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Ancient Egypt - The Westcar Papyrus


The first personal story about a king was about Sneferu and was contained in the Westcar Papyrus. Written during the Hyksos period, it describes Sneferu as an approachable pharaoh. Prince Bauefre, a son of Khufu, narrates this story. It begins with Sneferu, who is wandering the palace in boredom. He calls for his chief lector priest to provide a solution. The priest suggests that the king should be taken out on the lake and rowed by some of the younger palace ladies. Sneferu agrees and adds:

'Let there be brought to me twenty nets, and let these nets be given

to these women when they have taken off their clothes... and...the

heart of His Majesty was happy at this sight of their rowing'

Unfortunately the excursion stops when one of these ladies accidentally drops her turquoise fish amulet in the lake and refuses to continue rowing. The king offers to replace it, but she wants the original back. He summons his chief priest again who parts the waters of the lake so that the missing charm can be retrieved. All is well and the rowing continues. The parting of the water is like the Biblical Exodus story, but a thousand years earlier! The story is obviously fictional, but an indication that Sneferu was an approachable pharaoh.

With such an obvious command of resources and manpower to be able to build two pyramids for himself and complete a third for his predecessor, Sneferu had clearly established a strong kingdom. He showed the Egyptian people how to build the pyramid and constructed the largest building in history up to that time. He showed Egypt how to be an international power and established artistic conventions that would last over 3,000 years. Some historians feel the art of Sneferu's era was the best that Egypt would ever produce. We focused on some of this work in the last episode. Perhaps his most important legacy of all was his son, Khufu. He would take his father's achievements even further and create the largest pyramid ever known.


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