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Crime, Cult and Capital Punishment (Mo'alla Inscription 8)

Harco Willems
The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology
Vol. 76 (1990), pp. 27-54
DOI: 10.2307/3822006
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3822006
Page Count: 28
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Crime, Cult and Capital Punishment (Mo'alla Inscription 8)
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Abstract

Section 1 of this article provides a fresh translation of Mo'alla inscription no. 8, which lays down punishments for violators of the tomb of Ankhtifi, including their sacrifice to the local god Hemen. It thus provides the earliest evidence for the death penalty in Egypt. Several other texts, from the Old Kingdom through the Middle Kingdom, show that this practice was not confined to Mo'alla (section 2). The Mo'alla texts make it clear that the punishment took the form of a sacrifice during (a) procession(s) of Hemen, and a reconstruction of this religious festivity is attempted in section 3. It is suggested that several representatives of the Evil One-bulls, hippopotami and fish-were killed on this occasion; criminals could be added to, or substituted for, these animals. In section 4, it is argued that the texts refer to real human sacrifices, not to symbolic killings performed on execration figurines. Reviewing the evidence, the author concludes that capital punishment existed throughout Egyptian history, and that it could be inflicted in the form of human sacrifice. The evidence suggests that this procedure occurred as a punishment for some kind of desecration, such as the violation of tombs, temples or other sacred installations.

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