A Contribution by Professor Amira Sonbol


Starting Question: Tracing Punt is an entry into the possibility of an alternative or complementary history of the wider Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean worlds that shows greater interconnections and exchange of culture, goods and people.

Away from political history that focuses on a modern conceptualization of the world, narratives of the Ancient world tell of international affairs, movements of people, and exchange in goods and knowledge between wide expanses of seas and lands today understood to have been relatively secluded until modern explorations and technological developments made interconnectivity possible. Yet, evidence from ancient temples, stele, literature, mythology, cave or stone art, and a variety of other sources, illustrates how inter-connected the ancient world really was; dynamic with ambition, work, and ventures.

Since my childhood I have been fascinated with Hatshepsut (1478-1458 BCE), the Queen who dressed and ruled like a man, and the famous voyage she sent to the Land of Punt, which I understood to be Ethiopia. The trip was recounted to us as a unique act undertaken by a great monarch who ventured to send a fleet of ships into the unknown. But why send a fleet of ships to purchase goods–incense for the gods being the ultimate prize–and officials to meet and negotiate with that far-off land? What did Egypt know about Punt and what did they want from it? Having received a mostly westrocentric education, I saw the African world as a discovery of Western progress and saw Ancient Egypt as an outsider, an invader beyond its Southern borders. As for Arabia, it was Arabia Deserta, with little to offer the world until modernity, divided from Africa by the Red Sea, a difficult to navigate sea that acted as a buffer between the peninsula and its neighbors across the water. The Indian Ocean world was therefore far away, of little significance to the Red Sea or Mediterranean world, whose significance pretty much depended on the arrival of European discoveries.

Locating Punt

This colonial imaginaire had already been transformed by the time I began to be involved in searching for Punt; an image disappearing from my mind with greater knowledge about Egyptian and African history, Ancient Arabia, and Red Sea trade. But it is the connectivities and what they tell about the movements and interchange of knowledge and people living throughout this massive area that became a domain to explore as I began to read about Punt and the efforts undertaken by scholars to locate it. There seemed to be general agreement that Punt was somewhere on the Horn of Africa, particularly Senegal, Eritrea or Ethiopia. But there was also a belief that it may have actually been in Arabia, perhaps Yemen, and even a suggestion that Hatshepsut may in fact have been the mythical Queen of Sheba. Some have suggested Indian Ocean locations like Socotra Island off the shore of Southern Arabia or Sumatra in Indonesia, while at least one scholar located Punt in South America. The location is non-conclusive, as far as I can conclude, opening different possibilities to the puzzle. More importantly are the interconnectedness between these areas that became apparent through the work of various researchers and that represented a world-system active in exchanging goods, people, thoughts and culture. In short, the discussions and research introduced by various scholars in an effort to show the location of Punt have actually provided evidence to the circularities between these areas and painted a picture of active and interactive societies around the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

For Egyptian, African and Indian Ocean history, the story of Punt offers alternatives to the normative dismissal of the history of pre-colonial Africa, the seclusion of societies, and raises questions about the “uniqueness” approach to state-endeavors, like that of Hatshepsut, that focus the attention on centralized Pharisaic power rather than a wider social history that the record presents notwithstanding the power-centered discourses understood from much of the monuments and artifacts left by ancient civilizations.

Tracing Giraffes and Locating Punt

The temple of Deir al-Bahari, located in the Upper Egyptian town of Luxor, represents Hatchepsut’s greatest surviving achievement. [1] [2]







It is on its walls that we see painted, written and etched the full record of Punt with its sailing boats, the sailors who undertook the trip, and the goods they carried back including various species of plants and animals.


The complete picture is one of marvel, detail after detail, putting together a narrative recounting the purpose, intent, and results of the trip. At least it was the tale that the monarch or the workers and artists wished to tell about the trip.

Among the images depicted on the walls are various animals that were brought back; a bestiary of lions, tigers, ostriches, baboons, parrots, dogs, giraffes, and so on. Scholars tracing the location of Punt have made good use of these stele stories, tales and other texts to present their own interpretations of where Punt is located. The images of an “obese” queen and a thin “Egyptian looking” king who welcomed them and the Egyptian navy to Punt receives particular attention. Scholars make reference to species of plants brought back, particularly aromatic ones referred to as being the original reason for sending the trip to Punt. Fish and crustaceans, as well as huts and various types of birds and animals, are also used as indicators regarding the location of Punt.


One of the more interesting animals brought back is a giraffe, carved in details on the northern wall of Deir al-Bahari. Giraffes are unique to Africa, they thus present perhaps a unique opportunity to locate Punt given their non-existence in other places that have been studied as location for Punt with perhaps the exception of Arabia, given unproven suggestions that they roamed Arabia in prehistoric times. One Deir al-Bahari carving shows a young giraffe, which was probably the preferred age for transport since giraffes are not easily controllable and can cause serious harm to humans. Another image is of a full grown tall giraffe being loaded onto the boat departing for Egypt together with various animals and goods.

[3]The young giraffe still shows traces of its original coloring, deep ochre dots usual for giraffes. Unfortunately, the drawing of the larger giraffe does not show coloring. However, there are other images of giraffes in Ancient Egyptian art that help give some guidance regarding the location they were imported from. The following are examples that shed light on connections and trade with Africa.

Temple of Beit al-Wali


Built by Ramsis II (1279-1213) in Nubia (transferred to higher ground due to Nile flooding caused by building of the High Dam), the walls of the temple are covered with depictions of Nubians described as carrying tribute to Pharaoh. Although such scenes usually exaggerate Pharaoh’s power, the images give us an idea of the goods Ancient Egyptians were interested in importing from Africa. This included animal goods, particularly ivory and skins, woods like ebony and aromatic plants. Live animals of various types were also popular; and as is usual for such scenes, animals like baboons, parrots, lions, hunting dogs, and a young giraffe are drawn on the temple’s walls.[4]

Tomb of Huy

Another scene is of Nubians carrying offerings; this time to Huy, the Egyptian viceroy of Nubia, who was viceroy under the rule of King Tutankhamun (1347-1336)[5]. The giraffe included is a young one and without the usual coloring of giraffes. Perhaps the color has disappeared, but more likely this is the original image since there does not seem to be any pigmentation left and yet the other animals still have their coloring.


 The tomb of Rekhmire

We see the same procession of offerings of goods and animals, in this case on the walls of the tomb of Rekhmire, vizier to the Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (1479-1425 BC), who ruled Egypt for 54 years.


[6] The inscriptions on the wall describe the bearers of the tribute as follows:

“The people of Punt who bring incense trees, baboons, monkeys and animal hides. The people of Kefti (probably Crete), carrying pots and cubs. The Kushites (Nubians) who bring animals of equatorial Africa (giraffes, leopards, baboons, monkeys and dogs), offering ivory, animal hides and gold. The Retenus or Syrians, who bring pots, carts and weapons, along with various animals (horses, a bear and an elephant). The fifth group consists of people from various lands.”[7]

This quotation tells us that the scenes depicted are a compilation of the results of various trips, an artistic technique that was probably widely used and could apply to Deir al-Bahari.

The first three giraffes presented above are said to have been captured in Nubia or further south and brought to Egypt. Further information reaches us from the nineteenth century:


In the nineteenth century Muhammad Ali Pasha gifted Charles X of France with a giraffe. Caught and transported from Sennar in the Sudan,[8] Zarafa, as she was named, was sent by sea to France, allegedly walking the last bit of the trip from Marseilles to Paris through the countryside where she became a spectacle celebrated by writers and painters who left us a good image of what she looked like. Zarafa lived at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris for eighteen years (1825-1845) and was mummified and put on exhibition at the Museum of Natural History at La Rochelle after she died.

[9] [10]

Comparing this giraffe to the earlier ones shows a distinct difference in color and marking. Zarafa has a whiter belly and legs, similar to the Kordofan/Nubian species of giraffe (pictured in the above picture to the right). In contradistinction the Beit al-Wali and Rekmire giraffes—shown earlier above–, exhibit spots that are a much deeper maroon with distinctively denser patterns covering the whole body from toe to snout, closer in appearance to the Reticulated type of giraffe with its deeper maroon and overall covering of both young and full grown giraffes and could be even closer to the Masai type of giraffe given the patterns of ragged spots “resemble[ing] oak leaves” they exhibit.

“The spots on Masai and reticulated giraffes are vastly different. Masai giraffes have rather unpredictable, very deep brown spots that closely resemble oak leaves, according to the Nashville Zoo. These ragged spots are a major contrast to those of reticulated giraffes, which are slightly lighter brown in color and shaped very similarly to polygons — with straight, smooth sides.”[11][12]


We can conclude that it was probably usual for Egypt to import giraffes from Nubia and Sudan and that giraffes could actually be found up the Nile in Sudan until the nineteenth century. However, this did not mean that the giraffes imported to Egypt necessarily originated from these areas solely, they were possibly caught further south or west and brought up to markets in Nubia and Sudan, part of wider inter-Africa trade.

How is this significant for the location of Punt? For one thing, giraffes are found in Africa and nowhere else worldwide. This is evidenced by cave or stone art. Furthermore, since there are many species of giraffes, the particular specifications of the giraffe can tell us where a giraffe most probably originated from. This is evidenced by the various images of giraffes presented above as well as by Zarafa as the proto-type of Nubian giraffes, the location from which giraffes are generally indicted as having brought from and sent up to Egypt. However, a comparison with the specifications of various giraffes depicted on Ancient Egyptian monuments shows that not all giraffes originated in Nubia but rather came from much further south or west in Africa. The lack of coloring on the Deir al-Bahari giraffes does not help here, but other depictions and artistic renditions of the trip can help as will be discussed below.

Before moving in that direction, it may be important to add that originally giraffes were indigenous to North Africa as evidenced by prehistoric rock art from Egypt, Libya and Algeria. By Ancient Egyptian times, giraffes had moved south with the shrinking of the Savannah, the habitat where they live. Giraffe stone art becomes clearly more.

[14] [15]

profuse as we move toward the south and west, becoming a dominant theme from Kenya and into South Africa and the Niger. In contradistinction, prehistoric stone art of the Horn of Africa, which is the normatively accepted location for Punt, shows the rare giraffe depicted and only in Somalia toward the west where the savannah dominates close to the Kenyan border. Most of the rich rock art of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea is about cattle, particularly long-horned ones and toward the East, drawings of cattle and camels dominate the scene.

 [16]  [17]

Regarding the last two pictures, to the left, the only image of a giraffe in the rich Rock Art site of Las Gaal in western Somalia. [18]To the right, identified as a giraffe, rock painting among the rare rock paintings at the Dhambalin Site outside of Berbera in Somalia.[19]

Could Eritrea, Ethiopia or Somalia then have been the place where a giraffe came on board and hence can be identified as Punt as is widely accepted? Besides the rarity of Savannah land except for western Somalia where stone-art depictions of giraffes do appear, there are other reasons to doubt that the Horn of Africa was the location of Punt.

The map below shows that the area of the Horn of Africa was largely composed of terrain described as “semi-desert, suitable for camels”, followed by terrain described as “grassland, suitable for pastoral land.” This fits well with rock art from the various countries of the Horn of Africa where the dominant image is that of camels and cattle as shown above. Grass savannah is found across central Africa from Somalia (area where Hergesia, home of Las Gaal, is located), to Kenya and from there West and South. Fitting with Stone art depicting giraffes.


A number of conclusions can be drawn at this point. For one thing, it is not likely that Eritrea represented a place where giraffes were caught or brought for sale given the hardship of walking through Eritrea’s central mountain barriers. East of Eritrea is Ethiopia where giraffes could be found to the west toward the Kenyan borders; however, a giraffe caught there would have to traverse the mountain ranges of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is perhaps not surprising that giraffes were not found among the prehistoric art of the Horn of Africa except for the rare drawing of a giraffe in western Somalia. This also means that neither of the two countries was the location of Punt since it would be difficult to walk giraffes through their mountainous terrain. The only other conclusion for the possibility that Eritrea was the site of Punt, a fact that is concluded by many scholars, is that trips to Punt, or at least the one Hatchepsut sent, went to many locations and traded with various spots and that Punt, whether it was one particular country, town, or outpost, may in fact have been only one spot in that direction or was a word for a direction rather than for a spot. Giraffes brought up to Ancient Egypt thus probably came from further south, from the savannahs of Kenya and western Somalia. At least, that would be the logical place to look for giraffes. While the lack of coloring on the Punt giraffe does not help us in identifying the type and therefore the probability of the location, the Reckmire and Beit al-Wali giraffes, with their deep coloring, give a probability that they were Masai and/or Reticulated giraffes, placing them in the Kenyan Savana and/or Western Somalia.

Other Indicators to the Location of Punt

Besides giraffes, there are other indicators that could help give direction to the location of Punt, these include animals whose images appear in the pictorial record of the Hatchepsut Punt trip such as baboons and rhinoceros. Archeologists have studied these images and concluded that Africa was the location of these animals. Both animals however have also been shown to belong to Asia where baboons and rhinos both exist. The particular type of baboon, and in one study the hairs of a baboon mummy, were investigated to conclude that this particular baboon came from Africa. As for the rhino, the image on the wall of Deir al-Bahari is not a clear one and shows a one-horned rather than a two-horned rhino, an indication that would place it in Asia since African rhinos are double-horned except that, as was pointed out, damage may have been the reason why the second horn is no longer visible and the rhino is African. The opposite has been argued, however, showing the image to be of a one-horned rhino whose origins would have to have been Asia. A close look at the images, gives credibility to the second thesis.


One interesting proposition placed Punt in South America, Peru to be exact; evidence presented included the presence of statues of Africans, pyramids and other indications of the similarities between Ancient Egyptian civilization and pre-Columbian South America. The size of the boats and their navigability were shown to make such a crossing possible, bringing to mind the Norwegian ethnologist Thor Hairdhal’s 1970 experiment to cross the Atlantic from Africa to South America in papyrus boats modeled after Ancient Egyptian prototypes. The intent was to prove that Ancient Egyptians had in fact sailed to America in Ancient times. The boat, Ra II, sailed successfully but not without serious problems and near-decapitation.[23] If this hypothesis is correct, one wonders if South America was actually the mama of Ancient Egyptian civilization rather than the opposite, particularly given the reference in the writings of Ancient Egyptians to Punt as being the origins from which Egyptians came.

A perhaps “closer-to-home” possibility is offered by advocates of Java or Sumatra in Indonesia as the location of Punt. A well-argued article presented linguistic evidence of some credibility regarding names and terms related to the trip, to Ancient Egypt, and to the proper names of the “king” and “queen” of Punt whose images appear on the walls of Deir al-Bahari.

Other evidence the article presents include flora, fauna and fishes–particularly crustaceans–, rhinoceros, type of monkey, birds, short-horned cows and stilted-huts.


It is the stilted-huts in particular that caught my attention because of the clear picture of the stilted-huts that are included among the pictorial record of the trip to Punt. The flora and fauna and even language, on the other hand, seemed to present evidence for both an African and an Asian location for Punt. While we do not have exact replicas of original ancient huts, there are contemporary prototypes of huts that can help us.

Is it possible to imagine what native dwellings were like in Indonesia or Africa in 1500 BCE and hence decide where these stilted-huts images came from? Probably not; what is more telling here, however, is the context in which these huts are located, the panorama in which the huts play a focal role, with trees, birds, water and so on. In fact, what is depicted on Deir al-Bahari is nothing less than a complete panorama meant to tell a story; looking at each figure or item to try and figure where it came from diverts from the story. Below is a series of pictures from various sections of the panorama and a series of drawings of the panorama as it appears in Deir al-Bahari:

[24] [25]

In the last picture we see the fleet of ships as they are moving into and out of the landing place where goods were brought to be loaded by smaller boats or by people carrying goods up a plank to the ships. The ships appear to be of a significant size with multiple masts. The image makes clear that the sea on which the ships stood is filled with a great diversity of fish, fish that belong to sea-water, possibly the Red Sea but more probably a greater ocean with a richness of sea-life that the sailors wanted to record and illustrate. Given the effort to include as many species of fish as possible, the carver and painter seemed to wish to show what they, or the sailors who reported, saw perhaps with wonder. The clarity of the water must have helped in making these images so clear.

In the last picture above there appear to be three layers of panorama; the lowest two are of the seashore, the place where the ships docked. As for the top tier, it represents a scene on land and may have been a rendition of what takes place after demarcation and transport of goods once the boats have returned from their trip and reached Egypt, after which the goods are taken to their final destination. The panorama presented by the first two levels seem to be a continuation of the seaside scene presented in the drawing immediately before the last; the reception party meeting the ships and behind that the scene of the shore with its trees, birds and stilted-huts. This tells us that the huts were located on the shore right next to the water or perhaps even on the water, which may be the reason why the huts were built standing on stilts. The image of the hut does not tell us the material of which the huts are made, and that is problematic. One assumes that they were thatched huts and the stilts made of wood but such huts can be found all over the world including Africa and Asia. If the huts were made of some form of mud or brick, that narrows down the number and this is one of the evidence presented as to the South American origins of Punt.

A look at Africa, shows thatched huts as being the norm all over the continent, and at least in one place, Benin, there is an entire town made up of stilted huts, standing in the water or near the water.

 [26]  [27]

But Benin is in West Africa; does this mean that Ancient Egyptians traded by sea with West Afria? There is evidence to the circumnavigation of Africa by two ships manned by Phoenician sailors sent to explore the coasts of Africa by King Necho II (610–595 BC)

First-Cicumnaviation-of-Africa-271x300.png [28]

so it is possible that Punt was in West Africa; however, the shape of the huts, the panorama, and the lack of trees, birds and animals in a town whose buildings were all on stilts, puts this into question. Other stilted huts in Africa can be found around lakes and rivers or on dry land where stilts were used to protect stores of food or as protection from predators.



The Punt Deir al-Bahari panorama as a whole seems to work against an African location for the huts as the above pictures show; the African context does not appear to be as convincing as similar Asian panorama, as for example this one from Thailand:


Or the following 19th century paintings of Sumatera showing stilted houses with stairs, people, dog, and palm trees:

 [30] [31]

As for the native huts, huts from various islands of Java (c to j below) have been shown by the article “Land of Punt is Sumatera” to parallel the image presented by the Deir El-Bahari image (a and b below):


As these images show, there are various types of native huts that replicate the Punt hut and some of these huts are to be found today in museums in Indonesia. Some have an uncanny resemblance to the Punt image, and the one numbered (c) above, from the island of Enggano has been pointed out as the closest


The background foliage of trees seems to give credibility to the scene. The same webpage about Enggano also adds the picture below as further evidence. In this picture the image of the entourage of the king and queen of Punt are wearing headbands that are said to be the same as the ones worn as part of the national costume of Enggano today. Such specific evidence cannot be dismissed off-hand and leads to the conclusion that there is no reason to simply dismiss the hypothesis that Punt was located in Indonesia perhaps because of incredulity of this having taken place in the ancient world and our historical prejudices regarding the historical narrative for that part of the world.



Is the location of Punt any clearer? The answer is yes and no. What is clear is that the question is the source of fascination by scholars and that the evidence seems to give credibility to its location in many various spots globally. Some studies are more creditable than others, and overall many studies have presented coherent well-researched arguments using various types of material evidence that represent existing resources that can and should be reviewed and studied in their original form.

As a historian, this research made a number of methodological points clearer perhaps the most important being the big error we make when we periodize history in such a way as to make the past insignificant to the present except for limited points of continuity that serve specific narratives. Time and structure are essential for the study of history, but molding historical narratives and social evolution to fit with paradigms or ideological arguments has in fact hurt much of the knowledge we have of the world past and present and allowed for hegemonic discourses and the construction of narratives serving political and economic power struggles. The case of ancient and modern Egypt is a case in fact as is the “Tarzanic” view of a dark continent civilized by a white invader, its seclusion and backwardness being established facts that generations of scholars are still trying to erase from the historical and literary narrative.

While the idea of seclusion is dismissed in regards to most places in the world, it still finds acceptance when it comes to Africa, areas in South America where indigenous people continue to survive, various areas of the Middle East, and for much of the Third World during premodern times. What this study has shown is that there is an alternative history, one of greater interconnectedness and circularities, of movement of people, goods and knowledge; that trade and international relations were nothing new but usual for the ancient world. Was there one Punt or a multiplicity of Punts? Was Punt one location as scholars have accepted since the earliest study by the French archeologist Auguste Marietta (1821-1881) and the effort was to discover its location rather than understand its meaning? This question is important; if there is a multiplicity of Punts or at least the trip to Punt involved various stops and not only one particular port of call, this means that we are looking at multiple levels of trade rather than exclusively unilateral trade organized by central governments or states. If a giraffe was brought on board in Africa and a rhino in Asia, we are talking about many ports rather than one. If giraffes were brought up from West or South Somalia–or further south and west–to be traded in Nubia, this illustrates the on-going trade that existed within the African continent, which should not be surprising but accepted as normative. Ancient Egyptian civilization is very influenced by Africa and vice-versa, trade and movement of people and knowledge must have been the norm.

Tributes on the walls of Deir al-Bahari and the other sites discussed above show images of offerings carried in processions or led by retainers in the case of animals. They are carried toward a monarch or toward a God. They are presented among wider activities of the population such as field cultivation, butchering, hunting, fishing and even domestic and entertainment scenes. The first impression one gets is that much of the trade involved is about goods brought by the agents of the empire as tribute being exacted from conquered populations that produced them. This picture dominates narratives of the pharaonic period, readings of stela that speak of the power of pharaoh and the priesthood that served Egypt’s ancient gods. It is an image that emphasizes pharaonism, absolutist god-like power of the ruler. Yet, there is another reading that an effort to trace trading patterns not focused on monarchical power flushes out; thus regarding tributes, the intricacy and detailed way with which the goods are depicted show that there were lists, probably long ones, of very specific goods to be procured. Tribute to a state or conquering army would logically be in the form of slaves or particular goods brought delivered in quantities. Yet, the tribute goods brought back from Punt and other trips depicted in pharaonic art, show multiplicities of types of goods, almost like an inventory being filled or trade for a profit. A look at the goods brought back from Punt show it to have been a trip for trade and the goods brought back were in demand rather than tribute. In fact, nowhere does the record of Deir al-Bahari speak of the goods brought back as tribute even though the trip was a state-organizes trip; yet the pictorial presentation of the goods to the queen and to the Gods is replicated in other temples and tombs from different periods of ancient Egypt. One must assume that these images give an idea of the active trade in goods, plants and animals that existed between Egypt and other areas of the world during that early historical period.

The issue of tributes was raised by scholars who saw a greater purpose for “tributes” hidden by the focus of Egyptian tombs and temples on the “eternal”.

“Modern commentators sometimes refer to produce in such scenes as ‘tribute’, but there is no special word in the Egyptian language for imports delivered by tribute relations (that is, by obligation on a foreign ruler to deliver goods to Egypt for no return) – the translation violates the context of the ancient depiction, within which the means of acquisition do not need to be specified. Were they spoils of war? gifts in international relations? tribute from vassal states? items traded by market exchange? The answers are not provided from within the colourful depictions of the arrival of foreign goods and foreigners.”[33]

The focus on the eternal has meant studying the record of Ancient Egypt as a land ruled by a god-king with absolute power, or a people who only worked in preparation of an after-life for this monarch, of a life ruled by temples and gods. This hegemonic picture, revived with Egyptomania in the nineteenth century, serves to lend hegemonic credibility and historical logic to absolutist rule supported and justified by a ‘ulama class directing people to work for a day of judgment. This image is not only contradicted by the trade patterns and wide international relations of Egypt, it is refuted by actual textual record in the very rich literary, artistic and intellectual heritage that the ancients left to us. For example, what are known as the Amarna Letters, present 400 tablets from the Middle Kingdom discovered in the 1880’s that speak of court life and every-day life in upper Egyptian ancient city of Amarna. These letters raise questions regarding the very premises of preoccupation with the eternal, it may be that this focus is more the modern reading of these artifacts rather than the actual intent from these images that, at least to my eye, speak of life and the abundance that existed due to exchange and trade inside and outside of Egypt.

A reading of Ancient Egyptian art and artifacts without constant focus on the eternal give an image of an active society, social relations, and abundance. It also gives an image of power and ruthlessness. Such an approach questions the idea that Ancient Egyptian civilization was preoccupied with death, that the prime motive is pharaoh who ruled with such a ruthless firm arm as both God and King. In other words, there is no reason to doubt what Egyptologists have long concluded, that dedication to gods and the interest of Ancient Egyptians to ensure a safe passage to a safe hereafter. Yet it is a mistake to see the buildings, art and various objet d’art, as solely scenes of life meant for the deceased to take with him to the netherworld. Rather they are a celebration of life, and in any case present a vivid image of society in Ancient Egypt with its social and class patterns, feasts, beliefs, work, commerce, war and celebrations. If anything, the image is one of a strong, feisty population, involved in worldly pursuits, dynamic and creative. The image of a society dominated by a Pharaoh, notwithstanding how powerful, who rules as a despot with no balance of power or care for the society around him, simply does not stand up to scrutiny, if one looks through a different lens emphasizing lived realities rather than political hegemonic discourses.

The following images give such a representation:

Tomb of Khnumhotep III, Beni Hasa, Middle Kingdom

Catching ducks. “…the pool in Nebamun’s estate garden: date-palms, sycomores and mandrakes hedge the pool which teems with fish and fowl; the goddess of the sycomore, surrounded by her produce, is shown in the top right-hand corner.” British Museum, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/175147872983841166/


 Orchards, gardens and elaborate gardening emphasizing beauty of environment, beauty being an important aesthetic of Ancient Egyptians.



Appreciation of nature’s beauty

“Birds in an acacia tree, wall painting from Tomb of Khnumhotep III, Beni Hasan, Middle Kingdom”


Women, men, dancing and singing

Wines and orchards

Working and building


Diversity of foods, from deer to Quails and pomegranates

Family scene of parents, grandparents and children


harvesting and working the land


Boating on the Nile, fishing and rowing

Artists working on carving statues

Scenes of wrestling (Tomb of Beni Hassan, Minya).[35]

Medicine making

Humor and fun

Animals and pets

“The Egyptian Prince Thutmose had his cat Ta-Miewet buried beside him in her own stone sarcophagus. | New Kindgom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III.”

Mourning women

To sum up, this article can be said to have touched the tip of the barrel; it calls for a revisiting of our presumptions regarding the ancient world and particularly the interconnections, relations and exchange between people which involved much more than wars and conquests as our reading of the ancient record seems to yield. Social history in particular deserves fresh thought, the life of people, their work and enterprises, and the realities of their lives opening doors to a wider understanding of human history. For Africa and the Indian Ocean, there are clear interconnectivities and exchange, knowledge of each other and constant trade and travel that should present the dominant paradigm of how we study these areas of the world. History from all ages presents continuous and conflicting narratives, immense richness of materials that have yet to get our sufficient attention with a fresh and keen eye to understanding and tasting the life of our forebears.

  1. Temple of Deir Al-Bahari: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/367184175858441116/
  2. Statue head of Queen Hatchepsut: http://hatshepsut.bediz.com/story.html
  3. http://www.templeofhatshepsut.uw.edu.pl/en/representation_of_the_beautiful_feast_of_djeserdjeseru_in_the_temple_of_hatshepsut_at_deir_elbahari.html and illustration of image on the walls of Deir al-Bahari drawn by Johanned Duemichen, 1869.
  4. Herbert Ricke, George R. Hughes, and Edward F. Wente, The Beit El-Wali Temple of Ramesses II (Chicago: University of Chicagoe Press, 1967).
  5. “Nubians carrying offerings, among them a giraffe. Thebes, tomb of Huy, viceroy of Nubia, No.40 Period of Tutankhamun (1347-1336 BCE) Ancient Egyptian Paintings selected,copied & described by Nina M.Davies; plate LXXX”https://muhammadabdo.wordpress.com/08-01-1526/
  6. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544613
  7. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/rekhmire.htm
  8. Michael Allin, Zarafa: A True Story of a giraffe’s journey from the plains of Africa to the heart of post-Napoleonic France (London: Headline Book Publishing 1999), p. 9.
  9. Giraffe Crossing by Jacques Raymond Brascassat showing Zarafa with entourage traveling to Paris
  10. The stuffed giraffe known as Zarafa, in the Museum of Natural History of La Rochelle, Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zarafa_(giraffe)
  11. http://animals.mom.me/difference-between-masai-reticulated-giraffes-3135.html
  12. https://www.livescience.com/58917-april-the-giraffe-baby-named-tajiri.html
  13. https://www.google.com/search?q=masai+giraffe&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&imgil=O1anyrE6lQG5pM%253A%253BPU-THNtGQrA2pM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fcannundrum.blogspot.com%25252F2014%25252F08%25252Fmasai-giraffe.html&source=iu&pf=m&fir=O1anyrE6lQG5pM%253A%252CPU-THNtGQrA2pM%252C_&usg=__Ra0987eqi9W-hpYi767y9lSxDJY%3D&biw=1081&bih=1298&ved=0ahUKEwis8paW9LzUAhVIOhoKHa2ZD6cQyjcIjAE&ei=Z_JAWeyiBsj0aK2zvrgK#imgrc=DxyyKBPyhzso_M:
  14. 782a372ef11a5e43607a7fa55c6cd861.jpg.pdf
  15. http://ielc.libguides.com/content.php?pid=677629&sid=5616940A hieroglyph of a giraffe carved on the northern wall. Photo J. Iwaszczuk
  16. “Rock art from Der’a, in the southern part of Eritrea” http://www.madote.com/2017/04/understanding-rock-art-in-eritrea.html
  17. http://www.madote.com/2017/04/understanding-rock-art-in-eritrea.html
  18. https://www.blackgate.com/2014/11/05/somalias-forgotten-past-the-prehistoric-painted-caves-of-somaliland/
  19. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14592866.
  20. https://www.google.com/search?q=savannah+africa+map+historical&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&imgil=Qzrf_d5YKdRqSM%253A%253BGjUCsfr6heJmnM%253Bhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.pinterest.com%25252Fpin%25252F499336677411308508%25252F&source=iu&pf=m&fir=Qzrf_d5YKdRqSM%253A%252CGjUCsfr6heJmnM%252C_&usg=__pi-OCl3G46ytXu1uNfvxbQkSM_0%3D&biw=1305&bih=1300&ved=0ahUKEwiDpI7hmsDUAhUHwBQKHUnJAzUQyjcINw&ei=hK1CWYNSh4BTyZKPqAM#imgrc=Qzrf_d5YKdRqSM:
  21. https://landofpunt.wordpress.com/tag/edouard-naville/0
  22. This series of pictures are part of the argument for an Asian location for Punt in the article “Land of Punt is Sumatera”, posted on 14 November, 215. https://atlantisjavasea.com/2015/11/14/land-of-punt-is-sumatera/
  23. Thor Heyerdahl, The Ra Expeditions (London: Doubleday, 1971).
  24. http://www.ancient-egypt-online.com/hatshepsut.html
  25. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gentwo/193616315/
  26. http://tripfreakz.com/offthebeatenpath/ganvie-in-benin
  27. Ibid.
  28. Herodotus (2010-01-10). The Histories of Herodotus (Unexpurgated Edition) (Halcyon Classics) (Kindle Locations 4843-4844). Halcyon Press Ltd.. Kindle Edition.
  29. Beach on Koh Chang in Trat Province, Thailand with trees and old beach huts on stilts. https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/beach-on-koh-chang-trat-province-623289347?src=K8zO_cG5tyEzCfB_8dFxHw-1-28
  30. PEOPLE. Indonesia Lithographs / engravings from the 19th century People at their stilt hut on the island of Sumatra – colored lithograph – 19th century.https://www.granger.com/results.asp?inline=true&image=0228023&wwwflag=1&itemx=6&screenwidth=1324This picture is copy-righted and we have to buy it.
  31. Traditional stilt houses in a village in Sumatra, circa 1800. Handcoloured copperplate engraved by Sasso from Giulio Ferrario’s Ancient and Modern Costumes of all the Peoples of the World, Florence, Italy, 1844.http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-traditional-stilt-houses-in-a-village-in-sumatra-circa-1800-handcoloured-102727076.htmlneed to purchase picture
  32. https://kanzunqalam.com/tag/peradaban/
  33. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/foreignrelations/trade.html
  34. Field of Reeds, from the tomb of Sen-Nezem near Luxor
  35. file:///Users/amira/Desktop/ZARAFA/The%20tombs%20of%20Beni%20Hassan,Tomb%20of%20Khety,%20Tomb%20of%20Baqet,%20Tomb%20of%20Amenmehat,%20Beni%20Hassan,%20El%20Minya%20necr.webarchive

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