Gebel el-Arak Knife, Louvre

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The Gebel el-Arak Knife is a 25.50 cm long knife dating from circa 3300 to 3200 BCE, the late pre-dynastic period in Egypt which when it was purchased in Cairo was said to have been found at the site of Gebel el-Arak, south of Abydos.

The beautiful description that follows is from: Petrie, W.M. Flinders. The Making of Egypt, London. New York, Sheldon Press; Macmillan, pp. 65-66, 1939. Petrie is famously known as “The Father of Pre-history”.
“It was probably presented to some great chief. The flint blade of the knife was a fine example of parallel flaking. The ivory handle is carved in relief on both sides. On the top of the first side is shown a combat between short-haired men with bullet heads and long-haired men. The bullet heads, like the followers of Narmer, are in all cases getting the better. Both parties are unclothed, but wear a waist cord to hold up a dagger sheath. The invaders only are armed, using a truncheon. In the lower scene are two lines of ships, and drowned men lying in the sea between them. The upper line is of vessels with high prow and stern, the lower has vessels with cabins like the Egyptian. This is Egyptian history what the Bayeux tapestry is to English history, a national monument of conquest. Happily this is not the only representation of these opposing people, but they are shown also on the one painted tomb at Hierakonpolis. There are also combats of black men overcoming red men.
Adding to the history, there is on the other side of the knife handle a figure of a hero or divinity subduing two lions. Such a group is widely spread, anciently, with lions in Elam, Mesoptamia and Greece; tigers in the Harappa of India; winged bulls or horses in Assyria; ibex in Arabia and deer in Italy; wolves at Athens; swans in Greece. For various animals we see that the idea is not the restraint of violence, but the assumption of power over all Nature, however untamable. Such then is the purpose of this group, and the source of it is a cold country, for the hero has a thick coat and cap, and the lions have thick hair under the whole body as a protection in snow. It must be from mountainous Elam and not from the plains of Mesopotamia that the figures come. The two beautiful figures of dogs belong to the Babylonian myth of Etana on the flying eagle, with two dogs looking up after it. Below these are exquisitely spirited figures of animals, the connection of which we cannot realize in the broken connection.”

Some believe that the “hero” pictured is Gilgamesh and this prompts us to examine the relationship between Mesopotania and Egypt. Not much is known about the trade between these two civilizations but some provocative theories have been advanced.

Mizraim is an ancestor of the Egyptians as mentioned in the Bible. Since Menes is known as the first pharaoh of the united Egyption kingdoms and is considered by some historians to be the founder of Egypt, Greek historians Manetho and Herodotus deduced that the name “Menes” is similar to Mizraim. Another more recent author, Louis Waddell, took this idea several steps forward.

From Egyptian Civilization Its Sumerian origin & Real Chronology And Sumerian origin of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, by Louis A. Waddell, copyright 1933.
Waddell contends, “that Sargon ruled about 300 years earlier or about 2800 BC and that his empire was much bigger than we believe today, incorporating part of India and Egypt. He claims that Egyptian hieroglyphs are a slightly modified conventional form of the Sumerian diagrammatic picture-writing which came into use during the rule of Menes and the 1st dynasty pharaohs, they have the same phonetic values as their parent picture signs in Sumarian. He claims the pre-dynastic pharaohs of Egypt were Sumerians from about 2780 B.C.

He finally contends that Sargon had a son Menes, who was the prince of Sumeria and governor of the Sumerian Indus Valley, and that Menes took 60,000 troops to Egypt and made it his own kingdom, thus uniting north and south Egypt and became the first Pharoh. I am not sure that his theories are held in great esteem by mainstream historians but his theories do seem to have made the rounds on the Internet.

Egyptological consensus identifies Narmer with the Protodynastic pharaoh Menes (or “Merinar” reversing the two hieroglyphs that spell “Narmer”). Menes is also credited with the unification of Egypt, as the first pharaoh. For those who think the two are separate, not much is known. The famous Narmer Palette, seen to the right, discovered in 1898 in Hierakonpolis, shows Narmer displaying the insignia of both Upper and Lower Egypt, giving rise to the theory that he unified the two kingdoms in c. 3100 BC.
There do seem to be records of a mass immigration of people called the ‘Shepherd Folk’ into Egypt from ‘The East’ at around the same time as the decline of the Sumerian Empire and the simultaneous rise of the Egyptian Dynasties. (c. 3,000 B.C.)