The Coptos Decrees are 18 complete or fragmentary ancient Egyptian royal decrees ranging from the 6th Dynasty (2345–2180 BC) to the late 8th Dynasty (c. 2170 BC). The decrees are numbered with letters of the Latin alphabet, starting with "Coptos Decree a" and ending with "Coptos Decree r". The earliest of the series were issued by Pepi I and Pepi II Neferkare to favor the clergy of the temple of Min,while the others are datable to the reign of various kings of the Eighth Dynasty, and concern various favors granted to an important official from Coptos named Shemay and to his family members. The decrees reflect the waning of the power of the pharaoh in the early First Intermediate Period.
Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.
The Sixth Dynasty of ancient Egypt along with Dynasties III, IV and V constitute the Old Kingdom of Dynastic Egypt.
Pepi II was a pharaoh of the Sixth Dynasty in Egypt's Old Kingdom who reigned from c. 2278 BC. His throne name, Neferkare (Nefer-ka-Re), means "Beautiful is the Ka of Re". He succeeded to the throne at age six, after the death of Merenre I.
The Coptos decrees should not be confused with the Coptos Decree of Nubkheperre Intef , a unique document datable to the much later 17th Dynasty.
The Coptos Decree of Nubkheperre Intef is a legal ruling written in hieroglyphic on the wall of the Min-temple in Coptos.
The Seventeenth Dynasty of Egypt is classified as the third dynasty of the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt. The 17th Dynasty dates approximately from 1580 to 1550 BC. Its mainly Theban rulers are contemporary with the Hyksos of the Fifteenth Dynasty and succeed the Sixteenth Dynasty, which was also based in Thebes.
Ten of the decrees were discovered during the 1910–1911 excavations of the temple of Min at Coptos by Adolphe Reinach and Raymond Weill, working for the Société française des fouilles archéologiques.The decrees had been carefully stowed under the ruins of a Roman mudbrick structure. The remaining decrees originate either from the same excavations or from illegal operations by local people that were sold in Luxor in 1914 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Min is an ancient Egyptian god whose cult originated in the predynastic period. He was represented in many different forms, but was most often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail. As Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, "the maker of gods and men".
Qift is a small town in the Qena Governorate of Egypt about 43 km (27 mi) north of Luxor, situated under 26° north lat., on the east bank of the Nile. In ancient times its proximity to the Red Sea made it an important trading emporium between India, Punt, Felix Arabia and the North.It was important for nearby gold and quartzite mines in the Eastern Desert, and as a starting point for expeditions to Punt.
Adolphe Joseph Reinach was a French archaeologist and Egyptologist who participated in excavations in Greece and Egypt and published works on the Gauls.
The decrees are inscribed on limestone slabs 7–20 cm (2.8–7.9 in) thick, 100–200 cm (39–79 in) long and 50–180 cm (20–71 in) high which were intended to be set in the mudbrick wall of a gateway or vestibule inside the temple of Min. As time passed, the space available on the temple walls diminished and the Coptos decrees were dismounted and put away to make space for newer decrees which explains their find spot.
Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolomite, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In fact, in old USGS publications, dolomite was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolomites or magnesium-rich limestones.
The decrees are symptomatic of the powers held by the nomarchs at the very end of the Old Kingdom and beginning of the First Intermediate Period. Decrees g to r are addressed to Shemay, his son Idy and one of Idy's brothers. Shemay, already the nomarch of Coptos, is promoted first to governor of Upper Egypt and then to vizier of Upper Egypt, while his son Idy takes his place after him.
A nomarch was a provincial governor in Ancient Egypt; the country was divided into 42 provinces, called nomes. A nomarch was the government official responsible for a nome.
In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2686–2181 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid builders of the Fourth Dynasty— among them King Sneferu, who perfected the art of pyramid-building, and the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, who constructed the pyramids at Giza. Egypt attained its first sustained peak of civilization during the Old Kingdom—the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley.
Idy was an important Ancient Egyptian official in the Eighth Dynasty, at the beginning of the First Intermediate Period. He was the son of Shemay who is also known from several monuments and decrees from Koptos. His mother was the king's daughter Nebet. Idy appears on many royal decrees found at Koptos. There he bears the important title of a vizier, but was also overseer of Upper Egypt and overseer of priest and count. The decrees are dated under king Neferkauhor and Neferirkare. One decree is addressed to Shemay and dates under Neferkauhor. It reports the appointment of Idy to the overseer of Upper Egypt. A second one mentions affairs in the temple of Min at Koptos. In a third decree Idy bears the titles of a vizier. In the decree, the king protects the statues and the funerary cult of Idy. The decree is dated under king Neferirkare, who was the successor of Neferkauhor. It seems that Idy took over many positions that his father hold before.
Alan H. Gardiner and William C. Hayes find decree r particularly remarkable because, while it is emitted by the pharaoh, the decree is solely concerned with the welfare and properties of the vizier Idy.For Hayes this reflects the fact that at the end of the 8th Dynasty, royal power had diminished so much that it owed its survival to puissant nomarchs, upon whom it could only bestow titles and honours. The nomarch of Coptos would have been particularly cherished by the Memphite rulers who were threatened by the nomarchs of Middle Egypt, especially those of Herakleopolis, who would soon overthrow them and found the 9th Dynasty.
William Christopher Hayes was an American Egyptologist. His main fields of study were history of Egyptian art and translation/interpretation of texts.
Memphis was the ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Mit Rahina, 20 km (12 mi) south of Giza.
The Ninth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is often combined with the 7th, 8th, 10th and early 11th Dynasties under the group title First Intermediate Period. The dynasty that seems to have supplanted the 8th Dynasty is extremely obscure. The takeover by the rulers of Herakleopolis was violent and is reflected in Manetho's description of Achthoes, the founder of the dynasty, as 'more terrible than his predecessors', who 'wrought evil things for those in all Egypt".
The discovery of the decrees was initially considered by Kurt Sethe to support the hypothesis of the existence of a "Dynasty of Coptos", a local lineage of more or less independent rulers during the First Intermediate Period, to be identified with the issuers of the decrees subsequent to the 6th Dynasty.This hypothesis is nowadays considered implausible as was shown by Hayes and others, in particular it is highly unlikely that a king reigning from Coptos would appoint a vizier over the same area.
The following complete list is based on William C. Hayes's 1946 publication "Royal decrees from the temple of Min at Coptus":
|a||Pepi I||Granting tax immunity to the Ka-chapel of his mother Iput|
|b||Pepi II||Granting tax immunity to the temple of Min|
|c||Pepi II||Granting tax immunity to the temple of Min|
|d||Pepi II||Granting tax immunity to the institution 'Min-causes-the-foundation-of-Neferkare-to-flourish'|
|e||Pepi II||Dealing with the personnel and possessions of a temple in the 22nd nome of Upper Egypt|
|f||Unknown 6th Dynasty king||Uncertain, mentions Upper Egypt|
|g||Unknown 7th/8th Dynasty king, commonly identified with Neferkaure||Upkeeping a statue of Pepi II and the institution 'Min-causes-the-foundation-of-Neferkare-to-flourish'||Governor of Upper Egypt Shemay and possibly his son Idy|
|h||Neferkaure||Specifying the offerings and services to be made in the temple of Min||Shemay|
|i||Unknown 7th/8th Dynasty king commonly identified with Neferkaure||Putting Shemay in charge of 22 nomes in Upper-Egypt||Shemay (vizier from now)|
|j||Neferkauhor||Granting titles to Shemay's wife Nebyet as well as a personal bodyguard||Shemay|
|k||Neferkauhor||Assigning mortuary-priests for the Ka-chapels of Shemay and Nebyet||Shemay|
|l||Neferkauhor||Ordering an inventory of the properties of the institution 'Min-causes-the-foundation-of-Neferkare-to-flourish' under the supervision of Shemay||Shemay|
|m||Neferkauhor||Putting Shemay's son Idy in charge of the seven southernmost nomes of Upper-Egypt||Shemay|
|n||Neferkauhor||Giving a brother of Idy and son of Shemay a post in the temple of Min||Shemay|
|o||Neferkauhor||Making Shemay's son Idy the Governor of the seven southernmost nomes of Upper-Egypt||Governor of Upper Egypt Idy|
|p||Neferkauhor||Informing Idy of the appointment of his brother in the temple of Min||Idy|
|q||Neferkauhor||Informing Shemay's son, brother of Idy, of his appointment to the temple of Min||Shemay's son, brother of Idy|
|r||Horus Demedjibtawy, likely Neferirkare II||Protecting Idy's funerary monuments and properties||Idy (now vizier)|
Sahure was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the second ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, who reigned for about 12 years in the early 25th century BC. Sahure is considered to be one of the most important kings of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, his reign being a political and cultural high point of the Fifth Dynasty. He was probably the son of his predecessor Userkaf with queen Neferhetepes II, and was in turn succeeded by his son Neferirkare Kakai.
The Eighth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is a poorly known and short-lived line of pharaohs reigning in rapid succession in the early 22nd century BC, likely with their seat of power in Memphis. The Eighth Dynasty held sway at a time referred to as the very end of the Old Kingdom or the beginning of the First Intermediate Period. The power of the pharaohs was waning while that of the provincial governors, known as nomarchs, was very important, the Egyptian state having by then effectively turned into a feudal system. In spite of close relations between the Memphite kings and powerful nomarchs, notably in Coptos, the Eighth Dynasty was eventually overthrown by the nomarchs of Heracleopolis Magna, who founded the Ninth Dynasty. The Eighth Dynasty is sometimes combined with the preceding Seventh Dynasty, owing to the lack of archeological evidence for the latter which may be fictitious.
Shepseskaf was the sixth and last pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. He reigned 6 to 8 years starting circa 2510 BC. The only activities firmly datable to his reign are the completion of the temple complex of the Pyramid of Menkaure and the construction of its own mastaba tomb at South Saqqara, the Mastabat al-Fir’aun, "stone bench of the pharaoh".
Nubkheperre Intef was an Egyptian king of the Seventeenth dynasty of Egypt at Thebes during the Second Intermediate Period, when Egypt was divided by rival dynasties including the Hyksos in Lower Egypt. He is known to be the brother of Sekhemre-Wepmaat Intef—and this king's immediate successor—since he donated Louvre Coffin E3019 for this king's burial which bears an inscription that it was donated for king Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef "as that which his brother, king Antefgives", notes Kim Ryholt. As the German scholar Thomas Schneider writes in the 2006 book Ancient Egyptian Chronology :
Neferkaure was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt during the First Intermediate Period. According to the Abydos King List and the latest reconstruction of the Turin canon by Kim Ryholt, he was the 15th king of the Eighth Dynasty. This opinion is shared by the egyptologists Jürgen von Beckerath, Thomas Schneider and Darell Baker. As a pharaoh of the Eighth Dynasty, Neferkaure's seat of power was Memphis and he may not have held power over all of Egypt.
Neferkauhor Khuwihapi was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Eighth Dynasty during the early First Intermediate Period, at a time when Egypt was possibly divided between several polities. Neferkauhor was the sixteenth and penultimate king of the Eighth Dynasty and as such would have ruled over the Memphite region. Neferkauhor reigned for little over 2 years and is one of the best attested kings of this period with eight of his decrees surviving in fragmentary condition to this day.
Neferirkare was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Eighth Dynasty during the early First Intermediate Period. According to the egyptologists Kim Ryholt, Jürgen von Beckerath and Darrell Baker he was the 17th and final king of the Eighth Dynasty. Many scholars consider Neferirkare to have been the last pharaoh of the Old Kingdom, which came to an end with the 8th Dynasty.
Neferkare VII was the third pharaoh of the ninth Dynasty of ancient Egypt, ca. 2140 BCE, according to the Turin King List where his name, Neferkare, is inscribed in the register 4.20.
Neferkare is not included on the Abydos King List or the Saqqara King List, nor can the existence of his reign be positively confirmed through archaeological finds.
Wahkare Khety was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 9th or 10th Dynasty during the First Intermediate Period.
Djau was a vizier of Upper Egypt during the 6th dynasty. He was a member of an influential family from Abydos; his mother was the vizier Nebet, his father was called Khui. His two sisters Ankhesenpepi I and Ankhesenpepi II married Pharaoh Pepi I. Djau was already in office when his nephew Pepi II became pharaoh. He is mentioned in two royal decrees, one from Abydos, the other from Coptos; one of them is dated to Year 11. It is unknown when he died, but when the tomb of Pepi II was decorated, he was no longer vizier. He was buried in Abydos, but the exact place of his tomb is not known.
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Neferkare VIII was the second pharaoh of the 10th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.
Wadjkare was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Eighth dynasty who reigned c. 2150 BC during the First Intermediate Period. He is considered to be a very obscure figure in Egyptian history.
Shemay was an ancient Egyptian official and later vizier toward the end of the 8th Dynasty during the First Intermediate Period, mainly known for being the beneficiary of most of the Coptos Decrees. His career has been interpreted as a glaring sign of the extreme weakness of the central power, forced to bestow great privileges to maintain the loyalty of powerful local governors. Shemay is buried in a mudbrick mastaba just south of Coptos.
User was an ancient Egyptian nomarch (governor) of the Eight Dynasty. User is mainly known from a false door found at Khozam in 1884. The monument is about one meter high and is made of graywacke. It is today in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Here User bears a long string of important titles, such as Father of the god, beloved of the god, Overseer of Upper Egypt, overseer of the desert lands and overlord of the Coptite nome. The latter title is the main title for nomarchs in the late Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period. Furthermore he was overseer of priests and overseer of the Eastern and Western Deserts. The most unusual title for a nomarch is king's eldest son of his body.