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    Abstract

    THE MOCK KING AT THE NEW YEAR IN EGYPT.- The December issue of Ancient Egypt has as a frontispiece a reproduction of the only illustration extant, fortunately preserved by Rifaud, showing the figure of the mock king degraded as Abu Nerus. The only account of this curious survival is given by Dr. Klun-zinger in his book, “Upper Egypt: its People and its Products,” published in 1878. On the tenth day of September, the first day of the Coptic solar year, each little town chooses from among its own members a king whose rule lasts through a festival of three days. During this period all official rule is abrogated and rigorous criminal investigations are held by the mock ruler, in which heavy penalties are inflicted even on the highest officials, and immense taxes are imposed. Both penalties and taxation are remitted for bakhshish. At the end of the three days the mock king is condemned to death and he (i.e. his clothes) is executed by burning. The illustration shows that this festival took place at the date harvest. Sir Flinders Petrie, in a note on the illustration and Klunzinger's account, refers to a title of the Xllth Dynasty, “New Year King of all the Nobles,” which was borne by the highest nobles, and points out that this office, which the form of the title shows to have been annual, would indicate that the New Year King was a survival of an age much earlier than dynastic rule. It was a relic of an earlier kingship of prehistoric times and allowed a semblance of the ancient rule to the nobles of the old race, just as the king of the Saturnalia at Rome preserved among the enslaved aborigines a memory of their former liberty.

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    Research Items. Nature 115, 135–136 (1925) doi:10.1038/115135a0

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