The rock tombs of Beni Hasan lie on the edge of the desert on the east bank of the Nile some 14mi/23km south of El-Minya and 22mi/35km north of Tell el-Amarna. The site takes its name from an Arab tribe which formerly lived in a number of neighboring settlements now ruined and abandoned and it now occupies the village of Beni Hasan el-Shuruq. The tombs were constructed during the Middle Kingdom (11th and early 12th Dynasties) for princes and dignitaries of the Oryx or Antelope nome, the 16th nome of Upper Egypt. The architectural features of the tombs and the important inscriptions and representations of scenes from everyday life which they contain make this the most important necropolis between Memphis and Asyut.The quality of the later tombs is distinctly inferior to that of the earlier ones, reflecting a gradual decline in cultural standards during a period when there was no failing off in material prosperity. The mural decorations were painted on stucco in bright colors, but many of the scenes are damaged or, particularly in the later tombs, so faded that they can barely be distinguished. The tombs, 39 in all, extend in a row along the rock face. Visitors whose time is limited should confine themselves to the four most important tombs (Nos 17, 15, 3 and 2); the others, less well preserved, are of interest only to specialists.Tombs 34-39 were left unfinished.On the slopes below the tombs of these dignitaries are many smaller tombs belonging to less important officials and citizens of the Middle Kingdom.
Useful tips: ACCESS. By boat from El-Minya or Abu Qurqas. As of 1997, travel through and in this area is inadvisable because of security concerns.
Tomb of Kheti
From the valley a path leads up to Tomb 32. Turning left (north) here, we come to No. 17, the Tomb of Kheti, Nomarch of the Antelope nome (11th Dynasty). A doorway in the plain facade gives access into the rock cut chamber, the roof of which was originally supported by six lotus cluster columns with bud capitals, though only two of these, with their original coloring, are still standing. The wall paintings are also well preserved. On the left hand (north) wall are, in the upper rows, a hunt in the desert, in the lower rows male and female dancers, a statue of the dead man being transported to its place, carpenters, etc. On the rear (east) wall, above, are wrestlers in various attitudes; below, military scenes, including an attack on a fortress. On the right hand (south) wall are, from left to right, the dead man and his wife; the dead man accompanied by his fan-bearer, sandal bearer, two dwarfs and other attendants; and the dead man receiving various offerings (note the granary on the right).The scenes on the entrance wall are poorly preserved.
Tomb of Beket
Farther north on Beni Hasan, at the top of an ancient path ascending from the plain, is the Tomb of Beket, Kheti's father and also Nomarch of the Antelope nome (11th Dynasty). The two columns which supported the roof of the rectangular chamber are missing. In the southeast corner is a small recess. On the left hand (north) wall are, above, a hunt in the desert and a barber, laundryman, painters, etc.; below, the dead man and his wife with four rows of women spinning and weaving, dancing girls and girls playing with a ball; herdsmen bringing animals for sacrifice to the dead man; goldsmiths; a fishing scene; and various birds, with their names inscribed beside them. On the rear (east) wall, in the upper rows, are wrestlers; in the lower rows warlike scenes, as in Kheti's tomb. On the right hand (south) wall is the dead man, in front of whom, in several rows, are men drawing a shrine containing his statue, while in front of this are female dancers and servants carrying ornaments, etc., for the statue; peasants driving in their flocks and herds, some of them being brought in forcibly to pay their taxes, while scribes record the amounts; potters at their wheels; men carrying wildfowl they have shot.
Tomb 4, belonging to Khnumhotep, son of the Khnumhotep III buried in Tomb 3. The vestibule has a Proto-Doric column; the main chamber is unfinished.
Tomb 5, with two pillars, unfinished.
Tomb 13, belonging to Khnumhotep II, predecessor of Khnumhotep III.
Tomb 14, belonging to Khnumhotep I, Prince of the nome in the reign of Amenemhet I. The main chamber had two plant columns, now broken off; the wall paintings are badly faded. On the rear wall are warriors and a caravan of Libyans entering the dead man's nome along with their wives and children and their herds of livestock, the men with ostrich feathers in their hair, the women carrying their children in baskets on their backs.
Tomb 18, left unfinished, is of interest for showing the method of hewing the chambers from the rock; the floor in the front part of the chamber has not been completely excavated. To the rear are ten cluster columns with bud capitals, five of them unfinished.
Tomb 21, belonging to Nakht, a Prince of the Antelope nome (12th Dynasty), is similar in layout to No. 15.
Tomb 23, belonging to Neternakht, Governor of the eastern districts, has wallpaintings of no particular interest; on the east wall is a Coptic inscription.
Tomb 27, belonging to Remushenti, a Prince of the Antelope nome.
Tomb 28, with two lotus columns, was converted into a church in Christian times.
Tomb 29 belonged to Beket, a Nomarch of the Antelope nome. The doors opening into the adjoining Tombs 28 and 30 were made by the Copts. The wall paintings are comparatively well preserved, but offer no new points of interest; note, in the western half of the south wall, the dwarfs following the dead man, and the wrestlers on the north wall.
Tomb 33 belonged to Beket, a Prince of the Antelope nome, son of the Beket buried in No. 29; it has a number of wallpaintings.