Egyptian history: The first king of Dynasty one Essay Example

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Kingship of the First Egyptian Dynasty 3

KINGSHIP OF THE FIRST EGYPTIAN DYNASTY

The timeline for the creation of the state of Egypt is supported by both archeological evidence and textual evidence. This timeline is drawn from the findings of various scientists analyzing the dating of unearthed artifacts and those interpreting the artifacts. The history of Egypt before the pyramids is marked by constantly evolving information. Studies into Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods in Egypt are challenged by the inaccessibility of information on matters of Early Egypt. Information on the predynastic period and the formation of the state of Egypt is dynamic and constantly evolving due to the new discoveries, interpretations and changing perceptions from long-held conclusions. Perhaps of great interest to this paper is the existence of the State of Egypt and how the discovery of predynastic artifacts and sites have influenced the beliefs that the predynastic cultures emerged from the conquest of the north by King Narmer and the different interpretations then after. There have been intensive excavations in Hierakonpolis, the Delta, and Abydos that have created the perceptions of early Egypt. Predynastic Egypt is associated with the pioneering excavations of William M. Flinders Petrie at sites such as Abydos, Koptos and Naqada (Hendrickx 2006). This time in early Egypt, the first three Dynasties were considered a blank as far as monuments are concerned (Wilkinson 2010). Before the Pyramid builders of the fourth dynasty, the names of the kings of the first three dynasties were merely a series of names in ill-preserved king-lists. There was no monumental evidence to be used and the matter of Egyptian civilization was only speculation. This paper shall evaluate the predynastic period into the dynastic period and the distinct existence of King Narmer’s reign from King Aha. It shall prove that the two existed during different eras but achieved the unification of Egypt.

The earliest evidence of the predynastic period was the discovery of the cemetery at Naqada by Petrie which was devoid of the regular dynastic customs such as hieroglyphic inscriptions and grave goods (Wilkinson 2010). This resonates with the challenges of information of the first three dynasties. Additional challenges to this are the burden of modern expectations on archeological finds with regard to science, history and aesthetics. There exists a tendency to overly simplify and idealize the past and deprive cultures of their political dimension and nature by reserving the use and thought of state politics and state formation. Though often debated and perhaps now an outdated mantra, it is believed that King Narmer is responsible for the unification of Upper and Lowe Egypt (Hendrickx 2006). This is referenced by the might of the ruler as depicted in Narmer Palette which details decapitated and castrated enemies. This evidence is however as arbitrary to the idea of state unification as the Egyptological “tacit agreement” used to equate state formation to the start of the Dynastic period.

To properly examine the likelihood of the emergence of a unified Egypt, there ought to be a tracing of the trajectory that places the political and social organization. The emergence of a unified state should be a result of successful stages of “state seriation” in the predynastic era. State formation can be supported by the importance placed on the sacredness of leadership. The Naqada culture proved that the role of a leader is to serve as a stable axis in the political. Symbolic, religious and social constructs (Hendrickx 2006). The role of the leader as a defender of order is depicted in numerous objects such as the jar from Abydos, Umm el-Qaab grave. The jar shows a leader striking a group of bound captives with his mace. The same depiction is used in the Naqada IIC Tomb at Hierakonpolis to demonstrate kingship, domination and conquest. Egyptian artifacts are characterized by the depiction of political power and political autonomy. Possible amalgamation is associated with the subjugation of enemies and the rise of the elite to places of ideological and political power. The elite are considered intermediaries to the emerging system. This leads to the breakdown of a social order that places the ruler as the controller of the opposing parties, the elite as the control over norms, beliefs and ritualistic practices, and at the bottom, the population whose role was obedience and adherence. The evolution of leadership into the Dynastic era can be divided into six levels. From the early independent farming villages of Upper Egypt Pre-nomes dated 4000 to 3900 BC (Kohler 2013). The second stage is the proto-nomes stage which is constituted of the once independent villages merged into chiefdoms. The third stage of Nome pre-states emerged as a result of aggregation of proto-nomes as well as the conquest by predatory neighbors. The Upper Egyptian proto-state marks the fourth stage which is an economic and political unit that marks the transformation from pre-states to the emergence of a state. This stage is also marked by the Naqadian expansion and warfare agenda that proceeded north. The Dynastic culture is thought to have evolved from this Naqada culture that was essential to the emergence of Egyptian civilization. The Naqada culture was well ahead of the Delta communities where Andelkovic states that the Delta communities were still at chiefdom levels (Hendrickx 2006). The distinction of the question of King Aha and King Narmer comes to light with the comparison of the fifth and sixth levels. The fifth level is the All-Egyptian Early state. In this stage, a large political entity is formed that is made up of the south and the north of Egypt where a centralized government headed by a King existed. This stage is politically denoted as “Dynasty 0”. Other characteristics of this stage were the brief and numerous conflicts by local elites to reinstate decentralized systems of governance. While the sequence of Dynasty 0 rulers may remain unclear or undistinguished, Horus Narmer is considered first. Proof of this dynasty is discovery the ancient route- The Way of Horus and the discovery of the fortified city on five hectares of land that was founded by Dynasty 0 Egyptians with successive mud brick walls and outer defensive bastions characteristic of war time settlements. The Egyptian Empire marks the sixth stage where King Aha was king of the First Dynasty. This stage is the peak of the amalgamation of political units into one stable larger unit.

The discovery of Narmer’s Palette was the first glimpse of the earliest named kings of Egypt. The palette was also presented as evidence of Narmer’s role in the unification of Egypt and the issuance of Hierakonpolis as the capital (Kahl 2006). The palette is noted to be a ceremonial commemorative rather than a cosmetic palette for daily use drawing from its decoration on both sides. The Palette was found alongside Narmer’s ceremonial mace head The bull-like heads drawn are a symbolic representation of the king’s vigor. The back of the palette shows the king striking a foe, a sign that is historically known to denote the conquests of a king. Behind the king is a servant bearing the kings sandals which denote ritualistic nature of the instance. The king’s headpiece is a white crown that represents Upper Egypt. Beneath the kings feet lay conquered enemies and denotations of conquered lands. The front of the palette shows Narmer wearing the red crown from Lower Egypt, a mace in his left hand and the same sandal bearer. However, in front of the king is a long-haired individual wielding an emblem. The meanings from the palettes are the conquering of enemies and if the geographical significance of the crowns held at the time it could mean that Narmer unified the two regions (Kohler 2002). A label excavated in 1998 confirms that the palette is not of ceremonial making but of historical observance as it contains some of the images such as on the palette. It shows the reference to the marshlands on the palettes in a sign on the headgear of a catfish that strikes down an enemy. This is thought to represent the founding of the seventh Lower Egyptian province. Another interpretation of the Palette of Narmer is the careful balance of order and chaos. This is related to the daily journey of the sun god of Egyptian religion. The red crown is a depiction of the bloody battles that the sun god has endured to subdue the slain victims (Kohlet 2013). The white crown is a representation of the brilliant sun and of the sun and moon. The wearing of both crowns is a representation of the unification as well as the solar cycle as the king’s daily process (Kohlet 2013).

Evidence shows that Hor-Aha was probably the son and heir to Narmer. Aha is identified with numerous religious traditions including evidence from several tablets that record his visits to a shrine of Neith. Aha is also recorded visiting the shrine at north-east of the Nile delta. A year tablet from his reign also shows the first representation of the sacred Henu-barque of god Sokar. The inscriptions on vessels and seals in King Aha’s tomb show that his queen Neithhotep died during his reign. Neithhotep is believed to have been a princess from the Upper Egypt region who was mother of King Aha. This proves the use of marriage to solidify the unification and union of the two regions during the reign of king Narmer. The conquests of King Aha are illustrated on ivory tablets that show him leading a raid against the Nubians. The tablet shows that a year was spent conquering the Nubians. Memphis was relevantly important to King Aha as the presence of inscribed white marbles, ivory boxes and faience vessel fragments are found denoting the flourishing of craftsmanship during his reign. The oldest mastaba at Memphis dates to the reign of King Aha which led to its growing importance. The tomb of Hor-Aha is made up of three large chambers and is adjacent to Narmer’s tomb. The prominence of Hor-Aha can farther be attributed to the number of subsidiary burials that were laid out in his chambers (Heagy 2014). They included men, women, dwarfs and dogs. King Aha is thought to have ruled when the unified state was in place but only because there is not much evidence of conquests and battles to secure it. Perhaps the flourishing of the Unified state can be attributed to his reign. In conclusion, the setting up of a unified state cannot be stated as an explicit happening but rather a timeline of events led up to the creation of the said state. The existence of independent farming villages were the first step followed by the creation of chiefdoms and then the states that followed leading up to the creation of a unified Egypt (Heagy 2014). A number of factors must have come to play such as the setting up of centralized figures of authority, centralized systems of funding to run this authority and other factors such as religion and the place of social classes and systems. The social food chain was therefore relevant with the rulers setting up the controls, the elites forming the intermediaries and setting up ritualistic, social and cultural norms and with the subjects obeying and being ruled over (Heagy 2014). The existence of the palette King Narmer proves that there was indeed a unification and it was perhaps during the rule of Narmer and passed down to his heir Aha. The heir is also believed to have been a son of the princess Neithhotep (Kinnaer 2014). The palette shows the conquering of enemies and the complete annihilation of the powers beneath him to acquire this unified state. The existence of tablets and vessels in King Aha’s reign however tells of more time spent in craft, development and trade rather than the creation of states.

References

Heagy, T. C., 2014, Who was Menes? Archéo-Nil 24, 59-92.

Hendrickx, S., 2006, Predynastic-Early Dynastic Chronology, in Hornung et al. (eds), Ancient Egyptian Chronology. pp 55-93.

Kahl, J., 2006, Inscriptional Evidence for the Relative Chronology of Dynasties 0-2, in Hornung et al. (eds), Ancient Egyptian Chronology. pp 94-115.

Kinnaer, J., 2014, Neithhotep. The Ancient Egypt Site. Available from: www.ancient-egypt.org/who-is-who/n/neithhotep.html

Köhler, E. C., 2002, History or Ideology? New Reflections on the Narmer Palette and the Nature of Foreign Relations in Pre and Early Dynastic Egypt, in T. E. Levy and E. C. M. van den Brink (eds), Egypt and Levant: Interrelations from the 4th through the early 3rd millennium BCE. pp 499-513.

Köhler, E. C., 2013, Early Dynastic Egyptian Chronologies, in A. J. Shortland and C. B. Ramsey (eds), Radiocarbon and the Chronologies of Ancient Egypt. pp 224-234

Wilkinson, T. A., 2010, The Early Dynastic Period, in A.B. Lloyd (ed.), A Companion to Ancient Egypt,.