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Sehel Island

The Most Amazing Island In Aswan

If you go 4 kilometres to the south of Aswan, you will find Sehel Island along the River Nile. Ancient travellers going to Nubia, or returning from the south, would visit Sehel Island and make inscriptions that expressed their gratitude to the gods for allowing them to safely make it through the dangerous Nile cataract. They recorded details about their journeys with these inscriptions, which were carved onto huge granite boulders found in different locations on the island.

In 1887, Sehel Island was visited by Flinders Petrie. He took pictures of the sites and had sketched thousands of different inscriptions that were on the various cliffs and boulders. He had to use rope ladders to climb down some of the cliffs and do these sketches. On the southeastern area of Sehel Island, there are two dominating hills that have more than 250 inscriptions on it. A lot of the inscriptions are dedicated to Anukis the Goddess, and they were put there at some point between the Middle Kingdom period and the Ptolemaic period.

During the reign of Amenemhet II in Dynasty XII, a chapel was built in dedication of Anukis. The last blocks taken from a little Ptolemaic Khnum temple were discovered spread all over the Nubian village. Along the Egyptian border, people worshipped the goddess Anubis. They called her the Mistress of Nubia and has close associations with Aswan cataracts, Elephantine Island, and Sehel Island. People thought of Anubis as a fertility god and a protective god. She personified the River Nile and was believed to have loved the inundated waters. Khnum, who was her husband, was the creator god with the head of a ram. His pottery wheel is usually seen with the ka of the King on it. He and Anubis were both fertility gods that protected the region.

A metal fence is now used to enclose the monumental boulders. From the river, you can take a path which leads west to an area with more inscriptions. To the east, you can find a huge hill with several well-preserved carvings of hieroglyphic inscriptions. They are dedicated to several deities, such as Khnum and Anubis. You do need to purchase a ticket to enter this eastern side.

If you climb further up the hill and reach the top, you can enjoy a marvellous view of the southern cataract area. These are rocky areas with boulders in the River Nile’s narrowest channels. The boulders caused fast foaming water to form in the river before the Aswan Dam was built there in 1902. Smaller boats couldn’t go in between the boulders, and bigger boats had to unload their cargo before making their way down the stretch of the River Nile. When you look at the river from the hilltop, you can clearly see the danger of travelling on the river. It is no wonder why travellers wanted to seek protection for the gods.

The eastern hill summit features the most famous rock inscription to be found on Sehel Island. It is called the “Famine Stela.” A huge granite boulder contains the light inscription, and it describes a story that took place in Dynasty III while Horus Netjerikhet ruled the land. It is an artificial date, though, and it is believed the carved text was done at some point in the Ptolemaic Period. Archaeologists can tell this by the grammar and vocabulary style. One theory was that someone reworded the text from a previous document. However, this is the first known link between the various names King Djoser and Pharaoh Netjerikhet, who owned the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Most people refer to him as King Djoser rather than the other name.

King Djoser is depicted on the stela as making an offering to the gods Anukis, Khnum-Re, and Satis. Underneath are vertical text rows that reference the devastating effects of famine and drought, which lasted for seven years during King Djoser’s rule. It also talks about a dream where Khnum comes before the King and says that he’ll end these problems if he follows the Elephantine temple’s instructions that are on the building. It was a decree which said that a one-tenth tax must be placed on all the harvested produce as well as the produce from fishing and hunting. The tax is to be donated to the Khnum temple. Meanwhile, no other administrator or official would have the power to tax people.

Historians believe local Khnum priests created the decree as political propaganda in order to gain more power because Khnum did not have as much power in the region anymore. Of course, no one questioned the decree back then, so it was obeyed and followed.

Updated On May 04, 2020