|Antiquities Kingdom of Plants and Animals|
You are about to download a large image. Please be patient, its worth your while.|
House of Birds House of Plants
Home Addtopics Submenu
by Emmet Sweeney
African Animals in Punt?
The above section (on the Queen of Sheba) completes my response to the major points raised by Lorton. There remains the task of responding to the evidence presented by John Bimson all those years ago. Bimson concentrated his attention on Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el Bahri and sought to prove from this that Punt had to be in Africa (Eritrea in fact was his place of choice).
Before saying another word, it should be remembered that this poses Bimson with the problem outlined directly above. But again, like Lorton, this was an issue he failed to address.
Nevertheless, the Deir el Bahri reliefs do show a number of African people and apparently African animals, such as at least one rhinoceros and a giraffe. For Bimson, and for many of his readers, this was decisive evidence in proving an African location for the territory: Decisive enough to make them ignore or forget all the other evidence that clearly located Punt/the Divine Land in Palestine/Phoenicia. But if Punt really was Phoenicia, why then such an African influence? Why the large amount of space devoted to seemingly African animals and people with clearly negroid features? This is a question that cannot be ignored. Velikovsky himself suggested that the African elements were imports, and stressed that the Puntites themselves were not negroes but Semites or Hamites. This in fact is true. The Puntites look very much like the Egyptians and, curiously enough, sport long pointed beards of a type worn in Egypt only by the pharaoh. (It should be noted also in this regard that the earliest Egyptian monarchy, the Horus kings of the First Dynasty, claimed to have originated in Punt: and this incidentally provides yet another dramatic connection with Asia; for, as David Rohl has illustrated (Legend: The Genesis of Civilization: 1998), the god Osiris, from whom the Egyptian royalty claimed descent, was not only specifically linked to Byblos, but was himself in origin a Mesopotamian god named Asar. Rohl also shows, in the same place, how the peoples of Lebanon also traced their origin back to Mesopotamia).
But where then do the negroes and African animals come in?
The answer is in two parts. First and foremost, whilst the negroes may indicate an African element, the animals very definitely do not belong to Africa. Giraffes of course are nowadays found only in Africa, and this has misled many people into seeing them as proof of a southern location for Punt. However, as Bimson himself admits, giraffes were found on the borders of Syria and Arabia in classical times - a fact noted by Diodorus. Furthermore, the Bible itself (Deuteronomy 14:5) speaks of giraffes (which it calls the 'camel-leopard') in the region of Sinai and the Negev, whilst A. Nibbi notes the occurrence of a rock-cut drawing of a giraffe in Sinai. The giraffe then can at best show that Punt may have been in Africa.
The rhinoceros however very definitely points to Asia. Once again, as with the giraffe, people have simply thought 'Rhinoceros - Africa'. But the rhinoceros portrayed at Deir el Bahri is of the Asian one-horned species, Rhinoceros unicornis, and cannot represent either of the two African species, both of which have two horns. The one-horned Asian rhinoceros has never been attested in Africa.6b) Again, this is a fact that Bimson himself concedes. A single-horned rhinoceros is portrayed on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, along with an elephant6c) and an oryx, all of which are described as 'tribute' of Musri. The Obelisk's purpose was to record the tribute of the peoples of western Asia (Jehu of Israel is shown bowing before the Assyrian king), though it seems that the source of the one-horned rhino (Musri) was Egypt. It should be remarked too, in this regard, that after his foray into Palestine and Syria, Thutmose II records bringing back 'horses' and 'elephants'. Damien Mackey has also drawn attention to the fact that during the time of the Old Babylonian king Iarim-Lim, "there were herds of elephants in northern Syria, and tusks have been found in the palace of Alalakah..."
In antiquity the entire Near East was home to most of the creatures associated nowadays only with Africa. It is well-known, for example, that lions7a) occurred in great abundance throughout the region, and were extensively hunted for sport by Assyrian kings as well as Egyptian pharaohs. Even within the past hundred years Palestine/Lebanon was still home to the Syrian bear and the leopard, whilst the gazelle, ibex and hyena still occur, along with the wild pig, jackal and wild cat.
So, far from proving Punt in Africa, the evidence of the fauna points once again to western Asia. The importance of this cannot be emphasized too strongly; for it was the appearance of supposedly African animals on the Deir el Bahri reliefs that was most decisive in convincing scholars they should relocate Punt from Asia (where they had hitherto placed it) to Africa.
It is quite evident that in the time of Hatshepsut the exotic creatures displayed at Deir el Bahri were still found in the Lebanese mountains, having been previously hunted to extinction in the more low-lying regions of Syria and Palestine. They were spotted by the royal expedition on its ascent of the Lebanese hills in pursuit of the precious incense trees and portrayed on the walls of the Deir el Bahri temple because of their scarcity.
I had previously believed, following Velikovsky, that Hatshepsut's expedition had sailed in the Red Sea and disembarked at the southern port of Ezion-geber. For a number of reasons however I now hold that the expedition did not sail in the Red Sea at all, but, as convenience and commonsense would dictate, in the Mediterranean alone. The inscriptions at Deir el Bahri make it quite plain that the ships came ashore immediately beside the 'myrrh-terraces'. Since these terraces are one and the same as what the Egyptians otherwise termed 'the steps' (ie. the Lebanese mountains), it is evident that the expedition disembarked on the Lebanese coast. This is further confirmed by the fact that the Egyptians were greeted by, among others, a row of men called 'chiefs of Irem'. I am in agreement with Velikovsky in viewing these as emissaries of king Hiram of Tyre, a close ally of Solomon. But why would chiefs of king Hiram be present in Ezion-geber? Furthermore, I concur with Velikovsky in identifying Perehu 'a chief of Punt', who greeted the Egyptians, with the biblical Paruah, whose son Jehoshaphat was appointed by Solomon to administer the territory of Issacher (I Kings 4:17). But Velikovsky claimed that Paruah and his son were rulers of Ezion-geber, a statement which is quite simply untrue. They were rulers of Issachar and that region lay in northern Israel, not far from the Lebanese coast.
Arriving on the Lebanese shore, probably close to Tyre, the Egyptians themselves, along with their Puntite assistants, crossed over to the foot of Mount Hermon, where was located Lake Hula (or Huleh), the famous Waters of Merom, the great marsh to the north of Galilee. This was undoubtedly the location of the "marshes of Asia" of Egyptian inscriptions. And here we arrive at the solution to another of the mysteries of Punt. Aside from the animals and negroes, the famous houses on stilts, at the foot of the myrrh terraces, were probably most influential in making scholars think of Africa. But in antiquity houses on stilts were by no means uncommon. Entire villages on stilts were found in the Europe of Hatshepsut's time. Why then should not some of the inhabitants of Palestine/Phoenicia dwell in like habitations? And where else would such dwellings be found but in the "marshes of Asia" adjacent to God's Land? In ancient (and more modern) times the area of Lake Hula constituted "one vast morass", periodically susceptible to flooding in the aftermath of heavy rains to the north. It seems to me virtually certain that the houses on stilts were situated in this region. Even as recently as the early 20th century the inhabitants of the area, the Ghor Arabs, led a life typical of marsh-dwellers. Aside from farming the rich moist earth, their other occupations, we are told, included "hunting and fishing, and making mats etc. of the reeds from the marshes." Of the latter material too "many of their fragile houses [were] ... built."
Having viewed these strange villages and procured the sacred incense trees from the terraced hills above, the queen and her entourage would then have made her way southwards to Jerusalem, there to greet Solomon, the mighty king whose domain stretched from the borders of Egypt to the Euphrates. For the return voyage it seems certain that the queen would have embarked either in Ashdod or Joppa (both of which are only a very short distance from Jerusalem), where her fleet was waiting to convey her to Thebes. Probably no more than a couple of weeks later the ships arrived safely back at the Egyptian capital, as the Deir al Bahri inscription tells us.
Only the above scenario makes sense of the evidence. We are informed by the queen that both the outward journey from Thebes and the return journey to the capital were by ship. In short, Punt could only be in a region accessible to Upper Egypt by water. This rules out a southern journey, since the ships would have to be abandoned at the first or second cataract. The texts, if we are to take them at face value, therefore make it clear that Punt lay to the north of Thebes, accessible by sailing downstream to the mouth of the Nile. But since most Egyptologists place Punt at the southern end of the Red Sea - a region most definitely not accessible by ship from Thebes - the textbooks are full of all sorts of convoluted explanations and 'interpretations'. Thus it is said that on the outward journey from Thebes the ships only sailed as far north as Coptos, at which point passengers and crew traveled the long distance overland to the Red Sea port of Quseir, before embarking on a fleet of different ships which then conveyed them south to Punt. For the return journey the same process is said to have been repeated in reverse.
Yet apart from the fact that the Deir el Bahri reliefs make no mention of this complicated itinerary, and on the contrary display what appears to be exactly the same seagoing ships leaving Thebes, arriving in Punt, and arriving back at Thebes, the above postulated journey makes no sense at all. For there is virtually no difference in the distance between Thebes and Quseir on the one hand and Coptos and Quseir on the other. Why the journey to Coptos at all? Why not just go straight overland from Thebes to Quseir, on the way out, and from Quseir to Thebes, on the return? This needs to be emphasised. The only reason a journey to Coptos is postulated is to account for the (from the standpoint of a southern Punt otherwise utterly incomprehensible) information that the Punt expedition both departed from and arrived at Thebes by ship.
But placing both outgoing and return voyages solely in the Nile and Mediterranean presents one more problem: For, as we are told by Bimson and others, the fish and other sea creatures portrayed at Deir el Bahri are to be associated with the Red Sea and not the Mediterranean. Thus, "According to the unanimous opinion of all the ichthyologists the sea water fishes represented belong to the Indian-Ocean-Red-Sea fauna, and so do the crustaceans." I myself am not qualified to comment upon this topic, though I would point out that, not withstanding the skill of the Egyptian artists, it is not always easy to determine exactly which species is being portrayed. I am indebted to Jill Abery for bringing this to my attention. She notes that "The insects frequently referred to as 'bees' (eg. on columns at Karnak) are definitely not bees - the length of their antennae indicate some species of parasitic wasp. Either the translation/transliteration is inaccurate or the depiction is." Thus also in the scene at the marshes of Punt there is shown a creature which appears to be a hippopotamus, but this is not certain. In addition, it should be noted that a lobster, not a creature normally associated with the Red Sea, is displayed on the reliefs. So much for the 'unanimous opinion' of the ichthyologists that the crustaceans belong there. This is admitted by John Bimson, though he states that in fact one species of lobster has recently been confirmed in the Red Sea, and that another has been found in the Indian Ocean. Nevertheless, the creature can hardly be said to be typical of any area south of the Mediterranean. Bimson makes much of the occurrence of a freshwater turtle (Trionyx triunguis) on the reliefs, and sees this as proof of a southern location. But freshwater turtles thrive not only in the Nile, which admittedly flows into the Mediterranean, but "groups have been found living off the coast of Turkey."
The evidence of sea-life is therefore at best inconclusive. Some evidence, as for example the lobster, points to the Mediterranean. Other evidence, such as the turtle, held to point to the Red Sea, can now be shown also to point to the Mediterranean. These two details in themselves, combined with the ambiguous nature of many of the portrayals (Jill Abery informs me that the 'freshwater' turtle only needs to be depicted with slightly larger front flippers and it could be marine), tend to make us suspicious of the confident assertions of the ichthyologists regarding the provenance of the various types of fish (most of which, incidentally, are admittedly found in both the Red Sea and Mediterranean). But even if most of the species were from the Red Sea this would probably only indicate that the Theban artists were more familiar with the fauna of that area. They were, after all, not preparing a zoological textbook, merely illustrating a sea voyage.
Notes and References
6b) For images of this species see Bengt Berg, `Meine Abendteuer unter Tieren', Bertelsmann Verlag, Gütersloh, 1955.
|King Solomon's Zoo and Arboretum - Hall of Birds|
You are about to download a large image. Please be patient, its worth your while.||
House of Plants |
|King Solomon spoke of trees, from the cedar ... to the hyssop ... he spoke also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things ... fishes. 1.Kings 4:33||And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. 1.Kings 3:1.||And Solomon loved the Lord ... in Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream ... Ask what shall I give thee ... And Solomon said, Give ... an understanding heart to judge thy people ... And the Lord said, Because thou hast not asked for life and riches ... I will give thee all. 1.Kings 3:3-14.||And it came to pass in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of Egypt, in the 4th year of Solomon's reign over Israel ... he began to build the house of the Lord. 1.Kings 6:1.|
|But Solomon was building his own house 13 years, and he finished all his house. He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon ... of cedar ... and a porch ... he made also a house for Pharaoh's daughter ... and hewed stones, sawed with saws ... and sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. 1.Kings 7:1-13.||And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple ... And upon the top of the pillars was lily work ... and on the borders were ... lions, oxen, and cherubims ... and made all the vessels unto the house of gold ... and there was nothing in the ark save 2 tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb. 1.Kings 7.||
And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-Geber ... on the shore of the Red Sea ... And they came to Ophir to fetch 420 talents of gold ... every 3 years once came the ships ... bringing gold ... and Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt. |
1.Kings 8-10; 2.Chronicles 9:21.
|And it came to pass in the 5th year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak, king of Egypt, came up against Jerusalem: And he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all ... 1.Kings 15: 25, 26.|
|House of Plants||
That Solomon had connections with Egypt reaching further then just knowing about them may be concluded from his words, "I have compared you, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariot." [Song of Solomon 1:9]|
That something like a `zoo' and `gardens' are historical and not mere fanciful tales can be seen from the evidence as portrayed by the Egyptian tomb artists, as the gardens of the vizier Rekhmire and general Amenemheb illustrate, and on the walls of Karnak while on the Hebrew side we just have written evidence where `orchards' are mentioned. [Ibid., 4:13] The German word in place of `orchard' is `Lustgarten', a term meaning a garden to frolic around in, a happy, enjoyable place', perhaps also because of the animals displayed there?
But none of this could be found in archaeological excavations. How does one find a garden during such explorations? Another reason for the lack of archaeological evidence is that over a number of years the Egyptian caravans carried nearly everything in sight to Egypt after the campaign of Thutmose to Kadesh/Jerusalem. This campaign was very costly to Israel. In the tomb of Rekhmire, for example, we see a Palestinian man, and importantly enough, not an African native, present a leopard on a leash as tribute. That implies such animals were kept somewhere to the delight, hunt or display of those, probably the king himself, who looked after them. While we should not think of their `zoos' as we have them today, there must have been cages and places to keep them.
While the depiction of wildlife, fowls and plants is not rare in Egypt, it also comes together at Karnak were apparently mundane animals and plants are represented as if to say, we got it all, we robbed the place of everything. How does one catch and transport birds and storks in particular? Short of netting them, they probably were not caught but in representing them, Pharaoh states that he owns it all for each one of these were also native to Egypt.
|King Solomon's Zoo and Arboretum - Hall of Plants|
You are about to download a large image. Please be patient, its worth your while.||
House of Birds |
Then were captured their horses, their chariots of gold and silver..there was captured the tent of that wretched foe which was his son...|
James Breasted, `Records', Vol. II, Sec. 431; Anthony Spalinger, `A Critical Analysis of the "Annals" of Thutmose III (Stücke V-VI)' in JARCE, Vol. XIV, 1977, p. 41-54.
Two variants of the name Amenemheb; W. Wrenszinski, Atlas zur Kulturgeschichte, Vol. II, Tafel p. 66, 94b. .
...340 living prisoners, 83 hands1), 2,041 mares, 191 foals, 6 stallions,...a chariot, wrought with gold...892 chariots of his wretched army...a beautiful suit of bronze armor belonging to that foe...200 suits of armor belonging to his wretched army; 502 bows, 7 poles of wood wrought with silver belonging to the tent...1,929 large cattle, 2,000 small cattle, 20,500 white small cattle.
Ibid., Sec. 435
1) Such scenes of counting and recording the hands of slaughtered Hittite enemies in battle are also shown in the reliefs of Ramses II many years later. [Pritchard, `Records', Pl. 93.]
For a color image of lush vegetation and bird life in a wall painting at Akhetaten see BAR, May 2000, p. 44,45.
List of household goods taken...87 children of that foe and of the chiefs who were with him...5 lords of theirs...1,796 male and female slaves with their children...dishes of costly stone and gold, various vessels, a large (two handled) vase of the work of Kharu...flat dishes...various drinking vessels, 3 kettles, 87 knives...Gold in rings found on the hands of the artificers, and silver in many rings, 966 deben and 1 kidet. A silver statue in beaten work...the head of gold, the staff of human faces; 6 chairs...of ivory, ebony and carob wood, wrought with gold; 6 footstools...6 large tables of ivory and carob wood, a staff of carob wood, wrought with gold and all costly stones in the fashion of a scepter...all of it wrought with gold; a statue...of ebony wrought with gold, the head of which was inlaid with lapis lazuli...vessels of bronze, much clothing of that foe.
Ibid., Sec. 436
Second Campaign ...a daughter of a chief, with ornaments of...gold, lapis lazuli, 30 slaves belonging to her...65 male and female slaves...103 horses, 10 chariots...45 bullocks and calves, 749 bulls, 5,703 small cattle...gold and silver dishes...jars of incent and honeyed wine...many bundles of fire wood...
Ibid., Sec. 447
Bible Topics Main Menu Submenu