Glossary of specific points

Section 1
Nobleman and overlord: this pair of phrases forms the principal expression of higher status among officials in the Middle Kingdom.
Governor and canal-cutter: this pair of phrases is a Middle Kingdom revival from Old Kingdom expressions of high status among administrators.
Sovereign among the Syrians: Egyptians of the time would probably have been startled by the use of the word sovereign for a person other than the king, even though the jolt is then softened by the qualifying phrase 'among the Syrians', removing the expression of sovereignty to a safe distance.
Follower: in accordance with regular Middle Kingdom practice, the official title of the man is placed immediately before his name. Follower is an official title designating a man who literally stood immediately alongside or behind his superior,either as attendant or as bodyguard.

Section 2
King's Wife of Senusret in Khenemsut: Egyptian has no single word for queen, using instead the compound phrase 'wife of the king'. Here the queen is identified as wife of king Senusret I, and her special religious status in the system of kingship is emphasised by mention of Khenemsut, the pyramid complex of that king at Lisht.
King's Daughter of Amenemhat in Qaneferu: Senusret I was son of king Amenemhat I, and therefore it seems from this phrase that his wife was his full or half-sister. However, in Egyptian 'daughter' might also designate 'daughter-in-law'. Her eternal religious role is emphasised again by mention of the pyramid complex of the king, in this case Qaneferu, the pyramid complex of Amenemhat I at Lisht.

Section 3
Dual king: literally 'he of the sedge and bee', obscure but common title for the king.
Sehetepibra: the throne-name taken by king Amenemhat I at his accession, and used here to identify him in preference to the ambiguous Amenemhat (there were four kings named Amenemhat in the Twelfth Dynasty).
Residence: the place from which the king ruled. The Residence of the Twelfth Dynasty was at Itjtawy, not identified on the ground, but probably at Lisht, where the pyramids of the first two kings of the Dynasty are sited. Itjtawy was founded by Amenemhat I, and its full name was Itjtwyamenemhat 'Amenemhat (I) has taken the Two Lands' i.e. Egypt.

Section 4
Timehu, Tjehenu: terms for the regions and peoples inhabiting the deserts to the west of the Nile Valley.

Section 8
The place-names in this part of the account of the flight have not been identified on the ground, and may be literary expressions for places given other names in non-literary sources. The Island of Sneferu might relate to Meydum or Dahshur, where there stand the pyramids built by king Sneferu of the Fourth Dynasty.

Section 9
Red Mountain: Gebel Ahmar (Arabic for 'red mountain'), the quartzite outcrops north-east of modern Cairo.
Walls of the Ruler: military defence installations along the land roads to Sinai, perhaps a single fortress, not identified on the ground.

Section 10
Peten: not identified.
Great Black Water: logically this would be the Bitter Lakes on the road from the Nile Delta into Sinai. The sight of a great tract of salt water would have been a natural stimulus to the thirst of Sinuhe in this section.

Section 12
Hill-land: in the Egyptian landscape the flat Nile river valley and Delta lie beneath hilly desert terrain, and the outside world began with those hills. Hill-land thus refers both to the desert heights on either side of the Nile, and by extension to all foreign lands beyond.
Byblos: eastern Mediterranean harbour city in what is now Lebanon.
Qedem: town in the Levant, apparently here expressing the farthest reach of Egyptian knowledge of Syria.

Section 14
Delta-man seeing himself in Abu: Abu is the town on Elephantine island, facing modern Aswan, on the southern border of Egypt with Nubia, at the opposite end of the land to the Delta in the north.
Or a marsh-man in the Land of the bow: the Land of the bow refers both to Nubia and to the first province of Upper Egypt, centred on Abu. This phrase reinforces the preceding.

Section 15
Sekhmet in a year of plague: Sekhmet is the destructive goddess, who attacks enemies of Ra the sun-god. She is seen at work in the devastation caused by plague.

Section 19
Still in the egg: that is, while still in the womb of his mother.

Section 29
Mont: a deity with temples in the province of Thebes in Upper Egypt, home of the first Middle Kingdom rulers. The Egyptians used the falcon to depict Mont in formal art: he is associated with kingly power over the neighbours of Egypt.

Section 34
Kheperkara: the throne-name taken by king Senusret I at his accession, and used here to identify him in preference to the ambiguous Senusret (there were three kings named Senusret in the Twelfth Dynasty).
Of  before the king: the extra preposition 'before' reinforces the separateness of the king.

Section 35
Horus He of the Two Ladies: these are two of the five formal titles taken by each king at his accession. In the case of Senusret I, the first three of the five titles were followed by the same name, 'living of births' (the third kingly title, not given in this manuscript, was Horus of Gold).

Section 38
Ra: the sun-god
Amun lord of the thrones of the two lands: Amun, god of Thebes, first important under the Middle Kingdom, with this title at his main temple at Karnak. His name means 'hidden', expressing the presence of divinity everywhere, seen or not, complementing the sun in the sky as a visible source of life and light.
Sobek-Ra: Sobek is the crocodile god, especially important in the late Middle Kingdom, as recognised in this fused form Sobek-Ra, divinity perceived simultaneously in Sobek and in the sun Ra.
Horus: god of kingship.
Hathor: god of sensual love.
Atum and his nine gods: the creator in his form before fissioning, with his 'nine gods', an expression for all the deities worshipped in his temple complex (nine being 3 times 3, and 3 being used graphically for plural in Egyptian writing: so 9 is 'plural of plural', beyond number).
Soped perfect of Might of Semseru: Soped is god of the east, here with an unclear epithet.
Horus the easterner: the god of kingship Horus, in his aspect as ruler of the east.
The lady of the cavern: goddess of flood waters? uncertain.
the tribunal at the front of the flood: primeval gods and goddesses.
Min-Horus: Min is god of male potency, here combined with Horus god of kingship.
the great goddess, lady of Punt: possibly Ipy, the goddess of childbirth depicted as hybrid crocodile-hippopotamus, and known in the New Kingdom as Taweret 'the great goddess' - Punt is a land south of Egypt from which the Egyptians procured exotic materials including incense - it has not yet been identified.
Nut: goddess of the sky.
Horwerra: 'Horus the elder - Ra', fusing Horus god of kingship and Ra the sun-god.
the islands of the Great Green: originally the northern Delta areas of land among marshy waters, and by extension islands in the Mediterranean beyond the northern Delta shores.

Section 39
Meki in Qedem, Kesh, Menus Fenkhu: Qedem and Fenkhu are names of places in the Levant, Kesh presumably also; as names for rulers in the area, Meki and Menus are perhaps literary fictions to give a precise flavour to the passage, rather than historical persons, though that is also possible.

Section 42
Overseer of foragers: this is the official apparently entrusted with guaranteeing palace supplies of the materials brought in from outside the agricultural economy. The title is relatively rare in sources for the Twelfth Dynasty administration.

Section 47
Counterpoises, images, sistra: the counterpoise was originally a functional ornament used to weigh down a heavy necklace at the back, and it became a symbol of beauty and the sensuous, and thus a separate religious emblem in its own right; the meaning of images in this context is not certain; the sistrum is a rattle with metal bands or disks on bands, used to provide a rhythm to chanting, like the modern metronome and base beat.
Goddess Gold: a reference to Hathor, goddess of sensual love.
Lady of All: a reference to the king's wife, as the king might be called Lord of All, a title of the creator.

Section 48
Images of the horizon: phrase of uncertain meaning, interpreted by some commentators as a term for 'mirrors'.

Section 50
pyramid-chapel: in the Middle Kingdom there are no examples of pyramidal monuments for persons other than the king and women of his family. There appear to be two ways of explaining the term here: (1) the chapel of Sinuhe is of pyramid form, a claim that would have struck the Middle Kingdom audience as hard as the title sovereign in section 1, (2) the chapel is not 'of pyramid form' but 'of the pyramid' in the sense that it was constructed in the pyramid complex.
The overseer of glazeworkers of the pyramid procured its ground: the title here is unclearly written, and the sole New Kingdom source for this passage gives the title as 'necropolis-workers sculpting the pyramid'. If the Middle Kingdom papyrus Berlin 3022 is taken at face value at this point, it would be a reference to the use of artificial blue or green paste ('ground') to fill hieroglyphs and figure outlines on white limestone.
The overseer of sealers did the drawing: the New Kingdom parallel gives the title as 'draughtsman', reasonably enough. However the Middle Kingdom manuscript Berlin 3022 may also provide a reasonable reading, if the overseer of sealers was in charge of the artists and treasury equipment needed for drafting designs and inscriptions. If this and the preceding point are accepted, the focus of the final passage would fall on the inscription on the tomb-chapel walls - possibly intended as a self-reference to the composition itself, as the Tale of Sinuhe is introduced as if a tomb-chapel inscription.
Every tool that is set to the temple-terrace: a reference to hieroglyphic monuments at temple precincts, most famously that of Osiris, god of the dead, at Abydos.
spirit-servants: regular title for a person employed in making food and drink offerings in the cult of a specific dead person.
Image: cult-statue as the focus for making food and drink offerings to the dead.
Electrum: alloy of silver and gold.


Copyright © 2000 University College London. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2001 J. J. Hirst. All rights reserved. (for updates and corrections)