A procession of foreigners, a detail from the tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hassan

Egypt, Beni Hassan, Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3), Upper Cemetery, Chapel, North wall.

This register contains one of the most recongnisable scenes of foreigners in Egyptian Pharaonic history: the arrival of a group of Asiatics, which is located on the chapel's north wall General view of the north wall. The scene is clearly described as jjt ḥr jnt msdmt jn n.f ꜤꜢm 37 'arriving and bringing black eye-paint, which 37 Asiatics brought to him'. Two men of non-Egyptian origin, refered to as ꜤꜢmw 'Asiatics', bring animals and offerings to the tomb owner, preceded by two Egyptians announcing their arrival. The two Asiatics have yellow-painted skin, large hooked noses, and greyish-blue eyes and sport short pointed beards with coiffed, mushroom hairstyles. They wear brightly coloured and patterned clothing speckled in red, blue and white.

The first Egyptian man on the right is identified as sš Ꜥ(w) nswt Nfr-ḥtp 'the scribe of the royal documents, Noferhotep'. He bows before Khnumhotep II while holding a rolled papyrus in one hand and presenting him with another unfolded document. On it is written: rnpt-sp 6 ḫr ḥm n Ḥr sšm tꜢwj nswt-bjtj ḪꜤ-ḫpr-RꜤ rḫt n ꜤꜢmw jn.n sꜢ ḥꜢtj-Ꜥ H̱nmw-ḥtp(.w) ḥr msdmt m ꜤꜢmw n Šw rḫt jr 37 'regnal year 6 under the Majesty of Horus, Leader of the Two Lands, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khakheperre (Senwosret II); the number of Asiatics whom the son of the count, Khnumhotep, brought on account of the black eye-paint, namely Asiatics of Shu, number amounting to 37'. The unfolded document can be seen here in more detail: Scroll recording the arrival of a group of foreigners. The second man is labelled jmj-r nww H̱tjj 'the overseer of hunters, Khety'. The first two Egyptian men can be seen here in more detail: Two men announcing the arrival of an Asiatic procession.

The first foreigner in the procession, described as ḥḳꜢ ḫꜢst JbšꜢ 'ruler of a foreign land, Ibsha', presents the first recorded Middle Kingdom usage of the title. Scholars agree on a northwest Semitic origin for JbšꜢ's name and has been equated with Abi-shai ('my father is king'), and Abi-sharie ('my father is strong'). Artistically distinct from the other men in his retinue, JbšꜢ wears the most colourful knee-length garment, which is draped over one shoulder with the other bare but for a white detail connecting the fabrics (possibly a pin). Intricate patterns and fringing along the sides of the garment point to it as a woollen textile. JbšꜢ bends forwards and holds in his left hand a banded, curved-stick with which he controls a Nubian ibex (Capra ibex nubiana) and his right hand is extended with palm open, facing down.

The barefoot man adjacent to JbšꜢ wears a colourfully banded kilt with a wavy waistline and is represented with a unique object hanging at the tip of his beard. Lack of parallels restricts its identification, but perhaps it is a jewelled adornment or a water (possibly sweat) droplet. The man's lower body is hidden by a dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas), which he holds by the horn in his right hand and by the neck with a rope in his left hand. As he shares artistic details with the leader before him (both guide an animal, and are barefoot) but remains distinct from the men behind him in clothing and adornment, it is suggested here that this 'gazelle tamer' is the second-in-command of the foreigners. The two non-Egyptians can be seen here in more detail: Leaders of an Asiatic procession.

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, Reign of Amenemhat II (c. 1918-1884 BCE).
Egypt, Beni Hassan, Upper Cemetery, Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3), Chapel, North wall, Centre section, Wall, 3.
Relief or Polychrome Paint.
Parent Context
Data Credits
Compiled by Hannah Vogel, Alexandra Woods and Penelope Blake and the Beni Hassan Research Group with resources from the Macquarie University Ancient Cultures Research Centre, and the Australian Centre for Egyptology.
Project Funding
Supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project scheme: DP160102223 "Measuring meaning in Egyptian art: A new approach to an intractable problem" held by N. Kanawati (MQ), L. Evans (MQ), A. Woods (MQ) and J. Kamrin (Met), the Macquarie University Department of Ancient History, and the Macquarie University Faculty of Arts.
Original Citation
N. Kanawati & L. Evans, Beni Hassan: Volume I: The Tomb of Khnumhotep II (Australian Centre for Egyptology: Reports 36, Aris and Phillips, Oxford, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-85668-846-1), pls. 42a (photograph),
Recorded and published with permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Photographs by Effy Alexakis as part of research on site. Copyright Macquarie University 2018. All rights reserved.
Cite this
Hannah Vogel, Alexandra Woods and Penelope Blake "A procession of foreigners, a detail from the tomb of Khnumhotep II at Beni Hassan ." In The Beni Hassan Visual Dictionary: Khnumhotep II, edited by Alexandra Woods, Brian Ballsun-Stanton, and Nicolle Leary. Sydney: Macquarie University, 2018. https://benihassan.com/dictionary/Khnumhotep+II+Tomb+3/A+procession+of+foreigners/