48 A HISTORY OF EGYPT
While the severe methods employed against the North must have seriously crippled its economic prosperity, that of the nation as a whole probably continued to increase. The kings were constantly laying out new estates and building new palaces, temples and strongholds. Public works, like the opening of irrigation canals (Fig. 18) or the wall of Menes above Memphis, show their solicitude for the economic resources of the kingdom, as well as a skill in engineering and a high conception of government such as we can not but greatly admire in an age so remote. They were able also to undertake the earliest enterprises of which we know in foreign lands. King Semerkhet, early in the dynastic age, and probably during the First Dynasty, carried on mining operations in the copper regions of the Sinaitic peninsula, in the Wadi Maghara. His expedition was exposed to the depredations of the wild tribes of Beduin, who already in this remote age, peopled those districts; and he recorded his punishment of them in a relief upon the rocks of the Wadi (Fig. 28).1 Usephais, of the First Dynasty, must have conducted similar operations there; for he has left a memorial of his victory over the same tribes in a scene carved upon an ivory tablet, showing him striking down a native whom he has forced to the knees (Fig. 26). It is accompanied by the inscription: "First occurrence of smiting the Easterners." This designation of the event as the "first occurrence" would indicate that it was a customary thing for the kings of the time to chastise these barbarians, and that therefore he was expecting a "second occurrence," as a matter of course. A "smiting of the Troglodytes," the same people, recorded on the Palermo Stone' in the First Dynasty, doubtless falls in the reign of king Miebis. Indeed there are indications that the kings of this time maintained foreign relations with far remoter peoples. In their tombs have been found fragments of a peculiar, non-Egyptian pottery, closely resembling the
' Weill, Rev. Arch., 1903, 11, p. 231; and Recueil des Inscr. Egypt. du Sinai, p. 9G. 2I., 101.