Procession of the Āāmu

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The procession of the Āāmu of Shu, or the procession of "Asiatics" (as commonly referred to by Egyptologists today), at Beni Hasan is an ancient Egyptian painting on the northern wall of Khnumhotep II's tomb in the Beni Hasan necropolis. Dated to the sixth year of Twelfth Dynasty Pharaoh Sesostris II (ca. 1892 BCE), the Āāmu in this scene have been identified as the Asiatic nomadic traders who are sometimes considered Hyksos or at least their forerunners. The group, led by a man called Absha (or Abisha, Abishai), is depicted bringing offerings to the deceased Khnumhotep II.

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This scene (identify) is part of the third register from the top of the painting on the northern wall of the main chamber of Tomb 3 of the mortuary complex, belonging to Khnumhotep II.

The accompaying inscription mentions that there were 37 persons, but the scene depicts only fifteen, eight men, four women and three children. These people are depicted with a different skin color than almost all the other people on the mural. Their yellow skin was a standard Egyptian artistic convention to differentiate Mediterranean-world foreigners from Egyptian men (red skin color).

Relief Details

circa 1892 BCE

On the right is a large figure of Khnumhotep, who is accompanied by one of his sons, and hy an attendant, and by three drogs, and the four lines of text above him state that he is inspecting his cattle and the produce of his lands. Of the four registers of figures before him, the first is perhaps the most important, for it illustrates the procession of a foreign people, called Āāmu in the hieglyphic inscription, who visited him in his capacity of governor of the 16th nome.

circa 1892 BCE

At the head of the procession or caravan is a a royal scribe, named Nefer-hotep, who holds in his hand a papyrus scroll, on which is inscribed, "Year 6, under the majesty of Horus, the leader of the world, the king of the south and north, Ra-Kha-Kheper (i.e., Sesostris II). List of the Āāmu, brought by the son of the Khnumhotep, on account of the 'stibium' (eye-pain) Āāmu of Shut; a list of 37 [persons], and behind the scribe stands the official Khati.

Behind him the Aamu chief, or desert Shekh; these are followed by the other members of the foreign tribe. The men of the Aamu wear beards, and carry bows and arrows, and both men and women are dressed in garments of many colours.

circa 1892 BCE

The group seems to be an extended family of traders. While the inscriptions mention eye paint, their equipment suggests a band of traveling metal workers. That might be appropriate, since the most common material for eye paint in early Egypt was malachite (a green ore of copper), well-known in the Syro-Palestine region. The home of the Aamu was situated to the east of Palestine. In this mural some have suggested a representation of the arrival of Jacob's sons in Egypt to buy corn, but there's no evidence for the support of this theory.


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