The Tomb of Senwosret at Elkab

Dec 8, 2018

Elkab, tomb chapel of Senwosret, section of hunting scene on west wall (Photo: W. V. Davies).

Project description

A British Museum expedition under the direction of W. V. Davies has been working on cleaning and recording the pharaonic tombs of Elkab since 2009. The tomb discussed here was built for Senwosret, a governor of Elkab probably during the early 12thDynasty.

Decorative program

“The walls and ceiling were decorated with scenes and motifs in pure paint, the façade with inscriptions in sunk relief.”

On the east wall, “there is a large scene, mostly destroyed, showing the tomb owner hunting with bow and arrow. Well preserved, in front of him, is the smaller figure of an attendant holding a dog straining on the leash (Fig. 2); below is a ploughing scene showing a drover with two cattle very finely drawn (Fig. 3). To the left, nearer to the back of the chamber, a major offering scene is beginning to emerge. It shows the tomb owner and his wife seated on a chair. Figured prominently beneath them is a pet monkey coloured green (eating an item of food, possibly a fig) (Fig. 4), a motif repeated in a similar scene on the opposite wall.”

The decoration of the west wall, “all in paint and of fine workmanship, though faded and damaged, includes a scene of huntsmen returning from an expedition, armed with bows and other weaponry, and accompanied by dogs.”“Especially fine, though now faded, is a scene on the west wall showing birds trapped in a net (Fig. 5).”

“The northern half of the east wall was occupied by two large offering scenes, in each case showing a seated couple, the tomb-owner and wife (perhaps two different wives), before assorted offerings, all very finely painted. A similar scene is present on the opposite wall. Painted decoration is also visible on what remains of the left entrance thickness, showing a dwarf holding an offering and leading a procession of larger figures, and on a large loose block detached from the top of the doorway. The scene on the latter shows a pottery workshop on the upper left and, below, a group of workers climbing a ladder and carrying baskets of grain to be deposited in a silo (Fig. 15). The figure of the potter (surviving height 14.5cm) is larger than any of the others and is particularly interesting. He is shown at his wheel manufacturing a vessel, without assistance, his leading foot placed against the circular pivot stone.”

Documentation method

Not specified by the authors.

Visual example(s)

Fig. 15: Elkab, tomb chapel of Senwosret, detached section of wall with scene of workers (Photo: J. Rossiter). 

Fig. 5: Elkab, tomb chapel of Senwosret, section of bird-trapping scene on west wall. 

Fig. 2: Elkab, tomb chapel of Senwosret, detail of hunting scene with dogs (Claire Thorne). 

Fig. 3: Elkab, tomb chapel of Senwosret, detail of ploughing scene (Claire Thorne). 

Fig. 4: Elkab, tomb chapel of Senwosret, detail of offering scene with figure of monkey (Claire Thorne). 

What we like

  • The documentation technique applied to represent the very much faded and fragmented decorative wall surfaces at Elkab is well suited for the occasion, providing a straightforward, single weight outline drawing narrowed down to only indicate painted outlines.
  • Occasionally, where the decorative surface is unreadable or unclear, there are gaps left blank between chunks of visible outline segments.
  • Painted outlines are often shown as two separate set of pen strokes, delivering additional information about the nature of the original brushwork.
  • Damaged areas are only represented when indicating deep cracks or mud fill on the wall, otherwise they are wisely omitted from the drawings to avoid any interference with the painted decoration. When damage is indicated, it appears as a single weight continuous outline with no fill applied.
  • Although color representation is not the primary goal of the graphical presentation, a sporadic dotted pattern is used in some areas to distinguish between certain painted elements, such is the case of the two oxen pulling a plow (?) depicted on Fig. 3. (Traditional Rapidograph ink drawing on paper.)

Additional reading

For the original context of the material appearing in this article see:

W. Vivian Davies and Elisabeth R. O’Connell - British Museum Expedition to Elkab and Hagr Edfu, 2013 in:British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 22 (2015): 1–34.

W. Vivian Davies and Elisabeth R. O’Connell - British Museum Expedition to Elkab and Hagr Edfu, 2012 in:British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 19 (2012): 51–85.

W. Vivian Davies and Elisabeth R. O’Connell - British Museum Expedition to Elkab and Hagr Edfu, 2010 in:British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 16 (2010): 101–32.

To read more about this expedition as well as the British Museum’s other research projects, visit their website.

Précis and commentary by Júlia Schmied

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