الجمعة، 31 يناير 2014



IN passing from the predynastic to the dynastic period we leave the interpretation of archaeological and  legendary material, and pass from the prehistoric to the historic age of Egypt. We now for the first time have ancient records to guide us, both contemporary and later. And it is only with the help of the later accounts that the contemporary monuments can be understood, for at first they are very difficult to comprehend, being archaic and unsettled in style and meaning. But about the time of the IVth and Vth Dynasties the nation attained its full measure of civilization, and Egyptian art and the Egyptian script assumed the form which is the framework, so to speak, on which all the later developments were fashioned. The statues and reliefs of the IVth Dynasty are as typically Egyptian in their own way as those of any later dynasty, but when we see the artistic representations of the first three dynasties we are constantly brought up short by unexpected forms and bizarre appearances which failed to survive to later days.

Under the first three dynasties Egyptian art was trying its hand; it was only under the fourth that a state of equilibrium was reached, religious conservatism and artistic endeavour having compromised in a convention which, so far as representations of the gods were concerned, persisted till the end. Antoninus Pius is represented on an Egyptian temple in the costume of a king of the Vth Dynasty, some 3000 years earlier. This is as true of the writing as of any other form of art. It must not be forgotten that Egyptian written records were works of art: the painter and the writer were one and the same thing. By the time of the IVth Dynasty the forms and arrangement of the hieroglyphs had crystallized more or less into those that persisted until the end. Naturally we can distinguish at a glance an inscription of the XIIth Dynasty from one of the IVth, one of the XIXth from one of the XIIth, one of the Ptolemaic period from one of the XIXth. The difference in style is obvious. But a Ptolemaic antiquarian could have read a IVth Dynasty inscription without much. difficulty, whereas one of the 1st Dynasty would probably have been almost as unintelligible to him as to us. By the time of the IVth-Vth Dynasties certain artistic conventions as to arrangement had been introduced, and they remained till the end; under the IInd and IIIrd Dynasties the hieroglyphs are still uncertain in form, and they are cut haphazard without any particular care as to proportion and symmetry.   
It is on this account that the divergences or the later king-lists from the royal names as we find them on the actual monuments of the early dynasties are easily explicable. The most important of these lists of royal names, those of Abydos and Sakkarah, were compiled at the beginning of the XIXth Dynasty. It would seem that about the time of king Seti I, the first monarch of the XIXth Dynasty (c. 1320 B.C.), attention had been specially drawn to the tombs of the earliest kings at Abydos. Either the king, wishing to build there his splendid temple which still stands, and to commemorate his dead ancestors instructed his historiographers to seek out the names of the oldest kings, or, may be, a discovery of the early royal tombs moved the king to commemorate his predecessors by building there a temple and inscribing their names in it. The list which he caused to be put up contains among its most ancient names several which, as we shall see, are obviously misunderstandings and misreadings of the archaic hieroglyphs. When the names of the Pyramid-builders (the IVth Dynasty of Manetho) are reached, lists and contemporary monuments practically agree, and we have, in the duplicate Abydos list of Seti and of his son Ramses II, the most important ancient authority as to the succession of the legitimate monarchs of the whole country. 

The second ancient authority is the famous Turin Papyrus of Kings, which gives not only names but regnal years, and in some cases even months and days. Had it survived entire, it would have been our chief authority. It is in fragments, and much critical labor has had to be spent upon it in order to make it intelligible when, as is often the case, it gives information as to obscure or illegitimate kings not mentioned in the Abydos list. With this it otherwise agrees, and the accuracy of both is usually confirmed by the monuments at epochs when, as in the times of the IVth— VIth and the XIIth—XIIIth Dynasty, we possess detailed knowledge from contemporary authorities. There is, however, a discrepancy as regards Pepi I. It. is of these periods of prosperity and power that the later Egyptians like ourselves actually had most knowledge. From the style of the writing, and from its agreement with, the Abydos list as to the forms of early names, this list would also seem to date from the XIXth Dynasty. 

The list of Sakkarah was set up in the tomb of a royal scribe named Tunurei, who lived in the reign of Ramses II (c. 1300—1234 B.C.). It begins, not with the traditional Mena or Meni (the Menes of Herodotus and Manetho), but with the king Merbapen (Merpeba), the Miebis of Manetho, who both in Manetho and in the Abydos list is the fifth successor of Menes. This fact is of historical importance, as we shall see later. The forms of the names of the earlier kings given by Tunurei are evidently derived from a hieratic original of his own time, such as the Turin Papyrus. For the later period this list is in itself not of much value, since, though it gives a selection of the most important royal names correctly, it turns the kings of the Middle Kingdom backwards, making the XIIIth Dynasty succeed the Vth, and the XIth precede the XVIIIth. The XIIth Dynasty kings are given in their correct order—but backwards. 

The oldest list, that of Thutmose III (c. 1501—1447 BC) at Karnack, is evidently based largely upon tradition rather than formal chronicles, but it gives the names of a number of kings, known to us from monuments, that do not appear In the more reliable lists of the XIXth Dynasty. Such catalogues as these were not made for the first time under the XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties. We know that much earlier lists existed, and not only lists but annals, inscribed upon stone stelae set up as public monuments and we have portions of such dating from the time of the Vth Dynasty (c. 2965—2825 BC, or in round numbers 2950-2800) in the Palermo Stone and other fragments of similar annal-stelae. These contained records of every regnal year back to the beginning of the 1st Dynasty, and gave the names of predynastic kings also. Had they been perfect they would have settled many disputed questions: as it is, even in their fragmentary condition they are invaluable on account of their nearness in time to the most ancient period. 

The lists of the XIXth Dynasty are undoubtedly the basis of Manetho’s work. But the Ptolemaic historiographer also used continuous annals, legendary and historical, which we no longer possess. These gave him the reasons for his division of the kings into dynasties, which are not indicated in the lists, though the Turin Papyrus especially distinguishes the monarchs of the Old Kingdom (Manetho's I-VII Dynasties) from those of the Middle Kingdom (Manetho’s IX-XVII  Dynasties). The break m  historical continuity between the two is fully recognized. Manetho goes further in recording the minor breaks between successive ruling families; and so far as we are able to check him from the contemporary monuments his division into dynasties is entirely justified. His authorities evidently were good. But unhappily his work has come down to us only in copies of copies; and, although the framework of the dynasties remains, most of his royal names, originally Graecized, have been so mutilated by non-Egyptian scribes, who did not understand their form, as often to be unrecognizable, and the regnal years given by him have been so corrupted as to be of little value unless confirmed by the Turin Papyrus or the monuments. 

The royal names given by Herodotus and Diodorus are entirely derived from tradition, recounted to them by Egyptian priests. Sometimes they are by no means bad representatives of the real names, especially in the case of the Pyramid-builders. But the true course of history was entirely deformed by the “Father of History” and he makes the IVth Dynasty immediately precede the XXVIth, for reasons intelligible to students of Egyptian art, for the Saite period was one of archaism, which carefully imitated m its monu­ments the style of the Pyramid-builders. All other classical authorities are entirely valueless. 

To the skeleton supplied by Manetho even Champollion was able to fit many of the monuments then discovered, soon after his decipherment of the hieroglyphs. But he mixed up the XIIth Dynasty with the Ethiopians of the XXVth, and J. G. Wilkinson was the first to discover the correct position of the kings of the XIIth Dynasty. Lepsius merely confirmed the truth of Wilkinson's discovery. The finding of the Abydos list in 1864 (by Dümichen) settled the correct articulation of the skeleton. Since that time the work of fitting the kings, whose contemporary monuments we have, into the scheme, controlled and corrected by their own contemporary statements, has gone on until, at the beginning of the century, with the correct placing (by Steindorff) in the XIIIth Dynasty of certain kings formerly supposed to belong to the XIth, we had reached comparative certainty as far back as the end of the IIIrd Dynasty. The earliest kings still remained unknown from contemporary monuments, and were generally relegated to the realm of legend, if not of fable. Then, at the turn of the century, came the discovery of the earliest royal tombs at Abydos, which in the time of the XIXth Dynasty had presumably turned the attention of the scribes of that time to the most ancient kings. Their lists and Manetho were again Justified in the main; the contemporary monuments of many of the kings of the first three dynasties were found, giving the real forms of the names that the later list makers had often misunderstood. But for the beginning of the 1st Dynasty it is evident that the Menes legend, the story of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, which was no doubt as well known in the time of Seti as in that of Herodotus, had to some extent confused the list-makers. Better interpretations of the Palermo Stone, new fragments of which have been recently published, and further archaeological discoveries, are enabling us to find our way even into the days before Menes, who though a legendary figure was no imaginary creation, since he was a real king, but in legend has attracted to himself the deeds of others who preceded and followed him, 

The question of the date of Menes and the unification of the kingdom has already been treated, and it has been urged that it cannot be placed later than about 3500 BC. We have also seen that during the long predynastic age the Nile-dwellers passed from the use of stone to that of metals, and developed in the Delta and in Upper Egypt the Egyptian culture, which meets us in its own peculiar and characteristic guise, with its cult of the dead, its religion, its hieroglyphs, its art, and its state-organization, albeit in an archaic and comparatively primitive stage of development. This development has been ascribed to the infiltration into Egypt from Syria of an alien race (Armenoids), who brought to the Nile-land a higher brain-capacity than that of the native Hamitic population, and therewith developed the native prehistoric culture into the ancient Egyptian civilization which we know. 

The impulse to this movement was given before the actual unification of the kingdom and the founding of the 1st Dynasty. Until recent years it has generally been supposed that it was given by an invasion of Horus-Egyptians from the south, either by way of the Wadi Hammamat (which reaches the Nile valley at Coptos, leaving the Red Sea at Kosiir), or through Nubia. We certainly seem to have echoes of a conquest of Egypt from the south (and so entirely distinct from the Armenoid infiltration from the north) in the legends of the god Horus and his followers, assisted by the Mesentiu (usually, but very doubtfully, translated “smiths'”) of Edfu (the city of Horus) against the Intiu or aboriginal inhabitants of the Nile valley. The sky-god, Horus of Edfu, whose emblem was the falcon, was the oldest supreme deity of Upper Egypt, and the special protector of the royal house. He is represented in the legend as coming from Nubia with his followers and his Mesentiu, overthrowing the Intiu (who were the fol­lowers of his rival Set), until he finally expelled them from the Delta into Asia, much as the later Egyptians expelled the Hycsos. Probably the legend, as we know it from Ptolemaic sources, has been contaminated by the stories of the union of the kingdom by the Horus-kings of the south (Menes) and of the expulsion of the Hycsos. The Intiu (whose name should mean “pillar-folk”) probably represent the main stock of the Hamitic Nilotes, akin to the Mediterraneans and to the pre-Semitic inhabitants of Palestine, who, it may be presumed, gave to the Semites their worship of sacred trees and pillars (baetyli). These Intiu left traces of their name in Upper as well as Lower Egypt, at Dendera as well as at Heliopolis (On). Set, the brother of Horus, was originally an Upper Egyptian god (of Ombos) like him, and was only estab­lished in the Delta in later times, when the mention of him would naturally cause it to be supposed that Horus had expelled him from the Delta. Originally the legend may have been perhaps merely that of a more energetic tribe of Hamites, following the banner of the falcon, who came from the south and subdued their kinsmen, the pillar-folk of Upper Egypt. To assume, on the authority of the translation of the word Mesentiu as “smiths”, that they effected this conquest by means of their knowledge of metal, is, however, more than doubtful, as it is probable that the word has no such meaning.

The Egyptians doubtless obtained their knowledge of copper-working from Mesopotamia by way of Syria, probably through the Armenoid race, which must already have made its appearance in Lower Egypt long before the end of the predynastic period. The land of Magan, which is mentioned in Sumerian Babylonian inscriptions of the fourth millennium BC as yielding copper, if rightly identified with Sinai, would suggest that Babylonians as well as Egyptians obtained copper from that peninsula. 

It would seem probable that the “Armenoids”, if they also brought copper with them, originally obtained it from further north, the mountains of the modern Armenia as the Mesopotamians no doubt originally did. When the Egyptians took to using copper, a nearer source of the metal was found in Sinai, and the Babylonians also utilized it, going thither by sea in ships from the Persian Gulf. Magan, means the land of ships, the land to which ships go, and it’s obvious that much heavier masses of ore could be transported in a ship’s hold than on donkey-back to the head waters of the Euphrates and Tigris and thence southward on rafts.


A certain amount of Mesopotamian influence may have reached Egypt at this time, traces of which have been found in the similarity of Babylonian and Egyptian mace-heads, and the common use of the cylinder-seal, and of recessed brick walls. The invention of brick itself was no doubt of independent origin m both countries, as the shapes of the early Babylonian and the Egyptian brick are quite different. The cylinder-seal seems rather exotic in Egypt, where it died out at the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty, whereas in Mesopotamia it remained till the end.  In Egypt it is first made of wood (originally a section or reed?), and may be an independent development. But the style of building with recessed walls and the common shape of the mace-head are not so easily explained away. However, whatever influence existed was slight, and Egyptian culture was little affected by it. 

The characteristic writing-system of Egypt had not, so far as we can yet see, a common origin with that of Mesopotamia, nor was it influenced by it. The Mesopotamian writing-system, originally hieroglyphic, had already become simplified into a semi-cuneiform system when the Egyptian script was still an archaic picture-writing. Whether the latter owes its origin to the Hamitic Egyptians or to the invading Armenoids we do not know. It makes a very sudden appearance in  Upper Egypt shortly before the unification, and this points to its having been introduced from the Delta. An ultimate Syro-Mediterranean origin is possible. 

There can be no doubt now that the impetus to the development of civilization was given by these Armenoids from the north; their skulls testify to the fact that their brain-capacity was greater than that of the native Hamites, their remains are found gradually percolating southward till, in the IIIrd Dynasty, they are in Upper Egypt, and by the time of the Vth they are merging with the general population. We see their facial type, quite different from that of the-Hamite Egyptians, in the statues of the great men of the court of the Pyramid-builders. They are powerful, big-boned, big-skulled people with broad faces and mesaticephalic heads, quite different from the slight, small-boned, long-headed, narrow-chinned and bird-like Arabs and Hamites; quite different again from the typical Anatolian Hittite, with his big nose, retreating, chin, and brachycephalic skull, and differing in face from the Syrian Semite (the Jewish type), though resembling him in skull form. If, as has been conjectured, the Syrian type is the result of a fusion of Armenoids with the real Semitic Arab (who is first cousin of the Hamite), the Egyptian Armenoids must have belonged to the vanguard of the invasion, which passed on into Egypt before it had time to mix with the Semites or the related Mediterranean-Hamitic aboriginal population of Palestine. Where these Armenoids came from is uncertain, although we might well assign to them a common origin in middle Asia with the very similar Alpine type of central Europe. 

However this may be, in Lower Egypt we find them as the dominant civilized aristocracy at the beginning of things, and it is by no means improbable that the ruling race of Upper Egypt, to which the unifiers of the kingdom belonged, were of Armenoid origin. The invaders were originally few in number, and so they formed a ruling caste which adopted the civilization of the conquered, and developed it. In the Delta they probably found civilization (of a primitive Mediterranean type) much more advanced than in the Upper country. What elements they contributed to the ensuing common civilization we cannot yet tell. The hieroglyphic system and all the accompanying culture that it implies may have been theirs, but was more likely Mediterranean. The main stuff of the religion of Egypt, on the other hand, the characteristic animal-gods and most other of the more fundamental beliefs, must be Nilotic and belong to the Hamite indigenes. The god Osiris, however, at all events appears to be of Syrian origin, and so are the cultivation of wine and of wheat, both of which are associated with him. The Egyptian knowledge of bee-keeping and of honey was possibly also of Syrian origin. It is significant that the ancient formal title of the king of Lower Egypt was “the Bee-man” or “Honey-man” (byati). Certainly Palestine, “the land of milk and honey” is more naturally the original home of agriculture than Egypt. But whether Osiris is Armenoid or (perhaps more probably) belongs to the Mediterranean pre-Semites of Palestine we do not know.

Accordingly, we see Egypt originally inhabited by a stone-using Hamitic race, related to the surrounding Semites, Libyans, and Mediterraneans. A second wave of the same race then comes, perhaps from the south. A foreign race, metal-using, then invades from Syria. It starts the great development of culture and founds a northern kingdom in the Delta, where a primitive culture akin to that of the Mediterranean Cretans and Aegean islanders probably already existed. No actual traces of such a primitive Mediterranean culture in the Delta have yet been found, but its existence is inherently probable, and many possible indications of it may be seen in the later religious representations peculiar to the Delta. To it may have been due the invention of the hieroglyphic writing. At all events, kings of this invading race came ultimately to rule the south and unite the two kingdoms under their scepter. 

We have no means yet of estimating the duration of the period of the separate existence of the two kingdoms of the north and south, before the unification. Four centuries, perhaps, passed before tins egyptian civilization had progressed so far that the calendar was fixed, and the number of the months ordained, with the five intercalary days “over and above the year”. It may have been in the year 4241 (or 4238) BC that this advance in civilization was made, as a Sothic period begins in that year. The year 2781 (or 2778) is too late, as before that time the calendar was already in full working order. Hence we must go back 1460 years, to about four or five centuries before the founding of the monarchy, for the institution of the calendar, apparently in Lower Egypt. At that time no doubt the southern and northern dynasties existed, as the establishment of a calendar demands a state organization, with a royal will to direct it. And the hieroglyph  writing-system must also have existed in its beginnings.

In the forty-third century BC, therefore, we perhaps find Egypt already divided into two civilized communities, each under its own king. These kings of Upper and of Lower Egypt are those called by Manetho the “dead demigods”. This appellation points to the fact that even to the early Egyptians they were shadowy figures of legend; for there is no doubt that Manetho’s authorities, like those of his brother-chronicler, Berosus in Babylonia, were ancient. Probably the Old Kingdom Egyptians already regarded them as demigods. The predynastic kings of Upper Egypt were known to the later Egyptians as the Followers of Horus (Shemsu-Hor), meaning either that they followed the falcon-god of Upper Egypt, Horus, upon the Hieraconpolite throne, or that they followed him to war in the legendary contest with Set, which we have already noticed. Probably both meanings were understood. As the representative of the falcon-god the king of Upper Egypt bore his name on a banner in the form of a palace-front, known as the serekh or, “Proclaimed”, surmounted by the figure of the falcon. This is known to us generally as his “Horus-name”, his name as Horus, as king, which was assumed at his accession. 

The traditional centres of the two kingdoms were the cities of Sais and Buto in the Delta and those of Hieraconpolis and Edfu in the south. The memory of the original Dual State was always preserved. Neither was wholly absorbed into the other at the unification. The south conquered the north, but the north was admitted nominally, at least, to equal dignity with the dominating south. The monarch of the united kingdom was not king of Egypt only, but king of Upper and Lower Egypt. The Insi, the king of Upper Egypt, comes first, thus marking the primacy of the Upper Egyptian conqueror over the Byati, or king of the Delta; and the ordinary Egyptian word for “king” is insi. The king is lord of the two lands—though it has been suggested that this means lord of the two Nile banks; he is lord of the Upper Egyptian Vulture (since the vulture-goddess, Nekhebet, was the deity of Hieraconpolis), and of the Lower Egyptian Uraeus (since the serpent was the emblem of Uto, the goddess of Buto in the Delta), and so on. This last title seems to have been used from earliest times. And also from the first, union of both lands under one head was marked by the wearing by the earliest kings of the 1st Dynasty of the two peculiar crowns, the red crown of Lower Egypt and the white crown of Upper Egypt. And in the middle of the dynasty, Semti Den, who was the first king to use the title insibya combined the two into one crown in which the white crown was the uppermost as the senior. But the memory of the older wearers of the red crown was not proscribed. They had been the legitimate kings of the Delta. And as such they were commemorated in the official records of the kingdom. 

The annals of the Old Kingdom, engraved upon stone stelae, and set up under the Vth Dynasty in various places, of which we have scattered specimens in the fragments of the Palermo Stone and its congeners, it gave lists of the pre-Menic kings of Lower as well as of Upper Egypt, each name being determined by a figure of the dead king wearing his peculiar white or red crown. The names of some of these early Delta kings are preserved: Tin, Thesh, Hsekiu, Uaznar, and others; they are primitive in form. No names of the early Hieraconpolite kings are preserved upon the extant fragments of the Vth Dynasty Annals; we know, however, that they existed thereon, from the occurrence, below a break in the stone, of the sign of the king wearing the white crown, which is the determinative of a king of Uppef Egypt. 

The names of some of the pre-Menic kings of the south may have been preserved, among relics discovered at Abydos, but it is probable that only two of thesi, Ro and “the Scorpion” (the cursive form of whose Horus-name was read by Petrie as “Ka”),  were really kings at all. Ro, who is merely called the Horus Ro, is probably a genuine pre-Menic king of the South. “The Scorpion”, whose personal name was Ip, is called Horus and Insi (not Insi-bya). He is known from monuments at Hieraconpolis which from their style must be placed immediately before those of Narmer or Narmerza, the conqueror of the north and unifier of the kingdom. The Scorpion also conquered the north, and was probably the first to do so, his work being completed by Narmer, whose successor, Ahai or Aha, was the first to reign undisputed over united Egypt. The Scorpion ruled undoubtedly as far north as the apex of the Delta, as his name has been found at Turra. A short distance further south both he and Narmer appear at Tarkhan, near Kafr Ammar, between Cairo and Wasta.  These kings, with Aha, are the historical originals of the legendary “Menes”, the Mena or Meni of the Abydos list. 

From a newly discovered fragment of the Palermo Stone it would seem that the personal name of the king whose Horus-name was Zer was Atoti, who in the Abydos list is the second successor of Meni. In Manetho his immediate successor, Zer (Athothis), judging by the style of his monuments, succeeded Aha. The “Teti” of the lists who precedes Atoti, will then be Aha, and Meni will be Narmer. Thus “the Scorpion” appears neither in the lists, nor in Manetho, who based his work on them. But he undoubtedly belongs as much to the 1st Dynasty as does Narmer. Both Narmer and Aha seem to have borne also the appellation “Men”. “Teti” may in reality be a mere reduplication of Atoti, due to confusion in the traditional accounts, Aha being really Menes II, and Narmer Menes I. In legends not only Narmer, but the Scorpion also, are evidently included in the saga of Menes, who thus appears to be a “conflate” personage of legend, bearing the name of the third of the great kings of the beginning of the 1st Dynasty, but including the deeds of all three. The dominating personality of the three is the first historical Menes, Narmer (c. 3500 BC). The later list makers were confused by the fact that in Narmer and Aha they had two claimants to the honor of being “Meni”, hence they transferred the former to a later period, reading his Horus-name, Narmer or Narmerza, as “Buzau”, the Boethos of Manetho, who follows the lists in placing him at the beginning of his IInd Dynasty. Such are the conclusions to which the progress of discovery seems to lead us; but it must be borne in mind that a new discovery may at any moment cause us to revise our statements as to these early kings. 

The chief monument of the Scorpion at Hieraconpolis is a great ceremonial mace-head of stone (now at Oxford), on which are reliefs of crude vigor representing the royal hawk swooping in conquest, and rows of miserable-looking crested birds, rekhyut (the ideograph of "mankind'), hung by their necks from standards bearing representations of the sacred animals of the south, and thus symbolizing conquest by the southerners. With this were found the famous relics of Narmer, perhaps the most remarkable monuments of archaic Egyptian art; viz. another ceremonial mace-head (now at Oxford), and the ceremonial “palette” (at Cairo). This latter is a formal development of the slate palette, on which the primitive Egyptians mixed paint; it is constantly found in the predynastic tombs, and apparently one of the first objects to which the nascent art of the Egyptian decorator was turned. On the mace-head we see the king celebrating the Sed-festival, which has been regarded as the survival of an ancient custom (with many parallels elsewhere) of killing the king at the end of a thirty-years' reign. This custom was probably in abeyance by Narmer's time: we do not suppose the monument actually commemorates his forcible death, though he may have been deposed. Later on, it was always celebrated by the king, dressed up as the mummy, Osiris, and not always after a thirty-years reign; it became one of the many pompous ceremonies in which the Pharaoh had to take the leading part. On the palette we see him wearing the red crown, inspecting the headless bodies of slain northerners, attended by his vizier (zati) “the Man”, as opposed to “the God” i.e. the king) and his cup- and sandal-bearer (won-hir, face-opener), while four men carry before him the standards of the gods. He, now wearing the white crown also strikes with his mace a northerner, who is labeled “Harpoon-marsh” (the Harpoon-nome in the north­westDelta), while the falcon of Horus holds a human head, representing a northerner, by a rope through his nose, meanwhile standing on a group of six papyrus plants that probably means “the North”, three such plants being the simplified sign for this in the developed hieroglyphic script. Below, on one side, a bull breaks through the recess-walled encampment of a northerner, whom he tramples under foot, while three displaced bricks and the gap in the wall show the energy of his attack: in the enclosure is a tent with two poles. Below, on the other side, two northerners escape, looking back in terror, to seek fortress-protection as the hieroglyphs tell us. 

Other fragments of similar monuments of this time, commemorating the conquest of the north, are in our museums. One in the Louvre shows the royal bull goring a northerner, while below on one side the standards of the southern gods, Anubis, Uapuaut, Thoth, Horus and Min, grasp, each with a human hand, a rope which drags some other captive whose figure is broken off. On another we see the animal-emblems of the king (?) break through with hoes into the square crenellated enclosures of towns whose names are shown by hieroglyphs, “Owl-town”, “Ghost-town”, and others of which we do not know the meaning. One is struck by the naive energy of this commemorative art, which has preserved for us a contemporary record of the founding of the Egyptian kingdom, and possibly a Libyan war. 

It has been supposed that Narmer actually met the redoubtable Naram Sin of Babylonia in battle and was worsted by him. There is no absolute impossibility in the view, though it rests on a slender foundation. He undoubtedly warred against the Libyan tribes of the western Delta and his successor, Aha, against the Nubians. Aha is supposed to have been the first to conquer the district between Silsileh and Aswan, which has always been somewhat distinct from the rest of Upper Egypt, and is now inhabited not by Egyptians but by Nubians. His successors were constantly involved in warlike operations on the newly acquired frontier of “the land of the bow”, as the district of the First Cataract was then called. The native inhabitants appear to have been Beja tribes ('Mentiu of Sati') and people closely akin to the Upper Egyptians ('Intiu of Sati'). Nubia was then still inhabited by Hamites very nearly related to the Egyptians; the negro advance noticeable at the end of the Old Kingdom had not yet begun; no negroes appear on the monuments of the earliest dynasties. The modern Nubians up to as far north as Silsileh are not Egyptians or Hamites at all, but a true negro tribe, now of course much crossed with pure Hamites like the Abadeh and Beja, and with the mixed race, Hamite, Mediterranean, Libyan, Armenoid, Syrian-Semite and Negro of Egypt. 

Both Aha and his successor Zer (or Khent) Atoti were either buried or possessed cenotaph-tombs in the necropolis of Abydos. We do not know whether these were real tombs or not, as Aha also possessed a great brick tomb at Nakada, not very far away, and on the whole this is more likely to have been his real tomb. The same is probable for Zer. The tombs of Narmer and the Scorpion are unknown. Another king who, to judge by the style of the vases, inscribed tablets, etc., found in his tomb, succeeded Zer, was also buried or possessed a cenotaph at Abydos. His Horus-name was Za (represented by the single snake hieroglyph, Za or Zet); he is the Ata of the lists. The name of his successor, Semti (Two Deserts), was misread by the list makers as Hsapti (two Nomes). His Horus-name was Den (or Udimu); and he was the first Insibya. A queen of the time is named “Merneit”, i.e. “beloved of Neith”. Neith was the warrior-goddess worshipped in the Delta at Sais, the Het-byati or House of the Bee-man, who was the king of Lower Egypt. Aha, too, had married a princess of Sais named Neit-hotep, and both alliances with the north were no doubt politic measures, devised to secure the loyalty of the conquered Delta. They did not altogether succeed, as later on, at the beginning of the IIIrd Dynasty, the southern king, Khasekhem, had to reconquer the north, after which he again married a northern princess, with the final result of the abandonment of Upper Egypt as the seat of royal power, and the adminis­tration of the country from Memphis. The royal house and court became northern in fact as well as by descent. 

From the relics found in Semti's tomb or cenotaph at Abydos we see already a rich and picturesque civilization, energetic and full of new ideas, both artistic and of a more practical character. Gold and ivory and valuable wood were lavishly used for small objects of art, fine vases of stone were made, and the wine of the grape (irp) was kept in great pottery vases stored in magazines like those of the pithoi at Cnossus. The art of making blue glass and faience, that typically Egyptian art, had already been invented. One of the treasures from the tomb of Semti (in the British Museum) is the lid of the ivory box in which was kept his golden judgment seal: it is inscribed “Golden Seal of Judgment of King Den”. In this tomb also, as in those of other kings of the time, were found a number of small Ivory plaques, stated in their inscriptions to have been made by the king’s carpenter. Each contains the official records of the events of a single year: thus on one of these (in the British Museum) we find chronicled in the naive archaic hieroglyphs of the time a river expedition to the north-land and the capture of a fortified place, the latter shown as a broken enceinte within which is its name, with the hoe outside signifying the breaking down of the wall, as on the earlier stone fragments already mentioned above. We find on the same tablet also the statement that in  this year the Falcon (i.e. the king) seized the abodes of the Libyans, and the name of the viceroy of the north, Hemaka, is mentioned. This personage appears to have been the chief man of his time, and his name appears upon numbers of the high conical clay sealings of the wine-jars, which were impressed by means of cylinder-seals. All these little tablets are the records of single years of the king's life, and they, and others like them belonging to the reigns of other early kings, formed the basis of regular annals, which, at least as early as the time of the Vth Dynasty, and probably before, were carved upon stone monuments. The Palermo Stone and the other fragments of similar annal-stelae are examples. In some years we find little recorded but the celebration of some festival or the founding of a temple or palace; in others details are given as to the royal warlike activity. Chroniclers then existed, official recorders, scribes, probably tax-gatherers and all the apparatus mat appertains to a regular and settled administration. 

Wealth came to the court and encouraged the work in metal, fine stones, ivory and wood of the artists who now laid the foundations of Egyptian art. Besides the artists who made the annal-tablets, there were the carvers, like the man who made the extraordinary little Ivory figure (now in the British Museum) of an early king, wearing the white crown and a strange long woven and carpet-like robe, unlike anything in later Egyptian costume but distinctly Babylonian in appearance with its fringed border. It is about the age of Semti and may represent that king; it shows that weaving in carpet patterns was already known. There were the king’s jewelers, like the man who made the wonderful little bracelets of gold and carnelian beads that once encircled the arms of Zer's queen, or the sceptre of sard and gold that belonged to a king. There were the king's barbers, like the man who made the little fringe of false curls that somebody wore who was buried in the precinct of the tomb of Zer. There were the incense-makers who compounded their sanctified product of myrrh and sweet-savoured gums. The royal carpenters and cabinet-makers could make furniture of elaborate type; the well-known bull's hoof motif for chair-legs already appears. In fact, to enumerate no further, Egyptian civilization, so far as the court was concerned, was already luxurious under the 1st Dynasty. 

The king was no doubt the absolute lord of all. He was surrounded by a court of nobles and great men, like the vizier Hemaka; the people were ruled and judged by the king and his chiefs. When he died he was buried in a tomb which was a sort of apotheosis of the tombs of his subjects, and in the development marked by the successive royal tombs we have a good representation of the general development of civilization. Whereas Aha had a brick tomb roofed with wood covered with earth, Semti's tomb was for the first time floored with granite blocks; and at the beginning of the IIIrd Dynasty Khasekhemui’s great brick-built sepulcher, also at Abydos, contains a tomb chamber wholly constructed of hewn limestone. With it begins the development which so soon was to culminate in the Pyramids. The royal tomb was called Sa-ha-Hor, “Protection-around-the-Falcon” (i.e. the king as Horus). The king's burial chamber was surrounded by a number of smaller tombs in which, apparently, were interred either the great men of his court or a number of his slaves who accompanied him to the next world. 

Of priests and embalmers, who afterwards became so important, we hear nothing as yet, though later tradition had it that in Semti's time chapters of the funerary ritual, the “Chapters of Coming forth by Day” (which we call 'The Book of the Dead') were written, and books of medicine also. We can imagine the sooth-sayer and medicine-man as prominent at his court, as in other communities in a similar state of civilization. Such people, and the chiefs themselves, were the priests. The characteristic Egyptian cult of the dead, though it existed, has not yet developed into the great worship of the deity who, to many of us, summarizes most of what we know of Egyptian religion, Osiris. The dead man is not yet identified with Osiris nor have efforts to preserve the body of the Osirian in the next world yet resulted in the production of a mummy. From the beginning this cult of the dead was undoubtedly a main feature of Nilotic religion. Busiris in the Delta was, presumably, already the seat of the worship of the dead god, Osiris, but we hear nothing of him in the south. The Memphite district already had no doubt its own dead god, Sekri or Socharis, “the coffined one”, represented by a dead hawk, later identified with the other gods of the same district, Hapi the bull, and Ptah, who was already" represented as a swathed form closely related to that of Osiris, and probably already also as a misshapen dwarf. In the south we find the wolf-god of the dead, Upuaut, the “opener of the ways” at Siut; and at Abydos the jackal Anubis, “on his hill”, “in the Oasis”(?), more primitive conceptions than the anthropomorphic Osiris and Ptah, and originating in the primitive Egyptian’s barbaric desire to placate the wolf or jackal who prowled round the desert-graves of his people at night and rooted up their bodies to devour them. A more civilized conception later on spoke of Arnubis as Khentamentiu, “the head of the Westerners”, the graves being then placed usually on the western bank of the Nile (though not always, e.g. at Naga ed-Der), and eventually these deities were all more or less amalgamated as Osiris, with whom Khentamentiu was identified, while Anubis and Upuaut became lesser genii at his side. 

Mummification is rare before the VIth Dynasty and was still not usual even under the XIIth. The human-faced coffins, which we know so well in every museum, first began under the XIIth Dynssty, as inner cases within the great rectangular wooden chests that are characteristic of that period and of former times at least as far back as the VIth Dynasty. No doubt they are older than this; we see that they develop from smaller wooden chests, such as those in which the bodies of 1st Dynasty people were buried at Tarkhan. The great stone sarcophagi probably first began under the IVth Dynasty as imitations m stone of the wooden chests. 

Semti was succeeded by Merpeba, whose personal name was Enezib (Antjab), a king who is remarkable only from the fact that in the Memphite lists of kings he is the first to be commemorated, Menes being ignored. This looks as if he were in reality the founder of Memphis, and as if the credit of his foundation had been transferred to the legendary Menes, or, to put it in another way, as if he were the Menes who founded Memphis. Yet the “Town of the White Wall” certainly existed before his time, probably in predynastic days; and Merpeba can only be allowed the credit of perhaps being the first to make it the seat of the royal government in the north. The name Memphis was not acquired until the time of the VIth Dynasty. 

Merpeba was followed by Semerkhet, whose personal name is written as the picture of a walking warrior armed with a stick, which may have been read Nekhti or Hui, “the strong” or “the striker”, by his contemporaries, but was read by the XIXth Dynasty scribes as Shemsu (“the follower”), owing to the resemblance of the hieroglyph, for to follow (a shorthand ideograph, wrongly taken to be of a warrior walking) to the archaic sign of Semerkhet’s name. With him we reach a new development of Egyptian energy. Other kings before him had warred with the tribes on the frontiers; he appears to have been the first who actually invaded the mountain-fastnesses of Sinai, and certainly was the first to cut upon the rocks there a record of his invasion, the first of its kind, in which he is represented as striking down the chief of the Mentiu, or bedouins. He is accompanied by a smaller figure of the chief and general of the soldiers, who carries a bow and arrows. There are three figures of the king, in two of which he wears the White Crown while in the third he has the Red Crown. Semerkhet was succeeded by the comparatively unimportant Ka, with the personal name Sen, which was later misread by the scribes as Kebh. But the lists are now very confused. The Abydos list next names Buzau, the Boethos whom Manetho placed at the head of his IInd Dynasty. Buzau, however, is probably a XIXth Dynasty misreading of Narmer or Narmerza, who has been transferred from his real position. The Sakkarah list rightly ignores him, but has placed, after Kebh, Biuneter ('Souls of God'), probably the Ubienthis of Manetho (the Bienekhes of Africanus), and Banentiru (“Soul of the God”). Not only are these names so similar as almost to be doublets, but the latter is properly the third king of the IInd Dynasty, the Binothris of Manetho. For from a contemporary statue in the Cairo Museum we know that Banentiru was preceded, by two monarchs, Reneb (Ke is [his] Lora ) and his predecessor, Hotepsekhemui (“Pacifying the Two Powers” viz. Horus and Set, or perhaps the South and North). Accord­ingly, Hotepsekhemui is the historical original of Buzau, the misread Narmer of the Abydos list. As for Reneb, the Abydos and Sakkarah lists give Kakau, which no doubt was his personal name; and its meaning (ka of kas) is extremely interesting in view of the meanings of Biuneter and Banentiru.

Shabaka Stone

On the Shabaka Stone
the most remarkable monument of Egyptian thought which we possess
general features, spatial semantics & general contents
portrait of Pharaoh Shabaka
from the naos he erected in the temple of Esna
XXVth Dynasty (712 - 698 BCE)

by Wim van den Dungen

associated papers :

1 General features of the Shabaka Stone.
  • 1.1 Physical parameters & layout.
  • 1.2 Spatial semantics.
  • 1.3 Contents.
2 The age of the inscription and its hermeneutical levels.
  • 2.1 Extant text, original documents and original ideas.
  • 2.2 Worm-eaten documents of the late New Kingdom.
  • 2.3 A new composition of the Late Period.
3 The spirito-political schemes of Pharaoh Shabaka.
  • 3.1 Historical circumstances regarding the kingdom of Kush.
  • 3.2 The intent of Pharaoh Shabaka.
  • 3.3 Political mystery-play at Memphis.


1 General features of the Shabaka Stone.

 1.1 Physical parameters and layout :
The Shabaka Stone (British Museum 498) is a heavy, nearly black slab of "Green breccia" from Wadi Hammamat of 137 wide. The left side is ca. 91 cm, the right side ca. 95 cm high. With a density of 2.7g/cm³, its weight is about 430 kg. It is named after the "black" Pharaoh Shabaka (ca.712- 698 BCE), who ruled in the XXVth Dynasty (ca. 716 - 702 BCE) and who's Old Kingdom styled prenomen name ("Neferkare") is mentioned twice (in LINE 1). It was given by the First Lord of the Admiralty George John 2nd Earl Spencer (1758 - 1834) to the British Museum in 1805. It was registered in the inventory of the Museum on the 13th of July of that year. Up to now, its povenance is still unknown.

For nearly a century, the Shabaka Stone and its inscription remained unconsidered by egyptologists.

Reconstruction of the layout of the Shabaka Stone by Breasted (note that he has only 10 channels)
in : Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, Berlin, n°39 (102), 1902, plates 1 & 2.
For a larger picture : click here.
Being a stela, it has a written surface of 132 by 68.8 cm, which consists of 3 inscribed horizontal rows (LINES 1, 2 & 48) and 61 columns carved into the obstinate stone with copper chisels (some columns contain scribal voids, while LINE 5 is empty). A rectangular squarish hole of 12 cm by 14cm is cut deep into the stone in the center, out of which eleven rough channels or stripes in length of 25 to 38 cm radiate as a result of ignorant disregard in post-Pharaonic Egypt, when it was probably used as a nether millstone or as a foundation stone. The scribal voids may refer to the damaged original Pharaoh Shabaka found, namely the outermost edge of a scroll rolled open from left to right (Sethe, 1928).

This respectless, rejectable activity has caused a large area of the stone to be worn, with as result the full or partial erasure of 25 lines (LINES 25 - 44) in the center of the inscription, dividing it in two parts : one dealing with Horus' justification to his father's throne (first, left hand side, rendered in a dramatical, responsive way) and the so-called "theology of Memphis" (last, right hand side, in prose).

Worn areas and scribal voids have to be distinguished. LINES 3 & 4 are not damaged (except perhaps in the original), but placed by Shabaka's scribe in an empty area consisting of several columns (cf. infra).

The inscription on the stone is faint thoughout and illegible in the middle. Spatial semantics mark the introduction of the "preface" to this Memphis Theology. The latter is followed by a prozaic "confirmation" of the dramatics of the responsive, left half. Unfortunately, what united both parts is completely lost.

1.2 Spatial semantics.

Under "spatial semantics" are understood all meaningful visual & graphic features contained in a text, elucidating the architecture of the composition, highlighting parts of the text and -on top of what is always the case in hieroglyphic writing- adding information which is not contained in the phonography of the text (cf. the determinative in Egyptian), etc.

James Henry Breasted was the first egyptologist to copy the inscription on the Shabaka Stone by hand, remarking that : "I have no doubt that with a better light than it is possible to get in the museum gallery, more could in places be gotten out." 
James Henry Breasted copying a hieroglyphic text in the temple of Buhen, Egypt
 (photo taken by Friedrich Koch in 1906 - The Oriental Institute of Chicago University)
He made this copy for his contribution to the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache.

Then, in 1901, he  published a brief paper : "Philosophy of a Memphite Priest" and wrote it was "the most remarkable monument of Egyptian thought which we possess." Indeed, for Breasted, the inscription was "the oldest known formulation of a philosophical Weltanschauung."

He also discovered the text did not read from right to left but in "retrograde form". This script is common in religious texts on papyrus. The order in which the columns had to be read was reversed, even though the arrangement of individual hieroglyphs remain facing the right.

This and other elements of the special layout of the inscription, compelled Breasted to date the "worm-eaten" original mentioned in LINE 2 to the early XVIIIth Dynasty. Breasted's 1901 paper prompted other scholars to study the extant text. In 1909, Adolf Erman first put the word "memphitischer" and "Theologie" together in his "Ein Denkmal memphitischer Theologie". It was Sethe, who -in 1928- published his "'Denkmal memphitische Theologie"', der Shabako-Stein", and understood it to be part of "Dramatische Texte zu altägyptischen Mysterienspielen". The connotations "dramatic" & "mystery-play" should be given due consideration.

When visiting the British Museum in 2001 (a century after Breasted's first copy), one of the two lights placed above the stone was found flickering, making it impossible to copy the text properly. This was switched off by the Curator, placing the left half of the first two lines in the shadow of the wooden light-fixture placed above the stone. In 2004, both lights were turned off and now this shadow covers the complete titulary & colophon. Only by manipulating my digital pictures, was it possible to eliminate this dark rim. The text provided by the museum begins with the words : "This text, known as the Shabaqo Stone, etc ..." ! Breasted complaints are apparently still valid today. This "most remarkable monument of Egyptian thought which we possess" is still placed out of focus and neglected (while the Rosetta Stone is commercially exploited to the point of frenzy - cf. the Rosetta key ring and the Rosetta mug !).

► the spatial semantics of the inscription

Certain special spatial features (i.e. a particular use of writable space) deliberately :
  1. create exceptions to the general rule of disposition, calling for a reversal of the order in which the columns have to be read (here from left to right), although the individual hieroglyphs remain facing the right, as in LINES 1, 2 & 48 and 
  2. introduce visual units which should be taken into account to grasp the compositional intent of the inscription, as in certain scribal voids (LINE 5), dispositions of titles (LINES 3 - 7), responsive, dramatical speech-structures (LINES 10 - 35b) & headings (LINE 48).
Let us turn to the inscription and study each case separately.

• LINE 1 (horizontal) is Shabaka's titulary, with its (as usual) fivefold royal names, except for the surgical erasure of the final, "nomen" name in the last cartouche ("Shebek", an Egyptianized form of the Nubian "Shabaka" or "Shabaqo" - "Sebaq-tawy" probably means : "He who blesses the Two Lands"). Indeed, as such, the name "Shabaka" can not be found on the stone, although we can read his prenomen : Neferkare.

Shabaka Stone : LINE : "Neferkare (prenomen), son of Re, (reconstruction of erased nomen name)" 
LINE 1 (TITULARY) is larger than any other line on the stone and written in almost symmetrical (mirror) script, centered on the hieroglyph "life", and reading out therefrom, to both left & right.


Shabaka Stone : LINE 1 : "living Horus : excellent Two Lands" - mirror script centered on "life" 

"The living Horus : excellent Two Lands ; the Two Ladies : excellent Two Lands ; the Golden Horus : excellent Two Lands ; King of Upper and Lower Egypt : Neferkare, the son of Re, [Shabaka], beloved of Ptah-South-of-his-Wall, who lives like Re forever."

Shabaka Stone, lines 1 (horizontal), titulary.

• LINE 2 (COLOPHON), the second-largest line, is the story of how Pharaoh Shabaka found "in the House of his father Ptah" a worm-eaten ancient (papyrus ?) text of which he made a new & better copy, the lasting Shabaka Stone. Here too, the Nubian nomen name or "Shabaka" has been removed. This line reads from left to right, i.e. in the regular way, which is an exception here.

"This writing was copied out anew by his majesty in the House of his father Ptah-South-of-his-Wall, for his majesty found it to be a work of the ancestors which was worm-eaten, so that it could not be understood from the beginning to the end. His majesty copied it anew so that it became better than it had been before, in order that his name might endure and his monument last in the House of his father Ptah-South-of-his-Wall throughout eternity, as a work done by the son of Re [Shabaka] for his father Ptah-Tenen, so that he might live forever."
Shabaka Stone, line 2 (horizontal), colophon.
Shabaka Stone : void between the first 2 horizontals & the 61 columns
LINE 1 and 2 are followed by a void horizontal space, reaffirming the first two lines form a whole, namely the "general heading".

This consists of the titulary followed by the colophon. Right at the beginning, the mirror-script used in LINE 1 points to visual semantics reminiscent of Egyptian art.

The retrograde script of the columns, starting with LINE 3, contrasts with the colophon, as it were placing it outside the context of the inscription.

"(3) He is this Ptah who proclaims by the great name : Tenen. (4) He who united this land of the South as King of Upper Egypt and this land of the Delta as King of Lower Egypt."
Shabaka Stone, lines 3 & 4

Shabaka Stone : (left) first 5 columns contain voids with 5 completely void. (right) : detail of the inscribed surface of these lines.
"(5) void, no inscription (6) He indeed begat Atum who gave birth to the Ennead. (7) Geb commanded that the Ennead gather to him. He judged between Horus and Seth ..." 
Shabaka Stone, lines 5 - 7

The 61 columns have to be read from left to right and from top to bottom. The first five are only inscribed in the middle, except for column 5. For the rest they are empty above and below this written area. Column 5 is completely empty. LINE 3 works as a "general preface". Ptah proclaims by his great name of "ta-Tenen", i.e. the "risen land" of the first moment of creation. The use of "maT" (proclaim, declare) points to the oratoric nature of the composition, both as initiatic drama, theology & proto-rational "logos" philosophy avant la lettre ...

• LINE 4 confirms the political power of Ptah. He is the uniter of Upper and Lower Egypt, and so only Ptah is Pharaoh. Above (celestial, realm of deities) as well as below (terrestrial, regarding creation, realm of humans) is Ptah's great name in charge.

• LINE 6 is the "preface" to the mystery-drama of succession itself. In it, other deities will be invoked. Hence, the author makes sure to mention Ptah is the father of Atum, the creator-god of myth and pre-rationality, who created himself and all the rest. Hence, Ptah is before Atum. This idea of firstness is repeated in LINE 48, the heading of the lines introducing the theology of Memphis & the political unity of the royal Residence. However, because Ptah begat the Heliopolitan creator-god Atum, his name is greater than Atum's, although the latter gave birth to the Ennead, i.e. to all gods & goddesses. Hence, Ptah's all-encompassing nature is put into evidence.

The supremacy of Ptah over Atum is the core of this theology.

Hence, LINES 3 - 6 contain the summary of Ptah's claims to suprimacy over the eternal and temporal orders of being.

• LINE 7 : here the actual political mystery-drama starts.

Lines 10 to 35 are responsive. When the gods are speaking to each other, their hieroglyphs face each other, suggestive of Egyptian pictoral composition. This spatial syntax is also reminiscent of ritual "rubrics" and the stage-work of mystery-plays & sacred festivals. Unfortunately, these lines are very worn and so the complete drama is lost. 
Shabaka Stone : LINES 15a - 17a : "Geb's words to the nine gods :"
Notice how the flagpoles are reversed, pointing to the Geb-goose, as in direct speech.
"(10a) Geb's words to Seth : "Go to the place in which you were born."
(10b) Seth : Upper Egypt.
(11a) Geb's words to Horus : "Go to the place in which your father was drowned."
(11b) Horus : Lower Egypt.
(12a) Geb's words to Horus and Seth : "I have separated you."
(12b) Lower and Upper Egypt.
(10c, 11c, 12c) Then it seemed wrong to Geb that the portion of Horus was like the portion of Seth. So Geb gave Horus his inheritance, for he is the son of his firstborn son.
(13a) Geb's words to the Ennead : "I have appointed
(13b) Horus, the firstborn."
(14a) Geb's words to the Ennead : "Him alone,
(14b) Horus, the inheritance."
(15a) Geb's words to the Ennead : "To his heir,
(15b) Horus, my inheritance."
(16a) Geb's words to the Ennead : "To the son of my son,
(16b) Horus, the Jackal of Upper Egypt ---
(17a) Geb's words to the Ennead : "The firstborn,
(17b) Horus, the Opener-of-the-ways."
(18a) Geb's words to the Ennead : "The son who was born ---
(18b) Horus, on the birthday of the Opener-of-the-ways."
(13c) Then Horus stood over the land. He is the uniter of this land, proclaimed in the great name : Tenen, South-of-his-Wall, Lord of Eternity. Then sprouted
(14c) the two Great in Magic upon his head. He is Horus who arose as King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who united the Two Lands in the Nome of the (White) Wall, the place in which the Two Lands were united.
(15c) Reed (heraldic plant for Upper Egypt) and papyrus (heraldic plant for Lower Egypt) were placed on the double door of the House of Ptah. That means : Horus and Seth, pacified and united. They fraternized so as to cease quarreling
(16c) wherever they may be, being united in the House of Ptah, the "Balance of the Two Lands" in which Upper and Lower Egypt had been weighed. This is the land
(17c) --- the burial of Horus in the House of Sokar.
(18c) --- Isis and Nephthys without delay,
(19) for Horus had drowned in his water. Isis [and Nephthys] looked out.
(20a) Horus speaks to Isis and Nephthys : "Hurry, grasp him ---."
(21a) Isis and Nephthys speak to Horus : "We come, we take you ---."
(20b) --- and brought him to
(21b) --- the earth
(22) at the royal fortress, to the North of ---.
(23) There was built the royal fortress ---.
(24a) Geb speaks to Tehuti : ---
(25ab - 30a) ---
(31a - 35a) ---
(27b) [Geb] speaks to Isis : ---
(28b) Isis causes [Horus and Seth]  to come.
(29b) Isis speaks to Horus and Seth : "---."
(30b) Isis speaks to Horus and Seth : "Make peace ---."
(31b) Isis speaks to Horus and Seth : "Life will be pleasant for you when ---."
(32b) Isis speaks to Horus and Seth : "It is he who dries your tears ---."
(33b - 35b) Isis speaks to ---.
(36 - 47) ---"
Shabaka Stone : line 10a - 49 : the dramatical mystery-play 

Whether this mystery-play stopped before LINE 48 is unknown (it certainly runs to LINE 35b). So it is possible there were of few lines joining the two major parts of the inscription (LINES 36 - 47), but this is in no way certain. 
Shabaka Stone : LINE 48 : "the gods who manifest in Ptah"
retrograde and horizontal (left to right)
• LINE 48 has a unique spatial disposition : retrograde and horizontal. It is intended as the heading for the text below, which introduces the epiphanies of Ptah, i.e. his Ennead.

The position of LINE 48 indicates the text which follows is of a different nature than the dramatical, responsive justification of the throne of Horus. The unique spatial disposition of LINE 48 coordinates this brief horizontal with the vertical texts directly beneath it. This because it is the heading for the inscription below, introducing the theology of Ptah of Memphis.
Shabaka Stone : LINES 48-52 - notice mummiform Ptah with skull cap & was-scepter standing in a shrine.
The inscriptions in LINES 49a - 52a are each followed by a special determinative showing the iconographic form of Ptah standing in a shrine. Underneath, In LINES 49b - 52b further specifications follow :
"(48) The gods who manifest in Ptah :
(49a) Ptah-on-the-Great-Throne, ---
(49b) [Ptah] --- who bore the gods.
(50a) Ptah-Nun, the father who gave birth to Atum.
(50b) [Ptah] --- who bore the gods.
(51a) Ptah-Naunet, the mother who bore Atum ;
(51b) [Ptah] ---
(52a) Ptah-the-Great, heart and tongue of the Ennead ;
(52b) [Ptah] --- Nefer-Tem at the nose of Re every day."
After the divine speech of the deities in the dramatical section (LINES 7 - 35b), LINES 48 - 52 reiterate the unique nature of Ptah, who created all (cf. LINE 6). In this way, the divine comedy is flanked on two sides by the articulation of divine unity. Furthermore, by placing Ptah in a shrine, Shabaka's scribe no doubt wanted to direct the reader's attention to what followed, namely the "core" of the inscription, the theology of Ptah of Memphis. Good fortune has kept it intact despite the ignorance of those who used the stone for its shape and weight !

In LINE 53, "Ptah-the-Great" is invoked. The greatness of Ptah and the superiority of his theology is directly related to the "heart and tongue of the Ennead" (LINE 52a) and the whole theology of Memphis is a justification of Ptah's exclusiveness (the "very great") on the basis of an original redefinition of the concepts "heart" & "thought", thereby articulating the earliest known (proto-rational) "logos"-philosophy. Although gods & goddesses are mentioned, it is stressed they came into being "in" Ptah, in his heart and by his tongue.

After Ptah's epiphanies (LINES 48 - 52), the "Memphis Theology" (LINES 53 - 61) follows. Both LINES 53 & 54 are introduced using parallel script, whereby a doubling occurs and two lines are pressed into one. The end of LINE 53 contains a large scribal void, showing the intent was to place two of these parallel inscriptions next to each other. For only in this configuration is the central verb "to come into being" (the scarab) repeated four times in a row, aligning this hieroglyph with the same verb in LINE 48, were Ptah's creation of the gods is mentioned (in the Pyramid Texts, four repetitions point to the four quaters of the horizon).
Shabaka Stone : line 48-54 : notice how last two colums are doubled
LINES 53 - 61 are studied in a paper on the Memphis Theology.

"(53) There comes into being in the heart ; there comes into being by the tongue as the image of Atum ! Ptah is the very great, who gives life to all the gods and their kas. Lo, through this heart and by this tongue.
(54) Horus came into being in him ; Thoth came into being in him as Ptah. Life power came into being in the heart and by the tongue and in all limbs, in accordance with the teaching that it (the heart) is in all bodies and it (the tongue) is in every mouth of all gods, all men, all flocks, all creeping things and whatever lives ; thinking whatever the heart wishes and commanding whatever the tongue wishes !
(55) His (Ptah's) Ennead is before him as heart, authoritative utterance, teeth, semen, lips and hands of Atum. This Ennead of Atum came into being through his semen and through his fingers. Surely, this Ennead (of Ptah) is the teeth and the lips in the mouth, proclaiming the names of all things, from which Shu and Tefnut came forth as him, and
(56) which gave birth to the Ennead (of Ptah). The sight of the eyes, the hearing of the ears, and the breathing of air through the nose, they transmit to the heart, which brings forth every decision. Indeed, the tongue thence repeats what is in front of the heart. Thus was given birth to all the gods. His (Ptah's) Ennead was completed. Lo, every word of the god came into being through the thoughts in
(57) the heart & the command by the tongue. Thus all witnessing faculties were made and all qualities determined, they that make all foods and all provisions, through this word. {Justice} is done to him who does what is loved, {and punishment} to him who does what is hated. Thus life is given to the peaceful and death is given to the criminal. Thus were made all labor, all crafts, the action of the arms, the motion of the legs,
(58) the movements of all the limbs, according to this word which is devised by the heart and comes forth by the tongue and creates the performance of everything.
There came the saying that Atum, who created the gods, said concerning Ptah-Tenen : "He gave birth to the gods." From him every thing came forth : foods, provisions,
(59) divine offerings, all good things. Thus Thoth knew and recorded that he is the mightiest of the gods. Thus Ptah was satisfied after he had made all things and all divine words.
 He gave birth to the gods, he made the towns, he established the nomes, he placed the gods in their
(60) shrines, he settled their offerings, he established their shrines, he made their bodies according to their wishes. Thus the gods entered into their bodies of every kind of wood, of every kind of stone, of every kind of clay, in every kind of thing that grows upon him (61) in which they came to be. Thus all the gods and their kas were gathered to him, content and united with the Lord of the Two Lands.
The Great Throne (Memphis) that gives joy to the heart of the gods in the House of Ptah is the granary of Tenen, the mistress of all life, through which the sustenance of the Two Lands is provided,
(62) owing to the fact that Horus was drowned in his water. Isis and Nephthys looked out, beheld him, and attended to him. Horus quickly commanded Isis and Nephthys to grasp Horus and prevent his drowning.
(63) They heeded in time and brought him to land. He entered the secret portals in the glory of the Lords of Eternity, in the steps of him who rises in the horizon, on the ways of Re at the Great Throne.
(64) He entered the palace and joined the gods of Tenen Ptah, Lord of Years. Thus Horus came into the earth at the Royal Fortress, to the North of this land to which he had come. His son Horus arose as King of Upper Egypt, arose as King of Lower Egypt, in the embrace of his father Horus and of the gods in front of him and behind him."

Shabaka Stone : line 53-64 : the theology of Memphis (53 - 61) and the royal residence (61 - 64)

1.3 Contents of the inscription on the Shabaka Stone.

The table of contents of the inscription has 6 sections :
  1. LINES 1 - 2 : heading (titulary, colophon) : general information about the stela & editorial remarks concerning its composition ;
  2. LINES 3 - 6 : prefaces : LINES 3 - 4 : general declaration of Ptah's supremacy as proclaimer of the great name of "Tenen" and as Pharaoh and LINE 6 : introduction of the mystery-drama of the deities created by Atum who is begat by Ptah ; 
  3. LINES 7 - 35b : the mystery-drama : here the division (decided by Geb) of the rule of Egypt between Horus and Seth is narrated and enacted. This settlement is replaced by the union of the Two Lands under the sole rule of Horus, who is a manifestation of Ptah.
  4. LINES 48 - 52 : new heading & Ptah's epiphanies : reaffirmation that all deities are manifestations in Ptah, to whom Ptah gave birth ; 
  5. LINES 53 - 61 : the theology of Memphis ;
  6. LINES 61 - 64 : the royal residence : Memphis is the city of Ptah-Tenen.
Section V, the theology of Memphis, has three subdivisions : 
  1. LINES 53 - 57 : logoism : the description of the logoic process with which Ptah created everything, including all possible deities and the reason why this Memphite theology supercedes the Heliopolitan one of Atum. Rudiments of an epistemology are given ;
  2. LINES 57 - 58 : natural philosophy : and a holistic philosophy of nature ;
  3. LINES 58 - 61 : pan-en-theism : poetical affirmation that Ptah is everywhere & everything and that all is in Ptah. Ptah is above (celestial) as well as below (terrestrial).

2 The age of the inscription and its hermeneutical levels.
2.1 Extant text, original documents and original idea.

Breasted concluded the original text used to compose the Shabaka inscription was probably written in the XVIIIth Dynasty (ca. 1539 - 1292 BCE), i.e. at the beginning of the New Kingdom. The work of later investigators (Erman, Sethe, Junker, Frankfort) abandoned Breasted's justified caution and carelessly dated the original text between the Ith and the Vth Dynasty (ca.3000 - ca.2348 BCE) ! Even Frankfort claimed :

"The Memphite Theology presents the religious teaching for Menes' new capital. It combines views which we can recognize as new, since they concern the new foundation ; others which we suspect to be new because they run counter to common Egyptian beliefs and could hardly have gained acceptance it they had not been part of the great movement at the dawn of history. Other doctrines again seem to be rooted in Egyptian, or even African, traditions of the greatest antiquity."
Frankfort, 1978, p.24.

At present, Grimal is the only egyptologist who continues to propose Old Kingdom dates for the lost original mentioned in LINE 2.

"Ce texte date manifestement de l'Ancient Empire, période où Memphis joua le premier rôle national, et sans doute même de la Ve dynastie, c'est-à-dire de l'époque où la doctrine héliopolitaine l'a définitivement emporté."
Grimal, 1988, p.57, my italics.

However, for Friedrich Junge (1973), there are no philological grounds to ascribe the text to the Old Kingdom. As Breasted, he returned to the New Kingdom to find the source(s) used by Shabaka's scribe. He thinks an original compendium of texts was transformed in a free and adaptive way, shaping a new and more complex configuration. The original compendium might date back as far as the Ramesside period, the late New Kingdom, a period of intensive religious speculation (XXth Dynasty - ca. 1188 - 1075 BCE - cf. the Hymns to Amun). Indeed, after Amarna (ca. 1336 BCE), Ptah & Memphis were important again. Hornung (1989) also rejects an Old Kingdom date for the original text and accepts a late New Kingdom date.

These considerations lead me to propose the following historical path :
  • extant text : ca. 710 BCE (XXVth Dynasty) - end of the Third Intermediate Period ;
  • original text : ca. 1188 - 1075 BCE (XXth Dynasty) - late New Kingdom  ;
  • ... lost texts ... other texts ... sapiental literature and Coffin Texts of Middle Kingdom ...
  • original idea : "Sia" & "Hu" in the Pyramid Texts or (late Vth & VIth Dynasties (ca.2378 - 2205) - Old Kingdom (see my The Creative Verb in Kemet).
2.2 Worm-eaten documents of the late New Kingdom.

If the original, worm-eaten compendium found by Pharaoh Shabaka was written in the late New Kingdom (which is very likely), and the hermeneutical form of these New Kingdom originals was canonical, i.e. defining a well-defined cultural identity or symbolic form (concerning Ptah of Memphis), implying these documents were the culmination of the evolutionary process of the form of the thoughts in question and not just the whimsical invention of the Memphite theologians of the New Kingdom, then clearly the origin of these ideas (perhaps not documented as such) could bring us back to earlier periods.

The proposed original text could then be regarded as a summary or canon of an older tradition, with an even more remote historical origin, going back to the moment when these ideas actually emerged for the first time (likely in much cruder and less coherent forms).

Why not as far back as the Old Kingdom, when -although the Heliopolitan view predominated- the role of Ptah of Memphis is attested ? He was the guardian of the union of the Two Lands (cf. Menes). At Memphis, Pharaoh was enthroned, and so the "Walls" was the dynastic city par excellence. Through his Great Word, Pharaoh established Maat. His tongue was the pilot in charge of the bark of righteousness and truth.

Given the important theological crisis at hand after Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), namely the restoration of the "true religion" and the (incomplete) destruction of the rejected influence of the culture of Amarna and the theology of Akhenaten, a return to Ptah of Memphis could be argued as inevitable and rewarding to seal the completion of the restoration. The all-comprehensive nature of Ptah's creative thoughts is also suggestive of the New Solar Theology and the conceptual revolutions brought about by Amarna theology (like the rejection of the plural for the word "god"). Hence, as was also the case in art, all traces of the changes Amarna had brought, were not eradicated. Moreover, does the strong "political" message of the original text not point to the restored post-Amarna context (for example early XIXth Dynasty under Seti I or Ramesses II) ?

Even during the wildest days of Akhenaten, not all ancient cults had stopped and nobody knows how many gods & goddesses had been worshipped in secret. After the death of Akhenaten, the capital remained only two years in al-Amarna before it moved (under Tutankhamun) to Memphis. In the period of restoration which followed his reign, the main goal was to maintain the unity of the Two Lands by allowing Pharaoh to make strong political statements of monumental proportions (cf. Seti I, Ramesses II). The choice of Ptah can thus also be attributed to the theo-political importance of Memphis as the place of coronation of the living god on Earth, who again properly invited the deities who had left Egypt and who headed the temple cults of the old pantheon.

In the Ramesside period, the thirteenth son of Ramesses II, Merneptah, erected an important palace complex near the temple of Ptah and the old capital city of Memphis rose to renewed splendor with his aid. Was the original text of the inscription on the Shabaka Stone written under his reign (ca. 1210 BCE) ?

It is likely the alleged New Kingdom authors who wrote the original text (the text found by Pharaoh Shabaka) used lost originals, i.e. older sources. We know both major themes of the inscription (the unity of the Two Lands and the creation of the Ennead and the world through "divine words") are present in the literature of the Old and Middle Kingdoms (cf. The Creative Verb in Kemet). Perhaps our New Kingdom scribes found or were given access to libraries, worm-eaten documents or bits and pieces of the former cults of Ptah at Memphis. With this in hand, they wrote their XIXth Dynasty original, worm-eaten by the time of Pharaoh Shabaka (ca. 6 centuries later). They too were confronted with an older language and had to rework the material to honor the cult of Ptah (as did Shabaka's scribe after them).

2.3 A new composition of the Late Period.

The egyptologists of the British Museum rightly assume the Shabaka inscription itself is a compilation, reproducing the layout of earlier documents and introducing a number of archaisms (older spellings & grammatical usages) to lend the piece an air of antiquity. That Shabaka's scribe succeeded,  may explain why it took egyptologists so long to correctly date the original text mentioned in the colophon. Junge points out Shabaka's claim may well be true in a literal sense, i.e. Shabaka's rescue made the text indeed "better than it had been before", because he had arrived at a superior, more complex and advanced conceptual configuration than what had been available to him in the original, worm-eaten documents.

Let us conclude the inscription on the Shabaka Stone is a XXVth dynasty (early 8th century BCE) canon of the spirito-political unity represented by Ptah. Shabaka does not forget to mention he made use of earlier canonical compendia, allowing him to stay "in line" with the traditional tenets of the canon. His stone will eternalize the great mystery of Ptah. But the language must sound old, so that the Nubian may win the favor of the spirits of old ... 

3 The spirito-political schemes of Pharaoh Shabaka.

3.1 Historical circumstances regarding the kingdom of Kush.

The Kushite Pharaohs from Nubia constitute the "XXVth Dynasty", also called "Napatan", from the city of Napata near the 4th cataract of the Nile (one of the Kushite kingdom's principal cities). For the Israelite prophet Isaiah, it was "a land shadowing with wings beyond the rivers of Kush", for the Assyrians, Kush was a "far and inapproachable region". The southern limits of Kush were regarded by the Egyptians themselves as the "horn of the earth" (i.e. the outer limits).

"This image of a remote and exotic land, the source of ivory, gold, incense and slaves, was perpetuated through Greek and Roman literature into the writing of modern Egyptology."
Morkot, 2000, p.1.

The conquest of Egypt by the Kushite kings in the 8th century BCE was portrayed as an unexpected event (cf. the Victory Stela of Piye), with no prologue. However, the tradition of rulership in Nubia extends back as far as two thousand years before the emergence of the Napatan state. This continued under Egyptian rule and was influenced by the Egyptian style of kingship. To understand the period the Kushites dominate Egypt, we must look back at the development of states and rulerships within Nubia, from Predynastic Egypt up to the 8th century.

Let us trace these important steps.

► Nubia in Egypt's Predynastic times :

The southern boundary of the Predynastic kingdom of Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) was Gebel Silsila, the narrowest point on the Nile and the northern limit of Nubia. Its main trading centre was probably the island of Abu (Elephantine), at the foot of the 1th cataract, reflecting the importance of ivory as one of the more important southern commodities (along with ebony, incense, vegetable oils & animal skins). Wine, beer, oil and perhaps wheat and barley were also exchanged for the valuable raw materials. Rock-drawings of boats of Predynastic type have been found as far South as Sabu at the 2th cataract. The rapid development of strong states around 3100 BCE was not confined to (Upper) Egypt. Rather, there existed a mutual influence.

► Nubia at the start of the Pharaonic age :

Climatic changes and variations in the flood levels alone do not explain how the people of Nubia and its powerful kingdoms came to their end. The depopulation of Lower Nubia during the period of the Old Kingdom went hand in hand with the rise of the Pharaonic state. The Egyptian Pharoah was no longer content to exchange goods but desired to gain control of the Nile route to the South, exploiting Nubia's natural resources directly. Ruthless interventions through military actions crushed the local powers, realized by the reign of Djer (early Ith Dynasty). The surviving Nubians were driven into the regions flanking the Nubian Nile valley (possible the more fertile eastern hills & wadis). The Egyptians exploited Nubia's resources. The largest settlement in Nubia was at Buhen, at the foot of the 2th cataract (founded early IIth Dynasty). Djedkara-Isesi is the last Old Kingdom Pharaoh attested in Nubia. These kings relied on Egyptian rather than local labour.

► Nubia at the end of the Old Kingdom :

In the later Old Kingdom, the climate deteriorated throughout North-East Africa, resulting in the VIth Dynasty in conditions similar to those of the present-day. Rhinoceros, elephant and giraffe which had existed much earlier in Egypt and Lower Nubia had dissapeared and could only be found in Upper Nubia and further South. A new culture emerged in Nubia. This "C-group" is in many ways so similar to that of the Nubians of the A-group (of Egypt's Predynastic times) that scholars agree its people descended from it. By the VIth Dynasty, Pharaoh did no longer control Lower Nubia. To acquire goods from the South, he had to negotiate with Nubian rulers again. Hence, the Old Kingdom Pharaoh's had not been able to eradicate the Nubians.

► Nubia in the First Intermediate Period :

At the end of the reign of Pharaoh Pepi II, the local elites of Egypt (the "nomarchs" or local officials of the districts, the "nomes") gained more power. In the decades following his death, a breakdown of centralized government ensued. There had already been famines in the Vth Dynasty, and this problem recurred. At first, the local officials acknowledged the Memphite kings as the source of legitimate divine & political power. Then, they arrogated many of the royal epithets. Eventually, they forgot about their allegiance to Memphis and assumed royal titles. Two major nomes emerged : "Nen-nesut" (Herakleopolis), south of Memphis and "Waset" (Thebes), in Upper Egypt.

Lower & Upper Nubia were affected by these changes. Trade was disrupted but did not cease. Local armies included contingents from Nubia. With the expansion of Theban power, interaction with Nubia became inevitable. Nubian mercenaries lived and worked in Upper Egypt, and these soldiers had Egyptian servants, suggestive of their high status. Texts record how the Theban rulers lead their armies into the northern part of Nubia.

► Nubia in the Middle Kingdom :

When Pharaoh Nebhepetre Menthuhotep II reunited Egypt (ca. 2040 BCE), a new period of stability was inaugurated. The prominence of Nubian militia in Upper Egypt during the ascendancy of the Theban princes may have lead to marriage alliances between, on the one hand, the ruling families of Nubia and the Eastern desert, and, on the other hand, Theban rulers. Some have speculated that the four consorts of Menthuhotep II were of Kushite origin, if not Pharaoh himself. In the Prophecies of Neferti, we read : "Ameny, the justified, by name, son of a woman of 'Ta-Seti', a child of Upper Egypt." "Ta-Seti" or "Bow-Land" was the name for the 1th nome of Upper Egypt (from Elephantine to Edfu) as well as for Nubia. Pharaoh Amenemhat I, who was assassinated, may have had some Kushite blood.

By the time of the latter's coronation, Nubia had regained its independence and was ruled by local kings who adopted the style of Pharaohs ... However, by the time of the XIIth Dynasty expansion, the united kingdom of Lower Nubia was a formidable obstacle. Intense Egyptian military activity ensued. After a series of major campaigns (taking a full century), Nubia was subdued. But, once the trade routes had been secured, no attempt was made to integrate the Nubians of the "C-group". The Egyptians built a number of forts to protect access to gold-mining regions (cf. the Middle Kingdom fortress of Buhen, well under way by year 5 of Senwosret I - ca. 1923 BCE). The Lower Nubian kings posed no threat and payed their "inu"-tribute, evidence of an alliance with Pharaoh.

In Upper Nubia, the kingdom of Kerma (on the East bank, South of the 3th cataract) flourished (Kush was based upon Kerma). The rulers of Kerma acted as the main intermediaries for the transmission of goods from the south to Egypt. Initially, Kerma-culture (which seem to develop about the time of the First Intermediate Period) was supported by the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom. Its power climaxed in the late Second Intermediate Period. The kingdom was court-based and wealthy.

► Nubia in the Second Intermediate Period :

At the beginning of the XIIIth Dynasty, Egypt withdrew from Nubia and entered a period of great confusion. Kush (founded on Kerma) becomes the most important state in Nubia. The Kushite expansion into Lower Nubia & beyond begins. They managed to penetrate the outer defences of Buhen and capture & burn the inner fort. Extensive destruction followed. In Lower Nubia, C-group culture continued to flourish. It reached its peak although under the political rule of the Kushite kings. Those in command gave the Kushite kings access to both the desert roads and the river route to Upper Egypt. They traded directly with the new rulers of the Delta, the Hyksos kings of Avaris (Lower Egypt). The presence of Egyptians at Buhen and other forts points to a considerable egyptianization of Kerma culture.

The Theban princes, trapped between the Hyksos and the Kushite -who seek alliances against Thebes- move to reunite Egypt under their own rule. Kamose (Wadjkheperre), with whom the Second Intermediate Period ends (ca. 1539 BCE), regained control over the 2th cataract and reoccupied the fortress at Buhen. His brother Pharaoh Ahmose (Nebpehtire, ca.1539 - 1514 BCE) was victorious against both the Hyksos and the Kushites and initiates the XVIIIth Dynasty and with it the "imperial age" of Egypt.

► Nubia in the New Kingdom :

While engaged with the Hyksos, Buhen had been under attack by the Kushites. For the Egyptians, the Kushite kingdom thus remained a threat. In regnal year 2, Pharaoh Tuthmosis I (Akheperkare - ca.1493 - 1482 BCE) inflicted a major defeat on the Kushite state, with the attack of Kerma itself. The city recovered quickly. The Egyptians withdrew and established their southern border at the 2th cataract (Lower Nubia had been incorporated into Egypt). The resistance was however not broken and conflicts in Lower Nubia were more than likely. Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (Menkheperre - ca. 1479 - 1426 BCE) made the Kushites finally bow to the Egyptian rule. Pharaoh drew the official border at the 4th cataract, erected the fortress of Napata called "Semakhasetiu" or "Hacking up the Foreign Lands" and named the mountain Gebel Barkal : "Throne of the Two Lands". But Egypt's influence stretched much farther. Indeed, Pharoah had reached the land of Miu (central Sudan) where the rhinoceros was captured. Tax & tribute of Upper Nubia flowed into Pharaoh's treasury.

In the reign of Pharaohs Amenhotep II or Tuthmosis IV, 150 years after Egyptian rule in Nubia, the administration of the whole region was reorganized along Egyptian lines : the Viceregal system. Two provinces were created : "Wawat" (Lower Nubia) and "Kush" (Upper Nubia). A Viceroy ruled Nubia as a whole (from Nekhen to the 4th cataract). Each province came under the control of an official directly responsible to the Viceroy (just as the Viziers were subordinate to Pharaoh). In return of the goods of the South, these officials would receive Egyptian foodstuffs, cloth, manifactured objects, military and political support. As there are no records of trading expeditions, we may assume that the provincial governors were Kushites. Once absorbed into the Egyptian system, the Kushites were depicted as Egyptians. The education of Kushite princes at the Egyptian courts assisted the assimilation of Kushite culture into the Egyptian imperial civilization of the New Kingdom.

Ambassadors of Lybia (stretching along the Meditarranean littoral as far as Cyrenaica) visited the court of Akhenaten. But with the reign of Pharaoh Horemhab (ca.1319 - 1292 BCE), the Libyans are recorded as enemies of Egypt. They invaded the Delta on a massive scale. Libyans and Kushites are said to have planned an unsuccesful joint attack on Egypt. Ramesses III (ca. 1186 - 1155 BCE) was the last Pharaoh able to counter the Libyan invasions.

► Nubia in the Third Intermediate Period :

At the end of the New Kingdom (ca. 1075 BCE), the power of Pharaoh had weakened. In the period which followed, the Third Intermediate Period, Nubia and the eastern desert were lost again (as well as the "Asiatic" regions). The title "Viceroy of Kush" becomes extinct. With Pharaoh Shoshenq I (945- 924 BCE) the Lybian tribal chieftains of the Delta rise to the throne of Egypt. By that time, they too had been assimilating Egyptian culture & customs for several generations, and seemed not essentially different, although Thebes hesitated. By the time of the Kushite invasions, there were four Pharaohs ruling in different parts of Egypt.

In the middle of the 8th century BCE, a new political power appeared in the extreme South. It had for some generations been building up an important kingdom from their center at Napata at the 4th cataract. They felt to be Egyptians in culture and religion (Amun). The first king of this Kushite kingdom was Kashta. With Piye (740 - 713 BCE), probably his eldest son, we draw nearer to Pharaoh Shabaka.

► the enigmatic Piye

Piye himself was crowned in the temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal, as "Horus, Mighty Bull, arising in Napata". He went to Thebes to be acknowledged there. After having consolidated his position in Upper Egypt, Piye returned to Napata (cf. "Victory Stela" at Gebel Barkal). In Lower Egypt, a future opponent, Tefnakht ruled the western Delta, with as capital Sais (city of the goddess Neith, one of the patrons of kingship). Near Sais were also the cities of Pe and Dep (Buto), of importance in the earliest periods of Egyptian history, and cult centre of the serpent goddess Wadjet, the uræus protecting Pharaoh's forehead (the raging Eye transformed and symbol of Pharaoh's assimilation of the Great Goddess of the sacred of predynastic times - cf. To Become a Magician). When the rulers of Thebes asked for help, Piye's armies moved northwards. When he sent messengers ahead to Memphis with offers of peace, they closed the gates for him and sent out an army against him. But with no avail. Piye returned victoriously to Napata and never went to Egypt again.

3.2 The intent of Pharaoh Shabaka.

► the restoration of the power of the Memphite Residence

Pharaoh Shabaka, this black African "Ethiopian", was the first Kushite king to reunite Egypt by defeating the monarchy of Sais and establishing himself in Egypt. Piye before him had defeated the Egyptian dynasts, but had victoriously returned to Napata. Shabaka, who figures in Graeco-Roman sources as a semi-legendary figure, settled the renewed conflicts between Kush and Sais and was Pharaoh in Egypt, with his Residence and new seat of government in Memphis (cf. Frankfort on the importance of Memphis). Indeed, Pharaoh Shabaka modelled his reign upon the Old Kingdom Pharaohs.

► Memphis : the city of the coronation of the Pharaohs

"Men-nefer" or "Memphis" was the capital of the first nome of Lower Egypt. It was called "horizon of the Two Lands", "city of walls", "the balance of the Two Lands". In the city or its neighbourhood were the temples of Ptah, Sekhet, Bast, Hathor, Osiris, Seker and of course Re. The temple of Ptah was on the eastern side. In the Old Kingdom, Memphis was the place were Pharaoh was coronated in the definitive ceremony of succession. Pharaoh Shabaka residing at Memphis was the political proof Egypt had been reunited.

►propagating the consolidation of Kushite rule in Egypt

The Shabaka Stone, with its Pyramid Texts styled language & archaism, was originally set up in the temple of Ptah at Memphis, to which both Piye and Shabaka had added structures. It is clear this stone had to prove the legitimacy of the power of the Nubians and the Nubio-Sudanese Kushite Dynasty (Egypt and the whole of Nubia unified). The Shabaka Stone proved Pharaoh of Memphis was again the sole ruler uniting the "Two Lands" ... Shabaka consolidated Kushite supremacy and his reign saw the first major building works of the Kushites in Egypt. In the Theban region the temple of "Ptah-South-of-his-Wall" was enlarged. The shrine of Amun at Thebes and Hathor at Dendera proved his concern for the temples throughout Egypt. His constructions at Thebes are best preserved.

However, the "Ethiopian" Dynasty did not stop the further decay of Egyptian autonomy and unity. Thebes was sacked under the Assyrian occupation (671 - 664 BCE) and although Psammetikus I (Wahibre) expelled the Assyrians, Psammetikus III (Ankhkaenre) was kept in power by the Persians but commited suicide (end of the XXVIth "Saite" Dynasty, marked by a resurgence of the arts, based on the classical forms of the Old and Middle Kingdom).

3.3 Political mystery-play at Memphis.

On the large roll of papyrus, discussed in the second part of Sethe's Dramatische Texte, is found the accession script of the "mystery play of the succession" (Frankfort) of Pharaoh Senwosret I (Middle Kingdom), probably containing elements antedating the Middle Kingdom. It seems this play was performed during the transition after the death of Pharaoh's predecessor but before his coronation at Memphis and this seemingly in several cities throughout the land (the god receiving the offerings is indicated by a generic term only).

It was necessary of Pharaoh to pass through these repeated ceremonies at the various cities to establish the necessary politico-religious ties to his "Great Throne" at Memphis (compare this with his circumambulations of the "Heb-Sed" court during the Sed-festival). During the mystery play, Pharaoh remained on board of the royal barge, serving as his quarters during travel.

In the mystery-drama on the Shabaka Stone, the succession-drama is intra-divine, for Ptah as Horus is Pharaoh of the Two Lands. As had been the case in Old Kingdom ritualism, the deities only conversed with the other deities. There was no mediator between the sky and the Earth, except Pharaoh, who was the only son of the deities who's Akh or spirit really existed on Earth. He was the only god with a human form who actually lived on Earth (while the other deities could be invited to dwell here by offering to their doubles and souls but in essence or spirit lived as Akhs in the starry sky).

In the theology of Memphis, Ptah is more than just another god or goddess. The deities and the whole of creation are all "in" Ptah and Ptah is the "very great" who encompasses all possible states of existence. A higher level of proto-rational theological discourse is reached, while the old pantheon is not relinquished. Did the Kushite Ptah of Pharaoh Shabaka not resemble the Ramesside Amun-Re ? Yes, for the latter was also essentially one, hidden ("Tenen" as "hidden one, whose eternal form is unknown") and pluri-form (millions). No, for Ptah created the All with what he thought and what he said (cf. The Created Verb in Kemet).