Tomb relief of Meni and Khety - ROM2018_16242_14


Tomb relief of Meni and Khety

Geography: Excavated at Saqqara, Egypt
Date: c. 2160-2025 BC
Period: 9th-10th Dynasty, 1st Intermediate Period
29.6 × 60.5 × 4.2 cm
Object number: 971.289
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This piece was probably cut from the wall of a tomb. Only traces of paint remain on the extremely low relief images.  Nevertheless, the piece has its charms.  The man seated to the left of centre was the owner of the tomb. His name is damaged, but may have been Meni. Meni’s title is also damaged, but the word ‘royal’ remains showing that he held some high rank. During the period of his lifetime, the Ninth or Tenth Dynasty, kings no longer wielded the power of the great builders of pyramids, nor were they as grand as the mighty pharaohs who would rule Egypt long after his death. Local men of subtance like Meni may actually have had more freedom and power within their towns and estates than they would have had if the kings had held supreme authority.

Behind Meni stand his wife, Khety, and his daughter, Sat-hem-netjer. Khety sits before an elaborate array of food and flowers which magically ensure that he will never go hungry in the next life. He reaches his hand to the table immediately in front of him on which stand thin loaves of bread which have been drawn to resemble the hieroglyph for ‘reed.’ The Field of Reeds is one of the nicest parts of the Other World, and this table thus assures both food to eat, and a good location in which to eat it.  Notice that Meni does not actually touch the food; it is eternally within his reach, and will never run out.

On the right side stand a man, Impy, and his wife, Ipi. It’s difficult to read Impy’s profession, but he may have served as treasurer or steward to Meni.  Impy and Ipi do not seem to have been relatives of Meni, but were clearly people with whom he wanted to spend eternity.

Completing the household in this life and the next are the servants.  They bring cuts of meat, vegetables and flowers, “every good thing for a festival.”  In the lower register, we are treated to a moment of good cheer by the friendly butchers. One asks, “Do me a favour, companion,” and his friend replies, “I will do what pleases you.” A third man, as he sharpens his knife, may be reminding them to get back to work: “Make room for me.”

The Ancient Egyptians did not expect the next life to be overly solemn.  This stele shows that they hoped for good company, good food, flowers, and friendly banter in the next world, just as in this. 

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