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In Search of Khufu (cont.)
By Scott Creighton and Gary Osborn

However, as with most ancient Egyptian matters, things are not quite as straightforward as they might at first appear. We understand from other ancient Egyptian texts that a plain disc (i.e. a disc without the horizontal hatchings) can apparently represent the phonetic “Kh” sound. However, when the phonetic “Kh” disc is presented in its plain disc form, it is usually painted a bluish-green color in order to clearly distinguish it from the plain Ra disc which is painted either yellow-gold or reddish-orange (the colors of the sun).

To complicate matters further still, what is clearly evident in the Abydos King List is that none of the discs in the cartouches of any of the kings have been painted. This creates something of a problem – how do we know which disc glyphs should be understood as “Re” and which, if any, should be read as “Kh”? This begs the immediate question - why render such a highly important relief in such a seemingly unclear and ambiguous manner? Surely the scribes and artisans of the Abydos table would have been aware of the potential ambiguity they were creating by failing to carve or even paint the differentiating detail into the ‘Khufu’ cartouche.

What is even more intriguing (and somewhat confusing) is that it seems that both of these cartouches i.e. with plain disc (Rafu or Raufu) and hatched disc (Khufu) are present in the archaeological record with examples of both having been found in and around Giza and elsewhere. Indeed, even within Col. Howard-Vyse’s very own journal where he first notes the ‘Khufu’ cartouche from Campbell’s Chamber (with hatched disc), we find on the very same page that he has also drawn a cartouche of ‘Raufu’ (with a plain disc) that he found inscribed in the mastaba of Imery at Giza. But how can this be? Why do Egyptologists interpret these similar (yet quite different) inscriptions as the name “Khufu” and not as ‘Khufu’ and ‘Raufu’?

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