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Harkhuf was a governor of Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt is the strip of land, on both sides of the Nile valley, that extends from the cataract boundaries of modern-day Aswan north to the area between El-Ayait and Zawyet Dahshur . The northern section of Upper Egypt, between El-Ayait and Sohag is sometimes known as Middle Egypt...

 in the 23rd century BC
23rd century BC
The 23rd century BC is a century which lasted from the year 2300 BC to 2201 BC.-Events:*2334 BC – 2279 BC: Sargon of Akkad's conquest of Mesopotamia....

. His name is sometimes spelled Herkhuf or Hirkhuf.

All that is known of Harkhuf's life comes from the inscriptions in his tomb at Qubbet el-Hawa
Qubbet el-Hawa
Qubbet el-Hawa is a site of a group of rock cut tombs known as the Princes's Tomb on the west side of the Nile, opposite Aswan. These tombs date mainly from the Old Kingdom which provide important details of the lives of officials at this time...

 on the west bank of the Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 at Aswan
Aswan , formerly spelled Assuan, is a city in the south of Egypt, the capital of the Aswan Governorate.It stands on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract and is a busy market and tourist centre...

, near the First Cataract of the Nile.

He was a native of Elephantine
Elephantine is an island in the River Nile, located just downstream of the First Cataract at the southern border of Ancient Egypt. This region is referred to as Upper Egypt because the land is higher than that near the Mediterranean coast. The island may have received its name because it was a...

. He was appointed governor of the southern part of Upper Egypt and overseer of caravans under the pharaoh Merenre, third king of the 6th dynasty
Sixth dynasty of Egypt
The sixth dynasty of ancient Egypt is often combined with Dynasties III, IV and V under the group title the Old Kingdom.-Pharaohs:...

. His primary business was trade with Nubia
Nubia is a region along the Nile river, which is located in northern Sudan and southern Egypt.There were a number of small Nubian kingdoms throughout the Middle Ages, the last of which collapsed in 1504, when Nubia became divided between Egypt and the Sennar sultanate resulting in the Arabization...

, forging political bonds with local leaders, and preparing the ground for an Egyptian expansion into Nubia. He led at least four major expeditions during his life. On the last expedition, he brought back with him what his correspondence with the young pharaoh Pepi II referred to as a dwarf, apparently a pigmy.

He travelled a considerable distance to a land called Iyam, which probably corresponds to the fertile plain that opens out south of modern Khartoum
Khartoum is the capital and largest city of Sudan and of Khartoum State. It is located at the confluence of the White Nile flowing north from Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile flowing west from Ethiopia. The location where the two Niles meet is known as "al-Mogran"...

, where the Blue Nile
Blue Nile
The Blue Nile is a river originating at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. With the White Nile, the river is one of the two major tributaries of the Nile...

 joins the White
White Nile
The White Nile is a river of Africa, one of the two main tributaries of the Nile from Egypt, the other being the Blue Nile. In the strict meaning, "White Nile" refers to the river formed at Lake No at the confluence of the Bahr al Jabal and Bahr el Ghazal rivers...

. However, Yoyotte thought Iyam was located further north in the Libyan desert.

The inscriptions in Harkhuf's tomb reflect changes in the Egyptian world view that were occurring during the Late Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period, with the person of the king becoming more human and displaying emotions and interests, while commenting on a person leading a moral life by helping his neighbour: I gave bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, I ferried him who had no boat.

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