From Academic Kids

Khem (also spelt Chem) is the Egyptian word for black, and was usually used to describe the fertile soil surrounding the Nile, which was notably blackened. As such, it was also used by the Egyptians as a name for their nation, as it was principally composed of the fertile lands around the Nile. Some feel it may derive from the Hebrew translation, Ham - the name used by the writers of the Bible to refer to Egypt.

For a period of time, Canaan was under Egyptian influence, as was Kush (part of Nubia), and Libya, one of whose leading tribes was named Pitu, there is also an ethnic connection between them. Although Ham was a name for Egypt and Africa in general, Mizraim, generally thought to translate as the two lands, was the name for the specific area of Upper and Lower Egypt in particular. Consequently, in order to describe the relationship between nations, the Bible mentions Canaan, Mizraim, Cush, and Phut, (considered by some academics to correspond to Pitu), to be the sons of Ham. Canaan was the latest region to become part of the Egyptian sphere of influence, and was the youngest. Literal readings of the text would imply that each of these nations was descended from a single person of that name, who founded the tribe from his immediate family members.

In the 19th century, there was an erroneous transcription of the Egyptian for Min as ḫm ("khem"), purely by coincidence. Since this Khem was worshipped most significantly in Akhmim, the separate identity of Khem was reinforced, Akhmim being understood as simply a corruption of Khem. However, Akhmim is a corruption of ḫm-mnw, meaning Shrine of Min, via the demotic form šmn. The existence of a god named Khem was later undertood as a faulty reading, but unfortunately it had already been enshrined in books written by E. A. Wallis Budge—now out of copyright and widely reprinted—, and so this error still finds a home among non-Egyptologists.

Nethertheless, since Khem described the fertile soils, it was sometimes used as an epithet for Min, as the god of fertility. Consequently, the Khem that represented Egypt, Ham to the writers of the Bible, could be seen as symbolic also of sexuality.

Chem is also short form for Chemistry.

External links

[Egyptian deities (]ca:Chem


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