In 1819 William Bankes partially excavated the Northern Temple of Isis at Buhen and stumbled upon three stelae which had lain undisturbed for three and a half millennia.


These stelae recorded the proud words of two of Senusret I’s generals and revealed Egypt’s military conquest of the resource-rich territory between Elephantine and the 2nd-Catatact of the Nile during the Middle-Kingdom’s 12th-Dynasty.


This dissertation explores the discovery and recovery of those stelae, analyzes their historical importance, and considers their historical context.


1 Discovery and Recovery of the three Stelae from Buhen


1.1 William Bankes Expedition

William John Bankes (Figure-1.a and Figure-1.b), born 11-December-1786 and died 15-April-1855, was a wealthy heir [after inheritance his income was £8,000 a year (Sebba, 2004, p.37)] who studied at Trinity College Cambridge and obtained a BA in 1808 and an MA in 1811 (Usick, 2002, p.9-11). Some of Bankes’ contemporaries and friends, such as Lord Bryon, conceded his character to be less than prefect; he was self-important, conceited, and had a desired to be ‘the first’ even if this attracted risk; but it was commonly agreed that he was a fine classicist, linguistic skilled, and that he  possessed huge self-confidence (Usick, 2002, p.14-15).


Throughout Bankes’ studies Sir William Wynne, his Great-Uncle who was Master of Trinity Hall Cambridge [Trinity Hall and Trinity College are different Cambridge Colleges (Internet_3)] and who bequeathed Soughton Hall in Flintshire to Bankes, constantly wrote with ‘useful advice’ and especially that ‘Notes should be taken…’ and also that ‘the world is now open to the curiosity of the traveller’ (Usick, 2002, p.14-15). Bankes certainly embraced both pieces of advice by keeping a detailed yet nearly illegible and unpublished journal of this extensive travels and experiences.


1.1.1 Bankes in Europe during the Peninsular War

Bankes, after a less than successful period as the Member of Parliament for Truro and St. Austell (Usick, 2002, p.16) [Wellesley-Pole described his maiden speech to be ‘like a ranting whining bad actor’], left England on 20-January-1813 for Spain (Sebba, 2004, p.50). The ‘European Tour’ was unavailable, because of the ongoing Napoleonic Wars, and Bankes chose to spend time with Wellington during the Peninsular Campaign where he acquired a collection of Art-Works (some works he knew to have been looted (Sebba, 2004, p.54)).


1.1.2 Bankes travels to Egypt

At the end of the Napoleonic War Bankes completed the ‘European Tour’ before travelling to Egypt in September-1815 (Usick, 2002, p.28-31 and p.80). Bankes’ classical education was fully utilized during his visit to Egypt through his attempts to identify the places and ruins he visited with the Latin names from the Antonine Itinerary, a list of stations-settlements and distances along the roads of the Roman Empire (Usick, 2002, p.56). Bankes’ party eventually reached Wadi-Halfa in Nubia after recording notes and epigraphic information from the places he had explored; Bankes’ dragoman briefly noted (Finati, 1830, p.81) that there are ruins, near Wadi-Halfa, but ‘much buried in Sand’; in time these would prove to be the Fortress of Buhen.


Bankes returned to England in 1818, via the Levant, to the acclaim of his peers and society hostesses as the 'Nubian explorer'; even Byron conceded that Bankes 'has done miracles of research and enterprize' (Usick, 1998a, p.208).


He was only in England for a short period before he again prepared to leave for Egypt with the intention of visiting the Dongola Reach or even the fabled Meroë in Nubia (Manley/Rée, 2001, p.168).


1.1.3 Thomas Young

Shortly before Bankes returned to Egypt his father Henry Bankes, who was a Member of Parliament and a Trustee of the British Museum, received a letter from Thomas Young (Figure-2) (Parkinson, 1999, p.32) dated 10-Feb-1818 (Figure-3). Young was an English polymath with an interest in deciphering hieroglyphs and in his letter he wrote ‘I send you a few memorandum, which I shall be much obliged by your forwarding to your son, for the chance of his receiving them before his return to Egypt, as I doubt not that so enlightened and enterprising a traveller will be as willing as he is able to assist the promoting the investigation of the hieroglyphical antiquities of that singular country…’ Ironically 4-years later in 1822 Jean-François Champollion struggled with the same realization (Champollion, 2001, p.21) although his solution was to access additional material by forming an expedition and personally travelling to Egypt.


Bankes was astute in his evaluation of hieroglyphs; he was not as convinced as many others that hieroglyphs were used purely for religion or as Young’s letter described them ‘sacred characters’. He reasoned that the Rosetta Stone was more secular than religious and wondered if hieroglyphs were ‘worth the pains’ (Usick, 2006, p.4). I judge that Bankes, even if he had some misgivings about hieroglyphs, embraced Young’s request whether through filial duty, the sprit of discovery, or even patriotic duty; something that was demonstrated so clearly in his second expedition to Egypt and Nubia by the wealth of epigraphic and other material created.


1.1.4 Bankes returns to Wadi-Halfa

Bankes and his party arrived at Wadi-Halfa in four boats on 21-February-1819 at 3:30pm (Usick, 2002, p.122). The party included Henry Salt (British Consul to Egypt), BaronAlbert von Sack, John Hyde (traveller from Manchester) and his Greek servant Kyriaco Porithi, Alessandro Ricci (Epigraphist and Doctor, Figure-8), Henry Beechey (Artist), Linant de Bellefonds (Artist), Giovanni Finati (Dragoman), Antonia da Costa (Portuguese Servant who travelled Europe with Bankes), and a number of Egyptian servants and boat crews.


Finati (Finati, 1830, p.317-318 and p.340) indicated that Bankes’ Excavation of Buhen, which is on the west-bank of the Nile slightly south of the modern town of Wadi-Halfa, was undertaken in two stages; the-first most significant phase cleared the North Temple and discovered the stelae, the-second was more of a pastime for those left at Buhen while Bankes and a small group travelled southward.


1.1.5 Excavation of Buhen by Bankes

Finati wrote of a ‘great clearance of sand’, although the excavation area wasn’t specified he observed that ‘semicircular headed tablets, inscribed with hieroglyphics, were standing up against the walls, like tombstones’. Interestingly he explained this pursuit was not a genuine desire to excavate Buhen but ‘as a pastime’ while Bankes and Salt conducted protracted 10-day, and ultimately unsuccessful, negotiations with the local ‘Kashief’ to provide camels and an escort for a journey to the Dongola Reach and Meroë (Usick, 2002, p.123).


Drawings of the North Temple, the central-sanctuary, and three stelae (one dedicated by General Montuhotep and two by General Dedu-Intef) were made by Bankes, Ricci, and Beechey (Figures-5.a, 6.a, 7.a, and 7.b); because both Bankes and Ricci travelled southward after the first period of excavations I reason that the drawings, and therefore excavation of the North Temple, were made during this first stage of excavation.


1.1.6 Excavation of Buhen by da Costa

Antonia da Costa was left in-charge at Buhen to continue the clearance of sand while a small group comprising of Bankes, Finati, Ricci, Hyde, and Porithi, and an escort  group of five or six ‘Arabs of the Ababde tribe’ travelled South in their attempt to find Meroë (Finati, 1830, p.325-327).


Interestingly, in a time when visitors to Egypt were systematically removing artifacts as souvenirs or for their collections, Bankes left all the stelae in situ at Buhen. He also left the Dendara Zodiac and the Abydos King’s List unharmed. Sebba (2004, p.100) considers that Bankes was ‘aware of conservation issues’, although I feel that this isn’t fully valid because Bankes returned to England with a small collection of antiquities (Usick, 2006, p.3), and he also wrote from Thebes that he ‘was successful in detaching the stucco from one of the most interesting and best preserved of the lesser tombs’ (Usick, 2002, p.147).

Finati (Finati, 1830, p.325-327) explained how Bankes’ party was forced to return to Wadi-Halfa after their escort absconded with the vital camels (including their supplies) 150-miles to the south and Hyde became seriously ill. Bankes demonstrated only a ‘passing interest’ in the excavation on his return to Wadi-Halfa because he only paused a short period of time before starting the northwards journey to personally oversee Giovanni Belzoni who had been commissioned to remove an Obelisk and a suitable, but unrelated, base from Philae (Figure-4).


1.1.7 Bankes fulfils Young’s request

Bankes fulfilled Young’s 1818 request on his return to England during April-1820 by presenting Young copies of his Greek and Hieroglyphic texts; they also continued to correspond about them. Unfortunately Bankes ‘miserable indolence in writing’ (Usick, 2002, p.152) prevented him from publishing a narrative of his travels - although he did significantly edit Finati’s 1830 publication – most importantly his expedition produced over 1,500 superbly executed epigraphic drawings, plans, and paintings, including many of artefacts that have subsequently been lost or destroyed.



1.2 Franco-Tuscan expedition led by Champollion and Rosellini

Fate linked Bankes’ expedition and the 1828-9 Franco-Tuscan expedition, led by Champollion (Figure-9), through Dr. Alessandro Ricci.


1.2.1 Dr. Alessandro Ricci

Ricci studied medicine in Siena (Usick, 1998a, p.204-205) before travelling to Egypt in 1817. He was employed by Bankes during 1818-1819 and commissioned to undertake journeys, that Bankes couldn’t personally undertake, to the Siwa Oasis and the Sinai in 1820 and Meroë in 1821 (Usick, 2002, p.164).


Ricci returned to Florence in 1822, a wealthy man after saving Ibrahim-Pasha (son of Pasha Mohammad–Ali) from dysentery, and established a museum in his house using his collection of Egyptian Antiquities. Champollion visited the museum in 1825 and, when Champollion and Rosellini formed a joint expedition financed by Charles X of France, they invited Ricci to participate (Usick, 2002, p.198-199).


1.2.2 The expedition

The members of the Franco-Tuscan expedition included (Champollion, 2001, p.21):



Jean-François Champollion

Ippolito Rosellini (Champollion’s former student)





Galastri (Raddi’s assistant)





Gaerano Rosellini (Ippolito’s Uncle)

Artists and




Nestor L’Hôte,


Salvatore Cherubini

Giuseppe Angelelli


Champollion, during an audience with Pasha Mohammad–Ali on 24-Aug-1828, explained that his mission was to ‘descend till the Second Cataract’. Champollion (Champollion, 2005, p.156) wrote in his diary that ‘et le 30 [December-1828], à midi, nous sommes enfin arrives à Ouady-Halfa, à une demi-heure de la seconde cataracte’. Champollion’s diary records that Ricci had made a drawing of General Montuhotep’s stela and that finding it was his ‘first goal’ (Champollion, 2005, p.146).


1.2.3 Buhen is rediscovered

The Southern Temple allowed Champollion, with his unique ability to translate hieroglyphs, to identify the ruins to be of the Egyptian city of Béhéni [Buhen]; he determined that the fortified town’s function was to ‘contain’ the people living between the 1st and 2nd-cataract (Champollion, 2005, p.156).


After three millennia Buhen’s name became visible to history again.


1.2.4 General Montuhotep’s Stela

The search began in earnest the following day, Wednesday 31-December-1828, when Ricci recalled that the stela was within the ‘était dans le troisième salle central du sanctuaire du petit temple’ (Figure-5.a and 5.b). The boat crews set to work with shovels and pickaxes and they quickly revealed the stela which was removed from the central-sanctuary and dragged to the Nile’s edge. Interestingly there is no mention of the two stelae dedicated by General Dedu-Intefwhich were also located within the central-sanctuary (Champollion, 2005, p.161-162).


1.2.5 Stela is dispatched to Florence

During the expedition’s final morning at Wadi-Halfa (Thursday 01-January-1829) sailors loaded the stela into the Tuscan boat, even though during the previous evening’s conversation it was agreed that the stela would be given to Champollion. Perhaps Champollion was less interested in the physical ownership of the artifact and was content with the sketch made of the stela (Figure-6.b) which has significantly less epigraphic qualities than the drawings produced by the Bankes expedition– Champollionwrote to Monsieur Dacier from Wadi-Halfa (Champollion, 2001, p.143) that ‘I have the right to announce to you that nothing needs to be changed in our Letter on the Hieroglyphic Alphabet. Our Alphabet is correct…’ This began the stela’s journey from Buhen to the Museo Egizio di Firenze(Champollion, 2005, p.161-162).


Champollion and Rosellini should have supervised the sailors more closely because the lower fragment of the stela was left in-situ at Buhen’s North Temple - even though we can be sure that Champollion had observed its removal because he carefully noted that it took a mere ‘moins d’une demi-heure, aides d’une seule corde’ to remove (Champollion, 2005, p.161-162). The fragments were destined to remain separated for more than 60-years.


1.3 Sir Henry Lyons

Henry George Lyons, born 11-October-1864, died 10-August-1944 (Dowson, 1945, p.98), came from a military family and he followed his father, General Thomas Lyons, into the army and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1884. Henry was eventually posted to Cairo in 1890 during the Mahdist War (also known as ‘Sudan Campaign’ or ‘Sudanese Mahdist Revolt’).


1.3.1 Posting to Wadi-Halfa

Lyons had an interest in Geology since his childhood in Dublin and he used this knowledge when he was posted to Wadi-Halfa in October-1891 for service with the Egyptian Army within the Egyptian Frontier Force (Sandes, 1937, p.119); Wadi-Halfa was the bridge-head and rail-depot between Egypt and Sudan and was a highly-fortified outpost (Dale, 1944, p.796).


Lieutenant Lyons’ posting to Wadi-Halfa, the ‘sombre wilderness of the Batn el-Hagar’ (Sandes, 1937, p.159), allowed him to research Egyptian Antiquities and by 1892 (Dowson, 1945, p.98) he had surveyed and cleared Buhen.


Lyons rediscovered the three stelae (Laming-Macadam, 1946, p.60):


1.3.2 General Montuhotep’s Stela

The lower part of General Montuhotep’s stela, which complimented the upper fragment removed by the Champollion and Rosellini’s Franco-Tuscan expedition in 1829 (Figure-6.d), was rediscovered by Lyons.


Lyons had the lower fragment dispatched to Museo Egizio di Firenze to be reunited with the upper fragment; the fragment was received in 1893 (Bosticco, 1959, p.31).


1.3.3 General Dedu-Intef’s Stelae

Lyons noted that he had found the stelae within a ‘mass of broken and crumbled mud brick’ (Snape, 2007, p.76) indicating that the temple had suffered significant damage in the seventy-years since Bankes’ excavation. Randal-MacIver/Woolley (1911a, p.83) added that Lyons had to remove a number of layers of deposits including one of Nile Silt probably resulting from an exceptionally high inundation (the temple was located 70-meters from the Nile’s high-water mark (Caminos, 1974, p.105)). The remaining walls were only 1.4-meters high - Ricci’s painting records that the end-wall was intact to the Kheker-Frieze (approximately 2.5-meters). We can suggest that the clearance of surrounding sand by Bankes, and then by Champollion, had been contributed to the temples rapid decay.


One of General Dedu-Intef’s stelae was undamaged (Figure-7.a and Figure-7.c); the other was significantly damaged sometime after it was sketched in February-1819 (Figure-7.b) so that only one-sixth remained Usick (1998b, p.485).


Lyons wrote to Professor Schiaparelli and mentioned that both stelae had been dispatched to the British Museum - however only the complete stela was received. Usick (1998b, p.485) reveals that the Museum’s copy of JEA.32 has a hand-written pencil note saying that only the complete stela (EA 1177) was received. It is conceivable that the badly damaged fragment found by Lyons was considered to be of such little value that it was discarded somewhere between Buhen and the British Museum. The missing fragment may remain under Lake Nasser and it is unlikely that the lost fragment will be rediscovered.


Reports of Lyon’s recovery of the stelae indicate that he is a Captain. He was gazetted Captain on 11-October-1892 and posted to Cairo as Assistant Quarter Master General on Lord Kitchener’s staff. When he recovered the stelae he was a Lieutenant (Internet_1). His duties allowed him ‘some flexibility’ and Frothingham (1894,p.260-261) reported that by 1894 Lyons had continued his work at Buhen.


1.4 Final steps in the decipherment of Hieroglyphs

Young and Champollion were the principle protagonists in the race to decipher hieroglyphs; this dated to a period when England and France had recently been at War for many years (Parkinson, 1999, p.31).


1.4.1 Bankes’ Obelisk and Base

In 1821 Bankes’ Obelisk and also a red-granite base arrived in England having been discovered in 1815 and dispatched to his ancestral home at Kingston Hall, later Kingston Lacy (Parkinson, 1999, p.33). The base contained Greek inscriptions from PtolemyVIIIEuergetesII, who ruled Egypt between 170-116BCE (Shaw, 2002,p.482) and the priests of Isis on Philae in 124BCE. Bankes was able to determine that the cartouche on the base was that of Ptolemy’s queen CleopatraIII. The Obelisk and base contained useful additional information to the Rosetta Stone excavated from Fort St. Julian by Pierre François Xavier Bouchard in 1799 (Parkinson,1999,p.20); interestingly Young’s letter to Bankes says that a missing fragment of the Rosetta Stone would ‘be worth its weight in diamonds’. Ironically it was the Obelisk’s base that allowed Champollion to make his first major breakthrough (Champollion, 2001, p.130). In 1821 Bankes (Hooker, 2004, p.126) had a lithograph made of both the Greek and hieroglyphic texts and noted that the cartouches from the base and the Rosetta Stone were identical – Bankes also included his determination of the names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. When Champollion received a copy it ‘turned bewildering investigation into brilliant and continuous decipherment’ (Hooker, 2004, p.126).


1.4.2 Bankes and Huyot at Abu Simbel

Bankes cleared some of the sand from RamessesII’s temple at Abu Simbel; this revealed many hieroglyphic texts which Bankes correctly determined to name RamessesII (Usick, 2002, p.119) but it also revealed a Greek inscription on one of the colossus’ legs naming Ramesses [Psammetichus] (James, 1997, p.93). Jean-Nicolas Huyot was at Abu Simbel with the Bankes party and he also recorded the text which contained the nomen of Ramesses and Thutmosis within cartouches (Parkinson, 1999, p.35). By-chance Huyot had been a member of the 1817 Cléopâtra expedition under Auguste de Forbin which had also included Linant de Bellefonds (member of Bankes’ party).


1.4.3 Champollion ‘wins the race’

Champollion had asked Huyot to copy texts whilst in Egypt (Usick, 2002, p.79); Huyot sent these texts to Champollion who, on the very day he received them (Saturday 14-September-1822), rushed to his brother, declaring ‘je tiens l’affaire’ before collapsing for 5 days (Adkins/Adkins, 2002, p.181). The direct result was that Champollion ‘won’ the race when, 13-days after collapsing, he read, with Young in the audience, his Lettre à M. Dacier at the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres in Paris on Friday 27-Spetember-1822 (Parkinson, 1999, p.35).


Young, Champollion, and Bankes were fated to be entwined in the deciphering of hieroglyphs and I agree with Daniels who wrote (Parkinson, 1999, p.40) that ‘decipherment has to stand or fall as a whole’ and I agree with Parkinson’s opinion that Young revealed part of the key to the alphabet but Champollion ‘unlocked the entire language’. Young’s work, assisted by Bankes epigraphic drawings and research, was carefully acknowledged by Champollion in 1824 when he said ‘I recognise that [Young] was the first to publish some correct distinctions concerning the general nature of these writings…’


2 The Stelae


2.1 The Temple and the Central-Sanctuary

The University of Pennsylvania excavation by Randall-MacIver and Woolley (1909-1910) established that the temple (Figure-11.a) was re-built for Amenhotep-II (ruled 1427-1400-BCE (Shaw, 2002, p.482)) and it replaced a temple built for Ahmose (ruled 1550-1525-BCE (Shaw, 2002, p.482)) and both Ahmose and Amenhotep included dedications to Horus of Buhen. Porter/Moss (1995, p.129) confirm that the temple was dedicated to Isis although it was notable for its ‘poverty and insignificance’ (Randal-MacIver/Woolley, 1911a, p.89) and its irregular rooms (Figure-5.b).


2.1.1 North Temple of Ahmose

Kamose, Ahmose’s uncle (Dodson/Hilton, 2004, p.124) who died of combat wounds after a short reign, re-captured Buhen from the ruler of Kush by his 3rd regnal-year (Shaw, 2002, p.207). I suggest that Ahmose’s temple may have been built quickly during the turbulent beginning of the 18th-Dynasty, while Ahmose was battling Avaris and possibly before he vanquished Nubia (Edwards/Gadd/Hammond/Sollberger, 1973, p.296-298).


2.1.2 North Temple of Amenhotep II

Ahmose’s temple was replaced by that of AmenhotepII; the last King with an inscription recorded within the temple is RamessesXI of the 19th-Dynasty (Porter/Moss, 1995, p.130) [Carian inscriptions were not found (Masson, 1978)].


Usick (1999, p.334) quotes Bankes who realized that General Montuhotep’s stela had been ‘placed there subsequently’ because the rear-wall on which it leaned was smooth and plastered. I disagree with Caminos (1974, p.106) suggestion that the stelae were placed in Amenhotep’s temple to add ‘lustre’ and I consider that they were placed within the central-sanctuary of the North Temple for their symbolism which emphasised the parallels between Ahmose and Amenhotep’s similar victories and, by-extension, reigns.


2.1.3 Central-Sanctuary

The central-sanctuary, as measured by Bankes, is 17’7” long and 10’7” wide (Figure-5.a) and Bankes described it as having brilliant colouring (Bankes,1923,p.121). Bankes’ plan did not record that the rear-wall was narrower than the entrance-wall and that the room was somewhat irregular, as Emery’s plan demonstrates (Figure-5.b). Snape (2007,p.76) calculated that the floor-level of the inner-sanctuary was only marginally higher, perhaps 10-15-cm, than the courtyard floor and Bankes (1923,p.121) wrote in 1819 that the other chambers were probably ‘loftier’. This conforms to the usual design of Temples where the most sacred room had the lowest-ceiling and the highest-floor (Bell,2005,p.133).


The rear-wall, painted by Ricci (Figure-6.c), is depicted as being decorated with a red and black border and a yellow and grey Kheker-Frieze [decorative element representing upright bundles of reeds (Arnold,2003,p.122)] and having a curved or arched wall (Usick,1998b,p.485-487). This would suggest the each of the roofs of the inner-courts may have been covered by an arched roof which was individually constructed to span each chamber. The Northern temple is predominantly constructed from mud-brick (Randal-MacIver/Woolley,1911a,p.105); the inner-courts lack stone pillars which are commonly found in Egyptian temples to support a conventional flat roof (Arnold,2003,p.204). This may be unusual in Egyptian temples but this building technique is common to many Nubia buildings (Randal-MacIver/Woolley,1911a,p.84) and Figure-10 shows a contemporary example.


2.2 Stela of General Montuhotep

The stela (Figure-6.a and Figure-6.d) celebrates the General’s victories over ten locations in Nubia during the 18th regnal-year of the reign of SenusretI (ruled 1956-1911BCE (Shaw, 2002, p.480)). It was found by Bankes (Usick, 1998b, p.484-485) leaning against the rear-wall, see Figure-5.a highlighted in red [the empty round-topped niche is smaller than General Montuhotep’s stela].


2.2.1 Description of the Stela

The sandstone stela is held by the Museo Egizio di Firenze and is in two distinct fragments (inventory numbers 2540a and 2540b); 2540a was recovered by the Franco-Tuscan expedition and 2540b by Captain Lyons (Bosticco, 1959, p.31). The fragments are approximately 1.05-meters wide and 1.92-meters tall.


The stela has been described in detail in Bosticco (1959, p.31-33), Breasted (1906, 247-250), and Smith (1976, p.39-41); in summary:


SenusretI (Figure-13), protected by Horus-Behdet, presents to Montu the captured locations within TA Sty [Nubia (Internet_2)].


mnTw [deity Montu (Wilkinson, 2003, p.203-204)] was a falcon-headed war-god venerated in Thebes and who was closely associated with the Middle-Kingdom; the Nomen shared by 11th-Dynasty Kings’ was Montuhotep [Montu-is-Content (Internet_2)]. mnTwholds four ropes which are joined to ten captured and restrained figures with fortified ovals; each oval contains the name of a defeated foreign-land.


Montuhotep recorded his titles and honours within the Egyptian nobility, his military titles, and extolled that he annihilated the peoples of this region on the lower section of the stela which has been badly damaged.



2.2.2 Ten locations in Nubia

Smith (1976, p.39) explains the importance of Ricci’s drawing in helping understand the names of the localities. Smith, Breasted, and Bosticco differ slightly in their interpretation of the locations and only Smith had viewed Ricci’s 1819 drawing:




Suggested Location











imA or iAm













Sai Island





Smyk kAs

O’Connor (1986, p.42) confirms that kAs [Kush] is the first location recorded on the stela and O’Connor (1978, p.64) also wrote that this is the earliest mention of kAs. The location of Kush is still debated; O’Connor (1986, p.39) and Tyson-Smith (2003, p.75) agree that Kush, as defined by Egypt, was a region stretching between the 2nd and 4th-cataracts and is not a locality as the stela implies. yA and imA

Adams (1977, p.158 and p.186) thought that yA was not recorded after the 6th-Dyansty when King Merenre sent Iri and his son Harkhuf to Yam ‘to explore the way there’ and where Harkhuf  later met the Chief of Yam (Goedicke, 1981, p.2 and p.9) but Montuhotep’s stela disproves this.


Smith (1976, p.39) and Trigger (1976, p.54-56) identify imA with a location mentioned in the 6th-Dynasty by Weni and visited by Harkhuf. However other sources, such as Goedicke (1981, p.1-2 and p.7-8) and Lichtheim (1975, p.19) refer to visiting yA, not imA. Ricci’s painting (Figure-6.a) clearly uses different hieroglyphs for the locations of yA and imA. Montuhotep may have known these to be different locations or alternatively that yA was an archaic toponym and the stela includes this as a location, and possibly others, to stress the importance of his achievements. SAat

SAat can be firmly located as Sai Island (ancient name of Sha’t) and the Kingdom of  SAat (Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.134) and the Temple of Kumma (Caminos, 1998, p.3 and p.51) has five inscriptions of HD nfr n SAat [fine white stone of Sha’t] on its door jambs. Sequence of the locations

The stela should not be confused with a geographic map, it is unlikely that locations only represent distinct tribal-lands, and I concur with Kemp (2001, p.134) that kAs is both a specific location and a term associated with a region. The locations may imply a north-south sequence, Posener (O’Connor, 1986, p.39) believes that this is supported by Execration Texts [such as the cache excavated at Mirgissa which included the chiefs from south of the 2nd and 3rd-Cataracts, Nubian desert regions and the Medjay people (Seidlmayer, 2001, p.308)] which list kAs before SAat, but an equally valid possibility is that the north-south sequence is determined by the four ropes binding the prisoners and that the first three locations are valid but the remaining seven might be read either right-to-left or left-to-right (making imA either the most southerly or northerly location).


2.2.3 General Montuhotep and his Army

Breasted (1906, p.249) and Bosticco (1959, p.31-33) wrote that Montuhotep’s inscription said: 18th Regnal-Year

The stela refers to 18th regnal-year of SenusretI. Grajetzki (2006, p.33) argues that Amenemhat I (ruled 1985-1956-BCE (Shaw, 2002, p.480)) instigated a coregency during his 20th regnal-year with his son Senusret. The coregency of Amenemhat and Senusret is debated, primarily because stela CG20514 may be interpreted to record either a 10-year coregency or a 10-year period of time (Murnane, 2001, p.308). I concur with Grajetzki that it did exist in common with other 12th-Dynasty coregencies such as Senusret-I and Amenemhat-II and Amenemhat-II and Senusret-II. The regnal-years of Senusret and Amenemhat were counted independently – so Senusret’s 1st-year is also Amenemhat’s 20th-year and when General Montuhotep was campaigning in Nubia Senusret had only ruled independently for up-to 8-years.


Coregencies provided a practical division-of-responsibilities and continuity between rulers. Lichtheim (1975, p.135-139) explained that the didactic ‘Instruction of King Amenemhat-I to his son Senusret [Sesostris]’ indicates that Amenemhat was assassinated and that Senusret was an experienced leader when he suddenly became king - both Montuhotep’s stela and the ‘Story of Sinuhe’ (Lichtheim, 1975, p.222-235) demonstrate this. Sinuhe explains the division of responsibilities within the coregency saying that Amenemhat ‘stayed in his palace’ and that Senusret was the ‘smiter of foreign lands’. At least one previous campaign into Nubia is recorded (Grajetzki, 2006, p.43) and although Montuhotep’s stela does not confirm that the King was present Breasted (1906, p.247) and Grajetzki (2006, p.42) agree that tomb inscriptions of Sarenput [Governor of Elephantine] and Amenemhat [Governor of Beni-Hassan] suggests that Senusret was personally present in Nubia during the campaign. Secular Role

Breasted (1906, p.249) and Bosticco (1959, p.32-33) listed Montuhotep impressive series of titles. Leprohon (1993, p.424) described some of his titles to be within the ‘Inner Palace’ indicating that they were some of the most senior roles within the King’s retinue. The titles included:


Prince [HAty-aNomarch (Leprohon, 1993, p.425)]


Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt [sDAwty-bity(Smith, 1976, p.40)]

Sole Companion and Confidante (of the King)

Councilman of the prosperity of royal court

He who it eases it way [of the King]

Wearer of the royal seal

Governor of Dep, Lord of Pe

Son of Ahmu [sA-amu(Smith, 1976, p.41)]


Montuhotep was the Governor of dp [Dep] and an inhabitant of p [Pe] which is located on the northern Nile Delta 20 miles from the Mediterranean coast (Von Der Way, 2001, p.218). dp and p were within the Lower Egypt’s 5th Nome (Baines/Málek, 1980, p.15 and p.170) and were two parts of the ancient town pr-wADyt[home of Edjo (Internet_2)].


Montuhotep’s reference to dp and p reveals his families’ origins but as the King’s Treasurer I consider that he would have ‘worked’ close to the King’s residence in the capital Amenemhat-Itj-Tawy (Shaw, 2002, p.158) or wherever the royal retinue was located. Military Titles and Role

Breasted (1906, p.249) and Bosticco (1959, p.32-33) translated Montuhotep’s military titles and Smith (1976, p.40-41) added transliterationsas:


overseer-of-recruits (General)


overseer-of-the-army (General)



Faulkner (1953, p.37) explains that in the 12th-Dynasty Nomarchs effectively retained private or local armies (Figures-12.a and 12.b) but the King would draw on these trained troops when required. Faulkner added that the King would also have maintained a standing national army to enforce the ‘King’s peace’ and this force was recruited by conscription and could be deployed in military or labour duties (such as mining-expeditions or building-projects). For example Sadek (1980, p.1 and p.17-18) recorded an expedition during Senusret’s 17th regnal-year to mine Amethyst in Wadi Huda [20-miles south-east of Aswan]. The expedition, as well as specialists, contained 1,000 xpSw [possibly conscripted recruits for manual activities] from the Southern City [Thebes], 200 aHAwty from Elephantine, and 100 aHAwty from Kom Ombo (Faulkner, 1953, p.40). Faulkner defined aHAwty as warrior or professional soldier but Stefanovié (2007, p.123) wrote that although aHAwty means soldier or warrior it ranks lower than anx [the ordinary soldier] and that aHAwty were recruited from different Nomes; the Semna Dispatches (Smither, 1945, p.6-10) indicate that their function included controlling and monitoring the movements of non-Egyptians within Lower-Nubia.


Fields (2007, p.8) writes that Egyptian soldiers spent very little time on military operations and that they were primarily used as an unskilled labour force. The Middle-Kingdom army was comprised entirely of infantry and included archers, slingers, spearmen, and axmen who had minimal bodily defence except cow-hide shields (Adams, 1977, p.182). Recruits were unlikely to be content with being taken from their homes and families to distant and hostile lands and Simpson (1978, p.346) in ‘Hardships of the Soldier’s Life’ recorded a Ramesside didactic text to say:


A solider is a much castigated one

He is beaten like papyrus and wounded

His carries his rations like the load of an Ass

He returns to Egypt like a worm devoured stick


The most senior military title in the 12th-Dynasty (Faulkner, 1953, p.37) was imy-r-mSi-wr [generalissimo, but not necessarily a field-commander] and the person holding this title was associated with the King’s Army and not a local force. If the King or imy-r-mSi-wr were not present a military or labour force was commanded by an imy-r-mSi [general] such as Montuhotep. Faulkner (1953, p.38) observed that during a single mining expedition to Sinai there were 10 individuals described as imy-r-mSi.


The textual evidence does indicate whether Montuhotep was imy-r-mSi in the King’s army, whether he was commanding troops from dp that constituted his private army, or if he was the King’s representative with field-command of a number of imy-r-mSi. It is highly unlikely that a Nome in Lower Egypt would dispatch troops to Nubia without support from other Nomes; so I suggest that this was a combined force of local and national troops possibly under the sole command of Montuhotep. Transport and Logistics

Montuhotep does not mention shipping but O’Connor (1986, p.49) proposes that during this campaign an Egyptian war-fleet broke through the 2nd and 3rd-Cataracts to the Dongola Reach ‘inflicting considerable damage on the riverine communities’. The logistical challenges of moving an army from different locations within Egypt to the 2nd-Cataract, and possibly beyond, suggests that a large number of ships would have been employed to transport the troops and their supplies.


Nicoll (2004, p.249-250) explained that in 1885-CE, during the Mahdist War, an army sailed up-stream through the 2nd-Cataract using 6,000 local labourers, specialized boats and watermen, and steal hawsers. For an Egyptian army to navigate the cataract without exposing their troops and supplies to significant risk would have been a challenge. I suggest that shipping and supplies may have been moved over-land to avoid the risk of loss. SenusretI, during his 24th regnal-year, dispatched Antefoqer and Ameny to ‘the mine in Punt’ (Fabre, 2005, p.41 and p.82-83) which involved a voyage on the wAD-wr[Great Green (Internal_2)]. Ships were built at Getbu [Koptos (Baines/Málek, 1980, p.111)] and transported across the dessert to the Red Sea before being re-constructed. This demonstrates that ships were successfully moved over long distances and taking a land-route to avoid the cataract would have been very possible.


Montuhotep did not record the size of his army or the duration of the campaign. To invade such a large region would have required a force of some size not only of soldiers but also support personnel. The region was thought to be lightly-populated (O’Connor, 1993, p.3) and I suggest that Montuhotep did not require an army of tens-of-thousands. Montuhotep might have commanded a force of between 2,000 and 4,000 troops and for combat-operations using ships a smaller number would have been deployed, possibly as few as 2,000 combat-troops, over a 90-day campaign.


Kemp (2006, p.175 and 177-178) used wooden tallies from the Middle-Kingdom fortress at Uronarti to determine that each solider was allocated two-thirds of a Hekat (a measure of volume equal to 4.78 litres [0.00478 of a cubic meter]) of barley and one Hekat of wheat every ten-days. This was not the only rations that a soldier was provided but it can be used to estimate the amount of grain required to support a force of 2,000 combat-troops for a 90-day campaign:


For each Soldier


Wheat @ 3.75 Kg/Hekat * 1.00 per10-days

3.75 Kg

Barley @ 3.37 Kg/Hekat * 0.66 per10-days

2.25 Kg

10-days ration for each soldier

6.00 Kg

Multiply by nine (90-day campaign)

54.00 Kg



For a combat-force of 2,000 soldiers


Multiply by 2,000 soldiers (2,000 * 54 Kg)

108 Tons


This calculation is approximate because the source is not exact and only includes grain rations for garrison troops. It does reveal some of the logistical challenges that were overcome during the campaign; I suggest that for 2,000 combat-troops a ration of 108 Tons would be required, plus a myriad of other military supplies, and this is a significant volume and weight of supplies to transport over long distances and difficult terrain. An army would forage but in this desolate region that would have provided minimal supplies. Kemp (2006, p.179) has stressed that the Uronarti grain allowance represented a ‘minimum ration’ so may not be sufficient for sustenance during combat operations.


Kemp (2006, p.241) stressed the important of grain storage within granaries and wrote that they were part of the Egyptian ‘integrated strategy of defence and Attack’ and that ‘granaries belong to a carefully planned chain of supply’. The Egypt Exploration Society excavation of Buhen (Emery/Smith/Millard, 1979, p.11) revealed large Middle-Kingdom granaries; it is certain that Granaries must have been constructed and filled by Senusret’s 18th regnal-year for Buhen to be an effective supply-depot for the campaign. Did Montuhotep fall from Favour..?

Breasted (1906, p.249) noted that the stela, to the left of Senusret, has an image of a hawk-headed deity, Smith (1976, p.40) identified the figure as Horus, and that it was inscribed over the original figure and hieroglyphs (Ricci’s painting shows the hieroglyphs). Breasted wrote that this was probably a figure of Montuhotep holding a fan over the head of Senusret and, because it had been over-carved, Montuhotep must have ‘fallen into disfavour’. Smith (1976, p.40) acknowledges the over-carving but does not propose an explanation.


I suggest that if Montuhotep fell into disfavour his name might also have been over-carved and I do not find Breasted’s assumption convincing. An alternative is that some time after the stela was commissioned it was thought more appropriate that Horus of Buhen, rather than an individual, should be depicted supporting Senusret or even as a result political correctness after SenusretIII fundamentally reorganized of the country and eliminated the power of Nomarchs (Grajetzki, 2006, p.57-58). Ethnic cleansing..?

Breasted(1906, p.249) and Bosticco <1959,P.31-32) have similar translations of

Montuhotep’s treatment of the local population during the campaign:


Their life is finished

Slain …

Fire in their tents

Her grain cast into the Nile


A similar inscription (Parkinson, 2004, p.95-96) was discovered at el-Girgawi (in the vicinity of Korosko (Baines/Málek, 1980, p.179) approximately 100-miles down-stream of Buhen) amongst over seventy crude graffiti dated to Amenemhat and SenusretI. An inscription by ‘Intefiqer, who was called Gem’, says:


I am… from Luxor

I went upstream slaughtering Nubians

I came back downstream stripping crops

Cutting down the rest of their trees

Put fire to their homes


I consider that Montuhotep’s inscription, supported by corroborating information from Intefiqer, is not merely bombastic prose but a vivid description of the punitive nature the campaign and the inscription implies that the local population was purged from this region, their dwellings destroyed, and their food and future seed crops, were eradicated. We might judge this to be ethnic cleansing of the region.


The purging of the indigenous population was not totally successful. During SenusretIII’s 16th regnal-year stelae were erected at Semna and Uronarti which echo previous claims and indicate that the region was still populated (Parkinson, 2004, p.43-44):


One is aggressive to him and he shows his back

Retreat and he becomes aggressive

[Nubians are] not people to be respected

They are wretches, broken-hearted!


I have plundered their women,

Carried off their underlings

Driven off their bulls

Torn up their corn and put fire to it


2.2.4 General Montuhotep, Summary

General Montuhotep’s stela, although badly damaged, is a vital record of Egypt’s determination to control this region and to remove all resistance; it establishes actions, places, and people within a single historical context. Although Bankes expedition revealed this stela it was Champollion, with his ability to read the inscriptions, who recognized its importance as a record of events that happened nearly four millennia ago.


2.3 Two similar Stelae of General Dedu-Intef

The stelae (Figures 7a, 7.b, and 7.c) commemorate General Dedu-Intef and date to the reign of SenusretI. They were originally set into recesses in the left and right walls of the central-sanctuary (Figure-5 highlighted in green). They were discovered by Bankes (Usick, 1998b, p.484-485) in-situ and removed by Lyons from a ‘mass of broken and crumbled mud brick’ (Snape, 2007, p.76).


2.3.1 Description of Stela EA 1177

Stela EA 1177, inscribed into yellow sandstone, is held by the British Museum and was registered in 1894 (Smith, 1976, p.50). It is 116cm wide and 63cm tall (Figure 7.c). The inscription of the missing stela has been described in detail in Laming-Macadam (1946, p.60-61) and Smith (1976, p.50-52) compares both stelae. Royal Titulary

Smith (1976, p.50) observed that EA 1177 has more text than the missing stela. The Royal Titulary on the missing stela is 66cm wide with 50cm of text, EA 1177 has a narrower Titulary, 46cm, and 70cm of text. EA 1177 has proportionally more text and, therefore, more descriptive information.


The hieroglyphs (Internet_2) represent the Horus name of SenusretI, Hr-anx-mswt [Horus, Living of births], Prenomen xpr-kA-ra [Ka of Re has come to life] and Nomen s-n-wsrt [Man of the Strong One].


Senusret is associated with wADyton the missing stela and mnTw(see2.2.1) on both stelae. wADyt is usually shown in the form of an erect Cobra and was the titulary deity of Lower Egypt (Wilkinson, 2003, p.226). Dedu-Intef’s titles

Laming-Macadam (1946, p.61) recorded Dedu-Intef’s titles, which are similar to Montuhotep’s, to include:





Sole Companion

Priest of the secrets which only one hears Self-praise of Dedu-Intef

Dedu-Intef included many bombastic self-praising phrases onto the stelae (Laming-Macadam, 1946, p.61):


Great in his office

Mighty in his dignity

Magistrate at the forefront of the people

Confidant of Horus Lord of the Palace

Trusted one of the king in quelling the rebellious Military roles

Dedu-Intef included three military roles within the stela (Laming-Macadam, 1946, p.61):



overseer-of-shock-troops (Faulkner, 1953, p.38)


overseer-of-recruits (Faulkner, 1953, p.39)


Each stela has a final imy-r followed by hieroglyphs with an unclear meaning; Smith (1976, p.51) offers that this could be overseer-of-plans but this is unsupported.


Faulkner (1953, p.40) also suggested that the title’s order determines their seniority therefore overseer-of-shock-troops is junior to overseer-of-recruits.



2.3.2 General Dedu-Intef, Summary

General Dedu-Intef’s stelae contain autobiographical and self-praising information and are dated to Senusret-I and indicate Dedu-Intef’s military roles. However they contain very little information of historical interest and without their find-spot being known they would be historically insignificant.


2.4 Careers after the Nubian Campaign

After their victorious campaign in Nubia we might expect that these two individuals would re-appear within Egyptian History.


From Montuhotep’s stela we have an extensive list of his Secular and Military titles. The bottom left of the stela has an inscription suggesting that Montuhotep was the Son of Ahmu [sAamu (Smith, 1976, p.41)] but the stela is extensively damaged in this section and Ricci’s version also shows damage and the hieroglyphs are unclear (Figure-6.a and Figure-6.d); Smith must have relied on Ricci’s copy to determine the name of Ahmu.


From the Old-Kingdom the King’s tomb was surrounded by the tombs of his officials and relatives (Arnold, 2008, p.13, p.38-39). SenusretI was buried within a pyramid at Lisht-South which was completed by his 25th regnal-year close to the capital Amenemhat-Itj-Tawy. One Mastaba, located against the Enclosure-Wall of Senusret’s complex and excavated by the Metropolitan Museum in the 1990s, was that of Montuhotep; Arnold (2008, p.39) explained that Montuhotep ‘first appears’ in an inscription dating to Senusret’s 18th regnal-year but unfortunately he doesn’t explain whether this is related to the stela.


The extensive Tomb of Montuhotep contained titles including (Arnold, 2008, p.38-45):



Treasurer [Overseer-of-what-is-sealed (Arnold, 2008, Plate.70)]

Spokesman of every Pe and Dep

Royal Seal Bearer

Sole Companion

Vizier (?)

Mayor of the Pyramid City (possibly AmenemhatI)

Son of As-en-Ka


The titles within the Tomb of Montuhotep, which are significantly damaged, have a similarity to those inscribed on the stela plus additional ones which might be expected during a successful career; these included being granted additional responsibilities such as Mayor of the Pyramid City and possible Vizier.


The Tomb of Montuhotep does not contain any military titles.


Arnold (2008, p.41) records the owner to be the Son of As-en-Ka but the stela records that Montuhotep is possibly the Son of Ahmu. Arnold offers the possibility that the tomb’s inscription is incorrect (Figure-14) because only a that few ‘pieces of the inscriptions had been preserved’ and the name was possibly ///nb//n kA/// or ///s n kA n///(?). In a personal email to author Arnold confirmed that fragments of Montuhotep’s statues, recorded in Obsomer’s ‘Sesostris Ier’ (1995, p.22-27), suggest his mother’s name was As-en-Ka and that the tomb does not indicate the name.


Although the Tomb and stela may be for the same individual, on balance, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate this.


3 Historical Context of the Stelae


3.1 Geographic and Spatial

3.1.1 Nubia

By the Old-Kingdom Egyptians referred to the region between Aswan and the 2nd-Cataract as Wawat [wAwAt (Internet_2)]; modern-texts often refer to Wawat as Lower-Nubia - which is now submerged within Lake Nasser (Welsby, 1998, p.7). Morkot (2000, p.48) explains that during the 6th-Dynasty the Chiefs of Wawat, Irtjet, Yam, Satju, and Mejda were in Egypt’s service but over time these Tribes merged into a single entity under the Chief of Wawat. Tyson-Smith (2003, p.57) makes a good observation that Wawat is not a geographically location but the ethnic grouping of the Wawat peoples.


Batn el-Hagar [Belly of the Rock (Morkot, 2000, p.5)] is the Arabic name for the 2nd-Cataract. Tyson-Smith (2003, p.75-76) says that Batn el-Hagar [Hajar] was both the political and cultural boundary that demarked Egypt during the Middle-Kingdom and this formed a natural barrier and buffer-zone between Lower-Nubia and Upper-Nubia.


Upper-Nubia is the region up-stream of the 2nd-Cataract stretching to the 4th-Cataract (Morkot, 2000, p.5) and it was under the influence of the Kingdom of Kush [Kerma] (Tyson-Smith, 2003, p.76).


3.1.2 Lower-Nubia Terrain

Egypt and Nubia share the Nile but their geography is distinct. Egypt fringes the slow-moving Nile and man-made irrigation makes the broad floor-plains into fertile bands of land (Brooklyn Museum, 1978, p.17). Nubia is generally harsher and hyper-arid; arable land occurs in disconnected patches and often wind-blown sands or weather-smooth Granite Mountains extend directly to the Nile’s edge.


The geological composition of Nubia is complex; igneous and metamorphic rock from the Basement Complex has been uplifted and exposed in this area. The Nile has eroded the soft overlying Nubian sandstone and carved deep channels that expose the igneous rocks. Cataracts have been formed from where the Basement Complex, is exposed (Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.40) and the Nile’s flow is separated by six cataracts (Stern/Abdelsalam, 1996, p.1696) which deter navigation forming rapids of fast-flowing water punctuated by outcrops of rock.


3.1.3 Wadi el-Allaqi

Figure-11.b shows the location of Wadi el-Allaqi and Figure-11.c shows the location of gold-mines. It is comprised of an extensive network of broad Wadi [dry riverbed] and joins the Nile at Kubban. From slag-heaps at Kubban Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd (2001, p.122) argue that the Wadi also contains Copper and they also presume that this was the main area of contact with the Medjay peoples.


3.1.4 Lower-Nubia Population

Trigger suggests that Lower-Nubia may have had a population of 17,000 people (Adams, 1977, p.159) and Tyson-Smith suggests 20,000 (2003, p.75). Morkot (2000, p.45) explained that surveys of Lower-Nubia indicate that the region was depopulated during the Old-Kingdom and by the Middle-Kingdom the region was thought to be lightly-populated; O’Connor (1993, p.3) says that there was a ‘ribbon’ of villages along the west-bank of the Nile, except within the Cataracts, and that nomadic pastoralists grazed areas along the Nile. Gohary (1998, p.7-8) adds that the region was populated by the C-Group culture which had slowly migrated into the area as Egypt’s involvement diminished during the First-Intermediate-Period. Edwards (2005, p.88) supports Morkot’s opinion adding that it is ‘difficult to identify any significant settlement’ and that repopulation of the region was a lengthy process. On balance I consider that Trigger and Tyson-Smith’s estimates are high for such a rugged and inhospitable environment and I suggest a more realistic population was 10,000 people including nomadic pastoralists.


3.2 The Middle-Kingdom, a Classical-Period

The Middle-Kingdom was viewed by the Egyptians, during the New-Kingdom and even the Late-Period, as being a time of “unprecedented wealth and stability" (Grajetzki, 2006, p.1) and where political stability was matched by a Classical-Period of Egyptian Arts, History, and Literature.


3.2.1 Chronology of the Middle-Kingdom

The division of the First-Intermediate-Period - which separates the Old-Kingdom and the Middle-Kingdom - is open to interpretation; I support Shaw and Grajetzki’s view that the First-Intermediate-Period was before-unification (9th, 10th, and the 1st-part of the 11th-Dynasty) and the Middle-Kingdom was after-unification (rulers from Montuhotep-II onwards):




Before Unification

9th and 10th-Dynasties(Herakleopolitan)


Khety-(Meryibra) 2160-2025


Coeval with



11th-Dynasty (Thebes only)


Intef-II-(Wahankh) 2125-2055








Montuhotep-II 2055-2004
Montuhotep-III 2004-1992
Montuhotep-IV 1992-1985



Amenemhat-I-(Sehetepibra) 1985-1956
Senusret-I-(Kheperkara) 1956-1911
Amenemhat-II-(Nubkaura) 1911-1877
Senusret-II-(Khakheperra) 1877-1870
Senusret-III-(Khakaura) 1870-1831
Amenemhat-III-(Nimaatra) 1831-1786
Amenemhat-IV-(Maakherura) 1786-1777
Queen-Sobekneferu-(Sobekkara) 1777-1773

(Shaw, 2002, p.480); dates areBCE



3.2.2 11th Dynasty, Unification

MontuhotepII ruled for 51-years and was respected by subsequent Kings as a unifier of Egypt and the Middle-Kingdom’s founder - a Classical-Period which spanned nearly 200-years. Montuhotep changed his titulary a number of times; finally to ‘he who united the two countries’ which suggests that Egypt was unified from his 39th regnal-year or 2016BCE (Grajetzki, 2006, p.19).


Grajetzki (2006, p.20) writes that by the end of Montuhotep’s reign Lower-Nubian tribes were paying tribute to Egypt, although it is not know if this resulted from Egypt subduing the region through military-campaigns or whether it was though more peaceful trading-relationships.


3.2.3 12th Dynasty, Stability, and Empire

A wealth of written information from the 12th-Dynasty is found in literature, statues, temple inscriptions, inscription from military, mining, and trading expeditions, cemeteries, pyramids and tombs, and stela such as those of General Montuhotep and General Dedu-Intef.


Grajetzki (2006, p.28) suggests that the founder of the 12th-Dyansty, Amenemhat-I, had been Montuhotep-IV’s Vizier. Senusret-I succeeded the throne after a period of coregency and the ‘Instruction of King Amenemhat-I to his son Senusret [Sesostris]’ (Lichtheim, 1975, p.135-139) and the ‘Story of Sinuhe’ (Lichtheim, 1975, p.222-235) demonstrates that succession at the beginning of the Dynasty was contested (see-


Amenemhat expanded Egypt’s territory through military-might against the lands adjacent to Egypt (Libya, Western-Asia, and Nubia) and Senusret commanded some of the major military-campaigns (Grajetzki, 2006, p.31). Inscriptions in near Korosko (see- in Lower-Nubia (Figure-11.b) demonstrate that Egypt campaigned in Nubia before Amenemhat had reunited Upper and Lower Egypt. The ‘Instruction of King Amenemhat-I to his son Senusret [Sesostris]’ records that Amenemhat had ‘captured the Mejday’ and these skilled warriors may have been used in Amenemhat’s conflict with the Herakleopolitan House of Khety. I suggest that this demonstrates that controlling this ­region’s resources contributed to Egypt’s reunification. 


Senusret-I continued his father’s policies of monumental building, maximizing trade via long-distance trade-routes and mining expeditions, and empire building (Grajetzki, 2006, p.36 and p.42). Senusret is credited with the consolidation of the Lower-Nubian Empire (Tyson-Smith, 2003, p.64). The policy towards Lower-Nubia can be deduced as one of prolonged military activity to establish Egyptian suzerainty - which was maintained by the strategic placement of fortresses and garrisons. Egyptian policy achieved the objectives of totally protecting and controlling their borders, trade-routes through Lower-Nubia to Egypt (Morkot, 2000, p.54), and access to prestige commodities (see-3.3.1). The 12th-Dynasty rulers, who succeeded Senusret, continued to evolve these policies and they employed military force and sustain Egypt’s Empire and uninterrupted economic wealth only when it was economically expedient.


3.2.4 13th Dynasty, Decline

The 200-year Classical-Period of the 12th-Dynasty came to an end without any indication of crisis (Grajetzki, 2006, p.63-74) and it was followed by the 13th-Dynasty. The 13th-Dynasty was a historically confused period where many Kings ruled for very short periods of time and, towards the end of the Dynasty, Grajetzki feels that national unity ended and a period of economic break-down ensued; the smaller Lower-Nubian fortresses fell into disuse and the strategic fortresses of Buhen slipped from Egyptian control.


3.3 Egypt’s interaction with Nubia

3.3.1 Demand for prestige goods

Adams (1977, p.165) succinctly described the Middle-Kingdom as a period of ‘armed trade monopoly’ operating through trading-posts. The regular supply of prestige commodities through Trade, or tribute, is significantly more efficient and predictable than acquisition via military means (Trigger, 1976, p.65-66).


Access to prestige commodities was vital to Egypt’s secular and religious stability and as Tyson-Smith (2003, p.73) explains it was vital to the legitimization of royal authority and that a major consumers of trade-goods were temples. This is demonstrated through the 12th-Dyansty text the ‘Admonitions of Ipuwer’ (Lichtheim, 1975, p.149-163) whose lamentation includes the loss of prestige goods when long-distance inter-nation trade-routes were interrupted during the First-Intermediate-Period (Tyson-Smith, 2003, p.60-61).


Egypt’s moneyless economy had a sustained but fragile demand for resources from Lower-Nubia such as gold, gem-stones, cattle, slaves, diorite (see3.4.1), Medjay mercenaries and resources from beyond Lower-Nubia such as ivory, ebony, animal-skins, oils, and incense (Tyson-Smith, 2003, p.58, Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.123, and Welsby, 1998, p.12). This demand was not restricted to Lower-Nubia but also extended to the Levant, Mediterranean, and Punt.


3.3.2 Gold Mining in Lower-Nubia

Ancient mine-workings show that the exposed rocks of the Basement Complex in the desert east of Lower-Nubia (Figure-11.c) were the main sources of gold (Kirwan, 1974, p.266). The primary grouping of eastern gold mines ran along Wadi el-Allaqi (see3.1.3) and its exit to the Nile was protected and managed by mnwn-b3kl [Fortress of Kubban ((Foster, 2001, p.555)].


Open-cast mining and shallow-trench mining was within the eastern dessert dates to the Late Pre-Dynastic and early Dynasty periods (Klemm/Klemm/Murr, 2002, p.216). From the Old-Kingdom gold imports from Nubia are recorded, along with other precious commodities such as ivory, gems, animal skins, and people. Breasted (1906, p.215) recorded the Beni-Hassan tomb of Ameni who led soldiers of the Oryx Nome on expeditions into Nubia. Ameni returned with gold and gold-ore during Senusret-I’s reign (before his 43rd regnal-year). Ameni wrote that he returned without any loss to his soldiers and it is possible this was a mining expedition, using soldiers as manual-labour, rather than a military raid to cease gold and ore.


Klemm/Klemm/Murr (2002, p.216) wrote that Montuhotep’s campaign into Nubia was specifically to bring the gold-producing region under Egypt’s control and to eliminate the risk of interruption by indigenous peoples. This level of control may have been necessary because to process Gold Ore it initially had to be transported to a reliable source of water, which was most likely the Nile, and then gold was extracted from the gold-ore by crushing and washing (Vercoutter, 1959, p.126). Interestingly Edwards (2005, p.91) feels that impetus for the later campaigns of Senusret-III was to extend Egyptian control to include the gold-rich territory south of Buhen.


How much gold was extracted from Nubia during the Middle-Kingdom is not known (Vercoutter, 1959, p.133). During ThutmoseIII’s reign, when extraction/mining techniques were more evolved, an average of 250Kg of Wawat-Gold and 20Kg of Kush-Gold was brought into Egypt (Vercoutter, 1959, p.130).


3.3.3 Acculturation of Lower-Nubia

The interaction between Egypt and the Lower-Nubian population was an important matter for both peoples; without acceptable relationships it would be difficult to avoid conflict. On one ‘side’ was Egypt, who required stability and uninterrupted trade-routes; on the other were a subjugated people who might ‘resist’ their overlords. O’Connor (1993, p.55-56), using burial practices and grave-goods as a measure, does not perceive that acculturation [adoption by one society of the habit of another] was wide-spread during the Middle-Kingdom in Lower-Nubia. I consider that Egypt would have deliberately managed the local relationships carefully to preserve a respectful, yet firm, balance that achieved their objectives.


Where diverse peoples share an environment, such as Buhen or within the Egyptian military, the partial adoption of the more predominant material culture is possible. O’Connor (1993, p.56) stresses that there is little evidence for the adoption of Egyptian religious/ritual by Nubians but notes that during 25th-Dynasty when Nubia ruled Egypt there was assimilation of Egyptian culture. This strongly suggests that Egypt did not attempt to ‘convert’ Nubians into Egyptians and allowed cultural diversity to flourish. Tyson-Smith (2003, p.60) argues that ‘resisting’ acculturation and preserving ‘cultural solidarity’ was a deliberate decision by Nubians although I disagree and judge that Nubians were unlikely to have collectively determined to preserve their cultural integrity. Possibly General Montuhotep’s stela and his boastful statements of purging the indigenous population (see2.2.3.1) partially explains why Nubians did not elect to adopt Egyptian habits during the Middle-Kingdom.


3.4 Buhen to the Middle-Kingdom

3.4.1 Before the Middle-Kingdom

Inscriptions demonstrate that from the beginning of the Dynastic period and until 5th Dynasty rule of Djed-Ka-Re-Isesi Egypt made military-raids into Lower-Nubia (Morkot, 2000, p.45-46). The 4th-Dynasty King Sneferu recorded an expedition into Nubia that ‘Hacked up the people of Nehsyu” and captured 7,000 prisoners and 200,000 cattle. Inscriptions in Wadi el-Allaqi suggest that gold mining may have undertaken and the diorite quarries [North-West of Toshka, see Figure-11.b] were attested during the 5th-Dyansty by Djed-Ef-Re and during the 5th-Dynasty by Sahure and Djed-Ka-Re-Isesi.


Buhen-North may have been established as early as the 2nd-Dynasty (Morkot, 2000, p.47), although it is not possible to determine whether it was permanently occupied and Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd (2001, p.63) stress that the date is uncertain.


The Buhen-North settlement (Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.125) was surrounded by a stone-wall and the material-culture was exclusively Egyptian. Significant evidence of copper-smelting was excavated (Welsby, 1998, p.170) and El-Gayar/Jones (1989, p.31) established that the ore contained a high proportion of gold but does not match any known local source of ore – it is probable that Buhen was re-processing ore that was traded from Upper-Nubia.


Inscriptional evidence at Buhen-North ends during the 5th-Dynasty (Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.126). During the 6th-Dynasty (see2.2.2.2), when Lower-Nubia became hyper-arid, Egypt had lost control of Lower-Nubia and by necessity negotiated-trade replaced military-incursion (Morkot, 2000, p.47).


3.4.2 Middle-Kingdom Fortress of Buhen

Buhen is located down-stream of the 2nd-cataract on the western bank of the Nile (Figure-11.b). The oldest inscription found at Buhen dates to SenusretI’s 5th regnal-year (Lawrence, 1965, p.73), although it is possible that Senusret overbuilt an existing structure of AmenemhatI (Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.130). Fortress

The fortress (Figure-11.a) was constructed on the Nile’s shelving-bank (Richards, 2005, p.231-235) in an area without any significant vegetation. It is 150-meters by 138-meters and was surrounded by a mud-brick enclosure-wall which was over 8-meters high and 5-meter thick. Military features include:


Semi-circular towers and loop-holds

Spur walls protecting the river-frontage


Stone-lined tunnel connecting to the Nile for water-supply

Ditch, glacis, and ramparts (7.3-meters wide and 3.1-meters deep)


The fortress contained a complex of multi-floored buildings with a predominantly administrative/military purpose (Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.131). The buildings, which were arranged on a grid, included:


Viceroy or Garrison Commander accommodation

Garrison head-quarters

Officer’s housing

Troop accommodation


Workshops, including food/beer preparation Outer Defences

The fortress was enclosed by a 420-meters by 150-meters mud-brick wall which was 5.5-meter thick with towers and ditches; it enclosed 20-acres (Uphill, 1999, p.329).


Richards (2005, p.235) feels that this was a late Middle-Kingdom addition and the space between the fortress and enclosure-wall was multi-functional:


Actual use (determined by excavation)


Location of the Temple of Isis where General Montuhotep and General Dedu-Intef’s Stelae were discovered


Possible additional uses




Temporary accommodation for trading-expeditions/military-campaigns Garrison

It is not known how many people garrisoned the fortress although Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd (2001, p.131) feel that the garrison might have been modest. Emery (1965, p.153) estimates that during time of war, based on Buhen’s size, a garrison of 3,000 might have been required.


During the Middle-Kingdom a Viceroy of Nubia was appointed and it is likely that he was based at Buhen (Emery, 1965, p.148-149).


Adams (1976, p.182) believes that the Buhen’s garrison was predominantly Egyptian. Edwards (2005, p.93) and Tyson-Smith (2003, p.76) agree that during the 12th-Dynasty the garrison was regularly rotated (during the 13th-Dynasty a permanent garrison was introduced). The Semna Dispatches (see3.4.5) establishes that soldiers were from Egyptian Nomes.


The permanent garrison, like any town, would have required a mixture of occupations – with a focus on military skills. Some, but not all, must have included:








Medjay trackers



Metal workers/processors


Beer makers


Porters and labourers

Ships crews and pilots


Visiting officials Defensive Capability

The resources expended to develop the defensive capabilities of Buhen were extensive and the Fortress was purpose-designed to ‘thwart a sophisticated type of siege’ (Richards, 2005, p.235).


The small indigenous population of Lower-Nubia (see3.1.4) was militarily unlikely to attack a fortress using siege warfare - although siege-engines were know by the Middle-Kingdom. I propose that the most probable reason for such a significant military-structure was the perceived threat from Upper-Nubia.


3.4.3 Fortress’s Purpose

During the Middle-Kingdom a series of mud-brick fortresses were constructed up-stream from Elephantine in Lower-Nubia. The fortresses were built and garrisoned for a variety of complimentary reasons including (Foster, 2001, p.558, Tyson-Smith, 2003, p.76, and Trigger/Kemp/O’Connor/Lloyd, 2001, p.117):



Defence from Upper-Nubia aggression

Subjugation of indigenous peoples

Statement of Egypt’s supremacy

Supply base for military expeditions and trade-expeditions



Control of trade-routes, local trade, and taxation

Control and processing of local mineral resources

Trading-Post which simplified the point-of-contact between Egypt and the predominantly semi-nomadic peoples based on cattle trading



Fortresses, particularly Buhen, have extensive military defences which may have been excessive. I offer that the fortresses could have been developed, over time, as a way of keeping the local garrison occupied.


3.4.4 Fortress Names

James Quibell (Gardiner, 1916, p.184), in 1895-1896 CE, discovered a Middle-Kingdom tomb while excavating in the Ramesseum at Thebes. The tomb contained a library of papyri manuscripts including a scribal vocabulary which contained a listing of the Lower-Nubia Fortresses in south-north order - each is preceded by mnwn[Fortress (Internet_2)].


Egyptian Lower-Nubia fortresses (Foster, 2001, p.555)
3bw Abu Elephantine
Snmt Senmut Biggeh Island
b3kl Baki Ikkur and Kubban
ma3m Miam Aniba
xsf-mD3w Repelling-the-Medjay Faras or Serra East
inq-t3wy Embracing-the-Two-Lands Faras or Serra East
bwhn Buhen Buhen and Kor
iqn Iken Mirgissa
dr-styw Removing-the-Setiu Askut
waf-x3swt Curbing-the-countries Shalfak
xsf-iwnw Repelling-the-Inw Uronarti
itnw-pDwt Warding-off-the-bows Kumma
sxm-xa.k3w.ra Khakaure-justified-is-powerful Semna
d3ir-styw Repressing-the-Setiu Semna South

3.4.5 Communication and Control

The level of control that Egypt expended in this region is demonstrated by the ‘Semna Dispatches’ (see 3.4.4). For example Dispatch Number 4 (Figure-14.a and Figure-14.b) was written by an officer called Ameny reporting that a soldier from Tjebu (see2.2.3.3) led a patrol into the dessert-edge had made a report about an incident close to the Fortress xsf-mD3wat Breakfast time during the 2nd-day of the 4th-Month of Peret during the 3rd regnal-year of SenusretIII (Smither, 1945, p.5 and p.8-9).


Ameny wrote that the patrol had found the tracks of 32-men and 3-donkeys (Parkinson, 2004, p.94) and that he had sent a message from Fortress to Fortress. Dispatch Number 2 reports that a patrol comprised of two-Soldiers and seventy-Medjay, possibly for their tracking and dessert-craft abilities (Smither, 1945, p.7).


Alerts would have been possible through strategically located watch-towers (Foster, 201, p.554). A number of pre-agreed messages (such as boat-approaching or hostiles-approaching) could have been quickly signalled from place-to-place. The communication methods are not known but I suggest that the reflection-of-light, runners, or fast-boats are probable, although beacon fires, flags, or drums are possible.


The Dispatches were copied to a number of people (Smither, 1945, p.10); Dispatch Number 10 was copied to the Judge of Hieraconpolis, the City-Administrator Ameny, and the High Stewart Senimeri. Regular dispatches would have been exchanged between Lower-Nubia and Egypt using a regular boat-service; this service would have imported supplies, such as soldiers, Barley, and Wheat and exported the dispatches and goods either traded or extracted in Lower-Nubia.



4 Conclusions


Many Museums contain Ancient Egyptian stelae, most are mortuary stelae dedicated to the memory of individuals. Only a small portion of stelae, such as General Montuhotep’s, contain information of historical importance and as O’Connor (1993, p.2-3) aptly explains that we add to our knowledge from three sources – from things, from people, and from places; Montuhotep’s stela certainly exemplifies this.


These stelae have three distinct yet entwined histories; firstly their creation by two 12th-Dynasty Generals in praise of their King, their nation, and their personal achievement, secondly the re-discovery of the stelae by people who played a part in the deciphering of Hieroglyphs, and thirdly the more contemporary interpretation of the stelae and the placement of these people and their actions within Ancient Egypt’s history.



5 Images


Figure-1.a and Figure-1.b: William John Bankes

[Left] by George Sanders in 1812 (Shurmer, 2006, p.25), [Right] by Sir George Hayter in 1836 (Usick, 2002, p.187)




Figure-2: Thomas Young

Unsigned, in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan Study Room in the British Museum [photo by author]



Figure-3: Letter written by Thomas Young

Written to Henry Bankes on 10-February-1818. Held by the British Museum and currently within the Enlightenment Exhibition in the King’s Library [photo by author]


Figure-4: Obelisk and its red-granite base

Within the grounds of Kingston Lacy in Dorset [photo by author]


Figure-5.a: Ground Plan of North Temple of Isis at Buhen

William Bankes added detailed measurements of the temple. The stela of General Montuhotep was found in the location highlighted in Red and the Stelae of Dedu-Intef are highlighted in Green. Owned by the National Trust and held by the British Museum (XII.C.7) [photo by author].



Figure-5.b: Drawing of Buhen’s Northern Temple

Made by the EES Excavation in the 1960s (Caminos, 1974, Plate 83)


Figure-6.a: Stela of General Montuhotep

Stela discovered in the North Temple of Buhen was painted during Bankes excavation in 1819 by Dr. Alessandro Ricci in-situ. The ink, wash, and water colour painting owned by the National Trust and held by the British Museum (XII.C.6) [photo by author].


Figure-6.b: Stela of General Montuhotep

Franco-Tuscan expedition (1829) recovered the stela from Buhen and it was taken to Florence by Ippolito Rosellini (Champollion, 1844, Planche 1)


Figure-6.c: Rear wall of the central sanctuary

North Temple of Buhen was painted during Bankes excavation in 1819 by Dr. Alessandro Ricci in-situ. The ink, wash, and water colour painting owned by the National Trust and held by the British Museum (XII.C.6) [photo by author].



Figure-6.d: Stela of General Montuhotep

Stela from the North Temple at Buhen (2540a and 254bB) commemorating the victories of a Military Campaign in Nubia by General Montuhotep for Senusret I (Bosticco, 1959, Illustrazioni 29a and 29b).



Figure-7.a Drawing of the Dedu-Intef’s Stelae (EA 1177)

Discovered in the North Temple during Bankes excavation in 1819 (Usick, 2002, p.484/5); owned by the National Trust and held by the British Museum [photo by author]. Probably drawn by Henry Beechey in-situ (XII.C.5), the stela is held by the British Museum (EA 1177), seeFigure-7.c.



Figure-7.b: Drawing of Dedu-Intef’s Missing Stela

Drawing of the stela, now lost, discovered in the North Temple during Bankes excavation in 1819 (Usick, 2002, p.484/5); owned by the National Trust and held by the British Museum [photo by author]. Probably drawn by Dr. Alessandro Ricci in-situ (XII.C.4) and is the only representation of the ‘lost stela’

Figure-7.c: Dedu-Intef Steal EA 1177

Stelae discovered in the North Temple during Bankes excavation in 1819 is held in the Basement Store of the British Museum (EA 1177) [photo by author]


Figure-8: Sketch of Dr. Alexandro Ricci

by Salvatore Cherubini during the Franco-Tuscan expedition to Egypt in 1828-29 (Usick, 2002, p.141)


Figure-9: Painting of Jean-François Champollion

by Léon Cogniet 1831 (Champollion, 2005, p.19)


Figure-9: Photo of Colonel Sir Henry George Lyons, F.R.S.

(Dale, 1944, between p.795 and p.796)


Figure-10: Contemporary Arched Roof

Example of Sudanese construction technique utilizing a series of arched roofs (Randall-MacIver/Woolley, 1911b, Plate 2)


Figure-11.a: Plan of Buhen

During the later Middle Kingdom with the Northern Temple overlaid in Red (Emery/Smith/Millard A, 1979, Plate-3 and Plate-4)


Figure-11.b: Region between Aswan and the Island of Sai

(Morkot, 2000, p.4)


Figure-11.c: Gold Mining in Upper Egypt and Lower-Nubia

(Trigger, 1976, p.66)

Figure-12.a: Models of Soldiers

Troop of 40 Egyptian soldiers from Prince Mesehti’s tomb at Asyut which dates to the 11th-Dynasty (Tiradritti, 1999, p.108/109) [photo by author].


Figure-12.b: Models of Soldiers

Troop of 40 Nubian archers from Prince Mesehti’s tomb at Asyut which dates to the 11th-Dynasty (Tiradritti, 1999, p.108/109) [photo by author].


Figure-13: Statue of Senusret I

Held by the Luxor Museum [photo by author]



Figure-14: Tomb of Montuhotep at Lisht-South

(Arnold, 2008, Plate 77a)



Figure-14.a: Semna Dispatch

Held by the British Museum, EA 10752 [photo by author] containing part of Dispatch Number 3 and Dispatch Number 4.

eld by the British Museum, EA 10753 [photo by author] containing magical texts.




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