Comparison of the stelae of wsrimn (Fisher Collection, Detroit) and of ddwsbk (Louvre C240 and BM566) of Dynasty XII

By Etienne Vande Walle.
Translated by Diana Gainer.

Published on Egyptological, 7th December 2011, Journal Edition 2.



The 12th Dynasty (Middle Egytian) judicial system was surprisingly modern in its approach and composition, but our knowledge is assembled by a process of deduction.  Most of the key evidentiary sources are testimonial stelae which list the titles held by senior officials during their lifetimes.  The nature of an individual’s role in the judicial process can be postulated from the combination of titles held, in turn allowing a picture of the overall operation of kingly justice to emerge.

“The paper considers the titles and history of two such individuals, comparing and contrasting the titles they held to build a picture which reveals the existence of investigative judicial processes:

one stele from the reign of Amenemhat I and II is analysed to determine the role of wsrimn; and

two stelae from the reign of Sesostris II are analysed to determine the role of ddwsbk



1 Introduction

Let us set the scene.

The stelae that are the subject of our paper are from the 12th Dynasty, the first (wsrimn) from the time of Amenemhat I and II, of unknown provenance, purchased commercially in Los Angeles; the other two (ddwsbk: Louvre C240 and BM566) from the reign of Sesostris II, found during the excavation of Abydos.

The stele of wsrimn was published by Simpson (photo and translation, no transliteration) in JEA in 1965. The hieroglyphic text of BM566 is available on the website of the British Museum and in HTBM IV, pl. 37.  Philip-Stéphan provides a translation (2008, 82).  Finally, a photo of stele Louvre C240 appears on the website of the Louvre Museum, with a translation and transliteration by Philip-Stéphan (o.c. document 34).


2 Analysis of the texts

2.1 wsrimn

The reading of the text of the stele shows the following titles successively:

  • imy-r SmAw = Governor of Upper Egypt
  • rx nswt = Royal acquaintance
  • Hry sStA n mabAyt = Privy counselor in the Council of the Thirty
  • iry nxn = Mouth of Nekhen
  • Hm nTr mAat = priest of Ma’at
  • Hry sStA n sDmt wa = Sole Privy counselor of Hearing

When he published his article in 1965, Simpson showed a particular interest in the title imy-r SmAw, and did not linger over the other titles.  Among these, those comprising Hry sStA and the epithets in connection with hearing are of particular interest to us.

2.1.1 Hry sStA n mabAyt

The mabAyt, or Council of the Thirty, is an institution rarely mentioned in the documentation which is subject to differing interpretations.  Goedicke (1996, 57) saw an advisory board assisting the vizier.  Theodoridès (1973, 88, 123) suggested considering it as a Crown Council, bringing together “a group of important people who formed the High Council of State,” but said that the number thirty was not be taken literally.  Kruchten (1981, 182) shared this sentiment, at least for the Ramesside period.  Philip –Stéphan (o.c. 76-7) updated the debate and concluded that the mabAyt was an institution of purely judicial character, constituting a special jurisdiction.  She noted the title of sDm m mabAyt borne by the vizier Mentuhotep (stele CG20539, reign of Sesostris I), which she translates as “judge of the Court of Thirty.”  Returning to wsrimn, we ascertain that, to our knowledge, he is the only official known to bear the title of Hry sStA n mabAyt.  Rydström, who devoted a study to the Hry sStA, did not identify it. The latter author provides an excellent analysis of the title Hry sStA in general, its evolution from the Predynastic period to the Greco-Roman period, the functions attached to it in various fields, and he stresses the maintenance of confidentiality, refining the career of persons concerned, allowing them access to positions of increased responsibility, thus allowing them to advance in the hierarchy.

2.1.2 Hry sStA n sDmt wa

This title, which already existed in the Old Kingdom, sometimes occurs in the Middle Kingdom.  We mention among them:

  • -the imy-r pr wr ptHwr, AIB I, p. 146 with Gardiner glyph E15
  • -the wHmw mnTwaA (11-12th Dyn.), HTBM V, pl. 4
  • Xnmwy, Lange & Schäfer, I, p. 15 (stele of sntits CG20016, 12th Dyn.)
  • -the vizier XnmHtp (inscription in a mastaba) ; de Morgan, Fouilles mars-juin 1894 (Excavations March-June 1894), 20, fig. 24
  • -the wr mabA SmAw snwsrtsnb,  de Morgan, Catalogue, I, p. 72, no. 46 with Gardiner glyph E15
  • -the imy-r mSa ddwintf (2 steles 12th Dyn.) : Macadam, Gleanings, p. 61 and HTBM IV, pl. 3 (BM1177)

The sAb aD mr mnTwHtp (stele Louvre C176) bears the title of Hry sStA n sDmt wa m rwyt, rwyt being a court which was already established in the Old Kingdom (HL4, p. 705, no. 17612) and which is found, for example, in the title sAb sS rwt of axtHtp of the Fifth Dynasty (see Posener-Krieger 1976 II 660: index). Jones (2000, No. 2970) translates the title as “legal scribe of the passage-way” and Hannig (HL4, No. 46704) as “sAb und  Schreiber von Auβentor,” [“sAb and scribe of the outer gate/door,”] which provides an indication of the location of the institution and its accessibility to the public.

Let us separate the title into its components: Hry sStA and sDmt wa.

For the first component, we return for a moment to Rydström, citing some of his conclusions (o.c. 82): “The title Hry sStA presumably did not express a certain function in the context of the royal court, but may have been an official recognition of a man of integrity. In the administration… the title may have described the character of the duties rather than the function. Certain variations of the title may also express a certain competence… All the variations of the title within the  administration of governmental labour may also express specific knowledge within various spheres of activity. ‘Secrets’ in this connection may then imply ‘abilities,’ which are not accessible for everyone. The title would then involve a confirmation of the holders’ competence, not an outright functionary title.”  If in the Middle Kingdom the Hry sStA is characterized mainly by funerary and religious domains, he is still found, although to a lesser extent, in other sectors, such as the House of Life, where he performs specific tasks (cf. mnTwHtp).

The second component of the title is connected with “what is heard alone” in the words of Philip-Stéphan (o.c. 311 [28]) which includes two different actions: conducting a hearing / settling a suit (at law). Vernus (2001, 117, n. 65), in his study on the Teaching of Ptahhotep, summarizes the problem of translation in the following terms: “The word ‘judge’ (sDmy) etymologically signifying he who is predisposed to hear’ is homonymous and undoubtedly historically identical to the word signifying ‘hearer’.  It is the context that allows the choice in principle between the two senses.”  Let us apply this rule to the case of wsrimn in referring to the epithets.

2.1.3 What useful epithets does the stele of wsrimn provide us?

The title Hry sStA mabAyt is matched by

  • sidd XAkw-ib: ‘who renders impotent the disaffected’ (transl. Simpson).  We suggest ‘who cows (HL5, II, 2105, no. 26327) the rebels (Hannig, o.c. 1976, no. 24807)’
  • siA s r tpt r.f which Philip-Stéphan (2008, 82) translates: ‘who knows a man according to his word,’ Hannig (o.c. 2684, no. 36955) being in exactly the same direction: ‘(das Wesen) eines Mannes an seinem Ausspruch erkennt’ [(the character) of a man recognizes his utterance]
  • -dd.n n.f Xtw ‘to whom bodies say what is in them’ (transl. Simpson)

Then there are the titles iry nxn, Hm nTr mAat and Hry sStA n sDmt wa followed by various epithets, among which we retain:

  • wbA n-f ntt  m ib m HApt r rmT nbt: ‘to whom is opened that which is in the heart – that which is concealed for everyone’ (transl. Simpson with reference to Janssens) (for wbA and HApt: see Bonnamy-Sadek, 2010, 144 and 399)
  • dd pr snwy (n) Htp m pr nw ra.f: “who ensures that both parties come out (of the courtroom) satisfied with his decision (snwy referring to the litigants).
  • sar md(w)t ark.n.f: “who forwards a plea when he has gained full knowledge of it” (transl. Simpson). Hannig prefers “complaint” (Klage, “complaint; lawsuit”) to “plea” (Marburger Ed., p. 725, no. 26428).  But should we not read spr in this case instead of md(w)t? This last word covers a wide range of possibilities (see Bonnamy & Sadek, o.c. 298; also McDowell, 1990, 20) and it seems that, like sDm (see above) it is guided [it causes to be guided] by the context – provided it is suitable: Obsomer (1995, 521) leaves mdwt blank in his translation of the stele mnTwHtp (CG20539). Perhaps we can suggest that md(w)t represents the closed investigation, in which wsrimn “makes a report” at the conclusion of his investigations, when he has a thorough knowledge of the case.

2.2 ddwsbk


2.2.1  mLouvre C240 (stele)

ddwsbk “has made a stele” for his grandfather Antef, on which he mentions his own titles (iry pat, HAty a, imy-r Snt) as also a description of function which is divided into three parts:

  • mH-ib nswt  m smtr pat / m sHt btn-ib
  • sar mdt ark.n.f
  • srx r tp-rd n iwty.s

Philip-Stéphan (o.c. 242, doc 34) translates: “who satisfies the king by examining/interrogating the peer and punishing the disruptive/disturber, who submits the case of which he has knowledge, who knows the procedure to come.” Moret (1895, 44-9), analyzing the stele in his turn, read: “royal confidant for the investigation of men and the seizure of criminals, making words rise (to king); he has fixed the provisions of the law at their coming.”  The translations have substantial differences, reflecting the evolution of knowledge during the period between the two studies. Taking as its starting point the translation by Philip-Stéphan, we tackle the various actions to which ddwsbk proceeds:

-smtr pât:  to interrogate the pât [peer].  Hannig (Marburger Ed., p. 769 no. 28234) places the examination (Verhör [interrogation or court hearing]) in the criminal domain and connects it with torture and the “peinlicher Verhör” [painful interrogation].  The verb smtr, however, which is numbered 28228 in his nomenclature, does not appear in their relative Dictionaries for the language in effect for the period of the Old Kingdom to the DPI (Lexica 4 and 5).  Menu (2004, 173-186), examining judicial torture in Dynastic Egypt, comes to the conclusion that it is indisputable, although only attested in documents of the late Ramesside period.  It would be “the ultimate means of reinforcing an already established truth.”  The author notes the expression smtr m qnqn translated as “to interrogate by striking.”  It is not established under these conditions that the form of interrogation employed by ddwsbk in the time of Sesostris II was comparable to the “judicial torture” evoked by Menu.  We note, further, that the interrogation employed by ddwsbk relates to a specific category of people: the pât [or peer], that is to say the ruling social class (Gardiner 1947, 18 and 108), the interested party thus possessing a targeted skill rationae personae [because of the person involved/in the phrase “Jurisdiction Ratione Personae,” the personal reach of the courts jurisdiction].

  • -sHdt bTn-ib: we suggest seeing in the verb sHdt the meaning “to cause to bend” (Hannig Marburger Ed., p. 792, no. 48872), bTn-ib (HL5, 1, p. 826 no. 10223) embodying “the impertinent, the insolent” who is confined in the concealment of the truth
  • -sar md(w)t ark.n.f : we encountered the same phrase in the stele of wsrimn and we refer the reader to the comment above.
  • -srx r tp-rd n iwty.s : an identical phrase ends the stele of wsrimn, Simpson translating: “one who knows the rules for the future.”  The term tp-rd appears in Rekhmire where it is translated “instructions,” particularly those aimed at the unfolding of the hearings in the office of the vizier and also addresses the skills of the latter.  The translation of Philip-Stéphan (“procedure”) seems preferable to that of Simpson – and in any case to that of Moret.

2.2.2 BM566 (stele)

In addition to his titles of iry pat, HAty a and smr waty, the deceased also bears that of Hry sStA n ist m nD imn ib: “superior of the secrets of the Palace through interrogating (nD, the verb, being determined by sign A24, the hand armed with a stick) the hardened.”

The stele provides additional clarification regarding the specific skills of the deceased:

  • siA s r tpt-ra.f, an epithet that we already encountered with wsrimn (cf. supra/see above)
  • sHA.n nf-xt imyt.s which is akin to the epithet dd.n n.f Xtw also appearing in the stele of wsrimn
  • dd(w) bSw HAty amt.n.f: ddwsbk makes the heart (bSi) “spit out,” makes it “vomit,” so that he restores its secrets.

Philip-Stéphan translates the part that interests us: “…the prince and governor, in charge of the palace secrets by interrogating the concealer, who knows a man according to his word, for whom the body reveals what is in it, who causes the heart to spit out what it has swallowed, one who has access to the palace, who is in the first rank in the palace the day when a case is judged, exclusively by himself before the lord of the Two Lands when the council has dispersed….”

2.2.3 Other sources

It is also necessary to note a stele and a table of offerings in the name of ddwsbk that do not contain a description of function, but only titles:

  • stele BM830 (HTBM IV, pl. 36)
  • iry pat, HAty a, xtmty bity, smr waty; iry nxn mAa, imy-r Hwt wrt 6 m ity tAwy
  • table of offerings CG232035 (Ahmed bey Kamal, Catalogue Général, 28)
  • iry pat, HAty a, xtmty bity, smr waty; imy-r Snt


2.3 Summary of titles


imy-r SmAw, iry nxn, rx nswt, Hm nTr mAat, Hry sStA n sDmt wa, Hry sStA n mabAyt,

ddwsbk :

imy-r Hwt wrt 6 m ity tAwy, imy-r Snt, iry pat, iry nxn mAa, HAty a, Hry sStA n ist m nD imn ib, xtmty bity, smr waty.


3.     Discussion

Let us begin with ddwsbk, taking as our starting point the examination of the title imy-r Snt that appears on the Louvre stele and the table of offerings CG232035.

3.1 What does this title cover?

A little clarification is in order, especially since there is no unanimity as to its meaning. Some relate it to the direction of a certain number of people.  Thus Smither and Dakin (1939, 164-5, pl. 21.4) who, based on the Wörterbuch IV, 498, translate it as “Overseer of a hundred” to become the lesônis of the Greek era, Vercoutter (Kush 5, 1957 , p.65) as “Centurion,” or Chevereau (1987, 47) as “chief of the centurions.”  Breasted’s  translation of the Instructions to Rekhmire in the eighteenth dynasty (1922, 279, § 700) is along the same lines (“Overseer of Hundreds in the Hall of the King’s House” which he classifies among the “Overseers of labour”).  Others ascribe particular expertise in procedural matters (“Vorsteher Procesverfahrens,” [the director of procedural law] Spiegelberg, 1898, 138 ff.), investing him with special importance in the supply sector (as in the case of Hagi) or entrust him with managing weavers (Newberry 1892, 50).  Many authors tend to classify this [title] in the field of “management disputes,” the conduct of police interrogation, the maintenance of order, some according him jurisdictional potentialities.  Gardiner (1923, 15, n. 2), in his commentary on the Tale of the Oasis, is one of the first to translate imy-r Snt as “Overseer of disputes,” attributing to the bearer [of the title] expertise in litigation concerning fields as well as in flight.  Clère (1950: 19) saw in the title a “superintendent of quarrels,” corresponding at the same time to an “investigator, police commissioner, magistrate, judge, etc.” with the charge “to ensure good order in the city,” notably fulfilling the duty of “making justice prevail.”  Fischer (1953, 41) compares an imy-r SnT, stationed in Nubia, to a “Resident Magistrate”, a title derived from the English overseas administration, who acts as a magistrate at a local level, or who oversees the “lay” magistrates.  Peterson (1968, 23-5, fig. 8) considers the title to correspond to a “Vorsteher der Speichers” (director of stores, warehouses, silos).  Andreu (1982, 1069-1070) is of the opinion that the imy-r Snt has as his mission, in the First Intermediate Period, enforcing the law in cities and villages, while in the Middle Kingdom he is identified with a judicial superintendent of police : “he appears at the arrest and trial of thieves, at the hearings of the guilty, directing inquests and as the examining magistrate at the trial.”  Darnell (2002, 64) agreeing with Lichtheim (1973) and Franke (1994) sees him as the equivalent of a “sheriff” in its American sense, where this function essentially ensures the maintenance of order.  He could be a “circuit-riding law enforcement official”, who is not attached to a city or district.  Quirke (2004, 106) believes that the imy-r Snt partakes of the functions of both a police officer and a judge (“…the disputes overseer may be identified as an official with authority in criminal law, combining what may today be divided into “police official” and “judge”).  Considering the title of imy-r iry xt Snt, he specifies (o. c. p. 108) that part of the responsibilities of the imy-r Snt were “ the hearing of cases at a sitting, at a lower level presumably than the sittings of the vizier.” Philip-Stéphan (2008, 81-83) places the appearance of the title in the First Intermediate Period, the essential elements of the function at that time residing in the maintenance of public order.  Its creation constituted a reaction to the delinquency of institutions characterizing the First Intermediate Period.  In the Middle Kingdom, the cursor moves to the judicial sphere, the imy-r Snt intervening in matters of an exceptionally serious character.  According to the author, “this agent, whose authority could be exerted over the various police forces, was responsible for investigating and settling litigation, whether in cities or fortresses, while the pursuit and arrest of offenders was left to the police chief.”  The author raises the possibility that he was entitled to indict.  In Nubia and in the desert regions, this functionary’s mission at the end of the Middle Kingdom was as an agent of the central government, “securing the desert regions under his control.” Quirke (l.c.) places the imy-r Snt at the crossroads between police officer and judge, and attributes to him skill in criminal matters, a sentiment shared by Grajetzki (2009, 107) who gives him a “responsibility somewhere between police and judges” and classifies the title in the military sector. Finally, Russo (2010, 27-8) translates : “Overseer of disputes” which she places in the category of “public order”.

3.2 The profile of ddwsbk

By globalizing the facts contained in the two steles, one finds:

a)      ddwsbk has as his job interrogating members of the elite. It is easy to see the difficulty of such a task, which involves a potential of maximal trust and loyalty as well as a perfect management of confidentiality.

b)      in carrying out his mission, ddwsbk must be confronted with people who cannot let themselves be easily flustered and are accustomed to coping. In the event that they try to hide the truth (do not fold), they place themselves in a position of “rebelling” or “being insolent” (in the position of the rebel or the insolent). The epithet sHdt btn-ib embodies the ability of ddwsbk to manage such situations.

c)      ddwsbk is able to discern the character, the nature of a man from his speech, which means vast experience in interrogation and a range of gifts that we would now term psychological.  The epithet siA s r tpt-ra.f is linked to these qualities.

d)      ddwsbk is able to extract the secrets concealed by the body (Xt) as well as by the heart-HAty, resulting in the epithets sHA.n n.f xt imyt.s and dd(w) bSw HAty amt.n.f.  Philip-Stéphan examines the means used to achieve this result, and sees “the only recourse to an answer to the question” for the period (o.c. p.82). In this case, it would be an exception to the principles set out above (p. 3).

We can agree on the basis of the foregoing that ddwsbk embodies the talented investigator, a great connoisseur of the human personality, mastering the intricacies of the court hearing in difficult circumstances when he is faced with the elite of the Egyptian world, favoring a “psychological” approach rather than resorting to violence, without systematically excluding (the threat of) it.

e)      ddwsbk also bears the title Hry sStA n ist m nD imn ib, or “superior of the secrets of the Palace through interrogating (nD, the verb, is determined by the sign of A24, a man armed with a stick) the hardened.”  Epithet and title combine to highlight the ability to question stubborn subjects.

Of course, it could be argued that other biographies contain epithets similar to those of ddwsbk without their owners apparently being investigators: thus, for example intf, imy-r aXnwty (chamberlain) and sTA wrw Smaw (usher, in the sense that he escorts those appearing before the court, in this case the High ranks of the South), who seems to be not only assisting the vizier, but also a judge in his own right (sbAw m wDa s snwy: wise when he judges these parties) (see Philip-Stéphan o.c. 78 and doc. 26; HTBM II, pl. 22), and who is called rx pXr n wnnt m ib, which Philip-Stéphan translates: “who knows the form of what is in the heart.”  The difference from ddwsbk is, on one hand, the number of epithets in connection with the court hearing and, on the other, the range of possibilities.  intf has acquired his “knowledge of the heart” in the course of his career as a judge; still, this does not reach the level of ddwsbk.

But there is more.  The stele BM566 includes still other epithets that follow dd(w) bSw HAty amt.n.f, among which we note:

  • pHt.f wat
  • xnt st m stp.sA hrw m sDm md(w)t
  • wa Hr xw m-bAH nb tAwy xft TiA

Having the right of access to the Palace (the Unique = wat), ddwsbk occupies the first rank (xnty-st) on the “day of hearing the words” (Hrw n sDm md[w]t).  xnty-st having the value of an honorary title, one might object that it does not involve the actual presence of ddwsbk “at the top,” that day.  Simpson (1965, pl. XIV, L. 10) translates sDm mdwt as “hearing speech,” and Philip-Stéphan sees in Hrw n sDm md(w)t “the day of the hearing.”  ddwsbk is also the only one to stay with (m-baH) king after closure of the debate, “when the Council has withdrawn.”  The composite preposition m-bAH which is translated “in front, before” revolves around “presence,” so much so that the doubt that might accompany the aforementioned title is lifted: ddwsbk is physically present in the audience room, where he faces the king, remaining with him during the deliberations.

This presence still must be explained. Reducing it to passive assistance at the trial, when ddwsbk has extensive knowledge of the case and the personalities involved through hearings, seems to underestimate his role, taking also into account that he remains “alone” with king, after the end of the closure of debate. Philip-Stéphan speculates that ddwsbk would be empowered to indict. The equivalent of the indictment was known in Dynastic Egypt: thus Theodoridès (1969) accords him the power of “requisitions” in the reference entered by the scribe on the decision of the knbt addressed to the Vizier in the Herya case (Ostracon Nash I – 19th Dynasty) under the terms of which it asks the recipient “to inflict on this woman who stole the tool …. a punishment such that no other woman of her kind will ever repeat such an act,” emphasizing the deterrent nature of the penalty to be imposed, in order to prevent the commission of similar acts in the village of the Tomb.  To transpose the modern term “indictment” into the legal machinery of Dynastic Egypt is a delicate matter.  However, to the extent that people come to see that authority (the scribe of the knbt) is involved with the trial judge (vizier) concerning the severity of the penalty to be imposed, that in the same document this same authority quotes a precedent for the procedure (the case of the ankh-n-niwt of Tanedjemhemes) and requests that the vizier know of the matter due to the urgency in setting the case before the Great Kenbet, thereby derogating from the usual procedure, we discern the components of an indictment.  Returning to the period of ddwsbk, it appears to us that in his capacity as a linchpin in the trial concerning the pat, where he manages the hearings, attends the hearing, and remains with the King during the deliberations, he occupies a privileged position in order to indict – in a society that is not governed by the principle of separation of powers.  A point remains to be made concerning where ddwsbk takes his place: the text specifies that he is m-bAH nb tAwy, in front of the king and not next to him on his right or his left (Hr wnm.f/Hr iAb.f) like the assessors of the vizier (see the passage of the Instructions of Rekhmire concerning the conduct of audiences).  Either ddwsbk does not take his place beside king out of respect, or the position that he occupies during the trial faces the bench, due to a procedural requirement.


3.3. The profile of wsrimn

Let us move, then, to wsrimn whose first title mentioned in the stele is imy-r SmA(w), Governor of the South.  In the Old Kingdom, the title-holder serves as the “interface between the prefectures of the South and the central level”, “able to judge any litigation arising in that part of the territory, whether at the original trial or on appeal” (Philip-Stéphan, o.c. 103).  A number of occurrences are cited for this period.  In the Middle Kingdom, in contrast, the title is in freefall, and Quirke (2004, 115) simply states that its range of action is unclear (functional scope…uncertain).  It is not accompanied, in the stele of wsrimn, by any description, and is immediately followed by rx nswt which is connected with various epithets of which two concern the “pacification of the Two Lands” and the “suppression of the rebels.”  Then comes Hry sStA n mabAyt accompanied by epithets that we encountered with ddwsbk, whether siA s r tpt r.f and dd.n n.f Xtw related to the capacity for indictment and their ability to disentangle the speech of the persons they hear.  The rest of the text before the break closes with the titles iry nxn, Hm nTr mAat and Hry sStA n sDmt wa coupled with various descriptions, the first of them being wbA n-f ntt m ib m HApt r rmT nbt standing in principle in the sphere of investigators touting their ability to probe hearts.  Against this, the reference to the attentive hearing of the parties (wAH-ib r sDm mdwt: line 10 of the stele) as well as the litigants leaving (the room of the audience) in accordance with the decision of the judge (line 11) is firmly in the sphere of activity of the judge, and is part of the basis of formulas that characterize the autobiographical style.

So wsrimn partakes of the profile of investigator while possessing the qualifications to work as a judge. He is also empowered to manage confidential files at the special court that is the mabAyt. It is unfortunate that we did not have all of the stele to learn more about his career, insofar as the parallel process that we presented would profit more than ddwsbk given the amount of available data. We note at the end of line 10 of the stele of wsrimn the epithet SAi(w) iwt.f n Snyt (whose arrival is awaited by the Court) which figures in the same terms on stela CG20539 of Mentuhotep, who was one of the most prominent “treasurers” of the 12th Dynasty (Grajetzski 2009, 55-7) and who occupied an important position in the legal sphere. In addition to the title of Judge of the Court of the Thirty (sDm n mabAyt: jurisdiction where wsrimn is Hry sStA), the party of interest is also Hry-tp n wDa-mdt (chief in charge of deciding the case: transl. Obsomer 1995, 525 ) Hm nTr mAat and iry nxn (title also borne by wsrimn). His juridical ratione loci as vizier covers the entire territory of Egypt.  In addition, he has the power to legislate (dd Hpw). This means that the epithet common to wsrimn and Mentuhotep does not qualify anyone.


4. Conclusion

The comparison of the stele of wsrimn and the steles Louvre C240 and BM566 of ddwsbk, dating from the first half of the Middle Kingdom, provides data characterizing the function of investigator as part of the examination of cases that must have played a role later at the hearing [or audience], the main source in this regard being ddwsbk.  The autobiography is meant to be truthful testimony in the Middle Kingdom in contrast to the drift of earlier periods (Coulon 1997, 133).  The steles Louvre C240 and BM566 of ddwsbk are not marred by an idealization of a type that invalidates the content.  At the very most one could object that the title iry nxn is subject to mAa on the stele BM830 but the term aims to highlight the title especially since ddwsbk is also imy-r Hwt wrt 6  m ity tAwy.

We believe that the material examined possesses an effective anchor in real work: thus the reference to the personal jurisdiction [to the ability ratione personae] of ddwsbk, the modulation of hearing techniques, the indications of a procedural character as to his presence at the hearing Hrw n sDm md(w)t extending beyond the departure of the council members.  It allows us to sketch the profile of a chief of investigation specializing in a difficult area, responsible for indicting, “facing” king and authorized to be present during the deliberation phase, making him a crucial figure in the unfolding of the penal process at high level.  What title should be given to him?  At first sight, that of imy-r Snt, although the data on the presence at the hearing appears on the stele BM566 which does not mention this title.  ddwsbk is unusual in his function at the highest state levels, of which he himself takes part as imy-r Hwt wrt b m ity tAwy, a title that is at the summit of the juridical organizational chart.  Obviously, all imy-r Snt must not have gravitated to the same areas and many of them must have exercised their function in a more modest context.  Thus, for example, the anonymous imy-r Snt of the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire [Royal Museums of Art and History] in Brussels (E785) whose mummy and some possessions were found by Gayet at Antinoe (Vanlathem 1983, 27; Francot, Limmer, Van Elst , and Van Vanlathem Rinsveld, 1999, 4). The era and the region where they were active must also have had an impact on their social position and the nature of their mission.



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Etienne Vande Walle is a Doctor of Law, graduated from the Brussels Free University (Vrije Universiteit Brussel).   Professionally, he was successively lawyer (Brussels Bar), assistant public prosecutor, judge and finally president of the Brussels Court of Instance. He retired in April 2007.   He studied hieroglyphs with Prof. A. Theodoridès (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and History of Egyptian Art (Institut Royal d’Histoire de l’Art et d’Archéologie – Brussels). Actually, he is an independent researcher, more specifically interested in pharaonic institutions and titularies related with the juridical sphere.   He published a review of Einführung in die Altägyptische Rechtsgeschichte (LIT Verlag, 2008) by S. Lippert in Bibliotheca Orientalis LXVII, n° 3-4, 2010. p. 328-332.

Translator Diana Gainer.  Diana Gainer studied Egyptian hieroglyphs on the way toward obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979.  Since then she has completed a Master of Science degree in sociology at East Texas State University (1993) and obtained certification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (2003).  Now retired, she blogs about the undeciphered Indus script, comparing it to hieroglyphs, cuneiform, ancient Chinese, and other symbol systems.


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