Reliefs from burial chamber of Sobekmose
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III
Object Place: Egypt, el-Rizeiqat
Height x width (west wall): 172 x 218 cm (67 11/16 x 85 13/16 in.) Height x width (north wall): 172 x 316 cm (67 11/16 x 124 7/16 in)
Medium or Technique
Egyptian Funerary Arts Gallery (Mummies) (Gallery 109)
To realize his ambitious plans, Amenhotep III could count on a group of able officials. One of these was the treasurer Sobekmose, whose tomb was discovered in 1908 at el-Rizeiqat, south of Luxor. As was the case with most tombs, there was a chapel above ground and a burial chamber in the rock below. However, the walls of the burial chamber were lined with sandstone blocks, an unusual material, particularly at el-Rizeiqat, which is well north of where sandstone was quarried. The burial chamber normally would have been cut in the bedrock and, because of the poor and crumbly quality of the local limestone, lined with brick. Sobekmose, however, was in a good position to obtain stone from afar. As treasurer, he was responsible for mining and quarrying operations in general, and in addition, inscriptions in his burial chamber tell us that Sobekmose was involved in the construction of Luxor Temple, which was built entirely of sandstone.
The scene illustrated here shows Sobekmose’s funeral procession. This piece comes from the north wall of his burial chamber, so appropriately the procession would have moved west, in the direction of the cemetery. Leading the procession are two female mourners, beating their breasts in token of their grief. Labeled “the two kites,” they impersonate Isis and Nephthys, sisters of the murdered Osiris. Following them are seven men grasping the towrope of a boat. They represent the gods who would drag the boat of the sun god Re across the sky by day and through the netherworld by night. But as Sobekmose’s boat had to cross dry land, it was equipped with sledge runners. On deck is a shrine with a sloping roof, and inside, Anubis, the jackal-headed god of embalming, tends to the mummy of Sobekmose. Across the top of the scene is an excerpt from spell 130 of the Book of the Dead, “for enabling a spirit to embark on the boat of Re and his retinue”:
Open, sky. Open, earth. Open, west. Open, east. Open, shrines of Upper and Lower Egypt. Open, doors, open, gates, to Re that he may go forth from the horizon. Open to him, doors of the day bark, open to him, gates of the night bark… . Do not stand in the way of the Osiris, the treasurer Sobekmose.
From El-Rizeiqat , tomb of Sobekmose, burial chamber, north and west walls. 1908: discovered and dismantled by Emile Baraize of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1954: acquired by the MFA through exchange with the Metropolitan Musem of Art, New York.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Exchange