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

Invariably Egyptologists will insist that there is really only one inscription i.e. that the two different cartouches (plain disc and hatched disc) we find in the archaeological record both refer to the same person, the same king Khufu. Egyptologists insist that the plain disc variety of the name “Khufu” (as presented in the Abydos King List and elsewhere) was simply an unfinished disc i.e. that the artist failed to paint the plain disc green-blue or to carve/paint horizontal lines within the disc to render it unambiguously as “Kh”. Alternatively, they will claim that the absence of the differentiating detail was the result of a simple mistake or an oversight on the part of the scribe or sculptor, or that the etched or painted horizontal lines have simply faded away.

Is it reasonable to consider that this disc in this cartouche should have been rendered so ambiguously? Is it not more likely that there are no mistakes and that these two distinctly different cartouches do, in fact, refer to and identify two quite different individuals, two quite different kings – Raufu and Khufu? Is there any other evidence that might support such a conclusion?

What must be understood here is that the scribes, sculptors and artisans of the Abydos King List would have well understood the frailties of paint and so, to ensure that the king’s precise name would endure for all eternity they would surely have sought to carve the horizontal hatchings into the disc of the king’s name (as opposed to merely painting the lines) to permanently render the disc as “Kh”.

Such carving of the hatching lines (as opposed to merely painting them) would have been all the more pressing when one views the context in which the presumed ‘Khufu’ cartouche is presented within the Abydos table. As stated earlier, the presumed Khufu cartouche is immediately followed by inscriptions that present identical plain discs in the names of Radjedef, Rachaf, Menkau-Ra etc that are fully understood and accepted by scholars as phonetic “Ra/Re” and not as phonetic “Kh”.

So why, we must ask, did the scribes and artisans not ensure that the Khufu cartouche was rendered unambiguously with a carved (or painted) disc?

The answer may be staggeringly simple – these differentiating lines were not carved or painted, nor the plain disc painted greenish-blue because this additional differentiating detail may not actually have been required, ergo, the plain disc glyph presented in the presumed ‘Khufu’ inscription in the Abydos King List is to be read precisely in the manner that we find it i.e. as “Re/Ra” – as ‘Raufu’. There seems little possibility of a mistake by the scribes here. The two types of inscription believed to be the one name “Khufu” may in fact refer to two quite different Kings – Khufu and Raufu. It is, in our opinion, quite unreasonable to expect that this disc – if it was meant to be read as ‘Kh’ - would not have received carved hatchings precisely due to the frailties of paint and the highly ambiguous context in which this cartouche is presented in the Abydos table.

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