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Institut d’égyptologie François Daumas
UMR 5140 « Archéologie des Sociétés Méditerranéennes »

Cnrs – Université Paul Valéry (Montpellier III)

Two Curious Orthographies for Khepri
David Klotz

Citer cet article :

D. Klotz, « Two Curious Orthographies for Khepri », ENIM 3, 2010, p. 67-75.

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Two Curious Orthographies for Khepri

David Klotz
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

New York University

HE MONUMENTAL, bookshelf-bending Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und
Götterbezeichnungen edited by Christian Leitz, et al. (hereafter LGG) has contributed
enormously to the study of Egyptian religion and lexicography. Nonetheless, while

perusing temple publications, one occasionally encounters problematic epithets not recorded
by the LGG, either because the precise reading was uncertain, a phrase was not considered an
epithet, or variants of the same name were not recognized.1 In comparison to the host of
creative orthographies for divine names in the Graeco-Roman period,2 it would appear that
scribes were less inspired by the important god Khepri, since his name is almost always
written with the scarab.3 However, context and parallels suggest that the following epithets
are surprisingly odd orthographies of Khepri.

In one of the hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, a seemingly unique orthography of the
name Khepri ( ) occurs in the sequence “Amun-Re-Horakhty-Atum-Khepri”
(example 1).4 Although the translation is confirmed by at least thirteen parallels,5 the exact
reasons for this reading remain mysterious. Over the years, additional variants have come to
light, none of which appear to have been discussed previously.

(2) Edfou IV, 377, 12-13:
In a scene of offering the wesekh-collar,6 the king describes the object as follows: “it is called
Khepri ( ) together with his children (k“.tw!f ⁄prµ m-©b Ú“.w!f).” One might initially

1 For one example, see recently Chr. THIERS, “Le ciel septentrional ghr.t et le ciel méridional gb.t,” ENiM 2,
2009, p. 53-58.
2 E.g. S. SAUNERON, L’Écriture figurative dans les textes d’Esna, Esna VIII, 1982; M.-Th. DERCHAIN-URTEL,
“Die Namen der Götter,” in W. Clarysse, et al. (ed.), Egyptian Religion: the Last Thousand Years I, OLA 84,
1998, p. 569-587.
3 M. MINAS-NERPEL, Der Gott Chepri: Untersuchungen zu Schriftzeugnissen und ikonographischen Quellen
vom Alten Reich bis in griechisch-römische Zeit, OLA 154, 2006; LGG V, 713 (s. v. ⁄ prµ).
4 N. de G. DAVIES, The Temple of Hibis in el-Khargeh Oasis III. The Decoration, MMAEE 17, 1953, pl. 30,
reg. II, col. 3; D. KLOTZ, Adoration of the Ram: Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, YES 6, 2006,
p. 172, n. A.
5 D. KLOTZ, Adoration of the Ram, pl. 26.
6 For a recent discussion of these types of scenes, see F. COPPENS, The Wabet. Tradition and Innovation in
Temples of the Ptolemaic and Roman Period, 2007, p. 110-113.


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David Klotz

ENIM 3, 2010, p. 67-75


According to the Lexikon, the first epithet is µr-µ“w.t, “he who carries out the office” (LGG I,
441b), while the second is ©n-µ“w.wt, “lovely of offices” (LGG II, 119a). While both of these
readings are possible, neither of them are attested elsewhere.20 Once again, the paronomasia
with "pr in both examples would support reading Khepri.

In sum, the following epithets appear to be variants of the same divine name, none of which
would immediately suggest the name Khepri:







Despite the perturbation of the signs, the examples are almost identical. The only major

difference is the presence of the throat sign ( ) in example 1. However, scribes occasionally
confused this hieroglyph with the Min-standard,21 especially in other texts from Hibis
temple.22 Furthermore, the earliest example begins with the ß-sign, a hieroglyph which all
later groups omit. Context and parallels dictate that examples 1-3 write the name Khepri,
while 4-6 very likely have the same meaning.

Although the reading may be established, finding a rational derivation remains problematic. A
clue comes from the sarcophagus of Panehemise, which contains a similar orthography for

Khepri: .23 This group is simple enough to explain (" < ß, p < p.t, ry), but the

20 The phrase µr-µ“w.t, “perform the office,” appears often in non-royal autobiographies (R. EL-SAYED, “Quelques
précisions sur l’histoire de la province d’Edfou à la IIe Période Intermédiaire [étude des stèles JE 38917 et 46988
du musée du Caire],” BIFAO 79, 1979, p. 177, n. ab), but not for deities. The LGG cites only one parallel for ©n-
µ“w.t, namely Mam. Dendara 165, 16-17, where the child god Ihy is: “the living child, lovely of offices, lord of
kindness, sweet of love.” However, this could be a graphic error, as one would expect an epithet like ©n-"©.w or
©n-" pr.w for Ihy (S. CAUVILLE, Dendara V-VI. Index phraséologique, OLA 132, 2004, p. 79-80), possibly even
©n"-ms"©.w (S. CAUVILLE, Dendara IV, p. 529-30; Dendara V-VI. Index phraséologique, p. 80). Nonetheless,
one might compare the unusual personal name ©n-ßr-µ“w.t(! f), H. RANKE, PN I, 61, 29; II, 346.
21 Esna II, 51, 17; Tôd II, 230, 5; D. KLOTZ, “The Statue of the dioikêtês Harkhebi/Archibios: Nelson-Atkins
Museum of Art 47-12,” BIFAO 109 (2009), p. 299, n. ah. Jan-Peter Graeff of the Hamburg Edfu-Project
( kindly checked all the Edfu examples, and confirmed
that the first sign is always O44.
22 N. de G. DAVIES, Hibis III, pl. 24, West Wall (left) col. 10; pl. 33, col. 43 (D. KLOTZ, Adoration of the Ram,
pl. 42).
23 Cited by LGG V, 713c.

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Two Curious Orthographies for Kepri


wakeful-eye hieroglyph only makes sense as a determinative for pr < ptr, “to look,” so that
the name reads ẖ(.t) + p(t)ry, “Khepri.”24 In the Late Period, the latter word is usually spelled
pr, reflecting its current pronunciation (e.g. Coptic: pwwre),25 corresponding to attested
Greek vocalizations of Khepri: Χφυρις or <Χ>φωρει.26
If the eye-sign always writes pr in our examples, then the other element (Gard. O44) should
read either ≈, ≈p, or some variant thereof (e.g. ß, ßp, ≈b). Unfortunately, the only recorded
phonetic value for this particular hieroglyph is µ“w.t.27 Nonetheless, there is at least one
example where Gard. O44 has the value ≈w (Mam. Edfou 147, 1):

nbnb nµw.wt

⁄prµ ≈pr m Ì“.t

©py wr ≈w t“.wy m dm(“.t)y≠fy.

He who protects the cities,

Khepri who came about in the beginning,

Great winged sun-disk who protects the two lands with his wings.

The reading ≈w, “to protect,” is confirmed by the context and many parallel examples.28 As

with example 1, the scribe likely confused the Min-standard ( ) with the expected flabellum

( ) or shade ( ), or intentionally replaced it due to similarity of shape. Both signs essentially
consist of a papyriform base with a vertical projection on top, and it is conceivable that such
confusion arose from similar hieratic shapes,29 especially since the flabellum rarely if ever
appears in Late Period hieratic papyri.30 The shade is closely associated with the Min-

24 Val. Phon. I, p. 149; for this specific eye as an ideogram for ptr, cf. Wb. I, 564, 20; AnLex 77.1515;
S. CAUVILLE, Dendara. Le fonds hiéroglyphique, p. 63.
25 P. WILSON, A Ptolemaic Lexikon, p. 380; S. CAUVILLE, Les chapelles osiriennes, III, p. 188; S. SAUNERON,
“Remarques de philologie et d’étymologie (en marge des textes d’Esna), §12. Le verbe ,” in Mélanges
Mariette, BiEtud 32, 1961, p. 240-241; D. MEEKS, Le grand texte des donations au temple d’Edfou, BiEtud 59,
1972, p. 66, n. 57.
26 See H.-J. THISSEN, “Zum Hieroglyphen-Buch des Chairemon,” in G. Moers, et al. (ed.), jn.t-Dr.w - Festchrift
für Friedrich Junge, II, 2006, p. 630-631, n. 12.
27 Val. Phon. III, p. 610-611; for the object itself, the horned standard which stands in front of the archaic Min
temple, see I. MUNRO, Das Zelt-Heiligtum des Min, MÄS 41, 1983, p. 29-30; and cf. R. FRIEDMAN, “The
Ceremonial Centre at Hierakonpolis Locality HK29A,” in A.J. Spencer (ed.), Aspects of Early Egypt, 1996,
p. 16-35. Note in passing the interesting use of this sign to indicate vocalic e and h in J. OSING, Hieratische
Papyri aus Tebtunis, CNIP 17, 1998, I, p. 48-49.
28 LGG V, 656c (≈w µtr.ty m dm“.ty≠fy), 664a (≈w t“.wy m dm“.ty≠fy); neither entry recorded the present example.
29 The Min-standard seems to have been generally problematic for scribes, cf. H.G. FISCHER, Varia Nova, 1996,
p. 190.
30 At least no examples are recorded in G. MÖLLER, Hieratische Pälëographie III, or U. VERHOEVEN,
Untersuchungen zur späthieratischen Buchschrift, OLA 99, 2001.

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Two Curious Orthographies for Kepri


reflect misunderstanding or reinterpretation of an intentionally enigmatic writing for Khepri.
One might compare the obscure epithet of Nekhbet .59 Although certain
examples indicate this should be read µwÌ.t-rd.wy, “soaked of legs,”60 a bilingual scribe at
Medinet Madi interpreted the group as ©n.t-w©r.ty, “beautiful of legs,” and transliterated it as
auonoulht.61 Since both trigrams can be understood on numerous levels,62 the simple
phonetic interpretations presented here only enhance the sportive aspect of these popular
enigmatic orthographies. As with the cryptographic litanies from Esna, Egyptian scribes
worked within the self-imposed constraint of consonantal structures to formulate complex,
meaningful, and allusive permutations of divine names which might have otherwise become
banal or commonplace through excessive repetition.63

59 For examples, see LGG I, 204a; S. CAUVILLE, Dendara. Le temple d’Isis II, OLA 179, 2009, p. 136, n. 237; to
which one can add Stela BM 1052, line 5 (E.A.W. BUDGE, A Guide to the Egyptian Collections in the British
Museum, 1909, p. 277, pl. 51); for discussions, see primarily D. BUDDE, D. KURTH, “Zum Vokabular der Bände
Edfou V – VIII,” in D. Kurth (ed.), Edfu: Studien zu Vokabular, Ikonographie und Grammatik, Edfu
Begleitheft 4, 1994, p. 4, n. 10; D. MEEKS, “Dictionnaire et lexicographie de l’égyptien ancien. Méthodes et
résultats,” BiOr 56, 1999, p. 575.
60 Opet I, 49; Edfou V, 177, 7; cited by D. MEEKS, BiOr 56, 1999, p. 575, who opted for the reading µwÌy.t.
61 P. GALLO, Ostraca demotici e ieratici dall’archivio bilingue di Narmouthis II: nn. 34-99, Quaderni di Medinet
Madi 3, 1997, p. 17-18, No. 41.
62 Argued already by M.-L. RYHINER, RdE 29, 1977, p. 133-136.
63 For the subtle visual-theological allusions at Esna, see S. SAUNERON, L’Écriture figurative dans les textes
d’Esna, p. 59-79; Chr. LEITZ, “Les trente premiers versets de la litanie d’Osiris à Esna (Esna 217),” RdE 59,
2008, p. 231-266.

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Résumé :

Analyse de deux orthographes non reconnues auparavant du nom Khepri. Le premier exemple
est généralement écrit « gorge et œil », la lecture repose pratiquement entièrement sur le
contexte. Le second est le trigramme bien connu « lotus-lion-bélier», qui pourrait designer
Khepri comme le pendant logique d’Atoum, le dieu représenté dans l’autre trigramme.

Abstract :

Discussion of two previously unrecognized orthographies of the name Khepri. The first
example is written generally as “throat and eye,” and the reading is established almost entirely
from context. The second is the well-known trigram “lotus-lion-ram,” which could designate
Khepri as the logical pendant of Atum, the god represented in the other trigram.

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