Discovery of 5,000-year-old Hieroglyphs Change the Story of a Queen, a Pharaoh, and an Ancient City
Miners carved Egyptian hieroglyphs and drawings into the rock of the Sinai Desert 5,000 years ago as a way of marking the area as owned by Egypt, a researcher says. The people carving the symbols were literally making their mark on the world.
The hieroglyphs and drawings, rediscovered in 2012, are helping clarify some history of the ancient civilization and correcting some earlier assumptions about a queen, a pharaoh, and the founding of the city of Memphis, says an article about the hieroglyphs in Live Science.
Personnel from an ancient mining expedition are believed to have made the 60 or so carvings, which date between 5,200 and 4,800 years old, at a site called Wadi Ameyra.
One symbol carved into the desert is for Queen Neith-Hotep, a regent to a young pharaoh whose name was Djer. She ruled Egypt about 5,000 years ago - thousands of years before the more famous Hatshepsut and Cleopatra VII, says Live Science.
Bone label with name of Queen Neith-Hotep. Originally from Naqada, circa 3100 BC. (British Museum)
Egyptologists had known of Neith-Hotep’s existence but thought she was the wife of King Narmer, an important figure who founded the 1st Dynasty and unified Egypt.
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“The inscriptions demonstrate that she [Neith-Hotep] was not the wife of Narmer, but a regent queen at the beginning of the reign of Djer,” Pierre Tallet told Live Science. Dr. Tallet was the leader of the expedition to Wadi Ameyra and is with the Sorbonne in Paris.
Also found at the site are hieroglyphs showing the history of Memphis, which scholars thought King Narmer (also known as Menes) founded in the 31st century BC. Instead it is shown that King Iry-Hor, who lived two generations prior to Narmer, founded the city, Live Science says. It’s also possible the city goes back even further than Iry-Hor.
In addition to hieroglyphs the team found rock carvings depicting boats of a very archaic type at Wadi Ameyra. One of the boat drawings included a serekh or pharaoh’s symbol that resembles a cabin.
An image of a boat along with an assortment of animals found amongst the rock carvings in Sinai Desert. (Pierre Tallet)
The finds of the Wadi Ameyra expedition were detailed in the book La Zone Minière Pharaonique du Sud-Sinaï II, which was published in 2015.
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In related news, Ancient Origins also reported in 2015 on Egyptian rock art from about 5,000 years ago at the site of Nag el-Hamdulab that depicted Narmer. The depictions are thought to have been done by professional artists close to the royal court. They are the earliest known depictions of a pharaoh wearing the “white crown” of dynastic power, and they represent the transition between pre-Dynastic Egypt’s religious processions into the tax-collecting tour of a triumphant monarch. They rock carvings show a king heralded by standard bearers and trailing a retinue of soldiers, fan bearers, powerful beasts and deities.
King Narmer detail on the Narmer palette from Nekhen (Hierakonpolis), 31st century BC. (Public Domain)
As Ancient Origins reported, there has been other news about Egyptian writing systems lately, including a Dutch Egyptologist’s deciphering the oldest known abecedary or alphabet-like primer on a 3,500-year-old shard of pottery from an Egyptian tomb excavated 20 years ago. The earliest alphabets go back to the 19th century BC. The alphabet is a different type of writing system than hieroglyphs.
The world’s first-known abecedary in ancient Egyptian hieratic script was deciphered by a Dutch Egyptologist in 2015. (Nigel Strudwick)
The text on the ostracon or shard had not been understood in the 20 years since it was found in the tomb near Luxor - until Dutch Egyptologist Ben Haring deciphered it in 2015, says a news release from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, which financed the research project. The tomb was of an Egyptian official named Senneferi, who lived during the reign of Pharaoh Tuthmose III.
The text that Dr. Haring deciphered is important in understanding the history of alphabets. The words in an English abecedary read like “As as in apple, B as in boy,” with an image of the item described. This Egyptian fragment, however, is in Halaḥam (HLḤM), which is different than Western alphabets.
Featured image: The hieroglyph at the top middle with the seven arms and a dome radiating from a post is the symbol for the regent Queen Neith-Hotep. It was previously thought that she was King Narmer’s wife and not a sovereign in her own right. Source: (D. Laisney)
By: Mark Miller