Ankhtifi & His Valiant Band
by Alan M. Fildes
El Moalla 1989
The Tombs of Ankhtifi & Sobekhotep.
Being sufficiently intrigued by John Romers television program Romers Egypt " in the mid 1980s, I set off to investigate Ankhtifis mock Pyramid like burial place. In mid August, 1989 my diary states it was exceedingly warm 42 C at noon. On arrival at the ancient site of Hefat, present day Moalla, about 50 miles south of Luxor, we crossed the canal and then negotiated the railway line with some difficulty on our way to the local mayor's house he was custodian of the all important key. When he was finally located and sufficiently rewarded, he agreed to accompany us (thats me and my great friend Awad my trusty driver).
Bringing with him a very old gun (he said to shoot any wild dogs who may impede our progress. He certainly was a character. I can still see his smiling eyes. Egypt, unlike any other country, is rich with such showmen. Into the car we all jumped. A crowd of children had gathered inquiring as to our welfare, running after us, shouting and generally having a wonderful time.
After a short drive and, as I recall, an exhausting climb, we arrived at the iron barred gate of this extraordinary tomb.
Ankhtifi was Nomarch (Governor) of the 3rd Nome of Upper Egypt in the turbulent times of an era known as the 1st Intermediate Period ( c 2100 BC ). A time of famine, unrest and anarchy was spread across the land. The fundamental cause, many believe, for the collapse of the Old Kingdom.
A haunting tomb (sadly much defaced ) although there are many wonderful wall paintings, colors I cannot recall seeing in such profusion in any other provincial tomb, excepting Elephantine. It is an artistic style that appeared to me unique.
The text is partly autobiographical, extolling Ankhtifis beneficence in a time of great hardship, how he opened his granaries to feed the starving. Furthermore how he and his Valiant Band brought defeat upon the Overlord of Edfu.
An excerpt from the Tomb inscription reads as follows.
I am the Vanguard of the men the Rearguard of the men. One who finds the solution where it is lacking. A leader of the land through active conduct . Strong in speech , collected in thought, on the day of joining the 3 Nomes (Hieraconpolis , Edfu , allied with Elephantine) . For I am without Peer , who spoke out when people were silent , on the day of fear when Upper Egypt was silent. (1).
A very powerful character who was endowed with great strength and obviously favored with
abundant charisma. A lasting memory of Ankhtifi was the total lack of symmetry within his Cult Chapel, not a straight line in the place, although it must be said this adds to the overall charm.
After leaving Ankhtifi we briefly viewed the Tomb of Sobekhotep. All that remains are fleeting glimpses of a long distant existence. Wall inscriptions had suffered badly, obviously the tomb had been inhabited for many hundreds of years. The walls and ceiling charcoal black from fires. The tomb, probably robbed soon after its construction, dates to the 1st Intermediate Period. Inside, the stench was appalling from the above mentioned wild dogs. All that remained was a burial pit contrived in the floor, the hieroglyphs being past recognition.
There is a feeling of timelessness here. Im sure things change, if they do at all, very, very slowly. So much so you can just glean, if you are lucky, the remnants of an unbelievably distant way of life.
Thanks to Alan M. Fildes of NEMES for this article and pictures.
(1) Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol 1.
The Old & Middle Kingdoms