Ancient Man and His First Civilizations

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The Scorpion Macehead

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This macehead depicts a King or Chieftain wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt in full ritual dress, with the bull’s tail representing power, hanging from the back of his belt. The multi-pedaled rosette or star at this time was used to identify Egyptian kings and in fact, in neighboring Sumer, signified divinity itself. It is shown in front of his face, along with a clearly drawn scorpion sign, thereby giving his name as Srqt, or Scorpion. In another example of convention in Egyptian art, this kingly, perhaps quasi-divine figure is drawn towering over his companions and attendants.

King Scorpion is shown accompanied by his high officers, who carry standards on which are displayed symbols, which represent districts into which Egypt is divided. Many of these district symbols are familiar throughout Egypt’s history. Two of these interestingly enough are Set (Seth) animals, showing that even at this very early time, followers of Seth supported the royal clan; (in later time, civil war will break out between the followers of Seth and the followers of the other preeminent God – Horus.) other symbols represent falcons, a jackal, the god Min, and possibly the mountains. If these are accurately interpreted as regional standards, then there are more shown here than on the Narmer palette (below).

On this mace-head, Scorpion is apparently performing a ceremony using a hoe. Perhaps he is opening the irrigation dykes to begin the flooding of the fields, or perhaps he is cutting the first furrow for a temple or even a city to be built - even today, moving the first shovel-full of dirt in a foundation ritual, is a kingly prerogative. The decorative frieze around the remaining top of the mace-head has lapwing birds hanging by their necks from vertical standards. In hieroglyphics these rekhyts have been interpreted to represent the common people of Egypt, and the frieze seems to indicate that they were conquered by King Scorpion.

However, some authorities have interpreted the rekhyt symbol as only later representing the Egyptian population, whereas early in pre-dynastic history the rekhyts referred to foreigners or non-Egyptians instead. Thus the Scorpion mace-head and Narmer palette may represent the respective rulers as having successfully defeated foreigners.