Agriculture in Ancient Egypt

About the Poems

The poems may represent antiphonal (a type of responsive speech between two groups) songs among the workers. For example, stanza 4  in “Plowing and Sowing” seems to reply to an exclamation in stanza 3 by one of those breaking up clods. Again, those pulling a plow in stanza 6 answer Paheri’s imperative in stanza 5. Stanza  2 in “Reaping” is a retort by a youth to what is shouted in stanza 1 by the old man who tears seeds off the flax with a comb. In “Threshing” stanza 2 the basket carriers appear to respond to  stanza 1, where the overseer addresses them. 

We may regard this overseer as comparable with middle management opposite his  subordinate employees. By contrast Paheri is the chief executive, hyperbolically called noble  and prince in the first poem below. Paheri continues to conduct business among members of  the afterlife the same as he had done earlier among those upon the surface of the earth.

The three poems or songs have been decoded from the hieroglyphics appearing in the images. Below each image the reading of the symbols are in the left column and an English rendering appears in the right column.

Plowing and Sowing

Plowing and Sowing

Listen to the poem in Ancient Egyptian

Read by Edwin Hostetter

Listen to the poem in English

Read by Sahara Al-Madi

hru nefer, tutu qebu, na en ‘ahu her ‘ath, ta  pet her ‘art en ‘ab-en, bak-en en pa ser
as-tu, pa h`ati, kherp na en ‘ahu, mek pa h`a  `ah`a her peter
khenems as-tu em baku, tche-ek uh`a-en er  nu nefer
‘au-‘a er ‘art hau her baku en pa ser geru
uza ‘an ha paheri maa kheru er atep na en usekhu em ta sekhet: djetch-ef en na en ‘ahutiu, as-ten, ta aht petet-t’a, kher pa hapaa urt
djetch-sen ‘ary-en, mek-en; em ‘ar sentch her ta aht, si nefert’a urt

neferui peru en re-ek pay-‘a sher’a; renpet
nefert shut em setchebu, senbet semu neb; 
kher na en behesu nefer er khet nebt 

A fine day, one is cool, the oxen are drawing,  the heaven is doing according to our hearts,  let us work for the noble!
Hasten, leader, forward with the oxen!  behold the prince is standing and looking on.
Friend, hasten at the work, let us finish in  good time.
I shall do more than the work due to the  noble: be silent.
The prince Paheri, deceased, proceeds to load the barges in the river-meadow: he says to the farm-laborers, “Hasten ye, the corn fields are broken up: the Nile was very great”.
Say, “We are doing so, behold us; fear not for the corn-fields, they are very good”.
Twice excellent is your exclamation, my son! 
the year is good, free of ills; healthy in all
herbs; and the calves are excellent beyond  anything.

Reaping

Reaping
Reaping

Listen to the poem in Ancient Egyptian

Read by Edwin Hostetter

Listen to the poem in English

Read by Sahara Al-Madi

‘ar ‘an-ek n’a 11009 nuk se-khem-‘a set
as-tu em ‘ar `asha-re, pa `aa as en ‘ahutiu
khen en usheb, djetch-sen hru pen nefer per  em ta, ta mehyt pert’a, ta pet her ‘art en ‘ab en, bak-en mert ‘ab-en 
‘amem n’a u`at tchet, mek ‘a-en em mesheru;  em ‘ar na en kehesu en sef, ger em pa heru 

If you bring me 11009 [sheaves], I am the man to strip them all.
Quick, do not chatter, you old quack of a laborer.
In answering chant they say, “This is a good day, come out onto the land”, “the north  wind has come out”, “the sky is doing  according to our heart”, “let us work and  bind firm our heart”. Give me a hand; behold we shall come in the  evening, do not repeat the meanness of  yesterday, cease it today.

Threshing

Threshing

Listen to the poem in Ancient Egyptian

Read by Edwin Hostetter

Listen to the poem in English

Read by Sahara Al-Madi

‘as-ten, meh retchui-ten, pa mu ‘au, peh-ef na  en qen’au 
‘au pa shu shemu, tche-tu en pa shu sunt ‘at  em remu 
en ursh pa neb’a her remen-‘a retchui? su ‘ab- ‘a 
he-ten en-ten (sep senu), ‘ahu, he-ten en-ten,  he-ten en-ten; tcheha er ‘am, ‘at en nebu-ten;  em ertche urtch en ‘ab-ten: tutu qeb

Hasten ye, quicken your feet: the water is  coming, and will soon reach the baskets. 
The sun is hot, may the sun be given fish in payment for the corn. 
Does not the pole stay all day on my shoulder very firmly? That is my wish. 
Thresh for yourselves, thresh for yourselves, oxen: thresh for yourselves, thresh for  yourselves: straw to eat, corn for your  masters: let not your hearts be still: it is cool.

Historical Information

AGRICULTURAL OPERATIONS 

These scenes and hieroglyphic inscriptions date to circa 1400 BCE–during ancient  Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. They depict a scribe Paheri inspecting agriculture in the nome (a type of territorial district in ancient Egypt) which he ruled south of Luxor. They are found on the south end of the west wall in the main chamber of  his tomb. 

Sources

Transliteration [simplified] and translation from J. J. Tylor and F. L. Griffith, The Tomb of  Paheri at El Kab (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1894), pp. 13-15.

Curated by Edwin Hostetter, Department of Religion, George Washington University

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Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.