Saturday, May 17, 2014

Why Nekhen is Anthropologically Significant

Alice C. Linsley

The oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship at Nekhen on the Nile predates the building of the Great Pyramids at Giza and the step pyramid of King Djoser (Third Dynasty) who ruled for 75 years. He inaugurated an era of monumental building in stone which inspired the Great Pyramids. The oldest known tomb, with painted mural on its plaster walls, is located in Nekhen and dates to c. 3500–3200 BC.

More discoveries at Nekhen continue to push back the dating of early civilizations. On May 6, Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim announced the discovery of a Pre-Dynastic tomb that dates to about 500 years before King Narmer of 1st Dynasty. The tomb is in the site of Nekhen (Greek Hierakonpolis), the oldest known Horite shrine city.

A mummy of the tomb owner and an ivory statue were found in the tomb. Other finds include 10 ivory combs and tools and weapons. The initial examination of the mummy showed that the mummified person died at early age between 17 to 20 years old.

One of the more intriguing discoveries at Nekhen was an almost complete beard in association with the redheaded man in burial no. 79. The facial hair of the man in burial no. 79 had been trimmed with a sharp blade.

Archaeologists working at Nekhen found images of royal officials with dolichocephalic heads. (Nekhen News, Vol. 21, Fall 2009, p. 26.)

Nekhen is called the Falcon City as the falcon was one of the animal totems of Horus, the son of Re. Votive offerings at the Nekhen temple were ten times larger than the normal mace heads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine. Horite priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose.

Horus of Nekhen

Nekhen was a major city on the Nile, with an estimated population of 20,000. It was a bustling city with markets, breweries and fishing. The city stretched nearly 3 miles along the edge of the Nile floodplain. Noah likely would have known this prestigious city which was on the Nile. Noah lived in the region of Lake Chad c. 2490-2415 B.C. when the Sahara was wet.

Rulers at Nekhen acquired exotic goods and animals from central Africa and Afghanistan 4000 years ago. Nobles were buried with red ochre at Nekhen. At Tomb 100 there are two boats painted on the walls. Tomb 23 was discovered at in 2005. This was the largest structure of its kind from the Naqada II period (c.3500-3200 BC) and it was oriented north–south.

Anthropologically, Nekhen is a significant site because here we find all the evidences of an advanced civilization in the Nile Valley before the emergence of Egypt. These features include city building, written communication, hierarchical social structure, ritual burial, ship building, river trade, and complex religious expressions. 5500 year old dates were identified from a beer cocktail excavated from a vat. The ancient Egyptians used dates to make date wine and as a sweetener.

Nekhen was an important city of James Henry Breasted's "Fertile Crescent."

During the 1897/1898 field season, British archaeologist J. E. Quibell found the “Narmer Palette” at Nekhen. The Narmer Palette illustrates Narmer’s subjugation of Nilotic peoples in his attempt to create a unified territory.

Narmer Palette (smiting side)

Renée Friedman, who has direct knowledge of the excavations at Nekhenhas written that the "evidence of industrial production, temples, masks, mummies, and funerary architecture as early as 3500 B.C. is placing Hierakonpolis at the forefront of traditions and practices that would come to typify Egyptian culture centuries later. These discoveries may have knocked Narmer and his palette off their historical pedestal, but they confirm the central role the city played in the long development of Egyptian civilization. It is little wonder that for millennia the deified early kings of Hierakonpolis, called the Souls of Nekhen, were honored guests at the coronations and funerals of all pharaohs."

Related reading: Horite MoundsThe Shrine City of NekhenWho Were the Horites?; Who Were the Kushites?; Moses' Wives and Brothers; The Kushite Marriage Pattern Drove Kushite Expansion; The Afro-Asiatic Dominion; Hebrew, Israelite or Jew?

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