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Ancient Egypt: Hammamat Inscriptions
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Hammamat Inscriptions

Old Kingdom

The inscription of the chief architect of Pepi I

Year after //// //// ////
Royal commission which the chief of all works of the king, sole companion, master-builder of the king, attached to the Double House, Merire-meriptah-onekh, carried out.
Overseer of the administration of the divine offering, attached to the Double House, first under the king, judge, inferior scribe, Sesi.
Scribe of the king's records, Khenu.
Judge attached to Nekhen, Khui.
Treasurer of the god, Ihu.
Treasurer of the god Ikhi.
Reign of Pepi I
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 299

First Intermediate Period

-   Nekhen: Hierakonpolis in the 3rd nome of Upper Egypt
  The titles seem not necessarily to have had any bearing on the role the officials performed. If a master-builder visited a quarry he probably did so in order to choose the rock he wanted for his building. The roles of a judge or a treasurer of the god are less clear. A ship captain may have organized the transportation of the quarried rock, both overland where the efforts of men pulling at ropes had to be coordinated and on the water.
    Year of the first occurrence (of the numbering), fourth month of the first season, day 2.
//// Ihy; Khufu; commander of the army //// Yakhetirni.
Came the ship captain, Ipi, and Nekuptah to do the work on the pyramid (called): "Fame-of-Ity"; together with 200 soldiers and 200 workmen, making 200.
Reign of Ity
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 387


The inscription of Kenofer

  first occurrence (of the numbering): a nation-wide cattle count was held annually or bi-annually
  the ship captain, Ipy: Ipy was probably responsible for transport, though ancient Egyptian leaders had to be prepared to tackle any task.
  Ity: Nebkaure, 21st century BCE
  200 soldiers and 200 workmen, making 200: Scribal mistakes of this kind occurred not infrequently.
    Commission which the eldest king's son, the treasurer of the god, commander of the army, Zaty, called Kenofer, executed.
I was at the front of the people in the day of battle, I controlled the going in the day of attack, by my counsel. I was exalted above multitudes, I made this work of Imhotep with 1000 men of the palace, 100 quarrymen, 1200 [soldiers] and 50 [////]. His majesty sent this numerous troop from the court. I made this work while [////] in every [////], while his majesty gave 50 oxen and 200 asses every day.
Palace-overseer, Intef.
Scribe of the marine, Mereri.
Reign of Imhotep
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 389f


Middle Kingdom

The inscription of Henu

  king's son: Royal princes were often put at the head of expeditions, military or economic
  soldiers: draftees.
    Year 8, first month of the third season (ninth month), day 3; his real favorite servant, who does all that he praises every day, wearer of the royal seal, [sole] com[panion], //// overseer of that which is and that which is not, overseer of the temples, overseer of the granary and White House, overseer of horn and hoof, chief of the six courts of justice, high-voiced in proclaiming the name of the king on the day of his warding off [////] who judges the prisoner according to his deserts //////////////////// (omitted lines containing titles) Satisfying the heart of the king as Keeper of the Door of the South; over the administration of the nomes of the South, chief treasurer ////////////. who quells the Haunebu, to whom the Two Lands come bowing down, to whom every office reports; wearer of the royal seal, sole companion, the steward, Henu says:
    [My lord, life prosperity], health! sent me to dispatch a ship to Punt to bring for him fresh myrrh from the sheiks over the Red Land, by reason of the fear of him in the highlands. Then I went forth from Coptos upon the road, which his majesty commanded me. There was with me an army of the South from //// of the Oxyrhyncus nome, the beginning thereof as far as Gebelen; the end thereof as far as [////], every office of the king's house, those who were in town and field, united, came after me. The army [////] cleared the way before, overthrowing those hostile toward the king, the hunters and the children of the highlands were posted as the protection of my limbs. Every official body of his majesty was placed under my authority. They reported messengers to me, as one alone commanding, to whom many hearken.
    I went forth with an army of 3,000 men. I made the road a river, and the Red Land (desert) a stretch of field, for I gave a leathern bottle, a carrying pole, 2 jars of water and 20 loaves to each one among them every day. The asses were laden with sandals [//// //// //// ////].
    Now, I made 12 wells in the bush, and two wells in Idehet, 20 square cubits in one, and 31 [square] cubits in the other. I made another in Iheteb, 20 by 20 cubits on each side [//// //// //// ////].
    Then I reached the [Red] Sea; then I made this ship, and I dispatched it with everything, when I had made for it a great oblation of cattle, bulls and ibexes.
    Now, after my return from the (Red) Sea, I executed the command of his majesty, and I brought for him all the gifts, which I had found in the region of God's Land. I returned through the [valley] of Hammamat, I brought for him august blocks for statues belonging to the temple. Never was brought down the like thereof for the king's court; never was done the like of this by any king's confidant sent out since the time of the god. I did this for the majesty of my lord because he so much loved me ////////////////////////..
Reign of Mentuhotep II
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 428f

The inscriptions of Amenemhet

  Henu: also Hennu, Henenu etc.
  the Door of the South: Elephantine
  dispatch a ship to Punt: In the absence of a canal connecting the Nile with the Red Sea via the Bitter Lakes, the Wadi Hammamat route of less than 200 km was the shortest way to reach the Red Sea coast.
  Red Land: The desert regions, as opposed to the fertile Black Land
  Oxyrhyncus nome: 19th nome of Upper Egypt
  Gebelen: Per-hathor in the 4th nome of Upper Egypt
  overthrowing those hostile toward the king: The Egyptian control over the desert regions was often tenuous and had to be reasserted by military means.
  2 jars of water and 20 loaves: No supplies of fresh vegetables are mentioned. Such a diet over a prolonged period would result in the occurrence of deficiency diseases such as scurvy, known to the ancient Egyptians and described in the Ebers Papyrus. Such effects would probably have been rare as most quarrying expeditions were of short duration and mining in desert regions often seasonal, according to the present documents generally occurring during the first season or late in the third.
Under Khufu, when building operations went on for years seemingly uninterrupted, the supply of vegetables, radishes and onions and leeks according to Herodotus, is specifically mentioned.
  sandals: The Egyptians were generally barefoot, but in the rocky wadis of the Eastern desert sandals were a necessity.
  20 by 20 cubits: About ten by ten metres. Cisterns and wells had stairs leading down to the water level.
  leathern bottle: Leather bottles and animal skins, being much lighter than clay pots, were often employed for transporting water in desert regions. The most famous instance of such use of animal skins was during the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses.
  God's Land: Here God's Land refers to a region south of Egypt, at other times it designates a land somewhere in western Asia.
  blocks for statues: The Hammamat region was important for its mines and quarries as well as for its passage to the Red Sea.
    Year 2, second month of the first season, day 15. Royal commission, executed by the hereditary prince, count, governor of the city, chief judge, favorite of the king, chief of works, distinguished in his office, great in his rank, with advanced place in the house of his lord, commanding the official body, chief of the six courts of justice, judging the people and the inhabitants, and hearing [causes], to whom the great come bowing down, and the whole land, prone upon the belly, whose offices his lord advanced; his favorite as keeper of the Door of the South; conducting for him millions of the inhabitants to do for him the desire of his heart toward his monuments, enduring on earth; magnate of the King of Upper Egypt, great one of the King of Lower Egypt, conductor of the palace, [//// ////] in stretching the measuring-cord; judging without partiality, governor of the whole South, to whom is reported that which is and that which is not; conducting the administration of the Lord of the Two Lands; [zealous] of heart upon a royal commission; commander of those that command, conductor of overseers; the vizier of the king, at his audiences, Amenemhet, says:   chief of the six courts of justice: There was no separation between judicial and executive offices (cf. Law and Order)
  stretching the measuring-cord: The initial, mostly symbolic, act of construction (cf. Building).
    My lord, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nibtowere, living forever, sent me as one sending, in whom are divine members; to establish his monument in this land, He chose me before his city, I was preferred before his court.
    Now, his majesty commanded that there go forth to this august highland an army with me, men of the choicest of the whole land: miners, artificers, quarrymen, artists, draftsmen, stonecutters, gold[workers], treasurers of Pharaoh, of every department of the White House, and every office of the king's house, united behind me. I made the highlands a river, and the upper valleys a water-way.
    I brought for him a sarcophagus, an eternal memorial, an everlasting reminder. Never descended its like in this highland since the time of the god. My soldiers descended without loss; not a man perished, not a troop was missing, not an ass died, not a workman was enfeebled. It happened for the majesty of my lord as a distinction, which Min wrought for him because he so much loved him, that his ka might endure upon the great throne in the kingdom of the two regions of Horus. [He made (it) as something greater than it.] I am his favorite servant, who does all that he praises every day.
Reign of Mentuhotep IV
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 445ff
  Nibtowere: Mentuhotep IV (c. 1998-1991 BCE)
  preferred before his court: Royal family members and other courtiers were often chosen for such missions.
  miners, artificers, quarrymen ////////.: According to this list most of the work on the sarcophagus seems to have been done in situ.
  I made the highlands a river: i.e. there was water everywhere
  My soldiers descended without loss: Successful commanders often prided themselves for not losing any subordinates.
    King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nibtowere, who liveth forever, born of the king's mother, Imi, second month of the first season, day 23.
    One set to work in this mountain on the [lid] block of the sarcophagus. The wonder was repeated, rain was made, the forms of the god appeared, his fame was shown to men, the highland was made a lake, the water went to the margin of the stone, a well was found in the midst of the valley, 10 cubits by 10 cubits on its every side, filled with fresh water, to its edge, undefiled, kept pure and cleansed from gazelles, concealed from Troglodyte barbarians. Soldiers of old, and kings who lived aforetime, went out and returned by its side, no eye had seen it, the face of man had not fallen upon it, (but) to his majesty himself it was revealed. ////////////. Those who were in Egypt heard it, the people who were in Egypt, South and Northland, they bowed their heads to the ground, they praised the goodness of his majesty forever and ever.
Reign of Mentuhotep IV
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 450f
  rain was made: Flash floods happen occasionally in the eastern mountains, but the water runs off quickly.
  the highland was made a lake: A rare occurrence. The nomarch Kheti II recorded that he supplied water in the highland district.
  South and Northland: Upper and Lower Egypt
  they bowed their heads to the ground: The people of both kingdoms doing homage suggests that Egypt was united by this time after the turmoils of the chaotic First Intermediate Period.
    Day 28. The lid of this sarcophagus descended, being a block 4 cubits, by 8 cubits, by 2 cubits on coming forth from the work. Cattle were slaughtered, goats were slain, incense was put on the fire. Behold, an army of 3,000 sailors of the nomes of the Northland followed it in safety to Egypt.
Reign of Mentuhotep IV
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 453f

The tablet of Senekh

  4 cubits, by 8 cubits, by 2 cubits: 2 metres by 4 metres by 1 metre
  incense was put on the fire: any such undertaking was under the auspices of some god, e.g. Hathor was often worshipped by those involved in mining.
    Nibtowere, living forever. Commander of troops in the highlands, steward in Egypt, commander of [////] on the river, Senekh, says:
    I was commander of the troops of this entire land in this highland, equipped with water skins, [baskets], with bread, beer, and every fresh vegetable of the South. I made its valleys green, and its heights pools of water; settled with children throughout, southward in Thau and northward to Menet-Khufu. I went forth to the sea, I hunted adults. I hunted cattle. I went forth to this highland with sixty people of years, and 70 young ones of the children of one (woman). I did all correctly for Nibtowere, living forever.
Reign of Mentuhotep IV
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, § 455f

New Kingdom

Inscription of Ramses IV

  This was an attempt to settle along the Coptos-Red Sea road, as the bringing along of children, the planting, and the normal Egyptian diet (bread, beer, vegetables) indicate.
  Menet-Khufu: lit. the Nurse of Khufu, capital of the Horizon of Horus, a principality in the region of Benihasan
  Thau-Mut: Medinet Habu
  sea: The Red Sea
    Year 3, second month of the third season (tenth month), day 27, under the majesty of Horus ////////////////
    Lo, his majesty took account in his heart like his father Harsiese, and he led the way to the place he desired. He went around the august mountain, in order to make marvelous monuments for his father and his fathers, all the gods and goddesses of Egypt. He set up a stela upon this mountain, engraved with the great name of King Ramses IV, given life like Re.
    Lo, his majesty gave command to the scribe of the house of sacred writings, Ramses-eshehab; the scribe of [known possessions], Hori; the prophet of the house of Min-Harsiese in Coptos, Usermare-nakht, to seek the [////] for the "Place of Truth," in the mountain of Bekhen, after //// //// //// //// which were very good, being great and marvelous monuments.
  his father Harsiese: Horus of Coptos
    Then his majesty commanded to commission:
  1. The first prophet of Amon, the chief of works, Ramses-nakht, triumphant, to bring them to Egypt. The butlers and nobles who were with him were:
  2. The king's butler, Usermare-sekhepersu
  3. The butler, Nakhtamon
  4. The deputy of the army, Khamtir
  5. The overseer of the White House, Khamtir
  6. The chief of the quarry-service, mayor, Amonmose, of the city (of Thebes)
  7. The chief of the quarry-service, overseer of herds of "The House of Usermare-Meriamon," Bekenkhonsu.
  8. The charioteer of the court, Nakhtamon
  9. The scribe of the army-lists, Sule
  10. The scribe of the deputy of the army, Ramses-nakht
  11. Scribes of the army - 20 men
  12. Chiefs of the court stables - 20 men
  13. The chief of the commandants of the army, Khamale (1 man)
  14. Commandants of the infantry - 20 men
  15. Charioteers of the chariotry - 50 men
  16. Chiefs of prophets, overseers of herds, prophets, scribes, inspectors - 50 men
  17. People of the infantry - 5,000 men
  18. Officers of the division of the court fishermen - 200 men
  19. Eper of the foreigners of Ayan - 800 men
  20. People of the [crown possessions] of the house of Pharaoh - 2,000 men
  21. A chief deputy - 1 man
  22. Mazoi gendarmes - 50 men
  23. Chief artificer, Nakhtamon (1 man)
  24. Master workmen of the works of the quarrymen - 3 men
  25. Quarrymen and stonecutters - 130 men
  26. Draughtsmen - 2 men
  27. Sculptors - 4 men
  28. The dead who are excluded from the list - 900
Total - 8,368
  White House: The treasury
  The House of Usermare-Meriamon: The temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu
  Mazoi: Medjay, originally Nubian mercenaries.
  The dead: Compared with similar expeditions this one was in this respect rather unsuccessful.
    There were transported for them supplies from Egypt in ten carts, there being six yoke of oxen to (each) cart, drawing (them) from Egypt to the mountain of Bekhen. [There were] many colporteurs laden with bread, meat, and cakes, without numbering.
    There were also brought the oblations for the satisfaction of the gods of heaven and earth from the Southern City. They were pure with great purity, they were [////] //// //// //// //// commanded the chief [that the priests might] give [////]. Bulls were slaughtered; calves were smitten; incense, it [streamed] to heaven; shedeh and wine, like a flood; beer [overflowed] in this place; the ritual priest, his voice [presented] the pure offering to Min, Horus, Isis, [Amon, Mut, Khonsu] and all the gods of this mountain. Their hearts were glad, they received the oblations, that they might requite with myriads of jubilees, for their beloved son, King Ramses IV, given life forever.
Reign of Ramses IV
J.H.Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, § 463ff
  carts: Wheeled vehicles, chariots included, were rarely used in ancient Egypt.
  Bekhen: metagreywacke, a grey rock looking like basalt [1]
  colporteurs: Men may have been easier to supply than draught animals. Oxen were satisfied with cheap feed which was low-quality but also very bulky, and horses were seemingly too expensive to use for transportation.
  Southern City: Thebes


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-[1] Greywacke, Siltstone, and Metasedimentary equivalents (also schist, mudstone, slate basalt, black basalt, green basalt, grey basalt, basanite)
-Pharaonic archaeology in the Eastern Desert

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October 2003