Archaeological Museum of Bologna

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Collections / Sections / The Egyptian Collection

The tomb of Horemheb at Saqqara

The most important masterpieces in the Bologna collection are represented by five reliefs from the tomb of Horemheb at Saqqara, which was discovered and pillaged in the early 19th century, concealed for years by the desert sand and then rediscovered in 1975. Computer graphics show them in their original position along with other slabs preserved at the most important European and American museums. Horemheb, the last king of the 18th dynasty (1319–1292 BC), enjoyed an astonishing political career. An army general known as Atonemheb during the reign of the pharaoh Akhenaton (1353–1336 BC), he rose to the highest ranks as a military commander under Tutankhamen (1332–1323 BC) and became pharaoh after the short reign of the elderly Ay (1323–1319 BC). Each career advancement is tied to a city in which Horemheb had a tomb built: the first in the necropolis of Tell el-Amarna, which was promptly abandoned, another one at the necropolis of Saqqara, near Memphis, and the last one in the Valley of the Kings in West Thebes.

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The relief with a scene of work in the fields decorated one of the three chapels in the tomb of Horemheb. Horemheb is depicted here working in the fields of the hereafter in order to gain eternal life. The top scene, of which only the lower section remains, shows the tribute of the deceased to the funerary gods. In the two middle registers Horemheb receives offerings from his own image, steers several oxen trampling ears of cereal to separate the grain from the bran, and pushes a plough drawn by oxen. Below, he is again seated at a table laden with food and receives the gift of several bundles of flax from three farmers. The uraeus, carved on his forehead, attests to his cult as the last king of the 18th dynasty.

The relief with Nubian prisoners shows several Nubian prisoners with Negroid features, kinky hair and earrings who are seated on the ground submissively as three Egyptian soldiers with batons watch over them. A scribe is writing a report about the occurrence and is selecting two prisoners as servants for the court of Tutankhamen, as noted by the inscription.

Provenance: Saqqara: tomb of Horemheb. Palagi Collection
Datation: 18th dynasty: reign of Tutankhamen (1332–1323 BC)
Material: Limestone
Inventory #: EG 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889

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