Nebamun, a Simple Official and a Great Treasure.

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By Old Egyptian Painter – Richard Parkinson:
The face of Nebamun, Detail from the scene “hunting in the marshes”, the Tomb of Nebamun, exposed in the British Museum

We see here that middle-ranking officials can be so important in ancient Egypt. Why? We might never know it; although the exact location of that Tomb is now lost, several wall paintings from the Tomb were acquired by the British Museum as the greatest treasure where they are now on display.

Nebamun was a middle-ranking official “scribe and grain accountant” during the period of the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt. He is thought to have lived c. 1350 BCE and worked at the vast temple complex near Thebes where the state-god Amun was worshipped. Wikipedia

Let’s enjoy this brilliant description by Marie Grillot, who helps us to see between the lines of the painting. 🙏💖

Let’s admire the basin and the garden of Nebamun…

Admirons le bassin et le jardin de Nebamon…

via https://egyptophile.blogspot.com/

Fragment of a polychrome painting representing the garden and the pool of Nebamun – painted plaster
Provenance: Tomb of Nebamun – Theban Necropolis (location lost today)
Discovered in 1820 by Giovanni d’Anastasi on behalf of Consul Henry Salt
Salt Collection acquired by the British Museum in 1821 – Reference EA 37983 – museum photo

The rectangular pool is lined with papyrus, blueberries and mandrakes that bloom in unison in a delicious and subtle monochrome. The wave, of a tender blue enlivened by wavelets of a more sustained tone, is dotted with open lotuses or in buds. A varied fauna evolves in perfect harmony: ducks and birds whose colours reflect the difference of species rub shoulders with fish with fins and gills materialized in ochre-brown.

The pond is part of a wooded area made up of several species of fruit trees: sycamores, fig-trees, date palms or doum… Some fruits have already fallen while others are still attached to the branches: their colour ranging from yellow to dark brown testifies to their degree of maturation…

Fragment of a polychrome painting representing the garden and the pool of Nebamun – painted plaster
Provenance: Tomb of Nebamun – Theban Necropolis (location lost today)
Discovered in 1820 by Giovanni d’Anastasi on behalf of Consul Henry Salt
Salt Collection acquired by the British Museum in 1821 – Reference EA 37983 – museum photo

The overall view is geometric and harmonious. However, the “perspective” in which the scene takes place does not fail to surprise us: the basin, for example, is seen both from the “top” and from the side, in-depth… The explanation is that the space is “represented according to the laws of aspect, a concept proposed by Emma Brunner-Traut. The element consists in deconstructing a scene, a character, … to show them under all their facets, combining the diversity of points of view, or under their elements considered as the most characteristic”…

Such a place – which must have been the prerogative of noble residences – seems ideal for recharging one’s batteries, enjoying the shade and freshness of the foliage with the lapping of the water, a few rustling of wings and the song of a bird. According to his codes, if the artist has been able to restore its “earthly” aspect, it is also necessary to consider the more “subtle” dimension linked to life in the au beyond, to the divine… Indeed, “in addition to the totality of the constituent elements, it is also necessary to show an organized universe (that is to say where Maât reigns)”, specifies Thierry Benderitter.

Fragment of a polychrome painting representing the garden and the pool of Nebamun – painted plaster
Provenance: Tomb of Nebamun – Theban Necropolis (location lost today)
Discovered in 1820 by Giovanni d’Anastasi on behalf of Consul Henry Salt
Salt Collection acquired by the British Museum in 1821 – Reference EA 37983 – museum photo

On the other hand, the British Museum has attached itself to the reading of a scene – small but full of meaning – in the upper right corner: “a Goddess leans out of a tree and offers fruits and drinks to Nebamon (now lost). Artists accidentally painted her skin red at first, then repainted it yellow, the correct colour for a Goddess’s skin. On the left, a sycamore-fig tree speaks and greets Nebamon as the owner of the garden; his words are recorded in the hieroglyphs “…

Nebamun was a scribe and accountant of wheat in the granary of divine offerings in the temple of Amun at Karnak in the New Kingdom during the reigns of Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III.

Fragment of a polychrome painting representing the garden and the pool of Nebamun – painted plaster
Provenance: Tomb of Nebamun – Theban Necropolis (location lost today)
Discovered in 1820 by Giovanni d’Anastasi on behalf of Consul Henry Salt
Salt Collection acquired by the British Museum in 1821 – Reference EA 37983 – museum photo

Therefore, his position was significant enough to have his eternal home on the west bank of Thebes. It was discovered in 1820 by Giovanni d’Athanasi… “Yanni” had entered the service of the British consul general Henry Salt when he was barely 20 years old to assist Giovanni Battista Belzoni. When he left in 1819, he replaced him in the field, then supplying the consul’s collections while building his own…

Henry Salt (Lichfield, UK – 14-6-1780 – Alexandria, Egypt – 30-10-1827)
diplomat, consul of England in Egypt from 1816 to 1835, collector of antiquities

For him to be “on the job”, Salt had built for him a small fortress at Gournah. He thus lived among the villagers whom he employed for his excavations… Is it thanks to this “proximity” that he discovered the Tomb of Nebamon? We cannot say… but unfortunately, proven is that its location – even if it is instead located in the necropolis of Dra Abu el-Naga – is regrettably lost today…

Eleven panels painted on plaster were taken from the chapel and sold by Consul Salt to the British Museum in 1821. This 64 cm high and 72 cm wide was recorded under (the reference) EA 37983.

Marie Grillot

Sources:

Fragment of a polychrome tomb-painting representing the pool in Nebamun’s estate garden https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA37983

The conservation and redisplay of the Nebamun Wall paintings https://m.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/complete_projects/nebamun_wall_paintings.aspx?fbclid=IwAR3M-6gXA5if6zUMMnTkx3KpnVVinf1U4ctMZVReNWFczJrWsW8lfLEsnTE

Project team RB Parkinson, project leader http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/galleries/ancient_egypt/room_61_tomb-chapel_nebamun/nebamun_animation.aspx

THE BRITISH MUSEUM DICTIONARY OF ANCIENT EGYPT BY IAN SHAW PAUL NICHOLSON

by IAN SHAW-PAUL NICHOLSON, 1995 https://archive.org/stream/THEBRITISHMUSEUMDICTIONARYOFANCIENTEGYPTBYIANSHAWPAULNICHOLSON/THE%20BRITISH%20MUSEUM-DICTIONARY%20OF%20ANCIENT%20EGYPT-%20BY%20IAN%20SHAW-PAUL%20NICHOLSON_djvu.txt

N. Strudwick, Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt, London 2006, p. 170-3. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/egypt-art/new-kingdom/a/paintings-from-the-tomb-chapel-of-nebamun

Paintings from the Tomb-chapel of Nebamun

P. Kozloff, B. Bryan, and M. Berman, Egypt’s Dazzling Sun, Cleveland 1992, p. 299 [Pl.31] = Le Pharaon-Soleil, Paris 1993, p.238 [Fig.IX.23].

http://osirisnet.net/ TT100, the Tomb of Rekhmire https://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/nobles/rekhmire100/rekhmire100_11.htm

6 thoughts on “Nebamun, a Simple Official and a Great Treasure.

  1. Fascinating as always Aladin, so thank you for sharing more Egyptian mystery and magic here on your blog. I love to see those painted scenes and imagining what life was like back then. The basin is a beautiful, exquisite painting. Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    Being a scribe or being literate seemed to give power to Egyptians of lower rank. That’s true in many tomb paintings. I love the image of the Dancers and Musicians–and the lovely orderly gardens with the Goddess preparing the fruit offering. So much beauty has been lost, but I’m grateful for what’s been saved. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

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