One of the serendipitous pleasures of editing Egyptian Archaeology for the EES is that of finding out new things when I come across a mention of something I don’t already know or a person of whom I haven’t heard. I usually assume (possibly misguidedly) that if I don’t know who someone is, there’s a fair chance that at least some readers of EA also may not have heard of of him/her, so when a name crops up that isn’t familiar I resort to the inevitable ‘googling’ and then insert a brief explanatory description.
Today I am editing for EA 43 (Autumn 2013) Francesco Tiradritti’s article on his team’s work in the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru at Luxor which contains a graffito of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Francesco says: ‘He probably left his mark sometime between the summer of 1887 and early 1888 when he was in Egypt to cash a cheque received from Menelik II in exchange for a supply of arms’. Having, many years ago, done A-level French, Rimbaud was a relatively well-known quantity to me but Menelik II meant nothing and I then spent a happy half-hour finding out about him. He turns out to have been an Ethiopian prince who became Emperor in 1889 and the reason Rimbaud was involved with him was because he had abandoned poetry at the age of 21 and gone off adventuring in Africa and the Middle East, including essentially ‘gun-running’ for Manelik II.
Rimbaud’s graffito in Harwa’s Cenotaph was first recognised by Isabella Faroppa, the wife of Ibrahim Soliman, Chief Inspector of the Temple of Karnak, on a visit to Francesco’s work, just after excavation revealed the northern wall of the courtyard.
Rimbaud’s graffito. Courtesy of A.C.S.E.S. Italia, © 2013
Most of Francesco’s article is, of course, about the wonderful reliefs in the Cenotaph of Harwa and what they can tell us about life in Egypt in the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty.
Part of a procession of offering bearers from the north portico decoration (Digital collage by F. Tiradritti from photos by G. Lovera, 2006, 2009).
Courtesy of A.C.S.E.S. Italia, © 2013
Many thanks to Francesco Tiradritti for permission to include information from his article, and the images, in this update.