The chapel of Raemkai was originally built and decorated for an official named Neferiretnes, traces of whose name and titles can still be made out on the false door. The reuse of the tomb for Raemkai was not probably by royal decree and took place before the reign of Isesi (circa 2381BC). The fine relief decorating the tomb includes a large scene of the hunt in the steppes with lasso and dogs. In one scene an ibex is lassoed, in another, dogs attack a hyena and a Dorcas gazelle while a man leaning on his staff looks on and a hare and a reclining gazelle may be seen in the background.
This tomb chapel was originally dedicated to the official Neferiretenes, and only later adapted for Raemkai. Changes are most extensive on the False Door. Traces of erased original text are still recognizable on the lower lintel, enabling Egyptologists to decipher the titles “senior overseer of documents, royal property master, Neferiretenes.” Fragments of additional titles are preserved above the inner lower left figure: “priest of King …’s pyramid…, priest of King …’s pyramid …,” and “under-superintendent of priests of Re in every place of his.” A longer list above the outer lower figures reads: “senior district administrator of preeminent rank, personal document scribe of the king, senior overseer of documents, senior document inspector, Neferiretenes.” Raemkai’s name and titles have been inserted at the left end of the upper lintel, above the two upper figures and above the right lower inner figure.
When the tomb of Nefertiretenes was adapted for Raemkai’s use, only a few changes were made to the reliefs. The most important concerned the upper standing figures of the tomb owner on the False Door. Originally, both of these were noticeably obese, and their kilts were of calf-length. During the Old Kingdom it was the custom to include among the mostly idealizing images of a tomb owner at least one representation showing him as a mature heavy-set man. Such images emphasized the deceased’s success in life and his high social standing. For Raemkai, the full breasts and abdomens were removed, and the kilts were shortened. The prince was evidently of such a young age when he died that the mature representations common for elite men were deemed inappropriate.
The East Wall
Like the north wall, the east wall is close to the chapel entrance and thus to life on earth. East wall decorations tend to be especially concerned with the fruitfulness of the agricultural land, which guaranteed continued offerings for the tomb owner’s funerary cult. Depicted on this east wall are a presentation of animals and birds, a row of female personifications of agricultural estates, and the grain harvest. The figures face into the tomb and toward a large image of the deceased, which in turn faces the entry as if coming forward from the interior. The pictures on this wall should be viewed from right to left, the primary direction of writing in ancient Egypt.
In the second register from the bottom, twenty-two women carry baskets on their heads that are filled with goods. They are not servants but exquisitely adorned ladies wearing collars, bracelets, anklets, and elaborate wigs. The inscriptions in front of each provide the names of the agricultural villages or estates that the women personify. They are thus comparable to figures such as Roma or Britannia, which in western art represent respectively, the city of Rome and the country of Great Britain. The names of this tomb owner’s agricultural estates are, from right to left: carob grove, mouth of the blocked canal, Horus’s hour, indigent field, melon field, Hebnenet grove, truncated field, non …. fishers’ settlement, Inbebu, Shefet field, Isesi’s mound, field of the acquaintances, field of the unique incarnation, pondweed plot, eye of Iunmutef, isle of Sobek, Hudu, two pitchforks, Iawetet, preeminent is its maker, new field.
The right side of the wall is dominated by a figure of the tomb owner. Beside him, grasping his staff and right leg, are his two small sons. As Egyptian children do in many representations, they carry hoopoe birds in their hands. Whether these birds were pets or served some symbolical role is not known. The inscriptions associated with the large figure were not altered when the tomb was adapted for Raemkai. Only the titles and name of the original owner, Neferiretenes, were erased, and even among them, the easily adaptable epithet “honored by his lord,” located above the head, was left untouched. No attempt was made to insert Raemkai’s name and titles.
Seven male dancers and five female musicians are extant in the uppermost preserved register. The dancers raise their arms above their heads, and lift their proper right feet. They wear collars and courtly kilts with starched fronts. The women, adorned with collars and anklets, clap their hands to accompany the men’s dance. Singers and musicians playing flutes and harps may well have been depicted on the missing blocks above and to the left. The depiction of festivities involving lavish meals, music, and dancing introduced an atmosphere of exuberance into the tomb and thus contributed to the affirmation of life that was one of the main aims of all Egyptian funerary art.
The Nile marshes teemed with one of the richest bird populations on earth, both indigenous and migratory. The ancient Egyptians were keen observers of their animal world, and there are specific names for many of the bird species in the ancient Egyptian language. The images created by artists are so accurate that modern designations of species can often be determined. Large birds at right: gray crane, Demoiselle crane, young gray crane, gray crane. Upper line of birds, from right to left: gray goose, white-fronted goose, white goose, goose. Lower line of birds: gray goose, pair of Nile geese, coot, dove.