Sketches of Ancient Egypt: Mules to Yam.

Relief of Harkhuf. Wikipedia.
Relief of Harkhuf. Wikipedia.

The sound and aroma of three hundred mules was a shocking assault of noise, dust and smell. The braying line of animals were still arriving behind the arrayed ranks of Egyptians and the Yamites, when the Chiefs of Irthet, Sethu and Wawat submitted. Privy Councillor of Southern affairs, Sole companion to Pharaoh, Harkhuf had many Impressive titles with which to awe the southern Chiefs. Quite apart from the lavish goods his mules were carrying, and the glinting spears of his army, this emissary carried the writ of the King of Egypt. Yet for all that he was probably most proud of his title as Caravan Conductor (Though Wilkinson calls him Chief of Scouts). It was a difficult job, requiring initiative, sound judgment, military capability and diplomatic tact. The Egyptian state joyed in endowing multiple functions to one body, the Old Kingdom especially loved to bestow cart loads of titles on efficient bureaucrats. A conductor’s prime objective was to take caravans of trade goods to foreign nations and return with tribute, to show the flag and assert dominance, and make exchange for tokens of good will, showing Egypt’s vested interest in a country. If the recipient was not inclined to go through this formalised sucking up ritual, the conductor was always given a hefty bodyguard with which to convince him.
Harkhuf’s father had been a conductor, and though it was challenging work, it was a position of great trust, as it was also essentially a security job, and so if a man was good at it he could expect rewards commensurate with the responsibility. Harkhuf could say that in addition to his academic exploits, (he was a Nekhen Judge), he had seen much more of the world, and embarked on more adventures than many Egyptians. At first he had learned on the job, watching his father, then Harkhuf had led his own convoys to explore the desert roads, watched over by the paternal eye until, Pharaoh Merenra deemed him competent enough to make the expedition to the land of Yam without supervision. As a large part of his job was to sniff out trouble and spy out the land, he had got wind of trouble brewing in lower Nubia. This was his third expedition, but in order to avoid the hostile tribes Harkhouf had taken the desert route reaching Yam only to find the chief was off on campaign in Libya. After tracking him down and collecting extra troops he made his way back via the regular route, to overawe the troublemaking, Chiefs, who now, seeing his assembled forces and rich baggage, submitted to him.
The chief of Irthet had his people gather the herds, and from them they cut out some Bulls and young cattle for Harkhuf to take with him, perhaps as exchange for the gifts of ebony, panther skins and Ivory offered by the conductor. After they had rested the chief guided them into the highlands.
Harkhouf was a pious, fair and serious man, who never spoke nonsense but was temperate in nature, subordinates would be unlikely to fear a tongue lashing from the boss. Harkhouf was probably one of those leaders who’s gentle reprove was worse than a dozen beatings, because he treated everyone fairly.
The journey to Yam became something of an annual event to ensure good relations. And a profitable exchange of goods took place between Harkhouf and the Chief. During his fourth expedition he sent a letter back to the 8 year old Pepi II, telling him of the dancing dwarf he had obtained. The young boy was filled with excitement which spilled over the royal reserve of a king god in his return letter, which promised rich rewards if Harkhouf returned with the the diminutive hoofer alive and well.
At his death Harkhouf was interred in his own tomb, upon whose walls he wrote of his life, and promised that passers by who respect its owner would be looked on favourably from the reaches of the other world.

Sources: Lives of the Ancient Egyptians: Toby Wilkinson. The Splendour that was Egypt: Margaret Murray. Funerary inscriptions respective to subject found at . The Nile and Egyptian civilisation: A. Moret. Ancient Records of Egypt: James Breasted. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: Toby Wilkinson. Soldier of the Pharaoh: Nic Field

Thanks for reading. See you again for another adventure in Historyland. Josh.

Sketches of Ancient Egypt: The Privileged One.

Ancient Egyptian history is much more than just Pharaoh’s. Tomb discoveries have revealed the professional lives of many of officials, soldiers and nobles, some born into positions, some who worked their way up the ladder, most of whom are not known outside of Egyptological circles. I hope this will turn out to be a semi regular series, which I will add to as I research and discover more.

The Privileged One.

Ruins of Merenre's pyramid at Saqqara. Wikipedia.
Ruins of Merenra’s pyramid at Saqqara. Wikipedia.

Overseers and construction chiefs charged with nurturing the growth of Pharaoh Merenra’s pyramid at Saqqara were assembled and waiting with their labourers at the dockside as the flotilla of boats, rafts and lighters came into view. It was an important delivery. The sarcophagus, it’s carved lid, its attendant substructure and numerous other granite objects vital to the creation of Pharaoh’s last resting place, including the basements of the upper chamber were about to be unloaded.
Tendered by the lighters, and escorted by the boats the rafts were tied up and the hard work began. The reason for so many bosses to be present for the unloading was the man disembarking onto the dock from the principle boat.
Weni, Prince Governor of Upper Egypt was a man who knew how to get things done. He was the first commoner to hold the governorship and he had overseen the entire operation of collecting and shipping the cargo in one great expedition from Ibhat and Elephantine, an unprecedented feat until then unseen during the reign of any King.
This most trusted administrator had earned his lofty title. He had served under 3 Pharaoh’s. Starting as a young storehouse custodian under Teti, he had risen to Overseer of the robing room under Pepi I, who noticed the young Weni as a Natural organiser, with a sharp mind and good judgement. More impressive appointments had followed to the rank of Nekhen Judge, and he was soon indispensable to Pharaoh, who now had him consulting on the matters of the self contained universe of the royal Harem and the six courts of justice. This stood him in good stead when he uncovered a plot in the intrigue ridden harem. Pharoah instantly closed the lid on the investigation and Weni was ordered to investigate the matter quietly. When the Great Royal Wife Amtsi was interviewed Weni was the sole judge in the room to hear the case.
Qualifications for rank in the Old Kingdom Pharaonic system was that a man be sufficiently educated in calligraphy and mathematics. Merit, connections and loyalty was often the passport to high office. In the case of Weni, a commoner by birth, Pharaoh appointed his newest “Sole Companion” to the post of a commander in a punitive expedition against what scholars either call Bedouin, but who were known by the Egyptians as the “Sand Dwellers”. Here he put his skills as an organiser to the test, the army was a conglomeration of Egyptians, conscripts and Nubian mercenaries headed by a confusing array of princes, nobles and scribes. Weni proved a capable commander, he organised the army so that the arguments and rivalries inherent to such a force were negated, and plundering was kept to a minimum. His fleet sailed up the Red Sea while his army fixed the enemy in place, resulting in a crushing vicotry. However glamorous the dust and gore of the battlefield victories, he was unable to ensure a stable peace. Pharaoh sent him five more times, defeating the enemy each time, which raised his name to such a degree that a song was composed about his ability to defeat foes in multitudes of ways and return armies in safety.
There was no better man in Egypt to organise the transport of royal funerary goods, and this would prove the pinnacle of his career. When he came ashore everyone would have felt his searching gaze as he observed their reports. Fortunately for them he was off like the wind to Hetnub to fetch an offering table, which he duly returned with in a purpose built acacia lighter in 17 days, before hitting the road once more to oversee the construction of canals in Upper Egypt.
Soon after his appointment as Judge and Sole Companion to Pepi I, Pharaoh had bestowed on his faithful Weni a white stone tomb from Tura. Upon his death he was interred with honours and goods as befitted such a brilliant administrator. His epitaph reads true “I then, I was beloved of his [Pharaoh] father the object of the great praise of his mother, the charm of his brothers. [I] the Prince, active director of upper Egypt, the privileged one (imakhu) of Osiris, Weni”

See you again for another Adventure in Historyland, Josh.

Sources: The Splendour that was Egypt: Margaret Murray. Funerary inscriptions respective to subject found at . The Nile and Egyptian civilisation: A. Moret. Ancient Records of Egypt: James Breasted. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: Toby Wilkinson. Soldier of the Pharaoh: Nic Fields.