FROM THE TOMB OF NEBAMUN
IN THE MARSHES AND A GARDEN POOL
Nebamun stands on a small papyrus boat with his wife
Hatshepsut behind him and his son below. He is about to let
fly a throwstick into a mass of birds above a papyrus thicket.
The hieroglyphs below Nebamun's raised arm describe him as 'taking
recreation and seeing what is good in the place of eternity',
that is, in the Afterlife. The scene would have been balanced
on the left by one of Nebamun spearing fish: the end of the
spear where it enters the water is just visible. This scene
is perhaps not all it seems. Why should Hatshepsut be dressed
in such fine clothes for a trip in the marshes? Why is there
a large duck on the front of the boat? There are at least two
meanings to this scene. The spearing of the fish scene may allude
to new life, as the tilapia fish is a symbol of rebirth. The
other images may be subtly erotic, since the duck is known as
an erotic symbol, and a woman dressed up, particularly with
such a heavy wig, suggests some form of sexual association.
The detail in the painting is remarkable. Recent conservation
work revealed that the cat has gold leaf placed on its eye.
Despite his modest title of 'scribe and counter of grain', Nebamun
could evidently afford to put a great deal of resources into