Anubis before embalmed Amennakht

A priest wearing the mask of Anubis completes the mummification of Amennakht. On both sides of the bed, where the mummy lie, is depicted the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. The damage on the wall, shows where the coffin was placed.

Detail of a wall painting depicts Anubis before embalmed Amennakht, from Tomb of the Servant in Place of Truth Amennakht (TT218). New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, ca. 1292-1189 BC. Deir el-Medina, West Thebes.

Anubis before embalmed Amennakht.
Anubis before embalmed Amennakht. Photo: Sandro Vannini

The idea that the yellow-ocher backgrounds, in the Theban paintings, characterize the Ramesside Period, must be abandoned. They developed with it, but are far from being related to all the tombs of the nobles, which mostly have a white background and sometimes blue.

On the other hand, on the site of Deir el-Medina, all tombs – apart from those with monochrome decoration – have a yellow-ochre base, including the eight tombs decorated during the 18th Dynasty which have survived, for example: tomb TT340 of Amenemhat (Cherpion).

Throughout the whole Theban necropolis, the themes of the daily life in fashion in the tombs of the 18th Dynasty, gave way, from the reign of Amenhotep III, to religious and funeral scenes: funeral processions, opening of the mouth in front of the chapel, funerary banquets, offerings to the deceased or to divinities, formulae from the Book of the Dead, etc.

At the time of Ramesses II, this process finished. The reasons which underlie it remain unclear, but there is every reason to see there, more than just an effect of fashion, a change in mentality and another perception of the divine, in a context of new solar religion which imposes itself after the Amarna Period.

At Deir el-Medina, maybe because of the influence exercised on the workers by the royal tomb decoration, all tombs have this type of purely religious and funeral style, even those of the 18th Dynasty. Only one exception is known: the tomb of Ipuy, TT217, which shows the inhabitants of the village in some of their occupations.

The majority of the funerary chambers of Deir el-Medina were achieved with a very reduced number of colors and they belong to a group called “monochrome”. It is therefore on these that the attention of the following is focused: this will examine their common characteristics and in which way they differ from the rarer “polychrome” (multicolored) chambers.