« PreviousContinue »
greatly inferior in execution to the decorations in the tomb of Ti. But it was not these that interested me so much as the occasional existence of “protodorico columns in the porticoes - squat stone pillars with round bases and square capitals, polygonal in form, and in some cases smaller at the bottom than at the top. This latter feature, a curious reversal of our ideas of what a column should be, I have seen in old Mycenæan ruins in Greece, and more especially in the palace of Minos in Crete; and I have always understood that this form was the result of an Egyptian influence, which had devised pillars of this kind by analogy to the sharpened wooden stake. But as we have hitherto seen no such columns in Egypt I had begun to lose faith - a faith which is now, in some measure, restored since I have seen the protodoric columns at Beni Hassan.
No less interesting was the combination of octagonal and polyhedral columns in the same tomb-chamber. It spoke of a later development of architecture than we have seen hitherto. But in the main there is nothing in the tombs of Beni Hassan to compare
with the admirable work in the tomb of Ti. It was evident that the general idea of these tombs was the same, however. On the walls one might read the same general aspiration for an eternity of plenteous meals; for the governors, monarchs, and wealthy citizens of this vicinity were just as much concerned for their thousands of loaves, thousands of geese, thousands of beakers of beer, and so on, as ever were the Memphian aristocracy. But they added something more than that - a form of laudatory epitaph, relating certain virtues in the deceased. One of them, for example, takes pains to relate, “ I was a man gracious and full of compassion, who loved my city and ruled wisely therein. . . . I never defrauded the widow; the laborer I did not oppress; I constrained no poor man to bondage; and the hungry I have not sent empty away, no, not even when the food failed us and the lean years came."
The rude paintings on the walls appeared to have much the same general significance as those in the Sakkâra tombs. Most of them represented scenes familiar to the deceased in his lifetime, or some notable event in his career as a magistrate. I noted especially pictures of men engaged in the usual occupations of the time — the making of bowls, the weaving of ropes, the work of ploughing, the snaring of birds, the dancing, and the playing of musical instruments. In the tombs of the local governors there were scenes from the daily duty of such an official most notable of all the reception of a band of Semitic pilgrims who bore gifts, or tribute, or wares for sale, such as eye-paint, spices, and aromatic gums.
In at least one tomb, that of Kheti, there appeared a fine example of the lotus-bud capital, in which the column, composed of four lotus stems bound closely together, is capped with unopened buds. I understand that lotus capitals are not often to be seen in Egypt at the present day, most of the great temples being adorned with the papyrus columns, either with buds or open calyx capitals — which made these very perfect specimens of Beni Hassan the more interesting
There were also shown us some stone cleats in the floor and walls of the tombs, which were variously explained as possibly for the tethering of cattle, - for these were also “Stables of Antar," or, which to me seems more plausible, for the securing of the ropes employed in hauling the heavy sarcophagi up the steep slope without and lowering them into the subterraneous vaults below.
Out of it all I have been most impressed with the continuity of the idea of caring for the shade of the deceased. In Beni Hassan, if men did not erect mastaba tombs, but hollowed them in the face of the adjacent mountain, they had no less of solicitude to provide an everlasting feast for the ka. Each tomb, as before, furnished an eternal house for the vital spirit, and on the walls of each was set forth a menu for the sustenance of that spirit while the soul was away. Each was