Tomb of Khabekhnet (Servant in the Place of Truth), (TT2), Wall painting of a Mummy depicted as a fish Deir El Medina, Western Thebes, Egypt
photo by Ibeca Francisco Jose Neves
1279 BC- 1212 BC – New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II
Khabekhnet was the eldest son of Sennedjem (TT1).He lived during the 19th dynasty when Ramesses II (1279-1212 BC) was on the throne. His title was “Servant in the Place of Truth” and his home was in Deir el-Medina where he worked in the royal tombs at the Valley of the Kings. Khabekhnet’s house was located in the southwestern part of the village. It stood next to the house of his father Sennedjem (Théby,2007,276).
Khabekhnet was buried along with his wife, Sahte, and their family in a tomb in the above and slightly to the south of his father’s tomb. Khabekhnet’s family was as extensive as Sennedjem’s family. A stela found in the courtyard of the tomb contains the names of Khabekhnet, his brother Khons and several children: Mose, Anhotep, Amenemheb, Isis and Henutweret. Benedict Davies suggests they all were Khabekhnet’s offspring (Davis,1999,45).
Another group of children of Khabeknet is listed in a register on the north wall of the hall of his tomb: sons Sennedjem (ii), Piay, Bakenanuy and Kha and the daughters Webkhet, Mutemopet and Nofretkhau (Davis,1999,45). Inscriptions on a statue of Khabekhnet and Sahte preserved the names of their three more daughters: Roy, Nodjemmut and Wabet as well as the names of the grandchildren Mose, Khaemseba and Mutkhati (Davies,1999,46).
The substructure of the tomb contains decorations and scenes of the gods Ra, Osiris, Hathor and the king, also of Hapi and offerings and scenes of various other deities. The goddess Isis spreads her protective wings above the bed, where the mummy of the deceased is laid out on the bed and the priest with the mask of Anubis cares for it. It represents Chapter 151 from the Book of the Dead. The goddess Isis and goddess Nepthys both kneel beside the bed.
Another wall shows a similar scene in slightly modified form: Anubis, the jackal-headed embalmer, is attending to the dead Khabekhnet, who is depicted here as a mighty fish, rather than the usual human mummy, lying on a lion-legged couch. The following words accompany the scene: “Anubis, the imy-wt, says: I come and I am your protector of eternity, oh abdw-fish from true lapis lazuli”. The four sons of Horus (Imset, a human headed deity responsible for the liver, Hapi, a baboon headed deity responsible for the lungs, Duamutef, a jackal headed deity responsible for the stomach and Kebechsenef with a head of a falcon responsible for the viscera of the lower body) flank the fish at the head and foot of the bed. The whole scene is framed by a tent, by the sides of which Isis and Nepthys kneel on clumps of lilies and papyrus plants. This large “abdw” fish is unidentifiable. The painting remains so far unparalleled. The fish has been identified as the Nile perch (Lates niloticus) and was explained as a symbol of the deceased awaiting rebirth (Germond,2001,143). Patrick Houlihan admits that the precise meaning of this fish mummy is uncertain, but he thinks that it probably represents the deceased, who associates himself with the god Osiris (Houlihan,1996,132).Ingrid Gamer-Wallert (Gamer-Wallert,1970,131-132) suggests that the abdw-fish is related to tilapia, a fish that in ancient Egyptian art symbolizes rebirth. She argues that in this painting, the fish represents the followers of Re and his boat or is even a manifestation of the sun god himself. Could it be that the dead man, regarding his continued existence to be secured by the presence of the solar bark and the tilapia and abdw-fish, might also have felt the desire to transform himself into one of these fish, and thus into one of the manifestations of Re? Why Khabekhnet chose the abdw-fish in this case and not the usual tilapia, we will probably never know.
SOURCE: Gwyn Ashworth-Pratt, Sussex Egyptology Society, Facebook post