This week’s Woman Crush Wednesday is a female powerhouse in the noble family of the governors of Elephantine in the Middle Kingdom. Her tomb was found only a few years ago near the tombs of her family. Her name was Sattjeni.
Sattjeni (or Sattjeni V to Egyptologists) was the daughter of one governor, wife of another governor, and mother of two governors. Although her family was not explicitly royal, her family practiced royal strategies to hold onto their governing power. They ranked just below the pharaoh’s royal family, but their roles were appointed by the king rather than hereditary. But because Aswan was so far away from the capital in Thebes, a mini-dynasty rose up during this time, keeping the rule within the family. Her family believed that they descended from the god Khnum, who is one of the oldest Egyptian deities. He is depicted as the god of the source of the Nile River and the divine potter, who created all people.
She was the second daughter of Sarenput II and had two known siblings. Her brother Ankhu died shortly after their father and there was no other male successor. So Sattjeni and her sister Gaut-Ankhuet technically had the rights of the rule in Elephantine.
Her sister married a man named Heqaib, who became Heqaib II when he became governor. By marrying the daughter of the last governor, it would solidify his rule as governor. They did have a son named Heqaib-Ankh, but Gaut-Ankhuet died soon after, so Sattjeni married her sister’s widower. They had at least two children, Heqaib III and Ameny-Seneb, both of which would become governor of Elephantine, after their step-brother, Heqaib-Ankh.
After her husband died, Sattjeni did marry an official named Dedu-Amen, who may have been of Nubian descent. They had two more sons, Sarenput (after her father) and Amenemhat (after the pharaoh).
Discovery of her Burial
Her burial was found in tomb QH34aa in 2016 in the necropolis at Qubbet el-Hawa across the Nile from Aswan in Upper Egypt by a team from the University of Jaén in Spain, with excavation leader Alejandro Jiménez Serrano.
Qubbet el-Hawa is one of the most important nonroyal necropolises in Egypt. There are a great quantity and quality of biographical inscriptions in the funerary complexes. It was mainly used to bury the highest officials of the nearby town of Elephantine as this was the capital of the southernmost province of Egypt from 2200 to 1775 B.C.E. These governors are buried together with their relatives, while members of their courts were buried in smaller and less decorated tombs. There are about 100 tombs, with only 80 being completely cleared.
Tomb QH34aa was a small tomb next to the larger QH33 tomb where Hequaib III, Ameny- Seneb, and their half-brother Sarenput were buried. Outside the western wall of the burial chamber of Heqaib III, a votive bowl was found. It once contained a food offering to honor the deaceased. The bowl was inscribed with Sattjeni’s name and title as the Daughter of the Governor in hieratic. It may have been placed here by Sattjeni for the burial of her son.
The upper part of a chamber of QH34aa was discovered in 2013 and this was most likely a tomb quarried in the Byzantine period (5th century C.E.). It was originally thought that this area was disturbed as there was a Christian prayer painted by the Coptics on the walls.
But the end of the chamber was actually the beginning of a shaft. The shaft was not fully excavated in 2016. A small hole was found in the wall of the burial chamber and through it, archaeologists could see hieroglyphs on the coffin.
Burial and Mummy
Sattjeni was buried in two coffins made of cedar wood imported from Lebanon. The outer coffin had almost completely degraded, but the inner coffin is in excellent condition. The inner coffin was decorated with hieroglyphs and the double Eye of Horus or the Wadjet, which would help protect her soul both in the tomb and in the afterlife. The body would typically be laid on the side so that the face lined up with the eyes. They believed that the deceased could “see” through these eyes and look at the offerings laid out for them. Her mummy was found with its painted mask largely intact.
Her mummy was not that well preserved but she was most likely around 30 years old when she died. But researchers have found remains of a gynecological treatment carried out on Sattjeni. Between her legs, which were originally bandaged, a ceramic bowl with burned remains was found. She had suffered a traumatic injury to her pelvis sometime during her later life. But it is important to note that this injury, which was possibly a fall, did not kill her.
These treatments were described in contemporary medical papyri, but until now no evidence had been found that they were actually carried out. Roast meat, herbs, or rancid milk may have been used in the cup. The presence of the cup in the burial indicates that it was supposed to continue to heal her or at least alleviate her pain in the afterlife.
Feel free to read the article below about Sattjeni, but note that it was written after the discovery of the inscribed bowl, but before the discovery of her tomb.
Photo of inner coffin, mask, and view of tomb shaft – Alejandro Jiménez Serrano
Photo of a piece of her coffin – https://www.facebook.com/Ministry-of-Antiquities-336764893195328/photos/pcb.495697640635385/495697503968732
Hieroglyphs, bowl, coffin – Judith Weingarten