Hierakonpolis is famous as the home of the Narmer palette, recording the unification of Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynasty, 3100 B.C. But 500 years earlier, this site was already one of the largest urban centers along the Nile. On-going excavations are revealing the tombs of regional kings who expressed their power in the size of their graves, and, most interestingly, with a royal menagerie of carefully buried exotic wild animals such as elephants, leopards, and troops of baboons to take to the afterlife. The menagerie gives us a glimpse of the reality behind many artistic symbols of power from this early period.
Plundered over the millennia, until recently the actual nature of the Hierakonpolis royal burials could only be assumed, but in March 2014 the discovery of a nearly intact tomb provided a tantalizing glimpse at the complex rituals that must have surrounded the burial of these early rulers. Even more remarkable, evidence of restoration of this tomb’s structure during the First Dynasty indicates the continued memory of, and respect paid to, the early Predynastic rulers some 500 or even 1000 years later.
Dr. Renée Friedman is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley in Egyptian Archaeology (1994) and has worked at many sites throughout Egypt since 1980. With special interest in the Predynastic, Egypt’s formative period (4000-3100BC), in 1983 she joined the team working at Hierakonpolis, the largest site of the predynastic period still extant and accessible anywhere in the Nile Valley, and went on to become the director of the Hierakonpolis Expedition in 1996. She has carried out excavations every season since that time, leading to the remarkable discoveries of breweries, temples and the elite cemetery where the early rulers of the site were buried along with an intriguing array of wild animals. Renee is currently the Heagy Research Curator of Early Egypt at the British Museum and the author of many scholarly and popular articles about all aspects of the site of Hierakonpolis.
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