• Marsh-related activities
  • Tomb owner fowling with a throw-stick and spear-fishing
Tomb Owner
12th Dynasty
Hunterian Museum Glasgow
low relief + painting
Wall fragment
Theme Description
Representations of the tomb owner fowling with a throw-stick and fishing with a spear became popular in the tombs of the officials at the end of the 5th dynasty and remained in use until the end of the New Kingdom, with some exceptions in the Late Period (Decker, W. und Herb, M., Bildatlas zum Sport im Alten Ägypten, pp. 382 – 456). The oldest preserved depiction of a high official fishing and fowling seems to come from the tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep at Saqqara (Moussa and Altenmüller, Das Grab des Nianchchnum und Chnumhotep, pls. 4 – 5, 74 – 75, figs. 5 – 6; see also: Zelenková, The Royal Kilt in Non-Royal Iconography? The Tomb Owner Fowling and Spear-Fishing in the Old and Middle Kingdom, in: BACE 21, 2010, p. 159, FN 6). However, the theme was most probably taken over from the royal iconography as the oldest attestations come from the Mortuary Temple of Userkaf at Saqqara (Labrousse et Lauer, Les complexes funéraires d'Ouserkaf et de Néferhétepès, figs. 99 – 115) and Sahure at Abusir (Borchardt, Das Grabdenkmal des Königs Sahure II, Bl. 16). The same scenes were most probably also depicted in the Valley Temple of Sahure (Borchardt, Das Grabdenkmal des Königs Sahure II, Bl. 15) and in the Valley Temple of Niuserre (Borchardt, Das Grabdenkmal des Königs Ne-user-re, fig. 16). It is therefore widely accepted that soon after the appearance of the large-scale scenes in the royal Mortuary Temples of Userkaf and Sahure high officials modelled scenes in their own monuments on them. From the beginning, both scenes have usually been depicted next to each other, merging to one theme. Already in the tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, they were in antithetic position (facing each other) with a papyrus thicket in between. The representations of the tomb owner fowling and fishing in the marshes have gained various interpretations. The theme was explained as a sporting activity the tomb owner wished to perform in the hereafter for pleasure as well as to supply him with provisions for eternity. It was seen as a symbolic re-establishment of order and defeat of chaos, as a sexual unification between the tomb owner and his wife with aspects of rebirth or as an identification of the tomb owner with the king who could perform fishing and fowling on sacred lakes as a royal ritual. Even a connection with the cult of Hathor has been suggested. Furthermore, the Nile tilapia (usually speared along with the Lates niloticus) was described as a symbol of sexuality, rebirth and renewal and the lotus flower usually held by the accompanying figures was interpreted as an icon of fertility. Compare e.g.: Feucht, E., Fishing and Fowling with the spear and the throw-stick reconsidered, in: Luft (ed.), The intellectual Heritage of Egypt, Studies presented to László Kákosy, pp. 157 – 169; Kamrin, J., The Cosmos of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hasan, pp. 108 – 115; Altenmüller, H., Der König als Vogelfänger und Fischer (nbty wha): Zu frühen Belegen eines traditionellen Motivs, in: Engel, Müller and Hartung (eds.), Zeichen aus dem Sand, pp. 11 – 14.