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The ancient Egyptians tended to consider both their immediate and more remote neighbours either as excellent sources of luxury trade items and slaves, at times of political power and strength, or as uncivilized forces threatening to destroy and overwhelm the Egyptian Nile Valley. This was true not only of cultures within Africa; those in the Aegean, the Levant, Cyprus and Mesopotamia also were viewed from one or the other perspective, occasionally both at the same time. All these, together with Nubia and Libya, have received much scholarly attention and, whilst we probably will never fully understand their ancient relationship to Egypt, we have a fairly good idea, ‘hearing’ the story from both sides when surviving evidence allows, what their attitudes towards each other were at various times in their history. This article deals with what is surely the least investigated aspect of ancient Egyptian relations with its neighbours, simply because we know comparatively little about the two major successive cultures concerned – Punt and Aksum – in the ancient world.
Two 'Chiefs of Punt': restored line drawing of wall scene in TT I43 (Tomb of Min) at Thebes. The letters signify the painted colours. (From N. de G. Davies, in Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 30 [I935], SuppI. II, 47 fig. I.) and may not even depict the actual arrival of Puntites in Egypt since their presentation has been 'generalized' or 'Egyptianized'. Alternatively, if they did visit, perhaps they were not seen by the artists who portrayed them; such 'stock' portrayals of foreigners depicted with intermixed and elaborated features of Egyptian and other cultures have been observed elsewhere in similar scenes dating to these reigns. Slightly later in date, probably during the reign of Amenhotep II (1427-I401 B.C.), in the tomb identified by Helck as that of Min, Chief Treasurer of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II (TT 143), is a scene possibly commemorating an historical event in which Puntites did arrive in Egypt, although perhaps only in an Egyptian Red Sea harbour or port.28 The entire scene spans five registers but, unfortunately, they have never been published together and many sections have not been published at all. It depicts, in part, two large pink raft-like boats (Fig 4) manned by at least four sailors, each raft complete with one black triangular sail supported by a single mast 28 N. de G. Davies, 'The work of the Graphic Branch of the expedition', Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, xxx (I935, II Suppl. Nov.), 46-9; other scenes are found in M. Baud, Les Dessins Ebauches de la Nicropole Thebaine (au Temps du Nouvelle Empire), being Me'moires de l'Institut Franfais d'Arche'ologie Orientale, LXIII (I935), I69-70, fig. 78, and W. Wreszynski, Atlas zur altaegyptischen Kulturgeschichte, I (Leipzig, 1923), pls. 347-8. Unpublished watercolour facsimilies of the two major scenes are held in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and I must thank the Keeper of Antiquities, Dr Helen Whitehouse, for allowing me to study them. L. Bradbury, 'Kpn-boats, Punt trade and a lost emporium', Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, xxxiii (I996), 37-60, argues for a Nile setting for this scene (possibly at Kurgus between the Fourth and Fifth Cataracts) on several grounds, although problems and inconsistencies still remain. W. Helck's identification of the tomb owner, in Zur Verwaltung des mittleren und neuen Reiches (Leiden and Cologne, 1958), 352, 468, is not universally accepted.
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... There he meets a serpent identified as the 'Lord of Punt'. When the sailor is rescued, the serpent presents him with many gifts, including long-tailed monkeys and baboons (Phillips, 1997). Speculation that shipwrecked Egyptian sailors were responsible for introducing P. hamadryas to the Arabian Peninsula is a testament to the curious distribution of this species (Kummer, 1981), but the idea is now refuted (Wildman et al., 2004;Winney et al., 2004;Fernandes, 2009;Kopp et al., 2014). ...
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