Tuesday, January 15, 2013

zȝ(t) nswt : title more complex than planned ?

The meaning collectively admitted for this title is "king's son / daughter".

This title was the object, since more than a century, studies and at the same time contradictory and complementary reflections1.

It seems in view of these works, more at least succeeded, that the meaning of the title is more complex to arrest o
f what we think generally.

More complex because of often lack of documentation or "reliable" archaeological elements or simply by the fact that the meaning of an Egyptian title exceeds us (or escapes us) some time little.

The evolution of the title in the course of the periods of history of Ancient Egypt can add some additional difficulties - particularly the Old Kingdom, period which we shall take into account in this article.


We can thus speak about an "extensive" title.

You will find attached a "draft" of a synthesis about this title.


Who really benefits from this title ?

This title can be associated with the real filiation, with the political and marital alliances and with the administrative functions.

In the case of filiation, this title applies generally to diverse genealogical positions, not only to the first degree of royal relationship.

It can be also transmitted by marriage (the "sons-in-law" of king) 
but it's not mandatory.

If the person is not "son / daughter" of king, she can benefit from the title under certain particular conditions.

Example : son of royal daughter remarried to king, son of crown prince.

Certain social modalities (bound to certain tasks) can create a "fictitious" relationship. 
We speak then about "incumbent princes" more than of "real sons".

Titles as 
rẖ nswt / wr mḏ šnˁw are associated to these persons. They are not necessarily bound to the royal family.


How let us can define ourselves this title ?

For the "sons" of king, this title can be defined as a title of "rank" (more than a real royal relationship). 


This "rank" is likened to a state / administrative function, in other words in a "profession".

As regards the "daughters" of king, we speak rather about a close royal relationship.

The title is not acquired in the merit (like that can be the case for the royal "sons").

The royal "daughters" have no access to the functions or the administrative tasks. There are no women in the administration.


The royal women are a member of a community. According to certain Egyptologists, there would be a hierarchy for the title of royal "daughter".

Every royal "daughter" would have her role to play within this community very close to king and would also get ready for the role (possible) of Queen.


A single meaning ?

The title without epithets seems to mean at first d
escendants except first degree then progressive appearance of fictitious royal sons.

The study of some epithets gives us some elements of answers.
  • Title + epithet nj ẖt. / mrjj. ? "real" royal son (first degree).

  • Title + epithet n ( j/t ) ẖt.f  It is not necessarily the mark of the real filiation. 
We have the real filiation up to the IV dynasty then the appearance of fictitious sons (without royal descent). We thus attend a loss of the literal meaning.

  • Title + epithet smswThey are all of royal descent. 
The generally admitted meaning is the "elder" (of the sons) but it raises problem.

This title do not concern the first one arisen from king.

What means the "elder" term ?

For certain egyptologists, kings can have several wifes who can given birth to several sons. It seems that the notion of the "elder" is passed on by the mother. Every wife can thus have her own "elder".

For others egyptologists, this title with this epithet includes a wider notion : the "elder" can be a kind of "elder of clan". 

This couple titles / epithet seems to be passed on during the death of the current "elder" - the "elder" staying so resumes the title.



The mean of this term rest opened in the discusion.

From IV dynasty, there is progressive eviction of these royal sons as regards the government expenditures. It appears then new men (except royal family) who go to see to attribute this title. We shall thus have princes and not princes with or without responsibilities.


What are the "tools" which use the Egyptologists to determine the "real" sons ?

Here are attached some interesting working tracks to complete the study of this title :



  • Name of king named as father of the zȝ(t) nswt 
  • Representation of the descendants in the royal monuments
  • zȝ(t) nswt can represent with their mother (queen) 
  • The location of the grave of the zȝ(t) nswt
  • The archaeological documentation which reached us and the published documentation


Heredity of the title ?

In view of the studied examples, it does not seem automatic.

As regards the royal "daughters", we discern those who have the title by their birth of those (
incumbent  princesses - fictitious relationship) who acquired it in the royal court (rank - some time due to a promotion of her husband).

One zȝ(t) nswt do not give the title of zȝ nswt  to her husband.

1 for example - studies of H. Junker, W. Federn, B. Schmitz



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