Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Prince Ahmose Sipair

As an addendum to another archived post here, "Who Is This Mummy", I saw something in an old book by Georges Legrain that makes it quite certain that Amenhotep I really did have a son called Ahmose-Sipair, who did not live to succeed him.  This is evidenced from the stela of someone called Padu from Gournah which says "the Good God, Djeserkare, son of Re, Amenhotep", which is followed by "king's son, Ahmose-Sipair".  In the same book there is another stela of someone named Kenres, who is adoring Ahmose "Dd=f  sApAir", which means "Ahmose called Sipair".  This indicates that the given name of the prince was Ahmose but he was also known as Sipair for some reason.

In the tableau in the tomb of Inherkhau the prince is seated at the end of the first row of 18th Dynasty kings and their queens.  While there is another prince in the second row [whose entire name does not survive but ends in "ms"], Sipair actually holds a crook and flail like a pharaoh while the other merely holds a flower.  This time he is styled "Osiris Sipair", the sole individual to be called "Osiris", although all the royal persons in the tableau known as "The Lords of the West" are dead.   The 20th Dynasty Papyrus Abbot, when mentioning his tomb, also refers to Sipair as "king".  Prince Sipair  was reburied by Butehamun, a scribe in charge of dismantling the Theban necropolis, whose sovereign instructed him to strip the "ancestors" of their wealth for his own profit at the end of the 20th Dynasty. On Butehamun's coffin, in the Turin Museum,  Sipair is there among the royals that Butehamun "restored" and he is shown as an adult, as he is on other artifacts.  The other royals depicted on Butehamun's coffin are Amenhotep I, Queen Ah-hotep, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, Queen Sitamun and Queen Meryetamun. Queen Ah-hotep was a relative of Amenhotep I, (possibly even his chief wife) Ahmose-Nefertari was his mother, and Sitamun and Meryetamun apparently sister-wives of the pharaoh.

Obviously, there is something unusual about this Ahmose-Sipair.  Does he hold the crook and flail because he was already a co-regent with his father at the time he died--even though he is depicted wearing only a princely side-lock?   Another mystery of ancient Egypt.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hatshepsut and Avaris

In her inscription at the Middle Egyptian shrine called the Speos Artemidos in Greek, Hatshepsut had something to say about people living at the Delta city of Avaris. Her assertions have been the source of some controversy, both linguistic and historical. Right from the outset of the section where she refers to the Hyksos, Sir Alan Gardiner chose to begin the phrase with the word “Dr”, which he translated as meaning “since” in this case. [Egyptian Grammar, page 131, where he supplies the entire phrase: “Dr wn aAmw m-qAb-n TA-mHw Hwt-wart”, rendering it “since the Asiatics were in Avaris of Lower Egypt”.] After that comes “SmAw m-qAb=sn”. Because the determinative of the plural noun “SmAw” is a man holding a stick with a bundle on his shoulder, it is clear that “wanderers” are meant, they being "in the midst of" the “aAmw”.

The Aamu have been attested and depicted since the 12th Dynasty, notably in the famous tomb of the official Khnumhotep II at Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt, where they are shown bringing him eye paint.   [The Speos Artemidos is only 2 kms south of this tomb.] They are dressed in what might easily be described as “coats of many colors” and have features not normally assigned to Egyptians in the art. Their leader has the Semitic name of Abisha [ibSA]. He is given the title of "HqA XAst" or "Ruler of a foreign land".  Much later in Egyptian history Kamose, a Theban prince, characterizes the Aamu as being his enemy at Avaris, on whom he planned to make war. 

Whether the aAmw were a certain people, a clan, or just any nomadic group from Asia is uncertain. What is more certain is that the grapheme /A/ still had the value of an agent that created a syllabic sound “ar” or “ra” in the time of the 12th Dynasty and that what Egyptologists write as an unpronounceable “Aamu” should really be transcribed “Aramu”. The first glyph, /a/, represented perhaps an “ayin”--or however the Egyptians vocalized it. It may be that, since the “Aramu” represented a folk, they continued to be known by their 12th Dynasty vocalization indefinitely. Even some ordinary Egyptian words retained the “old pronunciation” of /A/ even unto the Late Period as attested by Coptic. When the father of Moses was said to have been “a wandering Aramean” in the Hebrew Bible, it probably did not mean that he was a vagabond from Syria [Aram] as the family of the prophet was said to have lived in Egypt since the time of Joseph. More than likely, Amram was part of the Aramu of Northern Egypt, who could also be found elsewhere in the land depending upon the political climate.

By the era of Hatshepsut, the Aramu had been coming in and going out of Egypt for a long time..  The successor of Kamose, another Theban named Ahmose, supposedly drove them out of the country to a place called Sharuhen—not very far at all. After a protracted siege of Sharuhen, obviously a fortification, the fate of the Hyksos there remains uncertain as Ahmose was said to have turned his attention to the Nubian rebels. Thutmose III mentions Sharuhen in the text describing his initial Asiatic campaign in his first year of sole rule but, unfortunately, the writing was damaged and it is unclear what Sharuhen had to do with anything.
Next comes “Hr sxn irytw”, a declaration which I take to mean that the ones of Avaris were “continually” in the habit of doing damage to the established, whether that be in the form of something constructed like a temple or shrine or the rituals performed therein. Or perhaps they had been even more destructive than that. After that in the Speos Artemidos text comes what Gardiner rendered as “they ruled without Ra and he acted not by divine command down to my august self.” Nobody could scrupulously claim that the 15th Dynasty Hyksos kings had ruled without Ra. Whatever their actual religious preferences, their prenomina were replete with references to the sun-god. Regardless, a fragment of a story recounting old battles between the North and the South, claimed that Apophis, the Hyksos ruler, had “no other god but Sutekh”. Whether true or false, it seems rather clear that Sutekh/Baal was the chief deity of the eastern Delta—as witnessed by the Ramessid-era “Stela of the 400 Years”, depicting him in his Canaanite incarnation.
As Hans Goedicke rightly points out in his book about the Speos Artemidos inscription, “nfryt r” is the manner of saying “down to” in Middle Egyptian—and not “nfryt xr” as the text has it. This probably amounts to a scribal error because the next sign following “xr” in the inscription is “Hm” and scribes were accustomed to writing phrases like “xr Hm n nsw bity” or “under the majesty of the one of the Insibia”.
Goedicke also asks the question, “...why should Hatshepsut some 70 years after the establishing of the Theban hegemony in Egypt be concerned with them?” [the Hyksos]   Indeed why?  Since the mention of the Asiatics and Hatshepsut's expulsion of “the abomination of the gods”, erasing their very footprints, comes at the end of the inscription, perhaps it was all meant to lead up to this act, viewed as quite a coup by the woman-king.  But is she really taking credit for something occurring in the eastern Delta, whether or not the one really responsible may have been her father, her husband, or even her junior partner, Thutmose III, whose name is on some of the pillars of the portico?  The narrative of the ethnic cleansing is executed in fancy punning language but the inscription does not bear a helpful date. Regardless, Hatshepsut appears to be declaring herself to be a pharaoh who is not burdened with or threatened by any "godless rulers" in the city of Avaris at the time of the creation of the shrine.
The term “m-qAb=sn” when employed in reference to the “SmAw” vis a vis the “aAmw” appears to mean a more familiar alien people having “in their midst” some others who had wandered in at some unspecified time. Were they by chance some Minoans displaced by the Theran disaster, remnants of whose frescoes could be seen at Avaris even in modern times?   It is umpossible to say now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Pharaoh's Barber--Try it, you might like it!

I've only written one novel about ancient Egypt and it's called “The Pharaoh”s Barber”, a murder mystery set in the court of Thutmose III. I don't think too many people are aware of it much less know what it's all about. One thing is certain—this book is different. Because I, myself, dislike the stilted, Biblical language used in most novels with ancient themes—the main reason the characters seem so lifeless—you won't find anything like that in my story. I use contemporary English [within reason, of course] and, yes, people in antiquity really did swear. They had words for all the same expressions we use when we want to make an emphatic point.   

This novel is not so much about king Thutmose III [although he is a main character] but about his servants, slaves to be precise, and his wives, Egyptian and foreign. There are the Canaanites—Levi, who becomes the pharaoh's barber, and Caleb, a very handsome captive of war, who was a great hero in his own land. The three Canaanite girls are the pharaoh's wives. Another slave is Tabubu, a young woman from the lands to the south of Egypt, handmaiden to the king's favorite wife, the beautiful Satiah. Other prominent characters are Neferura, the Great Royal Wife, and her son, Mehy, the heir to the throne. Here are a few quotes from the book:
Levi, upon first encountering the King of Egypt: “The young Canaanite was lying, face down, in a very large tent on a kind of carpet of the tapestries made in his homeland. Very close to his nose were the feet of the Egyptian pharaoh, propped up on an ornate footstool. The feet were encased in sandals of embellished leather. Never in his life had the youth seen such splendid shoes or such clean toes on a man.”

Levi's master, Si-Bast, explaining why a younger man needs to take his place as Royal Barber, “ He’ll mind if he gets nicked every other day, as surely as Hathor loves cows. My hand isn’t so steady any longer and my eyes aren’t what they were, either. I’m an old man and no longer fit to shave the face and head of the Lord of the Two Lands. What if I cut him and the wound becomes infected? Then he may die—and who will be the one to blame?” and “Don’t be a fool. Whoever heard of a barber who didn’t talk while he worked? Such a thing has never happened since the time of the ancient gods.”

Neferura's assessment of her lord and master: “My husband is a monster,” said the queen in the same soft tone that had never varied. “Beware of him.

The pharaoh, attempting to put his new barber at ease, offers him some wine: “Don’t get drunk,” the ruler cautioned, grinning. “Oh, by bloody red Seth—what if you do? It’s your first day and it calls for a bit of a celebration. Here’s to your good health, Levi!

Thutmose III on his marital situation: “Levi, I can’t divorce my wife, even though there has been no peace and harmony between us since Horus the Ancient was but a chick in the egg. She’s my father’s only daughter and must remain the queen, though I don’t go near her. I’ve found me a new wife, a real little beauty. When I was a small boy, I had a nurse who was good to me by the name of Ipu. My own mother was kept away from me, so Ipu was all I had. I hadn’t seen her for quite some time, but recently I paid her and her husband a visit. To my great delight, one of her younger daughters had grown up to look like a goddess. Satiah is her name, a true child of the moon, as her name implies, with a face as fair as the Milky Way, and no more than sixteen...”

Caleb's opinion of the King of Egypt: “That bastard pharaoh of yours—he’s going to get his someday. Six years in a row he’s come through our land—takes our wheat and wine and whatever else he can get hold of to feed his army—and hauls back to Egypt anything worth taking. What does he leave us to eat? Well, we highlanders didn’t give in as easily as you people from the south. We gave him a few good battles. Take my word on that!”

The king's son, Mehy, takes a shine to the Canaanites: “When I’m can be my barber. I’m sick of just old people around me. Holy cats, am I glad you two showed up! But what about you, Caleb? You’d never fight for me, I suppose. But, you see, I only mean to defend myself. Nothing more.”

“I’ll fight for you,” said Caleb to the heir of Egypt’s throne, giving the boy’s sidelock a little tug. “Count on me.” And somehow Levi didn’t doubt that he meant it truly.

Satiah's opinion of Caleb: “Tabubu, can you believe it? It was the same man we saw from the window! All that hair was showing right through his wet shirt. I thought I’d just fall down and die right there! Isn’t he simply too splendid? Like a veritable god!”

“Yes, my lady,” Tabubu replied. “I see him. He some wet white man, alright, but not fearing nothing it looks like.”

Tabubu's opinion of the ruler: “The pharaoh was really quite handsome for a white man and looked as strong as an ox with muscular legs and a chest as big as that of a cock pigeon. Certainly, he was on the old side and running a little to fat and yet exuded more energy and virility than many younger men. More than anything else about him, the girl liked the way he spoke to the others, his servants and sailors, in a good-humored, hearty fashion—well, when he actually was in a good humor, which was most of the time. Of course, the king had no occasion to address the girl, who didn’t usually wait upon him, and didn’t appear to want to now, either.”

Tabubu's fears for Satiah: “The maidservant simply couldn’t fathom her mistress. Tabubu had been taught at an early age that one didn’t snap at the offering hand, lest it become a fist. And someday that fist would come down on Satiah with the savagery of a man who had been tested to his limit. The slave, although not knowing the pharaoh at all, instinctively knew more about him than did her mistress, for she had grown up with a man just like him—her own father. Tabubu could never have explained how she realized these men were alike, it was just something communicated to her in some mysterious fashion. If Satiah continued down the path she was treading, something worse was going to happen to her than just being sent home, but even Tabubu couldn’t be sure in what way that would occur.”

Mehy's plans for the future: “My idea is to make friends with all the rulers of the foreign lands, not fight with them. First, I’ll send them some gold as a gesture of good will and then I’ll ask them all to give me a daughter or sister—whatever they’ve got handy. I’ll become the relative of the entire world and nobody will bother me.” and “When I’m king, anybody who doesn’t want to live in my land can go—someplace else. I give the two of you my solemn oath right now this minute.”

The pharaoh's opinion of his young barber: “Listen, all you here who can understand my speech,” said the king. “Until I met this man, I wrongly imagined that no one had been subjected to a more dismal upbringing than myself. Amun-eywy is not a son of my body, but he is a child of my heart. For I know him well. You did no wrong, Levi. It was too much to ask of a son—all that which was asked of you.

Tabubu at the court of inquest: “I go back. Nebamun waiting for me. He ask me where is my lady and I say ‘She with pharaoh.’ Nebamun grab my hair and say, ‘You lying, you black bitch! I hide near the door of pharaoh and never see Satiah go there. You better tell me where she go or I flay you hide!’ I say to Nebamun, ‘You Egyptian son of pig, beat me if you want! Then I tell my lady you make me follow her. Then you not head of this place no more!”
“Did Nebamun beat you then?”
“You see my hide flay?” Tabubu asked the Chief Interrogator, archly.

Thutmose to Neferura: “I regret that I’ve caused you to hate me. I began wrong and nothing has been right since. I’m on the chosen path now and it seems I have no choice but to keep following it. I wanted vengeance, but now the whole world seeks revenge against me and if I stop, it will get it.”

The King of Egypt has come to appreciate the good qualities of Tabubu:
“Tabubu not tired in the night,” the servant answered, approaching. “I not sleeping so good since my lady die.”
“I haven’t slept well for years. Well, sit down, then. In a chair. Let’s have a drink.”
“Too much drinking strong potions in this Egypt land,” observed Tabubu, remaining where she was at the pharaoh’s feet. “In my home we drink milk—very good for people.”
“Milk!” The king shook his head, chuckling.
“What so funny, pharaoh? A little warm milk and you go to sleep.”
“Perhaps another time, Tabubu. I don’t keep any milk here.”
“We can get a cow,” said the girl, hopefully. “Tabubu knows how to take care of cows.”
“I’ll order one for you to milk,” the pharaoh said, smiling indulgently. “Anything else?”
“A little pair of shoes, maybe? But not Egypt ones. Shoes like those foreign land girls got what can keep feet warm."
“Very well. What else?”
“Um…a wig? Long hair very nice!”
“Yes, why not? Should I get some paper and make a list?” The ruler winked at Tabubu and was rewarded with a show of her beautiful teeth.
“You much amusing, king. But you not looking so good. No shaving, no sleeping, no eating—just sitting in the night making a bad face and watching the wall, I think. Good thing nobody making a statue from you now. People say, ‘What pharaoh of Egypt is this? We not know this man!’ Hah! You want look at that wall? Tabubu show you something there. Wait!”
The girl positioned a lamp on a table and, using her hands and arms in an astonishingly clever fashion, caused the shadows of the various beasts and birds of her native land to cavort before the smiling king.