Of Aspelta, king of Kush (6th century B. C. E.)

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One of the most obscure written monuments of the 

Ancient Sudan is Louvre stele C257, dated to year 3 

of Aspelta, king of Kush (6th century B.C.E.).

The relief in the lunette (Fig. 1) depicts three royal 

ladies, facing left - («king’s mother» Nasalsa, «king’s 

sister (and) king’s wife» Madiqen, and «king’s sister 

(and) king’s daughter» Henuttakhebit) – all standing 

behind the king, who offers a figurine of Maat to the 

god Amun-Re, human-headed, accompanied by the 

goddess Mut, his divine wife, and Khonsu, their son, 

all of whom face right. 

The hieroglyphic inscription of 23 lines below 

the relief reports a visit of eleven of the highest royal 

officials to the temple of Amun, «Bull of the Land 

of the Three-Curved Bow»


 (one of the two hypo-

stases of Amun venerated in the temple of Sanam),



in the course of which it was declared that the allo-

wance established for Madiqen, at her dedication as 

sistrum-player to Amun by Aspelta’s predecessor 

king Anlamani, should thenceforth be transferred 

to Henuttakhebit and her descendants. The text spe-

cifies the details of the weekly, monthly and yearly 

ration to be provided to (or by ?)


 the temple, pro-

1  I am very indebted to Dr. Timothy Kendall for reading this 

paper and making stylistic alterations.

2  The traditional rendering of this place-name as Ta-Seti is 

compact, but flat, though anyway preferable to the topo-

nym "Nubia", which, from my point of view, is absolutely 

unacceptable for the period in question. The alternative 

«Bow-land», suggested long time ago and recently revived 

in the epoch-making Fontes, is in fact somewhat mislea-

ding. The Egyptian language did not have any abstraction 

for «bow» but used several words for different kinds of 

this weapon, only one of which, referring to the so-called 

«triple-curved» bow (st), came to be associated with the 

Ancient Sudan. The problem is discussed in A.K. Vinogra-

dov, ‘On the Rendering of the Toponym T3 Stj’, Chronique 

d’Égypte, T. LXXV (2000), pp. 223-234; see also id., ‘A Rare 

Epithet of Amun in the Temple of Sanam: A Comment on 

the Dedication Stela’, MittSAG, Heft 21 (2010), SS. 97-105.


 Urk. III, 101-08.


 Cf. H. Schäfer, ‘Die aethiopische Königsinschrift des Lou-

vre’, ZÄS, Bd. 33 (1895), S. 108.

vides the names and positions of fifteen priests of 

the temple who witnessed the «deal», and announces 

the particular divine retribution to be meted out 

to «anyone who removes the stele (lit. ‘ordinance’, 

‘decree’) from the temple».

The text of the stele is somewhat uncertain, since 

it has many irregularities in grammar, wording and 

writing. Because many of its statements have been 

interpreted differently in the research literature, 

there has been no unanimity among scholars in label-

ling or naming this monument. Thus far it has been 

called: «Stela of Matsenen»


 (sc. Madiqen - A.V.), 

«Stele der Priesterinneweihe unter König Esperet»,6 

«Denkstein des Esperet über die Einsetzung einer 



 «priestess stela»,


 «Adoption Stela»,



«Dedication Stela»,


 «Adoption Stela of Aspelta».



This diversity of titles reflects the differences in 

scholars’ understanding of the significance of this 

monument. Paul Pierret, the author of the 1873 

editio princeps, took this text as a story how «Onze 

hauts fonctionnaires d’Aspurta viennent au temple 

d’Ammon présenter de sa part son épouse Maisren 

comme prêtresse du dieu <…> et la fille du rois 

Kheb-ha (sc. Henuttakhebit - A.V.) fait à cette occa-

sion une fondation d’offrandes <…> qui devra être 

perpétuée par ses descendants.»


 Views were set 

  5  A.Wiedemann, Ägyptische Geschichte, 2. Teil (Handbücher 

der Alten Geschichte, I, 1; Gotha, 1884), S. 577, Anm. 2. 

  6 Urk. III, 101.

  7  H. Schäfer, ‘Die sogenannte “Stele de l’excommunication” 

aus Napata’, Klio, Bd. 6 (1906), SS. 288-89, Anm. 1. 

  8  G. A. Reisner, ‘Inscribed Monuments from Gebel Barkal’, 

ZÄS, Bd. 66 (1931), S. 83, 

№ 51.

  9   PM VII, 218.

10  M.F.L. Macadam, The Temples of Kawa, Vol. I:  The 

Inscriptions. Text (London, 1949), p. 126.


 FHN I, p. 259; cf. C. Peust, Das Napatanische. Ein 

ägyptischer Dialekt aus dem Nubien des späten ersten 

vorchristlichen Jahrtausends (Göttingen, 1999), S. 72.

12  P. Pierret, Études égyptologiques comprenant le texte et 

la traduction d’une stèle éthiopienne inédite <...> (Paris, 

1873), p. 97. The name «Maisren» most likely is a mistake 

of the calligrapher of Pierret’s book (published in facsimi-

Alexey K. Vinogradov

The Golden Cage:

What is the «Dedication Stele» dedicated to?


καὶ φρουρὰν πλουτοῦντες 

ἐντιμότεροι δεσμῶται γεγόναμεν.

(Heliod., Aeth. 9. 2)

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