Some Graffiti from the Reign of Hatshepsut

by Edward F. Wente
Some Graffiti from the Reign of Hatshepsut
Edward F. Wente
Journal of Near Eastern Studies
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EDWARD F. WENTE, University of' Chicago

IKthe Fpstschrifr fiir Labib Habaihi, Marek ~arciniak' published a hieratic graffito in the form of a stele inscribed in black ink on the east wall of a grotto located in the cliff north of the upper terrace of Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri temple.' This chamber had been initiated as the westernmost of the series of Eleventh Dynasty rock- cut tomb chapels extending eastwards along the north side of the bay at Deir el-Bahri, but work in excavating this chapel never proceeded very far, presumably owing to the friable nature of the limestone. As Marciniak observes, there are in the uncompleted entrance hall other hieratic graffiti, which he would date very generally to the New Kingdom and more precisely to the time during and after the construction of the temples of Hatshepsut and Thutmose 111 at Deir el-Bahri, namely Djeser-djeseru and ~jeser-akhet,3 but he also notes that paleographic features permit the dating of the graffiti in the grotto to the second half of the Eighteenth Dynasty on through to the end of the Twentieth ~~nast~.~

At the conclusion of his article he summarizes his reasons for assigning the hieratic stele in question to the late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth ~~nast~.'

In publishing this wall stele Marciniak did not take into consideration some interest- ing scenes in line drawing in close proximity to the stele. This wall has since been published in photograph by John Romer, who draws some startling conclusions regard- ing the erotic scenes just below and to the right of the stele.6 He suggests that the artist was, in a visual form of political satire, commenting upon the anomaly of having a female on the throne of Egypt in the person of Hatshepsut and upon her supposed affair with her chief steward ~enenmut.' But if Marciniak is correct in his dating of the hieratic wall stele to the end of the Eighteenth or the beginning of the Nineteenth Dynasty, there arises some difficulty in assigning the erotic scenes to the floruit of Hatshepsut and interpreting them as political parody.

At the time ancient visitors mounted the relatively steep ascent to repose in the shade of the uncompleted chamber, only a limited amount of smooth wall surface was

1 "Une Inscription commemorative de Deir el-3 "Inscription commemorative." p. 299. Bahari," MDAIK 37 (1981): 299-305, pl. 17. 4 Ibid.. n. 3.

2 See Bertha Porter and Rosalind L. B. Moss, Ibid.. p. 305. Topographical Bibliographj, of Ancient Eg~ptian 6 John Romer, Romerk Egypt: A ,Vew Lighr on Hierogi~phic Texts, Rrlirfr, and Paintings, vol. I, the Civili:ation of Ancient Eupt (London. 1982), The Thehan h'ecropolis, pt. 2 (Oxford. 1964), p. 658. pp. 157-60, with photograph of the wall on p. 159. under D. "Graffiti," referring to tomb 504, where A drawing of the scene of sexual intercourse beneath the long stele is erroneously assigned to the Middle the stele was published by Lise Manniche, "Some Kingdom. Aspects of Ancient Egyptian Sexual Life," Acta

Orienfalia 38 (1977): 21. fig. 4. with brief comments [Edward F. Wente is Professor of Egyptology.] on p. 22. 7 See also David P. Silverman in Museum of Fine [J,VES43, no. I (1984)] Arts, Boston. Golden Age: The Arr of Living @ 1984 by The University of Chicago in the .Vew Kingdom 1558-108.5 B.C. (Boston. 1982), All rights reserved. p. 278. for some remarks concerning the possible 0022-2968.84 430 1 -0004$0 1.00. political parody implied by these erotic scenes.

available for decoration.' he east wall was by far the most suitable for any drawing a visitor might wish to make. Most of the graffiti in this grotto are penned on irregular surfaces, including the rough ceiling. and some must have required assuming an uncom- fortable posture to inscribe. Since the east wall provides a relatively smooth area of some considerable extent. it is reaso~lable to assume that the earliest visitors to leave their jottings naturally turned to this portion of the cavern to memoriali7e their visit instead of selecting some inconvenient jagged surface that could potentially break away. Certainly the graffiti on the ceiling should date no earlier than the material on the east wall, especially when writers intended their graffiti to be read by subsequent visitors. One such unpublished ceiling graffito. penned by the scribe of Thutmose 1's mortuary temple Nebwa, comprises an invocation offering formula and promises "every scribe and every person who shall read aloud this inscription hat "he shall transmit his office tohis children." Thus the material on the smooth east wall should date relatively early among the documents i11 the grotto, suggesting that Marciniak's late Eighteenth Dynasty dating of the stele is open to question.

Since there are a number of improvements to be made upon Marciniak's transcrip- tion and translation of the text of the stele, it might be worthwhile to retranslate the whole with notes referring to new readings based on a copy of the stele which I made over fifteen years ago.


(1) A boon which the king gives (to) Amon-Re, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands, (to) Re-Harakhti, (to) Hathor, Chieftainess of Thebes," (2) (to) Mut, Lady of Islieru. (to) Nekhbet the White One of Hierakon~olis,~

(to) Sakhmet, (to) Edjo, (to) Ptah-Sokar, (3) (to) 'Tjenenetl,' (to) Anubis, foremost of the divine booth, (to) Osiris Foremost of Westerners, (4) who is in (every) abode of his," lord of Abydos. (to) Onnophris, preeminent in Hesret,' and (to) the gods who are in (5) the necropolis,/ that they" may grant all that is issued from their offering table(s)." (namely) a thousand of bread, a thousand of ointment, a thousand of incense. (6) a thousand of clothing,' a thousand of beer, a thousand of oxen, a thousand of fowl.' and a thousand of all things good and pure (7) upon which a god lives, that the sky gives.' the earth creates and the inundation brings (8) from <its> source, for the ka of the scribe Neferhotep. who reckons work' in Djeser-djeseru. He says:"'

0 every scribe, every ~uh-priest, every prophet. and all mortuary priests" who shall read aloud from this stele," (10) your/' gods shall favor you and you shall transmit your offices to your childrenq (1 1) according as you say:' A boon which the king gives (to) Amon-Re, Lord of the Thrones' of the Two Lands, (to) Re-Harakhti,
to 'Thoth, lord of sacred writing, (to) Smithis, lady of. . . .' (to) Osiris Foremost of Westerners, (13) the great god, lord of Abydos, (to) Anubis, foremost of the divine booth, and (to) Nekhbet the White One of Hierakonpolis," that they may grant (14) a thousand of all things good and pure upon which a god lives,' for the ku of the

8 Some idea of the state of the grotto i4 probided Simpson. "A Hatnub Stela of the Early Twelfth by the photograph of its interlor In Romer. Rot~l~r'i D~nasty.".2./DAlK16 (1958): 306: cf, also Zbynek C~IIII.p. 156. Zaba. "Deux mots du M'orrc3rhut h reunis." Arti?rr,

'On r1.d meaning "inscr~ptton." see William K. Oric~r116lni24 (1956): 272-75

scribe. . . (15) Neferhotep. <justified> with Osiris. begotten of the mayor of el-Kab" Reneny and born of ' (16) the lady of the house behi.', justified with Osiris.'

u. Reading H~t,r-!ir.r l1r.j t,)r-r,r~ Cf':\r. with Hathor's name written with (in,r-sign imme-

diately followed by face-sign over r. plus r and falcon-on-standard. /J. Reading .t/ir.r rlhr .ir11. (=\$.) . .\'!iht (141 .2'!1r1 (wrltten .V!?m.). t.. At this polnt Marciniak would read the name of the god Tatenen, though admittedly the

writing uould be rather buarre. In \,iew of the conclus~ons reached by Hermann A. Schl(ig1, Der. Gorr Tcltenc~rl rlcltl? 'Tc7.1-rc3n lrtlii Bileic'rn i/r\ .2'c,~tc~11 Reitlie\. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 29 (Freiburg. Sw~t~erland. with reference to the relatively late association of

1980). particularl! Tiitenen with Ptah. there is no compelling reason to torce this reading here. particularly if, as 1 shall al-gue. this \teie 1s to be dated to the early Eighteenth Dynasty. In my copy 1 had read: land-sign o\er two \hurt 11-signs at the same letel and at the bottom a /-sign with room to its left for an additional sign. Ihe falcon-on-standard then follous as determinati~e. The presence of the r-sign uould fa\or the reading of the name of the goddess Tjenenet. uho. howe\er. possesses no close relationship to Ptah or l'atenen according to Schitjgl. ibid.. pp. 108-9: see also Maria T. Ilerchain-Llrtel. S\,nkr.eri.\r~~~i\ u~.pri.\c~ht~r.Ikono,yr.uphie: nit, Giirrin T;tzrlt,ner

rn (Wiesbaden. 1979). One possibility to be seriousl! considered is that in passing from one line to the next the writer omitted a uord such a !7nri, (or 111 or nh). so that one should understand. "Ptah-Sokar. preeminent in (or less likel!. simp:? "in" or "lord of") the Tjenenet-sanctuarv Hermann Kees. "Eine 1.iste memphitischer Cititter im Tempel \on Abydos." KT37 (1915): 58-59. supplies some t:xamples of !111rl jrlrlr with a di~ine determinati~e after 111nr. The scribe's propensit! to omit 1xo1.ds indeed makes thia solution attractl\e.

ti. In Lieu of the frequency with which I~I.\I./ rlh(t) or t71 \rcr.f' tlht occurs among the phrases following the name of Osir~s and or Foremost of Li'esterners in offering formulas (see. for example. .I. .I.Clere and .I.Vandier. Tt,.urr\ tir, lu Prt~rtiiPrc~ Pc;riot/c, It~rc~r.rt~t;t/iuirt~

cJr (it' lu .\'Iu"' I)i~tiel.\ric~, Ribliotheca Aegyptiaca 10 [Brussels. 19481. pp. 18 ff.). 1 am inclined to take the single nh-sign as ser~ing double dut!. both as the adjective '.e\eryW and as the noun "lord."

r. Instead of Marciniak'i Stir or Srr, neither of wh~ch is ver!. satisfactory, 1 suggest interpret- ing his falcon-on-standard as the coiled !?-sign arid reading the locality as H.5r.r. the necropolis of Hermopolis. Although it is Thoth who ij normally "I'reern~nent in Hejret." Osiris also has links w~th thii locality. \t.c Book of the [lead, chap. 131. and \\'oifgang Helck in l.c>.~iXo11tit^ .A& I~ro/o,yic~1:I !71 .

1. Reading r1111~\1,brl-tljr. with chick-it over plural strokes at the end of line 4. and br.-sign

plus r. and foreign land determlnati\e after the initial t~r.-5ign of line 5. ,y. The plural 5trokes of ..ttr are preserled beneath 11.

11. After !I ~1.rread a tall ttroke rather than falcon-on-itandard.

I. I he horlrontal base of the cloth-sign is preser\ed. 
;. The initial sign of peltr, ij the --vulture. and the determinati\e is the goose-sign. 

X. 1-he r-signs are preser\ed in 11jr.t. 11!1r. and titlr. and a sky-sign determines pr.

1. Reading I?\hX-r (pustule o\,er- book-roll. and in place of the man leaning on a staff read

perhap\ a standing [\ic,] man steadying a basket on head). tn. 7-he ./'of Jtl.f'~s prexrved.

11. Trace\ pre5erxed of seated man oler plural strokes.

o. Reading 171 ~1.4/111. btith the ~i,~l-sign

followed by a coiled n. and onl) one stroke beneath the rope determinati~e,

11. The suffix .rtl is pre\er\ed.

y. Reading c\t,~/r.rti (for \\t,r/.r~l) i 1t.f.f~11 br.c/it,.rn , with i \r,r spelled uniconsonantally and

of the el-Kab magnates during the Thirteenth and Seventeenth Dynasties has been admirably discussed by Anthony spalinger,13 and this stele perhaps attests to the continued significance of this line into the reign of Hatshepsut, contrary to the opinion of Hermann ~ees.'~

Romer's photograph's of the east wall of the grotto reveals traces of five other textual graffiti, four of which were penned in front of the large standing figure and one above his head. The spatial disposition of these graffiti suggests that they were inscribed after the large figure had already been drawn. The following tentative translations of these visitors' jottings are based on what I have been able to make out from the published photograph and on some very hastily made transcriptions of the first three which I made some fifteen years ago. The four graffiti in front of the standing figure are as follows:

The third prophet of Amon pahu,I6 born of the lady of the house. . . .
The third prophet of Amon in Djeser-djeseru ~a~eht~,''

begotten of 'the scribe, god's father of Amon, who has access to1 the mysteries . . . in ~arnak," ~erymaat.'~

(3) The second prophet of Amon in Djeser-djeseru-'he is one who has made his 
reputation2'-the scribe1 . . . Amenemhat, born of the lady of the house Sat-. . . .21 

(4) There came22. . . .

While Romer would identify the large standing figure as Senenmut, it seems unlikely to me that either the name or a title of Senenmut appears in the short graffito inscribed above the head of this figure. Moreover, the orientation of the hieratic

'3 "Remarks on the Family of Queen Hc.s-nhl*, and the Problem of Kingship in Dynasty XIII." RdE 32 (1980): 103-15.

'4 H. Kees, Das Priestertum im aflptischen Staar vom Neuen Reic,h his -ur Spat:eir. Probleme der ~gy~tologie(Leiden and Cologne. 1953). p. 49.

I "Aber nach Thutmosis 1. verschwindet jede Erinnerung an die ehemalige Gaufiirstenfamilie in El Kab."

'5 Romer. Ronier's Egypt. p. 159.

Ifi On the name see Hermann Ranke. Die agjp- tischen Personennumen. vol. I. p. 115 (13); cf. Fischer. "An Important Lacuna." p. 159. Pahu left another graffito in the grotto with the same title. Since no such individual is listed as a third prophet of Amon at Karnak by Kees. Das Priesiertum, pp. 318-20, it is possible that Pahu is a hitherto unattested third prophet of Amon of Djeser-djeseru.

1' The first part of this graffito employs cursive hieroglyphs rather than hieratic, and in the personal name Aapehty a cursive hieroglyphic form of the leopard's head has been used. Contemporary hieratic does not make use of this sign, see Georg Moller. Hierati~rhe Palijographie, 2d ed., vol. 2 (Leipzig. 1927). sign-list, p. l I, n. 2: p. 12, n. 4.

18 For Merymaat's titles see M. F. Laming Mac- adam, ed.. A Corpus qf Inscribed Lkvpiian Funerarj. Cone5 h~, the Late N. de Garis Davies, pt. I (Oxford. 1957). no. I, and Wolfgang Helck, Zur Ver~,altung des Mittleren und Neuen Reichs. Probleme der Agyptologie 3 (Leiden and Cologne, 1958). p. 435 B.

A hieroglyphic graffito in the grotto reads, "Scribe of the god's treasure of Amon (JS .s&wt-nrr n 'Imn) Mery, begotten of the city-prefect and vizier Amen- user, born of the lady of the house Tjuiu." and it is possible that this title of Merymaat should be read in place of "scribe. god's father of Amon." What I take to be the preposition hr after 'kseems to be written as hrt with accompanying sky-sign, and one might prefer to understand hry s9t3w, "master of the mysteries." but in this case '4 would be left without an object. The parallel on Merymaat's funerary cone suggests the rendition I have proffered.

l9 Merymaat was himself a second prophet of Amon in Djeser-djeseru. see Kees, Das Priestertum, pp. 19-20. 23; Helck. Zur I'erwaliung. p. 293 with

n. I; and idem, Marerialien zur Wirtschafrsgeschirhte des h'euen Reirhes (Wiesbaden. 1960-70). p. 93.

20 With great diffidence reading rr pw 4d.J At one point I had thought that possibly after Djeser- djeseru the personal name Hpw was to be read with a following filiation making Amenemhat his father. but this I now regard as unlikely. Another graffito in the grotto does read. "The second prophet of Amon. Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands. [in Djeser-djeserlu Hepu," my notes indicating that what might be restored as the name of Hatshepsut's temple has been erased with the exception of a final chick-w and house determinative.

21 The name of a deity should stand in honorific transposition before S-t. 22 Reading ~wtpu. 1r.n . . . , literally, "It was a coming which . . . made."

inscription, naturally to be read from right to left. does not obviously suggest that it serves as a label identifying the person below. What 1 discern from the published photograph looks like a title, determined by the man holding a stick. followed by a proper name ending in cl,!, (coiled w,+ double reed-leaves) with a seated man determi- native. The traces of the title might suggest reading hrtj,\t,-ntr."stone ma~on."'~

These few graffiti do add prosopographically to the very limited number of indi- viduals hitherto attested as priestly functionaries at Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri temple."l In the category of prophets, perhaps restricted to her reign and to that of her coregent Thutmose 111." the following are known:

First prophet: ~rnenu." Second prophet (in probable sequence): Neferhotep.. 7-~erymaat.'~Amenemhat. ~e~u(?),"

and Menkheperresoneb (or Amenhotep?), son of the vilier Rekhmire of the time of Thutmose ill.'"

Third prophet: Pahu(?). Aapehty.

Since the author of the stele, Neferhotep. was employed as an accounting scribe in the building of Hatshepsut's mortuary temple, his document should be earlier than the graffiti adjoining the large standing figure, three of which name individuals who served as prophets of the completed temple. The third of these visitors' inscriptions suggests that in the period intervening since the inscribing of the stele. two individuals. Kefer- hotep and Merymaat. had already completed their careers as second prophets before Amenemhat assumed this priestly office. The erotic scenes were probably drawn at some point in time after the stele had been inscribed but before the remaining visitors' graffiti were inscribed on the wall.

In discussing these scenes. Komer believes that Senenmut is represented twice. once as the large standing figure and again as the male partner engaged in sexual activity with a woman whom he identifies as Hatshepsut. Komer claims that in both depictions Senenmut is shown wearing a curious hat. probably made of leather. However. the shapes of the supposed hats are dissimilar. With regard to the man engaged in love- making, it might be argued that since the drawing is not quite as precise and careful as Romer maintains," no hat was intended, but simply a normal crop of hair. What Romer has taken as the bottom of the cap could be merely the hair line.

From Romer's photograph of the wall it seems that it is divided into two sections. the left one comprising the inscribed stele of Neferhotep above the love-making scene and the right one consisting of a very similar stele, but left uninscribed, and two individuals: the large standing figure behind whom a smaller male with an erect phallus advances. Komer's discussion does not indicate how he interprets the relation- ship of these two figures. If one does attempt to relate them, then one is faced with the


-'For hrcn.-t7ir as a writing of the singular hrrl.-was Mer\niaat's uncle. he probablq preceded his rzir at this time. see Hales. O5rrtrXa NII~\(IIIIO nephew in this office.S'rnt7rc, p. 38. ?h See n. 19. above.

'"ee Helck. Morerialic,n. pp. 92-93. z9 See n. 20. above. If Hepu was second prophet

3See Edward Brovarski. "Senenu. High f'rieht of of Amon :.t Ileir el-Rahri. his position vis-Q-vis AmOn at Deir el-Bahri." JE.4 62 (1976): 68. Amenemhat remains undeterminable.

26 Ibid. 7" See Kees. [)a\ Prietrrrrur,~. p 74. n 7.

?'See Kees. Da5 Prie\rc,r~~rt?l. pp. 23 and 74. and " Rottier', E,q~pr. p. 158. where he speaks of "a Helck. Zlrr I'~r~oltzo7,q.p. 435 B Since Neferhotep muddled drawing of a midriff" in describing a por-

tlon of the love scene.


peculiar situation in which at the right Senenmut is the potential object of a homo- sexual relati~nshi~,~'

while in the scene of sexual intercourse at the left Senenmut demonstrates heterosexuality.

Since the scene of sexual intercourse depicts a method of approach from the rear,3' it is possible that the scene to the right, where a sexually aroused male approaches the object of his desire also from the rear. is to be regarded as preliminary to the amorous scene at the left. The implication then is that the small male with an erect phallus at the right is the same individual as the male in the love-making scene at the left and that the large standing figure, depicted as a male, should be equated with the woman in the love-making scene. The onllr person of this period who could fill this dual gender role is Hatshepsut, who was universally represented as a male in two-dimensional depictions of her as king. While agreeing with Romer that the female in the love-making scene is Hatshepsut, I believe that it is also possible to identify the large standing figure as the pharaoh Hatshepsut, wearing the blue crown. The absence of an uraeus on the crown may be part of the pictorial commentary "on the ambiguity of the queen! king's role," as Romer has suggested in commen~ing upon the absence oi" royal insignia on the woman engaged in sexual intercourse.'"

Although the man involved with Hatshepsut might possibly be identified with Senen- mut, there is really no positive evidence on the wall or indeed elsewhere to substantiate the existence of an intimate relationship between Hatshepsut and her high steward. On the west wall of the grotto there is indeed a depiction of Senenmut, properly identified by name.'"s wretched as this drawing is, there has been no attempt here to cast aspersion on Senenmut, nor has there been any mutilation of his figure or name. The only other peculiar feature in this grotto that might shed some light upon the interpreta- tion of the erotic scenes is the fact that a certain scribe named Ahmose wrote his title and name in red ink within a vertical cartouche in black ink in the upper right-hand corner of the south (entrance) wall of the ~hamber,~' perhaps implying that if a female Hatshepsut could be king, then the scribe Ahmose could in a parodying manner make use of the royal cartouche. In seeking to identify Hatshepsut's lover in these scenes, one might be missing the pojnt of the political parody. The sexually active male may simply be an anonymous figure serving to provide the means for commenting pictorially upon the absurdity of Hatshepsut's acting as king, unable to be a "Mighty Bull."

In discussing the material on the east wall of the grotto, Romer, I believe, may be correct in stating that the same hand was responsible for the erotic scene immediately beneath the inscribed stele and for the large standing figure in the scene to the right. It also seems reasonable to conclude that Neferhotep was responsible for the uninscribed stele in the right half. One might go a step further in suggesting that the spatial relationship of steles to scenes is indicative of their contemporaneous execution and that the accounting scribe Nerferhotep made the drawings at the time of his visit. That the same individual could simultaneously inscribe a text of religious nature and so

'? On homosexuality in ancient Egypt, see Man- Senenmut's name was visible to me just to the left of niche. "Egyptian Sexual Life." pp. 14-1 5. the seated figure's forehead.

33 See ibid., pp. 22-23. 36 The ring of this cartouche is visible just above

34 Romerk Eg~.r)t,p. 158. the center of the photograph in ibid.. p. 156. 'There

3' Noted by Romer. Ron7er's Egj.1~1.p. 158, and is another partially completed horizontal cartouche

visible at the far right in his photograph on p. 156. In the grotto containing the same name and title.

grossly comment on Hatshepsut's kingly role may strike us as extraordinary, but it should be pointed out that none of the subsequent visitors to the grotto, including individuals of some importance in the priestly hierarchy at the Deir el-Bahri temple, attempted to expunge the scenes because of political convictions or because of mere prudery.37 In view of the way in which Egyptians could portray sexual behavior of even high gods and goddesses, as in the Contendings of Horus and Seth, one should exercise restraint in applying our notions of prurience to the interpretation of these scenes which do seem to belong to the realm of political parody.38

37 For an example of Egyptian prudery, see Sieg- 1959), pp. 156-66, and J. A. Omlin, Der Papj8ru.r fried Schott, "Ein Fall von Priiderie aus der Rames- 55001 und seine saririsch-erolischen Zeichnungen uncl sidenzeit," ZAS 75 (1939): 100-6. Inschrifren (Turin, 1973). chap. 7. who comments

38 On eroticism in the Ramesside period, see Alfred on erotic art as parody. Hermann, Altmprische Liebesdichtung (Wiesbaden,

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