ARCE

Conservation and Documentation of the Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69)

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Project Director: Dr. Melinda Hartwig

Historic era: New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty

Project Location: Luxor

Project Duration: 2007-2009

The Tomb of Menna, Theban Tomb number 69, is located in the Theban necropolis of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna in Luxor, Upper Egypt. The rock-cut tomb is famous for the completeness and superb quality of the paintings that adorn its walls. Structurally, the tomb chapel takes the form of an inverted T, with a forecourt, broad hall, and inner hall leading to a statue shrine. The painted decoration is organized symbolically along a central axis that reflected the deceased’s transition from the land of the living in the east to the land of the dead in the west. As such, the walls in the broad hall are concerned primarily with the official duties and celebrations of Menna’s life, while the walls in the long hall depict scenes of his transition to and life in the hereafter.

Menna was an elite official recognized and honored by King Amenhotep III with the Gold of Honor collar, a collar of golden disc-shaped beads, which he wears in most scenes. Menna’s official titles reveal that he was a Scribe, and Overseer of the Fields of the Lord of Two Lands and the Temple of Amun. These titles indicate that Menna administered both state and temple fields, which was an unusual occurrence in the 18th Dynasty. The Broad Hall Near Left wall, abbreviated as BHNL, is also known as the “Agricultural Wall,” and depicts some of Menna’s official responsibilities. Menna’s wife, Henuttawy, appears alongside him on most of the tomb’s walls and bore the titles of “Chantress of Amun” and “Mistress of the House.” Also notable is the intentional damage inflicted on Menna’s likeness in an act of damnatio memoriae, and later destruction to the name of Amun by the agents of Akhenaten.

The project, directed by Dr. Melinda Hartwig, set an unprecedented standard for the conservation and non-invasive documentation of ancient Egyptian tombs. Dr. Hartwig led an interdisciplinary team of experts that undertook the conservation, archaeometric examination, and digital recording of the tomb. The project resulted in an invaluable collection of high-resolution, digital images that were stitched together to create an exact copy of the tomb walls, which were then traced as vector drawings to create line drawings of the decoration. The collection also includes reports, slides, and digital images shot with raking light and ultraviolet light.

Statement of Responsibility:

The Conservation and Documentation of the Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69) project was implemented by Dr. Melinda Hartwig, a professor at Georgia State University, from 2007-2009. The project’s objective was the conservation, archaeometric examination, and digital recording of the painted tomb chapel of Menna, to set a precedent for non-invasive methods of analysis. Dr. Hartwig worked with an interdisciplinary team of conservators, digital specialists, Egyptologists, and scientists, with the support of Georgia State University and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (formerly the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities).

Funding:

The conservation of the Tomb of Menna was made possible with funding by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement No. 263-A-00-04-00018-00 and administered by the Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project (EAC) Agreement No. EAC-11-2007 of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). The Interuniversity Attraction Poles Program provided additional financial support.

    See the Tomb of Menna (TT69) on Google Maps here 

Glossary: (A-Z)

Amenemweskhet: Menna’s eldest daughter, a lady-in-waiting in the royal court as indicated by the crown she wears in her depictions.

Ankh: Hieroglyph and decorative device symbolizing “life”.

Braziers: A metal or pottery container used for burning. It was often used for rituals to burn offerings.

Cavetto cornice: Often referred to as an “Egyptian cornice”, an architectural feature, a cornice of concave molding.

Censer: An incense burner, usually used for offerings.

Djed pillar: Depicted in the tomb on the niche wall, in Egyptian hieroglyphs it symbolizes stability. It is also associated with the gods, Ptah and Osiris.

Duamutef: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Duamutef safeguarded the stomach.

E. Mckay: Ernest Mckay, a British archaeologist who restored the tomb in 1913, sought to reassemble the fragments that had broken away from the Broad Hall Far Left wall (BHFL) after the ceiling fell. He reaffixed the fragments using mud plaster, however, many were misplaced.

False-door Stela: A painted stela, enclosed in the frame of a painted false door, often found in ancient Egyptian Theban tombs.

Frieze: A horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration found near the ceiling. In the tomb, it is usually a painted decorative frieze of repeated lotus flower petals.

Gleaners: Depicted on Broad Hall Near Left (BHNL), also known as the Agricultural Wall. The definition of the word refers to an individual who gathers small pieces such as grain left by harvesters in the field.

Gold of Honor: a collar of golden disks or beads presented by the king in recognition of an official in high office that related to the king and his royal holdings.

Hapy: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Hapy safeguarded the lungs.

Henuttawy: Menna’s wife, who held the title of “Chantress of Amun” and “Mistress of the House”, the latter title suggests that she came into the marriage with property.

Imentet (Goddess of the West): The patron deity of the Theban Necropolis, Imentet, means “West.”

Imsety: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Imsety protected the liver.

Kasy: Youngest daughter of Menna.

Kha: Menna’s second son, who was a wab-priest. In all of his representations on the wall, his body and head are shaved to conform to priestly requirements of ritual purity.

Libation: ritual pouring of liquid.

Lotus (symbolism): symbolized the regeneration of life, or rebirth.

Ma’at: Ma’at was the goddess of truth, justice, and order. The pedestal hieroglyph for “truth” and “justice” on which the Osiris sits enthroned.

Menit: A beaded necklace sacred to the goddess Hathor, imbued with her healing power.

Menna: The owner of the tomb, he was recognized by the king and a holder of a high office. His titles indicate that he was a royal scribe and overseer of the fields belonging to the king and the temple of Amun.

Nehemet: Daughter of Menna. a lady-in-waiting in the royal court as indicated by the crown she wears in her depictions. She may have predeceased her sisters.

Nemset jar: A type of jar used for ritual libation.

Netjerty adze: An object held to the deceased’s mouth to open it ritually, used in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony

Opening of the Mouth: a ceremony or ritual to restore the deceased’s vital functions.

Osiris: The god of the afterlife, associated with the dead, resurrection, and vegetation.

Qebehsenuef: One of the Four Sons of Horus who protected the organs of the dead, Qebhsenuef safeguarded the intestines.

Re-Horakhty: The falcon-headed sun god, usually depicted with a sun disk on his head. His name means “Re (is) Horus of the Horizon.”

Se: Menna’s first son, and a grain scribe of Amun.

Sekhem staff: A staff that symbolizes authority.

Sem priest: Depicted wearing leopard skin, the sem-priest was a mortuary priest who was concerned with the deceased’s transition into the afterlife, such as the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth.

Sistrum: A Hathoric instrument used by female temple musicians, who rattled it to appease the gods.

Wab-priest: meaning “pure one”, an entry-level temple priest who is depicted completely shaven.

Valley Festival (Beautiful Festival of the Western Valley): A processional ancestor festival held annually in the Theban Necropolis during which relatives celebrated their dead ancestors in their tomb chapels. Menna’s tomb, TT 69, is oriented towards one of the festival processional routes.

Voyage to Abydos: A pilgrimage to Abydos, the holy city of Osiris, the god of the afterlife. Every Egyptian desired to make the voyage in life; in death, it could be absorbed into the funerary ceremony as the journey the mummy or statue of the deceased took from the east bank to the western necropolis

Additional resources

How did the Ancient Egyptians get to the Afterlife?
Who Was Menna?
Preserving an Ancient Tomb
Is Your Heart as Light as a Feather?
The Beautiful Feast of the Valley
Why Is This Tomb Blue?
Take a Virtual Tour of the Tomb of Menna (TT69)
Where did Menna’s face go
The Resurrection Machine