The Middle Kingdom-Mentuhotep II-Part 3
We continue exploring the funerary temple of Mentuhotep II and the middle kingdom.
. Once past the entrance, a descending corridor, a few dozen meters long, leads to the burial chamber.
Investigated by Naville in 1906 then by Arnold in 1971, the corridor has numerous niches on the side walls where six hundred wooden figures were placed that reproduce models of shops, bakeries, and boats that belonged to the funerary outfit.
The burial chamber is built in granite with a sloping ceiling. Most of the room was occupied by an alabaster chapel which could be accessed from a double-leaf wooden door.
The absence of a sarcophagus in it was interpreted by Naville as a symbolic chamber for the royal Ka. Arnold came to a different conclusion by referring to another curious discovery.
In 1899, Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb, was making a ride to the front of the courtyard of the Mentuhotep II complex when suddenly the horse stumbled over something, dropped to check that the horse had not been injured, Carter an extraordinary discovery, the entrance to the subsoil that the Arabs later called, “Bab el-hussan”, (tomb of the horse ).
At first it looked like a ditch in the open air and then continued in a corridor made of raw bricks with a vaulted ceiling. Carter stepped inside and, at a depth of about 17 meters, discovered a door sealed by a 4-meter-wide brick wall.
Behind the dam the passage continued for a stretch towards the west and then bent to the north in the terminal part. At the point where the passage turned Carter discovered a well about 2 meters deep with the remains of a wooden box on the bottom bearing the name of Mentuhotep.
The corridor continues up to another well on the floor of which is the entrance to the burial chamber located under the temple.
Inside, the remains of an empty sarcophagus, inscriptions, ceramic objects and animal bones that were probably offered in sacrifice were found.
But the surprise was the discovery of a more precious object of all, wrapped in fine linen, a polychrome limestone statue depicting a seated man.
The statue depicts Mentuhotep II with the crown of Lower Egypt, this has become one of the most famous finds kept in the Cairo Museum and marked with the initials JR 36.1957. And here the conclusion reached by Arnold, this would be a symbolic tomb built perhaps during a sed party of Mentuhotep II.
On the upper terrace of the monument, according to Naville, a small pyramid would have stood out, Arnold objected that, in the absence of at least one fragment of rock presenting a typical pyramid inclination, on the top of the temple there was a massive rectangular construction with a low crowning terrace, all representing the primitive hill in a stylized form.
Stadelmann put forward another hypothesis, on the last terrace a sandhill with trees would have found a place, according to his re-elaboration everything would have represented a fusion of the primitive hill and the tomb of Osiris, god of the dead.
Independently of the various assumptions, many doubts still persist, motivated by another important discovery of a document dating back over a thousand years later.
As noted following the increasing episodes of tomb looting, the sovereigns tried to remedy it by ordering periodic inspections of the various tombs.
From the Papyrus Abbot, dating back to the time of Ramesses IX, we learn: << Eighteenth day of the third month of the flood season, in the sixteenth year of the reign of the sovereign of Upper and Lower Egypt, the lord of the two countries Neferkare Stepenre .. …. who lives for a long time, who enjoys good health and is prosperous …….. son of Ra ….. Rameses Miamun …… pyramids, tombs …… visited by inspectors ….. >>.
In the document, the Mentuhotep II complex is expressly defined as a pyramid.
Despite this, doubts also linger because the Papyrus Abbot also names other tombs of the 11th dynasty as pyramids, which in reality are not at all. Graffiti dating back to the New Kingdom discovered in the surroundings, which refer to the tomb of Mentuhotep II, recall a terrace surmounted by an obelisk complete with pyramidion.
Everything probably comes from a misunderstanding, in the past, by describing the tomb of a sovereign, the scribes used to match the name to the name of the pyramid, it is probable that the thing continued even when the tomb of the sovereign was no longer a pyramid.
However, it is undeniable that the original shape of this monument inspired the later architects. This is evidenced by the fact that about half a century later, right next to that of Mentuhotep II, the terraced temple of Queen Hatshepsut of the XVIII dynasty was built.
I want to add a curiosity that happened to me in my hands by scrolling through the magazine “Il Fatto Storico” which refers to an illegal find discovered by the police on April 23, 2014. Just 150 meters from the temple of Seti I in Abydos, some tomb robbers they were digging what turned out to be a limestone funerary chapel, it emerged from the inscriptions that it is a chapel of the pharaoh Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II dedicated to Khenti-Amentiu, ancient deity of Abydos.
The discovery bears considerable importance not many testimonies of the sovereign to Abydos, apart from some remains found in the necropolis of Kom El Sultan. The chapel extends below a house where a cistern for wastewater, dating back to 1935, seriously damaged the walls.
The last 5 photos come from the aforementioned magazine and are from the Luxor Times.
By: Piero Cargnino
Sources and bibliography:
Miroslav Verner, “The mystery of the pyramids” Newton & Compton editor, 2002
Web – The Historical Fact, Daily History, and Archeology)
(Photo by Luxor Times)