Ancient Egyptian Literature

The Eloquent Peasant

Excerpt by Miriam Lichtheim
First published in 1973, this anthology has assumed classic status in the field of Egyptology and portrays the remarkable evolution of the literary forms of one of the world’s earliest civilizations. Beginning with the early and gradual evolution of Egyptian genres, it includes biographical and historical inscriptions carved on stone, the various classes of works written with pen on papyrus, and the mortuary literature that focuses on life after death. It then shows the culmination of these literary genres within the single period known as the New Kingdom (1550–1080 B.C.) and ends in the last millennium of Pharaonic civilization, from the tenth century B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era. 
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Mdw Ntr: Divine Speech

The Nine Petitions of the Farmer Whose Speech is Good

Excerpt by Jacob Carruthers
“Does the Word in Africa have a proper meaning? Could a diachronic study of the Word in Africa be undertaken? What is the meaningful particularity of the African Word since the Egyptian Mdw Ntr (hieroglyphs) to Nommo, the Spoken Word of the Dogon of Mali? All these questions pertaining to History and Philosophy are carefully and thoroughly examined in this book. It is a great honor to recommend this book not only to the specialist but to all those interested in conducting research in African and African American studies.” –Prof. Theophile Obenga
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Cahiers Caribeens d'Egyptologie

Translating Wordplay in the Eighth Petition of The Eloquent Peasant: A New Interpretation

by Dr. Mario Beatty
A close philological examination of wordplay in line B I, 337/B2, 72 in eighth petition of The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant yielded a variety of different and plausible translations. This paper seeks to explain the state of ambiguity that hovers over translating this line, examine major existing translations, and provide a new translation and interpretation of this line. The paper attempts to prove that the elaborate wordplay in this line actually refers to Thoth. As a result, the sequential narrative mode of exposition that invokes the role of Maat is rendered more intelligible as juxtaposed against and distinguished from Thoth. The paper will conclude by discussing the implications of this new interpretation in the context of the eigth petition and the broader context of the narrative.
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ANKH article: N°4-5, 1995-1996 (pp. 215 - 221)

Celestial Sphere in Ancient Egypt

by Dr. Mario Beatty
In reading the introductory hymn to the sun-god Ra in the Papyrus of Ani, attention of authors was immediately attracted by the Egyptian word psdw. Neither of the major dictionaries of the ancient Egyptian language (LESKO, 1982; FAULKNER, 1991; Woterbuch de ERMAN et GRAPOW (1926) have this word with the determinative of the sun. In this paper, they show that it is an astronomical term which means the celestial sphere.  
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ANKH article: N°4-5, 1995-1996 (pp. 163 - 177)

On the Source of the Moon's Light in Ancient Egypt

by Dr. Mario Beatty
In this article, the author shows that the Ancient Egyptians seem to have discovered that the moon shines, but it does not shine from light of its own. It is borrowed light from the sun. In revealing this observation in Ancient Egypt, the author focuses on the Great Hymn to Thoth on the statue of Horemheb and selects passages from the Book of Coming Forth By Day. Based on Ancient Egyptian astronomical observations in these texts, there is significant evidence to conclude that they definitively observed during the New Kingdom (1600 B.C. - 1080 B.C.) that the source of the moon's light derived from the sun. In concluding, he briefly highlights the importance of this discovery relative to the history of astronomy.
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ANKH article: N°12-13, 2003-2004 (Pp. 78-99)

Martin Delany and Egyptology

by Dr. Mario Beatty
Abstract: Martin Robinson Delany (1812-1885) was clearly the first African-American to attempt to visually present, transcribe, and translate Egyptian hieroglyphs in a text entitled Principia of Ethnology: The Origins of Races and Color, with an Archaeological Compendium of Ethiopian and Egyptian Civilization from Years of Careful Examination and Enquiry (1879). There has never been any research conducted on descriptively understanding the method and significance of his effort to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The purpose of this paper seeks to present a philological and historical examination of his effort to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs historically contextualized as a response to the impact of the famous “American School of Ethnology” and one of its prominent members, George Robins Gliddon, an amateur Egyptologist who played a foundational mediating role in introducing Egyptology and the work of Champollion to American audiences in the nineteenth century.
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ANKH ARTICLE: N°12-13, 2003-2004 (pp. 64-81)

Hieroglyphic Transcription of the Instructions of Ptahhotep

by Dr. Mario Beatty
Africa is not only the cradle of humanity, but it is also the birthplace for serious and sustained philosophical reflections on life. The Instructions of Ptahhotep, one of the most important wisdom texts in world history, is one of the earliest testaments of these reflections. Most Egyptologists who translate the Instructions of Ptahhotep utilize the most complete version of this text commonly labeled Papyrus Prisse (PP). The original hieratic text was published by Gustave Jequier in 1911. In the twentieth century, there were two major hieroglyphic transcriptions of the Instructions of Ptahhotep, one done by Eugene Devaud in 1916 and the other by Zybnek Zaba in 1956.

Today, most Egyptologists rely primarily upon the accuracy of the hieroglyphic transcription presented by Zybnek Zaba. Because of the importance of this text, the author systematically looks at the original hieratic version of the text published by Gustave Jequier and follows Zybnek Zaba's hieroglyphic transcription line by line. Dr. Beatty found a number of scribal errors in Zaba's hieroglyphic transcription which, in a few cases, could even significantly impact the translation of the text. This brief paper focuses on amending some of these scribal errors in Zaba's hieroglyphic transcription of the version of the Instructions of Ptahhotep labeled Papyrus Prisse (PP). He concludes by providing a number of suggestions toward publishing a new edition and hieroglyphic transcription of this seminal text.
ANKH ARTICLE: N°12-13, 2003-2004 (pp. 26-47)

Women in Maxim 21 of the Instructions of Ptahhotep

by Dr. Mario Beatty

The translation and interpretation of Maxim 21 in the Instructions of Ptahhotep has historically been a very difficult passage for Egyptologists. This difficulty manifests in both problems of grammatical analysis and cultural interpretation. Dr. Beatty begins by providing a transcription and transliteration of Maxim 21 from the egyptian text. Following this, he submits his own original translation of the passage compared to the translations of other Egyptologists and then proceed to grammatical and cultural commentary. Through a close grammatical analysis of this maxim, this article shows that the image of women in this maxim is overwhelmingly positive without any traces of a negative view. The article concludes by suggesting that Ancient Egyptian women should be analyzed inside their own cultural paradigm of Maat which is fundamentally and deeply African in both essence and scope.
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