Expedition to Punt under Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri was itself a material statement about her reign, an assertion of her claim to the throne and the proclamation of her "official" assessment of her accomplishments. The lower two terraces, the most accessible part of the temple, highlight in relief and inscription a number of her achievements as king: a campaign in Nubia, the transport of some impressive monuments to the Temple of Amon at Karnak, her divine birth and coronation, and an expedition to Punt.

Punt was a kingdom south of Nubia, possibly between the Blue Nile and the Red Sea (the precise location is not known, with arguments made for what is today southern Sudan or Ethiopia, on the basis of the vegetation shown in Egyptian reliefs and paintings). From as early as the Old Kingdom, various rulers of Egypt had extended their influence into the southern Nile area, tapping into access routes to unusual and valuable resources from other parts of Africa, including Punt, which was especially known for myrrh, ebony, malachite and electrum. There had been a long interval when Egypt's trade contacts had not reached this far, and it may be that Hatshepsut emphasized the Punt expedition because it symbolized a return to the level of imperial power that accommodated easy access to luxury goods from far-off lands.

The Punt reliefs start with a depiction of the Egyptian boats heading south, then their reception in Punt, the "exchange" with the Puntites and the acquisition of myrrh-trees, electrum, and other such items, then the boats are shown being loaded with all the tribute and returning home, where they present their loot to Hatshepsut. In an ostentatious display of piety, Hatshepsut offers lavish amounts of these items to the god Amon, helping herself to weigh and measure the quantities involved and reminding the god that the expedition was initiated at his order. The success of the mission is then announced, to Amon and to the court.

Consider:

for what purpose is the expedition made? what is the end goal of contact with Punt?

how does the expedition add to Hatshepsut's kingly authority?

The Oracle

(285.) The king himself, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Makere (Hatshepsut). The majesty of the court made supplication at the steps of the lord of [gods]; a command was heard from the great throne, an oracle of the god himself, that the ways to Punt should be searched out, that the highways to the Myrrh-terraces should be penetrated: "I will lead the army on water and on land, to bring marvels from God's-Land for this god, for the fashioner of her beauty." It was done, according to all that the majesty of this revered god commanded, according to the desire of her majesty (fem.), in order that she might be given life, stability, and satisfaction, like Re, forever.

Promises of Amon

286. Utterance of Amon-Re, lord of Thebes: "Welcome! my sweet daughter, my favorite, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Makere (Hatshepsut), who makes my beautiful monuments, who purifies the seat of the great ennead of gods for my dwelling, as a memorial of her love. Thou art the king, taking possession of the Two Lands, Khnemet-Amon, Hatshepsut, great in oblations, pure in food-offerings. Thou satisfiest my heart at all times; I have given thee all life and satisfaction from me, all stability from me, all health from me, all joy from me, I have given to thee all lands and all countries, wherein thy heart is glad. I have long intended them for thee, and the aeons shall behold them until those myriads of years of usefulness which I have thought to spend. I have given to thee all Punt as far as the lands of the gods of God's-Land."

Punt in Former Time

287. "No one trod the Myrrh-terraces, which the people knew not; it was heard of from mouth to mouth by hearsay of the ancestors-------. The marvels brought thence under thy fathers, the Kings of Lower Egypt, were brought from one to another, and since the time of the ancestors of the Kings of Upper Egypt, who were of old, as a return for many payments (1) ; none reaching them except thy carriers."

Punt under the Queen

288. "But I will cause thy army to tread them, I have led them on water and on land, to explore the waters of inaccessible channels, and I have reached the Myrrh-terraces. It is a glorious region of God's-Land; it is indeed my place of delight. I have made it for myself, in order to divert my heart, together with Mut, Hathor, Wereret, mistress of Punt, the mistress, 'Great in Sorcery'(2) , mistress of all gods. They(3) took myrrh as they wished, they loaded the vessels to their hearts' content, with fresh myrrh trees, every good gift of this country, Puntites whom the people know not, Southerns of God's-Land. I conciliated them by love that they might give to thee praise, because thou art a god, because of thy fame in the countries. I know them, I am their wise lord, I am the begetter, Amon-Re; my daughter, who binds the lords, is the king [Makere] (Hatshepsut). I have begotten her for myself. I am thy father, who sets thy fear among the Nine Bows (4), while they come in peace to all gods. They have brought all the marvels, every beautiful thing of God's-Land, for which thy majesty sent them: heaps of gum of myrrh, and enduring trees bearing fresh myrrh, united in the festival-hall, to be seen of the lord of the gods. May thy majesty cause them to grow. [] my temple, in order to delight my heart among them. My name is before the gods, thy name is before all the living, forever. Heaven and earth are flooded with incense; odors are in the Great House. Mayest thou offer them to me, pure and cleansed, in order to express the ointment for the divine limbs, to offer myrrh, to make ointment, to make festive my statue with necklaces, while I am making libations for thee. My heart is glad because of seeing thee."

 

Translation from J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt (New York, 1962), vol 2, pp. 116-119.