About the Tombs of Beni Hassan
The burial chamber of Beni Hassan dates back to the Middle Kingdom, from 2055 until 1650 B.C. The tombs of Beni Hassan are carved into some limestone hills on the East Bank of the Nile. They are situated about 20 Kilometers south of Al Minya and 245 kilometers south of Cairo.
This necropolis was established to bury the dead provincial rulers during the Middle Kingdom on the ruins of a much older burial site that was in use during the period of the Old Kingdom. This necropolis belonged to the military leaders and local rulers who chose to be buried in their provinces because of their growing power and independence rather than being buried near their kings in Saqqara. The necropolis of Beni Hassan reflects the political differences between the province's rulers and the kings. When the king became weaker the power of the rulers of provinces and the local governors increased automatically and vice-versa.
Power Changes Reflected In Tombs
When the Pharaohs declared the centralization of the power and assigned a governor for each region, the power of these local rulers and governors became much less.
Due to their more elaborate layout and more complex decorations, the tombs of Beni Hassan mark a transition stage in the style of the tombs from the Old Kingdom to the New Kingdom. The journey to the Tombs of Beni Hassan can be organized as a one-day trip from Cairo to view the tombs and the historical sites of Hermopolis and Tell El Amarna, the center of the cult of Aton which was established by Ikhnton in the 14th century BC.
Situated to the South of the city of Al Minya, Beni Hassan is just another small village located at the beginning of the region of Upper Egypt. The Tombs of Beni Hassan, the same as many other historical necropolises in Egypt, are reached using a staircase made of stones to travel up the hillside to where the tombs are located. The Necropolis of Beni Hassan hosts a large number of tombs. However, there are only thirty tombs that are important and contain attractive decorations and layouts. These tombs are all situated on the same height and the entrances to the tombs are located on the same plateau. The ancient Egyptian paintings and drawings, with exciting themes and everlasting bright colors, coat 12 of the tombs of Beni Hassan. In some of these tombs, the mountains were cut to make the facades of the tombs appear at the same level, however, through the years the colors on the tombs faded, and many of the columns constructed inside them were damaged. Overall, however many of the tombs of Beni Hassan are still definitely worth visiting.
Distinctive Features of the Tombs of Beni Hassan
Although the Necropolis of Beni Hassan hosts around 39 tombs dating mostly to the Middle Kingdom, only four out of them are open to the public, plus another tomb has no decorations. The tombs of Beni Hassan are more distinctive than any other historical necropolis, enabling guests to view the unique style of decoration that was common in the Middle Kingdom, especially the bright-colored wall paintings. Moreover, almost all the burial sites of ancient Egypt were established in the West Bank of the Nile, as the Pharaohs thought that this was the City of the Living, while the East Bank was the City of the Living.
Many excavation missions have explored the Tombs of Beni Hassan as early as the end of the 19th century as the Necropolis was studied by the Egypt Exploration Fund which did a great job in the area The British Archeologist John Garstang unearthed some tombs that belonged to the 6th and the 7th dynasties and many of the Tombs by Beni Hassan were restored by the Egyptian Antiquities Authority at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Tomb of Baqet
Although the Tomb of Baqet was numbered as the 15th tomb of Beni Hassan, BH15, it was the first tomb to be excavated in the actual excavation. The owner of the tomb was the governor of the El Minya during the reign of the 6th dynasty, during the beginning of the 21st century B.C.
The tomb of Baqet has a simple façade with no decorations or architectural features to be noted while the tomb itself has a rectangular shape that was cut out of rock with two pillars that has the popular shape of the lotus plant.
The walls situated in the Northern section of the tomb host many remarkable paintings displaying the owner of the tomb during his daily life activities. Since Baqet was the ruler of a province during the ruling period, he is represented hunting for animals in the deserts of El Minya, chasing birds, and doing his daily duties as a ruler.
On the other hand, the walls located in the eastern section of the tomb display some scenes of different battles that took place in the region during the period of the 6th dynasty, a common feature of funerary paintings during this period. The southern wall of the tomb, the most traditional among its walls, contains scenes from the burial of Baqet plus some other scenes of the owner of the tomb playing sports and sitting with his family members.
The Tomb of Khety
Khety, the son of Baqet, worked in the same position as his father. He was a ruler of a province situated near the city of El Minya. Maybe this was why the plan and the design of his tomb look quite like that of his father. The Tomb of Khety features six lotus-shaped columns and is rectangular in shape, the same as that of Baqet. The paintings of the walls located in the Eastern and the Northern sections of the tomb display Khety during his hunting trips in the deserts of the reign.
There are also some scenes of the owner of the tomb accompanied by his wife and supervising the activities taking place in the province they were ruling. This included some scenes of women singing and dancing. The eastern wall of the tomb has some scenes of soldiers practicing to participate in battles. The ancient Egyptian artist who brilliantly created this wall showed the movement of the soldiers wonderfully by using different shades to show how each soldier moved during his training. The wall located in the southern section of the tomb shows Khety supervising the process of making wine and there are some burial rituals displayed in this section as well.
The Tomb of Amenmehat
Amenmehat lived during the 7th period and maybe this was why the plan of his tomb is rather more complicated and the walls are more decorative and better crafted.
Amenmehat was the last official to be given an important royal name as he was working as an official in a period when the governing system of Egypt was more centralized and Amnenmehat used to report to the government in the capital of Egypt at the time.
The design of the tomb of Amenmehat consists of a central courtyard and only two pillars before the entrance to the main chapel of the tomb which is in the shape of a rectangle but with a bigger space. The walls of the tomb of Amenmehat have paintings that look like other tombs in Beni Hassan that were constructed earlier. The main theme of the paintings includes Amenmehat in different military and daily life activities. The southern wall has a scene of the owner of the tomb sitting with his wife at a large table with many goods that were produced in the lands that he governed. There are also some remains of statues of Amenmahat, his wife, and his mother presenting the gods with offerings, a feature that was common as well in the earlier tombs in Beni Hassan.