Nobles' Horses that Sailed the Nile

Khaemhat's Horses that Sailed the Nile

[Zoom in to enlarge horses and chariot, or full scene enlargement]

A wall scene from the tomb of one of the nobles during Amenhotep III's reign sheds light on how the king's horse shipping arrangement might have looked. Khaemhat, the Royal Scribe and Inspector of the Granaries of the North and the South, furnished his tomb at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, on the west bank of Thebes (Luxor) with a detailed picture of his Nile faring horses. While his boat may be more modest than the king's, it follows the convention of shipping horses onboard a Nile boat.

The scene carved in low relief shows no sign of paint. Six men on the near side of the boat row while a man sits on a box on each end of the boat. The larger size of the man at the bow indicates his greater status. Behind the man on the right at the bow two alert horses stand, probably tied by their bridles or halters, facing the bow of the ship. Just a sliver of the far horse of the team neatly shows behind the identical stance of the near horse. [Zoom in] Behind and above the rowers on top of the cabin a chariot with a sturdy 8-spoked wheel travels with its long poles reaching high out over the man at the stern.

sketch of Khaemhat in shrine on funerary barq
Khaemhat and his wife sit in a shrine in their funerary barq towed by the boat carrying the horses and chariot [photo]

Scenes on ancient Egyptians' tomb walls were meant to perpetuate their owners' life roles into the afterlife. Khaemhat meant to assure his perpetual access to the transportation mode he usually used to inspect the granaries—his chariot—during his life. At the left edge of the picture is another boat with the customary curved ornamental lotus bow of the funeral barq. The boat and rowers with the team of horses and chariot tow this barq containing an image of the seated Khaemhat and his wife within a shrine. Khaemhat appears in the the mummified Osiride form of a deceased who has become one with Osiris. [photo of the barq]

Tia's and Tia's Voyage to Abydos with their Horses that Sailed the Nile

Khaemhat's wall relief may represent the voyage to Abydos, which every Egyptian planned whether in life or after death. Khaemhat's scene presages a similar scene found by Geoffrey Martin in the Saqqara tomb of Tia and Tia from some hundred years later. 1 The Tias were husband and wife, and she was a sister of Ramses II.

Instead of standing in the open, one horse onboard the Tias' boat stands in a stall with upright posts and a roof, but no sides. Either the other horse stands beside it with its neck turned all the way around to look over its own back—an unlikely pose—or else the horses are tied neck to neck facing in opposite directions, an unusual arrangement nonetheless. The photo shows no hint of a chariot. Their funeral barge is towed by the rowed ship under full sail, larger than Khaemhat's rowed boat. The barq's ornate shrine holds images of the Tias seated in pleated robes rather than in Osiride form.

Huy, a viceroy to Kush illustrates another horse stall onboard a ship ».

v.1-11] Sailing Horses [1 | 2 | Continued »]


  1. Geoffrey T. Martin, The Hidden Tombs of Memphis New Discoveries from the Time of Tutankhamun and Ramesses the Great 1991 Thames and Hudson Ltd, London

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