335-315 BC. Detail of the stela of King Nastasen, showing the king and his chief wife, Sakhmakh. Granite. Berlin/DDR, Agyptisches Museum 2268
Stela of King Nastasen
335-315 B.C. (Gen. 27).

Description: On the front of a large, polished, round-topped stela is a double scene with several figures above the first twenty-six lines of a sixty-eight-line text in Egyptian hieroglyphs, which is continued on the back of the stela. Over the scene is a winged sun disk from which extend two uraei, wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt and enclosing a cartouche with the name of the king. The scene below is divided by two columns of hieroglyphs. On each side is a figure of the god Amun, shown on the left with a human head and on the right with a ram's head. Both figures hold a was-scepter in one outstretched hand and an ankh-sign in the other. On each side. King Nastasen approaches the god and offers a ball-bead necklace and a pectoral hanging from a long band. The king wears a pointed Egyptian kilt, a diadem with uraeus and streamers, a broad collar, and wide armlets and bracelets. An animal's tail hangs from his belt. On the left, he is accompanied by his mother, Pelekh; on the right, his wife, Sakhmakh, follows him. Both women wear ankle-length garments that come to a point in back, and each has a diadem with a uraeus. They both hold a sistrum in one hand and pour a libation with the other. The hieroglyphic captions give the names and titles of the figures and describe their action.
Although it was found at Dongola, the stela of King Nastasen probably comes from the Great Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal (Schafer 1901,1-6), where five similar stelae, now in Cairo, were found. The present stela is not only an important artistic monument of the later Napatan Period, it is a major historical document as well. Reisner's (1923d) chronology of the kings of the late fourth century B.C., based on the architectural history of the pyramids of Nuri and Meroe, was confirmed, above all, by Hintze (1959.17-20), who established that the hostile Prince Khambes-wten who is named in the inscription of this stela is the same as the King Khababash who ruled Egypt for a short time, 31st Dynasty 338-335 B.C.

The inscription is dated in the eighth regnal year of the king and contains the annals of his reign. It begins with a list of the king's titles. The text then describes how Nastasen learned that he had been called to the throne by the god Amun of Napata and how he traveled to Napata to be crowned in the Amun Temple there. A huge feast in the coronation city was followed by a royal progress to Gematon (Kawa), Pnubs (Tebo), back to Napata, and finally to a place called Tar. Then follows a list of offerings made by the king to Amun. Most of the inscription consists of a detailed description of the king's wars and campaigns against numerous enemies; in the first of these wars is mentioned a battle against Khababash. It must have been a difficult one for Nastasen, for after his victory he made offerings to the gods. Other enemies were nomads from the surrounding deserts, who had often caused trouble to the inhabitants of the Nile Valley and against whose incursions Nastasen had to protect his land. The inscription ends with praise for Amun, to whom the king owes his victories.


Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, Steffen Wenig, Brooklyn Museum, p. 163 (1978)
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