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.
The Tomb of Zed-Amun-efankh The Bahariya Oasis enjoyed a golden age during the 26th Dynasty, particularly during the reign of Ahmose II (570-526 BC) Afterwards, the Persians came to Egypt and the whole of the country suffered, but again, with the Greeks and even the Romans, the Bahariya Oasis flourished once again. Zed-Amun-efankh lived and prospered during Ahmose II’s rule, and he built a fine tomb which lies on the eastern ridge of the modern city of Bawiti.
In fact, his family’s wealth apparently became even more impressive later, for his son’s nearby tomb is even larger and perhaps more elaborate than the fathers. Nevertheless, Zed-Amun-efankh’s tomb is very interesting, for some of its architectural elements are somewhat unusual for this area.
For one thing, while other tombs had separate burial chambers with square, column (pillar) supports, his is a single room with four rounded columns. Regrettably, the tomb was robbed during antiquity, and again even as late as the 20th century, when some mummies, beads and amulets were taken.
Luckily, the tomb still portrays some grand decorations and is useful to our understanding of early life in this Oasis. For example, we know from his tomb that Zed-Amun-efankh was probably not a religious or political official. Yet the wall paintings and the skill, precision and craft that went into building his tomb all attest to his being a respected and powerful man in this community.
It is likely that he was a businessman or landowner, as were his decedents, and it is equally likely that men such as Zed-Amun-efankh became some of the richest individuals in the Oasis because of the lucrative trade in the Oasis’ products, such as wine. His tomb proves that in at least this region, the ancient Egyptians believed that wealth could buy eternity, regardless of any lack in administrative or religious status.
Within the tomb, on its northern wall just after the entrance, is an inscription of the four sons of Horus that translates to, "An Offering that the king gives… to the Ka of the honored one under the Great God to Osiris Zed-Amun-efankh, son of Weben-I’ah, ture of voice.
The honored one, his son, who stands behind him", A priest is also depicted, who carries red linen, presumable the material with which Zed-Amun-efankh’s mummy was wrapped. Two of the God, Horus’ sons, the falcon headed Duamutef and his brother, Qebehsenuef are shown protecting the deceased holding knives. The other two sons are also depicted and near them is a an unidentified man offering a wooden box. Repeatedly, Osiris, the god of the underworld is depicted within the tomb, along with Thoth, the god of wisdom who was also associated with the moon.
The Hieroglyphs for used for Zed-Amun-efankh includes several repetitions of the moon’s symbol. We believe that Thoth was revered in the Baharyia Oasis, where travel and many other activities took place at night due to the heat.
Right: Duamutef with his knife Regrettably, the scenes on the western wall are mostly gone, but one remaining depiction shows four men and women raising their hands as if in a ritual gesture. Also shown is the wife of the deceased, wearing a shawl with fringe which does not seem entirely Egyptian, in a pose of praise. She may have been of foreign decent.
There are no less then seven false doors within the tomb, and on the cornices of each is inscribed the name of the deceased. Interestingly six of the doors were cut into during the Roman period in order to create additional burial chambers.
However, the craftsman who did this work took care not to damage the inscriptions. Hence, the remained respectful to the deceased, yet the new burial chambers were left undecorated and roughly chiseled. The ceiling of this tomb is decorated with twelve vultures, the symbol of the goddess Nikhbet, which are surrounded by stars of five and six points.