Theban Desert Road Survey in the Egyptian Western Desert, vol. 1: Gebel Tjauti Rock Inscriptions 1-45 and Wadi el-Hol Rock Inscriptions 1-45.
This elegantly assembled volume, stoutly bound, is the culmination of nearly a decade's hard work in the arid desert plateau west of modern-day Luxor by the husband and wife team of John and Deborah Darnell. Since the early 1990s the Darnells, with the assistance of other members of the Theban Desert Road Survey, have been engaged in the long and arduous business of plotting the many new rock-drawings and inscriptions which they have found at Gebel Tjauti, an ancient caravan stop on the Alamat Tal Road in the Western Desert of the Thebaid. In short their findings have been nothing less than sensational.
Here, well laid out with copious illustrations (as befits its subject matter), are the rock-inscriptions of this inhospitable region as traced and copied by the Darnells with tremendous care and enthusiasm. It is a very real triumph, as these texts are frequently found in the most awkwardly placed locations and are commonly difficult to record and publish accurately. Based on repeated collations, this initial volume is the first of a series intended to cover several hundred rock-graffiti on the Farshut and Alamat Tal routes that cut across the elbow of the high desert jutting eastward into the Nile's course, between Hu and Abydos in the north, Coptos to the east, and Thebes on the south. This volume was originally planned just to publish the materials from the site of Gebel Tjauti, but inevitable delays in press gave the authors an opportunity to include an equal installment of material from Wadi el-Hol.
In addition to its many excellent photographic plates and accompanying line-drawings, the book has an impressive bibliography, a full glossary, and short general index. As for the core section of the book with its text-notes and detailed commentary, no desk-bound reviewer can expect to improve on readings simply from studying the published photographs, no matter how good they are. Thus, my comments below will more modestly seek to note highlights in this work, with limited further observations.
As a result of the Darnells' endeavors, it is now known that Gebel Tjauti has ancient depictions and texts ranging in date from the Predynastic period through the Coptic era. The majority of its scenes and rock-inscriptions, however, date to the turbulent years of the First Intermediate Period/early Dynasty XI and late Middle Kingdom/Second Intermediate Period, when sustained political weakness and strife in the Nile Valley appears to have led to the dramatic upturn in activity (and in particular military activity) in the Western Desert.
At Gebel Tjauti, the oldest notable find (GT1) is from the period just before Dynasty I, where a set of rock-drawings includes a man with a captive and falcon-signs. One of these, set above a drawing of a scorpion, has tempted the authors to identify this group as reading, "Horus (king) Scorpion." This may be so, but it remains rather uncertain as there is no serekh-frame around the scorpion-sign. (1) Another such inscription (GT2) on the other hand does have a clear early-style serekh, topped with a Horus-falcon. This the authors attribute to King Narmer. However, the serekh here seems to contain only vertical striations, perhaps more consistent with a reading, "Djer."
Moving ahead in time, of special importance is GT6, a badly eroded rock-stela left by the nomarch and governor of Upper Egypt, Tjauti (the modern-day site is named after him), a representative of the Herakleopolitan Dynasty IX-X who "made this (road) for crossing this desert, which the ruler of another nome had closed off." With the Darnells it is almost inevitable to identify this opposing nomarch as the ruler of the Theban nome immediately southward--and probably with the nomarch Intef who preceded Dynasty XI proper. The Darnells' commentary (pp. 30-37) on this rock-stela and its era is particularly illuminating. Very fittingly the next text in the series, GT7, is a brief but evocative inscription recording Tjauti's rivals, "the assault-force of the Son of Re, Intef." In this context it is highly likely that we have here our first original historical text of the reign of Sehertawy Intef I, otherwise known hitherto almost entirely from later sources.
Dating to the other end of the Middle Kingdom, GT11 appears to read, "Year 11, II Shomu 20. Seeing the appearing of Sothis." This might well be a heliacal rising of Sothis. Calculating from the date IV Peret 17 for Sesostris III's Sothic datum, the Darnells would locate GT11 at c. 1593/90 B.C. (well into Dynasty XVII and contemporary with the Hyksos Dynasty XV in the north). However, in the wake of the observational problems raised by Ronald A. Wells, (2) such data are at present, alas, more theoretical than helpful. GT12 is also particularly intriguing, a red ink text of the late Middle Kingdom/Second Intermediate Period, it refers to a royal visit to Thebes, apparently along the Alamat Tal Road, in a Year 11 not explicitly attributable to a particular king.
Turning to the series of texts from Wadi el-Hol, equally interesting matters emerge. Of the texts found here, WH4-6 form an impressive triple rock-graffito (fig. 2) dating from Year 30 of Amenemhat III. This honors a King Montuhotep, presumably the great Nebhepetre Montuhotep II or his successor Saankhare Montuhotep III. The deities invoked are drawn from a familiar passage in the famous literary work of Sinuhe. Here, the Darnells note the similarity of their list to that in the Ashmolean ostracon of Sinuhe, and would therefore raise the date of origin of that text to the Middle Kingdom (p. 101). It is possible that the Ashmolean ostracon reflects a variant of such a date, but not the entire Ashmolean version, seeing that it substitutes the New Kingdom Semitic loanword yam for nwy, "waterflood," and Qadash for Qedem.
Another major text (WH8) at Wadi el-Hol is the literary gem of this
series, composed in honor of a Theban ruler, possibly Nubkheperre Intef V (first published by John Darnell some years ago). (3) WH17-19 consist of "holiday" graffiti of a Year 17 and again of a Year 2 in 1st Shomu. These might conceivably date to the reign of Amenemhat III, if we dare associate them with a similar Year 2 in 1st Shomu dated to Horus-king Aa-bau, the Horus-name of that ruler in WH21.
From centuries later, the New Kingdom is represented at Wadi el-Hol by the prenomen of Tuthmosis III (WH35), the graffito of the Stable-master Pasaanuy (WH22), and most notably the formal epigraph (WH44) of the Second Prophet of Amun, Roma, almost certainly the famous later High Priest of Amun. Roma-Roy under Ramesses II, Merenptah, and Sethos II in Dynasty XIX. Hopelessly tantalizing is WH31 which commences, "The beginning of the Instruction...." And so we have here a wisdom-text now lost to us without a continuation. The latest texts from Wadi el-Hol published in this volume are a proper name in Demotic (WH36) and three Coptic inscriptions containing a religious formula and a pair of personal names (WH2 and 37-38).
It cannot be over-emphasized that here I have only been able to skim the cream of these rock-texts. Inevitably a review such as this cannot do full justice to the extraordinary corpus of epigraphs presented in this volume by the Darnells and their collaborators. The many "lesser" texts with mere proper names will all make their own contribution to prosopography in due time. In closing, the Darnells are to be warmly congratulated on their achievement in the field. And on this volume, they should be commended further on their handling of some very difficult material. We look forward with much anticipation to further such volumes; doubtless they too will match this first fruit of their ambitious publication program.
1. Note also J. Kahl, "Das Schlagen des Feindes von Hu: Gebel Tjauti Felsinschrift 1," GM 192 (2003): 47-54.
2. See his paper, "The Role of Astronomical Techniques in Ancient Egyptian Chronology: The Use of Lunar Month Lengths in Absolute Dating," in Under One Sky: Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East, ed. J. M. Steele and A. Imhausen (Munster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2002), 459-72.
3. "A New Middle Egyptian Literary Text from the Wadi el-Hol," JARCE 34 (1997): 85-100. See now K. A. Kitchen, Poetry of Ancient Egypt (Jonsered: Paul Astroms Forlag, 1999), 159-62.
A. J. PEDEN
PORT SETON, U.K.
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|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
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