Though there have been a number of new archaeological discoveries in the Bahariya Oasis (in Egypt's Western Desert) as of late, including the now famous Valley of the Golden Mummies, the tomb of Amenhotep Huy, a governor of the oasis during Egypt's New Kingdom, is traditionally one of its best known monuments.
Amenhotep Huy held the title, "Governor of the Northern Oasis". He was probably one of the officials appointed to govern Bahariya in accordance with a decree of Tuthmosis III, after that king apparently recognized the importance of the Oasis and its defensive position. Many such officials were sent from the Nile Valley, but Amenhotep Huy was a native of the oasis.
The tomb, located at Garet-Helwa, about two miles south of Bahariya's modern capital, Bawiti (ancient El Qasr), was discovered by George Steindorff in 1900. The tomb can be dated between the late 18th and early 19th Dynasty, which traditionally made it the oldest known tomb in the Oasis. However, recent excavation appears to be turning up some tombs that predate this one. It is very possible that tombs form the 12th Dynasty may even turn up.
It is very likely that, if this well cut, uniquely decorated rock cut tomb is any indication, Amenhotep Huy was a powerful and rich man in the Oasis during his lifetime. The tomb consists of a courtyard, an entrance hall adorned with two columns along with another four columned hall with three smaller burial chambers cut into the walls. All of the columns in both rooms were cut out of the sandstone, but long ago deteriorated, so that now all that is left is their bases. Two of these burial chambers have been further divided into two tiny rooms, which may have occurred during the Roman Period, for two mummies of that time were discovered within the tomb. Overall, the architectural style of the tomb, cut into a sandstone ridge that overlooked the ancient capital, is similar to private New Kingdom tombs in the Nile Valley.
The decorations in the tomb were finely crafted in sunk relief, and colored in traditional Egyptian style. While the sand that buried the tomb for thousands of years protected the colors, over the past century there condition has grown worse then when Steindorff first discovered them.
In the courtyard of the tomb, we find a fragmentary scene showing Amenhotep siting on a folding stool while supervising his estate.
In the first, two columned hall, the deceased is depicted enjoying the activities he must of most enjoyed. Scenes portray servants gathering grapes, filling wine jars and carrying sacks of corn, and here, we find banquet tables loaded down with bread, fruits, cakes and flowers. We also find scenes of Amenhotep Huy and his wife, Ourly, who was also buried within this tomb, worshiping Min, a god of fertility.
In the four columned hall, we find scenes depicting Huy and his wife praying before Osiris and Khonsu, as well as representations of everyday life.
In the burial chambers, we find depictions of Amenhotep Huy holding a stick that apparently conveys his authority, as he also holds two bundles of unknown content. However, nearby, written in hieroglyphic symbols, is the word Henki, which refers to beer or barley, so we might assume that the bundles carried by Huy contain that substance. There are also depictions of grain basked being filled that were probably sent to the Nile Valley, and above the governor's head, ceramic vessels of the type normally used as containers for wine and beer are shown.
Other delightful scene in the tomb depict Amenhotep lounging on a chair while his wife reclines on a mat at his feet. Another scene on the north wall of the tomb shows Amenhotep and his wife kneeling to adore the goddess Hathor, who emerges from the hillside in the form of a cow. Other depictions show both husband and wife adoring and presenting offerings to the jackal-headed Anubis and another, unidentified, deity The tomb is in somewhat of a ruined condition these days, at the last report, having a collapsed ceiling. However, it has been re-excavated by a team under the direction of Dr. Zahi Hawass, and conservation measures apparently are being taken.