Thursday, January 29, 2009

#9 Reign of Amenemhat II.: tablet belonging to his time

Usurtasen, after reigning ten years in conjunction with his father and thirty-two years alone, associated his son, Amenemhat II., who became sole king about three years later. His reign, though long, was undistinguished, and need not occupy our attention. He followed the example of his predecessors in associating a son in the government; and this son succeeded him, and is known as Usurtasen II. One event of interest alone belongs to this time. It is the reception by one of his great officials of a large family or tribe of Semitic immigrants from Asia, who beg permission to settle permanently in the fertile Egypt under the protection of its powerful king. Thirty-seven Amu, men, women, and children, present themselves at the court which the great noble holds near the eastern border, and offer him their homage, while they solicit a favourable hearing. The men are represented draped in long garments of various colours, and wearing sandals unlike the Egyptian—more resembling, in fact, open shoes with many straps. Their arms are bows, arrows, spears, and clubs. One plays on a seven-stringed lyre by means of a plectrum. Four women, wearing fillets round their heads, with garments reaching below the knee, and wearing anklets but no sandals, accompany them. A boy, armed with a spear, walks at the side of the women; and two children, seated in a kind of pannier placed on the back of an ass, ride on in front. Another ass, carrying a spear, a shield, and a pannier, precedes the man who plays on the lyre. The great official, who is named Khnum-hotep, receives the foreigners, accompanied by an attendant who carries his sandals and a staff, and who is followed by three dogs. A scribe, named Nefer-hotep, unrolls before his master a strip of papyrus, on which are inscribed the words, "The sixth year of the reign of King Usurtasen Sha-khepr-ra: account rendered of the Amu who in the lifetime of the chief, Khnum-hotep, brought to him the mineral, mastemut, from the country of Pit-shu—they are in all thirty-seven persons." The mineral mastemut is thought to be a species of stibium or antimony, used for dying the skin around the eyes, and so increasing their beauty. Besides this offering, the head of the tribe, who is entitled khak, or "prince," and named Abusha, presents to Khnum-hotep a magnificent wild-goat, of the kind which at the present day frequents the rocky mountain tract of Sinai. He wears a richer dress than his companions, one which is ornamented with a fringe, and has a wavy border round the neck. The scene has been generally recognized as strikingly illustrating the coming of Jacob's family into Egypt (Gen. xlvi. 28-34), and was at one time thought by some to represent that occurrence; but the date of Abusha's coming is long anterior to the arrival in Egypt of Jacob's family, the number is little more than half that of the Hebrew immigrants, the names do not accord; and it is now agreed on all hands, that the interest of the representation is confined to its illustrative force.

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