Tomb owner hunting in the desert, a scene from the tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hassan

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

The tomb owner shoots wild cattle (Bos taurus) in the desert. This detail comes from a desert hunt scene on the chapel's north wall General view of the north wall. Khnumhotep faces right, and is shooting a calf in the top register, or row, and a seated bull in the register below. The town owner is depicted with a beard and moustache. He wears a skullcap, collar, sandals and a long transparent kilt on top of a short sports tunic. At his feet is a running pricked-eared dog that is wearing a rope collar. Above the tomb owner is a section of text labelling him as: ḥꜢtj-Ꜥ Nḥrj sꜢ H̱nmw-ḥtp(.w) jr n BꜢḳt mꜢꜤ- ḫrw 'the count Nehri's son, Khnumhotep, born to Baqet, the justified'.

The space behind the tomb owner is divided into three short registers. In the upper register, a hunter pursues two running hartebeests (Alcelaphus buselaphus), and the tomb owner's son aims a bow at the animals. In the second register, hunters have seized two scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), a dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) and a wild bull. In the third register stands an attendant or bodyguard to Khnumhotep II, a man leading two hunting dogs, and a third man carrying an axe and shield. Details from the third register are discussed further on the following pages: Hunting dogs on a leash; Body guard to Khnumhotep II.

The image of Khnumhotep II and other nomarchs directly facing wild animals in a desert hunt scene is rare. In the Old Kingdom (c. 2649 - 2150 B.C.), the desert hunt was carried out by attendants using lassoes and hunting dogs and occasionally bows and arrows. The tomb owner only watched these activities take place, and was often separated by a fence and/or guards. Some examples in private tombs of the Middle Kingdom show the tomb owner actively engaged in the hunt. The tomb owner, however, would be positioned outside of the enclosure fence with the activities of other hunters taking place inside the confined area.

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.
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. 33a (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 "Tomb owner hunting in the desert, a scene 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.