Nile Cruise Luxor Aswan
Nile Cruise Luxor Aswan From antiquity down to the present day the district around modern Aswan,including the island of`Elephantine,has marked the limit of Egypt proper in the direction of Nubia. Before the
construction of the High Dam it was strategically important because it commanded the Nile cataracts and the channels that fostered communication by water between Egypt and its southern neighbor.
Consequently, it was the starting-point of the great caravan routes leading to Nubia and Sudan, along which passed some of the earliest commercial and military expeditions of the Egyptians.
It became an important depot for the trade with the interior of Africa.
The importance of Aswan and Elephantine in relation to the development of ancient Egyptian civilization cannot be measured by the magnitude of their surviving relics. Aswan boasts no great monuments and Elephantine may appear to the
uninitiated as no more than a jumble of ruins surmounted here and there by a monumental structure. The lack of’ monuments is due to two factors.
Firstly, the frontier never became a great city with a large sedentary community as did, say, Luxor; throughout ancient history and well into modern times it remained an outpost.
7Secondly, the temples on Elephantine were successively destroyed in pharaonic,
Roman, early Chris-Early Settlers and Neighborly Relations I In ancient times the border between Egypt and neighboring Nubia (populated by black-skinned people of Nilotic origin who spoke a n.
There wasp free movement across the in .
The First Dynasty pharaoh Djer (c. 3000 B.c.) left an inscription as far south as the entrance to the Second Cataract, some two hundred kilometers south of’ Aswan, while Nubians moved beyond the border with their herds and settled as far north as Kom Ombo.
Free movement continued even after Aswan became an official border province in the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 B.c.).
The political boundary with Nubia did not remain static.
It moved when new territory was incorporated into the state, as in the Middle Kingdom §c. 2133-1786 B.c.), when Egypt colonized its southern neighbor up to the Second Cataract; and it shrank to different parts of the First Cataract at later periods.
In prehistoric times the Nubians had a level of culture similar to that ofthe Egyptians, but after the unification ofthe Two Lands ot” Upper and Lower Egypt the Egyptian culture advanced rapidly and Nubia was left far behind.
Nubia, how- ever, was vitally important to the economy of Egypt.
The requirements of a highly developed civilization demanded raw materials and other products that were not readily available in Egypt.
These were imported from neighboring territories, and relations with the agriculturally-impoverished but mineral- rich land of Nubia developed early.
Copper was mined at several places, including Wadi Alaqi, south of Aswan in the Eastern Desert.
Dolerite quarries discovered immediately to the south of Abu Simbel have inscriptions attributing the
operation to Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid; and clay sealings of his successors Khafre and Menkaure were discovered at Buhen above the Second Cataract.
When the Nubians discovered that they could neither drive off nor kill the intruders from the north, th ey finally awakened to the advantages of trade.
The Egyptians satisfied their mineral requirements and opened markets even further south,which resulted in the acquisition of valued commodities like ivory, ebony, ostrich feathers, panther skins, and gums emanating from the heart of Africa; these were exchanged for Egypt’s agricultural surplus including grain, oil, and honey.
Age of Exploration
The Old Kingdom (2686-2181 B.c.) was the age of the pyramid- builders, when a series of vigorous monarchs ‘maintained a highly centralized govemment.
The capital was at Memphis, at the apex of the Delta.
Although Aswan and Elephantine were then situated at the farthest limit of Egyptian territory, the noblemen of Elephantine had, by their very location, set them- selves up as guardians of the southern border.
Elephantine was declared the capital of the first province of Egypt.
Its governors were-titled ‘keepers of the southern gate’ and their jurisdiction extended as far north as Kom Ombo.
The Egyptian civilization attained great heights in the Fifth Dynasty (2494-2345 B.c.).
It was a period in which the priesthood of Heliopolis, the center of the sun cult, probably wielded
its greatest power.
Art and architecture were perfected to a degree never known before, and commerce, ‘both along the Red Sea (for trade with Punt on the Somali coast) and with Nubia and the countries lying further south, was extremely active.
This was a period in which Aswan gained its greatest political prestige.
Evidence of the role and activities of the Eleph antine noblemen survives in remarkable autobiographical texts inscribed in their tombs at Qubbet al-Hawa, opposite Aswan (p_80).
These show them to have been able governors and politicians as well as explorers_ They held important positions in an age when initiative and responsible action were encouraged.
Efficiency was rewarded by promotion and, in some special cases, in royal assistance in the construction of a nobleman’s tomb and provision of his funerary equipment.
To fulfill their responsibilities, an important one of which was to conduct excursions into Nubia, these noblemen recruited Medjai tribesmen as police.
The Medjai came from the region above the Second Cataract, which the Egyptians then called Kush, in what is now Sudan. They appear to have been herders of cattle, who were only too ready to cooperate.
With their help, Nubia was increasingly usedias a corridor for trade, not only with Kush but also with Punt on the Somali coast.
Aswan was the entrepot for the transshipment of products northward to the capital.
The only thing hindering the whole operation was the fact that Egyptian ships could not navigate the Aswan Cataract.
Vessels sailed above the rapids, and shipments from the south could only be transported to that point. They then had to be portaged down to Aswan.
During this operation, which was time-consuming, the rich cargo was frequently plundered by desert tribesmen.
To overcome the obstruction, a project was devised that equaled, in that remote day and age, some of the most ambitious projects of the twentieth century.
The Sixth Dynasty pharaoh Merenre (c.2300B.C.) decided to open up a portion of Lower Nubia to Egyptian vessels by excavating a navigable channel through the granite rocks of the Aswan Cataract.
To supervise this formidable scheme Merenre appointed an elder statesman of considerable repute, Weni, a native of Abydos.
The text in his tomb chapel there gives details of the operation. “His majesty sent me to dig five canals in Upper Egypt,” wrote Weni, “and I built three barges and four towboats of acacia wood of Wawat.” Weni recruited the help of several Nubian tribes to cut the timber and completed the operation in a single year. “Floated, they were loaded with very large granite blocks for the pyramid of Mereiire-appears-iw splendor.
Indeed, I made a saving for the palace with all these five canals,” Weni concluded. Merenre was obviously so delighted with the success of the project that he did what no pharaoh had done before: he visited the region in person, commemorating the event in two rock inscriptions on the island of Seheil, where he is shown leaning on his staff with the chiefs
of the Nubian tribes before him.
A royal visit to the southern border was a visible sign ofa settled policy regarding Nubia.
The king swiftly called upon the services of an Elephantine nobleman named Harkhuf to further tighten the hold over border tribes, keep trade routes open,and maintain Egyptian hegemony in the south.
from a family of adventurous noblemen.
His text in his tomb on Qubbet al-Hawa is one ofthe most interesting passages in the history of the early explorations of the African interio.
There was by now a loose sovereignty over the whole of Lower Nubia, held by an Elephantine nobleman and governor
by the name of Pepinakht-Heqaib.
Pepinakht-Heqaib was a remarkable individual. His title was governor of foreign countries’ and he was a most accomplished man, whose career, of three distinct stages, is described in his tomb (p.85).
As a result of his accomplishments, Pepinakht-Heqaib became a local hero, revered after his death and, two centuries later, deified by Sirenput, a governor of Elephantine in the Middle Kingdom between 1971 and 1928 B.C., who built a sanctuary in his honor on the island (p.49). Many provinces in Upper and Lower Egypt were governed by individuals who, like those of Elephantine, acquired wealth and prestige.
Toward the end of the Sixth Dynasty these governors decided to shake off the bonds of the central government and establish independence. ‘1`he governor of Elephantine was among the first to do so. Other provinces soon followed suit.
When eventually the central government collapsed there was chaos and civil war.
The Old Kingdom was over.
Aswan’s time of prestige was past. Large-scale construction around the country came to a halt, and the granite quarries fell silent.
Trade with the south dwindled to a standstill, and the port at the border undoubtedly became less active.
A period of anarchy and bloodshed followed the collapse of the centralized government.
The Memphite kings of the Seventh and Eighth Dynasties continued to claim rule over the entire land, butit is unlikely that the provinces took heed.
Some of the provincial lords themselves came into great prominence in the Ninth and Tenth dynasties; a family from Herakleopolis Magna (Ihnasiya al-Medina near Beni Suefl for example, restored some degree of order.
Butit was not until a confederation had gathered around a strong family from Thebes, and following a civil war between them and the Herakleopolitan rulers, that the Thebans were able to again unify the land. Mentuhotep the Great had to face the formidable task of restoring order.