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Papyrus Anastasi I

Papyrus Anastasi I (officially designated papyrus British Museum 10247[1]) is an ancient Egyptian papyrus containing a satirical text used for the training of scribes during the Ramesside Period (i.e. Nineteenth and Twentieth dynasties). One scribe, an army scribe, Hori, writes to his fellow scribe, Amenemope, in such a way as to ridicule the irresponsible and second-rate nature of Amenemope's work. The papyrus was originally purchased from Giovanni Anastasi in 1839.

Content and importance to modern scholarshipEdit

The letter gives examples of what a scribe was supposed to be able to do: calculating the number of rations which have to be doled out to a certain number of soldiers digging a lake or the quantity of bricks needed to erect a ramp of given dimensions,[2] assessing the number of men needed to move an obelisk or erect a statue, and organizing the supply of provisions for an army. In a long section Hori discusses the geography of the Mediterranean coast as far north as the Lebanon and the troubles which might beset a traveller there.

This papyrus is important to historians and Bible scholars above all for the information it supplies about towns in Syria and Canaan during the New Kingdom.[3] There is a long list of towns which run along the northern border of the djadi or watershed of the Jordan in Canaan which bound Lebanon along the Litani River and upper retnu and Syria along the Orontes. The border lands of Egypt's province of Caanan with Kadesh are defined in the Gardiner translation p. 19.[4]

An example of the satire in the textEdit

Hori goes on to show that Amenemope is not skilled in the role of a maher. The word maher is discussed in Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar under "Messenger" and can be found on the inscription of the battle of Kadesh above the head of one such Mariannu scout.[5]

Hori then relates what appears to be an actual anecdote for which Amenemope is apparently infamous. It contains a lot of detail reflecting discreditably on his name and comparing him to Qedjerdi, the chief of Isser. This touches on the concept of gossip amongst the scribes for which the idiom is "Much in the mouths of."

The composition of the satirical interchange between the scribes comes across as quite well written especially where Hori describes Amenemope as incompetent toward the end, giving as an example his poor management of not just his chariot but his character. Amenemope gets ambushed in a mountain pass, possibly at a battle in the campaigns against Kadesh which go on throughout the 18th and 19th dynasties.

Hori makes clear that these involve routes that should be well known to the scribes operating as mahers or messengers and scouts in the battles. Illustrations from the battle of Kadesh provide an excellent background for Hori's tale showing the form of the chariots, and the size of the Shashu.[6]

Hori sets this up as an incident in which the incompetence, inexperience and fear of Amenemope results in the wreck of his chariot and the panicked cutting of his hand with a knife while trying to cut loose his horse from the wreck of his chariot.

Amenemope's lack of experience causes him not to be apprehensive when he should be and then panicking when he should remain calm.[7]

Hori piles on the results of Amenemope's inexperience and lack of expertise to show his state of mind clearly, including the part where he releases his pain and fear by forcing his way to the maiden who keeps watch over the gardens when he reaches Joppa.[8]

Amenmope's chariot is on a narrow mountain pass above a ravine in which some four or five cubit (seven foot) tall Shashu are lurking. The road is rough and tangled with vegetation and the Shashu look dangerous and fierce. Amenmope wrecks his rig and has to cut it loose with a knife from some trees it is tangled up in. He cuts himself trying to get the traces free of the branches. "His self abuse is much in the mouths of his followers," the scribe Hori says.[9]

See alsoEdit


  • Alan H. Gardiner Egyptian Hieratic Texts - Series I: Literary Texts of the New Kingdom, Part I, Leipzig 1911
  • K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Blackwell 2000
  • Stephen Fryer hieratic language instruction
  1. ^ papyrus British Museum 10247
  2. ^ Dieter Arnold The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, I.B.Tauris 2002, p.40
  3. ^ Kitchen 2000, p.530.
  4. ^

    Come let me tell thee of other towns, which are above(??) them. Thou hast not gone to the land of Kadesh, Tekhes, Kurmeren, Temenet, Deper, Idi, Herenem. Thou hast not beheld Kirjath-anab and Beth-Sepher. Thou dost not know Ideren, nor yet Djedpet. Thou dost not know the name of Kheneredj which is in the land of Upe, a bull upon its boundary, the scene of the battles of every warrior. Pray teach me concerning the appearance(?) of Kin; acquaint me with Rehob; explain Beth-sha-el and Tereqel. The stream of Jordan, how is it crossed? Cause me to know the way of crossing over to Megiddo which is above it(??).

  5. ^

    Thou art a Maher skilled in the deeds of the brave! A Maher such as thou art is found (able) to march at the head of an army! O Mariannu, forward to shoot(?)!

  6. ^

    Behold the ///////// is in a ravine two thousand cubits deep, filled with boulders and pebbles. Thou drawest back(?), thou graspest the bow, thou dost //////. Thy left hand, thou causest the great ones to look. Their eyes are good, thy hand grows weak(?). Abdt km Ari mhr nam. Thou makest the name of every Maher, officers of the land of Egypt. Thy name becomes like (that of) Qedjerdi, the chief of Isser, when the hyena found him in the balsam-tree.

  7. ^

    - The(?) narrow defile is infested(?) with Shosu concealed beneath the bushes; some of them are of four cubits or of five cubits, from head(??) to foot(?), fierce of face, their heart is not mild, and they hearken not to coaxing.

    The Shasu spies shown being beaten by the Egyptians

    Thou art alone, there is no helper(?) with thee, no army behind thee. Thou findest no ///////// to make for thee a way of crossing. Thou decidest(?) (the matter) by marching onward, though thou knowest not the road. Shuddering(?) seizes thee, (the hair of) thy head stands up(?), thy soul is in thy hand. Thy path is filled with boulders and pebbles, without a passable track(??), overgrown with reeds and brambles, briers (?) and wolf's-pad. The ravine is on one side of thee, the mountain rises(?) on the other. On thou goest jolting(?), thy chariot on its side.

  8. ^

    Thou fearest to crush(?) thy horse. If it be thrown towards the abyss(?), thy collar-piece(?) is left bare(?), thy girth(?) falls. Thou unfastenest the horse so as to repair the collar-piece(?) at the top of the defile. Thou art not expert in the way of binding it together; thou knowest not how to tie(?) it. The ///////// is left where it is; the chariot is too heavy to bear the load of it(?). Thy heart is weary. Thou startest trotting(?). The sky is revealed. Thou fanciest that the enemy is behind thee; trembling seizes thee. Would that thou hadst a hedge of ///////// to put-upon the other side! The chariot is damaged(?) at the moment thou findest a camping-place(?). Thou perceivest the taste of pain! Thou hast entered Joppa, and findest the flowers blossoming in their season. Thou forcest a way in(?) ///////// Thou findest the fair maiden who keeps watch over the gardens. She takes thee to herself for a companion, and surrenders to thee her charms.

  9. ^ Gardiner translates that p. 20:

    Thou art recognized, and bearest witness (against thyself[?]). Thou art dismissed(?) from (the rank of) Maher. Thy shirt of fine linen of Upper Egypt, thou sellest it. Tell me how(??) thou liest every night, with a piece of woollen cloth(?) over thee. Thou slumberest, for thou art worn out. A ///////// takes away thy bow, thy knife for the belt, and thy quiver. Thy reins have been cut in the darkness. Thy horse is gone and is speeding(??) over the slippery ground. The road stretches before it. It smashes thy cart and makes thy ////////////; thy weapons fall to the ground, and are buried(?) in the sand; they become desert(?). Thy //////, begs the ///////// thy mouth: Give (me) food and water, for I have arrived safely. They turn a deaf ear, they do not listen, they do not heed thy tales.

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