Ancient Man and His First Civilizations


The Gebel el Arak knife


Depiction of a predynastic battle scene

This flint knife with a carved ivory handle was found near Denderah. It is one of the oldest examples of bas-relief carving. The whole knife is 25 cm, the handle about 10 cm long.

It depicts two groups of men fighting each other above two rows of ships. The men attacking from the left are armed with clubs, maces and short bows, while the other group seem to be unarmed. This may mean a raid against civilians. They all wear penile sheaths and are barefoot - suggesting a very ancient raid.

On the reverse side, a man in the attire of a Sumerian Priest-King is depicted holding two lions apart. The lion usually symbolizes a King. Therefore this scene may represent a Sumerian King acting as a mediator between the two warring kingdoms depicted on the front side.

None of the people depicted on this knife appear to be Egyptian, therefore this may be a Mesopotamian knife presented to an Egyptian King as a gift, or taken as booty. It brings to mind the following excerpt from the legend of Sargon.

From the Legend of Sargon the Great: Not content with just dominating Sumer, and having a desire to secure favorable trade for Agade throughout the known world. Sargon continued on to defeat cities along the middle Euphrates and into northern Syria and the silver-rich mountains of southern Anatolia. He also dominated Susa, a city in Elam, which encompassed the Zagros Mountains of western Elam. Elam is also where the only truly contemporary record of his reign has been uncovered.

It is said that such was his fame that some merchants in an Anatolian city, probably in central Turkey, begged him to intervene in a local quarrel, and, according to the legend, Sargon, with a band of warriors, made a fabulous journey to the still un-located city of Burushanda (Purshahanda). At the end of which, little more than his appearance was needed to settle the dispute.