The tombs of the nobles excavated in the rocks on the Nile west bank at Qubbet el-Hawa in Aswan testify the role of the city as the southern gate of Egypt.
Aswan was the starting point of caravans travelling far south in uncovered territories and bringing back precious and exotic goods. Inscriptions on the tombs reflect the explorations and trades of that time and the cultural exchanges with southern territories. Nowadays the tombs, exposed to the environmental factors - wind, sun, rainfall - and to air pollutants originated from the town of Aswan are under a fast deterioration process.
The tomb of Herkhuf was carved at the end of the VIth dynasty, during the reigns of Merenre and Pepi II.
What is immediately noticeable about it is the vast body of texts, which decorate the external facade.
The interior comprises a single, fairly small room with four decorated pillars. A square-section tunnel leads to the crypt.
Harkhuf’s description of three separate trips he led into Nubia suggests that by the third trip, his dealings with the leader of the Lower Nubian communities had become more insecure. A fourth, un narrated, campaign to the land of Yam must have taken place, during which Herkhuf sent a letter to the young king Pepi II to inform him, particularly, that he was bringing back a Pygmy, which resulted in the rest of the inscription. In fact, Pepi II wrote a letter in reply to that of Herkhuf, who was so proud of it that he had the text inscribed on the façade of his tomb in Aswan. Since little space remained, he had to prepare a space for it at the extreme right of the façade. Thus, the only complete royal letter dating from the old Kingdom has reached us
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