Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum
Khnumhotep (pronunciation: xaˈnaːmaw-ˈħatpew) and Niankhkhnum (pronunciation: nij-daˌnax-xaˈnaːmaw) were ancient Egyptian royal servants. They shared the title of Overseer of the Manicurists in the Palace of King Niuserre during the Fifth Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, c. 2400 BCE, and are listed as “royal confidants” in their joint tomb.
Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum are depicted in the tomb with their respective families. It has been proposed that they were the sons of Khabaw-khufu and Rewedzawes. They appear to have had three brothers named Titi, Nefernisut, and Kahersetef. Three possible sisters are also attested. They are named Neferhotep-hewetherew, Mehewet and Ptah-heseten.
Entrance to the mastaba of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum
Niankhkhnum’s wife was named Khentikawes. They appear in the tomb with three sons named Hem-re, Qed-unas and Khnumhezewef. Three daughters are mentioned as well and their names are Hemet-re, Khewiten-re and Nebet. At least one grand-son is mentioned. Irin-akheti was the son of Hem-re and his wife, Tjeset.
Khnumhotep had a wife by the name of Khenut. Khnumhotep and Khenut had at least five sons named Ptahshepses, Ptahneferkhu, Kaizebi, Khnumheswef and Niankhkhnum -the younger (named after his uncle) as well as a daughter named Rewedzawes.
Coordinates: 29.86795°N 31.219416°E
An Egyptian burial chamber mural, from the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum dating to around 2400 BC, showing wrestlers in action.
The mastaba of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum.
The tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum was discovered by Egyptologist Ahmed Moussa in the necropolis at Saqqara, Egypt in 1964, during the excavation of the causeway for the pyramid of King Unas. It is the only tomb in the necropolis where men are displayed embracing and holding hands. In addition, the men’s chosen names (both theophorics to the creator-god Khnum) form a linguistic reference to their closeness:
Niankhkhnum means “joined to life” and Khnumhotep means “joined to the blessed state of the dead'”, and together the names can be translated as “joined in life and joined in death”
In a banquet scene, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep are entertained by dancers, clappers, musicians and singers; in another, they oversee their funeral preparations. In the most striking portrayal, the two embrace, noses touching, in the most intimate pose allowed by canonical Egyptian art, surrounded by what would appear to be their heirs. The superstructure of their tomb
“was almost completely destroyed because king Unas built his [tomb] causeway over it. It has been reconstructed using the decorated blocks that were found during excavation, and is now open to the public. The part of the tomb that was put into the rock is well preserved. The quality of the painted reliefs is excellent, especially in the first of the rock cut chambers. The various scenes on the western side of the tomb include fishing and fowling in the marshes, stock breeding, papyrus gathering and fights among the boatmen. opposite are agricultural scenes and scenes of sculptors and jewellers at work.”
The façade of the mastaba is made up of a pillared portico. The front is inscribed and Niankhkhnum is depicted on the left, while Khnumhotep is depicted on the right. The inscriptions accompanying the men is virtually identical, with only the names being different.
This space is fairly small. The west side is decorated with a funerary procession for Niankhkhnum and the east side shows a matching funerary procession for Khnumhotep.
The south wall shows the two men seated before an offering table. Niankhkhnum is seated on the right, while Khnumhotep is seated on the left. The table with offerings stretches out between them. Below the offering scene the two men are depicted hunting and fishing. On the left Khnumhotep stands on papyrus boat. He is accompanied by his wife Khenut and a son and daughter. On the right Niankhkhnum is depicted in a similar manner. He is accompanied by his wife Khentkawes and a son and daughter as well.
First and Second Chamber
East wall in the first chamber.
At the entrance scenes of baking bread and brewing beer are depicted. Barley is carefully measured out and turned into bread. Some of the bread is mixed with a date beverage and fermented to produce some type of beer.
Other scenes include goat herding, ship building, harvesting scenes, sailing, netting of birds, etc.
The east wall contains a legal text. Below this text several people are depicted thought to be the family of the two men. At the very bottom ships are shown. The men are shown standing before the main cabin of the ship.
Antechamber and Offering Chamber
Niankhkhnum, Khnumhotep and their children depicted on a pillar.
The antechamber is a fully decorated rock-cut room. The scenes show people in agricultural scenes including the weighing of corn and grain, the ploughing of the fields and harvesting.
A pillar depicts the two men with their children. The respective wives are not depicted in this scene. Niankhkhnum’s three sons and three daughters are depicted behind him. The inscriptions give their respective names. Similarly, Khnumhotep’s five sons and one daughter appear behind him.
A Ramesside period ostracon, depicting a homosexual couple in coitus (two men having sex together)
Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were ancient Egyptian royal servants and are believed by some to be the first recorded same-sex couple in history. The proposed homosexual nature of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum has been commented on the popular press, and the idea seems to (partially) stem from the depictions of the two men standing nose to nose and embracing. Niankhkhnum’s wife, depicted in a banquet scene, was almost completely erased in ancient times, and in other pictures Khnumhotep occupies the position usually designated for a wife. Their official titles were “Overseers of the Manicurists of the Palace of the King”.
Critics argue that both men appear with their respective wives and children, suggesting the men were brothers, rather than lovers or Bisexual