Insight into Egyptian/Greek/Roman funerary rites

In the artwork in discussion, we see the pictorial representation of both Montuemhet and his wife Shepenmut.  Here we see a symbolic union of the couple in life beyond death.  Egyptians paid such detailed attention to the ‘trappings’ of earthly life that even his wife was to accompany the deceased administrator in his glorious passage.  The relief is a good example of sunk carving on a limestone block.  Above the head of the royal couple, we see three columns of hieroglyphs.  There are subtle marks made of original paint and chisel marks that run in vertical direction.  Montuemhet’s shoulder-long wig has elaborate curls dropping down in the form of rows.  He is also depicted wearing a

“plain collar and a sash with a knotted fastener on his left shoulder. Traces of paint on his chest in the form of small rosettes indicate that he originally wore the priestly leopard skin. His near arm would have been held over his lap, his far arm held outwards towards an offering table (now lost). The wife wears a dress with knotted straps leaving her breast exposed, a small plain collar and a long striated wig.” (SarahB, 2012)

During the time of Montuemhet’s demise, practices surrounding the building of individual tombs underwent a great revival.  In the four centuries prior to his death, the building of complex schemes of decoration in royal tombs was nearly absent.  In this sense, Mnotuemhet’s abode for afterlife is historically important.  Paying particular attention to the relief artifact, we see some special stylistic elements.  The Egyptian belief in the concept of eternity is not limited only to individual lives, but also to their artistic traditions.  This is why one can see aspects of relief work from the Old Kingdom (going back two millennia) in the relief of Montuemhet and his wife Shepenmut.  Coming as it does from the Saite Period the deliberate imprint of antiquity in the art work is seen as desire to reassert Egyptian native styles after centuries of foreign rule.  That the relief carries a unique style of its own makes it all the more impressive and valuable.


SarahB (June 22, 2012), SOAP: Seattle Art Museum Blog,  SAMart: Egyptian Art Friday, <>

Billard, Jules B. (1978). Ancient Egypt: Discovering its Splendors. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society.

Shaw, Ian (2003). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-500-05074-0.

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