Animals in a desert hunt, a detail from the tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hassan

Egypt, Beni Hassan, Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3), Upper Cemetery, Chapel, North wall.

A wide range of wild animals are represented against an undulating desert terrain. This image comes from a desert hunt scene on the chapel's north wall General view of the north wall. The image is separated into two registers, or rows, each with their own sub-register.

To the left of the first register, the tomb owner's brother, Nḫt 'Nahkt', has launched a volley of arrows at a pair of hartebeests (Alcelaphus buselaphus). His hunting dog bites the tail of their calf. Further ahead, Nahkt's arrows have already wounded a male lion (Panthera leo) and a wild bull (Bos taurus) (see also: Lion and a bull hunted in the desert ). Beyond the bull are three dorcas gazelles (Gazella dorcas) making their escape. Above these animals is a sub-register that records the activities of a number of desert creatures. Most of these desert creatures are predators. A common genet (Genetta genetta) stands alert on the far left of the image. The genet can be identified by its short stature, spotted coat and long striped tail. Before the genet walks a jackal-like figure. The black colouration of the jackal indicates that it likely represents the Anubis animal. The jackal trails behind a cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) who is showing interest in a large hedgehog (Paraechinus sp.) (see also: Cheetah and hedgehog in the desert). The cheetah's posture is mimicked by a griffin that is lowering its head to peer at a small jerboa (Jaculus sp.) (see also: Griffin in the desert). Finally, an animal physically similar to the cheetah pursues a fleeing Cape hare (Lepus capensis) .

On the left side of the second register, a hunting dog attacks one of two Nubian ibex (Capra ibex nubiana). A golden jackal (Canis aureus), with a grizzled coat and bushy tail, bites the muzzle of an oryx calf as its mother gives birth Golden jackal preying upon a scimiter-horned oryx calf. More predators are positioned in the sub-register above. A feline to the left displays a tuft of hair on the end of its ears, indicating that it is a caracal (Caracal caracal). Like the serval picture in the register above, the caracal also sports long whiskers. Caracals are known to inhabit the Eastern Desert of Egypt. The animal the caracal faces is not as easy to identify. The animal is painted grey-blue like the striped hyena (Hyena hyena) standing before it. It has a long tail, pricked ears and an elongated neck. The overall morphology of the animal may indicate that it is a fox or jackal species. The striped hyena has been attracted to the foetus of a dorcas gazelle. The gazelle gives birth on the ground beside a hedgehog and a scampering jerboa (see also: Hyena preying upon dorcas gazelle in the desert). At the far end of the second register are two bowing men presenting a report and a gift to the tomb owner Two men reporting the tally of a desert hunt.

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, Reign of Amenemhat II (c. 1918-1884 BCE).
Egypt, Beni Hassan, Upper Cemetery, Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3), Chapel, North wall, Left Upper section, Wall, 1-2.
Relief or Polychrome Paint.
Parent Context
Kanawati & Evans, BH1, Pl. 29.:Beni Hassan:Upper Cemetery:12th Dynasty:Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3) II:Chapel:Architectural feature:North wall::Wall:::
Data Credits
Compiled by Nicolle Leary and the Beni Hassan Research Group with resources from the Macquarie University Ancient Cultures Research Centre, and the Australian Centre for Egyptology.
Project Funding
Supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project scheme: DP160102223 "Measuring meaning in Egyptian art: A new approach to an intractable problem" held by N. Kanawati (MQ), L. Evans (MQ), A. Woods (MQ) and J. Kamrin (Met), the Macquarie University Department of Ancient History, and the Macquarie University Faculty of Arts.
Original Citation
N. Kanawati & L. Evans, Beni Hassan: Volume I: The Tomb of Khnumhotep II (Australian Centre for Egyptology: Reports 36, Aris and Phillips, Oxford, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-85668-846-1), pls. 36b (photograph),
Recorded and published with permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Photographs by Effy Alexakis as part of research on site. Copyright Macquarie University 2018. All rights reserved.
Cite this
Nicolle Leary "Animals in a desert hunt, a detail from the tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hassan ." In The Beni Hassan Visual Dictionary: Khnumhotep II, edited by Alexandra Woods, Brian Ballsun-Stanton, and Nicolle Leary. Sydney: Macquarie University, 2018.