Richard Lepsius.

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

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Caracalla, who had hitherto been considered as the last name
written in hieroglyphics, through two additional later em-
perors, as far as Decius, by which means the whole Egyptian
moniunental history has been extended for a series of years
in the other direction.

Eg^-ptian Philology has also made considerable progress
by tliis journey. The lexicon has been increased by our
becoming acquainted with several hundred signs, or groups,
and the grammar has received a great many corrections.
Such copious materials have also been acquired for these
purposes, especially by the numerous paper impressions of
the most important inscriptions, that Egyptian Philology
must be essentially furthered by their being gradually
adopted. Eor owing to the strict accuracy of these im-
pressions, they are almost as valuable, in many investiga-
tions, as an equally large collection of origiaal monuments. In
addition to this, the history of the Egyptian language, which
by the great age atti'ibuted to the earliest written monuments,
embraces a period of time between five or sis: thousand years,
becomes now of much greater importance in the universal
history of the human language and writing. Among the
individual discoveries we made, the one which attracted most
attention, was that of the two decrees on the Island of
Philse, which were bilingual, namely, written in hierogly-
phics, and in the demotic character, — one of which contains
the decree belonging to the Eosetta inscription, referring to
the wife of Epiphaues.

In spite of numerous writings upon Egyptian Mythology,
it has nevertheless been hitherto deficient in a fixed monu-
mental basip. In the Temple at Thebes we beheld a series of
representations whose meaning had not hitherto been recog-
nised, and which seem to me to afibrd entirely new conclu-
vsions for the correct comprehension and development of
Egyptian mythology. The series of the first arrangement of
the gods mentioned by Herodotus and Manetho, which in
modem investigations has been difi'erentlT arranged in its
details by all scholars, is at length placed beyond all doubt,.
and certainly difiers in all essential points from what has


been hitlierto everywhere adopted. I will briefly allude here
to another fact, important both in the history of mytho-
lo|^^ as well as in a purely historical point of riew, and
whicli was elicited by an attentive investigation of the monu-
ments. The direct succession of the reigning royal family
was interrupted, towards the end of the 18th D^iiasty.
Through the monuments we became acquainted ^vith several
kings of this period, who were not afterwards admitted in
the legitimate lists, but were regarded as unauthorised co-
temporary or intermediate kings. Among these Ameno-
phis IV. is to be particularly noted, who, during a very
active reign of twelve years, endeavoured to accomplish a
complete reformation of all secular and spiritual institutions.
He built a royal capital for himself in Central Egypt, near
the present Tel-el- Am arna, introduced new offices and usages,
and aimed at no less a thing than to abolish the whole reli-
gious system of the Egyptians, which had hitherto subsisted,
and to place in its stead the single worship of the Sun. In
all the inscriptions composed during his reign, there is not
one Egyptian god mentioned except the Sun ; even in other
words the sacred symbols were avoided, e. g. the word muf,
mother, Coptic mat, was no longer written as usual with the

hawk V\ the spnbol of the goddess Hint, but c:, j ait,

with the universal phonetic signs. Indeed, the former gods
and their worship were persecuted to such an extent by
this king, that he erased all the gods' names, with the
single exception of the Sim-god Ba, from every monument
that was accessible throughout the country, and because his
own name, Amenophis, contained the name of Amnion, he
changed it into Bech-en-aten, "AYorshipper of the Sun's
disk." Therefore the fact, which has often been previously
remarked, that at one particular period the name of Amnion
was intentionally destroyed, forms only part of an event which
had a much wider influence, and which unexpectedly reveals
to us the religious movements of those times.

The History of Art has never yet been considered in tlie
point of view from which Egypt, and all that concerns it, is
now regarded. This necessarily formed a particular object


of our expedition, and most directly gained by tlie in-
creased chronological knowledge we obtained concerning
the monuments. For tbe first time we were able to pursue
all its branches during the old Egyptian Monarchy, pre-
vious to the invasion of the Hyksos, and accordingly to
extend both it and the history of Egypt about sixteen
centuries farther back, and some tens of years lower down
in time. The different epochs of Egyptian art now first
appeared clear and distinct, each marked by its peculiar
character, intimately connected with the general develop-
ment of the people. They had so frequently been mis-
understood, tliat no one believed in their existence ; they
were lost in the general uniformity. I must mention,
as one of the most important facts connected with this,
that we found innumerable instances on unfinished monu-
ments of three difierent canons of proportions of the human
body; one belonging to the most ancient Pharaonic Mo-
narchy, anotlier later than the 12th Dynasty, when Thebes
first began to flourish ; a third, which appears at first in
the time of the Psammetichi, with an entire alteration
in the Principle of the division, and which remained un-
altered till the time of the Roman emperors. The last is
the same which Diodorus expressly mentions in his first
book. Among the separate branches of Egyptian art, Archi-
tecture, which was almost unnoticed by the Erench-Tuscan
expedition, was with us peculiarly attended to, by the ex-
tremely careful and circumspect laboiu's of our architect
Erbkam. This was befitting the important position occupied
by this particular branch, in which grandeur, that element of
art, peculiarly belonging to the Egyptian beyond all other
nations, was capable of being developed, and has developed
itself to the utmost. The study of the sculpture and paint-
ings devolved upon the other artists who accompanied us,
and the ability and fidehty with which they fulfilled their
task must be recognised by every one. The 'Egyptian style
associated with the limited views characteristic of the infancy
of art, nevertheless possesses a highly-cultivated ideal ele-
ment, which must be acknowledged by every one. The genius
of G-reece could never have bestowed on *art such a marked
character, indicative of a period of prosperous liberty, if it


had not received it as a severe, chaste, and carefully niir-
tured child from the Egyptians. The principal task of the
history of Egyptian art is to point out wherein consisted
this cultivation of art, peculiar to the Egyptians, above all
the primitive nations of Asia.

In the next place, Egyptian archaeology, in the widest
sense of the word, claimed a large portion of our time and
attention : an extensive field, already examined, both suc-
cessfully and diligently, by AYilkinson and Eosellini, which
they were enabled to do by means of tlie inexhaustible
number of separate objects belonging to every-day life,
still in preservation, and by the representations of them,
which are found in all directions, far surpassing any other
ancient remains.

On that account it was still more necessary to make a
stricter investigation, and to regard it from a liigher point of
view, rather than accumulate a greater number of individual
things, that notwithstanding obtruded themselves on all sides,
and which, besides, we collected in large quantities, as material
to work upon.

Lastly, Geography and Chorography, which travellers are
especially expected to promote, required to be more pecu-
liarly prosecuted. We must particularly mention here, that
besides the peculiar investigation of the Pyramid fields at
Memphis, and in the Eaium, which have been already alluded
to, our records of the ruins of towns, and ancient monu-
ments in the 'Nile country, as far up as Sennar, are more
perfect and exact than any hitherto made. "With regard to
the modern geographical names, which must always be
viewed in comparison with the ancient, I have been most
particular in obtaining the Arabic names — at least, through-
out the district we traversed — in order to counteract, as far
as lay in my power, the insufferable confusion in the names
which are marked down. During the journey, I made special
maps for the individual portions of the eastern mountains
of Egypt and the peninsula of Sinai, and I collected geogra-
phical accounts from travellers concerning some remote dis-
tricts, which we did not enter, and which are but little known ;
and I had geographical drawings made of them. Our in-
vestigations of the historical places in the peninsula of Sinai


liave been already alluded to. Tlie diseoverj, mentioned
above, of the most ancient kilometer at Semneh, lias added,
in a remarkable degree, also to the history of the physical
condition of the Nile valley ; since it is quite evident, from
the -water just above the second Cataract, standing at that
time twenty-two feet higher than at present, and the height
of the water in the Thebaid being contemporaneously twelve
to fifteen feet lower, that the fall of the Nile in the inter-
mediate country was thirty-five feet greater in those times
than it is now. But this gradual levelling of the bed of the
river must have had the most decided influence on the his-
tory of the cultivation of the valley, and of the whole popu-
lation ; because the soil on the banks of the river in the
district of JSTubia, more especially owing to the considerable
sinking of the water, being inaccessible to the natural over-
flowings, was laid dry, and could only be irrigated with
great difficulty, and imperfectly, by means of artificial water-

Considerable progress was made in the knowledge of the
African languages, by the iuvestigation which I w^as princi-
pally enabled to make in the southern part of our journey.
I inquu^ed into and noted down as much of the grammar
and vocabulary of three languages, as would enable me to
give a distinct idea of them. Fii'st, Ivongiira, spoken at
Dar-Eur and the adjacent countries, a Central African-Negro
language. Secondly, the Nuba language, which is spoken
in two chief dialects, in one part of the Nubian-Nile valley
and in the neighbouring countries situated to the south-
west, and also appears to be derived from the interior of
Africa. It had hitherto never been a written language,
and I collected together for the fixst time a piece of written
Nubian literature, for I made a Nubian Sheikh, who was per-
fectly familiar wiih. the Arabic language and \ATiting, trans-
late the Fables of Locman, a portion of the Thousand and
One Nights, and the Gospel of St. Mark, from the Arabian
into the Nubian tongue, and write down besides nineteen
Nubian songs, some of them in rhyme, some only rhythmical,
and translate them into Arabic. Unfortunately, these pre-
cious packets, all but the Nubian gospel, were lost in
Europe, with little hope of recovery. The third language


investigated by me was the Beg'a, which is spoken by the
Bischari nation, who dwell between the Eed Sea and the
Nubian Nile. This language occupies an important posi-
tion with reference to phLLolou:y, since it seems to be a branch
of the original Asiatic stock, of which the African oftsets
may be comprehended under the name of the Hamitic lan-
guages ; and is, besides, particularly interesting in our study
of the monuments, because, most probably, it was once the
key to decipher the ancient Ethiopian inscriptions, num-
bers of which were discovered by us upon the Island of
Meroe, and from that place, in the IsHe valley, as far down
as Philje. These inscriptions are "written in simple cha-
racters, from right to left, and derive their origin from the
powerful nation of the Meroitic Ethiopians, whose direct
descendants we behold in the present Beg'a nations. By
comparing those languages with the other languages of
Africa, which are ah-eady better known, I thuik 1 sliall be
able to separate, according to fixed principles, these " Ha-
mitic languages" of north and north-east Ainca (which may
still be referred to their native home in Asia) from the
numerous other languages of this enigmatical continent ; and
I am now engaged in preparing these philological investiga-
tions for special publication.

I must finally mention, among the results of our journey,
two collections of inscriptions. In the first place, all the
Greek inscriptions in the countries we travelled through
were carefully sought out, and impressions of them were
taken upon paper; by which G-rseco-Egyptian archcTology,
and more particularly the learned collections of inscriptions
which have lately excited such lively interest, will pro-
bably be completed, confirmed, or justified in a satisfactory
manner. Secondly, in the peninsula of Sinai we made as
perfect a collection as was possible of the so-caUed Sinaitie
Inscriptions, which are found engraved on the rocks in dif-
ferent districts of the peninsula, but principally in the neigh-
bourhood of the old town of Farau, at the foot of the moun-
tain range of Serbalj and at a resting-place of the caravans
in "Wadi Mokatteb, situated farther north, which is named
after them.

We were only able casually to turn our attention to


objects of Natural Science ; nevertheless, I did not however
neglect, especially during remote mountainous journeys, to
collect specimens of stone and earth from the more re-
markable localities. A¥e not only visited the celebrated
stone quarries in the chalk mountains of Tura, in the sand-
stone range of Selseleh, in the granite rocks of Assuan, and
others situated in the Nile valley, but also those alabaster
quarries of El Bosra, opposite Siut, which were discovered a
few years ago by the Bedouins, in which last we found a
rock-inscription from the commencement of the 17th Dy-
nasty. They resemble those quarries of granite and breccia-
verde at HAM:vrAMAT, upon the road leading from Qeneh
to the Eed Sea, which have been worked from the earliest
times, and also the porph}Ty and granite quarries at Grebel
Patireh (Mons Claudianus), and at G-ebel Dochan (Mons
Porphy rites), in the Arabian chain of mountains, celebrated
in the Eoman period. I also had an opportunity of pur-
chasing an interesting Ethnographical and Natural History
collection in Alexandria, obtained by H. AVerne during ]\Io-
hammed All's second expedition up the Nile, which pene-
trated as far as the 4° N. lat., of which an account was
published ; and I received a valuable collection of Eg)^ptian
fishes for the Anatomical Museum in Berlin, from the cele-
brated French physician Clot Bey.









On board the Oriental Steamer, the oth of September, 1842.

All our efforts were taxed to enable us to depart on tiie
1st September ; the delay of one daj would have cost us a
whole month, so it was necessary to be doubly active. A
visit to Paris was indispensable, and I reached it in thirty-one
hours from London ; but two days were all that could be
spared to procure what was requisite in the way of pur-
chases, letters, and notes. I returned richly laden from this
city, ever rich to me in interest, information, and various
proofs of kindness. In London, I acquired two additional
excellent travelling companions — Bonomi and "V\^ild, who
had lately determined to share in the expedition on an in-
dependent footing. The former, abeady well known as a
traveller in Egypt and Ethiopia, not only has a thorough prac-
tical acquaintance with the mode of life in those parts, but
also possesses a critical knowledge of Egyptian art, and is a
master in Egyptian drawing ; the latter, a young architect,
full of genius, seeks with enthusiasm in the East a new field
for the exercise of the rich and various gifts with which he
is endowed. At length, everything was purchased, provided,
and packed, and we had bid farewell to our friends. Bunsen
alone, with his usual kindness, and unwearied friendship,
accompanied us as far as Southampton, the place of our
embarkation, where we spent the evening together.

As at other times, when landing from a stormy sea after
days of rough tossicg, we suddenly enjoy an almost incon-
ceivable degree of repose in the quiet harbour, although for
a long time we still feel the ground tottering beneath us,
and fancy we hear the sound of the breakers, so on this occa-
sion I experienced the same, though the case was reversed ;
when, after the whirl of the last days and weeks, and coming
from the immense metropolis of the world, I reached the
harbour, and entered the narrow, quickly traversed and sur-
veyed, wooden house of the monotonous wilderness of the
ocean. AH at once there was nothing more to provide and



to hasten ; the long row of more than thirty chests of our
baggage had vanished piece by piece into the dark hold of
the ship ; our cabins required no arrangement, for they could
scarcely contain more than our o-rti persons. The absence of
disturbance for some time caused a new and undefined kind of
disturbance : anxiety, without anything to be anxious about.

Among the passengers, I will only mention the missionary
Lieder, a Grerman by birth, returning with his English wife
to Cairo. Commissioned by the English Missionary Society,
he has founded and conducted a boys' and girls' school
there, which is now to be restricted exclusively to the chil-
dren of the Coptic Christians. Lieder has introduced in-
struction in the Coptic language into this school, and has
thus restored to an honourable position that remarkable and
most ancient language of the country, which, for many cen-
turies past, has been entirely supplanted among the people
by the Arabic tongue. It is true that the Holy Scriptures
still exist in the country in the Coptic tongue, and are even
used in public worship, but they are only chanted as psalms,
and are no longer understood.

We started from Southampton on the 1st September,
about ten o'clock in the morning. The wind was against
us, and therefore we did not reach Falmouth till twenty-
four hours afterwards, where our ship waited for the London
mail, to take in the letters. "We remained several hours at
anchor there, in a charming bay ; an old castle is situated
at the entrance on either side, while in the background the
town forms an extremely picturesque group. About three
o'clock we again put to sea, and as there was a side-wind, it
caused much sea-sickness among our party. I consider my-
self fortunate, that even on the most stormy voyages I have
never been in this disagreeable condition, which neverthe-
less has something comic in it for those who are not suffer-
ing. It is a curious circumstance that the same motion
which rocks the child into a sweet slumber, or which invites
us to a pleasure-sail in the tossing boat, on shipboard owing
to the slower time of the wide-swinging pendulum, becomes


intolerable suifering, and prostrates the strongest heroes,
without, however, being accompanied by any serious danger.

The following day we reached the Bay of Biscay, and
with difficulty cut through the long and deep waves, which
rolled out from the distant coast. On the morning of the
4th instant, Sunday, very few appeared at breakfast. About
eleven o'clock, in spite of the Aiolent motion, we assembled
for divine service. The English flag, as the most sacred
cloth in the ship, was spread over the pulpit desk ; Hen*
Lieder preached, simply and well. About four o'clock we
saw the Spanish coast for the first time, in faint, misty out-
line. The nearer we approached it, the waves gradually fell,
for the wind blew off shore. Air, sky, and sea were incom-
parably beautiful. Cape Finisterre, and the adjoining head-
lauds, became more clear. AVe descried several small sailing-
vessels along the coast ; and all kinds of sea-fowl swarmed
round the ship. By degrees, the whole company, even the
ladies, collected on deck. The sea became as smooth as
the clearest mirror, and we kept the Spanish coast in sight
the whole afternoon. The sun descended magnificently intc
the sea ; the evening star was soon followed by the whole
host of the heavenly stars, and a glorious niglit wrapt
around us.

But now the most splendid spectacle presented itself tliat
I have ever seen at sea. The ocean began to lighten up, all the
crests of the breaking waves glowed with an emerald-green fire,
and a brilliant greenish-white wat€rfall fell from the paddle-
wheels of the vessel, which left in its long wake a broad,
light streak in the dark sea. The sides of the vessel, and our
downward gazing faces, were lighted up as bright as moon-
light, and I was able to read print without any difficulty by
this water-fire. When the illuminating matter, which, ac-
cording to Elirenberg's researches, proceeds from infusorial
animalcula), was most intense, we saw flames dancing over
the sea, as far as the coast, so that it seemed as if we were
sailing through a more richly-starred sky than tliat which
was above us. I have frequently observed this illumination

38 iirtrtiYAL at malta.

of the sea on the Mediterranean also, but never "with such
extraordinary brilliancy as on this occasion. The spectacle
was quite like enchantment.

Suddenly I observed between the waves new living streaks
of fire, which radiated from the vessel like two gigantic ser-
pents, and, judging by the proportions of the ship, were
at least from sixty to eighty feet long ; they moved in a
deceptive manner, in large windings beside the vessel, crossed
the waves, dipped into the foam of the paddle-wheels, re-
appeared, retreated, hurried forward, and finally vanished in
the distance. For a long time I could not explain this phe-
nomenon. I thought of the old tales, so frequently re-
peated, of the huge sea-serpents which have been seen from
time to time. jN'othing could more closely resemble what
was here before us. At length it occurred to me that it
might however only be fishes running a race with the
vessel, and, by their rapid movements, brushing the surface
of the luminous sea, they might produce the long streaks
of light behind them. J^evertheless, the ocular demonstra-
tion remained as deceptive as before; I could discover
nothing of the dark fishes, nor determine their size ; but I
at length consoled myself by my own conjecture.


Alexandria, the 2Zrd of September, 1842.
I PUT my last letter into the post in Gribraltar, on the 7th
September, where we employed the few hours which were
granted us in viewing the citadel. The African continent
lay before us, a light streak on the horizon. Beneath me,
apes were clambering on the rocks, the only ones in Europe
which live in a wild state, and on that account they are left
unmolested. In Malta, which we reached on the 11th Sep-
tember, we found the painter Erey, from Basle, whom I had
known at Eome. He told me first, by word of mouth, that
he desired to join in the expedition, and had arrived some
days before from Naples. "We were compelled to wait nearly


three days for the post from Marseilles. This gave us at
least an opportunity to visit the wonders of the island;
namely, the gigantic buildings discovered, a few years back,
near La Yaletta, and to make some purchases. Through
Lieder, I became acquainted with Grobat, who has hitherto
managed the Maltese station of the English Missionary
Society, but is now waiting for a new destination, as pecu-
niary circumstances compel the society to give up this station
entirely. It gave me great pleasure to make the acquaintance
of this distinguished person.*

From Malta we were accompanied by the missionary
Isenberg, who, like Gobat, had lived for a long time in
Abyssinia, and is also well known to linguists by his gram-
mar of the Amharic language. A young girl from Basle was
under his protection — Eosina Dietrich, the bride of the mis-