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Archaeological and Geographical Evidence for the Voyage of Wenamun

Debborah Donnelly, MA © 2004



The Report of Wenamun is one of the most famous pieces of Egyptian writing that exists. It has been thoroughly examined by a myriad of Egyptologists who have looked at the document in minutia. While not trying to reinvent the wheel, I would like to look at the archaeological record for the geographic regions mentioned in the account. I intend to show a correlation between the actual ability of the Egyptians to reach these areas, the history of sea trade between them and to establish a link between the document and the discovered material culture. The Hieratic Papyrus The Report of Wenamun is a hieratic papyrus that was apparently discovered at El-Hibeh, and bought in Cairo by Golénischeff1 in 1891. It is now the property of the Moscow Museum. We have two pages of the papyrus intact; a third with the conclusion is lost.2 It is dated to the early Twenty-First Dynasty, and is considered by most Egyptologists to be an actual historical account of an overseas trading expedition,3 although some have argued that the story is pure literary fancy.4 The background of the story is aptly described by Lichtheim (1976: 224) as, “the third decade of the reign of Ramses XI, 1090-1080 BC, during which the king yielded power to the two men who shared the effective rule of Egypt: Herihor in the south and Smendes in the north. The empire had been lost, and thus so simple an enterprise as the purchase of Lebanese timber could be depicted as a perilous adventure.”

First hieroglyphic transcription by Golénischeff was published in Recueil de Travaux, XXI, 74, together with a French translation. 2 Gardiner (1932: xi, xii) 3 for example: Wente, Cerny, Lichtheim 4 Golénischeff, Gardiner and Baines, to name a few.




History of Seafaring The earliest surviving record in Egypt of international trade is detailed on the Palermo Stone, which tells how Sneferu (the first pharaoh of Dynasty Four) imported aš wood from Lebanon:5 "Bringing forty ships filled (with) cedar logs. Shipbuilding (of) cedar wood, dwA-tAwy ship, 100 cubits (long) [= 45.73 m], and of meru one wood, two ships, 100 cubits (long). Making the doors of the royal palace (of) cedarwood." (Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt Part One § 146f) Smith (1998: 41) asserts that the ‘remarkably well preserved’ coniferous posts and crosstimbers discovered in the upper chamber of Sneferu’s Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, might be actual timbers referred to in the Palermo Stone. While the existing word translated for aš is cedar, “there is less than total agreement among Egyptologists” that the word does indeed mean ‘cedar’ (Kuniholm, 1997: 347). Meru may mean cypress or juniper,6 but again there is no way of really knowing. One theory proposes that the Egyptians did not make a distinction between cedar and juniper, and that “aš refers to better-quality conifers and meru refers to some kind of second-quality timber.”7 Regardless, the main woods needed for boat-building would have been foreign (imported), and usually sold in long lengths, contrary to the locally available woods like acacia or sycamore (Appendix 1).8 Ward (2000: 20) states that the only identified samples of cedar for boat-building that are

The text does not specify a location, but archaeological consensus is that it is referring to Byblos. Several classical sources, including Theophrastus, Inquiry into Plants, 3.12.3-4 distinguish a lesser cedar (lesser than Cedrus Libani) perhaps in two varieties (Brown, 1969:146). 7 Kuniholm, 1997: 348 8 Long distance trade in wood seems plausible even for the predynastic/early dynastic period. We know that Narmer (Dyn 0) was actively involved with Canaan, attested by his serekh in various sites (Arad, Tarkhan, Halif Terrace, En Besor). D.A.I.K. findings on Cedar have been found in Abydos cemetery B (Iry Hor, Ka, Narmer) and U (Naqada IIIa2, c.3250).




currently known, are from Khufu’s boat, and planking from the Dashur boats.9 Unfortunately until further samples of wooden objects in Egypt are tested for their identification, many have been and will continue to be wrongly attributed, and our understanding of which materials were most commonly used remains obscure.

Serpico (2000:431) has recently discussed this issue regarding cedar, and describes it as the most “controversial of the resin-producing conifers” because of its association to the Egyptian term aš. This was due in part to Loret (1916: 51), who proposed that it really stood for fir or pine, because the representations of aš wood are not red, but yellow, and were shown as tall and straight, which was not considered usual for cedar. While the problems presented by the colour persist, Serpico notes that there is “some indication that in dense forests Cedrus libani could have a tall, upright habit” (Meiggs 1982: 407). So perhaps the notion of aš being associated with cedar is not as far-fetched as was once thought.

As for the ability to make long distant trading expeditions at sea, we have a vivid account and depiction in the 18th Dynasty reliefs at Deir el-Bahari. Hatshepsut’s expedition to Punt shows intricate details that strengthen the debate that Punt was reached via the Red Sea. The fact that the images of the fish depicted beneath the ships are so intricately carved allows species identification with known Red Sea fauna, firmly establishes this. From her descriptions we are able to determine the types of products obtained there, including woods. Below is a transliteration and translation of the relevant portion of Hatshepsut’s expedition:

“The loading (of) the ships very greatly with marvels (of) the foreign land (of) Punt: all good plants of God’s land, heaps of resin of myrrh, with fresh trees of

Five wooden boats from the Middle Kingdom, pyramid of Senwosret III.



myrrh, with ebony10 and pure ivory, with green gold of cAmw,11 with a tree and its spice12, hsayt spice, with ihmwt-incense, black eye-paint, with baboons, long-tailed monkeys and hounds, with skins of southern panthers, with servants along with their children. The like of this had never been brought to any king who existed since the primeval time of the earth.”13 Hatshepsut’s portrayal and narrative are the most extensive accounts we have of the land of Punt. The images of her sea-going vessels also prove beyond a doubt that the Egyptians were more than capable of making open water voyages (Fig. 1). If capable of making voyages along the Red Sea coast, with its dangerous reefs and contrary winds,14 it seems appropriate to conclude that a voyage along the eastern Mediterranean coast, in an area that was well-known by the Egyptians even since the Early Dynastic period,15 as highly probable. The predominant currents in the eastern Mediterranean Sea show a counter-clockwise movement, circulating from Carthage east to Palestine, north along the coast of Lebanon and Phoenicia and westwards around Cyprus (Fig. 2).16 Even with the building of both the Aswan

hbny - “But of all the woods which formed the staple timber trade, alike of Punt and Khent Hunnefer on the Upper Nile, ebony held the chief place. In the tomb of Ti we find reference to one of his statues as being of ebony. The wood is mentioned again and again from that time onward to the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who made a troop of Ethiopians bearing two thousand trunks of ebony march in one of his processions.” (Naville, 1998: 24) 11 Gauthier (1925: 143) ‘Région africaine, renommée pour ses richesses en or et en électrum, située sur la côte de la mer Rouge, au sud-est de l’Égypte.’ 12 Breasted Vol.II §265 reads this as ‘cinnamon wood’, which accords with Manniche (1989: 88) Cinnamonium zeylanicum. 13 Translated by this author, from the hieroglyphic transcription in de Buck, A. (1982) Egyptian Readingbook: Exercises and Middle Egyptian texts. Chicago: Ares Publishers, p.52 – Lines 15-16. 14 Which was the reason for establishing ports as far south as possible in the Egyptian area of the Red Sea (i.e. Quseir al-Qadim, Berenike), as a north wind blows year-round that makes sailing northwards difficult. Also noted by myself while working in the Sinai. 15 Long distance trade in wood seems plausible even for the predynastic/early dynastic period. We know that Narmer (Dyn 0) was actively involved with Canaan, attested by his serekh in various sites (Arad, Tarkhan, Halif Terrace, En Besor). D.A.I.K. findings on Cedar have been found in Abydos cemetery B (Iry Hor, Ka, Narmer) and U (Naqada IIIa2, c.3250). 16




Dam17 and the Suez canal, the amount of river water emptying into the Mediterranean is still minimal compared to the inflow from the Atlantic, which causes this motion. Travel was generally restricted to the months of May to October to avoid storms, and because the sky was generally cloudless at that time of the year, which allowed navigation to be made by landmarks or the sun during the day, and by stars at night,18 as would be expected during this ancient period of sea travel (Casson, 1974: 150). In the Mediterranean in the summer northwesterly trade winds prevail,19 called the ‘Etesians’.20 These would facilitate the return trip from the northeastern coast of Syro-Palestine. Thus while counting on the current to take them north, they relied on wind to bring them back to Egypt. Evidence of early voyages that would have travelled this route have been discovered through underwater archaeology. The wrecks of both the Ulu Burun, of the 14th century BC, as well as the Phoenician, 10m long ‘Cape Gelidonya’ ship from ca. 1200 BC,21 have provided evidence of this ancient trade (Fig. 3). This latter ship ties in well chronologically with the timeframe of the events of Wenamun. In addition to an enormous amount of metal artifacts (almost a ton was recovered) found during the excavation of the Gelidonya wreck, ceramics like

Historically, the large seasonal variations in the Nile discharge was more influential in the hydrology, productivity, and fisheries of the southeastern part of the Mediterranean, rather than changing the currents ( 18 Although even during the Roman period it was common to make landfall each night (Casson, 1974: 151). 19 Nibbi (1985: 15) makes a very strange remark, stating: “the currents along this coast are known to depend upon prevailing winds from the south-west.” Firstly, currents do not depend on winds, and secondly, in the summer months northwesterly trade winds prevail. 20 According to Casson (1974: 151) the ‘yearly winds’ is what the ancients called them. 21 The approximate date has been established according to small finds, pottery, and carbon-14 analysis of the oak brushwood (dunnage – that protected the hull from the cargo). See Bass, G. F. (1967) Cape Gelidonya: A Bronze Age Shipwreck. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 57 (part 8). Philadelphia, for the full excavation report.




this Mycenaean IIIB stirrup jar, and a scarab (Fig. 4) with an inscription meaning "Amun-Re, the Lord" indicate various points of contact along the trade route, including Egypt.22 Wenamun “Year 5,23 fourth month of summer, day 16, day of the departing which was made by the elder of the portal (smsm hAy), Wenamun, of the house of Amun, Lord of the thrones of the Two Lands, in order to bring timber for the great and noble bark of Amun-Re, king of the gods, which is upon the river and is called ‘Mighty is the prow of Amun’.” (LES 61, 1.1-1.3)24 From the first lines of the text we have the introduction of the main character of the voyage, Wenamun. He is simply described with a single title, ‘Elder of the Portal’, which de Spens (1998: 107) indicates is probably related to the function of a messenger (wpwty n Imn), who is in effect an ambassador for Amun. He reports directly to the high-priest of Amun and has been charged with securing lumber to maintain the great and noble barque of Amun.

Smendes at Tanis Most of the other characters are spelled out in LES 62, lines 1.14-16, where Wenamun cries for the loss of his stolen possessions to the prince of Dor, Beder: “Now as for the silver, it belongs to Amun-Re, King of the Gods, Lord of the Two Lands. It belongs to Smendes, it belongs to Herihor, my lord, and other great ones of Egypt. It belongs to you. It belongs to Waret. It belongs to Mekmer. It belongs to Tjeker-baal, the prince of Byblos.”

Ns-sw-ba-nb-Dd25 has come down in the Greek as Smendes.26 He is named as the first king of the Twenty-First Dynasty and was settled at Tanis27 in the Delta. Unfortunately very little
22 23 of Ramesses XI 24 Unless otherwise stated, the translation of Wenamun given here is my own.



archaeological data has been recovered that is attributable to this leader. There are two canopic jars (one in a private collection and another in the Metropolitan Museum of Art), that bears his name (Fig. 5), a stela in a quarry at Dibabia near Gebelein,28 and a small depiction in the temple of Montu at Karnak. All other information about him is gleaned from the account of Wenamun. Unfortunately no evidence of Smendes has yet been discovered at Tanis. The Sea Peoples “Now the northern countries, which were in their isles, were quivering in their bodies. They penetrated the channels of the Nile mouths…His majesty is like an enraged lion, attacking his assailant with his paws…” (Edgerton & Wilson, 1936: 41) In Ramesses III year 8, a culmination of various groups known as the Sea Peoples descended upon Egypt, as they had the rest of the eastern Mediterranean (Fig. 6), but Egypt was victorious in defeating them. The Sea Battle against the Sea Peoples is depicted in relief at Medinet Habu, announcing Ramesses III great achievement. The graphic account on the walls speak of the foreign countries that joined together and states that they came through the lands of Hatti, Kode, Carchemish, Yereth,29 and Yeres,30 who were unable to stop them. He names these tribes of conspirators as the Peleset, Tjekker, Shekelesh, Danuna and Weshesh.

Following the sea battle, the Sherden and Philistines were enlisted in the service of Ramesses III, in year 11 of his reign, during his campaign to expel the Meshwesh and the

Meaning ‘He of the Ram, Lord of Mendes’. Manetho attributes to him a reign of 26 years. Although I must admit that any discussion pertaining to this that I have seen has only made me more confused on how this happened. 27 zânt – Nom de la ville qui devint à partir de la XXIe dynastie la métropole du XIVe nome de Basse-Égypte (Gauthier Vol. 6, 111). 28 Breasted IV §627-630 - Smendes sent 3000 men to the quarry at Gebelein to secure stone for repairing damage to a collapsed wall around the Luxor temple. 29 Yereth is equated with Arzawa (Cilicia) according to Edgerton & Wilson (1936) p. 53. 30 Yeres is associated with Alashiya (Cyprus) – as above.




Libyans.31 But during his campaign against Syria, the Amorite War, later in year 11,32 we have an image of the captives in this battle, including the Tjeker (Fig. 7).33 These figures depict precisely the differences between cultural groups by both their physical characteristics as well as their dress. Note that all of the ‘sea peoples’ are generally depicted wearing the feathered headdress except for the Sherden who are depicted wearing a horned helmet with a disc between the horns.

The other text that is dated to the end of Ramesses III reign in about 1164 BC is the Payrus Harris, where Ramesses himself tell us his victory over the Sea Peoples:

“I slew the Denyen in their islands, while the Tjeker and the Philistines were made ashes. The Sherden and the Weshesh of the Sea were nonexistent, captured all together and brought in captivity to Egypt like the sands of the shore.” (Pritchard 1969: 260-261). The Egyptians were successful in keeping the Sea Peoples at bay, but noticeable changes in the archaeological finds of the cities of the Syrian/Palestinian coastline confirms that many settled there. There are specific references to the Tjekker, Philistine, Danuna and Sherden that later establish the possible areas in which they settled.


at Dor34 The Tjeker are thought to have settled in the area of Dor. It is here in the story of

Wenamun that the single specific reference is made:

From the walls enclosing the forecourt of the Great Temple at Medinet Habu. Nelson (1931: 8-15) figs. * & 10; For a description of the accompanying text see Edgerton & Wilson (1936: 62) Pl. 72. 32 See Breasted, 1988: Vol IV, §133 for a discussion on the date of this war. 33 Inscription translated in Breasted, 1988: Vol IV, §129. 34 Also known as Tantura or Khirbet el-Burq. See Gauthier VI p. 87.




“I went down to the great sea of Khar35 summer, day 1. I reached Dor, a town of the

in the first month of Tjeker. Then Beder,

its prince caused to be brought to me 50 loaves, 1 jug of wine and a leg of beef.” (LES 61, 1.8-1.10) In addition to this reference in Wenamun, the ‘Onomasticon of Amenope’ has been interpreted as detailing a north to south positioning of the Sherden, Tjeker and Philistines,36 centred around Akko, Dor37 and the Philistine Pentapolis38 respectively (Stern, 1994: 89). Although Hittite references to the Šikalayū (see Appendix 2) are with regards to the sacking of Ugarit,39 it has then been adopted by modern writers to assume that these same Sikils ‘who live on ships’ then proceeded down the coast to land at Dor (Fig. 8).40 What I don’t follow is why there has been a change in the name of the tribes who settled on this coast? If the Šikalayū are to be associated with the Shekelesh, and perhaps their landing further to the north, why have the scholars chosen to adopt the name Sikils for the Tjeker, ignoring Ramesses III identification of them as separate peoples, as well as the very same ‘Onomasticon of

35 Despite A. Nibbi’s (2001: 67; 1996: 87) persistent idea that this term must refer to an area of north-eastern Egypt, it has been assumed by most scholars to represent Syria. While she states that Kharu is outside the boundaries of Egypt, she also places it along the Wadi Tumilat and the canal leading to the Bitter Lakes. Either, Egypt had access to the canal because it was in their own territory or they didn’t. It is beyond the scope of this paper to even discuss the actuality of this canal at this time frame, or the size of vessel that it could comfortably accommodate, which she seems to feel would need to be very large. 36 The northern border of Philistia was at Tell Qasile, where the remains of a flourishing Philistine city, with its buildings and temples, have been discovered (Mazar, 1992: 311). 37 Excavations at Dor have been difficult (due to some 45’ of material to excavate through), but nearby Tel Zeror has shown evidence of Tjekker culture. Tel Zeror was destroyed at the end of the 13th century BC, followed by the construction of a fortress showing a “repertoire of pottery vessels (within) the same range of types as Philistine ware, and Aegean type weapons” (Dothan, 1992: 211). 38 The Pentapolis includes the five major cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath (Tell es Safi). 39 Correspondence between the King of Alashiya and Ammurapi (King of Ugarit) just prior to the sacking of the latter’s city (Stager, 1998: 337). 40 Stager (1998: 338)



Amenemope’41 which if taken for evidence, has been changed to adapt the name. As for them proceeding further south and landing at Dor, I have been unable to find any documentary reference to this occurring. I have found no reason to assume that the Egyptian documents (the only real evidence of the name of the people at Dor) are incorrect. Perhaps instead of looking at the Sikils (which linguistically would accord more likely with the Shekelesh), we should just take it that the people who settled at Dor were the Tjeker. I supposed that regardless of the name being used to identify this group of the Sea Peoples, one should look to the archaeological data to confirm their (Sikil or Tjeker) existence at Dor. According to Stern (1993: 45), the strata at Dor indicate the city was founded as early as the 20th century BC (Middle Bronze Age IIA). He also estimates that about 15% of the 45 foot high Tel has been washed away by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Despite this, excavations, both on land and at sea have been carried on intermittently at Dor since 1923. Unfortunately much of the early excavation history is lost because of a lack of records produced by Garstang. Stern (1995: Vol 1A, p. 4-6) gives an overview based on materials he has collected from the short articles published by Garstang.42 This early excavation did note a destruction layer in the 13th century BC that could be attributed to the sacking of the city by the Sea Peoples, and also found ceramics that included imported Cypriot and local wares of the Late Bronze Age, and Philistine and other Iron Age I pottery.

Stern commenced twelve years of excavations, which began in 1980. The area of the mound that concerns the occupation of the Sea Peoples is the southern part, which incorporates

41 42

Published by Gardiner, A.H. (1947) Ancient Egyptian Onomastica, vol.1. London: Oxford University Press. Garstang, J. (1924) Tantura (Dora). Bulletin of the British School of Jerusalem 4, p. 35-47; Vol 6 (1924), p. 65-75



“the remains of walls and earthen ramparts43 erected by the Sikils44 in the 12th century BCE on the eastern side” (Stern, 1994: 79). Seven areas were excavated at the tell (Fig. 9). The Iron Age I occupation (1150-1050 BC) at Dor is the period in which the city was under Sikil rule, and the main area associated with this phase is Area B1. However, probes have determined that the conflagration that shows the destruction of this phase has been found throughout the entire tel.45

What is most important about Dor with respect to our voyage of Wenamun, is its vast harbour facilities. Here lies one of the best sheltered and most well built shipping districts on the Syro-Palestinian coast. The harbor installations found at Dor are the first to be attributed to one of the Sea Peoples.46

In the South Bay there is a sandstone (kurkar) slab platform built in the "headers" technique, which became the trademark of the Phoenician harbor installations. This structure is assumed to be a paved quay or a landing stage for the ships on loading or unloading the merchants close to the shore (Fig. 10). It appears to have been originally built in the MBA and had numerous additions and repairs through the centuries. Indicated on the plan (Fig. 10) is the area that was rebuilt at the beginning of the Iron Age (early 12thth century) that would be ascribed to the Sea Peoples at the site. Raban (1995: 316) notes that in Area A, a level of pavement is indicated, which is about half a meter above the current sea level. It is comprised of flattened, rectangular ashlar slabs around the edges and of irregular shape inside the perimeter.47

An immense fortification system built by the Sikils, of heavily built walls with supporting embankments makes “Dor the strongest contemporary fortified city discovered in Palestine!” (Stern, 1994: 93) 44 I use the term Sikils here, because that is what Stern uses. 45 Areas F, and E. In Area G, remains of a cult place including a ceremonial goblet, two chalices and a few small votive bowls of the Sea Peoples have also been found (see map Fig. 9). (Stern, 1994: 94) 46 At least attributed as such by A. Raban, who excavated most of the seabed and nearby shoreline of Dor (Stern, 1994: 97). 47 Raban (1995) depicts a close up plan of the area described in his Fig. 9.14.




On top of this and slightly to the north is a new pavement of carefully squared slabs of various sizes that produced an “elevated, free-standing rectangular quay.”48

The coastal area around Dor (Fig. 11) provided some of the most protected harbours and anchorages. The latest publication by Kingsley & Raveh (1996: 55-58) reports that with the exception of a single Late Roman wreck in the Main Bay, all the shipwreck deposits are concentrated within the sheltered lee side of Hopami and Tafat islets in the South Bay. There are thirteen wreck sites which vary in date from the 13th century BC to the late 18th century AD. One wreck in particular has been dated to the approximate timeframe of the visit of Wenamun to Dor, Dor Wreck 13 (Dor M) – Grid E7.35. Associated with this wreck, the excavators recovered two forms of Canaanite amphorae49 and a small two-handled juglet50 (Fig. 12). Other examples of the Sikil type pottery found during the excavations are shown in figures 13 & 14.

Dor has also yielded the largest assemblage of ancient anchors in the Mediterranean, some 155 stone anchors in all.51 Kingsley & Raveh (1996: 31) note however that only a single

Raban (1995: 318) notes the size (4.3 x 9.1m) and states the closest parallel is from Kathari in Kition. See V. Karageorghis (1976) Kition. London, p. 59-60. 49 Raban has associated the form with the Sea Peoples, through ceramic association with the 12th century quay at Dor (1983b: 235-6; 1988: 292), however, the type-site for the discovery of this form of amphora is Sarepta in Lebanon (Kiln G Rm 74). (See map Fig. 15 for location of Sarepta, between Tyre & Sidon) 50 A parallel example from Tell Deir ‘Alla was excavated in Phase G. Dates between 1190 ±50 BC for phase D and 1050 ±40 BC for Phase J are established at the site. Generally phases E-L are considered to date between c. 11501050 BC (Franken, H.J. (1969) Excavations at Tel Deir ‘Alla. A Stratigraphical and Analytical Study of the Early Iron Age Pottery. Leiden: Brill, p. 247). Kingsley & Raveh (1996: 31) note however that only a single three-hole anchor capable of serving a mediumsized merchant was found. This type is attributed by Raban (1988: 288) to the Sea Peoples, and Nibbi (1996: 78) uses this to say that there is minimal evidence of Sikil merchant ships of a size capable of hauling logs to be found at Dor. I would argue that no where does it say the ships used to haul the logs to Egypt were Sikil ships, in fact the opposite is true if you take Wenamun’s word that . Also, the possibility exists that they may have used a different type of anchor, or the large merchantmen were not using this harbour, or conversely only the smaller, easier to replace anchors were dumped here, or perhaps ships used more than one anchor at a time, or the larger ships anchored outside of the bays.




three-hole anchor capable of serving a medium-sized merchant was found. This is the type attributed by Raban (1988: 288) as being used by the Sea Peoples.

Nibbi (1996: 78) uses this point to say that there is minimal evidence of Sikil merchant ships of a size capable of hauling logs to be found at Dor. I would argue that no where does it say the ships used to haul the logs to Egypt were Sikil ships; in fact the opposite is true if you take Wenamun’s word:

“Is it not a ship52 from Egypt? Those who sail under Smendes are Egyptian crews. There are not with him, Syrian crews.” (LES 67, 1.57-1.58) I would say also that the paucity of a specific type of anchor could be attributed to many different reasons. The possibility exists that the Sikils may have used a different type of anchor, or that large merchantmen were not using this harbour, or conversely only the smaller, easier to replace anchors were dumped here, or perhaps ships used more than one anchor at a time, or larger ships anchored outside of the bays.

Despite any argument to the contrary, the archaeological data seems rather clear to me that Dor had been a port of great significance, and as the story of Wenamun implies, was the home base for a large fleet of ships.

“So I went off to the seashore to where the timbers were stacked and I saw eleven (br)53 ships which were coming from the sea, belonging to the Tjeker (who were) saying: ‘Imprison him. Do not give freighters with him to the land of Egypt.’” (LES 73, 2.63)

Just a generic boat with wood determinative. In almost every other case in Wenamun the type of ship is spelled

out; there are few exceptions, like LES 66, 1.55 pA br (?) aš. I have difficulties transliterating this as br, because when used as such it always seems to be spelled out. Perhaps this sign had a specific vocalization (now unknown) and referred to a general type of ship (see also LES 69, 2.23, 2.25). 53 br – boat used for transport, freighter, galley, scow (Jones, 1988: 136).



Tyre After Wenamun leaves Dor there is mention of a stop at Dar, which has been equated with the city of Tyre. Unfortunately this portion of the text is badly damaged and one only gets the idea that Wenamun is leaving from this port and next arrives at Byblos (Fig.15). “I left Tyre at the start of dawn….Tjerkerbaal, the prince of Byblos.” (LES 63, 1.28-1.29)


at Byblos

We do not get much of an idea about the surroundings of Byblos,55 but Wenamun does describe one panoramic view that is very telling: “I found him (Tjekerbaal) sitting in his throne room,56 while his back was turned to a window and the waves of the great Syrian sea broke behind his head.” (LES 66 1.48-1.50) As an experienced naval officer my natural reaction to such an impressive description is to picture the waves crashing on the shore behind the prince. This type of wave action is not seen in lakes or small bodies of water, and would not, in my opinion be the one description that Wenamun makes, unless to him it was an extraordinary scene. One other phrase in Wenamun also gives the impression of the dangers associated with the sea. It comes about after the final delivery of the promised timber to the shore:

Also written as Zakarbaal. Gauthier V, p. 197-198 kbn ou kpnA/kpwnA - Nom égyptien de la ville phénicienne Gebâl (Byblos). Les Égyptiens allaient y chercher le bois de cèdre, et elle avait un sanctuaire consacré à Hathor, forme égyptienne de la déesse sémitique Baalat-Astarté. Byblos comes from the Greek, meaning papyrus. It does not mean that this was the site of papyrus marshes or an area of manufacturing, but that the port became known for its importance in the trade of papyrus. Even Wenamun supplies 500 rolls of papyrus (sš Kn) to Tjekerbaal as part of the payment for the lumber (LES 71, 2.40) 56 Hoch (1994: 76) § 86 translates art as ‘upper chamber’ versus another proposed meaning as a ‘gate’, which would not suit this context. Ward (1985: 331) disagrees and states, “This can be nothing other than the throneroom where kings were wont to receive foreign ambassadors. There is nothing to suggest it was not on the ground floor, the usual location for thronerooms in West Asiatic palaces.”




“Do not go (simply) to observe the terror of the sea. If you observe the terror of the sea, you will see my own.” (LES 71, 2.50) Although I interpret this phrase as being not directly in relation to the actual terrors of the sea, so much as a message from Tjekerbaal to Wenamun to speed home. It implies that there is an understanding about the power of the sea and that perhaps it is coming close on the season when storms will arrive and make his trip difficult. There are also three references in Wenamun to the Lebanon57 which seem appropriate to include on defining Byblos as the site for obtaining the lumber. Particularly interesting is the statement that Tjekerbaal makes about his ability to make it rain trees:58 “If I call out to Lebanon, the sky will open and these trees will be cast here upon the shore of the sea.” (LES 2.14) As for the timing of Wenamun’s departure, there is a hint about the time of year, and that it is perhaps getting late in the season to be starting on the return voyage.

“Surely you can see the migrant birds who have already gone down twice to Egypt. Look at them setting out for the cool water district.” (LES 73, 2.65-2.66) If the birds are heading south it must be fall and a more dangerous time to conduct safe passage upon the seas.

While Egyptian contact with Byblos can be established from the Early Dynastic period with beads, a bird figurine, a small ape statuette and an inscription of Khasekhemwy59 (Jidejian, 1968: 16). Contact in the later New Kingdom has been aptly established with the door frame
57 58

Gauthier Vol. III, p. 117. The other references in Wenamun are at LES 2.24, 2.28. Wente (1973:149, n. 17) 59 Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos I, p. 26, No. 1115.



bearing an inscription of Ramesses II (Fig. 17), as well as part of a stela and an alabaster fragment bearing his cartouche.60 Following the early part of the Iron Period, for which little evidence has been found on the site, contact with Egypt is once again shown in prestigious items like a statue base bearing the cartouche of Sheshonk I. In addition a wonderful statue of Osorkon I (984-978 BC) of pink granite, now in the Louvre, was recovered from Byblos (Fig. 18), as well as the lower part of a statue (Fig. 19) of Osorkon II (924-909 BC).

Sidon There exists in the story a single reference to DdnnA with regards to the passing of this port on Wenamun’s voyage to Byblos. This name has been taken to mean the important Phoenician port of Sidon.61 “Are there not twenty mnš(w)62 ships here in my harbour, they being in commerce together with Smendes. As for this Sidon, the other place by which you have passed, are there not another fifty br63 ships there, they being in commerce with Werkatir, since it is to his house that they tie up.” (LES 67 1.58-2.2)


of Alashiya Tjekerbaal does not wish to imprison the envoy of Amun within his land. So he tells the

Tjeker they can pursue Wenamun once he is at sea. So Tjekerbaal sends Wenamun off:

“He put me on board and sent me off from the harbour of the sea. The winds drove me to the land of Alasiya, and those of the town came out against me, to kill me. And so I picked my way through them to the place where Hatiba, the (wr)64
60 61

Montet (1928) p. 48, nos. 24, 25; p. 225, no. 883. Gauthier VI, p. 113 gives two references for this toponym, pap. Anastasia I, p. 20, 1.8, and pap. d’Ounamon, p.I 1x + 24. 62 mnš – barge, riverboat, galley, warship (Jones, 1988: 138) 63 br – boat used for transport, freighter, galley, scow (Jones, 1988: 136). 64 Lesko (2002) Vol. 1, p. 104 wr = chief, prince, elder, great one. Used here in the feminine ta wr.



princess of the town, was. I found her as she was leaving one of her houses and about to enter her other (one). I saluted her and said to the people who were standing around her: Isn’t there anyone of you who understands Egyptian?”(LES 2.74-2.77) Several things strike me with regards to this passage. First is that the winds have driven Wenamun to the land of Irsa,65 which would most likely be to the west, based not only on the prevalent currents but also that it is getting late in the season and the winds may have sent the ship off course. Unfortunately no site in Cyprus, or archaeological find has been connected to the term of Irsa/Ilsa.66

The second thing that is interesting is the automatically hostile reception of the ship and its crew. This could be the result of two different reasons, either because they were known enemies, or the people of Alasiya67 were not familiar with the ship and its crew. Yet a member of the area did speak Egyptian, and New Kingdom references to Alashiya as a trading partner for copper do exist.

Of note is the fact that the chief/princess of this land is a woman. This is highly unusual for the Near East, and so perhaps there is evidence of a slightly more liberated culture on this island. What Wenamun does not mention, at least in the surviving portion, is that he landed on an island, so either it is detailed later, or the island was so large as to not be recognizable as such.

Assumed to be Cyprus. Nibbi (2002:74) phonetically connects this to a site on the north shore of Lake Timsah. At least she is consistent. However, if one wanted to be as open-minded, one could also say that Arzawa (coast of Asia Minor) might also fit the bill. This is not likely as both Alasiya and Arzawa are listed together in an inscription by Ramesses III at Medinet Habu (see Breasted VI §64), but other options are there. 67 If Alasiya is to be interpreted as Cyprus, this is not the only document that refers to it. In the Amarna Letters there is correspondence between the King of Alasiya and pharaoh (EA 35), here the king of Alasiya apologised for sending only 500 of copper because his people were being killed by Nergal, god of destruction. If these 500 were talents weighing 25 kg each the shipment would have amounted to 12.5 tons!




Evidence does exist on the island that can be interpreted as being the result of contact with or knowledge of the Sea Peoples. The Tjeker and Peleset are both shown wearing kilts, a feathered headdress and carry round shields with spears and short swords. They are normally shown cleanly shaven but have on occasion been portrayed with a beard (Fig. 7) which compares well with the ivory relief piece (Fig. 20) as well as the ‘anchor’ seal68 (Fig. 21), both from Enkomi, Cyprus.

Convincing examples that reflect the image of the Sherden also come from Cyprus. Two metal figurines found in good context above a destruction layer (Figs. 22, 23) show many more common traits with the depictions of the Sherden that we are familiar with from Medinet Habu. The lack of a central disc between the horns of their helmet may be interpreted on these particular representations as a result of their not being part of an Egyptian mercenary force. Perhaps these depictions are due to a portion of the population of the Sea Peoples settling on Cyprus, or as a result of direct contact, via trade, with them.

Conclusion While it is apparent that in the appropriate levels at Tanis, Dor and Byblos the remains have not surfaced that directly relate to Smendes, Herihor or even Ramesses XI, neither have other artifacts surfaced that speak of Beder or Zakar-baal or Hatiba of Alashiya. What we do have are artifactual remains of the Sea Peoples at Dor, and possibly also at Enkomi, Cyprus. Evidence of contact between Egypt and Byblos stretched back in history and even after the time of the visit of Wenamun, but alas the excavations at Byblos have not produced much in the way of Iron Age deposits, due in part perhaps to several areas that have not been explored on the site.

The term ‘anchor’ seal is based on the shape of the seal, which appears as a LBA pierced stone anchor.



While it might be too much luck to find the stela that Wenamun suggest Zakar-baal have inscribed, only with further excavations and more analysis of newly found inscriptions and artifacts will we one day, hopefully, be able to put the pieces together into a coherent whole.


Appendix 1 – Woods found in Egyptian Contexts Adapted from Gale, Gasson & Hepper (2000: 335-352) Common Latin Name Location name
Acacia69 [Acacia sp. (LeguminosaeMimosoideae)] [Aeschynomene Elaphroxylon] [Fraxinus excelsior] [Quercus cerris L. (Fagaceae)] [Salix subserrata] [Tamarix aphylla] / [T. nilotica] [Ulmus minor] hot deserts – Egypt, Jordan to Iraq, and tropical Africa sandbanks in rivers and lakes of tropical Africa southern Europe, Asia Minor to Lebanon southern and central Europe to Asia Minor

Some Possible Uses
boat-building, construction, furniture, bows, arrows, dowels rafts & floats boat-building, bows, furniture construction, furniture, joinery, boat-building, statuary, shingles, veneers bowls, chariots, boats, shields, sm. domestic items construction, coffins, fuel

Cork wood Common ash Turkey oak

Willow Tamarisk Elm

banks and islands of the Nile Egypt, Arabia, Iraq, S. Iran, Pakistan shady, moist places across Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Turkey to Iran, rare in SW Asia dry areas of Palestine, North Africa and drier parts of West Africa dry savannah of Africa, along the Nile (near Eilat, on the Red Sea Coast) between 1200 and 2200 m asl in Lebanon, Syria and adjacent parts of Turkey The sub-species libani is now limited to a few relics in the Mount Lebanon range.

Christ’s thorn, sidder, nabk71 Dom/doum palm72 Cilician fir

[Ziziphus spina-christi L. (Rhamnaceae)] [Hyphaene thebaica] [Abies cilicica]

Cedar of Lebanon73

[Cedrus libani]


[Cupressus sempervirens]

Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Crete, Rhodes and other Aegean islands

Aleppo pine

[Pinus halepensis]

Anciently - restricted to certain soils in the Syro Palestinian region. essentially a European tree, but reaches the Taurus mountains in Turkey

Common yew

[Taxus baccata L. (Taxaceae)

construction, shingles, coffins, wagons, carts, bows, boat-building, water pipes, tool handles, brushes boats, coffins, dowels & sm. items boat-building, carpentry and as a veneer boat-building (masts), construction, flag-poles and small items construction, monumental doors, boat-building, furniture, coffins, pit props and statuary construction, monumental doors, furniture, boatbuilding, pit props, statuary and carving. boat-building, construction, underground pipes and coffins sculpture, pails, spoons, bowls, tool handles, anchors, bows, arrows, boats, spears and tree-nails

Theoprastus says the acacia could be converted into planks of twelve cubits (6.24 m) in length (Killen, 2000:367). Not listed as a possible boat-building product, but Killen (2000:367) includes the tamarisk. Janssen, J. (1975) Commodity Prices from the Ramesside Period. Leiden: Brill, p. 373-5, has translated documents from the Ramesside period recording that beams of tamarisk could be purchased at lengths of between 4.5 and 8 m. 71 This is the most likely species to have been used for such purposes as boat-building, since the trunk is well-developed and provides reasonably large pieces of timber (Gale, et al 2000: 345). 72 The fruit has been found in graves from the Predynastic period onward, but no instances of the use of the wood of this species have been recorded (Gale, et al 2000: 347). 73 Fourth Dynasty – Khufu’s funerary boat at Giza.



Appendix 2 Names of the Sea Peoples from Contemporary and Classical Sources

Ramesses Merneptah II s3rd3n3 srdnw Shardana Sherden skrsw Shekelesh

Ramesses III (yr. 8) Sherden Shekelesh t3krw Tjekker/ Zakala/ Zakar prstw Peleset

(yr. 11)

Wenamun Hittite Sources

Sherden Šikalayū Tkr Tjekru

Classical Sources Sardonians Sagalassos

Modern Sources

Teucrians74 Sikil,75 Thekel76 Pereset77


Pelasgoi/ Philistines

Adapted from Redford (1993) Chapter 9 – Coming of the Sea Peoples, Table 1, p, 246, and Kuhrt (1995) Table 25 – The ‘sea-peoples’, p. 387

Secondary sources trace the origins of the Tjakkarto the Troad, the eastern coast region of Asia Minor. Sandars (1985: 58) connects the Tjakkar with the Teucri people of the Troad, possibly having been displaced after the Trojan War. Sandars also suggests a connection to the hero Teucer, the traditional founder of Salamis on Cyprus. It is suggested that the Tjakkar may have come to Cannan from Troad by way of Cyprus. 75 Stern (1994) believes that the name should be written with a final ‘l’ not an ‘r’ – making the name Tjekel, thus providing a linguistic connection to Sicily and the Sikils. Tjekel would then be an alternative name for Shekelesh. However, as noted above and as pointed out by Cline & O’Connor (2003: 115), Tjeker and Shekelesh appear side by side in Ramesses III inscription. 76 Breasted IV §558 77 Stern (1993) “the Philistines (Plst) - which we identified as the Pereset because `r' and `l' sounds can be interchanged in Egyptian.”



Fig. 1 Herzog, R. (1968) Punt. Glückstadt: Verlag J.J. Augustin. Tafel 1


Fig. 2 Predominant Mediterranean Currents – June

Fig. 3 Map showing location of Ulu Burun. Addition of position of Cape Gelidonya wreck. Adapted from Bass (1987)


Fig. 4 Stirrup Jar and Scarab from 12th century wreck, Cape Gelidonya.



Fig. 5 Canopic Jar of Smendes. Probably from Tanis. H: 30 cm, D: 23.5 cm. Alabaster. Private Collection Tanis (1987) fig. 41

Fig. 6 The World of the Sea Peoples. Dothan (1992) p. 4




Fig. 7 Six bound prisoners - (left to right) prince of Hatti (ht), prince of Amor (‘imr), chieftain of the tkry (Tjekker), a šrdn (Sherden) of the Sea, chieftain of the š[krš], a trš of the Sea. Medinet Habu, pavilion Limestone relief. 12th cent. BC. Pritchard (1969) Fig. 9

Fig. 8 Map of coastal Canaan, showing major Sea Peoples’ enclaves. (drawing by J.A. Greene) Stager (1998) fig. 2


Fig. 9 Tel Dor: plan of the excavation areas. Stern (1994) fig. 35

South Bay

Fig. 10 Plan of the quay area on the southern side of Tel Dor. Stern (1994) fig. 51


Fig. 11 Tel Dor: map of the coast and vicinity. Stern (1994) fig. 151


Fig. 12 Amphora & juglet from Dor Wreck 13 (Dor M). Kingsley & Raveh (1996) fig. 38 Scale 1:5

Fig. 13 Decorated Sikil potsherds of the 12th-11th century BC. Dor. Stern (1994) pl. 1.2

Fig. 14 Sikil pottery from Dor. Stern (1994) fig. 47


Fig. 15 Map depicting the area between Tyre & Byblos. Carte de la Terre Promise (detail). Liebaux (1720) Scale 1:1,000,000.


Fig. 17 Door frame and lintel with the name of Ramesses II (1290-1224 BC), at Byblos. Dunand (1937) pl. xxvii 3 BYBLOS

Fig. 18 Statue of Osorkon I, Byblos. Dyn XXII (924-889 BC). Pink quartzite; H : 60 cm. ; L: 36 cm. ; Pr: 37,50 cm. Ancienne collection Peytel, Louvre AO 9502

Fig. 19 Lower part of a statue of Osorkon II, Byblos. Dunand (1937) pl. XLIII


Fig. 20 Warrior of the Sea Peoples with knobbed feathered headdress, carved in relief on an ivory game box. Enkomi, Cyprus early 12th century BC Dothan (1992) p. 95

Fig. 21 Philistine ‘anchor’ seal Enkomi, Cyprus Area 1, Ashlar Building, under level IIIB floor to room 10 LC IIIB Dikaios (1971) Pl. 187/19

Fig. 22 Bronze Statue of the Horned God H: 55 cm Area III, Level IIIB Enkomi, Cyprus Late Cypriote IIIB Dikaios (1971) Pl. 139

Fig. 23 Copper figurine H: 35 cm Enkomi, Cyprus Late Cypriote IIIB Seeden (1980) Pl. 112


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Title page: Artist’s rendering of a Sikil ship unloading at the southern quay of Dor, around 1100 BCE, looking west. The landing stage below the ship’s keel could alternatively be reconstructed as a quay with a relative sea level 1.5 m lower. Raban (1995) fig. 9.28

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