Nekhen

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Coordinates: 25°5′50″N32°46′46″E / 25.09722°N 32.77944°E / 25.09722; 32.77944

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Nekhen
(Hierakonpolis)
Egypt relief location map.jpg
Archaeological site icon (red).svg
Shown within Egypt
Alternative nameHierakonpolis
Location Aswan Governorate, Egypt
Coordinates 25°5′50″N32°46′46″E / 25.09722°N 32.77944°E / 25.09722; 32.77944
History
MaterialPossibly, oldest painted Ancient Egyptian tomb
Nekhen
Nekhen

or
Nekhen
Nekhen
Nekhen
Nekhen
in hieroglyphs

Nekhen ( /ˈnɛkən/ ) or Hierakonpolis ( /ˌhaɪərəˈkɒnpəlɪs/ ; Ancient Greek : Ἱεράκων πόλιςHierakōn polis "Hawk City", [1] Egyptian Arabic : الكوم الأحمر, romanized: el-Kōm el-Aḥmar, lit.  'the Red Mound' [2] ) was the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of prehistoric Egypt (c. 3200–3100 BC) and probably also during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC).

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.

Upper Egypt strip of land on the Nile valley between Nubia and Lower Egypt

Upper Egypt is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.

Prehistoric Egypt period of earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt

The prehistory of Egypt spans the period from the earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period around 3100 BC, starting with the first Pharaoh, Narmer for some Egyptologists, Hor-Aha for others, with the name Menes also possibly used for one of these kings. This Predynastic era is traditionally equivalent to the final part of the Neolithic period beginning c. 6000 BC and ends in the Naqada III period c. 3000 BC.

Some authors suggest occupation dates that should begin thousands of years earlier. The oldest known tomb with painted decoration on its plaster walls is located in Nekhen and is thought to date to ca. 3500-3200 BC. It shares distinctive imagery with artifacts from the Gerzeh culture.

Plaster general term for a broad range of building materials

Plaster is a building material used for the protective or decorative coating of walls and ceilings and for moulding and casting decorative elements. In English "plaster" usually means a material used for the interiors of buildings, while "render" commonly refers to external applications. Another imprecise term used for the material is stucco, which is also often used for plasterwork that is worked in some way to produce relief decoration, rather than flat surfaces.

Gerzeh culture material culture in predynastic Egypt (Nagada II)

The Gerzeh culture, also called Naqada II, refers to the archaeological stage at Gerzeh, a prehistoric Egyptian cemetery located along the west bank of the Nile. The necropolis is named after el-Girzeh, the nearby present day town in Egypt. Gerzeh is situated only several miles due east of the oasis of Faiyum.

Horus cult center

Nekhen was the center of the cult of a hawk deity, Horus of Nekhen, which raised one of the most ancient Egyptian temples in this city. It retained its importance as the cultic center for this divine patron of the kings long after the site had otherwise declined.

Cult A social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs

In modern English, the term cult has come to usually refer to a social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. This sense of the term is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. It is usually considered pejorative.

Egyptian temple Structures for official worship of the gods and commemoration of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt

Egyptian temples were built for the official worship of the gods and in commemoration of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt and regions under Egyptian control. Temples were seen as houses for the gods or kings to whom they were dedicated. Within them, the Egyptians performed a variety of rituals, the central functions of Egyptian religion: giving offerings to the gods, reenacting their mythological interactions through festivals, and warding off the forces of chaos. These rituals were seen as necessary for the gods to continue to uphold maat, the divine order of the universe. Housing and caring for the gods were the obligations of pharaohs, who therefore dedicated prodigious resources to temple construction and maintenance. Out of necessity, pharaohs delegated most of their ritual duties to a host of priests, but most of the populace was excluded from direct participation in ceremonies and forbidden to enter a temple's most sacred areas. Nevertheless, a temple was an important religious site for all classes of Egyptians, who went there to pray, give offerings, and seek oracular guidance from the god dwelling within.

The first settlement at Nekhen dates from either the predynastic Amratian culture (circa 4400 BC) or, perhaps, during the late Badari culture (circa 5000 BC). At its height from about 3400 BC, Nekhen had at least 5,000 and possibly, as many as 10,000 inhabitants.

Amratian culture cultural period in the history of predynastic Upper Egypt (Nagada I)

The Amratian culture, also called Naqada I, was a culture of prehistoric Upper Egypt. It lasted approximately from 4000 to 3500 BC.

The ruins of the city originally were excavated toward the end of the nineteenth century by the English archaeologists James Quibell and Frederick W. Green.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

James Edward Quibell was a British Egyptologist.

Frederick William Green was an English Egyptologist, who worked at a number of sites throughout Egypt.

Hierakonpolis ivory objects Hierakonpolis ivory objects.jpg
Hierakonpolis ivory objects

Quibell and Green discovered the "Main Deposit", a foundation deposit beneath the temple, [3] in 1894. Quibell originally was trained under Flinders Petrie, the father of modern Egyptology, however, he failed to follow Petrie's methods. The temple was a difficult site to excavate to begin with, so his excavation was poorly conducted and then poorly documented. Specifically, the situational context of the items therein is poorly recorded and often, the reports of Quibell and Green are in contradiction. [4]

The most famous artifact commonly associated with the main deposit, the Narmer Palette, now is thought probably not to have been in the main deposit at all. Quibell's report made in 1900 put the palette in the deposit, but Green's report in 1902 put it about one to two yards away. Green's version is substantiated by earlier field notes (Quibell kept none), so it is now the accepted record of events. [5]

The main deposit dates to the early Old Kingdom, [4] but the artistic style of the objects in the deposit indicate that they were from Naqada III and were moved into the deposit at a later date. The other important item in the deposit clearly dates to the late prehistoric. [6] This object, the Scorpion Macehead, depicts a king known only by the ideogram for scorpion, now called Scorpion II, participating in what seems to be a ritual irrigation ceremony. [7] Although the Narmer Palette is more famous because it shows the first king to wear both the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Scorpion Macehead also indicates some early military hostility with the north by showing dead lapwings, the symbol of Lower Egypt, hung from standards. [7]

John Garstang excavated at Hierakonpolis in 1905-06. He initially hoped to excavate the town site but encountered difficulties working there, [8] and soon turned his attention to the ‘fort’ of second dynasty King Khasekhemwy instead. Beneath the ‘fort’, Garstang excavated a Predynastic cemetery consisting of 188 graves, which served the bulk of the city’s population during the late Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods, revealing the burial practices of the non-elite Egyptians living at Hierakonpolis. [9]

More recently, the concession was excavated further by a multinational team of archaeologists, Egyptologists, geologists, and members of other sciences, which was coordinated by Michael Hoffman until his death in 1990, then by Barbara Adams of University College London and Dr. Renee Friedman representing the University of California, Berkeley and the British Museum until Barbara Adams's death in 2001, [10] and by Renée Friedman thereafter.

Possible ritual structures

The structure at Nekhen known by the misnomer "fort" is a massive mud-brick enclosure built by Pharaoh Khasekhemwy of the Second Dynasty. [11] It appears to be similar in structure and ritual purpose as the similarly misidentified 'forts' constructed at Abydos, all without apparent military function. The true function of these structures is unknown, but they seem to be related to the rituals of kingship and the culture. [12] Religion was interwoven inexorably with kingship in Ancient Egypt.

The ritual structure was built on a prehistoric cemetery. The excavations there, as well as the work of later brick robbers, have seriously undermined the walls and led to the near collapse of the structure. For two years, during 2005 and 2006, the team led by Friedman was attempting to stabilize the existing structure and support the endangered areas of the structure with new mudbricks. [13]

Oldest known Egyptian painted tomb

An ancient Nekhen tomb painting in plaster with barques, staffs, goddesses, and animals - possibly the earliest example Tumulo 100.JPG
An ancient Nekhen tomb painting in plaster with barques, staffs, goddesses, and animals - possibly the earliest example

Other discoveries at Nekhen include Tomb 100, the oldest tomb with painted decoration on its plaster walls. The sepulchre is thought to date to the Gerzeh culture (ca. 3500-3200 BC).

The decoration shows presumed religious scenes and images that include figures featured in Egyptian culture for three thousand yearsa funerary procession of barques, presumably a goddess standing between two upright lionesses, a wheel of various horned quadrupeds, several examples of a staff that became associated with the deity of the earliest cattle culture and one being held up by a heavy-breasted goddess. Animals depicted include onagers or zebras, ibexes, ostriches, lionesses, impalas, gazelles and cattle.

Oldest known zoo

Hierakonpolis objects at time of discovery Hierakonpolis objects at time of discovery.jpg
Hierakonpolis objects at time of discovery

The oldest known zoological collection was revealed during excavations at Nekhen in 2009 of a menagerie that dates to ca. 3500 BC. The animals included hippopotami, hartebeest, elephants, baboons and African wildcats. [14]

Continuous activity

There are later tombs at Nekhen, dating to the Middle Kingdom, Second Intermediate Period, and New Kingdom. In the painted tomb of Horemkhauef a biographical inscription reporting Horemkhauef's journey to the capital was found. He lived during the Second Intermediate Period. Because it had a strong association with Egyptian religious ideas about kingship, the temple of Horus at Nekhen was used as late as the Ptolemaic Kingdom, [15] persisting as a religious center throughout the thousands of years of Ancient Egyptian culture.

Artifacts

Cylinder seals

Cylinders seals at Hierakonpolis include some of the first known scene of the Pharaoh smiting his enemies with a mace. [16] Cylinder seals are generally thought to have been derived from Mesopotamian examples. [17]

Cosmetic palettes from Hierakonpolis

Several of the finest pre-Dynastic decorated palettes were discovered in Hierakonpolis. They often display Mesopotamia-inspired animals such as the Serpopards, and also incorporate some of the first hieroglyphs.

Maceheads

Notes

  1. Strabo xvii. p. 817
  2. Richardson 2003, p. 429.
  3. Shaw 2000, p. 197.
  4. 1 2 Shaw 2003, p. 32.
  5. Shaw 2003, p. 33.
  6. Shaw 2000, p. 254.
  7. 1 2 Gardiner 1961, p. 403.
  8. Adams, B. (1995). Ancient Nekhen : Garstang in the city of Hierakonpolis. Surrey [England]: SIA Pub. ISBN   1872561039. OCLC   34165351.
  9. Adams, B. (1987). The fort cemetery at Hierakonpolis : excavated by John Garstang. London: KPI. ISBN   0710302754. OCLC   18268735.
  10. Smith, Harry (13 July 2002). "Obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  11. "Interactive Dig Hierakonpolis - Fixing the Fort". www.archaeology.org.
  12. Friedman 2006, p. 31.
  13. Friedman 2006, p. 36.
  14. World's First Zoo - Hierakonpolis, Egypt, Archaeology Magazine, http://www.archaeology.org/1001/topten/egypt.html
  15. Hoffman, Michael Allen; Hamroush, Hany A.; Allen, Ralph O. (1 January 1986). "A Model of Urban Development for the Hierakonpolis Region from Predynastic through Old Kingdom Times". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 23: 186. doi:10.2307/40001098. JSTOR   40001098.
  16. 1 2 Bommas, Martin (2011). Cultural Memory and Identity in Ancient Societies. A&C Black. p. 13. ISBN   9781441187475.
  17. Wilkinson, Toby (2007). The Egyptian World. Routledge. p. 484. ISBN   9781136753763.
  18. 1 2 Davis, Whitney; Davis, George C. and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Art Historyancient Modern & Theory Whitney; Davis, Whitney M. (1992). Masking the Blow: The Scene of Representation in Late Prehistoric Egyptian Art. University of California Press. p. 17. ISBN   9780520074880.

Related Research Articles

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Narmer Palette Egyptian archaeological artifact

The Narmer Palette, also known as the Great Hierakonpolis Palette or the Palette of Narmer, is a significant Egyptian archeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC, belonging, at least nominally, to the category of Cosmetic palettes. It contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. The tablet is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the king Narmer. On one side, the king is depicted with the bulbed White Crown of Upper (southern) Egypt, and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Lower (northern) Egypt. Along with the Scorpion Macehead and the Narmer Maceheads, also found together 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. The Egyptologist Bob Brier has referred to the Narmer Palette as "the first historical document in the world".

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Iry-Hor Egyptian pharaoh

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Serpopard

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Barbara Adams (Egyptologist) British egyptologist

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Narmer Macehead

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Scorpion Macehead

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Naqada culture archaeological culture of pre-dynastic Egypt

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References