The Seven Years' Famine

Last Updated January 9, 2019 by . First Published in 2013.

King Tcheser approaches the Nile gods for assistance as his people are in starvation after seven years of drought.

The Seven Years' Famine

The high official Mater oversaw the entire South, the Island of Elephantine, and the area of Nubia in the eighteenth year of King Tcheser (the third monarch of the third dynasty). The king expressed his concern over the Nile's prolonged dry spell in a message delivered to Mater. This made the lands infertile and made growing crops of all kinds exceedingly challenging. There was a shortage of grains and vegetables, and there was no food for the populace to eat.

King Tcheser thought back to the god Imhotep, the South Wall's Ptah's son, who had once saved Egypt from a similar catastrophe. Tcheser begged his governor Mater to inform him where the Nile rose, and which deity or goddess was its patron because his assistance was no longer available.

Mater responded to this communication right away by heading to the king and giving him the information. He informed him that the first city in history was located on the Island of Elephantine, from which the Nile flow originated. Khnemu is the flood's protector, and it is he who is keeping the water contained.

After describing the temple of Khnemu at Elephantine to his royal master and noting that it also housed the temples of Sopdet, Anqet, Hapi, Shu, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Horus, Isis, and Nephthys, among other gods, Mater then listed the various goods that could be found in the parish and which offerings should be made to Khnemu. The King entered his temple to seek Khnemus' assistance after hearing these words and offering sacrifices to the gods.

As Khnemu finally stood before him, he said: "I am the Creator Khnemu. My hands are on you to make your body healthy and to shield your person. I gave you your heart. He who made himself is me. I am the primordial watery abyss, and I am the Nile that rises at his command to nourish the labourers. I am Shu, the powerful possessor of the Earth, the Almighty, the father of the gods, and the director and guide of all men."

The god then detailed the good that would come to the land once he had put a stop to the hunger and promised that the Nile would rise every year, as it had in earlier times. Khnemu stopped speaking, and King Tcheser recalled the god's complaint that no one had bothered to restore his shrine even though there was plenty of stone nearby. A tax was to be imposed on all parish products and used to support the upkeep of the Khnemu priesthood, and some land on each side of the Nile near Elephantine was to be put aside for the endowment of the temple of Khnemu. He promptly issued this proclamation.

The King commanded that a copy of the decree be cut onto a stone tablet and placed in a visible location because it had been written on wood and would not last.


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