National Geographic : 1941 Oct
A "Dwarf of the Divine Dances from the Land of the Spirits" as a Gift to the Boy King of Egypt IN THE second year of the reign of King Pepy II of the VIth Dynasty a caravan led by Prince Har-khff, Lord of Elephantine and Governor of the South, reached the First Cataract of the Nile, having journeyed far to the south to the distant country of Yam. It had returned with a rich cargo of gold, ostrich feathers, ebony logs, panther skins, ivory, and, last but not least, a dancing pigmy from Central Africa as a gift to the pharaoh. Since "the Lord of the Two Lands, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nefer-ka-Re', the Son of Re, Pepy" was eight years old at the time, he was considerably more elated over the pigmy than he was over the material addition to the national treasury. When Har-khuf was about to board ship for the journey down the Nile to Memphis, he received a long and ex cited letter from his king, urging him to take every precaution to see that the little creature arrived safely. "When he goes down with thee into the vessel," wrote Pepy, "appoint ex cellent people who shall be beside him on each side of the vessel . . . lest he fall into the water. When he sleeps at night, appoint excellent people who shall sleep beside him in his tent; in spect ten times a night." Har-khuf's ship, its two-legged mast unstepped and its Nubian crew bend ing lustily to the oars, is seen speed ing downriver against the prevailing wind. Unlike those of the freight boat, which is passing up river under sail, the steering oar of the governor's ship is equipped with the newly in vented rudder post and tiller. Har-khuf sits before his comfort able, leather covered cabin, his body guard and traveling trunks on his right, his orchestra on his left, and roars with laughter at the antics of his small charge. The latter is in the di rect care of a full sized compatriot presumably an "excellent person" who, as can be seen, is taking no chances of losing the little dancer in the Nile. Since Har-khiif proudly inscribed the account of his trip and a copy of the now famous letter on the facade of his tomb opposite Elephantine, we may assume that both the ship and the king's present reached their desti nation in good condition. The First Intermediate Period (2270-2160 B. c.) and the Middle Kingdom (2160-1788 B. c.) Throughout the Vth and VIth Dy nasties the power of the landed no bility had risen steadily until, toward the end of the VIth Dynasty, it threatened to overshadow that of the king himself. During the short reigns of the weak rulers who succeeded Pepy II this threat became a reality. The central government was disrupted or ignored; the country broke up into a series of petty states; and the Old Kingdom came to an ignominious end in dissension, internal strife, local feuds, and general disorder. These conditions existed for more than a century, with first one prince ling and then another claiming sov ereignty over the land. During this period there rose and fell in rapid succession the VII and VIIIth Dynas ties of Memphis and the IXth and Xth Dynasties of Herakleopolis, now Ihnaysa el Madina. About 2160 B. c., the warrior nom archs of Thebes, by defeating the Herakleopolitan confederacy, reestab lished firmly the pharaonic rule, and as kings of the XIth Dynasty founded what we know as the Middle Kingdom.