The Man Who Became King: A New Look on Horemheb as a Venerated Figure Through His Memphite Tomb-scenes


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This poster focuses on the Memphite tomb-chapel of Horemheb, Generalissimo of Tutankhamun, which is considered one of the best New Kingdom tombs in terms of skill and originality, and exhibiting a hybrid style of Amarna and post-Amarna art. The tomb-chapel became a ‘pilgrimage destination’ (as its textual and figurative graffiti suggest) without clear religious connections, but rather based on the cult of Horemheb as a venerated figure. The phenomenon of attraction for later tomb-chapels has been previously studied (starting 2015), but the decorative program may be valuable to understand the figure of Horemheb as ancestor. Artists seem to have designed the tomb-scenes according to military achievements, physical superiority, and dominance upon foreigners. Worth mentioning are the unusual scenes of Egyptian soldiers pulling or hitting foreigners, showing a spontaneous punitive treatment that is rare (out of battle scenes). Analysis in situ (2019) proved these details (i.e., soldiers grasping prisoners, or Nubians depicted bigger than Egyptians) are located close to the main figures, usually Horemheb himself, at eye-level as visual hooks calling the attention of the potential viewer, and remarking on the historical importance of the reliefs. Thus, they reveal the hand of original sculptors, who are even mentioned in two contemporary graffiti, with the construction of the tomb. Furthermore, the scenes in KV 57, created according to royal iconography within the traditional Theban necropolis, are explored in a comparative approach. Horemheb became an iconic figure of a ‘self-made king’, but paradoxically his venerated memory in the Memphite area was maintained through his private tomb, accessible during the New Kingdom. Bearing in mind the low literacy rate in ancient Egypt, the message that images convey is prominent, as they could be ‘understood’ easily’. The tomb-chapel of Horemheb was conceived to be visited and appreciated, in order to maintain the memory of the tomb-owner through images, but it became an example of royal ancestors’ cult.

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