The First Pharaoh – Facts

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The novel tells us the story of Narmer, the first king who unified the land of Egypt.

Narmer was an ancient Egyptian king of the Early Dynastic Period.Probably the successor to the Protodynastic kings Scorpion and/or Ka, some consider him the unifier of Egypt and founder of the First Dynasty, therefore the first king of a unified Egypt. The identity of Narmer is the subject of ongoing debate, although mainstream Egyptological consensus identifies Narmer with the First Dynasty pharaoh Menes, who is also credited with the unification of Egypt, as the first pharaoh. This conclusion is based on the Narmer Palette which shows Narmer as the unifier of Egypt and the two necropolis seals from the necropolis of Abydos that show him as the first king of the First Dynasty. The approximate date of Narmer/Menes is mostly estimated as close to the 31st or 32nd century BCE, although recent Egyptological literature comprises estimates of anywhere between the 34th and the 30th centuries BCE.

Narmer is the son of King Scorpion. Scorpion II, also known as King Scorpion, refers to the second of two kings or chieftains of that name during the Protodynastic Period of Upper Egypt.

When King Scorpion dies, his son commissions the mastaba where he is to be buried. A mastaba  is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with outward sloping sides, constructed out of mud-bricks (from the Nile River) or stone. These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt’s Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom.

Kaipunesut is the main architect in Narmer’s reign. He built King Scorpion’s tomb and also made a whole town, the capital of the unified kingdom.

Neith-Hotep was Narmer’s beloved wife in the book. Neithhotep (also written Neith-hotep) was an Ancient Egyptian queen consort living and ruling during the early 1st dynasty. She was once thought to be a male ruler: Her outstandingly large mastaba and the royal serekh ensnaring her name on several seal impressions led Egyptologists and Historians to the erroneous believe that she might have been a yet unknown king. As the understanding of early Egyptian writings developed, scholars learned that Neithhotep was in fact a woman of extraordinary rank. Along with this realization, scholars viewed her now as the wife of king Narmer and mother of Hor-Aha. But according to newest discoveries, Neithhotep was in fact the spouse of Hor-Aha and the motherly co-regent of king Djer. She was thus maybe the first known female pharaoh of Egypt.

Hor-Aha is the son of Narmer and Neith-Hotep in the book. Hor-Aha is considered the second pharaoh of the First Dynasty of Egypt. He lived around the 31st century BC and is thought to have had a long reign. There has been some controversy about Hor-Aha. Some believe him to be the same individual as the legendary Menes and that he was the one to unify all of Egypt. Others claim he was the son of Narmer, the pharaoh who unified Egypt. Narmer and Menes may have been one pharaoh, referred to with more than one name. Regardless, considerable historical evidence from the period points to Narmer as the pharaoh who first unified Egypt  and to Hor-Aha as his son and heir.

Something that surprised me is that there are several occasions on which the characters changed their names. For example, Narmer was called Nemi from birth, but he changed his name in his coronation. Also Neith-hotep was originally called El-Or, but she changed her name when she married Narmer.  All Egyptian’s names were carefully chosen, apparently for commoners and royalty alike. At times, some of the naming techniques of the ancient Egyptians could also lead to considerable confusion. This is obvious among some kings, who had a number of different names, but at times also changed their names, particularly when they inherited or otherwise ascended to the throne of Egypt.

 

Anhotek and Narmer created what they called the houses of life. In ancient times, each temple in Egypt had a branch called the House of Life. They could perform amazing feats with magic and could call upon the power of the gods.

 

We learn that it is in Abdju, or Abydos where the kings were buried. Abydos /əˈbdɒs/ is one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, and also of the eighth nome in Upper Egypt, of which it was the capital city. Considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt, the sacred city of Abydos was the site of many ancient temples, a royal necropolis where early pharaohs were entombed.These tombs began to be seen as extremely significant burials and in later times it became desirable to be buried in the area, leading to the growth of the town’s importance as a cult site.

Egypt is divided into nomes. The division of ancient Egypt into nomes can be traced back to the Predynastic Period (before 3100 BC). These nomes originally existed as autonomous city-states but later began to unify. 

Tjeni is the city where Meni or Narmer is born. Thinis or This (Egyptian: Tjenu) was the capital city of the first dynasties of ancient Egypt. Thinis is, as yet, undiscovered but well attested to by ancient writers, including the classical historian Manetho, who cites it as the centre of the Thinite Confederacy, a tribal confederation whose leader, Menes (or Narmer), united Egypt and was its first pharaoh.

Nekhen is another town that we see in the book, and it is Anhotek’s hometown. Nekhen or Hierakonpolis  was the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of the Predynastic period (c. 3200–3100 BC), and probably also during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC). Some authors suggest occupation dates that should begin thousands of years earlier. Nekhen was the center of the cult of a hawk deity Horus of Nekhen, which raised in this city one of the most ancient temples in Egypt, and it retained its importance as the cult center of this divine patron of the kings long after it had otherwise declined.

Ta-Seti  was the first nome of Upper Egypt, one of 42 nomoi in Ancient Egypt. Ta-Seti also marked the border area towards Nubia.

According to the novel, the unification took place after the Battle of Dep. Buto originally was two cities, Pe and Dep, which merged into one city that the Egyptians named PerWadjet. Archaeological evidence shows that Upper Egyptian culture replaced the Buto-culture at the delta when Upper and Lower Egypt were unified, and the replacement is considered important evidence for the unification of the two portions of Egypt into one entity.

Inabu-hedj is the town that Narmer created. That was Memphis. Memphis was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch, the first nome of Lower Egypt.  According to legend related by Manetho, the city was founded by the pharaoh Menes. Capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, it remained an important city throughout ancient Mediterranean history.

When the plot against Narmer is discovered, his stepmother is banished to Abu-Island. Elephantine is an island in the Nile River in northern Nubia. Known to the Ancient Egyptians as Abu or Yebu, the island of Elephantine stood at the border between Egypt and Nubia. It was an excellent defensive site for a city and its location made it a natural cargo transfer point for river trade.

Egyptian religion is clearly an important topic in the novel. Horus is one of the main gods. Horus is one of the most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egypt specialists.These various forms may possibly be different perceptions of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality.He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine, or as a man with a falcon head. The earliest recorded form of Horus is the patron deity of Nekhen in Upper Egypt, who is the first known national god, specifically related to the king who in time came to be regarded as a manifestation of Horus in life and Osiris in death. Horus served many functions in the Egyptian pantheon, most notably being a god of the sky, war and hunting.

Maat or Ma’at was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.

When Narmer is born, Anhotek mentions the prediction of the seven Hathors. The Hathors were said to appear at the birth of a child in order to foretell its fate. In fairy tales this fate could be either good or bad. In a temple context the Hathors come to foretell the fate of a god or a king. In such cases their predictions are always positive, because that fits into the ideology of the temple. They are accompanied by music and singing and dancing.

There are constant references to people’s ka, which is the soul. The ancient Egyptians believed that a human soul was made up of five parts: the Ren, the Ba, the Ka, the Sheut, and the Ib. In addition to these components of the soul there was the human body (called the ha, occasionally a plural haw, meaning approximately sum of bodily parts). The Ka  was the Egyptian concept of vital essence, that which distinguishes the difference between a living and a dead person, with death occurring when the ka left the body.

The ‘Ba’  was everything that makes an individual unique, similar to the notion of ‘personality’. (In this sense, inanimate objects could also have a ‘Ba’, a unique character, and indeed Old Kingdom pyramidsoften were called the ‘Ba’ of their owner). The ‘Ba’ is an aspect of a person that the Egyptians believed would live after the body died, and it is sometimes depicted as a human-headed bird flying out of the tomb to join with the ‘Ka’ in the afterlife.

Anhotek tells little Meni the story of the creation. At first, there was only Nun. Nun was the dark waters of chaos.  Out of this chaos  rose the primordial hill, known as the Ben-Ben, upon which stood the great god Atum. Atum looked upon the nothingness and recognized his aloneness and so he mated with his own shadow to give birth to two children, Shu (god of air) and Tefnut (goddess of moisture). Shu gave to the early world the principles of life while Tefnut contributed the principles of order. Leaving their father on the Ben-Ben, they set out to establish the world. In time, Atum became concerned because his children were gone so long and so removed his eye and sent it in search of them. While his eye was gone, Atum sat alone on the hill in the midst of chaos and contemplated eternity. Shu and Tefnut returned with the eye of Atum (later associated with the Udjat eye, the Eye of Ra, or the All-Seeing Eye) and their father, grateful for their safe return, shed tears of joy. These tears, dropping onto the dark, fertile earth of the Ben-Ben, gave birth to men and women.

 

There are also references to seasons and the way time was divided. For example, there is a mention of the time of akhet. The “Akhet season” ran approximately from mid-July to mid-November in Ancient Egypt.  It is the first of three seasons of the ancient Egyptian calendar—the inundation season. This was the time of the Egyptian calendar year when the Nile waters flooded farmland and brought much nutrients to the tilled soil.

The Season of the Emergence, or Proyet, or Peret,[1] was the second season or Winter season of the Egyptian calendar. It fell roughly between early January and early May. Peret falls after the Season of the Inundation, also known as Akhet.

Hapi was the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. The flood deposited rich silt (fertile soil) on the river’s banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops.Hapi was greatly celebrated among the Egyptians. 

One important event that Narmer mentions is the hunting of the hippopotamus to celebrate the receding of the Nile. From the First Dynasty onwards, some pictures have been found with scenes in which the king hunts alone, as the hippopotamus became the symbol of chaos and evil. Hunting the hippopotamus displayed the king’s unmatched power.

 

 

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