Nephersôphris Akhenaten
Fri Jun 1, 2012 06:02

Dear Marianne,

MG original
“Concerning the identity of Nephersôphris, it seems that Akhenaten fits better with the text of Suidas due to the ill reputation of that king. The other possible king would be the obscure king Neferkheperre Thotemhat of the surroundings of the XXXIIIth dynasty. As this unsignificant ruler from Hermopolis (whose name may be inspired by that of Akhenaten, an old neighbour) is only known by rare monuments, I doubt that his fame could have ever crossed the limits of his nome and those of his dynasty. From the phonetic point of view, the fact that an omega is used suggests that it could correpond to the long vocalized /u/ in the first syllable of Accadian xuru- which is almost regular in Akhenaten’s praenomen in the Amarna Letters.”

ML response
Yes to the final statement but about a Dynasty XXXIII I know nothing. It may be that the prenomen of Akhenaten was wrongly perceived, misread, mistransmitted--something.

MG response
XXXIII is a typos for XXIII. Neferkhepere-khakha(u) Thotemhat is only known by statue CGC 42212.

MG Original
“The fact that /p/ disappears in xpr.w from the name of Akhenaten in the Amarna Letters is not as embarassing as you suggest. This is probably the result of the /p/ or /b/ of the first part of the name in Assyro-Babylonian, Nap- / Nip- / Nib- which was assimilated with the /p/ of xpr.w, hence giving xuru instead of xupru”

ML response
I don't find this linguistically possible. In Egyptian pronunciation, the labials tended to assimilate into the following consonant—not any preceding one. Since the letters coming out of Egypt were also in Akkadian cuneiform, the scribes there would also have had to transliterate the name of the pharaoh as it was vocalized—not as written in his cartouche in hieroglyphs. The foreign scribes had to follow this written transliteration or perhaps their perception of how an Egyptian envoy would have vocalized the prenomen of his king. Centuries later, the Egyptian historians who wrote with the Greek alphabet did the same thing. They could read hieroglyphs but only transliterated the names according to their current vocalization. A valuable clue from the New Kingdom comes from the Israel Stela of Merneptah. The entere passage mentioning the foreign places is very cleverly executed. Every phrase contains a rhyme or a pun. In this one, line 8...

8. XArw xprw m xArt n tA- mry "Khor is made a widow on account by Egypt"

I think it would have been spoken something like "khor khoro m khare n to-mare"
I believe it is quite obvious there was no spoken /p/ in “xprw”. If there had been, it would have spoiled the pun. The passage appears to agree with what is in the Akkadian letters where the fate of “xprw” is concerned.

MG response
Plays on words are current (cf. Loprieno):
Eloquent Peasant B2 38 : nfr nfr.t nfr rf nfr.T : "(when) good is good, (then) actually good is good"
Kheperkare-seneb Ro 5 : n Dd Dd(w) Dd : "No (true) speaker has spoken, so may someone who will (really) speak (now) speak"
Esna II, p. 107, n° 48B : S(A)a(y) xpr n xpr xpr(y.t) xpr nb m-xt xpr=s : "(Neith) originally come into being whilst was not (yet) come into being what (later) came into being, (because) everything came into beeing after she came into being.

But this is not the case of your mention from the Merenptah stela. It is surely a play with "sounds", but not with words. Moreover, xprw in this text is surely not the plural of xpr.

MG original
“ More surprising is the fall of the /r/ of nfr (when placed at the beginning of the name) as this /r/ reappears generally in Greek, cf. Nepherpres, Nephersuchos, Nepherôs, Nephercheres, Nephorsais (but Nephotes for Neferhotep).”

ML response
Sorry, but I don't see how it's possible it can have appeared in Greek as it had fallen away in the singular "nfr" long before.

MG response
So this means that the final /r/ has not fallen away . . .

ML response (continue)
How many of the above examples supplied by you really contain the element “nfrw”--in which the /r/ would not have been silent or fallen away?

MG response
I don't know! But if /r/ was written in Greek, it is logical to suppose that it was pronounced. It is methodolocally ungrounded to suppose that the Greek added a letter which was no more spelled. I do not say that the final /r/ was always pronounced, but I say that it was very often still pronounced. The case of the god's name Wnn-nfr is illuminating as it gave Greek Onnophris and is still surviving in the modern name (or christian name) Onofrio or d'Onofrio in Italian (and I think that an american actor is still named D'Onofrio). I cannot imagine that the /r/ in d'Onofrio was "re-created" in Greek and modern Italian and that Onnophris was pronounced Onnophis but written Onnophris. This is inconsistent.

ML response (continue)
Another example is from the epitome of Africanus for Dynasty V where he lists a “Nephercheres”. However, this transliteration actually represents the name “Neferirkare” and so it is easy to see how the /r/ was needed there.

MG response
May be you're right concerning Nephercheres, but your argument is not valid for the other personnal names : Nepherpres, Nephersuchos, Nepherôs (Coptic Nafrho (S), Naberho (S), Nabraha (F)), Nephorsais (Coptic Nafrshai). It is clear that these Nfr- at the beginning of names have the same origin than that of Nfr-xpr.w-ra and that the /r/ was still pronounced.

MG original
"I don’t think that the /p/ of xpr.w has disappeared in spelling during the new kingdom. In fact, xpr.w is only preserved for the names Napxururiya, Nipxururiya, Nibxururiya (all Akhenaten in my opinion) and xuriya (probably also Akhenaten). So it is hard to draw a rule from these examples which may concern if fact only one king. But I surely would appreciated greatly to read your arguments.”

ML response (continue)
We will have to disagree—and I think not only Akhenaten but also Tutankhamun-- and everybody in the 18th Dynasty of Manetho as transmitted.

MG response
Yes, we probably mostly desagree. Even this, I still claim that Nephersôphris = Akhenaten is a very good guess untill somebody can give a better solution.

I have partly read your long discussion with Torry concerning Pip, Nip, Nib, Nim, Mim, Im, Nap etc.

I think that it is shaky grounded to suppose that Akkadian reflects more faithfully the ancient egyptian pronounciation than Egyptian itself. It would be absurd to claim that the "true" spelling of Egyptian /f+r/ was /p/ because it was written in this way in some of the Amarna Letters. You must consider than between the Egyptian hieroglyph and the cuneiform written form you have the following steps which can corrupt the spelling:

1) Egyptian hieroglyphic graphy
2) Egyptian spelling
3) Akkadian understanding
4) cuneiform writting.

For each step there is "traps" for letters.

Moreover, cuneiform writting system was probly adaptated to the various linguages it transcribed : Sumerian, Akkadian, Ugaritan, Hurrite, Hittite (as the Latin alphabet which is the same for English German, Spanish etc ... but /v/ in French and English sounds /f/ in German and often /b/ in Spanish). Persian and Arabic (and old Turkish) have the same alphabet but different ways to pronounce the letters. Same case for Hebrew and Yiddish).

For cuneiform Nip- as indisputable and viable alternative way to transcribe Egyptian nfr, see Greek Πετενεφθῖμις which correponds to Egyptian PA-d(w)-nfr-tm, based on the name of god Nefertem, and to Neobabylonian Pa-aṭ-ni-ip-te-e-mu. In the same way, Ni-ip-xu-ur-ti-ia of EA 9,1 is necessarilly Akhenaten simply because Tell el Amarna was abandonned AS ROYAL RESIDENCE (but the city was still inhabited) during year III of the queen pharaoh and so it is sure that Tutankhamun NEVER ruled at Tell el Amarna (this is clear from the royal names on temple reliefs, limestone door inscriptions, paintings on wall from north riverside palace, royal names in tombs, royal names on stamped bricks, royal names on dockets : archaeological documents must never be neglected).

Yours sincerely,


  • re: Nephersôphris AkhenatenMarianne Luban, Thu May 31 17:09
    Dear Marc, I'll try to access the paper again, but first I'll respond to some of your philological concerns. You wrote: “Concerning the identity of Nephersôphris, it seems that Akhenaten fits better... more
    • Nephersôphris Akhenaten — Anonymous, Fri Jun 1 06:02
      • re: Nephersôphris AkhenatenMarianne Luban, Fri Jun 1 20:23
        MG Original “The fact that /p/ disappears in xpr.w from the name of Akhenaten in the Amarna Letters is not as embarassing as you suggest. This is probably the result of the /p/ or /b/ of the first... more
    • re: Nephersôphris AkhenatenMarianne Luban, Thu May 31 18:18
      I have read the brief paper but am skeptical about the prenomen of Akhenaten being represented here: Headword:... more
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