The Tomb of Mesu-Isis at Gebel (Jebel) al-Mawta in the Siwa Oasis

The Tomb of Mesu-Isis at
Gebel (Jebel) al-Mawta in the Siwa Oasis

By Jimmy Dunn writing as Kelly Smith

Entrance to the Tomb of Mesu-Isis

In Egypt's Siwa Oasis, Gebel al-Mawta, which means the "Mountain of the Dead", has several terrace-like levels that contain tombs. In the middle terrace, about twenty meters to the east of the tomb of Si-Amun, the best known tomb in the area, is that of Mesu-Isis, named not for the tomb owner but for his wife. Hers was the only name in the tomb that could be deciphered. The tomb is though to date from the period between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC, and is more or less contemporaneous with the tomb of Si-Amun.

This tomb opens to the north with a slight deviation to the east. The entrance to the tomb itself is made up of seven courses of stone blocks in the cornice style. Over the cornice are twenty-one uraei painted in relief, each with a sun-disk over its head. The bodies of the uraei are red and blue. There are also two painted winged sun-disk and hieroglyphic texts at both sides of the uraei and at the two sides of the entrance. To the right of the entrance, Osiris sits on his stool while Isis sits opposite. The colors are preserved to some extent, but the hieroglyphic inscriptions are partly damaged. At one time, there was a metal disk over the place of the sun in the winged sun-disk above the entrance. Made of either gold, or bronze covered with gold leaf, such disks were fixed in the stone by means of a metal nail.

The text describes Osiris, in two lines of inscriptions, as "The foremost of the Westerners (the dead), and as the great god who is honored in "Tha-t'", which is probably the ancient name of the Siwa Oasis, or one of its localities. This name also appears in this tomb, on the wall of the Temple of Umm 'Ubayda and in the Tomb of Si-Amun.

The floor of the first longitudinal chamber is lower than the threshold and is reached by a flight of steps cut in the rock. Inside, the tomb was unfinished, with walls that were never coated with plaster and most of them were never decorated. Even the burial chamber was not completely cut out of the rock, although it might have been used for a burial. Only the wall facing the entrance, where the burial chamber entrance it cut, was partly painted.

The original tomb was reopened sometime during the Roman Period and several loculli, burial niches, were cut into its side walls and used for burials. Several of these were intact when the tomb was discovered in October 1940 by the Siwa people who dug into the Gebel al-Mawta tombs to escape the air raids of World War II. Two of the mummies had been placed in gilded plaster coffins.






Reference Number

Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian; Nicholson, Paul


Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers

ISBN 0-8109-3225-3

Siwa Oasis

Fakhry, Ahmed


American University of Cairo Press

ISBN 977 424 123 1

Western Desert of Egypt, The

Vivian, Cassandra


American University in Cairo Press, The

ISBN 977 424 527 X