Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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never yet been correctly represented, not even in their general
arrangement. An Arabian canal, which was carried through
it at a later period, had dra^\Ti away the attention of passing
travellers from that portion of the chambers which was in
best preservation. "We have made the most exact ground
plan, accompanied by sections and views. A journey round
the province, as far as Birqet-el-Qorn, and beyond it, to •
the ruins of JDimeli and Qasr Qerun, induced us to remain
several months in this neighbourhood.

On the 23rd August we embarked at Beni-suef, visited a
small rock-temple of King SetJios I. at Surarieh, on the
eastern shore, and farther on, the remains of later monu-
ments in the neighbourhood of Tehieli. At Knm-ahnar, a
little to the south of 2^auiet-el-meitin, we examined a series of
nineteen rock-tombs belonging to the 6th Manethonic Dy-


nastj. The groups of tombs which are scattered about a
few days' journey to the south, at SchecJi-Said, El-Harih,
Wadi-Selin, and still farther on, at Qasr-e'-Saidt, also be-
longed to this period, which, in point of age, was immediately
connected with the flourisliing time of the great builder of the
P}Tamids. If we judge by the remains now extant, it ap-
pears that there were, at that early period especially, in this
portion of Central Egypt, a number of flourishing cities.
Eoyal kindred are frequently met with among tiie ancient
possessors of the tombs, but no sons or daughters of the king,
because there was no royal residence in that neighbourhood.
But we found the last flourishing period of the Old Monarchy
— the 12th Manethonic Dynasty — represented in this part
of Egypt by the most beautiful and most considerable re-
mains. The rock-tombs of Beni Hassan, so remarkable for
their architecture, as well as for the various paintings on
their walls, peculiarly belong to this period. The town to
w^hich they appertained, the residence of a governor of the
eastern province of the country, has entirely disappeared,
all except the name, which is preserved in the inscriptions.
It appears that it only flourished a short time during this
dynasty, and again declined at the invasion of the Hyksos.
In the neighbouring Berscheli also, and farther on, among
the Lybian rocks, behind the town of Slut, which was as im-
portant 4000 years ago as it is at present, we again found
the same plans of tombs on as magnificent a scale, whose
period of erection might be recognised even at a distance.

It is a singular fact, that in point of age the greater
proportion of the remains of the Egyptian monuments be-
come more modern the higher we ascend the Nile valley, the
reverse of what might have been expected from a large view
of the subject ; according to which the Egyptian civilisation
of the aS'ile valley extended from south to north. While the
Pyramids of Lower Egypt, with the monuments around
them, had displayed the oldest civilisation of the 3rd, 4th,
and 5th Dynasties in such wonderful abundance, we found
the 6th Dynasty, and the most flourishing period of the 12th,
the last of the Old Monarchy, especially represented in
Central Egypt. Thebes was the brilliant capital of the New
Monarchy, especially of their first Dynasties, surpassing all
other places in the number of its wonderful monuments ;
and even now it ofl'ers us a reflection of the splendour of


Egypt in her greatest times. Art, which still created mag-
nificent things even in its decline, under the Ptolemies and
the Eoman emperors, has left considerable monuments be-
hind it, consisting of a series of stately temples in Dendera,
JErment, EsneJi, JEdfu, Kum-Gmho, Dehod, JvalahscJieJi, Dcii-
cJur, Dakkeh, which are all, witli the exception of Dendera,
in the southern part of the Thebaid, or in Lower Kubia.
Lastly, those monuments of the Nile valley which are situated
most to the south, especially those of tlie ''Island" of
3Ierde, are the latest of all, and most of them belong to the
centuries after the Christian era.

"We hastened immediately from the monuments of the Old
Monarchy in Central Egypt to Thebes, and deferred till our
return the examination of the well-preserved, but modern
temple of Dendera, the ruins of Abydos, and several other
places. But of Thebes, also, we took but a preliminary
survey, for we onlv remained there twelve days, from the 6th
to the 18th of October.

"We were impatient to commence immediately our second
fresh task, which consisted in the investigation of the Ethio-
pian countries, situated higher up the river. The French-
Tuscan expedition did not go beyond "Wadi Haifa ; "U^ilkin-
son's careful description of the Nile land and its monuments,
which contains so much information, only extends a little
higher up, as far as Semneh. The most various conjectures
were still entertained concerning the monuments of Gebel
Earkal and Meroe, with reference to their age and their
signification. It was necessary to obtain a general view of
the true relation between the History and Civilisation of
Egypt and Ethiopia, founded upon a complete examination
of the remains which are still extant.

Therefore, after a cursory visit to the temple ruins, as far
up as "Wadi Haifa, we returned to Korusko, from which place
we started on the 8th of January, 1844, through the G-reat
Desert to Abu-Hammed, and the L^'pper Nile countries.
On the 16th of January we arrived at Abu-Hammed, on the
other side of the desert ; on the 28th, at Begerauieh, near to
which the Pyramids of Meroe are situated. Erom Schendi,
which lies more to the south, we visited the temple ruins
of iVaya and Wadi e' Sofra, far on in the interior of the



eastern desert. On the 5th of February we reached ChaHwm,
at the couflneuce of the White and the Blue ]S'ile. From
this place, accompanied by Abeken, I descende.d the Blue
Eiver, passed the ruins of Sola and Senndr, as far as the 13°
of K". lat. ; whilst the other members of the expedition re-
turned from Chai-tiim to the Pyramids of Meroe, The tropical
countries of the Nile, when contrasted with those northern
ones, devoid of rain, extending south as far as the 17° ; and
the plants and animals now almost exclusively confined to
South Ethiopia, when compared with individual representa-
tions of the ancient Egyptian monuments, were rendered
still more interesting by the discovery of some monuments,
with inscriptions upon them, near Soba, by which we obtained
traces of the ancient vernacular language of those districts
in a written character resembling the Coptic.

I also made use of our residence in these districts to be
instructed by the natives of the adjacent countries in the
grammar and vocabulary of their languages.

On the 5th of April I returned with Abeken to the other
members of the expedition at Beg eraideh. After drawings
had been made of all that still existed which peculiarly re-
presented the state of civilisation in Ethiopia, and after we
had taken the most exact plans of the localities, we proceeded
in six days, by the desert Gilif, to Gehel BarJcal, where we
arrived on the 6th of May. Here was the more northern,
the more ancient, and, to judge by the remains, also the
more important capital of the State of Meroe. At the foot of
this single mass of rock, which rises in an imposing manner,
and is called there, in the hieroglyphical inscriptions, " The
Sacred Mountains," is situated Napata. The history of this
place, which we may still derive from its ruins, gives us at
once a key to the relations which subsisted in general between
Ethiopia and Egypt, as regards the history of their civilisa-
tion. AYe find that the most ancient epoch of art in Ethiopia
was purely Egyptian. It is as early as the period of the
great Eamses, who, of all the Pharaohs, extended his power
farthest, not only towards the north, but also towards the
south, and testified this by monuments. At an early period
he built a great temple here. The second epoch begins with
King Taliraha, also known as the ruler of Egypt, the
TUrhaka of the Bible. This spot was adorned with several


magnificent monuments by liim and his immediate succes-
sors, and though they "^ere built in a style no^y employed by
natiye kings, it is, neyertheless, only a faithful copy of the
Eg}'ptian style. Lastly, the third epoch is that of the kings
of Merde, whose dominion extended as far as Philae, and was
manifested also at Gebel Barkal by numerous monuments.
On an intermediate journey into the Cataract country,
situated farther up the riyer, which we had cut off by the
Desert journey, I found only Middle-Age, but no ancient,
Etliiopian remains of buildings.

The fertile and extensiye proyince of Dongola, on the
northern frontier, wliich we trayersed on the 4th of June,
after our departure from Barkal, afforded us but fe^y re-
markable ancient remains; we may, howeyer, mention among
these the island of Argo, with its monuments, from the
13th Manethonic Dynasty. They became still more nume-
rous in the northern borders of Dongola, from which a
nearly continuous Cataract country extends as fiu* as "Wadi
Haifa. Xear Tomhos we found traces of the Egyptian do-
minion under the Pharaohs of the 17th and 18th Dmasties,
rock-tablets with the shields of the two first Thuthmosis
and of the third Amenophis. Earther on, at Sesehi, there
were the remains of temples of the first Sethos of the 19feh
Dynasty. The great Temple of Soleb, built by Amenophis
III. and IV., detained us fiye days. The ruins of the Temple
of Sedeinga, and those upon the island of Sai, belonged to
the 18th and 19th Dynasties. Opposite this island stood
the remarkable Temple of Amdra, which was built by the
Kings of Meroe and Xaga, and is still an important proof
of the extent of their dominion.

Semneh was the next point we reached. The Nile is
here compressed within a breadth of only about 1150 feet
between high rocky shores. On both sides there are ruins
of old temples of the ISth Dynasty. But tliese were not
the earliest buildings which were erected here. We found
a considerable number of inscriptions from the 12th and
13th Manethonic Dynasties, especially on the large founda-
tions of the Temple of Kummeh, situated lower down, oppo-
site Semneh on the eastern bank, as well as on the scattered
rocks on both banks in the neighbourhood of that temple,
Many of them were intended to indicate the highest risings



of the Xile during a series of years, especially in tlie reigns
of tlie Kings Amenemhe III* and Sebekhotep I., and by
comparing them, we obtained the remarkable result, that
about 4000 years ago the Xile used to rise at that point, on
an average, twenty-two feet higher than it does at present.
Tliis, therefore, which we saw before us was the most ancient
IN'ilometer ; and the earliest statements of the heights, and
their greatest number, were recorded during the reign of
the same king, the Moeris of the G-reeks, with whom we
had already become acquainted in the Faium, as the great
hydraulic architect. The strong fortifications on both banks
of that narrow part of the river convinced us at once that,
during the early times of the 12th D^masty, this remark-
able point served as the boundary of the Egyptian domi-
nion, against the Ethiopian nations who dwelt more to the

At Wadi Haifa, on the 30th of July, we again left the Cata-
ract country, remained from the 2nd to the 11th of August
in Abu Simlel, examined until the end of the month the
ruins of Ilrim, Anibe, Derr, Amada, Sebua, Daklceh, Kuban,
Gerf-Hussen, Sabagura, Dendur, Kalabsclieli, Debot, and
spent the whole of the following month in examining the
monuments of the Island of Tliilce, and the islands of Sigeli,
Konosso, Sehel, and JElepliantine, surrounding it, and of the
stone quarries between Pliilce and Assuan. October was
spent visiting Ombos, the two Silsilis, Edfu, the desert Tem-
ple of Redesieh, El-Kcib, Esneli, Tod, and JErment.

On the 2nd of November we again arrived on Theban
ground, and first visited the rock-tombs of QurnaJi, on the
west side, where we remained nearly four months, till the
20th of Eebruarj', 1845, when we encamped for three more
months at Karnah, The number of monuments of all kinds,
both above and below gi-oimd, at Thebes, is so great that
they may be truly called inexhaustible, even for a combined
power like ours, and for the limited portion of time which
we were able to devote to their investigation. Eut the age
of the monuments at Thebes is almost exclusively limited to
the New Monarcliy ; and the most ancient we discovered,
such as one might generally expect to find, are not earlier
than the 11th Manethonic Dynasty, the last but one of the
Old Monarchy ; for this simple reason, because it was in this


D\Tiasty that Thebes first became a royal residence, and
hence the focus of Eg}^ptian splendour. The great break in
the succession at the end of the 12th D^Tiasty, caused bv
the invasion of the Hvksos, and their dominion, which lasted
many centuries, first drove the Egyptian power back into
Ethiopia, and at lengtli entirely destroyed it, till the power-
ful Pharaohs of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Dvnasties again
advanced from the south, drove back the Semitic intru-
ders, and raised the power of the Egyptian empire to its
summit. The greater proportion of Theban monuments
date also from this period. As we may suppose they have
been the principal object of investigation to all travellers,
therefore our work liere had been for the most part anti-

]S'evertheless it was necessary to re-examine the whole
ground most carefully, partly to complete the deficiencies
left by our predecessors, partly to make a proper selection of
those monuments which were of most importance for our
particular purpose, and which we were anxious to insert
among our collections, either in the shape of a drawing, or
an impression upon paper, or even in the original itself.
AVe directed our principal attention during the whole jour-
ney, and especially here, to taking the most exact archi-
tectonic plans of all the buildings and other localities which
appeared to us to be of any consequence ; and for this pur-
pose we did not hesitate to make extensive excavations. By
this means we succeeded, amongst other things, in dis-
covering, and recording for the first time, a perfect plan of
the most beautiful of all the temple buildings, namely, the
Ammon Temple, built by Eamses II., which is described
by Diodorus under the name of the sepulchre of Osyman-
dyas. We made several excavations also in the valleys of
the royal tombs, and opened, for instance, the rock-tomb of
the same Eamses II., one of the largest of those which have
hitherto been accessible. Unfortunately, the interior cham-
bers were so much destroyed by the dirt and rubbish that
had fallen in, that we could make out little more from the
representation upon the walls than the proprietor of the

Accompanied by the artist Max Weidenbach, I made an
intermediate journey from Karnak to the peninsula of Sinai.


"We went tliitlier bv the old road from Koptos to Aennum
{Pliiloterci), now leading from Qeneh to Koser, which con-
ducted us fii'st to the remarkable stone quarries oi Ham-
mamcd, already worked out during the Old Xonarchj. The
numerous rock-inscriptions, which date as far ba«k as the
6th Dynasty, occupied us here for five whole days. From
this place we passed through the Arabian chain of moun-
tains to the north, as far as Gehel Ze'it, where we embarked
for Tor, situated opposite. AYe ascended through Wadi
Hebran to the convent, and from thence through Wadi e'
Schech, Wadi Fircin, W. Mokatteh, W. Maglidra, by Sarhut
el CMdem, down again to Abu Zelimeli, where we got into
our vessel, to return to Koser and Thehes.

As early as the 4th Manethonic Dynasty, between three
and four thousand years before Christ, this Desert Penin-
sula was subject to Eg_\^t, and was principally colonised by
the Egyptians on account of the Copper mines, which are
there met with on the limits of the primitive mountain
range, and the surrounding sandstone mountains. Upon
several rock-tablets of Wadi Maglidra, the kings of those
oldest Dynasties were represented fighting with the Semitic
aborigines, and the inscriptions of Sarhd el Chddem were
at least as early as the 12th Dynasty. We did not, also,
lose sight of the great interest which is attached to these
localities of the peninsula in connection with the Old Tes-
tament. More especially, I believe, that I have succeeded
for the fii'st time (nOt excepting Burckhardt) in determining
the correct position of Sinai, since, contrary to the tradition
of the convent, hitherto accepted, I did not recognise it in one
of the southern mountains, but in Serial, which is situated
several days' journey more to the north, at whose base
lies the only fertile oasis of the whole peninsula. This
opinion which has been ali-eady published in a preliminary
account of the journey, addressed to the King of Prussia,
has met with frequent oppositions, but has also latterly re-
ceived much approbation, I believe, in a special treatise upon
the question, by AY. Hogg, printed in the last half of the
"Transactions for the Eoyal Societv of Literature" (1848).
I have not hitherto been able to discover anv material coun-
ter-arguments in the discussions which have' been held upon
the subject, but, on the other hand, much stronger evidence


that, contrary to the later Byzantine tradition, the more
ancient Christian, and probably tlie Egyptian tradition itself,
considered Serbal, at whose foot the oldest convent was
situated, to be the true Sinai.

On the 14:th of April we returned to Thebes, and finally left
it on the 16th of May. On oiu' way back to Lower Egypt, we
re-examined more minutely the monuments of SchenhuVy
D end era, Hon, Ahyclos, Echnim, El Bosra, Tel el Amarna^
and El Hihe, and on the 27th of June, our party, wliich had
been increased at the last stage by the addition of Dr. Beth-
nmnn, again entered Cairo.

I was detained there myself some months longer than the
other members of the expedition, in order to direct the trans-
portation of several sepulchral chambers in the neighboiur-
liood of the Great Pyramids, and to superintend the em-
barkation of the valuable blocks of stone, together with tlie
other monuments, which we brought with us from Upper
Egypt and Ethiopia, and which the Viceroy Mohammed Ali
sent as a present to his Majesty the King of Prussia. In
this troublesome as well as important affair, for the practical
performance of which four experienced workmen had been
expressly sent from BerHn to Egypt, I had only the kind
assistance of Dr. Bethmann, who accompanied me on an
independent footing during the remainder of the journey

Atler a final visit to Alexandria, we embarked on the 25th
of September at Cairo for Damietta, but on the way visited
the ruins of Samanud, Behhet, and the Hamses-Temple of San
(Tanis), and left Egypt on the 1st of October, in a vessel
which toolv us to Jaffa. After we had traversed the whole length
of Palestine, and from Jerusalem had visited the Dead Sea,
and from Beyrout, Damascus, and Baalbec, at the mouth of
the Nalir el Kelh, the ancient Lykos, we came upon the last
Egyptian monuments in the north, namely, those celebrated
memorial-tablets, which the great Eamses 11. engraved be-
side the old military road, as a recollection of his warlike
and victorious Asiatic campaigns in the fourteenth centuiy
before Christ. After a period of more than 3000 years,
neither the form, nor even the Xame-Shield of the powerful
Pharaoh, at whose court Moses was educated, had been
destroyed by the destructive sea-air. On one tablet, indeed.


I was able to distinguisli the date of the fourth, on another
that of the second year of his reign.

According to the testimony of Herodotus, similar monu-
ments of Sesostris are also found in Ionia, and some time
ago, one which he describes as being there, was re-discovered.
But an excursion from Smyrna to that spot soon convinced
us that the rock-picture of Karabel was produced by an
Asiatic and not by an Egyptian chisel.

Lastly, we saw in the Hippodrome, at Constantinople,
the obelisk of the third Tuthmosis, but, like others, sought
in vain for the second, which earlier travellers would have
us believe that they had seen. On the 24th December, I
left Constantinople, and landed on the 5th January, 1846,
in Trieste.

The whole journey, of which this is a very hast)' sketch,
was one of the most fortunate expeditions which has ever
been undertaken for a similar purpose. None who partici-
pated in it suffered from the climate or the accidental
casualties of a journey, ^^e travelled under the powerful
and, in every way efficient protection of the A^iceroy. AVe
had an explicit and written permission to make excavations,
wherever we should consider it desirable, and we employed
it, to acquire a number of interesting monuments for the
Eoyal Museum at Berlin, which would either have remained
in Egypt as rubbish under the sandhills, or exposed, like so
many others, to be destroyed, for all kinds of material pur-

The scientific results of the expedition have, in almost
all respects, surpassed our own expectations. In confirma-
tion of this it will be sufficient briefly to survey these
results, which I shall do in the following pages, according to
their principal objects, and by entering into some of the

The plan of the journey, as a whole, and in its individual
parts, was founded principally with a Historical purpose in
view. The French-Tuscan expedition, compared with ours
was a Journey of Discovery, with all the advantages, but
also with all the disadvantages, connected with such an
undertaking. "We were able from the commencement to
aspire after a certain completeness, within the wide limits


that were assigned us, not however failing in making new
discoveries, which were as important as they were unex-
pected. The investigation of the most ancient Egyptian times,
namely, the epoch of the first Pharaonic Monarchy, from about
3900 to 1700 before Christ, extending the history of the
world almost two thousand years farther back, was left
entirely unfathomed by Champollion. He only ascended the
Nile valley as far as the second Cataract, beyond which there
existed a great number of Egyptian monuments of all kinds,
wholly unexamined, in which we must seek for an explana-
tion of all those Ethiopian antiquities which are inseparable
from the Egyptian.

The most important results we obtained, therefore, were
in Chronology and History. The Pyramid-fields of Memphis
gave us a notion of the Civilisation of Egypt in those primi-
tive times, which is pictorially presented to us in 400 large
drawings, and will be considered in future as the first
section in that portion of the history of man, capable
of investigation, and must be regarded with the greatest
interest. Those earliest Dynasties of Egyptian dominion,
now afford us more than a barren series of empty, lost, and
doubtful names. They are not only free from every real doubt
and arranged in the Order and the Epochs of time, which have
been determined by a critical examination, but by showing us
the flourishing condition of the people in those times, both
in the afiairs of the State, Civil afiairs, and in the Arts, they
have received an intellectual and frequently a very individual
historical reality. We have already mentioned the discovery
of five different burial-places of the 6th Dynasty in Central
Egypt, and what we obtained from them. The prosperous
times of the Xew Monarchy, namely, the period of splendour
in the Thebaid, as well as the Dynasties which followed, were
necessarily more or less completed and verified. Even the
Ptolemies, with whom we appeared to be perfectly ac-
quainted in the clear narratives of Grrecian history, have
come forward in a new light through the Egyptian represen-
tations and inscriptions, and their deficiencies have been
filled up by persons who were hitherto considered doubtful,
and were hardly mentioned by the Greeks. Lastly, on the
Egyptian monuments we beheld the Eoman emperors in still

2S peelimh^art accou^tt of the

greater and almost imbroken series, in their capacity of
Eg^-ptian governors, and they have been earned down since