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TitleKitchen_Egyptian New Kingdom Topographical Lists
TagsAncient Egypt Hittites Thebes Former Empires Of Africa New Kingdom Of Egypt
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Egyptian New-Kingdom Topographical Lists:
An Historical Resource with ‘Literary’ Histories

K.A. Kitchen

University of Liverpool

Lists of foreign place-names (so-called topographical lists) have long been recognized as a

potential resource for historical, geographical and archaeological purposes in the study of Syria-
Palestine in the Late Bronze age, and less usefully (in southern lists) for the Nile Valley and
adjoining terrain south of Egypt proper (from Aswan). However, the varying types (and hence,
equally variable nature) of such lists is not well understood by most people attempting to use
them, and this matter is deserving of clearer definition for the general benefit of all who wish to
utilize such lists in their studies. Non-egyptologists in particular need to know that one cannot
pick names indiscriminately out of these lists, to use as instant history-pegs for the study of any
given place in the Near East or NE Africa.


A. Types of Record: Physically Defined. These lists were included in several different types
of context.

1. In Triumph-Scenes. From the 1st Dynasty to Roman times, the most persistent icon of
pharaonic victory was that of the victorious king, striding forward with weapon upraised to bring
it down on the heads of hapless, defeated foes half-kneeling confusedly before him. In New-
Kingdom times, opposite the king, there stood a welcoming deity who (in Ramesside times)
might hold forth the scimitar-sword of victory. He (or else a lesser deity) also held the ends of
cords that ran along and bound the hands and heads of rows of foes behind the deity/ies and
below the entire scene; each foe was but a head upon a vertical oval containing the appropriate
place-name, with bound arms and hands hanging down behind. A rhetorical superscription runs
along over the main full-width rows of names. On the twin towers of pylon-gateways, it was
normal to feature northern foes (Syria-Palestine and beyond) and southern foes (Nubia and
southward) and their lists respectively on one tower each (e.g., Tuthmosis III, Pylons VI, VII,
Karnak), especially if the gateway faced east/west, so that a northerners’ triumph-scene could be
placed on the north tower, and a southerners’ scene on the matching south tower. It became
standard Ramesside practice also to have two different introductory triumphal texts, one for each
of the two matching scenes. One was created by using the triumph-hymn of Amenophis III from
his memorial temple, plus a linking text, plus the triumph-hymn of Tuthmosis III at Karnak. The
other was a fresh composition on related themes. But in some pairs of scenes (e.g., those of
Sethos I and Ramesses II flanking the north and south side-doorways of the great hall at Karnak),
even though northern wars were the cause of celebration, some southern names were also
included in the lists, as a reflex of Pharaoh’s claim to universal dominion. Special cases of single
triumphal reliefs are two by Merenptah (one, now destroyed) north of Pylon VII, and the unique
one by Shoshenq I adjoining the Bubastite Gate, all three at Karnak. Triumphal scenes, however,
were not the sole context for these lists as the following will show.

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2. Similar Scenes & Lists in Lunettes of Major Stelae. On major stelae, such as those of the
“Blessing of Ptah” of Ramesses II and III, a full triumph-scene occupies the uppermost part of
the stela, along with name-ovals (as described above) behind the deity and at times below the full
scene, just as on a temple pylon-tower or wall. On most others (like those of the viceroy Setau at
Abu Simbel), lists are not included.

3. Row of Names along the Base-panels of Temple Walls. So, around all four interior walls of
the hypostyle hall of Ramesses II at Amarah West temple in Nubia; above, on three sides,
warfare and other scenes occupy the main areas; but matching triumph-scenes flank the rear
doorway into the inner temple. At Abydos, in the Temple of Ramesses II, short lists appear on
the south façade of the IInd Pylon (below prisoners led to the king), and on the north and south
end-walls of the forecourt portico (context above them, now lost).

4. Sets of Names inscribed around Lower Parts of Columns & Door-passages. This is most
prominent in the runs of names around columns in the main hypostyle hall of the vast temple of
Amenophis III at Soleb in Nubia. In Upper-Egyptian Abydos, two short lists (engraved as if on
royal sphinx-bases) adorn the door-thicknesses of the King’s chapel of the Temple of Sethos I.

5. Lists inscribed around the Base-blocks of Royal Statues & Sphinxes. A far commoner
usage than Nos. 2-5, attested (e.g.) for Amenophis II and III, Haremhab, Sethos I, Ramesses II,
Ramesses III and Taharqa. Such statues and sphinxes can occur just in isolated pairs, or else in a
whole series, as in a temple court.

6. Brief “heraldic” lists. These are usually short, and set as decoration in royal contexts. So,
in scenes in private tomb-chapels on the throne-base below the king; once, on a chariot, that of
Tuthmosis IV from his tomb. Plus the two sets of labeled foreign chiefs high on the façade of the
front ‘high gate’ of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu. To these may finally be added:

7. Series of place-names in non-list contexts, such as the six registers of captured towns in the
reliefs of Year 8 of Ramesses II at the Ramesseum; and much earlier, the set of personified
Syrian places on jambs of a gateway of Amenophis I at Karnak.

8. Series of place-names in sets of battle-reliefs, which are not lists in any sense, but do
contain collocations of place-names in warfare contexts; so, for Sethos I, Ramesses II,
Merenptah and Ramesses III.

B. Types of Record: Textually Defined. The nature of each list (and type of list) has to be

defined by inspection of the contents, and with the aid of such identifications with known places
as are beyond doubt.

Not all relate to wars, it should be emphasized. We may distinguish the following types:
1. Encyclopedic. Such lists can be long, and cover all manner of distant places that Egypt’s

rulers knew about, even if contact might be more tenuous than real (e.g., as remote as Uruk in
southern Babylonia); such lists are not limited to places under Egyptian control, but serve to
illustrate the concept that Egypt’s gods held universal rule, and the pharaoh was their deputy as
potentially lord of “all lands,” pantocrator.

2. Regional Lists. (a) Limited to either Nubia and the south, or to Western Asia and northern
environs. (b) Mainly one region or the other, but including names from other regions, out of a
sense of universalism, or to fill up the number of names required by the layout on the wall, base,
or whatever.

3. Lesser Lists. (a) Abregés of longer listings; (b) ‘heraldic,’ often limited to traditional
names (e.g., Nine Bows) or to major entities beyond Egypt.

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