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The battle casualties confronting them would have comprised two general categories, the first being those who had suffered relatively minor flesh wounds, contusions or simple fractures, who could be helped off the battlefield by comrades to be treated and bandaged there and then. The more seriously wounded who layout on the ground - dead and dying, friend and foe, frequently mingled - would require prompt attention, but the outlook for them was far less hopeful if they could not rise under their own power. Still, it is worth remembering that many of our peasant soldiers, from their years on the land, would have acquired expertise of plants, poultices and purges, splints, bindings, even rudimentary surgery, all the bucolic-derived veterinary usages a peasant farmer learns seeking to keep his livestock sound and thriving. Thus non-specialists were probably sufficient for the most common injuries such as broken bones and minor puncture wounds, and for the minor illnesses that could be remedied with herbal treatments.

BEYOND THE BORDER Despite the accomplishment of the Dynasty XII pharaohs in pushing Egypt's political border to Semna on the southern edge of the Second Cataract, Egypt in fact terminated at the First Cataract. Here the Egyptian language and culture found their most southerly exponents in the communities of Swenet (Aswan) and Elephantine. Few in number and isolated in what is essentially an oasis on the Nile, the inhabitants of the cataract region were regarded as 'country bumpkins' speaking a dialect almost unintelligible in the north. 'Tradition had it that the noise of the cataract rendered them hard of hearing. The place name of Swenet ('trade') clearly reflects the commercial nature of the southern frontier, which represented opportunities for profitable economic activities rather than the threat of invasion. Egypt's main interest here was the resources (particularly gold) of the region south of the cataract, and Middle Kingdom foreign policy was modified to ensure access and acquisition. One effective method of acquiring plunder was to mount an armed 'march-about', a pharaonic chevauchee. This was bound to produce booty, if not goods and slaves acquired through trade (if the locals proved sufficiently intimidated), and consequently a successful chevauchee would more than pay for itself. The evidence that has survived suggests that such expeditions could be mounted on a grand scale. The annals for regnal year 13 of Sneferu (r. 2613-2589 BC) record in part 'hacking up the land of the Nubians: bringing living captives,

Ceremonial cane (Cairo, Egyptian Museum, JE 61732) of wood, ivory, ebony and faience showing the image of one of Egypt's hereditary enemies. In state inscriptions the Nubians were constantly 'crushed', 'vile', 'craven-hearted' and 'wretched'. In reality, albeit a 'soft target', they proved troublesome on numerous occasions. (Esther Carre)


Osprey warrior 121 soldier of the pharaoh  
Osprey warrior 121 soldier of the pharaoh