Go to site main page, student resources page,
Secondary Windows: Bibliography, Glossary.

Content created: 080726
File last modified: 150604
Chapter 11 Chapter 13

Egyptian Origins (12 Abridged)
Go to unabridged version.

Crushing All Opposition

Throughout Egyptian history, Pharaohs were described as ruling the "two lands" of Upper and Lower Egypt, and there are several pairs of symbols used in royal art to represent this: Papyrus was Upper Egypt, lotus Lower Egypt; vulture was Upper Egypt, cobra Lower Egypt; the sedge plant was Upper Egypt, the bee Lower Egypt. And so on. It is as though the two parts, however homogeneous each became internally, perpetually resisted the final step of full unification with each other.

Recognizing the difficulty of the final unification of the ecologically dissimilar Upper and Lower Egypts, Jill Kamil, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, developed a model (1984) in which the unification of the Egypt took place not in a single battle, but over about a century. Scorpion's mace head, she argued, was clearly a commemoration of military triumph, but probably not the successful unification of the Two Lands. And Narmer's palette might have represented more wishful thinking than historical reality.

Unification and Its Discontents. When unification finally did occur, it was not without its tensions, many of them visible to us in the continuing manipulation of symbols representing local interests. Most of the gods of the Egyptian pantheon seem to have had local affiliations, and initially every act of temple building or recounting of a myth encoded a claim of priority by one nome over another.

Recognizing how fragile the union was, First Dynasty kings created separate northern and southern versions of everything: granaries, advisory boards, treasuries. The early kings even appear to have had two tombs, one near Memphis and the other near Abydos (AH-be-dose) in Upper Egypt. [Note 14] Hor-Aha's palace at Memphis even seems to have had two separate entrances, one for each of the Two Lands (Kamil 1984: 31).

Previous Section Next Section
Contents Top of Page