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Egyptian military campaigns - Shoshenk

Shoshenk I

Route march map - Rameses 2 and Shoshenk 1 - boustrephedon interpretation The description of Shoshenk's invasion of Canaan, undertaken during his twentieth year, is given at a portal inscription at Bubastis. Interpretation of this inscription has not proved easy. It consists of a series of eleven rows of city identifiers, depicted as name rings within human figures who are roped as captives. The roping indicates that the list is intended as more than a simple catalogue of a route taken: on the other hand there is no indication that the cities were actually captured or despoiled - conceivably a number of them submitted at the approach of the Egyptian army. A considerable number of the names have been damaged, and in many cases the damage renders the name unreadable. Of those that can be made out, not all are identifiable with certainty. No names of regions can be unequivocally identified (although some commentators have perceived references to Edom and the Negev amongst the list), and the towns in question vary considerably in size from important ones to obscure. It has been suggested that in some cases the scribes added names of quite trivial locations in order to make up a specific number of items.

Over the years, a variety of different suggestions have been made regarding the placenames. It is generally agreed that the top rows (down to about the fifth row) represent places in the northern kingdom of Israel, the Jordan Valley and possible transJordan, and the more northerly parts of Judah, whereas the lower rows list places further south, such as in the Negev.


Route march map - Rameses 2 and Shoshenk 1 - consistent right-to-left interpretation It should be noted that the record has some considerable limitations. No narrative describing the campaign has been found, and Shoshenk's references to tribute and victories are vague and generalised. Amongst the more unrealistic claims is an opening statement referring to subjugating the armies of Mitanni - a nation that had ceased to exist several centuries previously. Some commentators have suggested that the conquered town-names have been largely copied from records of the campaigns of earlier pharaohs, particularly the great 18th dynasty conquerers: however other authorities point out that numerous names and sequences are not found elsewhere, and that the orthography is quite different. The area with most in common with earlier campaigns is the Esdraelon plain region, and it might reasonably be expected that the cities meriting attention in this area were the same as in earlier years. Scarabs and other items from Shoshenk's reign have been found at Megiddo and Byblos, and it does seem credible that Shoshenk was active in raising Egypt's military and political profile in the region even if the details of his campaign are suspect.

One commonly held view of the list is that it is intended to represent the order of conquest in boustrephedon manner (ie right to left, then left to right for the line below, etc). With this understanding, the town order follows a credible sequence for a march through Canaan - initially through the border between Judah and Israel, then north along the Jordan Valley before returning to Gaza. It is probable in this case that the bottom rows (heading from Gaza down into the Negev and approaching Hebron from the south) represent detached army sections rather than the main body. Similarly there would seem to be two routes from the Jordan/Jabbok confluence up to Megiddo. The possible route northwards suggested is shown in the upper picture on the right. The lower rows are indicated by regions rather than routes, reflecting the greater uncertainty in identifications.

However, this view has been challenged. There are no other Egyptian examples of an inscription following this boustrephedon pattern, so the motive for this assumption is dubious. In addition, the figures depicted, and the positioning of the name rings on the first ten rows are all the same - facing towards the right. Only the eleventh row faces the opposite direction. This strongly suggests that all the rows except for the last are intended to be read right-to-left. With this view, the route appears as two distinct forays - a northerly one based at Megiddo with several thrusts southwards along the Jordan Valley and Via Maris (Way of the Sea - the coastal arterial highway). The possible route is shown in the lower picture on the right - the different interpretation of the row directions suggests different locations for some of the towns, so the routes differ more than might be expected.

The individual rows are as follows. This shows them as they appear on the wall. In either view, the topmost row should be read right-to-left: after this the choices are as indicated above. A considerable number of the names end in i’ - the significance of this is not known.

Row I
rb’t m’[...] g’[...] The traditional "Nine Bows" enemies of Egypt, together with an introduction
Perhaps Rubuti, Rabbah (if Gezer) or Rabbith (if Megiddo) Perhaps Makkedah or Megiddo, though Gezer has been suggested Perhaps Gaza?

Row II
iywrn k’dtm b’tch’rn khb’‘’n’ mch’nm shw’d [?] idrm chpwrmi’ rchbi’ b’tshnri’ shnmi’ t’‘nki’
Aijalon (Egyptian has no l) Perhaps Kiriathaim assuming a scribal error d-r Beth Horon between Ephraim and Benjamin Gibeon in Benjamin Mahanaim on the R. Jabbok in trans-Jordan Shaudy - unknown   Adoraim - perhaps in Judah, more likely further north Hapharaim - perhaps Ephron on the Jordan or et-Taiyiba in Issachar (Josh 19:19) Rehob Beth Shan Shunem Taanach

Row III
b’ttpw shiwk kkhiry b’t‘rm ywchm djdptr b’rm ‘rn’ hi’nm [..]rt ywdhmrwk idr mkdi’
Beth Tappuah, in Ephraim near the Via Maris Socoh, probably in the Sharon Valley on the Via Maris rather than in Judah or the Shephelah Kekry - unknown Beth Aruma or Beth Olam, location unknown Yaham, named by Thutmose III, on the Via Maris Gath-padalla, named in Amarna letters, an important site on the Via Maris Borim, perhaps Khirbet Burin 'Aruna in the Wadi ‘Ara, also named by Thutmose III Perhaps Honim in the Wadi ‘Ara? Perhaps Chebel of Josh 19:29? Yadhamelek - unknown but perhaps a monument or stela? Perhaps Adar in Judah or Idalah in Zebulun (Josh 19:15) Megiddo

Row IV
Mostly lost except for Sesedj[...] near the left side, Beth TSabu[ma] near the centre, and Abel [-Meholah?] near the right

Row V
p‘mkh [H...]p’pn (3 lost names) [...]n’r [...]rdj’ [..]dr] djmrm idmi’ p(nds)ktt chdsht p...nwir
'The Valley' - perhaps the Jabbok or Jordan? Perhaps G at the start   Unknown Perhaps [Ti]rzah, or Yeraza in north-west Judah, named by Thutmose III Generally taken as [Mig]dol, a tower, perhaps at Shechem Perhaps Zemaraim in Benjamin (Josh 18:22) Perhaps Adam[ah] at the confluence of the rivers Jabbok and Jordan Perhaps 'The One of Succoth'? Hedeshet, perhaps Kedesh or Qodesh near Penuel? [P]enuel, perhaps on the R. Jabbok

The lower tiers become increasingly damaged with many names obscure. In several cases names appear to spread over several name rings, with identifiers such as 'Fort of' in the first ring and a qualifier in the next (such as Fort of Abram). It has also been suggested that some names refer to clans rather than towns in the strict sense.

Row 6 contains a number of places in the Beer Sheba region. Row 7 names are generally in the Negev, with one possible location further into south-western Judah. Row 8 has names near Kadesh Barnea and Arad. Row 9 includes Beth Anath (presumably in Judah, Josh 15:59, rather than Naphtali, Josh 19:38, Jdg 1:33) and Sharuhen. The leftmost entry in Row 10 (ywrdn) could be either the Jordan, or Yorda on the southern border of Judah - other entries are obscure. Row 11 contains the names Raphia and Laban but is otherwise unreadable.

Whichever interpretation of the order of the name rings is chosen, it is clear that Shoshenk's list does not include many of Rehoboam's fortified towns - the route broadly bypassed them, skirting around the western and northern boudaries of the areas concerned, following the border between Judah and Israel. With the first interpretation of row order, Shoshenk passed this area heading north and east towards the Jordan Valley and ultimately Megiddo. With the second interpretation, he was heading south having established a base near Megiddo early on.

Only one of Rehoboam's newly fortified cities - Aijalon - is named, as well as one of those inherited from Solomon - Beth-horon. The names Adoraim and Socoh in Shoshenk's list, appearing on the second and third rows, are probably towns considerably further north than those of the same name in Rehoboam's list. A fair proportion of the campaign set out in the top five rows is concerned with towns in the northern kingdom or the border region, as opposed to Judah. The lower six rows again avoid the fortified area, concentrating on the more southerly parts of Judah towards the Negev. As Rameses' route is similar in this respect, either the fortifications were simply ignored by the Egyptian army concerned, or else their construction was not until later in Rehoboam's reign.

General chronology