The text in the grave.

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Pharaoh Nefrikare (2500 BC)


Taken from: James Henry Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt Part I §§ 351 ff 


This is the translation of an inscription found at Elephantine (close to Assouan) on the grave of the governor Harkhuf.


Harkhuf received this royal letter from the 8 year old Pepi II, when he was on his way back from his fourth expedition to the south. He had it engraved on his tomb.


Isesi : Djedkare (ca. 2413-2381) who ruled about a century before Pepi II

Neferkere : Pepi II (ca. 2279-2181)

year 2, third month of the first season, day 15: Julian date: May, ca. 2277 BCE

Land of Yam (also transliterated as Imaou) translated as land of the trees.

Land of the Spirits: several authors have made this in the equatorial forest,

In: The forest People by Colin Turnbull it becomes: west of the mountains of the moon. 

Dwarf in the translation of Deneng or Deng with the meaning of pygmy..  



Royal seal, year 2, third month of the first season, day 15.

    Royal decree (to) the sole companion, the ritual priest and caravan-conductor Harkhuf.


    I have noted the matter of this thy letter, which thou hast sent to the king, to the palace, in order that one might know that thou hast descended in safety from Yam with the army which was with thee. Thou hast said [in] this thy letter, that thou hast brought all great and beautiful gifts, which Hathor, mistress of Imu hath given to the ka of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Neferkere who liveth forever and ever. Thou hast said in this thy letter, that thou hast brought a dancing dwarf of the god from the land of spirits, like the dwarf which the treasurer of the god Burded brought from Punt in the time of Isesi. Thou hast said to my majesty:"never before has one like him been brought by any other who has visited Yam.  



    Each year [....] thee doing that which thy lord desires and praises; thou spendest day and night [with the caravan] in doing that which thy lord desires, praises, and commands. His majesty will make thy many excellent honors to be an ornament for the son of thy son forever, so that all people will say when they hear what my majesty doeth for thee: "Is there anything like this which was done for the sole companion, Harkhuf, when he descended from Yam, because of the vigilance he showed, to do that which his lord desired, praised, and commanded.  

    Come northward to the court immediately; [...] thou shalt bring this dwarf with thee, which thou bringest living, prosperous and healthy from the land of spirits, for the dances of the god, to rejoice and [gladden] the heart of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Neferkare, who lives forever. When he goes down with thee into the vessel, appoint excellent people, who shall be beside him on each side of the vessel; take care lest he fall into the water. When he sleeps at night appoint excellent people, who shall sleep beside him in his tent, inspect ten times a night. My majesty desires to see this dwarf more than the gifts of Sinai and of Punt. If thou arrivest at court this dwarf being with thee alive, prosperous and healthy, my majesty will do for thee a greater thing than that which was done for the treasurer of the god Burded in the time of Isesi, according to the heart's desire of my majesty to see the dwarf.  

    Commands have been sent to the chief of the New Towns, the companion, and superior prophet, to command that sustenance be taken from him in every store-city and every temple, without stinting therein.