Social Scenes

Tomb scenes in ancient Egypt portray manifold images of daily life, and the people. I have selected a few to show not only how the Egyptians portrayed their racial attributes, but also some idea of the variety of social activities.

Funeral Scenes

The following two scenes are from the tomb of Ramose, State Administrator under Amenophis III and Akhenaten. The tomb is in the Valley of the Kings along with the tombs of many other Pharaohs and high administrative officials of the royal courts. These tombs were sculpted out of the fine white limestone of the region. This location may have been chosen because the fine-grained rock permitted exquisite decorations in full color. The tombs were created from about 1500 BC to about 1000 BC.

These pictures were published by Sigrid Hodel-Hoenes, Life and Death in Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, 2000.

Both scenes apparently are from the funeral of Ramose. In the first scene on the left are men with red, blond, and brunette hair. The group of worshipping women wear black wigs. In the scene on the extreme right are clearly visible women with blond, red, and brunette hair. Note the decorative curls descending down the back for most of the women.

The deep religious expression is evident in both scenes. On the right the squatting young women are throwing ashes on their heads in mourning. On the left the women are engaged in charismatic worship of their God, with a waving of the hands held up in supplication.

One can almost hear their voices raised in prayer for the safety of their beloved leader as he resurrects in heaven, and that God may remember them also.

This scene dates to around 1350 BC, perhaps a hundred years after Moses, although there is some debate about the exact dates when Moses lived. The significant point is that the Egyptians during that era engaged in charismatic prayer.

We would not ordinarily believe such practice by those ancient people. It must mean that charismatic worship practices are a heart-felt expression natural to man, and that he will engage in such exhibitions regardless of the era in which he lives, if that age is tolerant of such expression. We know that Paul cautioned the Corinthians about their charismatic fervor. They did not just suddenly invent such practices, but very likely borrowed it from ages past. The history of the Christian church shows such worship breaking out here and there, wherever the social environment is permissive. The sudden explosion of charismatic fervor, also known as Pentecostal worship, based on a suppose interpretation of events that took place with the apostles and disciples of Jesus at Pentecost, received wide practice over the past 100 years in Christian Protestant, and more recently, Catholic Churches.

We have many false images about the past. We should remember that Moses was raised in the royal household, and that he would have grown up in a religious environment with those charismatic practices. The children of Israel in bondage in Egypt would also have known that religious environment. Hence, our ideas of a stodgy Israelite congregation chanting passages in dull recitation is far from the truth.

Field Scenes

The following two scenes are from the same book by Hodel-Hoenes.

In the first scene on the left workers are about to measure a field of grain for tax purposes. This act denotes ceremonial significance, as shown by the woman who carries offerings and the young man who may be holding a container to measure the amount of grain yield. The scene continues from the left where a man off picture is holding the end of the line. We can see that the color of the hair must be based on living experience, with some blond, some brunette, and different hair styles.

In the second scene on the right workers are preparing the soil for planting, while other harrow and spread seed. Again hair color and style are varied. The man on the left is resting under a shade tree and getting a drink of water to quench his thirst. Woven containers are used to carry the seed grain.

One can see once again how the artists were careful to distinguish hair color.

Royal Family Scenes

In the scene on the left members of the Royal Family are being entertained by a musician playing a harp. The women are wearing scent cones on their heads. A naked servant girl offers a delightful fruit to one of the ladies while the second behind the harp player offers another to her friend sitting behind her. We can see the delicate material of their gowns, as well as the overall refinement of the scene.

In the scene on the right a boat is moving along the Nile. A deck house probably contains members of the Royal Family. On both sides (we see only this side) are rowers who propel the boat. A boat captain is at the rear keeping time for the rowers. Behind him is the rudder of the boat. In the front are two men who are responsible for the safety of the boat. They are talking while the first man with uplifted paln cautions the captain to go slow. The Nile contained many sand bars; perhaps the boat is approaching one of those. The purpose of the men sitting on the deck house is uncertain, but they are an animated group. The first man in the group appears exhibit considerable concern, while the second man is moved to sit upright, also expressing concern. All in all, a lively scene.