Texts in translation #6: A stela of Peniwemiteru (Acc. No. R4571 1937)

Acc. no. TN R4571/1937 © Paul Cliff

Acc. no. TN R4571/1937 © Paul Cliff

This small (18.5 cms high) slate(?) stela was once in the possession of a Mr R. G. Stannard, before entering the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome and subsequently being transferred to the Manchester Museum. The upper part of the stela shows a winged sun-disc, under which two rams face each other. The ram was an animal sacred to the god Amun-Re, as made explicit in the hieroglyphs above each of them. Four lines of inscription are below, which contain an ‘offering formula’ – the most common text found on ancient Egyptian monuments.

The formula was a list of goods that the deceased would require in the afterlife, which – by being listed – are magical substitutes for the goods themselves. The aspect of the deceased believed to consume the offerings was the ka – the spirit of sustenance and life-force that came into existence at birth, and was envisioned as an invisible twin.

All offerings to the gods were in principal made by the king. Temple walls only ever show the king performing rituals, rather than the priests who would in practice have carried them out. Clearly, the gods did not eat the provisions placed in front of their statues, but rather absorbed the spiritual essence of them. This meant that the foodstuffs could then be offered to deceased persons and ultimately passed on to the priests who performed rituals, as payment.

Transcription of the hieroglyphs on the stela made by H. R. Hall (PBSA 30, 1908, p. 8).

This short text is slightly damaged in places and contains a number of variations on the standard offering formula, for which it is difficult to find exact parallels. This is a common problem in Egyptology, so here is my own tentative translation:

An offering which the king gives to Amun-Re, Lord of the Sky, that he may give his daily favours, and the good life, for his ka. Noble Ptah, lord of life and dominion, causes provisions to be brought in therefrom for the ka of the goldsmith Peniwemiteru.

“Daily favours” seems likely refer to a regular supply of food offerings. H. R. Hall, who published the piece in 1908, read the words aqw m rxyt im=f on line 3 as “entrance among the rekhyt-people who are with him”. Ken Griffin, who is completing a doctoral thesis on the rekhyt, thinks this unlikely, and I am inclined to agree that this seems out of context. Instead, a reference to offerings would be expected here and so the word mrxw, a rather uncommon term meaning “provisions” or “offerings”, seems to make more sense. The name of the owner, Peniwemiteru, means ‘He of Island-in-the-River’ – a place near Gebelein in Upper Egypt.

Any alternative readings would be most welcome!


Filed under Texts in Translation

6 responses to “Texts in translation #6: A stela of Peniwemiteru (Acc. No. R4571 1937)

  1. Ken Griffin

    It is also worth noting that the word that Hall writes as rxyt, seems to have a determinative of a crudely drawn pA-bird (perhaps a badly drawn quail chick?) and not the lapwing as presented in his published transcription.

  2. Campbell@Manchester

    Indeed. I think it may be a quail chick, which would support my tentative reading of mrxw, ‘Bedürfnisse(?)’ (Wb. 2, 112.9).

  3. Ken Griffin

    I totally agree. According the the Wb slips, the word is commonly written with the quail chick.

    See http://aaew.bbaw.de/tla/servlet/DzaBrowser?START.x=25&START.y=144&newpid=DZA+24.325.850&dispscale=100&set=EM&wn=74680&lastpid=24325850&wid=0

    Use the z> button to scroll through the 60+ slips.

  4. David Klotz

    I don’t see a quail chick or a pA-bird, but a pretty clear bubalis head, with two horns and one ear visible (Gard. F9). I am not sure what is behind that sign, but it appears to be a hieratic Hr-face over two strokes. Perhaps the whole wish from Ptah reads:

    “May he grant initiation into knowledge (aq-m-rx, see Wb. I, 230, 14, especially the Belegstellen), and intellectual mastery over it (i.e. knowledge; for the phrase “SsA-Hr m”, see Wb. IV, 544, 2).”

    For the first wish of Amun, the last phrase could be a variant of: r/m dd ib=f, “whenever he wishes” (lit. “whenever his heart grants”), thus: “That he may give his favors every day, and a good life whenever his Ka wishes.”

    The phrase “for the Ka of” only occurs at the end of the two wishes. In other words, it’s a royal offering for Amun (…”may he grant favor”) and Ptah (…”may he grant knowledge”).

    Great stela. Thanks for the great photo!

  5. Campbell@Manchester

    Many thanks, David!

  6. Ed Meltzer

    Thank you for the very interesting stela and discussion. I have a slightly different suggestion for the last phrase of the first wish, emended by Campbell as “for his Ka” and taken by David as “whenever his Ka wishes.” I think it’s likely to be as written, n dd kA.f, “of his Ka’s giving/which his Ka gives,” i.e. the construction of Gardiner 191, 2 and 442,5. In other words don’t think that Hall’s notation “sic” was necessary.

    Thanks again for inviting discussion of this intriguing inscription!

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