Expressing the Eternity as Seriality: On šn as a Number of Large Magnitude

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Luca Miatello



A new number of large magnitude, identified by the šn sign, appears in the New Kingdom and is used also in the Ptolemaic period. Its attestation is relatively rare, usually limited to royal inscriptions, in expressions of the eternity and large quantities as series of numbers. Already in Middle Kingdom representations of the Sed festival, the omen of eternity to the king is formulated by composing series of numbers in descending order of magnitude. This paper suggests a new interpretation of the number šn, related to the calculation of the Sothic cycles. Such an interpretation allows us to explain also the meaning of the epithet “mistress of 16,” attributed to Isis-Sothis in a hymn to the goddess in the Ptolemaic temple of Isis at Aswan.

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