Egypt: The Tomb of Bannantiu in the Bahariya Oasis

The Tomb of Bannantiu in the Bahariya Oasis

by Jimmy Dunn writing as Brian Rosewood

On the eastern ridge of El Bawiti in the Bahariya Oasis we find the Tomb of Bannantiu located next to his somewhat smaller father's tomb. Bannantiu, who's name literally means, "the soul of those who have not", was in fact not a "have not". In the great days when Bahariya's wine was well known throughout ancient Egypt, particularly during and around the 26th Dynasty prior to the Persian occupation, many businessmen in the Oasis gained considerable wealth. Bannantiu was probably either a trader or wealthy land owner, judging by his elaborate and large tomb.

The layout of his tomb is somewhat interesting, with a square shaft cut into the sandstone leading vertically down about eighteen feet to a hall constructed very near the style of a Roman basilica, with two rows of columns dividing the long hall into three equal parts. Three small burial chambers communicate with the main hall.

This tomb is undergoing conservation measures in order to save its still vibrantly colored decorations. Entering the tomb, now by way of a metal stairway, directly to the right of the entrance is a painted image of the tomb owner. He has a shaved head and stands behind Anubis, who is introducing him to Amun, in the form of Kamutef, the "bull of (Amun's) mother", and Horus. Three hieroglyphic lines for this scene translate as "words spoken by Anubis, Lord of the Cemetery, the great god Lord of Hetret.

Amun is shown leaning against a column in the shape of a tree with palm fronds and holding a stick with three animal skins. In front of that god, the inscription reads, "words spoken by the god Amun-Ra, the bull of his mother". Next to Horus are depicted statues of six gods standing on pillars, including the ancient funerary god, Wepwawet.

On the western wall is depicted the Feast of Nefertem, six symbols of gods, including Khonsu, are mounted on stands. At either end of a mummification table are shown the goddesses Isis and Nephthys, who are morning, while Anubis holds a vessel over the face of the deceased. Bannantiu, depicted as the mummy, holds symbols that signify his rebirth.

On the other side of the entrance we find a depiction of Osiris represented as the living king, along with his wife and sister, Isis, who hold an ankh, the sign of life, in her left hand. On the south wall, Shu, the god of air and sunlight, is depicted as he holds the sun disk above his head. Within the sun disk, Khonsu is shown placing a finger into his mouth and holding a scepter, a symbol of rebirth, in his right hand. Khonsu is rather of an interesting god in the Oasis. As god of the moon, he must have been important to these desert dwellers, who often traveled by night to avoid the heat and doubtless used the moon for navigation. The eight Ashmonein (Hermopolis) gods from Middle Egypt are depicted with the heads of snakes and frogs.

Around the burial chamber we find scenes representing the Hours of the underworld from the Book of the Dead and the night solar boat of the sun-god, in which the deceased is carried through the underworld. In the bow of the boat, Nefertem, son of Atem, sits with a finger in his mouth. This is symbolic of Bannantiu as a child entering life. In Nefertem's other hand are two scepters which symbolize both life, and sovereignty. Also present in the boat are Horakhty and Sekhmet, as well as a baboon holding an offering. Three jackals pull the solar boat with ropes, while more goddesses follow along behind the boat.

On the north wall, a scene depicts the deceased Bannantiu worshipping Horus. Nearby stands Khepri, Heka and Sekhmet, and above them is the sun disk on which Aten is shown wearing a double crown.

The columns in this room are also decorated with scenes of Geb the god of earth, and Nut, the goddess of the sky.

The smaller western room is actually the original burial chamber and is filled with beautiful scenes painted on polished plaster. One scene shows him standing before the gods in the hall of Judgement, having already been accepted for eternal life. Here, Osiris in his mummified form with arms crossed sits in judgement before an offering table. Isis, Thoth, Horus, Seth and Taweret are all present to witness the weighing of Bannantiu's heart against the feather of Ma'at.

Next, we find Osiris receiving Bannantiu for his passage into the underworld, as witnessed by Isis, Hathor, Anubis, Horus, Nephthys and Anubis, so now his acceptance by the gods is final, perhaps because of his financial status, as it appears that Bannantiu lacks either political or religious credentials.






Reference Number

Egypt in Late Antiquity

Bagnall, Roger S.


Princeton University Press

ISBN 0-691-1096-x

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian


Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

Valley of the Golden Mummies

Hawass, Zahi


American University in Cairo Press

ISBN 977 424 585 7

Last Updated: June 12th, 2011