Explore / Articles

 

The tomb-chapel of Nebamun, an ancient Egyptian scribe

The British Museum contains 11 fragments of wall painting from the tomb of Nebamun. He worked as a 'scribe and grain accountant in the granary of divine offerings' in the Temple of Amun at Karnak. His name is damaged but he was almost certainly called Nebamun.

The fragments were discovered by the local agent of Henry Salt in Thebes in 1820. The location of the tomb from which they came is still not known with any certainty, but it is thought to be in the northern part of the necropolis in the area known as Dra Abu el-Naga. Stylistically, the magnificent wall paintings can be dated to either the final years of the reign of Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC) or the early years of his successor.

The paintings show scenes of daily life and include images of banquets, agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting and scenes of offerings. The quality of the drawing and composition is outstanding, and the superbly detailed treatment of the animals makes these some of the finest paintings to survive from ancient Egypt.

The fragments are keenly observed vignettes of Nebamun and his family enjoying both work and play. Some concern the provision of the funerary cult that was celebrated in the tomb-chapel, some show scenes of Nebamun’s life as an elite official, and others show him and his family enjoying life for all eternity, as in the famous scene of the family hunting in the marshes. Together they decorated the small tomb-chapel with vibrant and engaging images of an elite lifestyle that Nebamun hoped would continue in the afterlife.

The painting fragments from Nebamun's tomb-chapel are now on display in the new permanent exhibition Ancient Egyptian life and death in Room 61.

Shop Online

Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99

Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99