Short Note on the findings of H-W Fischer-Elfert regarding the city Pi-Ramesse on an Hieratic Ostracon.

 Koot van Wyk

The work of H-W Fischer-Elfert was published in 2016 and it was a study of an ostracon revealing in Hieratic Egyptian some aspects of the city of Pi-Ramesse. The author translated the ostracon after a discussion of some unique words, among them at least two Semitic Egyptianized words related to “trader” = tamkārūtu/a (line 5) and “brickwork” = t3-libnātu (line 3).

The dating of the ostracon is in Late Egyptian due to a word in line 4. The Ostracon belongs to a genre known in Egypt or in the Levant literature by the Latin name laud urbis which is literally translated as “praise of a city”. The opposite of course, not mentioned in this study, is lamentum urbis or the lament over a city.

In his footnotes he found that the word “heart” is used multiple times in the Egyptian literature with the laud urbis genre.

He also found that a list of cities are mentioned with the laud urbis genre:


“Further exx. for the motif of trade and business in the laudes urbium I have noted with regard to the following cities followed by the names of the authors of the texts (as long as they are known; cities

appearing not in chronological order):

Antiochos – Libanios (pp. 21ff.)

Athens – Isokrates (pp. 5ff.)

Chester – Lucianus (the longest praise of a city with about 9000 words; p. 62)

Jerusalem – Flavius Josephus (De Bello Judaico II 42-54; 297-308; IV 314; 560-584;

Classen, Die Stadt im Spiegel der Descriptiones, p. 31); al-Muqqadasī (pp. 32f.)

Metz – Richer of Metz (p. 55: urbs populosa satis cum mercibus utilitatis followed by

all the commodities on the local market)

Milano – Bonvesin de la Riva (p. 63)

Paris – John of Jandun (p. 64)

Patavia – Giovanni da Nono (p. 63ff.)

Regensburg – anonymous (p. 49)

Roma – Ailios Aristeides (pp. 18ff.)

Tournai – Milo of St. Amand (p. 44)

Tyre – William of Tyre (p. 33)

Verona – Versus de Verona (p. 40f.)

York – Alkuin (p. 42)

See also Classen, Die Stadt im Spiegel der Descriptiones, nn. 148 and 352

(Constantinople), 196 (Narbonne), 226 and 239 (Alexandria), 241 (on different cities),

388 (Exeter).

Adam of Bremen (before 1050 – 1081/1085 ) describes a nobilissima civitas Iumne =

Vineta “rich in the wares of all the northern nations, that city lacks nothing that is

either pleasing or rare (Urbs illa mercibus omnium septentrionalium nationum

locuples, nichil non habet iocundi aut rari). Unfortunately, the identity of this city

could not be established by now.” (Fischer-Elfert 2016: 217 footnote 59).


What Fischer-Elfert did not mention is that Ezechiel 28 talks about Tyre in both laud urbis and lamentum urbis genres. It is a prophetic description of before and after God’s judgment regarding the city. The role of God in judging cities is an ongoing theme in the Old Testament connected to cities and places. Even the pagan religions viewed the fall of a city as the role of the deities. One can see it in their Fall of a City Hymns of Lamentation genre.

If this praise of the city of Ramesses was since and after the time of Ramesses II, then the Exodus could not have taken place during the time of Ramesses II. He did not die in the Red Sea. His body exists and technically and pragmatically he should not have been found at all. Biblically-chronologically he is nearly 200 years too late for a date of the Exodus.

Trade from and to Ugarit would have been interrupted and that interruption would show on Wall Street in Ramesses or the Stock Markets of Ancient Ugarit. It would have been clearly visible in the texts. The texts in Egypt from 1296-1100 and the texts from Ugarit 1230-1100 BCE do not indicate any hint of such a major disaster as Exodus is spelling out. Thus, the city of Exodus 1:11 cannot be the one built by Pharaoh Ramesses II. It cannot be the one in the laud urbis genre of the Ostracon discussed by Fischer-Elfert.

The translation of Fischer-Elfert 2016 Hieratic Ostracon is this:


“1) (Oh) you outpost of all foreign countries, you hinterland 2) of Egypt, you ///// (glazed) tile (libnātu) to my(?) heart. Pleasant 3) is the place of distribution / market-place with/because of(?) its money there, namely the 4) vine tendrils(?), business/commerce (tamkārūtu). 5) The chiefs of every foreign country (usually) come in order to descend 6) with their products”



Hans-Werner Fischer-Elfert (2016). In Praise of Pi-Ramesse – A perfect trading Center (including two new Semitic words in syllabic orthography, Ostr. Ashmolean Museum HO 1187). In Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 242: Aere perennius Mélanges égyptologiques en l’honneur de Pascal Vernus, edited by P. Collombert, D. Lefevre, S. Polis and J. Winand. Peeters, pp. 195-218.