​Oldest Pharaoh Carvings Ever Known Discovered In Egypt

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December 12, 2012
Also: Carbon Dating, Egypt, Narmer, Oldest Pharaoh Carvings

The oldest Pharaoh Egyptian carvings ever known has been discovered, but it has a long story that begins in the 1890s. They were rediscovered in 1960 and again in 2008.

Now they are believed to be the oldest depictions of the first Egyptian Pharaoh, dating back to between 3200 B.C. and 3100 B.C., after using carbon dating techniques.

The realization of how old the carvings were, has been reported by researchers in December’s issue of the journal Antiquity.

“It’s really the end of prehistory and the beginning of history,” in Egypt, study researcher Maria Gatto told LiveScience.

At around the time the carving that depicts what is believed to be the pharaoh Narmer, a white-crowned figure travels in ceremonial processions and on sickle-shaped boats, perhaps representing an early tax-collecting tour of Egypt, the country was in the midst of a change from the dynastic rule of the pharaohs.

Gatto, a Yale University researcher, led the archaeologists which rediscovered the site in 2008. Archaeologist Archibald Sayce first sketched the carvings, found at the village Nag el-Hamdulab, in the 1890s, but the only record of Sayce’s discovery was a partial illustration published in a book. In 1960, the site was rediscovered by Egyptian archaeologist Labib Habachi who took photographs of the carvings, but he never published them.

After Habachi’s photos resurfaced in 2008, Gatto and her team compared them to the Sayce sketches, and began to search for the site again.

In total there are 7 carvings on rocks in the area, most depicting boats flanked by prisoners. On the suspected Narmer carving, his boat has a falcon and bull insignia, which is known to symbolize royalty.

Gatto and her colleagues believe the artwork came from the first part of Narmer’s reign, before he unified both parts of Egypt.

“It seems that for Narmer it was important first to settle the situation in the South, to control the South, and then apparently move to the North, and at that time, he unified Egypt and we have the first dynasty,” Gatto said.

Gatto and her team are now making efforts to protect the sight of the carvings.

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