Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wonderfull Things from the Valley of the Nobles

As I said in my recent physical progress post I've been looking more closely at Egyptian beards.  The iconic image is the pharaoh's beard.  Tutankhamen's beard looked like this:

The burial mask of King Tut (not Steve Martin)

Here's Kafre's:

Diorite statue of Kafre, builder of the middle pyramid at Giza

Beards like this were usually false and worn attached by hooks over the ears.  This is the type of beard I had been hoping to emulate with live whiskers: Fail!  Beards like that were braided, which radically narrows it from the root.  The follicular growth under my chin is quite respectable by the standards of my northern European ethnic background.  But such growth is far too sparse to produce a braid as thick and stiff as a pharaoh's false beard.  And lets be honest, what modern person wants to pack their beard with clay?  So that's where I was several months ago.

But I'm not emulating a pharaoh.  As per SCA corpora, I'm emulating a nobleman.  And there just so happens to be a large group of tombs of noblemen at Luxor/Thebes.  They're just north northwest of the Ramseseum at a place called Sheikh Abd el-Qurna.  It's also called the Valley of the Nobles.  There's a great set of pictures at  Here's a few of them:

Painting from the tomb of Nakht, Scribe of the Granaries under Thutmose IV
Carving from the tomb of Ramose, Vizier during the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten
Painting from the tomb of Sennedjem, artisan during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II, pictured seated with his wife.
These are beautiful examples of the nobleman's beard.  This form of the beard is something I can accomplish.  And I think I have.  See for yourself:

A mirror image of Nakht's beard, right?

But it's not just beards that I found in the Valley of the Nobles.  I found beautiful depictions of clothing.  I'm specifically looking for tunics and other items which an Egyptian could wear for warmth.  Here are a few examples:

Painting from the tomb of Sennefer, Mayor of the City of Thebes and Overseer of the Granaries, Fields, Gardens, and Cattle of Amun during the reign of Amenhotep II

Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire, Vizier under Thutmose III and Amenhotep II

Painting from the tomb of Menna, Scribe of the Fields under Thutmose IV
I plan on making my tunic based on this type of evidence, since I can't seem to find much actual cloth that has survived for three and a half millenia.  Also the tomb of Sennefer is an absolute jewel.  It's known as the Tomb of the Vines.  I am taking a lot of inspiration from his tomb. Perhaps I'll even use his style to decorate a trailer/pavilion if I ever get that motivated.  Here's a look at the tomb:

I wanna be like Sennefer


  1. Hi. There is no evidence at all that pharaohs ever wore a false beard, so I am intrigued by your remark about the hooks. As for the beard in the first two illustrations, they are not the typical royal beards (which widen toward the bottom and aren't curled), but the divine beards that are associated with gods and dead (deified) persons.

    1. Hi Jan, thanks for the comment. I’m still learning, so any knowledgeable comments are appreciated. I’ve learned quite a bit since I first made this post, so I can see that my errors might stand out. You said that a tapering beard with a curled tip is a divine beard. Is this the style called “Osiform”? I’ve read the term but haven’t found a definition for it. I’ve also seen beards with a square cross section that widen slightly toward the bottom end. Is this the style you say is typical for live royalty?

      As to your question about hooks, in Bob Briers lectures for the Teaching Company, he describes statues and paintings as having lines indented into the cheeks or jaw indicating wires. I don’t see the lines he’s talking about, but he’s been studying this a lot longer than I have. I have seen one picture of the ear-hooks though. It was of a façade attributed to be Ramses II at the Temple of Hathor in Abu Simbel. At it’s image # TRK 561994. They may not be hooks for holding up a false beard, but there’s definitely something over his ear.

      I think that what people call “proof” of false beards are circumstantial things. For example, there’s evidence that Egyptians owned wigs. And some modern people infer that there’s no big difference between wearing a scalp-wig and wearing a chin-wig. Also the mummies of Ramses II and Tutankhamen don’t have beards, even though they were often depicted as having them in life. Then there’s the time required to grow a 6” to 8” long beard from a 1 ½” wide patch of skin. Even with excellent nutrition it can take years. And while that time commitment was well within their grasp, there were individuals depicted with and without beards throughout their lives. This of course assumes that the individual depicted with a beard was either male or had an extremely high testosterone level for a female. There are several depictions of Hatshepsut with a beard, and her mummy certainly doesn’t have one.
      Like I said it’s all circumstantial, but it seems compelling to me.