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The Wedding Guests: An Intriguing Glimpse into Ancient Egyptian Marriage Customs

Updated: Jan 8

Reproduction Details

  • Object Type: Bas relief

  • Date: c. 1380-1360 BC

  • Period: Dynasty 18, New Kingdom

  • Findspot: Tomb of Ramose (TT55), Valley of the Nobles

  • Print Reference: DP88A

Ramose was an ancient Egyptian nobleman who held the title of "Governor of Thebes and Vizier" during the transition from the reign of Amenhotep III to Akhenaten, c. 1380-1360 BC. His richly decorated tomb (TT55) is located in the Valley of the Nobles (also known as the Valley of the Workers), on the west bank of the Nile near modern-day Luxor. This necropolis contains the tombs of various officials, administrators, and other prominent individuals from the New Kingdom period.

The walls of TT55 are adorned with some of the finest decoration executed in ancient Egypt, with beautiful wall paintings and reliefs that depict scenes from Ramose's life. In the entrance hallway, on the east wall, is this famous scene depicting guests attending his wedding to his brother's daughter Meryt-Ptah. The scene is carved with very fine detail on limestone and was left uncoloured except for the eyes of the figures.

The Guests

The high-status guests are all seated in couples upon cushions on lion-footed chairs. They wear fine linen clothes and elaborate wigs suitable for the important occasion. The guests are named in a hieroglyphic inscription which I have not reproduced in my drawing. These can be seen in photos of the monument as it currently appears. From left to right they are:

Keshy, Overseer of the Hunters of Amun

Keshy wears an intricate wig on his head and is clothed in linen so fine some parts of it are sheer. In his left hand, he holds a handkerchief, which resembles the folded cloth hieroglyph. This seems to be an insignia of social status as it is only found in the hands of the king and high officials, but almost never in the hands of women.

Unnamed man

Behind Keshy is an unnamed man, whose wig is subtly different to Keshy’s. In his left hand he holds a bundle of lotus flowers, intended as an offering to Ramose and his bride.

May, Overseer of the Horses

In the centre sits May being embraced by his wife Werel. Like Keshy and the unnamed man, he wears a wig and fine clothes. It is interesting to note that the eye makeup and shape of May’s face, chin and lips are more characteristic of the Amarna art style, especially when compared to the other figures. The missing hieroglyphs describe May as:

“…the overseer of the horses of the lord of the Two Lands, royal messenger throughout all foreign lands, excellent, confidant, of the sovereign, whose favour lasts with the lord of the Two Lands, May, justified.”

Werel, Mistress of Isheru

Embracing May is his wife Werel or Werener, whose youthful beauty is conveyed by her voluminous wig, sensual eye makeup and exposed breasts. The missing hieroglyphs named her the Mistress of Isheru, the sacred lake in the Temple of Mut in Karnak. As with May, her eye makeup is distinctly Amarna-style.

“… (May’s) beloved wife, favourite of Mut, the mistress of Isheru, the mistress of the house, Werel, justified.”

Neby, Overseer of the Cattle of Amun

Ramose’s father Neby is seated with his mother Ipuya. In his hands, he holds a white handkerchief marking his high status. He too wears an elaborate wig and is the only man to have a small beard. The only paint on the original carving was the black of Neby’s eyes, which was not done in the Amarna style used for the other two couples. The missing hieroglyphs give Neby’s full titles:

“…the overseer of the cattle of Amun and the overseer of the double granary of Amun in the provinces which are in the northern Delta, the scribe, Neby, justified before the great god.”

Ipuya, Mistress of the House

Embracing Neby is his wife Ipuya, who is depicted differently to the other woman in the scene, Werel. Ipuya has the straight wig usually shown on goddesses and doesn’t have flowers in the garland on her forehead. These two artistic devices are often used to show that someone is already deceased when the depiction of them was made. This is confirmed by the hieroglyphics which name her and compare her to the god of the underworld, Osiris:

“…(Neby’s) beloved wife, praised by Hathor, the mistress of the house, Ipuya, justified, possessor of the revered state by Osiris."

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