Aashyet’s sarcophagus (JE 47267) offers a unique case for understanding how the intersection of a person’s identities, such as ethnicity, gender, age, or religion, is portrayed on a funerary object within the historic and religious circumstances of a specific context. Aashyet’s sarcophagus portrays her as a wealthy, elite priestess, and the head-of-household, while being a Nubian who celebrated her non-Egyptian origins. The sarcophagus’s archaeological context also demonstrates the importance of Priestesses of Hathor within Montuhotep II’s funerary complex at Deir el-Bahri for the legitimation of his kingship before he unified Egypt, late in his reign.
Our current understanding of the ancient Nubian people called the Medjay has been informed by textual and artistic representations created by the ancient Egyptians. By studying these sources, Egyptologists have argued that the Medjay were an ethnic group living in the Eastern Desert near the Second Cataract. Yet these studies exhibit an Egyptocentric bias, in which the Egyptian sources have been interpreted literally. This paper reexamines Egyptian references to the Medjay before the New Kingdom and demonstrates how the Egyptians conceptualized and fostered the creation of a Medjay ethnicity. The Egyptians perceived the people of the Eastern Desert near Lower Nubia as one unified ethnic group. Yet these people were not politically unified and did not identify themselves as Medjay until the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty. Increased interaction between the Egyptians and the people of the Eastern Desert caused certain pastoral nomads to adopt the term “Medjay.” Whatever role ethnicity may have played in their society previously, ethnogenesis of a “Medjay” ethnic group began towards the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty.
Evidence for the system of written communications used in Egypt’s administration of its forts is sparse. Of the papyri that exist, the “Semna Dispatches” has provided most of the information available about this system as it existed in Lower Nubia during the late Middle Kingdom. In 1945, Paul Smither posthumously published P. Ramesseum C (bm ea 10752) as “The Semnah Despatches.” Smither was unaware of two fragments, framed with P. Ramesseum 19 (bm ea 10772.2). This study edits the unpublished fragments and incorporates them into the larger discussion about the Semna Dispatches. They provide clarity for the document as a whole. They show that the dispatches were, primarily, used to coordinate surveillance around the Semna Gorge and, secondarily, to record security concerns for other fortresses. Furthermore, they were written in a surveillance office at Semna West and not in Thebes. This study resolves several debates about the dispatches and the control of Lower Nubia in the late Middle Kingdom.
The Semna Dispatches hold unparalleled importance as one of the only papyri remaining for our understanding of Egypt’s control over its Lower Nubian forts in the late Middle Kingdom. Here, we provide an edition and commentary on P. Ramesseum 18 (EA10771), another text concerning the forts. Its only previous publication was as a photograph in Alan Gardiner’s The Ramesseum Papyri: Plates in . The text provides evidence for oversight from the Office of the Vizier in the form of letters to the forts, in support of which only seal impressions and the Duties of the Vizier attested formerly. One letter alerts the fortresses of Elephantine and Kuban about upcoming inspections. Another mentions an official from Edfu connected with the Medjay commanding a wꜤr.t-district at Kuban. Dating to the transition of Dynasty 12 and 13, the letters verify the continuing control of the forts, including rotations of personnel from Upper Egypt.