The Great Pyramid of Giza is believed to be around 4,600 years old. But this time around, archaeologists have discovered fascinating stuff that harks back to an even earlier age of Ancient Egypt, at the secluded site called Wadi Ameyra in Egypt’s Sinai Desert. We are talking about around 60 hieroglyphs that were carved on stone – probably the handiwork of mining expeditions sent to the area under the Egyptian pharaohs’ patronage. And interestingly, while these inscriptions were possibly etched to ‘mark’ the eastern zone under Egypt’s ownership, they have revealed information about the earlier rulers of the land who reigned more than 5,000 years ago.
One example pertains to a queen named Neith-Hotep, who took over the functions of a ruler while acting as regent to a young pharaoh named Djer. In other words, Neith-Hotep showcased her expertise in a guiding a state more than thousand years before Hatshepsut – the renowned fifth ‘queen’ pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt. And the scope is not just limited to grandiose statecraft that made its presence felt in the secluded Sinai Desert. The inscriptions have also revealed previously unknown information about Neith-Hotep, who was long believed to have a pharaoh husband named Narmer. But now the desert etchings have made it clear that instead of being married to a pharaoh, Neith-Hotep acted as a regent queen who preceded the pharaoh Djer.
Another interesting discovery made by the archaeologists relates to the founding date of Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt that was also referred to as the ‘White Walls’. Now according to ancient Greek and Roman sources, the royal city was supposedly founded by Menes, the legendary figure who reunited Upper and Lower Egypt, and subsequently started the First Dynasty. Some Egyptologists have identified Menes with Narmer, the ancient Egyptian king who succeeded the Protodynastic rulers in (possibly) 31st century BC. But the inscriptions of Wadi Ameyra refer to ‘White Walls’ (or Memphis) before Narmer was even born. As Pierre Tallet, a professor at Université Paris-Sorbonne, and the excavation team leader, said –
We have in Wadi Ameyra an inscription giving for the first time the name of this city, the White Walls,and it is associated to the name of Iry-Hor, a king who ruled Egypt two generations before Narmer.
Simply put, Memphis might have even older than previously thought. And lastly, the researchers have also found specific 5,200 year old drawings that depict boats. Three of such etched boat specimens showcase a ‘royal serekh’, a pharaonic ornamental vignette that sort of combines the facade of a palace and the top plan. Intriguingly enough, archaeologists have been able to salvage actual boat structures from the Giza complex and its set of pyramids. Among these excavated ‘artifacts’, the so-named Khufu Ship might actually be the world’s oldest intact ship from antiquity. However in this case, the depicted Egyptian boats are unsurprisingly more archaic in nature.
The study and its relating findings were reported recently in the book “La Zone Minière Pharaonique du Sud-Sinaï II” (Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, 2015).