Richard Lepsius.

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

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the Hyksos in Egypt. No doubt the enormous granite
quarries which we found on the right bank, some hours to
the north of Kerman, opposite the island of Tombos, at the
entrance of the Cataract country, were connected with this.
The inscriptions on the rock contain Shields of the I7tli
Dynasty, and an inscription of eighteen lines, mentions the
second year of Tuthmosis L

I have also, here in Dongola, begun to study the Kong'ara
language of Dar Eur. A negro soldier, a native of that
dreaded warlike country, with woolly hair, and thick pro-
jecting lips, and who we took with us last year from Korusko
to Wadi Haifa, as a military attendant, instead of Ibrahim
Aga, who had been sent away, found us out here again, and
was given up to me by the Pascha for my studies in lan-
guage. He promises well, but in half an hour I am obliged
to exchange him with the Nubian. The Kong'ara language is
quite different from the Nubian, and in particular points
seems to me to show a stronger analogy with certain South
African languages.

I was rejoiced here to see the fortress built by Ehrenberg

EUIXS OF T0W3^S. 235

in 1822, which has suffered indeed by the inundations, but
still always serves as a dwelling for the governor, now Has-
san Pascha. AVe shall also leave a monumental structure
behind us, for Hassan Pascha has requested Erbkam to give
him the plan of a powder-magazine, and to seek out a suifc-
able site for it.


Korusko, the 17 th August, 1844.

We did not accomplish our departure from Dongola before
the 2nd of July. AVe went slowly down the western side of
the river. That very day we passed over extensive fields of
ruins, the dim remains of once flourishing towns, whose
names have died away. The first we found were opposite
Aegonsene, others at Koi, and at Mosch. The following
day we arrived at Hannik, opposite Tombos, in the pro-
vince of Mahas. Here the Cataract country begins imme-
diately, and a fresh Xuba dialect, which extends as far down
as Derr and Korusko. The Nile, on the whole, retains its
northerly direction as far as a high mountain, named after a
former conqueror, Ali Bersi. Early on the third day we
left this on our left hand. It is situated on the sharp bend
of the river, from north-west to due east, from which point it
is usual to cut off the largest portion of the province of Mahas
by a desert road running in a northerly direction. We,
liowever, followed the turns of the river, and dismounted near
t wo old castles on the bank, at a grove of palm-trees, under
whose shade we rested during the sultry mid-day hours.
The nearest of those castles, so romantically situated between
the fissures of the rock, I find difierently named on every
map, as Eakib Effendi (Cailliaud) ; Eakir el Bint, from
Bint, the girl (Hoskins) ; Eakir Bekdee, from Bender, the
capital (Arrowsmith). In the dialect of this place, however,
it is called Fakie Eenti, or, in that of Dongola, Eakie Benti ;


and it is so named from the palm-trees at its foot, Fenti,
Benti, being the names for pahn and date.

On the 4th of July we got as far as Sese, a hill which
bears the remnants of a fortress. Our servant, Ahmed,
from Derr, related to us that, at the death of every king, his
successor was led up to its summit, and there adorned with
a peculiar royal cap. Castles like that of Sese, many of
which we saw, far and near, on the plateau beyond the river
district, indicate an early, numerous, and ^Yarlike population,
which has now almost entirely disappeared. The ruins,
situated a quarter of an hour south of Mount Sese, are called
Sesebi. Here stood an ancient temple, of which only four
columns stand erect, with palm capitals. They have the
Shields of Sethos I., the most southern we have met with
belonging to this king. l^Tear these temple remains are the
ruins of a large town, on an artificially raised piece of
ground, of which the regular encircling walls may still be re-

On the 6th July we arrived at Sole (Soleb), where a
temple of considerable importance, and still in good preser-
vation, was erected by Amenophis III. to his own genius,
the deified Ea->'ec-ma (Amenophis).* The rich represen-
tations belonging to tliis temple — the same to which once also
belonged our own Eam from Barkal, and Lord Prudhoe's
Lion — gave us materials for almost five days' work. We
did not again set ofl" before the 11th July.

Scarcely one hour to the north of this is situated Gebel
DoscHE, a sandstone rock, projecting into the river, in
which," on the river side, a grotto is cut, which contains re-
presentations of the third Tuthmosis.

* The expression is, that he has built the Temple W ^ -^
_ w ^ O y] '• to his living image on earth Ra-xeb-ma." The word

chent no longer exists in the Coptic language, but is always translated
in the Rosetta inscription by eiKcoj/. The temple, and the locality
belonging to it, was also named after the king, but after his Horus
name, " The Dwelling of Scha-em-ma." From this we may trace the
origin of the Ram of Barkal and the Lion in the British Museum.


The ven' same evening we arrived at SEDEii^aA, where
Amexophis III. erected a small temple to his own wife,
Tii. In the midst of the picturesque heap of ruins, thrown
one above another, rises one single column, which has re-
mained standing. A great necropolis stretches out towards
the west.

On the 13th of July we halted near a Schona (such is
the name given to the station store-houses maintained by
government), opposite Mount Abie or Qabie, a little below
the northern point of the island of Sai. On the other side
of the river, not exactly opposite, stands the village of
Amaea, and near it the ruins of a temple. I was not a little
surprised to recognise directly on the columns (six of which
are still preserved) the fat Queen of Naga and Meeoe, with
her husband. This temple was built by them, an important
testimony to the widely- extended dominion of that Ethiopian
Dynasty. In the necropolis to the south of the temple I
also observ^ed fragments of inscriptions in the above-men-
tioned demotic Ethiopian alphabetic -writing, such as I had
also found near Sedeinga.

The following day, after having visited the island of Sai,
where we had found the scanty remains of a temple with inr
scriptions of Tuthmosis III. and Amenophis II., besides the
remains of a town and a Coptic church, we proceeded farther,
and on the 15th of July reached Dal, which forms the fron-
tier between the provinces of Sukkot and Batn el hager
(Stone-belly) ; at night we encamped at the Cataract of

From this point our road passed near the hot sulphur spring
of Okmeh, to which I turned off from our caravan road with
Abeken. It led us from the Schona, where we separated,
along the rocky bank, above an hour backwards to a square
tower, whicli has been erected over the spring, and which is
now called after its builder, Hammam seidna Soliman. The
tower, which is 9 feet in diameter, and in the inside 4 feet
wide, is now half filled with sand and earth ; the stream of
water, about the thickness of a man's wrist, issues from the


eastern side of the tower ; on the other side, within the space
of a square foot, sixteen little whirlpools rise out of tlie sand,
and here, where the water is hottest, it is not quite 44° H.
(131° Fahr.). It tastes sulphureous, and a white substance
is deposited on the earth round the spring. Every year the
river rises above it, and even over the tower, which stands
half-way up the river bank. The surface of the water had
now only risen to about the height of a man, and had not yet
reached the spring. A rough hole is dug into the rubbish
for the sick who come here, and is covered with branches to
keep back the stream. Somewhat farther down the river
another small spring of water appears, which has a tempera-
ture of 40° E. (122° Fahr.) when it issues from the ground.
The saying goes, that Okasche, a friend of the Prophets,
was killed in a campaign in the south, his corpse floated down
hither, and then disappeared in the rock on the opposite
bank ; there, even now, at some distance up the river, his
grave is shown ; a tree marks the spot.

On the 17th July we encamped at the temple of Semneh.
The village consists only of a few straw huts, which are
shaded by some date palms, but the number of potsherds in
the neighbourhood prove that a place of some importance
stood here formerly. The temple is surrounded with very
ancient fortifications, of immense dimensions ; its erection
dates even as far back as the Old Monarchy under Sesur-
tesen III., a king of the 12th Dynasty. It appears that this
king first enlarged the limits of the Egyptian Monarchy as
far as this point ; indeed it has been found that at a later
period he was himself worshipped in these districts as a
divinity of the country. The temple which Tuthmosis III.
erected here in the New Monarchy, is also dedicated to him,
and to the god Tetun. On the right bank, also, at the
village of Kummeh, there are still some old fortifications, and
within them a stiU larger temple, which was even begun by
Tuthmosis II.

The most important discovery which we made here, and
■which I shall ^ only mention briefly, because I am at this


moment sending a more detailed account of it to Ehrenbero-,
is a number of short rock inscriptions which mark the highest
rises of the Nile during a series of years under the govern-
ment of Amenemha III. (McEKis), and of his immediate suc-
cessors. These statements have in some measure a historical
value, as they decidedly confirm my supposition that the Se-
bekhoteps followed immediately after the 12th Dynasty, and
they arc in some measure peculiarly interesting for the geo-
logical history of the Nile valley ; because they prove that
the river, above 4000 years ago, rose more than 24 feet higher
than now, and thereby must have produced totally different
conditions in the inundation and in the whole surface of the
ground both above and below this spot. Our examination of
this remarkable locality, with its temples and roek-iuscrip-
tions, occupied us twelve whole days.*

On the 29th July we went from Semneh to Abke, and the
following day visited the old castle situated to the north of it,
which is called el Kenissa, the church, and formerly there-
fore probably contained one. From the top of this castle
we had the most magnificent prospect of the chief cataracts
of the whole country. Three great fiills could be distin-
guished from the smaller ones in the broad, rocky island
valley, and the eye passed over several hundred islands, as
far as the black mountain range on the opposite bank. But
towardcs the north the wide plain spread out, whicli extends
from "VVadi Haifa to Phila?. The succession of the different
kinds of rock was most distinctly visible as we descended
from tlie last ridge of the rocks on the banks into the great
plain, from which some single cones of sandstone alone pro-
truded, as if from the bed of a primitive ocean. Here un-
doubtedly are the sources of the everlasting sand, which,

* This theory of Dr. Lepsius, of the bed of the Nile having been ex-
cavated to a depth of 25 feet in 4000 years, has been examined by
Leonard Horner, Esq., F.R.S., in a paper published in the Edinburgh
PliUosophioal Journal for July, 1850. Dr. Lepsius having in a letter,
dated 12th April, 1853, addressed to Mr, Horner, expressed a wish
that that paper should be reprinted in the present volume, it will be
found accordingly in the Appendix. — Tr.


driven by the northern wind among the primitive mountains,
rendered our road to Semneh very difficult.

On the 1st of August we left "Wadi Halfa in three
boats, and from this point again sailed through a country
with which we were already acquainted. The following
morning we came to Abf Simbel, where we spent nine
days, in order to become perfectly acquainted with the
copious representations on both the rock-temples. I long
searched in vain for the remarkable G-reek inscription which
Leake had found on one of the four great Ramses Colossi,
till I fortunately re-discovered it, buried tolerably deep, on
the left leg of the second Colossus from the south. I was
obliged to make a great excavation to obtain a perfect im-
pression of it on paper. I see no reason why we should
not take this antique inscription for what it states itself
to be, namely, memoranda of the Greek mercenaries, who
came hither with Psammeticus I. in pursuit of the re-
bellious warriors. Beneath the other inscriptions on the
Colossus, I also found some Phcenician inscriptions.

After we had visited from this point some other rock-
monuments on the opposite bank at Abahuda and Scha-
TAUi, we quitted Abu Simbel on the 11th of July, and next
halted on the right bank near Ibrim, ancient Peimis, the
name of which I have also found in hieroglyphics written
P.R.M. Ibrim is situated on the left bank opposite Anibe,
near which we discovered, and made a drawing of, only one
private tomb from the period of the 20th Dynasty, but it was
in good preservation. Thence we proceeded to Deee, where
we got the largest despatch of letters we have yet received,
so that it was a real holiday for us. With these treasures
we hastened past Am ad a to this spot Koetjsko, whose de-
lightful group of palms had won our hearts during our long,
though involuntary, detention there last year. "We have
fixed upon the present Sunday to celebrate with pleasant
recollections the happy termination of our southern journey.
Our boats lie quietly beside the bank.



PJdlce, the \st September, 1844.

I AM only now able to finish my journal from Koruskoy
whence we set sail on the evening of the 18th August for

Erom this point, as far as Philae, the valley is called Wadi
Kenus, "the valley of the Beni Ket^si," a tribe of which
we read much in the Arabic accounts. The upper valley of
Korusko, as far as Wadi Haifa, is called on all the maps
Wadi Nuba, a name which has indeed been already used
by Burckhardt, but which must originate in some mistake.
Neither our Nubian servant, Ahmed, a native of the district
of Derr, nor the people who are settled in the country, are
acquainted with this name ; and even Hassan Kaschef, above
seventy years of age, who governed the country before the
Egyptian conquest, could give no answers to my particular
inquiries about this name. They all agree in stating that
the lower district has always been called "Wadi Kexus.
Afterwards, near Korusko, follows the Wadi el Arab, so
called from the Arabs of the desert, w^ho have encroached as
far as this spot ; then Wadi Ibrim ; and lastly, AYadi
Half A. But since the conquest the official name for the
whole province between the two cataracts is GriSM Halfa,
the province of Haifa.

In Korusko I found a Bischari, by name Ali, whose ani-
mated and pleasant deportment determined me at once to
make him my instructor in this important language. He
was quite satisfied with my invitation for him to accompany
us, and now every moment that is at liberty is employed in
preparing a grammar and vocabulary of this language. He
comes from the interior of the country, from Beled Ellaqi,
\\hich is eight days distant from the Nile, and twenty from
the Eed Sea, and gives a name to the remarkable Wadi
Ellaqi, which extends, without interruption, through the



very midst of the extensive range of country between the
Nile and the Eed Sea. He calls the country of the Bischari
tribes Edbat, and their language, Middh to Beg'auie, the
Beo-'a language, from which may be traced its identity with
the language of the mighty Beg'a nations, so often men-
tioned in the middle ages.

Prom Korusko we next sailed to Sebita, where we spent
four davs ; then by Dakke (Pselchis) and Kuban (Contra
Pselchis) to G'eef Htjssek, with its rock-temple dedicated
by Eamses to Ptah. This place is frequently called by
earlier travellers Giesche, a confusion with the village
situated on the farther eastern bank, which is called by the
Arabs Qiesch, by the ]S'ubians Kisch or Kischiga, and
which is situated near some considerable ruins of an ancient
city which bear the name of Sabaguea. The 25th August
we spent in the temple of Dendue, first built under the
Eoman dominion ; and the following day in Kalabscheh, the
ancient Talmis, whose temple likewise contains only the
Shields of Caesar (Augustus). Talmis was for a long time a
capital of the Blemtes, whose inroads into Egypt gave the
Eomans plenty of employment. On one of the columns of
the great outer court there is engraved the interesting in-
scription of Silco, who calls himself a ^aaCkldKos Nov/3a5wi/ Koi
6'Xcov TQ)v Ai^ioTTcov.* In it he boasts of his victories over the
Blemyes, who I hold to be a branch of the Meroitic Ethio-
pians, the Bischari of the present day. It seems that the
demotic Ethiopian inscriptions, one of which is remarkable
by its length, and perhaps forms a counterpart to the G-reek
inscription of the Nubian King, can only be ascribed to
these Blemyes. I have discovered another very late in-
scription on the wall to the back of the temple, but in such
barbarous Greek that it is almost inexplicable. I send it to
Bockh for him to decipher.

On the 30th August we reached Debot, and the following
day Phil^, where we immediately took possession of the

* King of the Noubadoe and the Ethiopians.— Te.


enchanting temple-terrace, which, since that time, has been
our chief quarters, and will remain so for several weeks
longer. The great temple -buildings, although the most
ancient of them date only as far back as Nectanebus, pre-
sent an unusual number of hieroglyphic, demotic,' and
Greek inscriptions, and, to my surprise, I have also found
here a whole chamber in one of the pylones which contains
nothing but Ethiopian representations and inscriptions.


Thebes^ Qurna, 24th November, 1844.
On the 4th of jS'ovember we reached this last great station
of our journey, and feel that we have again reached much
nearer home. We have selected a charming castle on a rock
for our residence here, which will certainly be protracted for
several months. It is situated on a hill called Abd el Qfrna,
and is an ancient tomb enlarged by brick buildings, from
which we overlook the whole Theban plain at one view. I
should be afraid of being almost oppressed by the overwhelm-
ing number of monuments, if the mighty character of the
ruins of this most royal city of all antiquity did not maintain,
and daily renew, our interest to the highest possible degree.
While our investigations of the numerous temples, from the
Ptolemaic and the Eoman period, immediately preceding that,
had in fact become almost fatiguing, here, where the Homeric
forms of the mighty Pharaohs of the 18th and 19th Dynas-
ties stand out before me in their dignity and splendour, I feel
as fresh again as at the commencement of our journey.

I first had excavations made in the renowned temple of
Eamses Miamun, lying at our feet, which have led to unex-
pected results. Erbkam has superintended the work with the
greatest care, and his ground plan which is now finished of
this most beautiful building of the Pharaonic times, described
by Diodonis as the tomb of OSymandyas, is the first which



can be called perfect, as it no longer rests on arbitrary resto-
rations, which are too long in the French descriptions and
too short in those of Wilkinson.

I have also had excavations made in the rock-tomb of the
same Eamses in Bab el Meluk, which was covered over with
rubbish, and which Eosellini was mistaken in thinking un-
finished ; several chambers have already been opened, and if
fortune favours us we shall also still find the sarcophagus,
not indeed unopened — the Persians had already taken care
of that — but perhaps less mutilated than others, as the tomb
has been closed up by the river mud from very ancient times.

On our journey from Korusko hither, besides our anti-
quarian labours, I was engaged with the languages of the
southern countries, still so little known. Amidst these, three
may be selected as being the most widely-distributed ; the
Nuba language, that of the Nuba or Berber nation ; the Kuif-
GAEA language, of the negroes of Dae, Fue ; and the Bega
language, that of the Bischaeibas inhabiting the eastern
portion of the Sudan. I have prepared the grammar and
vocabulary of all three, so fully, that whenever they are
published some notion of these languages may be obtained.
The most important of them is the one last mentioned, be-
cause, both with reference to its grammatical construction
and by its position in the development of languages, it
proves itself to be a very remarkable member of the Cauca-
sian stock. It is spoken by the people, for which reason I
think I can perceive that they were once the inhabitants of
the flourishing city of Meroe, and thus have a peculiar claim,
to be called in a more exact sense the Ethiopian people.

It has furthermore been proved, that nothing can be dis-
covered of a primitive Ethiopian civilisation, or indeed of an
ancient Ethiopian national civilisation, which is so much
held up by modern erudition ; indeed, we have every reason
to deny this completely. "Whatever in the accounts of the
ancients does not rest on total misapprehension, only refers
to Egyptian civilisation and art, which had fled in the time of
the Hyksos rule to Ethiopia. The irruption of Egyptian


power from Ethiopia, at the foundation of the new Egyptian
Monarchy, and its progress even far into Asia, was mentioned
in the Asiatic, and afterwards in the Grreek traditions, as an
event which was transferred from the Ethiopian country to
the Ethiopian nation^ for no knowledge of a still older Egyp-
tian Monarchy, and of its high but peaceful state of civilisa-
tion, had penetrated to the northern nations. I have sent
an account of the results of our Ethiopian journey to the
Academy, and in it I give a cursory survey of the history of
Ethiopia from the first conquest of the country by Sesur-
tesen III. in the 12th Manethonic Dynasty down to the
most flourishing period of the Meroitic Monarchy in the
first centuries of our era, and then through the middle ages
down to the Bischaribas of the present day, whose Sheikhs
we saw in chains marching over the ruins of what was once
their capital, and passing in front of the Pyramids of their
ancient kings.


Thehes, Qurna, 8th January, 1845.

A snoTiT time ago we received the joyful intelligence that
our colossal Eam and the other Ethiopian monuments had
arrived safely in Alexandria. We shall also bring away
some valuable monuments from this spot, among them a
beautiful sarcophagus of fine white limestone, on parts of
which are some painted inscriptions, which go back as far as
the Old Monarchy in the first period of the increasing great-
ness of Thebes.*

I have made another conquest to-day, which gives me
double pleasure, as it was only effected with indescribable
difficulty, and has brought out a monument in the most per-
fect preservation, which will hardly find its equal in our
museums. A sepulchral chamber with interesting represen-
tations of kings of which we have made drawings, opens out
* Denkmal., Abth. II., Bl. 245, 246.


of a deep pit which was excavated a short time ago ; from
this a narrow passage leads still deeper into a second chamber,
which is painted all over, just like the other. The chambers
are hewn out of an extremely friable rock, which loosens
from the ceiling in large fragments at the slightest touch ;
the rock-caves were therefore vaulted in a circular form,
with Nile bricks, which were covered vrith stucco, and then
painted. At the side of the inner door, on the right hand,
King Amenophis I. is represented, and on the left, his
mother Aahmes-nufee-aei, who even in later times was
much worshipped. Both are about four feet high, painted
on the stucco, and the colours preserved as fresh as possible.
I was anxious to detach these figures fi'oui the wall, which
they entirely covered ; but for this purpose I was compelled to
break through the brick walls all round, and afterwards also
to take out the bricks singly from behind the stucco with
the greatest care. This at length we have accomplished
after great labour, We have taken out the whole stucco,
which is only the thickness of a finger, with the figures com-

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 21 of 54)