In 3100 B.C., Upper Egypt was more urbanized with cities like Thinis, Hierakonpolis, and Naqada, which developed fairly rapidly. Lower Egypt was more rural, with rich agricultural fields stretching up from the Nile River. Both regions had developed steadily over thousands of years throughout the Predynastic Period. Trade with other cultures and civilizations led to the increased development of Upper Egypt, which then conquered its northern neighbor, for grains or other agricultural crops, to feed the growing population.
Ancient tradition states a King Narmer was the ruler that unified the country. He is often referred to as 'Menes' or confused with Hor-Aha, his son. The exact details about his identity are debated among scholars. Details of his reign are vague, owing to the lack of records discovered, and to the difficulty in interpreting those inscriptions which have been found. Narmer most likely led military expeditions into Lower Egypt, Nubia, and Libya.
Religious practices and iconography developed during Narmer's reign with symbols such as the Djed and the Ankh.
The Narmer Palette
Egyptologist J.E. Quibell, who was excavating at Hierakonpolis in Upper Egypt in 1897, discovered the Narmer Palette. This amazing object had been dedicated toward the end of the Old Kingdom and was an ancient relic even then, over 1000 years old at the time it was buried. This object is especially rare because it reveals the unification of Egypt.
The Narmer Palette is a ceremonial stone, about 2-feet high, that is made of slate. It was used to grind cosmetics, but not for cosmetic use in daily life. It may have been used to grind cosmetics for offerings at a shrine to a local god.
Tomb B-17 and B-18
Narmer was buried in the necropolis of the kings of the 1st Dynasty at Abydos, known as the Umm el-Qa'ab. Why a burial at the southern city of Abydos? In the myth of Osiris, this was the sacred city where Osiris was buried. Flinders Petrie, the archaeologist we discussed earlier who developed the dating system for clay pots, excavated these tombs in the late nineteenth century. Petrie was not looking for treasure, he was looking for knowledge, and so he often excavated sites that other
archaeologists did not want. Petrie excavated here and discovered the earliest burials in Egypt. These tombs were simple underground mud-brick tombs and most had, in front of them, a stele – a round topped large stone often used as boundary markers by later kings.
Narmer's tomb consisted of two joined chambers (B17 and B18), lined in mud brick. As the tomb dates back more than 5000 years, and has been pillaged repeatedly from antiquity to modern times, it is amazing that anything useful could have been discovered in it. Inscriptions on both wood and bone, seal impressions, as well as dozens of flint arrowheads were discovered in Narmer's tomb, along with flint knives, and a fragment of an ebony chair leg. All of these items might be a part of the original funerary assemblage.
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