sábado, 23 de marzo de 2019

Istopia Historia nº 86 - El periodo Predinástico egipcio

Buenos días, amigos. En esta entrada os traigo mi última colaboración con el programa de Juan Ramón Ortega, Istopia Historia, en radio Iznájar. En este programa hemos estado hablando sobre el Periodo Predinástico, el rey Narmer y el llamado Rey Escorpión, de los cuales también podéis leer dos artículos en el blog.
Juan Ramón Ortega presenta el programa de historia de Radio Iznájar, Istopia Historia. Esta semana con Isabel Bueno conocemos a Malinche, un personaje poco conocido pero muy relevante en la conquista de México; Javier Ramos nos acerca a la historia y curiosidades del circo; finalmente, viajamos a Egipto con María Isabel Cubas para conocer más sobre la vida del rey Escorpión.
Paleta de Narmer
Podéis escuchar y descargar este programa y otros en este enlace de Ivoox: Istopia Historia nº 86. Espero que os guste.

lunes, 11 de marzo de 2019

The origins of Egypt: from the Dinasty zero to king Narmer

The Dinasty Zero (3200-3000 BC)
The Dinasty 0 is situated in the Predynastic Period of ancient Egypt's History (5300-3000 BC), and has the first known monarchs, like the Scorpion King. These kings are prior to the unification of Egypt by Narmer.
Chronology of the Predynastic Period. Source: "Historia del antiguo Egipto", Ian Shaw
The aridity caused by the progressive desertification of what we know today as the Sahara desert during the Neolithic, which had previously been a huge savanna full of vegetation and large herbivores to hunt, forced the human groups that lived there to seek refuge in the fertile banks of the Nile.
Thus, in time, two centers or regions with different material cultures emerged in Egypt: one in the north (Lower Egypt) and another in the south (Upper Egypt).
In Upper Egypt, where the culture of Nagada was born, cities such as Hierakonpolis, Nagada or Tiniswhose necropolis is Abydos, were founded. These cities would come to face each other for power.
However, over time and after a probable combination of wars and pacts, the kings of Tinis / Abydos would take control of these other rival cities of southern Egypt, eventually becoming the capital of the unified kingdom of Upper Egypt, establishing thus the real necropolis in Abydos (now Umm el-Qaab). Probably the protagonist of this unification of Upper Egypt in a single kingdom was the Scorpion King, buried in the U-J tomb.
Once unified all the Upper Egypt under a single king, the monarchs of Dynasty 0 put all their persistence in conquering the zone of the north, or Lower Egypt. We can see the fight between north and south in votive palettes, like the "palette of the vultures". But it would't be until the reign of Narmer that a king reunite both geographic zones under the dominion of a single person. 
"Palette of the vultures", named for the birds that devour the bodies of the vanquished. The lion represents the victor. It's a symbolic representation of the victory over the people of the land of papyrus, that is, of Lower Egypt, which is mentioned in the hieroglyphics
We have archaeological evidence of two possible men called Scorpion king:
  • First, the ritual mace of the "Scorpion King", found in the temple of Hierakonpolis, where we can see a king wearing only the crown of Upper Egypt. In the upper part, the hanged lapwings symbolize a series of provinces or tribes, possibly from the north, defeated and conquered. The king carries a hoe to open a dam, while a servant holds a basket to receive the earth; bearers of fans and banners and women dancing highlight the importance of such an act, which underlines the king's role as guarantor of prosperity and stability. However, this mace poses a problem, because the sign of the scorpion does not appear inside a serej (the box that represents the facade of the palace, with Horus on top, used at this time to write inside the name of the king), which supposes a unique exception with the rest of kings. Therefore, we can't consider one hundred percent that this king is another "Scorpion king". And in that case, given the similarity to Narmer's palette, it is possible that this king of the Mace of the Scorpion King is, actually, Narmer. 
    Scorpion king's mace
  • We have proof of the existence of a previous Scorpion King (100 years before)  in his tomb, U-J, located in the royal necropolis of Abydos, discovered in 1988 by archaeologists Werner Kaiser and Günter Dreyer.
We must make it clear that "Scorpion" wasn't their real name, but an epithet or title to identify the king with this powerful animal (as was the case of the title "Horus"). At this time the king wasn't called Pharaoh, that will be several centuries later.
Scorpion king's tomb in Abydos
Narmer, the unifier of Egypt:
Egypt was divided into two zones culturally, politically and geographically since the fifth millennium before our era: Lower and Upper Egypt.
There was a rivalry north/south (in addition to a progressive cultural influence of Upper Egypt on the north), but also there was  rivalry between the cities of Upper Egypt. Finally, it was Tanis / Abydos who took on the role of capital of the unified kingdom of the south. In this context, we find the king of Upper Egypt Narmer.
However, according to Manetho, who divided the history of Egypt into thirty-one dynasties in the third century BC, it was not Narmer, but Menes, who unified the country. Finally, experts have come to the conclusion that Menes and Narmer were the same person. Some authors even identify Menes with King Aha; but it's not sure, because other Egyptologists see Aha as the son and successor of Narmer / Menes. The difficulty in correctly identifying these first kings resides in their antiquity and the scarcity of archaeological remains that have survived to this day.

In the XIX century was found a ritual mace in the temple of the god Horus, in Hierakonpolis. In this mace we see a ceremony presided by King Narmer on his throne, already wearing the red crown of the north. Before him, parade the booty of war and enemies taken prisoner.
The unification supposed a slow process, that entailed first a cultural unification (influence of the culture of Nagada on the native one of the Low Egypt, that ended up disappearing) and finally a political unification, after numerous battles between the north and the south. Again, we can see these fights in the votive palettes, in which it's usual that the king appears in the form of an animal, such as a lion or a bull, destroying his enemy. This identification of the pharaoh with the bull will be constant in later times, and has its origin here.
Palette of the bull
To commemorate the victory over Lower Egypt and the unification of The Two Lands, Narmer had a palette prepared to be presented as an offering in the temple of Horus in Hierakonpolis. There it was found in the 19th century. Currently you can visit it at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
On one side we see Narmer with the white crown of Upper Egypt. The king holds in his hand a mace with which he prepares to hit his enemy. Next to it, the god Horus in the form of a hawk grabs the head of a man whose back sprout papyrus, the representative plant of the north. It symbolizes the victory of the Upper Egypt over Lower Egypt
On the other side, Narmer wears the red crown, preceded by a priest and several standard bearers; the enemies appear decapitated, with the heads and genitals between the feet for the count.
We can see a Mesopotamian influence in the "serpopardos" (leopards with serpentine necks), which would make clear the existence of a period of intense cultural exchange with that area.
The king appears in the lower register like a wild bull, knocking down the walls of a rebel fortress and trampling his enemies. This is a reflection of the modes of expression of prehistory. From now on, it would no longer be considered appropriate to represent the king as an animal.
We know that this palette belongs to Narmer because on both sides appears the king's name in hieroglyphics, formed by a chisel and a fish, inside a serej.
Finally, Narmer conquered the north and founded a new capital on the border between the two Egypts: Memphis. 
With Narmer begins the First Dinasty. When he died, the king was buried in the royal cemetery of Abydos.

*Artículo en español aquí.

- GUIDOTTI, María Cristina; CORTESE, Valeria. (2002): Antiguo Egipto. Tikal. España, Madrid.
- SHAW, Ian. (2007): Historia del antiguo Egipto. Ed. la esfera de los librosEspaña, Madrid. 
- SILIOTTI, Alberto. (2006): Egipto. Ed. Folio. España, Barcelona.

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