Aswan was not a city in ancient times; people during this period settled around the island of Elephantine, where the rulers and kings of Nubia lived. For this reason, the necropolis of Nubia’s kings and the royal family was located near the island, in what is today known as the tombs of the nobles in Aswan.
Tomb of the nobles Aswan Located on the West Bank of the Nile, the burials are perfectly preserved and provide an opportunity to learn about the history of Egypt during the Ancient and Middle Kingdoms.
Nobles tombs in Aswan were discovered by the British archaeologist Lord Grenville in 1885, who became the first explorer of this important historical site.
In some reference books, Aswan tombs of the nobles are called qubat El-Hawa, one of the most visited monuments in Upper Egypt. The frescoes inside are amazingly picturesque, depicting the daily life of the ancient Egyptians, and are a magnificent example of ancient art.
The most important and beautiful are the tombs of Harkhuf, Sarenput II, Sabni, and Mekho. The entrance to the Mekkho tomb is carried out along diagonally carved steps – this technique facilitated the movement of the deceased’s body with the help of wooden and stone skates.
Basic information about Aswan Tombs
The northern hills of the left bank of the Nile are dotted with tombs carved into the rocks. They are visible from Aswan, especially when brightly lit at night. They belong to different periods, and Kings and central officials are buried here during the end of the Ancient – the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.
More than 400 tombs of the nobility; are scattered in several groups to the left of the highway running between the Nile and the mountains. In architecture, they are much more modest than royal tombs. The poor quality of the limestone forced the builders to replace the bas-reliefs with frescoes.
The tombs of the nobility are interesting for their paintings on everyday topics, which are absent in the royal tombs. The nobles hunt, fish, and boat on the Nile. They sit in the garden with their families, count goods, and have fun.
Somewhat different than in the tombs of the pharaohs and the tone of the inscriptions in the tombs of the nobility. There are notes of doubt in them: is life as good in the afterlife as on earth? “Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow you wi”l go to the land of beautiful silence, where there is none of this,” one of the inscriptions says.
“Make them” sing and dance before you, forget about worries and think about fun until you go to the earth, to this beautiful silence,” reads another inscription.
The tombs of”the pharaohs of the 12th dynasty, Sirenput I and Sirenput II, are well preserved. Beautiful wall paintings have been held in the latter’s burial chamber. The deceased is depicted here at dinner with his son and mother.
Mekho was a prince of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, the son of King Pepi II, who died on one of the royal trips. Inside the tomb, on the right wall, is a fresco depicting a prince and his wife in traditional clothes during an offering to the gods and several other everyday scenes.
It was customary in ancient Egypt to decorate the first chamber of the tomb with scenes from the daily life of the deceased. Further to the right, false doors and several more frescoes are visible.
The burial chamber of the Mekho tomb is supported by 18 columns with many plots and inscriptions divided into three rows. One of the walls depicts a scene of Anubis and Osiris praying for Mekho against the backdrop of frescoes of agricultural themes.
The grave of Sabni, the son of Mekho, is a continuation of his father’s tomb. A luxurious corridor leads to the burial, divided into two sections, opening into a hall with 14 square columns and fishing scenes on all walls. An essential feature of the Sabni tomb is the scenes that tell the story of the prince’s journey for the body of his deceased father; this is one the historical evidence of the peculiarities of the mentality of the Egyptians during this period and their perception of life, death, and immortality.
The temple and tomb of Sarenput II are perhaps the best of the graves of the nobility in Aswan. Sarenput II was the son of a Nubian king and crown prince, high priest of the temple of the gods Khnum and San, and commander-in-chief of the army of Egypt during the reign of Amenmehat II (12th dynasty).
The tomb starts from the courtyard, supported by six columns; on the right side is a granite slab with the name of the tomb’s owner.
This is followed by a corridor with wall paintings dedicated to the nobleman’s life and his son. In another hall with four columns, the titles of Sarenput II are indicated in hieroglyphic letters.
The ruler of the island of Elephantine and the surrounding area, Harkhuf, lived during the VI dynasty between 2345 and 2181 BC. e., was one of the first people buried in the tombs of the nobility in Aswan.
His tomb also has a traditional courtyard at the entrance; its facade is decorated with frescoes of the life of a noble ruler; the next room is a rectangular hall with a corridor leading to the coffin.
Tombs of Nobles Aswan
Since 2010, the Spanish government has given money to two R+D+i projects because of how important the site is and how the work involves different fields.
So far, about thirty researchers, mainly from Spain, have taken part. They come from Jaén, Granada, Autónoma de Madrid, Libre de Berlin, and the National Archaeological Museum. But there have also been experts from the United States, Italy, and France.
The research project aims to get as much information as possible from the archaeological evidence. This means that other experts who don’t seem to have anything to do with archaeology or Egyptology are also critical.
So, physical anthropologists are responsible for figuring out the age, sex, and diseases of the human remains found. Thanks to a non-invasive technique called Raman, chemical researchers can figure out the makeup of the pigments used to decorate the burial goods.
Architects try to reconstruct the tombs and explain how they were built, and restorers try to put the pieces back together and bring back as much of their original look as possible.
Also, geologists have explained why the tombs were built where they were and how they have affected the stability of the hill. An anthropologist can tell what kinds of wood the ancient Egyptians used and whether they were imported or from the area. Finally, Egyptologists can read the hieroglyphic writing and determine its meaning by comparing it to historical records.
In ancient Egypt, the governors were the pharaoh’s representatives in the provinces. In general, they had a wide range of religious and economic responsibilities. In this way, each area had its things about it.
In the case of the area Elephantine ruled, the border between Egypt and Nubia made it a place where people from the Upper Nile Valley and the surrounding deserts could meet and trade.
Also, in the area now the city of Aswan, there were outcrops of pink granite, a highly valued rock since the beginning of Egyptian civilization, and it was used to make vessels and build monuments.