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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Tomb of Nebamun

Tomb of Nebamun

Tomb of Nebamun

The Tomb of Nebamun is the source of some of the most famous surviving ancient Egyptian polychrome tomb-painting scenes. This scene depicts Nebamun standing on a small boat, fishing and fowling in the marshes of the Nile with fish shown beneath the water-line. His wife stands behind him portrayed on a smaller scale, and his daughter sits beneath him holding one of his legs. Nebamun holds a throw-stick in one hand and decoy herons in the other. His cat is shown catching three birds, and many other birds are depicted flying away after being startled from the papyrus-thicket. This Tomb-Painting is one of the most significant paintings from ancient Egypt to have survived.

Nebamun was an official scribe and grain counter at the temple complex in Thebes. His Tomb was located in the Theban Necropolis situated on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes (present-day Luxor), in Egypt. The tomb’s plastered walls were richly decorated with fresco paintings, depicting Nebamun’s life and activities. The tomb was discovered in 1820 by Yanni d’Athanasi, who was acting as an agent for the British Consul-General. The workmen hacked out the fresco painted pieces with knives, saws and crowbars. D’Athanasi later died without ever revealing the tomb’s exact location.

Nebamun

Nebamun was a middle-ranking official, who’s role was scribe and grain accountant about 3,300 years ago in ancient Egypt. He worked at the vast temple complex near Thebes, where the state-god Amun was worshipped. Nebamun’s name is translated as “My Lord is Amun”, and his association with the temple, coupled with the importance of grain supplies to Egypt, meant that he was a person of considerable responsibilities, though not of the highest rank, in Egyptian society.

Tomb of Nebamun

A fresco from the tomb of Nebamun

Although the exact location of that tomb is now lost, most of the wall paintings from the tomb were acquired by the British Museum and are regarded as amongst the museum’s greatest treasures.

Facts about the Tomb of Nebamun

  • These paintings once decorated the tomb-chapel of Nebamun and were intended to impress and entertain Nebamun’s friends and family, who would visit the chapel to pray for him and ensure his place in the afterlife.
  • A pair of naked female dancers, their fingers interlaced, entertain the guests at a banquet.
  • A flute player looks out from the painting; her hair seems to be swaying to the music.
  • In 1821 ten paintings from the Tomb of Nebamun were purchased by the British Museum. The eleventh painting was acquired in 1823.
  • In 1835 D’Athanasi the discoverer and excavator fell out with the museum over his finder’s fee and refused to divulge the precise position of the tomb. He died without revealing the exact location.
  • The paintings were put on display to the public In 1835 at the British Museum.
  • The paintings were removed several times, of their safety during the first and second world wars.
  • Archaeologists have searched in vain for the tomb of Nebamun and any treasures that it may still contain.

Explore Egyptian Art

Reflections on Tomb-Painting

  • The paintings from the tomb of Nebamun are some of the most significant pictures from ancient Egypt to have survived. What will remain from our lives?
  • This Tomb-Painting for Nebamun shows what he wished to carry on doing for eternity. What would you want to carry on doing for eternity?
  • What do you think of the composition and drawing skills of the artist?
  • Was it painted to a formula or is it unique to Nebamun’s life?
  • Nebamun’s wish for the afterlife.

Tomb of Nebamun

  • Artefact:      Tomb of Nebamun
  • Date:           1350 BC
  • Culture:       18th Dynasty
  • Find Spot:    Tomb of Nebamun, Thebes, Egypt
  • Materials:     Plaster
  • Acquisition: 1821
  • Dimensions: H: 98 cm W: 115 cm
  • Museum:      The British Museum

Explore the Collections of the British Museum

Ancient Egypt and Sudan Collection

The Middle East Collection

Ancient Greece and Rome Collection

The Britain, Europe and Prehistory Collection

The Asian Collection

The Africa, Oceania and the Americas Collection

The Prints and Drawings Collection

Information on The British Museum

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“Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion.”
– Egyptian Proverbs

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Photo Credit: 1) British Museum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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