Deir el-Bahari

The cluster of cemeteries associated with the geological bay of the half-moon and mountain (el-Qurn – "the horn") at Deir el-Bahari constitutes one of the most astonishing necropolis of the pharaonic period. From the West Bank, this assemblage lined up with the earliest constructions dedicated to Amon of Karnak in Thebes, which came to define this land as a religious centre for the association of the king with the god beyond the eschatological sphere. By building up his funerary complex in this area, Nebhepetre Mentuhotep (II) clearly showed his intention to abandon previous traditions, above all the relationship to the cemetery of el-Tarif, and his aspiration to initiate a new ideological, artistic, and religious program focused on the strengthening of the crown, the integration of intellectual, cultural, and artistic resources at the service of the state, and the consolidation of the recently reunified country. Undoubtedly, the political triumph of his dynastic house, the reactivation of the central and local administration, and the prestige achieved by unifying the country, make of his monument (Akh-sut-Nebhepetre) an outstanding place for royal and divine cult that would inspire future generations, as in the case of the queen-pharaoh Hatshepsut and the numerous officials of the New Kingdom.


The necropolis known traditionally as Deir el-Bahari integrates, therefore, several cemeteries, in some cases contemporaneous, whose monuments and characteristics might reveal the existence of various socio-economic strata and positions of prestige in the territory. In fact, a simple look to the funerary complexes of the viziers Dagi (TT 103, Asasif) and Ipi (TT 315, Deir el-Bahari), manifest a clear distinction between their monuments, built in particularly standing locations in the proximity to the temple of Mentuhotep II, and others, such as in the case of the bowmen Neferhotep (TT 316, Deir el-Bahari) and the supervisor of the royal harem, Djari (TT 366, Asasif). In the case of the UAH investigations, it is critical to examine the distribution of these complexes, their date, and the major architectonic features and material culture elements defining these tombs. Thus, the study of the cemeteries at the end of the Eleventh Dynasty and early Twelfth Dynasty becomes a primary goal for the project and a fascinating task for each of the team members, who work on the subject from a different perspective (anthropology, epigraphy, archaeology, geology, etc.).


In the initial years of Mentuhotep II´s reign, after the long-awaited reunification, and even during the years of his two successors Mentuhotep III and IV, the construction of the funerary complex of the king and the development attested in its necropolis was probably ruled by the relationships in the Theban court and the prestige and service of each noble around the sovereign. Viziers, royal attendants, chancellors, and royal treasurers achieved to locate their own monuments of eternity in the surroundings of Mentuhotep II´s complex. The architectonic innovations of the period, the styles observed in the textual and decorative programs, and the material culture found in each tomb should contribute to identify different social strata and positions of power for these officials, from the time of Mentuhotep´s predecessors buried in el-Tarif up to Amenemhat I, before he moved the capital to el-Lisht. Their interest in the necropolis transformed it into a special territory in which the god Amon, the protective goddess Hathor, and the king favoured those loyal to the crown. Although the Theban court was transferred under Amenemhat I´s reign to el-Lisht, we can still testify for certain officials who continued using the Eleventh Dynasty cemetery as a sacred prestigious land for reaching eternity before Nebhepetre Mentuhotep.