El-Mo’alla is a located about 32km south of Luxor, on the east bank of the Nile. The site of El-Mo’alla provides an ideal location for several rock-cut tombs and smaller shaft tombs with only a single chamber. The site was in use from the late Predynastic Period to the New Kingdom Period. Tombs found on the site range mostly from the 5th and 6th, 11th, and 12th and 18th Dynasties. The owners of the tombs at El-Mo’alla range from the highest elite of the area, the nomarch Ankhtifi and Sobekhotep to the lowest social classes.
Tomb of Ankhtifi at El-Mo’alla
Ankhtifi was governor and warlord of the town of Hefat and several districts between Edfu and Armant during the First Intermediate Period. Ankhtifi holds the titles of “Elite-member, governor, seal-bearer of the king, sole companion, lector priest, overseer of chief-priests, overseer of soldiers, overseer of foreign-lands, overseer of foreign-speakers, great chief of the districts of Edfu and Hieraconpolis”.
His decorated tomb at El-Mo’alla was discovered in 1928 and assumed to be a rock-cut tomb cut into the cliff. However, subsequent investigations of the tomb especially those carried out by British archaeologists Mark Collier and Bill Manley have discovered that this is actually a pyramid burial surrounded by a massive necropolis with at least four to five kilometers of tombs.
The tomb chapel is set within a ceremonial courtyard and has a causeway, which could be seen from the mountain above. The burial now appears to be a free-standing pyramid-shaped mountain, which is surrounded by hundreds of other tombs, raising hopes that Ankhtifi’s lost city of Hefat might be located nearby.
Ankhtifi’s autobiography is recorded on seven pillars surrounding his burial pit within the tomb. This autobiography has become fundamental for understanding the First Intermediate Period and the complicated political events at that time. The text describes how Ankhtifi was able to save the southern region from a large famine, how he alone provided grain and food to all the southern provinces including provinces of El-Mo’alla and Dendera. He also records that he conducted military campaigns to eliminate tension in the south, especially in the city of Thebes.
The tomb chapel is decorated with many scenes of daily life including images of Ankhtifi and his wife, fishing, and fowling, slaughtering cows, hunting, and hunting dogs, agricultural scenes including ploughing, planting seeds in addition to rows of cows and donkeys. The burial shaft is in the centre of the tomb in front of the false door.
Tomb of Sobekhotep at El-Mo’alla
Sobekhotep was governor or a high official in the area of El-Moa’lla during the First Intermediate Period. His tomb is fifteen metres to the north of Ankhtifi’s tomb. It is smaller than Ankhtifi’s and not so well preserved. The tomb also contains three burial shafts.
Decoration on the walls includes the funeral procession of Sobekhotep, workers transporting grain to the grain stores, along with images of Sobekhotep with his wife and son. Hunting and agricultural scenes are also depicted as well as traditional scenes such as Sobekhotep and his wife receiving offerings.