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By Itibari M. Zulu

A Library: A Literature

An obvious axiom in any discussion of libraries is that one must first have a literature in order to have a library. In this regard, Kemet was rich: (1) the Egyptian language is the oldest written (via hieroglyphics) language in existence (McWhirter, 1982, 166); (2) evidence of a literature is present in the library of Akhenaton (Amenhotep/Amenophis, IV) which contains numerous clay tablets/books in cuneiform writing representing diplomatic correspondence between Amenhotep III, Akhenaton’s father, and nation‑states subject to Egypt (Metzger, 1980, 211); (3) the Palermo Stone, a book of annals of Kemet mentioning Seshait (Seshat/Sesheta) as the goddess of libraries, writing, and letters (Richardson, 1914, 58‑60); and (4) the text of the Precepts of Ptah‑hotep, one of the first (c. 4000 B.C.) philosophical compositions (composed 2,000 years before the Ten Commandments of Moses and 2,500 years before the Proverbs of Solomon), engraved in stone (Nichols, 1964, 33‑34).

Hence literature in ancient Kemet was common and varied in its form. Sometimes it was on papyrus and at other times it was carved/engraved in stone (c. 2700 B.C.) on the walls of temples (library‑universities), pyramids, and other monuments (Nichols, 1964, 32). Fortunately, works written in stone have survived, to provide unequivocal evidence of an extensive Kemetic tradition.7 Continue reading

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