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 about 20 Kilometers south of Al Minya and 245 kilometers south of Cairo.
This cemetery necropolis was established to bury the dead provincial rulers during the Middle Kingdom on the ruins of a much older burial site used during the Old Kingdom period. 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 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 regions 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 authority of these local rulers and governors became much less.
Due to their more elaborate layout and 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 Ikhnton established in the 14th century B.C.
Situated to the South of the city of Al Minya, Beni Hassan is just another tiny village located at the beginning of the region of Upper Egypt. The Tombs of Beni Hassan, like 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 at 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 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. However, many of Beni Hassan's tombs are still worth visiting.
Distinctive Features of the Tombs of Beni Hassan
Although the Necropolis of Beni Hassan hosts around 39 tombs, mainly dating to the Middle Kingdom, only four 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 this was the City of the Living, while the East Bank was the City of the Living.
Many excavation missions explored the Tombs of Beni Hassan as early as the end of the 19th century when the Egypt Exploration Fund studied the Necropolis and did a great job . The British archeologist John Garstang unearthed some tombs that belonged to the 6th and 7th dynasties, and many of the Tombs of 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 to be excavated in the actual excavation. The tomb's owner 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 noteworthy architectural features. In contrast, the tomb is rectangular and cut out of rock , with two pillars in the famous shape of the lotus plant.
The walls in the northern section of the tomb host many remarkable paintings depicting the tomb's owner in his daily. Since Baqet was the ruler of a province during this period, he was represented hunting for animals in the deserts of El Minya, chasing birds, and performing his daily duties as a ruler.
On the other hand, the walls located in the eastern section of the tomb display some scenes of battles that took place in the region during 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 his tomb's plan and design looked quite like his father's. The Tomb of Khety features six lotus-shaped columns and is rectangular , the same as that of Baqet. The paintings of the walls 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 tomb's owner accompanied by his wife and supervising the activities 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 in the southern section of the tomb shows Khety supervising the process of making wine, and some burial rituals are also displayed in this section.
The Tomb of Amenmehat
Amenmehat lived during the 7th period, and maybe this was why the plan of his tomb is somewhat more complicated, and the walls are more decorative and better crafted.
Amenmehat was the last official to be given an essential royal name as he was working as an official in a period when the governing system of Egypt was more centralized. Amenmehat 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 central theme of the paintings includes Amenmehat in different military and daily life activities. The southern wall has a scene of the tomb's owner sitting with his wife at a large table with many goods produced in the lands he governed. There are also some remains of statues of Amenmahat, his wife, and his mother presenting the gods with offerings, a common feature in the earlier tombs in Beni Hassan.