tomb superstructure and substructure of Ry and of the anonymous Ramesside chapel, feature 2013/7. Photo by Nico Staring.

Aerial view of the tomb of Ry in 2019, showing the situation after restoration, consolidation, and backfilling of the structure. Orthophoto by 3D Survey Group, Department ABC, Politecnico di Milano/Leiden-Turin Expedition to Saqqara.

Iconographic programme and texts

The interior of the chapel originally had a limestone revetment bearing relief-decoration (Fig. 8). Fragments of four relief-decorated blocks were found in situ. Setting lines scratched into the limestone pavement point to the former presence of blocks that are now missing. None of the loose blocks found during the excavation could be assigned to the tomb with any certainty. More recently, a study conducted by the present author showed that two of the in-situ blocks were the keys to unlocking the identity of the tomb owner.24 The fragments on the north wall of the inner chapel and on the north wall of the antechapel show traces of depictions of offering bearers, which joined directly with depictions on blocks held in the collection of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. This allowed the tomb owner to be identified, and to trace to the tomb further stone architectural elements held in various museums worldwide. The complete list of elements attributed to the tomb of Ry is given in Table 1.25

Table 1

Stone tomb elements deriving from the tomb of Ry at Saqqara.

I. Reliefs
I.1 Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung ÄM 7275
I.2 Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung ÄM 7277
I.3 Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung ÄM 7278
I.4 Brooklyn Museum 37.39E
I.5 Jerusalem, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum CTS-SB-06202
I.6 Saqqara R94-78
I.7 Saqqara 2013-R35
II. Stelae
II.1 Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung ÄM 7290
II.2 Brooklyn Museum 37.46E
III. Architectural elements
III.1 Cairo, Egyptian Museum JE 14975 (pyramidion)

Below is a description of the decoration programme of the tomb of Ry. The numbering of scenes starts in the courtyard and continues clockwise along the chapel walls. This article comprises primarily a study of the iconography and the architectural layout of the tomb. For this reason, I will limit myself in the treatment of the hieroglyphic texts. These are mostly dealt with elsewhere, and therefore a translation will suffice here. An exception is made for block Berlin ÄM 7278, because it bears a unique example of an excerpt from a Book of the Dead spell. The spell’s relationship with the tomb’s overall iconographic programme and architectural space unit are the subject of further study in this article.23

A reconstruction of the iconographic programme of Ry’s tomb chapel. Image by Nico Staring.

[1] Courtyard, west wall, south jamb of antechapel entrance: Stela Brooklyn Museum 37.46E (Fig. 9)

Limestone.H. 111.5 cm, W. 85 cm, Th. 14.5 cm.26Bibliography: NYHS, 1915, p. 2, no. 14; Fründt, FuB 3/2 (1961), p. 31; Stewart, BIA 6 (1966), pp. 54, 57, nos. IV, VI; Assmann, Liturgische Lieder, 1969, pp. 300, 376 (text III.3); James, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, 1974, pp. 178–79 [435], pl. 87.

Stela Brooklyn Museum 37.46E. Scan of a photograph held in The Martin New Kingdom Archive. ©Brooklyn Museum.

Description

Fragment Brooklyn 37.46E is the lower part of a stela bearing fourteen lines of hieroglyphic text. Its contents are identified as three hymns to the sun god.27 In view of the orientation of the hieroglyphic signs, the stela stood against the south jamb of the doorway. As such, the individual signs faced towards the entrance.

Text

[May the ba of the Chief of Bowmen, Ry, go out with you to the sky.] [1] May he set sail in the Day Bark, may he moor in the Night Bark, may he join the unwearying stars [2] in the sky. The Osiris, Chief of Bowmen, Ry, true of voice, he says as he praises the Lord of Eternity: “Hail to you, Re-Horakhty [3] this Khepri who created himself. How beautiful is your rising in the horizon when you illuminate the Two Lands with your rays! [4] All the gods are in jubilation when they see you as the king of heaven. The Lady of Wenut is fixed on your head, [5] the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt are on your brow. She has taken her place at your forehead. Thoth is established in the bow of your bark to [6] destroy all your enemies. Those who are in the Netherworld come forth at your approach to see this [7] perfect image of yours. I have come to you (because I want to be) with you so that I may see your body at beholding your perfection like all your praised ones, [8] because I am one of those who were honoured by you on earth. I have reached the land of perpetuity, I have joined [9] the place of eternity (for) you allotted it to me, my lord.” To the ka of the Osiris, the Chief of Bowmen, Ry, true of voice, he says: “Hail [10] to you, as you rise in your horizon as Re, (one) satisfied with Maat. When you cross the sky, all faces [11] are looking at you (although) your movements are hidden from their sight. When you show yourself in the morning every day, firm is the course under [12] Your Majesty. Your rays are in their faces (although) they do not know you. (Even) fine gold is not like your splendour. The lands of the gods [13] about which one sees (i.e. reads) in writings, and the mountainous regions of Punt can inspect you while you are (still) hidden. You created (yourself) alone (as if) your manifestation was Nun. [14] May you grant a sweet breeze of the north wind to the ka of the Noble and Count, Seal Bearer of the King of Lower Egypt, Sole Companion, Sab of the Army, Chief of Bowmen, Ry, true of voice.”

Notes on Text and Translation

Stelae carrying hymns to the sun god are not uncommon at Saqqara and these texts have received considerable scholarly attention.28 Yet there is one aspect that I would like to draw more attention to. Three tombs situated in the same general area of the necropolis contained a total of four stelae offering close parallels to the hymns carved on the stela of Ry. These parallels are presented in Table 2. It should be noted that only stela JE 10079 of Iniuia is preserved in its entirety.24

Table 2

Parallels for the sun hymns on stela Brooklyn 37.46E as attested in the tombs surrounding Ry in the Unas South Cemetery.

Saqqara parallels
Ry: Brooklyn 37.46E Lines Stela Tomb owner Title of office
Line x+1 to x+8 5 to 12 Saqqara29 Iniuia im.y-rA pr wr |im.y-rA iH.w n.w Imn
line x+9 to x+13 2 to 7 Cairo JE 1007930 Iniuia
line x+1 to x+12/13 3 to 10 Saqqara + MMA 04.2.52731 Pay im.y-rA ip.t nsw.t n Mn-nfr | im.y-rA iH.w n.w Imn
line x+5 to x+12/13 x+1 to x+8 Vatican 25132 Ptahmose im.y-rA ip.t nsw.t

The two stelae of Iniuia originally stood in the open courtyard of the tomb, on either side of the entrance to the antechapel. Stela JE 10079 stood on a limestone base set against the north jamb of the entrance. The lunette depicts a double adoration scene of Iniuia standing with his hands raised in adoration before Atum (on the right) and Re-Horakhty (on the left). The main body of the stela includes a hieroglyphic text in twelve lines.

The second stela of Iniuia is reconstructed from 20 stone fragments recovered during excavation. The stela originally stood against the south jamb of the antechapel entrance. From the fragments, twelve lines of hieroglyphic text can be reconstructed. The right-hand side of the lunette preserves a scene of Iniuia standing in adoration before Re-Horakhty.

The stela of Pay was also found in pieces during excavation. The hymn is composed of 21 lines of hieroglyphic text. The individual signs of the hieroglyphic texts carved on tomb walls, door jambs, and stelae are usually oriented towards the central axis of the tomb. Thus, in view of the orientation of the individual signs, which are facing right, the stela stood against the south jamb of the antechapel entrance.33 As such, the hieroglyphic signs faced the doorway. The lunette fragments show Pay standing with his hands raised in adoration before Re-Horakhty (on the left-hand side). The legs of another deity adored by Pay are visible on the right-hand side.

The tomb of Ptahmose, Overseer of the King’s Apartments, is lost. In view of the official’s title of office, the tomb was likely situated in the same general area of the necropolis. This is where a number of “harem” officials were buried. Only the lower part of Ptahmose’s stela is preserved. It contains nine lines of hieroglyphic text. At the bottom, Ptahmose and his mother, Ruy, are depicted kneeling in adoration. Their images face one another, and they are separated by seven columns of text.

Drawing together the information recorded on the stelae just listed, it is clear that both the texts and lunette decoration focus on the rising and the setting of the sun. It is likely, therefore, that the now-missing upper part of the stela of Ry also bore a double adoration scene. It would have depicted Ry standing with his hands raised in adoration before Atum and Re-Horakhty.

[2] Entrance doorway, south reveal: In situ (Fig. 10)

LimestoneH. 66 cm, W. 47 cmBibliography: Unpublished.

Tomb of Ry, entrance doorway, south reveal: relief-decorated revetment block found in situ. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden/Anneke de Kemp.

Description

Two joining fragments of a block carved in raised relief. Above the 32 cm-high undecorated dado is the lowermost part of a scene depicting a lion-legged chair, possibly accommodating the tomb owner. The heel of the seated figure is visible atop the footrest on the left-hand side. Underneath the chair, a woman or young girl is shown seated on a low, round-legged and latticed stool with a seat cushion.34 She wears a plain dress, rests her left hand on her knee and raises her right hand, possibly to sniff a lotus flower.3525

[3] Antechapel, south wall: Block Saqqara R94-78 (Figs. 11, 12)

LimestoneH. 110 cm (scene: 44.5 cm), W. 95 cm, Th. 13 cm.Bibliography: Raven, Pay and Raia, 2005, pp. 47–48, scene [76], pls. 78, 82; Staring, Saqqara Newsletter 16 (2018), pp. 40–41, fig. 9; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019), fig. on p. 45.

Relief-decorated blocks R94-78. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, adapted by Nico Staring.

Relief-decorated blocks R94-78 as found by the EES-Leiden expedition in the sand immediately south of the chapel of the tomb of Ry. The forecourt of Raia is to the left. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden.

Description

The antechapel south wall can be partially reconstructed from three joining fragments found by the EES/Leiden mission in 1994. The damaged block was recovered from the clean sand due east of the outer courtyard constructed by Raia (Fig. 12). We now know that the location where they were found corresponds to the southwest corner of the chapel of Ry. None of the recovered fragments bear traces of text, yet on account of the relief’s style and iconography, the wall space available in the chapel, and the26 find spot, there can be little doubt that the block derives from the tomb of Ry. The iconography mirrors the scene on the opposite north wall of the antechapel. Regarding the style, one could point to the garment worn by the offering bearer in scene [3]. It is of the same type worn by the officiant in scene [9] and by Ry in scene [7]. A line of plaster along the right-hand edge of block R94-78 indicates that another slab once abutted it. That block must have depicted the striding tomb owner. One of his feet is visible on the head-end of scene [4], block Berlin ÄM 7277.

The scene is carved in sunk relief and centres on a couple in front of an offering table, facing left. The man is seated on a low-backed chair with a monkey depicted underneath. The woman stands behind the chair. She has her right arm folded over her chest.36 Two offering bearers approach the couple from the left. The male figure presents a bundle of three stalks of papyrus and a bouquet of flowers. The female offering-bearer brings various items: a bowl with three pointed loaves in one upheld hand, and a bunch of pomegranates and grapes in the other.

[4] Antechapel, south end of west wall: Block Berlin ÄM 7277 (Fig. 13a)

LimestoneH. 42.5 cm, W. 11.5 cmBibliography: Martin, Corpus of Reliefs, 1987, pp. 21–22, [43], pl. 16; Staring, Saqqara Newsletter 16 (2018), p. 37, fig. 6; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019), fig. on p. 43, bottom right.

Fig. 13a

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Tomb of Ry, inner sanctuary, south wall: relief-decorated block Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum ÄM 7277. Photo ©SMB Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/Sandra Steiß.

Description

This is the head-end of scene [5]. It depicts the lower part of the front leg of a striding male, the tomb owner, facing right (north). He wears a long, plain garment and sandals. This scene mirrors that in [8].

[5] Inner sanctuary, south wall: Block Berlin ÄM 7277 (Fig. 13b)

LimestoneH. 42.5 cm, w. 110.5 cm, Th. 12 cmBibliography: Passalacqua, Catalogue raisonné, 1826, p. 73 [1406]; Martin, Corpus of Reliefs, 1987, pp. 21–22, [43], pl. 16; Staring, Saqqara Newsletter 16 (2018), figs. 5–6; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019), fig. on p. 43.

Fig. 13b

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Tomb of Ry, inner sanctuary, south wall: relief-decorated block Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum ÄM 7277. Photo ©SMB Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/Sandra Steiß.

Description

The setting lines in the floor of the central chapel are indicative of the former presence of relief-decorated block Berlin ÄM 7277.37 The scene is carved in sunk relief. It is framed by a register line along the bottom and top edges. A vertically carved block frieze frames it along the left end. The scene depicts seven male27 offering-bearers proceeding towards the right (west). Two men wear a wig, the others have shaved heads. One man cradles a crane and another leads a bull calf. Others bring flower bouquets and flowering papyrus stalks. The second offering bearer on the right supports with both hands a bowl on his right shoulder, filled with food offerings.38 Six offering bearers wear pleated sash kilts. The kilt of the man on the right-hand side is plain. This scene mirrors that depicted on the chapel’s north wall, scene [7].

[6] Inner sanctuary, west wall: Stela Berlin ÄM 7290 (Fig. 14)

LimestoneH. 157 cm, W. 94.5 cm, Th. 18 cmBibliography: Erman, Ausführliches Verzeichnis, 1899, pp. 163–64; Roeder, Ägyptische Inschriften 2, 1924, pp. 182–84; Herzberg, in Kampp-Seyfried and Jung (eds.), China und Ägypten, 2017, pp. 198–99, fig. III.20; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019,) fig. on p. 45.

Tomb of Ry, inner sanctuary, west wall: stela Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum ÄM 7290. Photo ©SMB Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/ Ingrid Geske.

Description

The west wall of the inner sanctuary accommodated the stela cut from a single block of limestone, which is presently held in Berlin. The rectangular stela sits on a low base and is framed by a torus. The protruding lintel and jambs are inscribed with two28 offering formulas set in framed lines and columns. In the centre, the lintel contains a mirrored image of the recumbent jackal god Anubis atop a shrine. Both images are adored by the kneeling couple Ry and Maia. The recessed central area of the stela is divided into three parts. They are two superimposed registers with scenes and a lower section comprising four lines of hieroglyphic text. The scene in the upper register is carved in raised relief, the one in the lower register in sunk relief.39

In the upper register, Ry and Maia are depicted standing, facing right, raising both hands in adoration before Osiris. Ry wears a layered wig and an elaborate garment consisting of a bag tunic and pointed apron. The pleated, wrap-around sash kilt is executed in a peculiar manner, shaped in a semi-circle pointed backwards.40 Ry wears the two-row shebyu collar, the Gold of Honour, around his neck.41 Maia is depicted as much shorter than her husband. The top of her head is level with Ry’s shoulders. She wears an ankle-length pleated dress and a perfume cone atop her elaborately braided wig. A short inscription in six framed columns is incised above the couple.

Osiris, accompanied by his imiut symbol, is depicted seated on a low-backed throne under a canopy. The latter is lined along the top with cobras supporting sun disks. The mummiform god wears the atef crown and holds his distinctive regalia.42 The goddesses Isis and Nephthys are standing behind (or rather, beside) Osiris. The signs for their names are situated atop their heads. Short framed and unframed texts in raised relief identify the three gods by name.

The deceased couple and Osiris are separated by an offering stand supporting a nemset jar and lotus flower oriented towards the god.

The scene in the lower register is exceptional.43 It shows a mirrored representation of the deceased couple Ry and Maia sitting vis-à-vis at a single offering table covered with slices of bread. They are unaccompanied by offering bearers – at least as far as the stela is concerned. The stela decoration should clearly be viewed in the broader context of the chapel’s decorative programme. The bearers bringing the offerings to the seated couples are depicted not on the stela, but on the abutting north and south walls of the inner chapel.

The deceased couple are seated on lion-legged chairs and their feet are positioned on foot rests. Underneath Maia’s chair in the right-hand image is an oil jar. Ry and Maia wear elaborate, long garments. Perfume cones are positioned atop Maia’s wig. In the left-hand image, Ry holds a short sekhem sceptre in combination with a “lettuce” sceptre and folded napkin in his right hand. He extends his left hand over the offering table. In the right-hand image, it is his right hand which he extends over the offering table. The sekhem sceptre and folded napkin are held in his left hand. Note that in the left image the cloth is represented in front view (hanging down straight), and in the right image it is represented in side view (hanging down over the knees).44 In both scenes, Maia embraces her husband. Each image of the deceased couple carries an offering formula set in framed columns.

The lower part of the stela contains four lines of incised hieroglyphs, encompassing one elaborate offering formula.29

Stela Berlin ÄM 7290: distribution of texts.

Translation of the texts(→) [1.1] Anubis [who is in the place of embalming] (and) who is on [his] mountain.

(→) [1.2] An offering which the king gives to Osiris, Foremost of the West, Lord of Busiris, Sovereign, King of Gods of the Underworld, may he grant that (I) may go out as a living ba to see the sun when it rises in the horizon, that (I) may not be warded off or held back, to see your body at the sight of your beauty, for the ka of the one praised by the Perfect God (i.e. the king), Chief of Bowmen , Ry, true of voice.

(←) [2.1] [No legible traces of hieroglyphic inscription preserved.]

(←) [2.2] [An offering which the king gives to ? and Re-] (←↓) Hor[-akhty], Lord of ///, may they grant a sweet breeze of the north wind, that (I) may drink water from the river, that (I) may go forth by day as a Follower of Horus to see Re as he rises every day, for the ka of the one praised by the Perfect God (i.e. the king), the Chief of Bowmen, Overseer of Horses, Ry, true of voice.

(↓→) [3.1] [1] Adoring Osiris, Foremost of the West, [Great] God, [2] Lord of the Sacred Land, may he grant entering [and leaving] the necropolis [3] [for] the one praised by the Perfect God, True <Scribe> whom he loves, Chief of Bowmen, [4] Overseer of Horses, Ry, true of voice, [5] (and) his sister (i.e. wife), Lady of the House, Songstress of Amun, Maia, [6] true of voice.

(←) [3.2] [1] Osiris Ruler of Eternity. [2] Isis the Great, mother of the god. [3] Nephthys who resides in the west.

(↓→) [4.1] [1] An offering which the king gives to Isis the Great, mother of the god, [2] may she grant all that comes forth [3] upon the offering table for the ka of the Chief of Bowmen, [4] (→) Ry, [5] (and) his sister (i.e. wife), the Lady of the House, [5] Maia.

(←↓) [4.2] [1] An offering which the king gives to Osiris, Foremost of the West, [2] may he grant an invocation offering of bread, beer, incense and libation [3] for the ka of the Chief of Bowmen, Overseer of Horses, [4] (←) Ry, [5] and his sister (i.e. wife), the Lady of the [6] House, Maia.

(→) [5] [1] An offering which the king gives to Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, Foremost of Rosetau, who is in the Place of Embalming, Lord of the Necropolis, it is Isis together with Nephthys, may they grant 1000 of bread, beer, oxen, fowl, [2] libation, wine, milk, alabaster, linen, incense, ointment, all fresh (plant-)offers, and all good and pure things from which a god lives, that which the sky gives, that which [3] the Nile brings forth from its source, sailing upstream and downstream in the Field of Rushes, going forth by day as a follower [4] of Horus in order to see Re as he rises, for the ka of the one praised by the Perfect God (i.e. the king), one loved by the Lord of the Two Lands on account of his character, the Chief of Bowmen, Overseer of Horses, Ry.

[7] Inner sanctuary, north wall: In situ + Block Berlin ÄM 7275 (Fig. 16)

LimestoneIn situ: H. 73 cm, W. 16.5 cm; ÄM 7275: H. 132 cm, W. 92 cm, Th. 13.5 cm.Bibliography: Passalacqua, Catalogue raisonné, 1826, pp. 55–56, 73 [1378]; Roeder, Ägyptische Inschriften 2, 1924, p. 198; Fründt, FuB 3/2 (1961), fig. 2; Hofmann, Bilder im Wandel, 2004, fig. 120; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019), fig. on p. 44.30

Tomb of Ry, inner sanctuary, north wall: relief-decorated block Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum ÄM 7275 and revetment block found in situ. Photos ©SMB Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/Jürgen Liepe; Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden/Anneke de Kemp. Digitally joined by Nico Staring.

Description

The block found in situ is the head-end of block [8]. It preserves traces of scenes in two superimposed registers, carved in sunk relief. The left end joins block Berlin ÄM 7275. The two blocks account for the total width of the wall, measuring 127 cm. The block in situ preserves traces of colour, whereas all traces of colour have vanished from the Berlin block. A band of yellow and red colours decorate the dado. The horizontal red band is situated at the same level as the one on the antechapel walls.

The upper register depicts the deceased couple Ry and Maia standing before the god Re-Horakhty. Both raise one hand in adoration (Ry, left hand; Maia, right hand), and hold three papyrus stalks in the other. Ry wears a plain, layered wig and an elaborate garment consisting of a bag tunic and a pleated wrap-around sash kilt goffered in front.45 It is worn in combination with a pointed apron. Over his tunic, Ry wears a plain collar and a two-row shebyu, or Gold of Honour. Only half of Maia’s posture is preserved on the Berlin block.

The lower end of her dress is just visible on the block found in situ. It is not clear what type of wig she is wearing. Only a lotus flower with a closed bud is visible hanging down on her forehead. Her plain dress reaches to the ankles and the contour lines of her body are visible underneath. The carved remains of seven framed columns of hieroglyphic text are situated above the couple’s heads.

Re-Horakhty is represented in his falcon-headed anthropomorphic form. A sun disk encircled by a cobra is placed atop his head. In his left hand he clasps a was sceptre and in his right hand he holds an ankh sign. The god stands under a canopy. The latter structure is placed on a raised pedestal shaped as the hieroglyph for maat. A single framed column of text identifies the god.

An offering stand supporting a nemset jar separates Re-Horakhty and the deceased couple. Two lotus flowers, one with a closed, the other with an open bud, are laid across the jar, facing towards the god.

The lower register depicts seven male offering bearers, facing left. All wear sash kilts, and some wear wigs while others’ heads are shaved. They bring forth assorted items, including live animals – a bull calf and a gazelle –, fowl, a vessel, dishes with bread, papyrus, and lotus stalks, and a bouquet of flowers. A framed column of hieroglyphic text identifies the offering bearer leading the group as the servant (sDm-aS) Ka. The register line under the scene is unfinished.

Translation of the texts

In front of Re-Horakhty:[Re-Horakhty], Great God, Lord of the Sky.

Over Ry and Maia:[1] /// created [2] /// ?? [3] /// the Heliopolitan, adoring [4] your appearances?? [5] /// you go to rest in [6] /// ?? [7] [R]y

The leading offering bearer: The servant Ka

[8] Antechapel, west wall, north part: In situ (Fig. 17)

LimestoneH. 76 cm, W. 48 cm.Bibliography: Raven, Saqqara Newsletter 11 (2013), figs. 5–6.31

Tomb of Ry, antechapel, west wall, north part: relief-decorated revetment block found in situ. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden/Anneke de Kemp.

Block depicting the lower part of a man, the tomb owner, facing left (south). He wears a plain garment and sandals. A horizontal band coloured red–yellow–red runs below the scene, carrying over from the abutting antechapel north wall. This scene mirrors scene [4].

[9] Antechapel, north wall: In situ + blocks Berlin ÄM 7278 + fragment SAK 2013-R35 (Figs. 18, 19)

LimestoneIn situ: H. 94 cm, W. 31.5; ÄM 7278, right block: H. 89.5 cm, W. 86 cm, Th. 14.5 cm; ÄM 7278, left block: H. 96.7 cm, W. 80.5 cm, Th. 14.5 cm; + fragment SAK 2013-R35: H. 25.5 cm, W. 17.3 cm; Th. 11 cmBibliography: Passalacqua, Catalogue raisonné, 1826, p. 72–73 [1405]; Roeder, Ägyptische Inschriften 2, 1924, p. 181; Fründt, FuB 3/2 (1961), fig. 1; Martin, Corpus of Reliefs, 1987, pp. 20–21 [42], pl. 15, front and back cover; Martin, Hidden Tombs, 1991, fig. 122; Raven et al., JEOL 44 (2012–13), p. 44, fig. 8 (left); Staring, Saqqara Newsletter 16 (2018), fig. 8; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019), fig. on p. 44.

Tomb of Ry, antechapel, north wall: relief-decorated block Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum ÄM 7278, fragment SAK 2013-R35, and revetment block found in situ. Photos ©SMB Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/Jürgen Liepe; Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden/Anneke de Kemp. Digitally joined by Nico Staring.

Tomb of Ry, antechapel, north wall: relief-decorated block Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum ÄM 7278, recontextualised. Photos, respectively, ©SMB Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/Jürgen Liepe and ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden/ Anneke de Kemp. Digitally joined by Nico Staring.

Description

A single relief-decorated revetment block was found in situ, positioned perpendicular to the block bearing scene [10]. On the left-hand side it joins Berlin ÄM 7278.46 A small relief-decorated fragment found during excavation (reused in the dry-stone wall built around the tomb shaft, possibly in conjunction with the early exploration of the tomb in the 1820s) joins the Berlin block on the upper left-hand side. The joined blocks account for the full width of this wall, measuring 198 cm. The single scene is carved in sunk relief and preserves ample traces of colour. The wall surface between the scene and the undecorated dado bears a horizontal band of alternating colours, red–yellow–red. The joining Berlin blocks preserve only part of this decorative band. It stands to reason that at some point in time after their removal from the tomb wall excess stone was sawn off from the blocks’ lower edge.

The scene is bordered along the lower edge by a register line and on the right and left-hand edges by a vertical block frieze. It depicts an offering and purification scene centred around the tomb owner and his wife. A group of five individuals approach the seated couple Ry and Maia from the right. The scene is a continuation of that featuring offering bearers depicted on the adjacent east wall, although the latter are shown on a slightly smaller scale. The group of five individuals on the north wall is composed of two female and one male offering bearer and two male officiants. The anonymous offering bearers bring food offerings including a pintail duck and a bull calf, papyrus stalks, and a bouquet of flowers. Standing in front of them is the male officiant, a man with a shaved head, clad in a sash kilt and wearing a leopard skin over his shoulder and hanging down his back. He is acting as a priest. In his two upraised hands he holds a nemset jar from which he pours a libation of water. The water is represented by two wavy lines that extend over Ry and Maia.47 A single column of framed hieroglyphs identifies this man as the servant (sDm-aS) Ahanefer. The man standing in front of the well-stacked offering table is dressed in an elaborate garment, consisting of a bag tunic with outward flaring pleated “sleeves” and a pleated wrap-around sash kilt goffered in front.48 In his raised left hand he holds a long-armed censer in which incense is burning, in his raised right hand a nemset jar with a spout from which he pours a libation of water. A short hieroglyphic text set in a framed column identifies him as the stablemaster (Hr.y iH.w), Maia.

The recipients of the offerings and libations, Ry and Maia, are identified by their names and titles. The couple are seated on two distinct lion-legged chairs. A leashed monkey stands below (or rather, beside) Maia’s chair. The couple rest their feet on low footrests. Ry wears a composite garment, consisting of a bag tunic with outward flaring ample pleated “sleeves” and a “skirt” reaching to the ankles, in combination with a wrap-around sash kilt tied in front. The short end of the tied sash kilt is represented as a short “apron” with fringed ends. Over his tunic, Ry wears a broad collar, and a perfume cone is positioned atop his duplex wig. He extends his raised left arm towards the offering table and in his right hand he holds a folded cloth and sekhem sceptre. Maia wears an ankle-length pleated robe knotted below her breasts, over which she wears a broad collar. A lotus32-33 flower and perfume cone are positioned atop her elaborately braided wig. She embraces her husband with her left arm and her hand reappears on Ry’s chest. In her right hand she holds four lotus flowers, two with open, the other two with closed buds.49

A hieroglyphic text carved in seventeen framed columns is set above the offering table scene, starting in front of Ry’s face and extending all the way to the second officiant facing him. The wavy lines of water poured from the nemset jar cut through the text. From column 3 onwards, the text can be identified as an excerpted version of BD spell 149l.50 In view of the fact that not a single occurrence of this BD text has been identified in the wall decoration of a tomb in the Memphite necropolis so far, and in order to offer a possible explanation for the text’s relationship to the offering and purification scene, this text will be treated here in more detail.

Text and translationOver Maia:

[1] sn.t=f mr.t=f nb(.t) pr [2] Sma(.yt) (n.yt)a Imn-Ra [3] MaiA [4] mAa<.t>-xrw nb<.t> imAx [5] Htpb

[1] His sister (i.e. wife) whom he loves, Lady of the House (and) [2] Songstress of Amun-Re, [3] Maia, [4] Lady of reverence [5], in peace.

In front of Ry:

[1] Dd mdw in Wsir wt.wc Hr.y-pD.t im.y-rA ss[m.wt] [2] Ryd nTr-dwAye pr.w [3] m Ax.t I<n>pw tp.y Dw=f di=tn swA.n=i [4] rd.wy=i <n=i> D.tf xa.kw wsr.k- [5] -w m ir.t twy n.(y)t [6] 1r Ts sw [7] ib=i [m-]˹x˺.tg [bA]g=f [8] [Ax] ˹m p.t˺h ws- [9] [-r m] tA pAy=i [10] [m] ˹bik˺ gAgA=i [11] [m] ˹sm˺n rdi.w (?) n=i m- [12] -k(.t)=ii Hrj wa- [13] [-r].t n.t Si=i [14] [aHa.n=i] ˹Hr=s˺ Hms [15] [-.n=i] Hr=s <xa>k .kw m [16] [nTr] ˹wnm=i˺l m DfA.w n sx.t [17] Htp.wm

[1] Words spoken by the Osiris, the Embalmed One, Chief of Bowmen and Overseer of Horses, [2] Ry: “O Morning Star, who emerges [3] from the horizon, (and) Anubis who is on his mountain, may you grant that I walk, [4] my legs being mine forever, while I rise and am powerful [5] because of this Eye of [6] Horus who raises [7] my heart after it had weakened, [8] being a spirit-state in heaven and powerful [9] on earth. I fly up [10] as a falcon and I cackle [11] as a goose, to me has been given [12] my place in the district [13] of {my} lake. [14] I stand on it and I sit [15] on it, while appearing as a god. [16] I eat of the food of the Field [17] of Offerings.51

Officiant 1Hr.y iH.w MaiA mAa-xrwThe Stablemaster, Maia, true of voice.

Officiant 2sDm-aS aHa-nfrThe Servant, Ahanefer.

Notes on text and translation

a) The genitive adjective n appears to be graphically represented by the wavy line of water that cuts through the text.

b) One would expect the phrase to be written as imAx m Htp. However, these is no space available above the word Htp, because the top of the column divider is clearly visible. The inscription of scene [12] (Jerusalem, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum, inv. no. CTS-SB-06202) also omits the sign for m in nb imAx Htp.

c) I am not aware of any parallel, in this context, for the use of the expression.

d) The element y appears to be written with three strokes. However, the third “stroke” is more probably the result of damage which by accident looks like a stroke. I am not aware of a writing of the name with three strokes.

e) See BD 13=121 and 122b.

f) In a number of BD manuscripts it reads rd.wy=i n=i D.t, “my legs are mine for ever”. The author of the text in the tomb of Ry made changes to this passage so as to connect it to the verb swA, “to walk”, “pass”, which does not occur in the MS texts.5234

g) Parallels suggest the presence of m-x.t. I do not know how to interpret the square-shaped traces below ib=i. The square-shaped traces actually appear to be cut too deep to be part of the original hieroglyphic inscription, which suggests that the traces were introduced at a later stage, perhaps even after the slab’s removal from the tomb.53

h) The reading of column 8 is problematic. Parallels have , Ax m p.t. The visible traces do not appear to accommodate such as reading. However, I have no alternative reading based on these traces.

i) Wb II, p. 161. This reading implies that the wavy lines of water poured from the nemset jar cutting through the text leave no space for additional signs at the top of the column. At this point, the MS texts have , sxn, “to rest/settle” (var. sxn=i, rdi(w) n=i sxn, or ir(w) n=i sxn).

j) This should be read as .

k) for .

l) The signs for xa are missing here, unless is carved as (without the hand in the ayin). If the latter option is accepted, there would be very little space for the sign-group Hr=s in the now-missing upper part of the column.

m) The MS texts have , qq, a synonym for wnm, “to eat”, from which it is derived (used since the Eighteenth Dynasty, see Wb V, p. 71). The visible signs allow for the identification of the sign for wnm (Gardiner sign-list Z11), the interpretation of the traces to the left and right is tentative.

n) Alternatively reconstructed as sx.t iAr.w, although less frequently so in papyrus manuscripts.

[10] Antechapel, east wall, north part: In situ (Fig. 20)

Limestone.H. 92 cm, W. 53.5 cm.Bibliography: Raven et al., JEOL 44 (2012–13), fig. 8 (right); Staring, Saqqara Newsletter 16 (2018), p. 38, fig. 7; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019), fig. on p. 43.

Tomb of Ry, antechapel, east wall, north part: relief-decorated block found in situ. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden/Anneke de Kemp.

Description

This block preserves a scene carved in sunk relief, bearing no trace of colour. It features three male offering bearers facing left. All men wear sash kilts and have shaved heads. One of their distinctive features is the fold on the nape of their necks.54 The central offering bearer balances a bowl filled with food offerings on his left shoulder with both hands.55 The other two men carry bundles of three papyrus stalks in bloom.56 The scene is framed by a register line along the bottom edge and a vertically carved line along the right end. The undecorated dado shows faint traces of black paint, the outlines of a decorative band.57

[11] Entrance doorway, north reveal: In situ + Brooklyn 37.39E (Fig. 21)

Limestone.In situ: H. 90 cm, W. 11.5 cm; Brooklyn 37.39E: H. 65.5 cm, W. 87 cm, Th. 11 cm.Bibliography: NYHS, 1915, p. 2, no. 14; Fründt, FuB 3/2 (1961), p. 27; James, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, 1974, pp. 175–76 [431], pl. 85; Martin, Corpus of Reliefs, 1987, p. 22 [44], pl. 17.Raven et al., JEOL 44 (2012–13), fig. 8 (left); Staring, Saqqara35 Newsletter 16 (2018), fig. 7; Staring, EgArch 54 (2019), fig. on p. 44.

Tomb of Ry, entrance doorway, north reveal: relief-decorated block Brooklyn Museum 37.46E. Image ©Brooklyn Museum. Scan of a photograph held in The Martin New Kingdom Archive, adapted by Nico Staring.

Description

The left-hand side of the scene has been preserved on the head end of the block with scene [10]. It comprises a vertical and horizontal block frieze along the left and lower ends of a scene which decorated the adjoining block to the right.58

The blocks of Ry held in Berlin were first studied in some detail by Fründt, who suggested that relief Brooklyn 37.39E also belongs to the same corpus.59 The Brooklyn fragment depicts a scene showing offering bearers (three female and two male, bringing forth assorted goods, including a live bull calf) in a style similar to that observed in the reliefs of Ry. The iconography would indeed fit the north wall of the entrance doorway and the block has the correct dimensions. If indeed correctly placed there, the row of offering bearers would continue their “procession” on the east and north walls of the antechapel. However, the horizontal block frieze bordering the in situ scene [11] of Ry on the bottom edge is not the same as the frieze bordering the scene in block Brooklyn 37.39E. On the other hand, the frieze bordering the Brooklyn relief on the right-hand side is the same as observed on the block in situ in the tomb of Ry. It is possible that the lower line of the horizontal frieze bordering the scene along the bottom was not finished in its entirety. Something similar has been observed in block ÄM 7275, scene [7]. Thus, even though a direct join is absent, it is highly likely that the Brooklyn block derives from the tomb of Ry as well. The block’s dimensions neatly fit the space available on the tomb wall.60

The block is much worn and damaged. For example only the outlines of the head of the fourth offering bearer are visible. Still, faint traces of text can be discerned. A column (?) of hieroglyphic signs incised between two column dividers (?) seems to read Xr.y-Hb.t, Lector Priest.36

[12] Entrance doorway, right-hand side of lintel: Jerusalem, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum inv. no. CTS-SB-06202 (Fig. 22)

LimestoneH. 42 cm, W. 25.8 cm; Th. 4.3 cm.Bibliography: Piccirillo, Studium Biblicum, 1983, p. 79, with fig. (as: “small stele”); Martin, Corpus of Reliefs, p. 22 [45], pl. 14.

Fig. 22

PPTOriginal

Tomb of Ry, entrance doorway, right-hand side of the lintel: relief-decorated block Jerusalem, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum CTS-SB-06202. Photo ©Studium Biblicum Franciscanum/Roberta Meriano.

Fragment of a relief-decorated block executed in sunk relief depicting Ry, kneeling and facing left, both hands raised in adoration.61 The remains of six framed columns of hieroglyphic text are preserved.

The top, right side, lower edge and back of the block are sawn and the relief shows traces of considerable modern repair.

On account of the block’s dimensions and the scene depicted, it probably formed part of the right-hand side of the lintel over the doorway into the chapel.62 Such scenes commonly show the tomb owner in the company of his wife. Whether originally part of the doorjamb or lintel, a similar scene of the tomb owner in adoration, facing right, would have been present on the opposite side of the doorway.

Texts

(←↓) [1] The Osiris [2] Chief of Bowmen [3-5] Ry [6] true of voice, possessor of reverence.

[13] Pyramid: Pyramidion Cairo, Egyptian Museum JE 48840 (formerly JE 14975), SR 13738 (Fig. 23)

LimestoneH. 49 cm (orig. 57 cm), W. base east 40 cm, W. base south 48.5 cm, W. base west 39 cm (orig. 40 cm), W. base north 47.5 cm (orig. 48.5 cm)Bibliography: PM III/2, 770; Mariette, Catalogue37 général des monuments d’Abydos, 1880, pp. 558–59, no. 1432; Rammant-Peeters, Les pyramidions, 1983, pp. 24–25, pl. 16 (43), Doc. 21.

Fig. 23

PPTOriginal

Pyramidion Cairo, Egyptian Museum JE 48840 (formerly JE 14975), SR 13738. Photo ©Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

Description

The pyramidion bears decoration and texts on its east side. Ry and Maia are represented as half-statues, sculpted in the centre of the east face. They kneel side by side and raise their hands in adoration. The text starts as a single framed column running from the top of the pyramidion down to the sculpted figures. It continues as a single framed line of text along the base of the pyramidion.

Texts

(↓→) [1] [Adoring] Re when he rises in the eastern horizon of the sky [2] by the ka of the Osiris, the Chief of Bowmen, Ry, true of voice (and) the Lady of the House Maia.

Date, iconography and style: A synthesis

The descriptions of scenes in the previous section propose a number of parallels from contemporary and nearby tombs at Saqqara. Here I will treat the subject of style and iconography more coherently. However, this section is not meant to be an in-depth discussion of the broad, complex subject of style and iconography, which is beyond the scope of the present study.63 The present discussion of the subject is meant to situate the tomb of Ry in its spatial and temporal context and to propose a date for it.

The general style of the figures featured in the relief decoration points to a date in the late Eighteenth Dynasty. This date can be narrowed down to the reign of Tutankhamun, although some stylistic features observed in the scenes of Ry’s tomb are reminiscent of the early years of Horemheb. The former include the very finely carved, almost “soft” facial features of Ry and Maia in the upper register of scene [6], the stela Berlin ÄM 7290. As far as style is concerned, the clothing (e.g. the post-Amarna period bag tunics worn by Ry and the officiants at the offering table), the shape of the heads and the proportions of the bodies are most distinctive.64 Parallels observed in neighbouring tombs corroborate a date in the reign of Tutankhamun. The garment worn by Ry in the upper register of the tomb stela (ÄM 7290, fig. 12a) finds a close parallel in the nearby tomb of Horemheb (Fig. 24). The offering bearers in the tomb of Horemheb (Fig. 25) compare well with the figures in the tomb of Ry. The offering bearer named Pehefnefer is executed in a style very similar to the second (i.e. bald-headed) officiant in relief ÄM 7278, named Ahanefer (Fig. 26). Note, for example, the way in which the hairline is indicated, the shape and execution of their eyes and ears, and their kilts. However, there are also marked differences. For example, the figures in the tomb of Horemheb lack the distinctive folds in the neck. On the other hand, the relief-decoration in the tomb of Ry lacks the refined execution of details observed in the tomb of Horemheb. Compare, again, the kilts worn by Pehefnefer and Ahanefer. In the former, the lines indicating the pleats follow the shape of the body, whereas in the latter the lines are more straightforward and perhaps even less carefully carved, showing signs of mistakes. Similarly, one may also compare the ducks held by the male offering bearer in the tomb of Horemheb and the female38-39 offering bearer in the tomb of Ry. Those in the tomb of Horemheb are executed with an eye for detail, indicating the beaks, eyes, and feather patterns, whereas those in the tomb of Ry are only indicated in outline. Also compare the flowering papyrus stalks held by both: again, all signs of internal detail are absent from the relief of Ry.

Other striking parallels are found in the neighbouring tomb of Pay.65 The relief decoration in the west part of that tomb is dated to the early reign of Tutankhamun, the east part to the king’s later years, possibly extending into the reign of Ay or even the early reign of Horemheb.66 The reliefs and painted decoration added by Pay’s son, Raia, have been dated to the late reign of Horemheb, at the earliest, and more probably to the early Nineteenth Dynasty (temp. Ramesses I-Seti I). Thus, the dates offered by the tomb of Pay and the additions made to it by Raia securely situate Ry in the earlier reign of Horemheb at the latest. This date is further corroborated by the position of the entrance to the forecourt built by Raia, which indicates that the annex was built after Ry had started (and possibly finished constructing the superstructure of) his tomb.

The iconography of the scene reconstructed on the north wall of the antechapel of Ry, blocks R94-78 (Fig. 11), also finds a close parallel in the tomb of Pay,67 and two parallels in the tomb of Iniuia.68 One of the latter two scenes decorated the south wall of the antechapel (Fig. 27), as was the case in the chapel of Ry.69

Group of army officials as depicted in the tomb of Horemheb, inner courtyard, east wall, south end. Photo ©Leiden-Turin Expedition to Saqqara/Nicola Dell’Aquila.

Offering bearers in the tomb of Horemheb, statue room vestibule, south wall, lower register. Photo ©Leiden-Turin Expedition to Saqqara/Nicola Dell’Aquila.

Comparing the depictions of Pehefnefer in the tomb of Horemheb (left) and Ahanefer in the tomb of Ry (right: detail relief Berlin ÄM 7278). Photos ©Leiden-Turin Expedition to Saqqara/Nicola Dell’Aquila; SMB Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/Jürgen Liepe

Iniuia sitting at an offering table and his wife Iuy standing behind him. Depicted on the south wall of the antechapel. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, adapted by Nico Staring.

The iconography in the tomb of Ry illustrates a movement from east to west, from the world of the living to the realm of the netherworld deities. The offering bearers proceed from east to west, and the deities Osiris and Re-Horakhty are depicted in the westernmost part of the chapel (Fig. 8).70 The iconography of scene [9], the scene of purification accompanied by the text’s excerpt of BD spell 149l, is of particular interest. To my knowledge, there are no parallels for BD 149 spells or their accompanying vignettes in the iconographic programmes40 of New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara. As a matter of fact, the spell has not been widely observed outside of the Memphite necropolis either. Only four Theban tombs are known to have included text excerpts and/or vignettes illustrating BD 149.71 If we consider media other than tomb walls, it is interesting to note that in the late Eighteenth Dynasty BD manuscripts were often concluded with exactly this chapter, entitled “Spells for knowing the mounds of the house of Osiris in the Field of Rushes”.72 It has also been noted that some BD papyrus manuscripts add to it a final vignette showing the rising of the sun.73 This goes to show that, supposedly, the deceased passes the underworld mounds in the great bark of Re and, together with Re, enters the horizon after completing the nocturnal journey.

Given the fact that, in contemporary papyrus manuscripts, the spell was selected to conclude the document, and that the deceased passes the domain of Osiris and enters the horizon with the sun god, rejuvenated, the spell seems rather fit for inclusion in the antechapel. In the sanctuary, the deceased can be seen venerating the netherworld deities, Osiris and Re-Horakhty. It is where he remains forever in their presence. In the antechapel, the deceased is shown being on his way to those netherworld deities. As such, the antechapel may perhaps be seen as a space of transition between the world of the living (outside, i.e. the open courtyard), and the realm of the deities. In order for the deceased to make this transition and reach the netherworld deities, rituals such as the Opening of the Mouth were performed. Such rituals took place in the open courtyard preceding the chapel, as is often illustrated in tomb decoration.74 There seems to have been a preference to depict scenes from the Opening of the Mouth on the north walls of tombs, possibly because the mummy or statue had to face south during the ritual.75 The relationship between the Opening of the Mouth ritual and the act of purification of the deceased is nicely illustrated on the Nineteenth Dynasty (temp. Ramesses II) stela of the Sculptor Qen from Deir el-Medina (Fig. 28).76 The stela depicts the Opening of the Mouth performed by Qen’s son, Merymery, on the mummy standing in front of the tomb chapel. The upper register shows Merymery purifying his deceased parents by pouring water from a nemset jar. As in scene [9] of Ry, the wavy lines of water extend above the seated deceased couple. The iconography offers an excellent illustration of the course of events during the Opening of the Mouth and that which supposedly follows it. The spatial context of the tomb of Ry shows that the deceased is now ready to proceed to the west, where he will be able to give reverence to the netherworld deities.

The BD spell carved over the scene of purification further emphasises the transformation that has been made. It claims that Ry, now being an “Osiris” and an “embalmed one”, has transformed into a goose, a reference to the sun god, and has ascended to the sky ready to partake in the offerings in the domain of Osiris. Following the purification ritual, here performed by members of his household, Ry reappears on the west wall of the antechapel, depicted in a striding pose as he faces the doorway into the inner sanctuary, which he is about to enter (scene [8]). Inside the westernmost part of the chapel, Ry and Maia face Re-Horakhty, the morning sun, and41 make adoration before the god (scene [7]). A similar scenario will have unfolded on the south walls of the antechapel and inner chapel (scenes [3-5]). There, Ry and Maia likely stood in adoration before Atum, the evening sun.77 Both deities are also the subject of the hymns carved on the stela(e) flanking the entrance to the west chapel. Then, the stela set in the chapel’s west wall depicts the deceased couple venerating Osiris. Below the veneration scene, the mirrored image of Ry and Maia shows them sitting at an offering table. They receive food offerings brought to them by the offering bearers depicted on the north and south walls of the inner chapel.

Another way of interpreting the wall scenes in the tomb chapel of Ry is in the context of the solar-Osirian union, which includes the incorporation of the deceased and his family in this cosmological cycle.78 This interpretation might not necessarily contradict but rather complement the one put forward above. A more comprehensive examination and deeper analysis of this subject are of course needed, but fall beyond the scope of the present article.

Fig. 28

PPTLarge

Stela of Qen, Deir el-Medina. Copenhagen, Nationalmuseet AA.d.11. Photo courtesy of John Lee & The National Museum of Denmark.

To conclude this brief section, I would like to single out one iconographic particularity: the position of Maia’s hand as she embraces her husband, Ry, in the purification scene [9]. She embraces him with her left arm, and her hand reappears on the chest of Ry. This embrace is very unusual in Memphite tomb decoration.79 In fact, I am aware of only three New Kingdom parallels:

  1. Nefertary (also known as Tahesyt), seated, embraces her husband, the Overseer of Craftsmen and Chief Goldsmith of the Lord of the Two Lands Amenemone (temp. Tutankhamun). Both are depicted seated. The tomb is located in the Teti Pyramid North Cemetery.80 The embrace is featured in a scene on the southern screen wall, east face, of the antechapel.
  2. Iuy, standing, embraces her husband, the Chief Steward of Memphis and Overseer of Cattle of Amun Iniuia (temp. Akhenaten-Tutankhamun; Fig. 29).81 The tomb of Iniuia is located ca. 30 m west of Ry. Fragments of this scene were found during excavation. The block formed part of the southern screen wall, east face, of the antechapel.
  3. Tia, seated, embracing her husband, the Lector Priest of Amenhotep II Neferhat. The scene is depicted on the lower register of the stela of their son Ipu, a Royal Butler (temp. Tutankhamun), whose tomb is lost.82

The “Amarnesque” hands of Maia find their closest parallel in the scene of Iuy and Iniuia.83 It is tempting to regard these rather unusual features as being the products of a single artist. Indeed, it may not be too far-fetched to view some of these tombs as the products of a single group of artists (workshop). This applies in particular to the tombs of Ry, Pay/Raia and Iniuia. After all, they all share a similar iconographic programme (Fig. 30), and their owners were state officials and had their tombs constructed in precisely the same section of the cemetery. Another individual who could be added to this closely-knit group (and for whom a substantial corpus of relief-decorated blocks is available) is Paatenemheb, whose tomb was42-43 likely situated in the same section of the necropolis. All these individuals were professionally related and, as a result, may have had access to the same skilled workmen (possibly the same workmen who also worked on [parts of] the tombs of Horemheb and Maya), and whose distinctive handiwork is possibly recognisable in some specific iconographic and stylistic details in the tombs’ relief decoration.84 On the other hand, one should also keep open the option that artists drew inspiration from the decoration in already extant tomb structures located nearby.

Fig. 29

PPTLarge

Scene from the tomb of Iniuia and Iuy, antechapel, southern screen wall, east face. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, adapted by Nico Staring.

Fig. 30

PPT

The chapel of Pay at the end of the 1994 excavation season of the EES-Leiden mission, looking west. The iconographic programme of the chapel is similar to that of the chapel of Ry. The chapel of Pay is wider and includes screen walls. Photo ©Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden.

Titles and epithets of Ry

The inscribed relief-decorated blocks from the tomb of Ry allow a brief outline of the offices he held to be put together (Table 3).

Table 3

Overview of titles held by Ry. Legend: I.1 relief-decorated block Berlin ÄM 7278; I.2 relief-decorated block Jerusalem; II.1 stela Berlin ÄM 7290; II.2 stela Brooklyn 37.46E; III.1 pyramidion Cairo JE 48840

Related to the king, royal court, and government (incl. honorific)
ir.y-pa.t HA.ty-a xtm.ty-bi.ty smr-wa.ty II.2
Hs.y aA [n.y] nTr nfr II.1
mrr(.ty) (n.y) nb tA.wy Hr biA.t=f II.1
Scribal
[sS nsw] mAa mr(.y)=f II.1
Military
Hr.y-pD.t I.1; I.2; I.5; II.1; II.2; III.1
im.y-rA ssm.(w)t I.1; II.1
sAb n(.y) mnfy(.t) II.2

Honorific titles

Honorific titles are a means to establish an official’s social position and in particular his proximity to the king.85 Such titles are considered to be the most important markers of rank in the court.86 During the reign of Ramesses II, for example, only the highest administrators displayed the complete sequence of epithets ir.y-pa.t HA.ty-a xtm.ty-bi.ty smr wa.ty, Noble and Count, Seal Bearer of the King of Lower Egypt and Sole Companion.87 It has been noted that in the Eighteenth Dynasty the epithet smr wa.ty signified a special relationship to the king.88 Ry’s relationship to his king is also exemplified by the epithets that describe him as “One greatly praised by the Perfect God (i.e. the king)”, and “One beloved of the Lord of the Two Lands on account of his character”.89 These epithets indicate that he held a position within the king’s inner circle (Sn.yt).90 Ry also received the Gold of Honour (see scene [6], stela Berlin ÄM 7290, and scene [7], Berlin ÄM 7275). This may have happened on the same occasion when he was awarded his epithets.

sAb n.y mnfy.t –sAb of the ArmyThe title sAb n.y mnfy.t has been variably translated as Judge/Senior of the Army91 and Scribe of the Army.92 Either interpretation of the sAb-element appears to be without parallel. The title Scribe of the Army was usually written as sS mSa. That spelling, with the addition n.y nb tA.wy, is observed in the tombs of a small number of officials buried at Saqqara, two of whom bear it as their single title of office.93 The title spelled with the standing jackal (Gardiner signlist E17) refers to the same office and can be regarded as an archaic form of it.94 It is not common for a military officer to bear scribes’ titles related to the army (as opposed to the very common title of sS nsw, Royal Scribe).95

Hr.y-pD.tChief of BowmenThe Chief of Bowmen, casually translated as “Troop-Commander”, is a military official with field experience in the infantry. The title’s position in the lists of rank indicates that its bearer held one of the highest-ranking positions in the military. The Hr.y-pD.t was subordinate only to the im.y-rA mSa wr, the General.96

im.y-rA ssm.wtOverseer of HorsesSchulman suggests that the bearer of this title held a command in the chariotry, whose rank he does not specify.97 Gnirs, on the other hand, argues that the title denotes a command over the chariotry.98 This branch of the army was established in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty reign of Amenhotep III. Yuya, the father-in-law of that king, was the first to bear the title in combination with military offices.99 Overseers of horses, or Commanders of the Chariotry, were drawn from the ranks of Chiefs of Bowmen.100 It usually is the highest-ranking title held by these officials.101

Excursus: Officials at Saqqara Bearing the Titles Chief of Bowmen and Overseer of Horses

There are a number of Memphite officials who bore either of the two titles held by Ry.102 The combination of the two titles is rare. Prominent bearers of the combination of titles, Chief of Bowmen and Overseer of Horses (of the Lord of the Two Lands) are Ay, Paramessu (Ramesses I), and Seti (Seti I): all military officials who became king in the post-Amarna period.103 Two officials buried at Saqqara held the same combination of titles of office:104

  • 1. Parennefer
  • Hr.y-pD.t | im.y-rA ssm.wt
  • • Late Eighteenth Dynasty, temp. Tutankhamun-Horemheb.44
  • • Mentioned and depicted in the tomb of his brother, Maya, the Overseer of the Treasury in the reigns of Tutankhamun and Horemheb.105
  • 2. Suty
  • Hr.y-pD.t n.y nb tA.wy | im.y-rA ssm.wt
  • • Late Eighteenth Dynasty, temp. Tutankhamun (?).
  • • Relief-decorated block found reused in a Coptic period staircase built in the south-east corner of the outer courtyard built by Raia, son of Pay.106

The tomb of Maya, where Parennefer features in the wall decoration, is located ca. 50 m north of Ry’s tomb, and the block inscribed for Suty was found reused in the forecourt of Raia, abutting the central chapel of Ry. Both these officials were contemporaries of Ry. Thus, the two men could have very well been comrades in the army. Raia, who is Ry’s immediate necropolis-neighbour to the west, also made a career in the military:107

  • 3. Raia
  • Hr.y iH.w | ir.y-pD.t n.y nb tA.wy | im.y-rA ssm.wt (n.y Hw.t-kA-pTH) | TAy-xw Hr wnm.y nsw.t | sS nsw (mAa mr.y=f) | im.y-rA ip.t-nsw.t | im.y-rA ip.t-nsw.t n.t (pr-xnr.t m) mn-nfr | im.y-rA ip.t-nsw.t n.t (pr-xnr.t m) Hw.t-kA-ptH
  • • Late Eighteenth–early Nineteenth Dynasty, temp. Horemheb-Seti I.
  • • Tomb LS 28 shared with his father, the Overseer of Cattle of Amun and Overseer of the King’s apartment at Memphis.108

According to Gnirs, the honorific title ir.y-pD.t n.y nb tA.wy, Keeper of the Bow of the Lord of the Two Lands, implies a personal relationship between its bearer and the king.109 Raia started his career as a Stablemaster110 and eventually rose to the rank of Overseer of Horses. The latter title implies that he had also been a Chief of Bowmen earlier in his career, perhaps at the same time as Ry.

Another three officials at Saqqara bore the titles Hr.y-pD.t and im.y-rA ssm.wt in combination with additional titles:

  • 4. Ramose
  • nfr bi.t | Hs.y n.y nsw Hr bi.t=f nfr.t | Hs.y n.y nTr nfr | gr mAa | sS nsw | sS nsw mAa mr.y=f | Hm-nTr | idn.w n.y pA mSa | Hr.y-pDt | Hr.y-pDt n.y pA mSa | Hr.y-pDt n.y nb tA.wy
  • • Late Eighteenth Dynasty, temp. Horemheb.
  • • Tomb structure situated immediately due north of Horemheb.111
  • 5. Amenhotep Huy
  • ir.y-pa.t | HA.ty-a | sDAw.ty-bi.ty | smr wa.ty | im.y-rA kA.t nb n.y psD.t (?) | im.y-rA mSa wr n.y Hm=f | Hr.y-pD.t n.y nTr nfr | im.y-rA ssm.wt n.y nb tA.wy (var. n.y nTr nfr) | mr.y nb tA.wy | sS n.y s.t wr.t | sS nfr.w n.y nb tA.wy
  • • Late Eighteenth Dynasty, temp. Amenhotep III-Tutankhamun.
  • • Amenhotep Huy shared the tomb of his father, the Vizier Aper-El (Bubasteion I.1).112
  • 6. Nakhtmin
  • Hr.y-pD.t | im.y-rA ssm.wt | kTn tp.y | kTn tp.y n.y Hm=f | im.y-rA kTn.w n.w nTr nfr | im.y-rA xAs.wt | im.y-rA xAs.wt mH.wt | wpw.ty nsw.t r xAs.t nb.t
  • • Early Nineteenth Dynasty, temp. Seti I-Ramesses II.
  • • Rock-cut tomb at Saqqara North, above Abusir village.113

The tombs built for bearers of the titles also held by Ry are, in the post-Amarna period, noticeably clustered in the section of the Saqqara necropolis south of the Unas causeway.114 The same goes for Stablemasters.115 In the tomb of Ry, a Stablemaster named Maia plays the role of officiant performing the offering and purification ritual in scene [9]. He is professionally associated with Ry and may therefore be counted as a member of his social circle. In the tombs surrounding Ry, more Stablemasters can be found. They feature as subsidiary figures in the iconographic programmes of tomb owners bearing more elevated titles of office. Both the brother and son of Pay, Ry’s neighbour, held the title.116 The same goes for two sons of Tatia, Ry’s neighbour to the east. Tatia was a Wab Priest of the Front of Ptah and Chief of the Goldsmiths.117 Further to the west, north of the tomb of Pay and built against the south-exterior wall of the tomb of Horemheb, lies the chapel of Khay II, another Wab Priest of the Front of Ptah.118 A son of this priest, named Mose, also bore the title of45 Stablemaster of the Lord of the Two Lands.119

The tomb of Ry in its spatial context

What did the necropolis look like when Ry had his tomb constructed there, and how did it develop thereafter (Figs. 1, 2)? To answer this question, the spatial development of this section of the Unas South Cemetery will be briefly reviewed. Three phases of the cemetery’s development will be considered: first, the period shortly before Ry built his tomb; second, the time period contemporaneous with Ry (i.e. construction of the tomb); and third, the time period following Ry’s death.

The first phase is most difficult to review, because we are rather ill-informed about the history of the necropolis at Saqqara before the Amarna period. Various sources indicate that tombs were built in the Unas South Cemetery during the reign of Amenhotep III. Early modern excavators found abundant tomb elements from that period.120 Unfortunately, the locations of the finds were poorly recorded, if at all. Thus, the locations of their corresponding tombs have been lost. The information recorded on the tomb elements combined with a comparative study of provenanced finds could tell us something about who was buried where, but does not tell us anything about the structure of the cemetery at the time. It has been suggested that the pre-Amarna tombs were built as (partially) rock-cut tombs121 and that the common Memphite freestanding temple-tomb superstructures represent a later phase in the development of this cemetery. Finds of mud bricks stamped with the prenomen of Amenhotep II (Aakheperure) are indicative of possibly the earliest building activities at the site. It is not at all certain whether these bricks were used in the construction of one or more private tombs, or derive from structures of a different nature.122

We are on firmer ground in the second phase, namely the period when Ry started building his funerary monument. The earliest tomb structures excavated (in modern times) in the Unas South Cemetery span the Amarna Period reigns of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. A number of these tombs are truly monumental. Thus, the plot selected by Ry123 to build his tomb was surrounded by, at the time, fairly new monuments. Ry’s neighbour to the west was Pay, the Overseer of Cattle and Overseer of the King’s apartments at Memphis (temp. Tutankhamun);124 to the north stood the tomb of Meryneith, the Greatest of Seers (High Priest) and Steward in the Temple of the Aten in Memphis (temp. Akhenaten– Tutankhamun);125 and his neighbours to the east and south are thus far anonymous.126 Moreover, within a radius of 50 m were the tombs of two of the most prominent officials of Tutankhamun’s tenure: Horemheb, the great General, and Maya, the Overseer of the Treasury. To these tombs, both of which have been archaeologically surveyed, we could add the prosopographic information recorded on tomb-elements deriving from the same section of the cemetery and now kept in museum collections worldwide. As a result, an image emerges of a cemetery reserved exclusively for courtiers. They include stewards of royal memorial temples, royal butlers, high ranking army officials, overseers of (royal) construction works, “harem” officials, and high priests.127

The third phase pertains to the time period following the burial of Ry. The brief discussion here will be limited to developments in the early Nineteenth Dynasty. Changes were made to existing tombs and new chapels were sometimes added. As a result, the available spaces between pre-existing structures decreased. The son of Pay, Raia (temp. Horemheb-Seti I), enlarged his father’s tomb by constructing an open forecourt. The free space between the tombs of Ry and Pay was clearly limited. Space constraints influenced the form and layout of the newly built annex.128 The walled court is asymmetrical and it is aligned with the west face of Ry’s pyramid (Fig. 2). An axial approach to the new tomb entrance was not an option. Instead, the builders had to shift the doorway to the north.129

In the areas to the north and east of the tomb of Ry, more chapels dating to the (early) Ramesside period dot the map. These chapels are all founded on a higher surface compared to the floor level of Ry, the result of an accumulation of tafl from the excavation of the underground burial spaces of the Ramesside chapels. Directly in front of the tomb of Pay and Raia stood a chapel of which today only the stela emplacement and tomb shaft survive.130 In the same general area stood another two funerary monuments. The one built halfway between Meryneith and Ry is noteworthy. It comprises a four-sided stela46 inscribed for a Stonemason named Samut. The stela stood there apparently without an accompanying superstructure – at least not one built in durable material, such as mud bricks.131 The space east of Ry was occupied by a chapel built for a Priest of the Front of Ptah, Tatia.132 A final chapel, numbered 2013/7, was positioned right against the south side of the east facade of Ry’s tomb.133 This chapel also dates to the Ramesside period. The walls south of it may be of the same date. The nature of the relationship between the two needs to be further investigated in the field. The porch leading up to the entrance doorway of Ry’s tomb may have been constructed in conjunction with the building activities just described. In so doing, Ry, or rather those responsible for the tomb’s maintenance (perhaps members of his household), changed the approach to the monument. The new construction “funnelled” visitors from the north towards the south, and fenced off the tomb entrance from the tafl accumulating outside. The position of the shaft connected to the chapel built against the facade of Ry’s tomb (if identified correctly) suggests that the “dead-end road” leading up to it served as its courtyard.

Ry’s neighbour to the south: The Army General, Amenemone?

In the section dealing with the architecture of the tomb, it was noted that Ry had his tomb built against a pre-existing wall. The structure that wall belongs to has yet to be fully excavated. It is very likely that it is also a tomb. Judging from the monumental dimensions of the wall, the individual for whom it was built was a high-ranking official. That Ry built his tomb against it may indicate that the two men were closely associated in life. Their relationship could have been professional in nature or based on kinship. The question I would like to address here is: who was buried south of Ry?

The spatial distribution of tombs according to the titles held by their owners may help us to identify Ry’s southern neighbour.134 The bearers of certain titles are clustered in specific sections of the Saqqara necropolis.135 Starting from this observation, I have previously tried to identify the section of the necropolis where the “lost” tomb of Amenemone (late Eighteenth Dynasty, temp. Tutankhamun-Horemheb) was most likely situated. Amenemone held a great number of titles, including im.y-rA mSa wr (n.y nb tA.wy), General (of the Lord of the Two Lands) and im.y-rA pr m/n tA Hw.t Mn-xpr-Ra di anx, Great Steward in/of the temple of Thutmosis III.136 Stone elements deriving from his tomb are dispersed in many public and private collections around the world.137 The only indication for its supposed location was given by Karl Richard Lepsius. In 1843, he noted that various blocks inscribed for Amenemone were reused in the masonry of houses at Abusir village.138 His observation has led scholars to suggest that the lost tomb should be situated in the vicinity of that village in northern Saqqara.139 In my view, the titles held by Amenemone suggest that his tomb was situated not in northern Saqqara, but in the Unas South Cemetery.140 In precisely this section of the necropolis a number of (near-)contemporary, late Eighteenth Dynasty im.yw-rA mSa wr.w, Generals of the Army, built their tombs. The most prominent among them is the future king Horemheb.141 It is also the section of the necropolis “inhabited” by a number of high officials who administered royal memorial temples at Saqqara and at Thebes.142

With the identification of the tomb of Ry in precisely this section of the necropolis, additional evidence can be added to the discussion. Pivotal to the argument is the fact that, at an earlier stage in his career, Amenemone held office as Chief of Bowmen. It is very unusual for bearers of that title to rise to the rank of General.143 The office usually paves the way to becoming an Overseer of Horses, as did Ry. In the immediate post-Amarna period some military officials made unusual steps in their careers. Amenemone’s unusual career has been explained in view of the administrative reformations implemented by Horemheb early in his reign.144 These reformations also affected the organisation of the military, resulting in the sudden rise to prominence of a number of army officials. One of them was Paramessu, the future king Ramesses I, who started his military career as an Overseer of Bowmen. He first rose to the rank of Overseer of Horses and eventually shifted ranks to become General and later Vizier.145 It has also been noted that the position of commander-in-chief of the army was occupied by only one official at any given time.146 Thus in the reign of Horemheb,47 Amenemone was the highest ranking official in charge of the army. He succeeded Horemheb, who had become king. At the same time, another official, Paramessu, took up Horemheb’s offices in the civil administration.147

The contemporaries Amenemone and Ry held the same ranks in the army. All changed when Horemheb became king: Ry’s acquaintance (if assessed correctly) obtained the highest office in the army. Their close professional relationship in life may have led to their tombs being intentionally placed in close proximity to each other. The spot selected by Ry became prime cemetery real estate since it was located in close vicinity of the now-royal tomb of Horemheb.148

From disiecta membra to writing a history of the early modern excavations at Saqqara

When was the tomb of Ry first excavated and how did the various tomb elements end up in museum collections around the world? This section is meant to provide a brief outline of the early modern excavation of the tomb by bringing together the collection histories of the individual tomb elements.

The first documented excavations at Saqqara date to the early 1820s. This was during a time of a growing interest in Ancient Egyptian antiquities, which led to a surge of art collectors, dealers, agents and gangs of local workmen exploiting the Saqqara plateau in search of valuables and collectables. Portable ancient Egyptian objects and inscribed tomb-elements were transferred to the private collections of Europeans living in Egypt. The subsequent sales of their private collections contributed to the dispersal of entire tomb structures. The tomb of Ry suffered this fate as well.

The relief-decorated blocks now held in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin were removed first. They entered the private collection of Giuseppe (Joseph) Passalacqua (1797–1865), an Italian horse-dealer who took to excavating and collecting antiquities in Egypt.149 He built his collection in the early 1820s and offered it for sale in Paris in 1826.150 In the following year, Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia acquired it for the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. The collection included stone elements from at least eighteen New Kingdom tombs located at Saqqara, mostly stelae.151 At the time, the objects’ exact provenances were not recorded. Recent excavations in the Unas South Cemetery have unearthed tomb-elements deriving from the same tombs previously visited by Passalacqua. Relief-decorated blocks from the tomb of Wepwawetmes were found near the southwest chapel of the tomb of Horemheb152 and perhaps south of the tomb of Ptahemwia, reused in the dry-stone wall around the shaft of Tatia,153 and two blocks from the tomb of Panehsy were found south of the south exterior wall of Horemheb.154 The stela of Ramose, Deputy of the Army, could be contextualised when the entire tomb was excavated north of the northwest chapel of Horemheb.155 The small chapel of Khay, Gold Washer of the Lord of the Two Lands, is situated in the cramped space between the tombs of Horemheb and Ramose.156 These finds suggest that the agents working for Passalacqua concentrated their excavations in the area south of the Step Pyramid. His illustrious contemporaries, Giovanni d’Anastasi and Giuseppe Nizzoli, did the same.157 A few years after Passalacqua, in 1843, the expedition led by Prussian scholar Karl Richard Lepsius (1810–84) set up camp at Saqqara. Lepsius does not mention Ry, but we do know that he worked close by. Two stelae inscribed for Raia stood just a few steps west of the chapel of Ry.158 Lepsius numbered the tomb LS 28 and indicated it on his map. The two stelae were subsequently taken to Berlin, where they received inventory numbers ÄM 7270 and 7271.

The Englishman Henry Abbott (1807–1859) was a former physician in the army of Muhammad Ali.159 He settled in Cairo in 1838, where he acquired a collection of more than 1,200 objects.160 This included the Brooklyn stela formerly in the courtyard of Ry’s tomb and the relief-decorated block from the entrance doorway. There is no information about the circumstances of their acquisition. Abbott narrates that he “found it an agreeable pastime to dive into the tombs of the ancients and rescue from the hands of the many pilferers such objects as appeared (…) worthy of notice”.161 Others assured that “[m]any of the objects were found in tombs opened in the presence of Dr. Abbott”.162 Whether or not Abbott was personally involved in the excavation of the stela is not known. We do know that he bought predominantly from dragomans and art dealers. Thus, he48 may not have witnessed the stela and relief block being removed from the tomb. Since the two elements were located in close proximity at the entrance to the chapel, it is likely that they were both removed by the same (group of) excavator(s) at the same time. Abbott’s private collection was eventually shipped from Egypt to the U.S. in 1851–52. There it was acquired by the New York Historical Society (NYHS) in 1860. The NYHS collection was later transferred on loan to the Brooklyn Museum, which eventually purchased it in 1948.

The pyramidion of Ry was first thought to have come from Abydos. According to his own recollection, Auguste Mariette (1821–81), the first director of the newly founded Egyptian Antiquities Service, had excavated it there on the east slope of the central cemetery.163 Curiously, in the Journal d’entrée of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, it is noted that the object was found “at Memphis”.164 The apparent mix-up has recently been cleared. Mariette’s unpublished inventaire, the precursor of the Journal d’entrée, lists the pyramidion among the finds he made at Saqqara in February 1861.165 In the late 1850s and early 1860s, Mariette engaged in excavations south of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara to gather a collection for the soon-to-be-opened Boulaq Museum.166

The tomb of Ry probably disappeared again below the desert sand soon after Mariette’s exploration. It was not until 1906-1907 that James Quibell (1867–1935) shifted attention to a previously unexplored area to the south of the Step Pyramid.167 There, Egyptian sebakhin had uncovered a wall decorated with murals of the former Coptic monastery of Apa Jeremias. Quibell carried out large-scale excavations, which yielded many relief-decorated blocks of New Kingdom date. These blocks had been taken from the nearby tombs in the early centuries CE and reused in the construction of the monastery’s buildings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, undocumented and illicit digging probably continued, because new objects appeared on the art market after Quibell closed his excavations in 1912. The German Fr. Cleophas Steinhauser (1872–1927), who moved to Egypt in 1904 to become a friar in the Franciscan Order and cemetery keeper of the mission in 1907, gathered his collection of antiquities in the first two decades of the twentieth century.168 He often had local villagers collect ancient objects which he then examined and eventually bought. It is not known exactly when, from whom or under what circumstances he got possession of the relief-decorated block from the tomb of Ry.169 And it is not known when the block was removed from the tomb of Ry, or by whom. Steinhauser presented his collection, which amounted to more than 1,000 objects, to the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem in the 1920s.170 The collection is scheduled to be on permanent display in the Terra Sancta Museum. It is not known when the block was removed from the tomb of Ry, or by whom.

The virtual reconstruction of the tomb as presented in this article shows that a significant number of relief-decorated blocks and at least one stela are still missing. It is hoped that continued excavations at Saqqara and arm-chair archaeological work will improve our understanding of the monument, its place in the development of the Saqqara necropolis, and its early-modern excavation history.

Acknowledgements

This article was written with financial support of a Vidi Talent Scheme research grant awarded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), dossier no. 016.Vidi.174.032. The project, The Walking Dead at Saqqara: The Making of a Cultural Geography , is hosted at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, School of Middle Eastern Studies (2017-2022). I would like to thank the Walking Dead team members, Lara Weiss and Huw Twiston Davies, as well as Barbara Aston, Maarten Raven, the two anonymous reviewers of the Rivista del Museo Egizio and its editor-in-chief, Federico Poole, for their kind feedback and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article; and Robbert Jan Looman and Peter Jan Bomhof for access to the Saqqara photo archive at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden. The opinions expressed in this article as well as any mistakes obviously rest solely with the author. As a token of appreciation, I would like to dedicate this study to Geoffrey T. Martin, the initiator of the modern excavations in the Unas South Cemetery, who generously shared with me his personal archive of New Kingdom Memphite material. Photos kept in The Martin New Kingdom Archive allowed me to unlock the identity of the tomb owner discussed in the present paper.

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