Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Lots more on the Mamela tombs aka Ankhtifi at Moalla

My Egyptian guide friend Hussein having correctly identified the tomb for me, now the information has come rolling in.

Francois Tonic tells me he has visited there as an ordinary tourist and it is quite easy from Luxor although you have to use the convoy.

Elke Noppes gave me two websites Wikipedia:
and another Site which pictures from Moalla:

And big thanks to Ed Johnson who has given me a detailed description

It is a 10th dynasty First Intermediate Period Tomb, one of a group situated on the East side of the road, about one half to two thirds of the way up the hill. It is the best preserved of the group and is therefore secured with a gate and lock. The others are not, there is a lot less remaining of them and they are all smaller than Anktifi's.

The layout of the tomb is such that you enter the long transverse chapel from the door in the center front face of the tomb. Upon entering the door you are facing the tomb shaft, the opening of which is now quite large and is fenced off and which drops down about 10 feet. The burial chamber proceeds from the bottom of the shaft on an east-west axis The chapel is fairly large, at least 30 feet to each side of the shaft. The roof is mostly of wood, a modern construction, though closer to the back face of the tomb there is still the remains of the original rock cut ceiling supported by some of the original pillars, though some are fragmentary. The entire tomb was cut in a layer of limestone which is badly fractured and has led to loss of the ceiling and other parts of the tomb, as well.

While the burial shaft is undecorated and not readily accessible, the rest of the tomb is. It is done in typical provincial style, which some people consider crude and inferior, but which has a certain charm and vitality of its own. Some of the remaining wall paintings are well preserved and remain quite colorful, if I remember correctly, mostly on the rear of the front wall and on some of the columns. However, some of the scenes have suffered and are unclear, having been effected with water over the centuries, as parts of it were clearly open for extended periods of time before it was rescued and conserved and even now the roof is not watertight, as they never are. These areas appear almost erased or to have been covered over with water borne plaster and mud, obscuring the surface.

The tomb has been the subject of several campaigns of conservation, most recently by the SCA conservators from Esna and there is a large modern SCA magazine and conservation lab just down the hill and a bit to the south. The last conservation efforts were undertaken some years ago and were aimed at trying to ameliorate earlier treatments with consolidants which were less than ideal, such as PVA and some others. These are hard to remove and the efforts have met with limited success. These consolidants have contributed to the inability to clean up some of the obscured scenes.

Some of the internal pillars are unusual, being cone shaped, with the large end toward the ground and tapering to the top. These are also decorated, some nicely, some with their decoration a bit muddy looking as noted above.

There are several other tombs in the hill, none as large and none as well preserved as Anktifi's, though there are isolated surviving scenes in some of them, which have also been the subject of some conservation efforts.

It is not a major site and visitors are few, but it is worthwhile to see if you can drop by and spend perhaps 30 minutes looking around. I used it last year to illustrate some points and geology for our class on the way to Send, as some of our students were based there and a couple had actually been involved with the earlier conservation of the tomb and had worked at the site, so we were all interested to see what they had done.

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