Sehel, Anoukis of the island, the guardian of the “gateway to Nubia”


On the Isle of Sehel the stele “Famine”, discovered in 1889 by the American Egyptologist Charles Edwin Wilbour and other rocks bearing inscriptions

Hi dear friends, it’s again my lovely day; Saturday, and I have time again though, short but I’ll try to make the best of it 😉

Let’s begin with a reportage about a magnificent island of the magnificent Egypt 🙂 translated from French.

by Marc Chartier with thanks

Sehel, Anoukis of the island, the guardian of the “gateway to Nubia”

An amazing description of a marvellous Marc Chartier with thanks (y) and always sincerely to Marie Grillot

Sehel Island, on the Nile, is located about 2 miles southwest of Aswan. One kilometre long and 500 meters wide, it is one of the largest islands of the first cataract. Auguste Mariette saw it, “strictly speaking only a mass of granite blocks crammed one on top of the other, the remains and witnesses of some geological convulsion whose date necessarily escapes history.” And the great French Egyptologist to continue, in his “Voyage in Upper Egypt” (1878): “In the time of the Pharaohs, the island of Sehel was the southernmost border of Egypt. It was on the island of Sehel that Egypt left when the one who came from the north, just as it was to the island of Beghe that one left Nubia when one came from the South. The intermediate territory had to be neutral. The island of Sehel was under the protection of the gods of Cataract who are Chnouphis, the goddess Sati and the goddess Anoukis. The proscynemes engraved on the rocks of the island of Sehel, either by the travellers who left Egypt to head south or by the travellers who arrived from Nubia and Sudan to head north, are very numerous. They consist of prayers to the gods of Cataract, with mentions often very valuable, from the point of view of the history of the characters who made them engrave. The most frequent is the twelfth, thirteenth, eighteenth and even nineteenth centuries. (…) While climbing on the rocks of the island of Séhel, it is not difficult to perceive, by turning towards the South, the whitish eddy of the rapids of Cataract, and even to hear the noise. We are indeed leaving Egypt; this famous Cataract, which has so much occupied the imagination of the ancients, is before us; one more step and we are entering Nubia. “

On the left, the Anuket goddess shown in grave Nakhtamon – TT335

Village Artisans – Deir el-Medina

Anoukis, one of the deities of the local triad, to whom a temple was dedicated on the island during the 12th dynasty, holds the role of “Mistress of (the island) of Séhel”, the gate of Nubia. If there is no indication that it originated in the confines of Egypt, one of its functions is nevertheless to keep the southern border of the country. However, adds Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, in “Ancient Egypt and its gods” (Fayard, 2007), its most important role is the one it shares with Satis in the flooding process, the complementary actions of each. of the two goddesses being defined according to the taste of the Egyptians for puns, by verbs related to their names. As a text from the temple of Edfu makes clear, if it is up to Satis, assimilated to Sothis, to bring up the beneficial flow, it is incumbent on Anoukis (Anouqis) the equally essential task of reducing it and allowing thus, after the removal of the flood, the sprouting seeds and vegetation grow on land released by the waters. “

The Isle of Sehel (3 km southwest of Aswan) is one of the largest islands of the First Cataract

Another celebrity of the island: the stele known as “Famine”, discovered in 1889 by the American Egyptologist Charles Edwin Wilbour (1833 – 1896). It is a rock, with a large transverse horizontal fault and another less marked crack at the lower level, on which has been engraved, on 32 columns, a text dated from the Ptolemaic period. This text is surmounted by a “box” where four characters are represented: on the left, King Djoser (Third Dynasty); on the right, the three deities of Sehel’s triad. He mentions, reads on the website of the “Project Rosette”, “a famine of 7 years due to a disturbance of the flood of the Nile under the reign of King Djoser. Some clues have led Egyptologists to think that the document could date from the beginning of the Old Kingdom; others, like Pascal Vernus, have put forward the hypothesis of a forgery elaborated by the priests of Khnum during the Ptolemaic period for reasons of propaganda. “

On the Isle of Sehel the stele “Famine”, discovered in 1889 by the American Egyptologist Charles Edwin Wilbour

For the French Egyptologist Paul Barguet (1915 – 2012), one of the translators of the stele, it dates from 187 BC. AD and would be a decree of Ptolemy V, “mentioning, in a pictorial form, the return to the crown of the southern provinces of Egypt and ensuring the country of calm and prosperity of yore”. “We will say a few words,” adds Paul Barguet, “about the famine that seems to be the very subject of our stele. Brugsch, in his book “Die Biblischen sieben Jahre der Hungersnot”, had brought together the seven years of scarcity mentioned in the Bible, the mention of seven years of famine given by the stele of Sehel. This rapprochement was quickly criticized, as purely factitious. However, if it is hazardous to say that one of the texts is only a reminder of the other, their approximation must not, however, be entirely rejected. A seven-year famine tradition is attested throughout the ancient Near East, not only in Egypt but also in Ugarit and Boghaz-Koi. This is a seven-year cycle of famine (and plenty), the figure seven probably not be taken literally, but simply signifying a significant number of years of famine whose succession may have appeared a divine manifestation, the famine being considered one of the worst catastrophes in the ancient East. In Sehel’s text, famine seems to be due more than to insufficient flooding of the Nile, to the fact that the Nile has come against the weather, either too early or too late. By taking possession of the cataract region, Ptolemy V could again control the “sources” of the Nile to Elephantine, and thus ensure, as it were, the waters of the river and their seasonal regularity. “(” The Stela from Famine to Sehel “, IFAO, 1953)

As famous as this stele is, it does not mean to conceal many other rocks engraved on the granite piles of the island. More than 500 inscriptions (including more than 300 to relate mainly to the Old Kingdom) have been noted, translated and commented by Annie Gasse and Vincent Rondot, in their book “The inscriptions of Séhel”, published by the IFAO in 2008. The editor of the book provides these details: “In Séhel, the Old Kingdom is particularly present, thanks to texts that are essentially alluding to the notables of the province. In the Middle Kingdom, it is mainly the Nubian expeditions of sovereigns, including Sesostris III, which are commemorated in the granite of the island. The most abundantly represented period is the New Kingdom. Then, under the aegis of the viceroys of Kouch, exchanges with Nubia intensify; the great cities of the Empire send important expeditions to Aswan to obtain the granite essential to the architectural work. The cult of the Neqet goddess, mistress of Sehel, develops so that a shrine attracts many famous pilgrims. The last epochs of Egyptian history, if they are quantitatively minority, are illustrated by some remarkable inscriptions in the first rank of which we must mention the stele of the Famine.

The Isle of Sehel (3 km southwest of Aswan) is one of the largest islands of the First Cataract

Alors that the inscriptions, the source of which today is the glory of the island of Sehel, while others have been taken over in the granite for tourists for the brand or the end of the legends in Nubie, where it is clear that modern tourists, who came up with an excellent idea of visiting the archaeological site, perhaps imitate their “illustres prédécesseurs”! Will it not be an indecisive step of sacrifice from petroglyphic messages of an insigne value for the sake of other graffiti autently disastrous? Marc Chartier

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