Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford

By Gary N. Knoppers; Antoine Hirsch | Go to book overview

DOUBLE ENTENDRE IN THE STELA OF SUTY
AND HOR

Steven Blake Shubert


Introduction

The stela of Suty and Hor (BM 826) has been known to Egyptologists since the 19th century; it was purchased by the British Museum in 18571 and was published in French by Pierret in 1879 and in English by Birch in 1883 (fig. 1). The stela is securely dated to the reign of Amenophis III in the mid-18th Dynasty by line 19 of the text which mentions “the lord of the Two Lands Neb-maat-re, given life” (Urk. IV, 1945.12). The reputation of the stela rests on being a forerunner to the Great Hymn to the Aten. Although dedicated to Amun, the stela of Suty and Hor contains a hymn with the same concepts and imagery as found in the famous hymn from the reign of Akhenaten, offering proof of the existence of these ideas and their representation in the previous reign. Yet the stela is a complex artefact with a number of different texts and images inscribed on its granite surface. This paper suggests that the different elements of the stela have been intentionally arranged in a consistent set of imagery representing a duality of natures, yet asserting that they are in reality a unity.

The central portion of the stela of Suty and Hor consists of 21 horizontal lines of text. Early translators and commentators translated the text line by line and frequently mention difficulties in translation.2 As the text was studied further over the years, it has been divided into a

1 It came from the sale of S. Anastasi in Paris, being no. 62 in sale catalogue; see
S. Birch, “On a tablet in the British Museum relating to two Architects,” Transactions
of the Society of Biblical Archaeology
8 (July 1883) 143; A. Varille, “L'hymne au soleil des
architectes d'Aménophis III Souti et Hor,” BIFAO 41 (1942) 25.

2 P. Pierret, “Stèle de Suti et Har: Architectes de Thèbes,” Recueil de Travaux 1 (1879)
70 calls the text “sinon facile a traduire et même à déchiffrer.” Birch (“tablet,” 161)
notes that “a great deal of obscurity prevails in the text itself as to the meaning of
the religious formula.” In his work, Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1912) 315, J. H. Breasted mentions
the need for an adequate publication of the text and avoids difficult passages in his
translation through the use of ellipses.

-143-

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