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Pharaohs of the Predynastic Era

Aterian Tools (Image, MIDDLE PALEOLITHIC, 2010)

The Predynastic Period refers to paleolithic times, c. 6000 b.c.e. to just before the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, c. 3100 b.c.e. However, archaeological evidence finds the earliest evidence of Hominids – Specifically Homo erectus is found in Egypt dating back to 500-700 thousand years ago. By the middle Paleolithic times 300,000 until about 30,000 years ago, Homo erectus was replaced in Egypt by a more direct ancestor, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. 40,000 years ago is when we see anatomically modern humans use tools in northern Africa known today as the Aterian industry, and as modern genetics have revealed, interbred with Neanderthals as they replaced them as the dominant species in Egypt.

Predynastic drawing at Gebel Al Teir at the Al-Kharga Oasis (Image: Unger, 2016)

Aterian Period

Most of what we know about the era before the Pharaohs is from archeological excavations, which makes more precise dating difficult. The first settlements were placed along the Nile in what is now known as the Wadi Halfa, or alliance desert valley in Arabic in northern Sudan, 40,000 years ago, and were semi-sedentary, that is easily taken down and moved for a hunter-gatherer population. Around the same time, at the Oasis known commonly as al-Kharga Oasis in Upper Egypt, hominins were entering what is known as the Aterian period, a time in North Africa when people began using stone tools. At the prehistoric site of Gebel Al-teir at Kharga were found various sizes of arrow and spear points.

Khormusan Tools and Levallois flakes from site 1017–1, 2, 5. (Image: EA 76000, Wendorf Collection, site 1017. Goder-Goldberger, 2013).

Khormusan Industry

Nazlet Khater skeleton
Nazlet Khater Man (Image: El-Aref, 2015).

Approximately two thousand years later, between 42,000 and 32,000 years ago, the Khormusan industry was thriving in Upper Egypt and Sudan, with stone tools and arrow points of stone, hematite and animal bone.

Toward the end of the Khormusan industry, the first confirmed human skeleton in North Africa is found in Upper Egypt, at as site called Nazlet Khater. The young male was carbon dated to 30,360-35,100 years ago, and was found with upper paleolithic tools such as axes, blades and other tools to process meat and leather.

Mesolithic Era

(a,b) Opposed platform cores; (c-e) Multiple platform cores; (f) Halfan core; (g-i) Single platform cores, (h) retouched; (j) Bent Levallois core. (Image: Leplongeon, 2017).

The Mesolithic era cultures in upper Egypt and upper Nubia grew and fell independently within no more than 4,000 years between 22,500 and 9,000 years ago. The Halfan culture is one that originates in Faiyum Oasis. From the Coptic and ancient Egyptian mr-wr meaning great sea, referring to the ancient Lake Moeris in Lower and Upper Egypt. Migrants from Faiyum joined others in the Arabian peninsula and invented nomadic pastoralism It is believed this first group may have spread the proto-Semitic language to Mesopotamia

Late Neolithic

Calendar at Nabta Playa, 7500 BCE (Image: Raymbetz, as sited in Briar, 2019)

The late Neolithic period or new stone period is when peoples began sedentary lives around the Nile as they escaped the encroaching deserts that surrounded the region. Little archaeological evidence has been uncovered from 9000 to 6000 BCE in Egypt, but suddenly in circa 6000 BCE saw Neolithic settlements begin in different parts of Egypt, which biological morphology and genetic evidence attributes to migration from the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia.

Neolithic grain silos Tell el Samara, Nile Delta, 5000 BCE (Image: Starr, 2018)

Lower Egypt saw settlements in Feiyyum, Merimde, El Omari, and Maadi. Upper Egypt had settlements in Der Tasa, Badari, El-Amra, and Gerzeh. The cultures that grew from the settlements had built cities upwards of 5,000 people, and agriculture subsisted their growth.


Pottery from the three eras of Naqada (Image: adapted from Petrie & Mace, 1901)

It was circa 4400 bce that the culture that was named for the town of Naqada began its course to become the dominant culture in ancient Egypt. Divided into three time periods, the Naqada culture displays their intelligence with copper tools, trade routes to the Oases, between Upper and Lower Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia and the Near East, stylistic pottery, distinct burials and most importantly, writing.

Naqada I

Mudstone palette in the form of a hippopotamus. Predynastic, Naqada I. 4000-3600 BC. EA 29416. (Image: British Museum, 2021)

Naqada I, circa 4000-3500 bce, is also named the Amratian culture for the site of Al-amra, in Upper Egypt. Trade with Nubia, Ethiopia, Lower Egypt, Western Desert Oases, and Eastern Mediterranean are attested by trade good artifacts. Naqada Egyptians began using reed boats to row the Nile, and slaves were also evidenced taken at this time. We also see cosmetic palettes made with animal motifs, and each city had its own patron animal deity. A predynastic temple of Seth is also found at Al-Amrah.

Naqada II

Amulet in the shape of an elephant head / bovid Provenance unknown (Egypt) Naqada II D No. ÄM 14964 (Image:
 Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection)

Naqada II, circa 3500 – 3200bce, is named Gerzean after the site of Gerzeh. While separated from Naqada I, Gerzean culture seems to have been unbroken from Amratian, though distinct as it attempted to acculturate Nubians of the Amratian culture and failed. We see significant influence of Mesopotamian culture on Naqada II, but little evidence of the previously attested and so-called Dynastic Race or Mesopotamian ruling class. It is presumed increased trade occurred with by way of the Red Sea into the near east, but it is also possible small migrations from Mesopotamia caused the influence. Proto hieroglyphs are recognized on Gerzeh pottery. Grave goods are increased in this period, with imports of ivory, gold, cosmetic palettes, and the production of meteoric iron beads, which are the earliest found use of iron.

Naqada III – Semainean – Protodynastic Period

Great Hierakonpolis Palette
Great Hierakonpolis Palette, recto. Naqada III. (Image: Narmer Palette, (recto), n.d.)

Evolving into Naqada III or the Semainean, also called Protodynastic Period, circa 3200-3000 BCE, a period of political unification when Upper and Lower Egypt was united as the Two Lands under one ruler the naswt-bity – he of papyrus sedge and honeybee. This period of two hundred years is marked by city rulers battling over dominance for the two Lands. You can imagine skirmishes occurred more frequently, both physical and verbal. One need only look to the literature of myths and legends to see how this was remembered. The city patron gods of Satash or Seth transitioning from agriculture to confusion and rebellion as the need arose. Horus, whose name permeated throughout the north and south in many different forms and stories. Sycretisms of different deities as they formed exchanges and mergings. The Two Lands were well related culturally and linguistically, but still considered separate regions. Upper and Lower Egypt had grown culturally distinct from the lands south of the first cataract barrier on the Nile, known today as Nubia.  The Two Lands had to be united under one ruler. To date, the most evidence discounts clans or tribal rulers forming a dynastic succession. The rulers of  Lower Egypt, known as bity – honeybee, with the red crown and  Upper Egypt rulers the Naswt – from the words n, hieroglyph of water – meaning of  – and swt, meaning Sedge  – of the Sedge battled at this time for supremacy.  This is also a period named the Thinite Confederacy, which is hypothesized that tribal nobles from Thinis who warred with Nakhan or Hierakonpolis. At this point, there appears to be no clan or tribal rulers that band together. In the end, there was only one victor and one defeated.

Ivory tiles. Tomb of Scorpion, U-j, Abydos (image: Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

 In Abydos are found burials by Upper Egyptian rulers, such as the tomb of scorpion, where the first Egyptian hieroglyphs are found on ivory tiles. During this time, funerary tombs were more elaborate, with extensive use of Abydos as a royal necropolis. Rulers used the sarakh (srx), or serekh, a hieroglyph that represented the royal courtyard, would surround the royal ruler’s name. From graphical narratives, the rulership was one of conquest from Upper Egypt vanquishing Lower Egyptian rulers. We also see first evidence of irrigation in royal depictions. Sails were attached to boats, and thus saw further travelling on the Nile. the Protodynastic period is divided further into two so-called dynasties, though no corroborating evidence displays the interrelations of the rulers of the north and south during this period.

bityw – Lower Egyptian Rulers

In Lower Egypt, attestations of bity originate to at least 3300bce. More precise dates are unknown, and sometimes can only approximate to the 300 years from the Naqada II and III periods.  

Har Hadjw – Horus of the White Maces

The first ruler for discussion is known as Hr HDw – Horus of the white maces, also commonly Hedju Hor. Depicted on two clay jug from the limestone mine Trayw, or modern Turah,

and another from Abu Zeidan in the northeast Nile delta region, depicted Horus perched on a royal courtyard or sarakh with three white maces within. A fourth Hadj mace is depicted on the right side. Toby Wilkinson and Jochem Kahl both believe that Har Hadjw was not in fact a predynastic pharaoh, but rather a ruler of a small proto-state and instead would think of him as a King, ordained by the god rather than a living Horus. However, Wolfgang Helck and Edwin van den Brink believe he can be identified as the ruler being depicted on the Narmer palette as being vanquished by the pharaoh Narmer.

Northeast Delta, (Image: Metropolitan Museum, 2021
Drawing from Northeast Delta Jar (Image: Fischer, 1963)
Drawing of srx. Clay Jar from Turah (Image: Fischer, 1963)
Drawing of srx. 2nd Clay Jar from Turah (Image: Fischer, 1963)

Har Naya – Ny-Hor – Belonging to Horus

ny-Hor srx
Turah. Site T. 6 .. 9. Reg. # KHM AS 6808. (Image; van der Brink, 2001)
Drawing of KHM AS 6808. (Image: van den Brink, 2001)
Drawing of KHM AS 6808 jar

Dated to reigning approximately 3200-3175 bce from clay vessel inscriptions found in tombs at Tarkhan, Turah, and Tarjan in Lower Egypt, and in Naqada in Upper Egypt is Hr n – commonly called ny Hor, spelled ny – as linguists will place the ya to make it grammatically correct. his serekh contains the hieroglyph for water, na – which is a preposition meaning “belonging to, making his name ‘Belonging to Horus.’

Turah. Site T. 9.g.1 (Image; van der Brink, 2001)

Ludwig David Morenz suggests his name is Hunter of Horus, most likely based on the alternate grammatically correct spelling, as in the ancient Egyptian language ny means Hunter. The existence of Har na is controversial, as several Egyptologist like Toby Wilkinson believe Har na is an alternative name to Narmar. However, Günter Dreyer, Thomas Schneider, and Werner Kaiser all find the human remains in the graves found bearing Har na in their goods predate Narmar.

Har Ha’at – Hor Hat

Drawing of srx from Tarkhan, Site T. 1702. U.C. 16084 (Image; van den Brink, 2001)
Drawing of Jar containing srx from Tarkhan. (Image; van den Brink, 2001)

Har HAt – commonly called Hor Hat or Hat Hor, is attributed as a Lower Egyptian Bitya from pottery vessels bearing his srx in predynastic burials of the Tarkhan necropolis. Egyptologists recognized the crude hieroglyph inside the srx as the Forepart of a lion, pronounced HAt, and means foremost or chief, this interpretation makes this ruler the Foremost of Horus or Horus – ruler.

Royal Annals of the Old Kingdom Egypt

Palermo Stone. (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

The next eight rulers are named as Bitya Pharaohs in the Royal Annals of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, or Palermo stone, also Cairo Annals Stone, and refer portions of a relief that depict Bityaw and Naswt-Bityaw from the Predynastic to the 5th dynasty in the Old Kingdom. It is estimate that as many has one hundred twenty predynastic rulers were inscribed on the fully intact stela. Beneath each srx is the representation of a Bitya – ruler of Lower Egypt – a seated man with beard and the red crown of lower Egypt, known as the dasharat – red crown

While no other archaeological evidence of the reign of these Bityaw are yet found, meanings of their names can be suggested through morphology – linguistical study of the forms of words.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pu.png
Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

Only a partial inscription remains of the preceding ruler of lower Egypt, which in addition to the determinative of the seated ruler with the flail and red crown is a portion of the quail chick – w.

Saka’a – Hsekiu – Seka

ska cartouche - Palermo Stone
Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

The next srx bears the same of s kA, Common name in Egyptology are ‘Hsekiu’ or ‘Seka. The hieroglyphs that make up the name of skA are folded cloth and Upraised arms holds a multitude of meanings and is used to spell a variety of words from ‘spirit’ to ‘bull.’ All hieroglyphic phrases that contain skA refer to cultivating and crops. This idea is the foundation of the establishment of the rulership of ancient Egypt. The pharaoh was primarily connected with the inundation and was responsible for causing the nutrient rich silt to fertilize the flood plains where the crops were planted as displayed on the Narmer palette.

Hieroglyphic Analysis

Saka’s hieroglyphs are etched on a slab of stone resembling black basalt. Three single hieroglyphs written in the old kingdom style, in a single column, right-left, top-bottom.

 hieroglyph S29 - folded cloth - s
s folded cloth
The folded cloth is often used as one of the basic phonemes of the language.

hieroglyph D28 - Upraised arms
Upraised arms holds a multitude of meanings, and is used to spell a variety of words from ‘spirit’ to ‘bull.’

hieroglyph A45 - Lower Egyptian Pharaoh
of the Sedge – Seated king holding the flail and wearing the crown of Lower Egypt.

Morphological Analysis

The exact meaning of Saka’ is uncertain, but through further morphological analysis and examination of homophones, more understanding in the meaning of His name is possibly discerned.

hieroglyphs for skA - cultivate, plough
v. cultivate, plough
hieroglyphs meaning st-skA - ploughing
v. ploughing
hieroglyphs meaning skAA - plow ox
n. plow ox
hieroglyphs meaning skA - crops
n. crops

All hieroglyphic phrases that contain the bitya‘s name refer to cultivating and crops. This idea is the foundation of the establishment of the rulership of ancient Egypt. The pharaoh was primarily connected with the inundation and was responsible for causing the nutrient rich silt to fertilize the flood plains where the crops were planted as displayed on the Narmer palette.

Ça’a-iw – Khayu

Cartouche of XA-iw from the Palermo stone
Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

Ça’aiw‘s hieroglyphs are etched on a slab of stone resembling black basalt. Three single hieroglyphs written in the old kingdom style, in a single column, right-left, top-bottom.

hieroglyph K4 - Oxyrhynchus fish
Oxyrhynchus fish
Mormyrus kannume. (Image:(Saint-Hilaire, 1836)

The Mormyrus kannume or Elephant-snout fish is a freshwater species indigenous to several lakes and rivers in East, North and Northeast Africa, including the entire Nile river system. It is carnivorous, and feeds on animals in bottoms or benthos of their habitats.

Oxyrhynchus Fish Votive. Late Period, 722-332 BCE. (Image: Emory, 2021
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus, No. 932. Graeco-Roman Period, 332 BCE -395 CE. (Image: University of Illinois, 2008)

Though the Oxyrhynchus or ça’a fish was held sacred in Egypt, especially in later periods when it was considered the fish who ate the phallus of the deity Osiris. Votives of the the oxyrhynchus fish were made extensively in the Late Period (722-332 BCE). A fishing city known as Par Madja’a in Upper Egypt was named Oxyrhynchus in the Ptolemaic era. The Oxyrhynchus papyri are a 1st-6th centuries CE Judeo-Christian texts found in a rubbish heap in the ruins of Oxyrhynchus.

Hieroglyph E9 - newborn bubalis or hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus
newborn bubalus or hartebeest

iw, Newborn bubalus The bubalus is a genus of wild or semi-domesticated bovines that include bison from both old and new world continents. The horns were omitted in the hieroglyph sometime in Old Kingdom Giza.

Morphological Analysis

Unlike Saka’a, little is revealed through Morphology.

The closest relation with words beginning with XA is the curl of the dSrt red crown. The other word that is a possibility XAm – bend down in respect. However, XAiw may be the name of a settlement or region, as there is a type of beer named the same with only the beer jar and plural lines added.

Hieroglyphs for XAbt - Red Crown curl
XAbt – n. Red Crown curl
hieroglyphs of XAyt - pile of corpses
XAyt – n. pile of corpses
hieroglyphs for XAy - thwart someone
XAy – v. thwart someone
hieroglyphs for XAXAti - storm
XAXat – n. storm
hieroglyphs for XAm - bend down in respect
XAm – v. bend down in respect
hieroglyphs for XAA - Resolute
XAA – adj. Resolute
hieroglyphs for XAb - sickle, clavicle
XAb – n. sickle, clavicle
hieroglyphs for XAbb - crookedness
XAbb – adj. crookedness
Hieroglyphs for XArt - widow
XArt – n.. widow

For iw, additional search for homophones resulted to add words that not only ended in the seated calf but also where the word is made from the seated calf, spelling, and determinative. This was the case of iw – wrongdoing and iw -lament, cry out. It is doubtful that a ruler would use the word ‘wrongdoing’ in his name, but ‘lament, cry out’ is a possibility if he was more warlike than his predecessors.

Dwiw - Jar
Dwiw – n. Jar
iw - Be Boatless
iw – v. be boatless
iw - dog
iw – n. dog
iw - lament
iw – v. lament
iw - wrongdoing
iw – v. wrongdoing


Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

Next inscribed on the Cairo Annals stone is tiw. The name is simply inscribed with the common alphabetic hieroglyphs of the bread loaf, t, flowering reed i, and quail chick w, pronounced as a suffix ‘oo’. tiw can me the word ‘yes,’ but it is not spelled the same. Looking at it morphologically, the suffix w can also be a plural. the word titi is the same morphologically and it is simply doubled ti, meaning to trample underfoot. A sound linguistic theory is that tiw can be titi and thus the ruler’s name would suggest tramplings, which is often used in martial contexts.

titi – v. trample (enemy)
tiw – n. yes


tjesh hieroglyphs
Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

TS – inscribed with basic alphabets of rope for tethering animals – T, and garden pool – S. nothing morphologically is apparent to discover the meaning of his name, but similar in pronunciation is Ts, with the folded cloth sa which means to sit.

Na Saka’a

Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

n-skA – of the plough, his srx is inscribed with the hieroglyph water and the determinative for plough. His relation is seemingly in relation to the earlier skA, but there are no corroborating records.

Wa’adj Bw – Wazner

Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

wAD-bw known as Wazner  – inscribed with the papyrus stem – wAD and the Barbus bynni  or African Barb yellow fish, found in North Africa and the Nile basin. wAD is found in words meaning fortunate, prosperous, or lucky, green, such as wAD wr, great green or Mediterranean Sea, greenstone malachite, or the green eye paint. the wAD papyrus stem also symbolizes the columns that make up the columned hall of a temple, with each hall representing the papyrus stems that his Isis and Horus from Seth. The papyrus stem is also in the name of the cobra goddess wADyt, or the green lady. The bw fish is found in the word for abomination.

wAD – Papyrus Stem
bw – Barbus bynni

wAD – adj. green, pale, fresh, raw, hale, sturdy, fortunate, happy, make green, make to flourish
wAD wr – n. Great Green
wAD – n. Greenstone – Malachite
wADyt – n. Edjo Cobra Goddess
bwt – n. abomination


Palermo Stone (Image: Schäfer, 1902)

Finally, from the Cairo Annals stone is mX – inscribed with the owl m and the animal body X with teats and tail. mX morphemes are mXnti ferry man or mXnt – ferry boat, and mXtw – intestines or colon. taking the hieroglyphs separately m is from, out of, in, or with. The lion body is sometimes used alone for the word belly, womb or sole of foot.

m – pre. from, out of, in, with
Xt – n. belly, womb, sole of foot
mXnti – n. ferryman
mXnt – n. ferry boat
mXtw – n. intestines, colon

Har-waya – Dju – Nebwy

Nebwy palette
Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva
 Naqada IIC – IIIB (?) (Image: Meyer, 1991)
Drawing from jar found in Turah (Image: van den Brink, 2001)

Hr-wy – double falcon is attested from multiple finds of his srx with two falcons perched above. Egyptologists also refer to Hr-wy as Dju or Nebwy. Hr-wy’s srx was first found inscribed on a jar at el-Mehemdiah in the Northeast Nile delta region. Found also in a tomb at Tura on a jar, as well as in the Sinai Peninsula, in Tell Ibrahim Awad in the eastern Delta. In upper Egypt, his srx was found in Adaima and Abydos and even in the Palmahim quarry in southern Israel. It is also possible that the srx of Hr-wy was inscribed on the verso side of what is called the Libyan palette, which shows what may be towns or royal names with animals grasping above them.

Drawing and jar found in the Sinai. (Image: van den Brink, 2001)
Drawing from jar found in el-Beda (Image: van den Brink, 2001)
Libyan Tribute Palette. (Image: Grand Egyptian Museum, 2018)


Depiction above the head, possibly Hr HDw. Narmer Palette (recto), n.d.)
Wa’ash as depicted on the Narmer palette. (Image: Narmer Palette (recto), n.d.)

The last Lower Egypt Bitya attested to the Protodynastic period can be found vanquished on the Narmer palette, now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. A man is depicted on his knees, his hair being grasped by Pharaoh Narmer, who is readying to smite him over the head with his HD white limestone mace. The hieroglyphs for Harpoon and Lake are inscribed next to his head, which Egyptologists have pronounced as Wash. He is believed to have reigned at Buto when they were the two cities of Pa and Dap. However, some Egyptologists believed that the Narmer palette is a sensational piece of propaganda and thus Wash may not have been an actual Naswt. Other Egyptologists believed that this is a depiction of Hr HDw due to the depiction above his head being reminiscent of his srx.

Dynasty 00

Hierakonpolis Tomb 100 (Painted Tomb). Naqada IIC c. 3500BCE. (Image: Cialowicz, 2001)

Dynasty 0 was added to the Protodynastic period when discoveries of Naswtw Upper Egyptian rulers displaying pharaonic characteristics reminiscent of the early dynastic naswt-bityw of symbolism and myth surrounding the rulership of ancient Egypt. Later, Egyptologists preceded a Dynasty 00, to differentiate the Naswtw directly preceding the first dynasty to an earlier dynastic rulership.

GaHas – Gazelle

Statue of Min at Coptos. (Image: Williams, 1988)

gaHas, or gazelle, is dated to 3250 b.c.e, but most likely did not exist. Its origin is from the head of the statue of Manw (Min) at Coptos. The statue is carved with an impaled gazelle’s head on a frond or stick. This was inscribed at the corner of the mouth. While it is surmised by early Egyptologists to be a pharaoh’s name, it is more likely a place name or settlement group.


Statue of Min at Coptos. (Image: Williams, 1988)

Also known as finger snail, his hieroglyphs are from the tomb of scorpion in U-J at Umm el-Qa’ab in Abydos, and from two statues of Manw (Min) at Coptos. His being a genuine ruler is highly contested, as it may also be a town that taxes were sent to Scorpion.


Fish is also a contested naswt, the fish hieroglyph is found on artifacts dated 3250-3220 BCE, including an ivory tile found in the tomb of scorpion. This is also most likely a settlement group instead of an actual ruler

Har pa – Pe-Hor – Elephant

Site 34 rock cut inscription. Western Desert. (Image: Wilkinson, 1995).
Site 34 rock cut inscription. Western Desert. (Image: Wilkinson, 1995).

Hr-p – also known as Pe-Hor, Pen-abu or elephant, has a reign dated between 3240–3220 BC, and is attested by an inscribed vessel with his srx found at Qustul on the eastern bank of the Nile in southern Nubia, as well as the western desert near Armant. His srx contains the crude hieroglyphs that resemble woven reed stool, pronounced pa, above a what is interpreted by Egyptologists to be an elephant. Above the srx is seated the falcon Hr or Horus. There are three words in the known ancient Egyptian language that with the morpheme pa: base for a statue, the town of Pa or pe, and, belonging to. none of these words have a determinative that even approximates what is called the elephant determinative.

Stork, Canine, Bull

These rulers are attested by German Egyptologists and may not have existed. There is little evidence these men existed and are likely inventions of modern Egyptologists.


Drawing of Gebel Tjauti Rock Inscriptions. (Image: Peden, et. al., 2004)
Gebel Tjauti Rock Inscriptions. (Image: Peden, et. al., 2004)

Considered the first ruler of Upper Egypt is Scorpion, known by his scorpion hieroglyph. His name could have been wHa or srq. He is believed to have ruled in Thinis, and his tomb being U-j in Abydos where the first known Egyptian hieroglyphs were found. Also found on the archaeological Theban Desert Road Survey were inscriptions of Scorpion depicting his victory over another protodynastic Naswt, likely from Naqada. After defeating this Naswt, it is believed Scorpion united Upper Egypt under him.

Tomb of Scorpion. U-j, Umm el-Qa’ab. (Image: Kinnaer, 2014)

Dynasty 0

Gebel al-Arak Knife. Louvre Museum. (Image: Marc, 2021

Dynasty 0 has four Rulers attested to circa 3170 b.c.e.

Har Shan MasaH Horus Crocodile

Jar with Crocodile srx. UC16947. Tarkhan tomb 1549. (Image: University College, London, 2000)
Cylinder seal fragment, UC16078, Tarkhan tomb 414, name destroyed. (Image: University College, London, 2000)
Drawing of cylinder seal fragment, UC16078, Tarkhan tomb 414. (Image: Friedman, et. al., 1992)
Drawing of Crocodile srx UC16947 (Image: Friedman, et. al., 1992)

Jar with crocodile srx. UC16071. Tarkhan tomb 315. (Image: University College, London, 2000)
Drawing of crocodile srx. UC16071, Tarkhan tomb 315. (Image: Friedman, et. al., 1992)

The earliest possible Naswt but highly contested is Hr Sn msH – taken from his srx of Horus or Hr perching over the palace façade  and within the crocodile determinative. The crocodile hieroglyph is found in the words msH and xnty meaning crocodile, the later also being a crocodile deity, but also words like skn – lust after, and aXm – insatiable spirit. Beneath the loop of rope Sn – which among others the verb of being overrun with crocodiles. Egyptologists Günter Dreyer’s and Edwin van den Brink noticed the coil of rope as shendiw, meaning the subduer. The morphology of the hieroglyphs indicate more akin to Horus of the Crocodile Army as a possible interpretation. However the only evidence of his reign are the srx of Hr Sn MsH on seal impressions and painted on burnt earthen jars in black ink, in tomb B-414 at Abydos and TT 1549, TT 315 at the Tarkhan necropolis. It is theorized thus that Hr Sn msH was a bity at Tarkhan, where the tomb attributed to him is found. The broken macehead found at the Hierakonpolis Main Deposit displaying a bity in the Hb sd pavilion, wearing the gold necklace of a predynastic bitya and the dSrt red crown. Only one hieroglyph remains of his inscription, and it is either interpreted as Crocodile or Scorpion. A linguistical difference in the phrase ‘brought from lower Egypt’ found on contemporary artifacts from the Dynasty 0 era designate the crocodile bity as being the earliest in the pharaonic lineage.

Har Ra – Iry Hor – Ro

Jar from tomb B1 in Umm al-Qa’ab, Abydos with the Hr-r srx. (Image: Van Den Brink, 2008)
Drawing of Hr r seal found in tomb of Narmer Umm el-Qa’ab Tomb B17/B18 Abydos. (Image: Weneg, 2012)

Hr r – known by Egyptologists as Iry-Hor or Ro, with the hieroglyphs of the Horus Falcon – Hr grasping a mouth in its claws – r. His reign was contested, as his inscriptions were not within a srx, However we know from his successor ka that his name is sometimes depicted without a srx. alternative theories disputed his rulership with believing the bird hieroglyph was a swallow instead of falcon, making it r wr – Great mouth. Others believe the inscriptions in his Abydos tomb was alternatively companion of Horus, or property of Horus. Supporting the reign of Hr r were the size of his tomb being contemporary with Ka and Narmer.  Finally, an inscription found in the Asiatic side of Egypt in the Sinai laid rest to the controversy and establishes Hr r as a Naswt. The inscription displays hieroglyphs indicating the name of Hr ra next to a srx clearing the place of the foundation at inbw HD, the city of Memphis, said by Manetho to be founded by the first pharaoh menes. This indicates Hr r is a predecessor to the nswt-bity of the first dynasty and began the plans for the first capital of unified Egypt. He is also known as the first historical figure that we know their name.

Ka’a – Ka

Water vessel from Abydos. British Museum. (Image: Udimu, 2009
Seal impression without Horus falcon. Abydos. British Museum (Image: Udimu, 2009)

Succeeding Hr r, is generally known as Ka or Sekhen. The precise meaning of his name is not confirmed. His srx has Hr perched above and sometimes not perched above with the hieroglyph inside of two arms grasping outward with thumbs. There are two hieroglyphs that match this configuration. First the hieroglyph for kA the spirit or bull among others. The other, sxn, the embrace, with the arms curved inward. He is the most attested predynastic pharaoh other than Narmer and Scorpion II, with artifacts spanning the South in Upper Egyptian Adaima, Abydos necropolis, several predynastic settlements in Lower Egypt, even as far north as Tel Lod in the Southern Levant. Also found at his burial site is the first evidence of the name of the wife of the Naswt, Ha, and also the earliest known queen in the world.

Water vessel from Tarkhan tomb 261 Petrie Museum, London, UC 16072 (Image: Udimu, 2009)
Drawing of sherd from Abydos. (Image: Weneg, 2012)
Sherd from his tomb, B7, B9, Umm el-Qa’ab, Abydos (Image, Weneg, 2012
Seal impression without the Horus falcon. British Museum. (Image: Udimu, 2009)
Drawing of the srxw Ka and his wife Ha from a water jar. Umm el-Qa’ab, Abydos. (Image, Petrie, 1894)


Scorpion Macehead. Kom el-Ahmar, Hierakonpolis/Nekhen. Ashmolean Museum. (Image: Davidson, 2016)
Scorpion Macehead detail. Ashmolean Museum. (Image: Udimu, 2010)

The last Naswt of Predynastic Egypt, by his hieroglyph of the Scorpion. He is most known by the scorpion ceremonial mace head found at Hierakonpolis, depicting the Naswt wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, panther belt buckle, shoulder sash, pharaonic kilt, and even false beard. He carries the hoe, and is presumed he is carrying out the sacred duty of a pharaoh and digging irrigation canals to widen the affects of the Nile yearly flood by depositing the nutrient rich silt further into arable lands. Behind him, a servant carries a bundle of wheat to seed the flood plain. Above, standards of deities in the form of animals are carried by servants of the falcon Horus, his brother the animal Seth, god of male virility Min or mnw, the falcon Nemty, the vulture Nekhbet, the cow Bat, and the wolf-jackal wp wAwt. This is depicted as well in the Narmer palette.

Drawing of Hierakonpolis vessel. (Image, Quibell, 1900)
Limestone vessel from the Main Deposit at Hierakonpolis, E. 347. Ashmolean Museum. (Image: Akhenatenator, 2014)

Small ivory tags display the scorpion holding different hieroglyphs, denoting different districts, or other hieroglyphs that may have a more grammatically organized meaning. Other inscriptions have Scorpion succeeding a six or seven leaf floral design that was used from dynasty 0 and 1 and again at the end of the third dynasty when it fell out of use. It is believed that it could be a district governor or nomarch, but still debated. Another depiction of Scorpion displays he wrestling two lions, clearly the continued Mesopotamian influence from the Naqada II era long established by trade routes. Within the reign of Scorpion II saw increased Mesopotamian influence in the tomb architecture, import goods, and the use of cylinder seals, bead collars, and tools. While the exact burial of Scorpion II is unknown, likely candidates of B50 at Umm El-Qa’ab near Abydos, and tomb HK6-1 at Hierakonpolis, the later of which was found the ivory tags. The establishment of the pharaonic dynasties are the culmination of thousands of years of human effort and settlement, the labors of which gave birth to he of sedge and bee ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt, establishment of the Two Lands.

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Published inRoyal Annals of Ancient Egypt

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