Archaeology Magazine Archive

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The tomb of Djehutynakht (je-hooty-knocked) and his wife, also named Djehutynakht, was thoroughly looted in antiquity, but artifacts the thieves left behind provide an extraordinary window on life in ancient Egypt. Djehutynakht was governor of Hermopolis, a city midway between Memphis and Luxor. Subservient to the pharaoh, he was nonetheless a powerful man who ruled over large estates and could afford to be buried in style. The artifacts, more than 100 painted wooden models that reveal aspects of daily life, were recovered by a Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition in 1915. They are on view in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibit The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 B.C. until May 16, 2010.

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A priest leading a procession and numerous boats are among the models from the tomb of Djehutynakht, an Egyptian governor (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston | Harvard University--Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition)

Text on the inside of Djehutynakht's coffin reads, optimistically, "A man does what he wishes in the land of the dead." To make sure this was the case, he and his wife were accompanied by everything they would need for a comfortable afterlife. For sustenance there are tiny wooden carvings of figs, onions, and garlic; a small dressed duck; diminutive bread loaves; and miniature water and wine jars. Models show people at work, doing for eternity what they did in life for Djehutynakht. There are brewery-bakeries, carpentry and weaving shops, mud-brick factories, granaries, and cattle being fed or pulling plows. Several models show groups of men and women bearing offerings, and others depict marching soldiers.

The Djehutynakhts went to the afterlife with a fleet of 58 watercraft, including a fast-looking 18-paddle military vessel with spears and shields on board. There are small fowling skiffs, some with a brace of ducks already on deck, and funerary boats each with a canopy and bier for a mummy to be laid upon. On a cooking barge, a man fans the fire in a mud-brick hearth.

The most costly items found in the tomb were the coffins. Djehutynakht's was the best that money could buy, made of massive slabs of Lebanese cedar and richly painted with a "false door" so his ka, or life force, could easily cross between the worlds of the living and the dead. Columns of tiny, precise hieroglyphs on the sides and lid of the coffin were there to help Djehutynakht reach the afterlife, identifying places of peril ("the gate of fire and the gate of darkness") and demons to be overcome or avoided ("Dog-face, whose shape is big. This is a spell for passing by him") along the way.

With models replicating his earthly domain, the governor was ready for eternity in paradise, the Fields of Hetep. Inside his coffin an inscription reads, "Men carouse, and this Djehutynakht carouses there; men eat, and this Djehutynakht eats there; men drink, and this Djehutynakht drinks there; men plow, and this Djehutynakht plows there; men reap, and this Djehutynakht reaps there. This Djehutynakht will not be apprehensive in it."