Relief of King Sneferu in Sinai

This relief tells us of the victory of king Sneferu over the Bedouins, a military campaign that was also common since the times of king Sanakht and which secured the mines for turquoise and copper in Wadi Nash and Wadi Maghareh, West Sinai.

The relief which is made of sandstone shows Sneferu on a large scale, smiting an enemy who kneels, pleading for mercy, before him. The god Horus can be seen opposite Sneferu, wearing the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, and standing upon a serekh which contains the king’s Horus name – Nebmaat. Sneferu’s further names and titles surround his image.

Relief of King Sneferu in Sinai. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38568
Relief of King Sneferu in Sinai. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38568

Sinai was an important source of turquoise and copper to the Egyptians. By smiting the enemies of the region Sneferu is performing one of the roles of the king – securing trade routes through the control of rebellious tribes, from Sinai (Wadi Maghareh).

Sneferu, well known under his Hellenized name Soris, was the founding king of the 4th Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. He constructed some of the most magnificent pyramids in ancient Egyptian history. He built the famous Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, and his son Khufu built the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The theme of the Egyptian kings smiting their enemies is an ancient one, it is known since the 1st Dynasty and can be seen, for example, in the Narmer Palette.

Sinai in ancient Egypt

In Old Kingdom Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula held significant importance for several reasons:

Copper and Turquoise Mining

The Sinai Peninsula was rich in copper and turquoise deposits, which were highly valued resources in ancient Egypt.

The Egyptians extensively mined these minerals from the region, using them for various purposes such as crafting tools, weapons, jewelry, and decorative elements.

Trade and Commerce

The Sinai Peninsula served as a crucial trade route connecting Egypt to the neighboring regions of the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean.

The trade of goods, including copper, turquoise, and other resources, flourished through this route, contributing to Egypt’s economic prosperity and cultural exchange.

Military and Defense

The strategic location of the Sinai Peninsula made it an important region for military purposes. Its proximity to Egypt’s eastern borders made it a potential entry point for foreign invasions.

Therefore, the Egyptians established military outposts and fortifications in the Sinai to protect their territories and maintain control over the region.

Religious Significance

The Sinai Peninsula is associated with religious significance in ancient Egyptian mythology. It was believed to be the sacred land of the goddess Hathor and was associated with the turquoise mines.

The Egyptians conducted religious expeditions to the region, and it was considered a place of pilgrimage and spiritual connection.

Sinai played a vital role in Old Kingdom Egypt, providing valuable resources, facilitating trade, serving as a defense stronghold, and holding religious significance.

Its influence extended beyond Egypt’s borders, contributing to the kingdom’s prosperity and cultural development.

Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, ca. 2600 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38568