Thursday, February 05, 2009

Harwa - Great of the Greats - Theban Tomb TT37 - Doorkeeper in the Temple of Amun - Grand Steward and High Priest

Harwa: "Great of the Greats".

Harwa was an important man in ancient Egypt. He was an important figure in the life of Amenirdis I of ancient Egypt's XXV Dynasty. He acted as the 'Chief Steward', or 'Grand Steward' for Amenirdis I, as God's Wife of Amun and also whilst Queen Amenirdis served as Divine Adoratrice.
Additionally, he held the title (as High Priest) of "Doorkeeper in the Temple of Amun".

Born in to a family of Theban Priests, Harwa held high office in Thebes (modern-day Luxor) with great responsibility to Amun and God's Wife of Amun, the Divine Votaress, Amenirdis I. He was son of the "Lady of the House", Nestaureret, and of a Priest attached to the temple of Amun in Karnak, Padimut son of Ankhefenamon.

His tomb is located in el-Assasif, part of the Theban Necropolis, near to Deir el-Bahri and is known as TT37 (Theban Tomb 37) which has been under archaeological examination for some years (14+) and currently not accessible to the public.

Harwa HieroglyphsThe tomb of Harwa (TT37) displays important features of a man holding such religious, spiritual and political power. Scenes and texts - at least those engraved in the principal axis of the monument - can be read as part of a description of the Egyptian man's journey from his daily life to the Netherworld, passing through the ultimate experience of death and beyond. Each part of the monument concurs to document a different step of the path leading to eternal life.

The tomb (TT37) is large and in the "Osiris Hall" there is a wall relief describing the moment of the death where Harwa is shown 'between worlds', and separated from his physical body, with Anubis holding one hand. Harwa then exists in two (or more?) dimensions simultaneously - in the Land of Osiris and still in the land of the living, just.

Harwa's tomb shows the moment of death in its supreme glory and Harwa continues to be shown 'in the middle', almost in a 'freeze-frame' reliefwith both his Ka and Ba 'conscious' (possibly his Akh + Ren + Shwt), 'present' and aware of their 'state' i.e. Harwa's Ba - or possibly his Shwt or Ren - is shown as young and healthy whilst his Ka and physical form is as it was before the 'freeze-frame': corpulent, bald/ing and approximately 60 years old.

Alternatively, could the 'freeze-frame' relief depict the split-second when the Ka, Ba, Akh, Ren and Shwt 'meet' prior to the 'magical' departure to the different realms?

We will never know exactly why this complex scene is shown but it was most certainly important to Harwa and the explanation could possibly be beyond the understanding of our modern-day thought processes.
For the ancient Egyptians everything exists also in its complementary form. Nothing existed isolated, only for itself. The function/s was always intertwined with their universe, with Netjer and with Man.

This relief is highly unusual in ancient Egyptian scenes and whilst the above is purely personal conjecture, there is little doubt that Harwa was 'more than a mortal' given his almost 'pharaoh-like' status and titles.

Harwa was not only a dignitary holding vast powers but the ruler of Upper Egypt, ruling on behalf of the pharaohs of the twenty-fifth Dynasty, along with God's Wives of Amun et al. This conclusion is supported by a limestone ushabti (shabty), discovered in TT37 during 1997, showing Harwa holding in his hands the crook and the flail i.e. the regalia - characteristic emblems of pharaonic royalty. A further ushabti is kept in the Egyptian collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Could it be that Harwa had numerous 'Kas', similar to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt?

Could the 'freeze-frame' be indicative of Harwa's status as a ruling, 'semi-royal' noble?

Any further ideas, suggestions or comments would be most welcome - please e-mail me:

A ushabti (shabty) of Harwa from TT37 - [image link].

More information and images from Harwa's tomb - [link]

As an aside: I find it interesting that the tomb of Akhamenerau - TT404 (Theban Tomb 404) - is adjacent to TT37, the huge tomb of Harwa. Akhamenerau was "Chief Steward of the Divine Adoratrix Amenirdis I (Amunirdis I) and Shepenupet II (Shepenwepet II)" and, obviously, held office under these two powerful God's Wives of Amun. It seems strange to me - though I'm no scholar - that Akhamenerau ruled at this time (though I can find no dates for Akhamenerau) and that placement of TT404 was so very close to TT37. Was this significant in itself, as - possibly - with the adjacent placement of the tombs of Montuemhat (TT34) and Petamenophis (TT33)? I would suggest so.

Did Amenirdis I and Shepenupet II's rule of Upper Egypt overlap...?
Coregency for a few years before Amenirdis died?
Did Harwa hold Office under both God's Wives of Amun...? Amenirdis I 'adopted' Shepenupet II and the latter obviously held Amenirdis I in high regard (see Medinet Habu, Chapel of the Adoratrice Amunirdis I) or did Akhamenerau live long enough to serve - and rule - under both God's Wives of Amun?

Montuemhat and Petamenophis' Theban Tombs

Montuemhat (TT34) served the Nubian Kings Taharqa and
Tanutamun (Tanutamani, Tanwetamani or Tanutamon) as Fourth Prophet of Amun, Mayor of Thebes and Governor of Upper Egypt in the XXV dynasty.

[Bust of Montuemhat]

[Statue Group of Montuemhat and His Son, Nesptah]

Petamenophis (TT33) (Padiamenope, Padiamenipet, Petamenofi or Padiamenopea) served as Chief Lector Priest during the XXV to XXVI dynasties.

[Limestone fragment of tomb relief]

[Serpentine ushabti]

In Harwa's Tomb (TT37), a text well-engraved on the southern wall of the passage leading to the First Pillared Hall enumerates his good deeds having recourse to the most typical phraseology of the Egyptian "ideal biography". It is Harwa himself who is speaking. He tells the visitor to the tomb:

"I gave bread to the hungry man, clothes to the naked man".

This phrase is pivotal in the connection between Harwa and Queen Amenirdis I as, on the reverse (and base) of the famous alabaster statue of Amenirdis I, there is a well-carved series of hieroglyphs which say:

"I gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to
the naked man."
(the full translation can be found Here...)

I have not seen a connection made anywhere regarding these two series of hieroglyphs - online or offline. I believe that this connection hasn't yet been made by the scholars but the importance of the similar phrases is amazing to me.

Harwa held the position of "Grand Steward" for about forty years from the time of Piankhy, serving under Nubian pharaohs Shabaqo or Shabaka (713-698 BCE) and Shebitqo (698-690 BCE), until the reign of Taharqo or Taharqa (690 - 664 BCE).

Coincidentally, Amenirdis I is said to have served as God's Wife of Amun, Divine Adoratrice (or Divine Votaress) and "God's Hand" for approximately forty to forty-six years.

[Taharqo (or Taharqa) was the uncle of Amunirdis.]

It is my personal belief that Amenirdis I and Harwa had a close 'royal' relationship and ruled 'together' (in various roles) from ancient Thebes at approximately the same times in ancient Egypt.

During the 1997 archaeological campaign in Harwa's tomb (TT37), a limestone ushabty (or shabti) was unearthed showing features which shed new light on some aspects of the role played by Harwa inside the Theban administration. It is a typically mummiform funerary statuette of the XXV Dynasty but it holds in his hands the crook and the flail, that is to say, the regalia, the characteristic emblems of the pharaonic royalty.

As far as it is known, it is the only example of non-royal ushabty displaying such characteristics.

Furthermore, in the Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead engraved on the body, Harwa is mentioned as "Great of the Greats".

These evidences should point out that Harwa had more power than the one deriving from his role and that he can be considered as the co-governor of the Theban region on the behalf of the Nubian King alongside the Divine Adoratrice, Amunirdis I.

Also the vastness of his tomb and the high number of his statues can support the hypothesis that Harwa was the most politically influential person of the State; stretching to the First Cataract (a graffito signed by him has been found at Nag'esh Sheikh, near Aswan).

If this assumption is confirmed by further excavations, then the positions of Montuemhat and Petamenophis will have to be reconsidered. They chose in fact to place their tombs east and west of the tomb of Harwa as if they attributed a high reverence to him and considered him a sort of ancestor. Does this also apply to Akhamenerau in TT404 and Peshuper (tomb location unknown at this time)? In this frame one has to ask: is it possible to speak of a "dynasty" of functionaries governing the Theban region with the consent of the Nubian kings? If this proves to be true, then, as they did not belong to the one family nor did they share the same titles and position, what was the mechanism of succession of these functionaries? No-one yet knows the answer to that question or the countless others raised by the life, works and tomb of Harwa, Grand Steward in the Precinct of Amun.

Many questions are raised merely because of the surviving evidence belonging to Amenirdis I and Harwa et al., but there are some issues which are quite clear:

Upper Egypt was ruled well under the governance of these two mighty figures (and others) and for forty to firty-six years, approximately, Upper Egypt was relatively peaceful (as opposed to the XXIII to XXIV Dynasties political and religious unrest and turmoil) whilst Pharaoh
(Amunirdis I's brother) ruled from Memphis. Even after the death of her brother, Amunirdis I remained in control and acted, along with others, answering the State's needs on many levels. Order was temporarily restored and both Amunirdis I and Harwa played a major role in ancient Egypt at that time.

A video introduction to Harwa - "Great of the Greats" - from YouTube can be found here:
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