Mythos 38 – Narmer or Menes

 

Even though Egyptian hieroglyphs have clear pictographic precursors, the majority of scholars believe that proper Egyptian hieroglyphs came into existence a little after Sumerian cuneiform, and that Egyptian hieroglyphs were probably invented under the influence of the Sumerian cuneiform.(1)Geoffrey Sampson (1990) Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction, Page 78 This contradiction is caused by the fact that there are many notable similarities between the two forms of writing that are difficult to explain without cross-fertilization or a common source. Both scripts were logograms, which means that the symbols represent specific words. Both scripts were also phonetic, meaning that the symbols could also represent sounds. Both scripts could simultaneously represent words (logograms) and sounds (phonetic syllables). Both scripts also included phonetic complements and determinatives to make clear which exact word or form was intended when it might be ambiguous.(2)Daniel L. Selden (2013) Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom

6,000 Year Old Hammamat Wadi Petroglyphs

6,000 Year Old Hammamat Wadi Petroglyphs

The fact that the Upper Egyptians were trading via shipping routes in the Red Sea has been firmly established by the existence of 6,000 year old drawings of Egyptian reed boats in the Wadi Hammamat.(3)Winkler’s Site 26 in Wadi Abu Wasil Wadi Hammamat is a series of dried riverbeds between the Nile River and the Red Sea. Both the port cities of Gebtu, modern Qift on the Nile, and Al-Qusayr on the Red Sea were established by the First Dynasty, and pre-dynastic traffic along the Hammamat Route is well established by the numerous petroglyphs throughout the wadi.(4)Andie Byrnes (2007) The Archaeology of the Eastern Desert, Appendix F: Desert Rock Areas and Sites Throughout ancient Egyptian history, the Hammamat Route had been the main connection between Egypt and the Red Sea and thereby Indian Ocean, connecting Egypt to Arabia, Ethiopia, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia. The Wadi Hammamat was a major quarrying area for the Nile, providing the Egyptians with basalts, schists, gold-bearing quartz,(5)André Dollinger (2000) Mining in An introduction to the history and culture of Pharaonic Egypt and bekhen-stone a highly prized green metagraywacke sandstone used for bowls, palettes, statues, and sarcophagi.(6)James A. Harrell (2015) Survey of ancient Egyptian stone quarries (rock varieties and images, locations, and ages). University of Toledo

The 5,100 Year Old Narmer Palette

The 5,100 Year Old Narmer Palette

The 5,100 year old Narmer Palette is carved from stone quarried in the Wadi Hammamat.(7)Ian Shaw (2004) Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction Pages 44-45 It is thought by some Egyptologists to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under King Narmer circa 5,100 years ago. On one side, the king is depicted with the bulbed White Crown of Ta-Shemau (Upper Egypt), and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Ta-Mehu (Lower Egypt). Along with the Scorpion Macehead and the Narmer Maceheads, also found in the Main Deposit at Nekhen, the Narmer Palette provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king. The Palette shows many of the classic conventions of Ancient Egyptian art, which must already have been formalized by the time of the Palette’s creation.(8)Johann Peter Adolf Ermann and Hermann Grapow (1982) Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache Akademie. Volume 5, Number 227, Pages 4-14 The Egyptologist Bob Brier has referred to the Narmer Palette as “the first historical document in the world.”(9)Johann Peter Adolf Ermann and Hermann Grapow (1982) Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache Akademie. Volume 4, Number 477, Pages 9-11

The identity of Narmer is the subject of ongoing debate, although Egyptological consensus(10)Thomas Heagy (2014) “Who was Menes?” Archéo-Nil, Volume 24, Pages 59–92 identifies Narmer with the First Dynasty King Menes, who is also credited with the unification of Egypt, as the first King of Egypt. This conclusion is based on the Narmer Palette which shows Narmer as the unifier of Egypt and the two necropolis seals from the necropolis of Abydos that show him as the first king of the First Dynasty. The Egyptological consensus identifying Narmer with Menes is by no means universal. This has ramifications for the history of ancient Egypt. Some Egyptologists hold that Menes is the same person as Hor-Aha and that he inherited an already-unified Egypt from Narmer;(11)B. Midant-Reynes (2000) The Prehistory of Egypt, Pages 243–50. others hold that Narmer began the process of unification but either did not succeed or succeeded only partially, leaving it to Menes to complete. Another possible theory is that Narmer was an immediate successor to the king who did manage to unify Egypt, perhaps the King Scorpion whose name was found on a macehead also discovered in Hierakonpolis, but he adopted symbols of unification that had already been in use for perhaps a generation.(12)A. R. Schulman (1991–92) “Narmer and the Unification: A Revisionist View” Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 11, Page 85

References   [ + ]

1. Geoffrey Sampson (1990) Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction, Page 78
2. Daniel L. Selden (2013) Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom
3. Winkler’s Site 26 in Wadi Abu Wasil
4. Andie Byrnes (2007) The Archaeology of the Eastern Desert, Appendix F: Desert Rock Areas and Sites
5. André Dollinger (2000) Mining in An introduction to the history and culture of Pharaonic Egypt
6. James A. Harrell (2015) Survey of ancient Egyptian stone quarries (rock varieties and images, locations, and ages). University of Toledo
7. Ian Shaw (2004) Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction Pages 44-45
8. Johann Peter Adolf Ermann and Hermann Grapow (1982) Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache Akademie. Volume 5, Number 227, Pages 4-14
9. Johann Peter Adolf Ermann and Hermann Grapow (1982) Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache Akademie. Volume 4, Number 477, Pages 9-11
10. Thomas Heagy (2014) “Who was Menes?” Archéo-Nil, Volume 24, Pages 59–92
11. B. Midant-Reynes (2000) The Prehistory of Egypt, Pages 243–50.
12. A. R. Schulman (1991–92) “Narmer and the Unification: A Revisionist View” Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 11, Page 85