Showing posts with label Pyramids of Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pyramids of Egypt. Show all posts

Thursday, 18 March 2021

New Study: Was the Sphinx Depicted on the Narmer Palette? | Ancient Architects

Back in June 2018 I made a video about what I believed to be the first ever depiction of the Great Sphinx of Egypt – this unusual object on the Narmer Palette.

Is this the Sphinx on the Narmer Palette?

It’s a controversial video for both mainstream Egyptologists and also alternative researchers because it implies that the Sphinx was already a monument at the beginning of Dynastic history, but also that it possibly wasn’t a lion or a jackal in its first incarnation – it could just have been a mound of rock with a human head.

Since the video I’ve had many positive and negative comments about the idea. I briefly alluded to it in a few recent videos on the Ancient Architects channel so I thought it would be good to take another look at the hypothesis three years on, after everything I’ve learned in that time about Giza.

For a start, after taking an independent look at the geology, hydrology and archaeology of the Sphinx, I find it very unlikely that the monument is 7-10,000 years old, a theory that has become very popular in the past 30 years after the work of John Anthony West and Robert Schoch, and although I agree that the erosion on the western enclosure wall is surface-run off, I don't think it is far more ancient than dynastic history. Climate data also shows that the River Nile would have been substantially higher during the African Humid Period and the area of the Sphinx would have been submerged for many thousands of years in the past 10,000 years, and we don't see the type of erosion this would cause on the Sphinx or the Sphinx enclosure today. 

I am in full agreement with independent geologist Colin Reader that the Sphinx enclosure was first dug out in the late Pre-Dynastic period, a theory that satisfies the known archaeology of Giza, the geological observations and also the climatic data. But saying that the erosion on the southern and western enclosure wall is pre-dynastic is fine, because we can look at the erosion patterns, but the Sphinx itself - the form we see it in today - could well be younger.

The oldest finds on the Giza plateau are from the pre-dynastic Maadi culture. Four jars were apparently found at the foot of the Great Pyramid in the 1800s, of course where there would have previously stood a natural mound. These and some other isolated pre-dynastic finds at Giza were interpreted by Mortensen as evidence for a late Pre-dynastic Maadi site at Giza, which was likely destroyed and cleared in dynastic history when the pyramid project began. As the jars were found intact, Mortensen believes pre-dynastic Giza was a burial site and not a settlement site.

So, for context, there is evidence of late pre-dynastic activity at Giza and that’s why I’m still looking into my hypothesis of the structure on the Narmer Palette being the proto-Sphinx.

So, let’s take a look at the idea in more detail. For a start, what is the Narmer Palette? Well, a palette is a daily use item commonly found in the pre-dynastic period, being a flat stone object used for grinding and mixing minerals for cosmetic purposes, like eyeliner. They were simple, functional objects and those that were elaborately decorated are thought to have been used in temple ceremonies. Some feature images of mainly animals, some humans, some both, but the Palette of Narmer is something extra special.

The front and rear of the Narmer Palette

It was found as part of a collection of objects that had been used for ceremonial purposes, ritually buried within an early temple dedicated to Horus at Hierakonpolis during late pre-dynastic times. There were hundreds of objects within the deposit, including ivory statuettes, carved knife handles, scorpion figurines, stone vessels and another decorated palette known as the Two Dogs Palette.

But the Narmer Palette is special because it is said to commemorate the first king of the first dynasty unifying Egypt, although in reality the unification process was not likely the outcome of one battle, but a series of political manoeuvrings that took place during the reigns of a number of kings, including Narmer.

Either way, the Narmer palette is specifically of interest because it is so early, dating back around 3,100 BC and it features a number of characteristics that can be seen in Ancient Egyptian art for the next three millennia. These include the way the scenes are organised, the way the figures are represented, as well as the regalia worn by the king, such as the kilt, crown, beard, bull tail and so on. King Narmer also has the famous smiting pose, which is seen right up to and beyond the New Kingdom.

Thutmose III of the 18th Dynasty, shown smiting his enemy.

One side of the Narmer Palette is thought to show Narmer’s conquest over an enemy in the north, an enemy by the name of Washa, as shown by the hieroglyphs next to his head, which some say is the battle that secured Narmer the control of Lower Egypt, unifying the country under his rule. Although, it is more likely that this is actually just one specific battle of many.

People believe it marks the unification because on one side of the palette, the king is seen wearing the crown of Upper Egypt. On the reverse he is wearing the crown of Lower Egypt, so it is therefore the earliest object found that seems to portray a single king wearing both crowns. Some believe it is therefore an object that marks the very beginning of dynastic history.

Experts cannot agree on the specifics of the palette’s iconography, but they do agree that it shows Narmer defeating an enemy from the northern marshlands. The clear difference in facial characteristics between the Egyptians in the north – thought to be from the Maadi culture, and the Horus kings from the south, is used by some as evidence for the dynastic kings being of a different race, but that is another subject altogether.

The side that shows Narmer smiting his enemy is the one I concentrated on in my video back in 2018. We can see him holding the hair of his enemy. Behind him is his sandal-bearer but directly in front of him is what I have always thought is the most peculiar item on the entire palette.

King Narmer smiting his enemy from the marshlands of the north.

We see a falcon with a human arm, which most believe is the god Horus, and I totally agree, due to the king of Upper Egypt’s association with Horus. Experts say that Horus is shown holding a rope tied to the nose of a strange head, which represents the enemy of the north because it is emerging from the marshes. The image of the marsh attached to the head is apparently meant to be like a personification of the people of Lower Egypt and experts say it is a unique symbol on the Narmer Palette because it was created to show how Narmer, the Horus-king, defeated the enemies of the north. The iconography was created just to tell this story.

Horus taking captive the people of the marshes.

The kings from the south were known as the Horus kings of Egypt so having a falcon or hawk, taking captive a figure representing the north of the country, is a fair way to represent the events that have taken place.

Experts also say that this image actually reads like one big hieroglyph. To break it down, the general consensus is that the flat section is the hieroglyph for land and the papyrus reeds are the hieroglyph for delta. The face is believed to be that of the enemy, so, what this translation says is that Narmer aka Horus has taken captive and defeated the people of the Nile Delta region in the North. Lower Egypt was known as Ta-Mehu so specifically, this symbol, together with the Horus hawk above, reads:

“Horus Restrains the people of Ta-Mehu”
Another interpretation is:

“The victorious Horus-king subdues the leader of the marshland”

This interpretation is all well and good but part of me still can’t get past the way it looks so I thought I’d investigate further. Firstly, did the Ancient Egyptians ever create stylised pictures using hieroglyphs as part of the picture? Did the early dynastic Egyptians integrate and animate hieroglyphs into scenes to help tell a story? On the palette itself hieroglyphs appear next to the heads of people as seen next to the enemy that Narmer is holding, next to the sandal bearer, and also next to Narmer himself on the opposite side. These hieroglyphs look separate from the main images, like they are annotating it, not a focus of it.

In my opinion the ‘Horus restraining the people or leader of Ta-Mehu’ symbol looks too large to be a hieroglyph. I just don’t know – it just doesn’t feel very "hieroglyphic" in relation to the rest of the imagery on the palette. But for a true balanced opinion, on the Abydos Label of Narmer, the catfish hieroglyph of the king looks to be holding a mace, so I guess that early hieroglyphs can be integrated into imagery to tell a story. But the early proto-hieroglyphs are not generally portrayed in such a manner.

The Abydos Label of Narmer shows the catfish hieroglyph as part of the scene.


So why have I bothered to pursue this whole hypothesis if the explanation is satisfactory? Well its satisfactory but it isn’t definite. And what if it’s wrong? The flat slab the head is protruding from could be a land hieroglyph, known as ta, but it’s such a generic shape that it could be something else.

Furthermore, the papyrus sprouting from the land could be the delta or marshland hieroglyph, known as Sha, but it could be implying something else. On the Abydos Label of Narmer there are 3 papyrus sprouts that experts say mean ‘Delta’ but on the Narmer Palette, there are six. Hieroglyphic dictionaries show three main papyrus stems and two smaller. Maybe I’m being too picky and specific but there isn’t total consistency amongst scholars.

A final point to make is really a genuine question: how often do we see human heads extending from other hieroglyphs to denote the people or leader of a region? A commenter on my video three years ago said a man’s head reads as “her” in ancient Egyptian, meaning boss or leader, but I can’t find any other examples of this and I can’t recall seeing human heads in hieroglyphic text before. Obviously I’ve not studied hieroglyphics in detail so I’m not an expert in the field of ancient language, but I do have some doubt over the orthodox explanation of this image on the Narmer Palette.

I do understand and I can take on board the mainstream assessment of the imagery being portrayed, but something about it still doesn’t work for me.

So, let’s go back a step or two. We can see that the face of the enemy from the delta or marshland is similar to the face of the enemy held by Narmer, so its safe to assume that the palette is telling us the story that Narmer has conquered or quelled an enemy in the north. Some say the rope held by the Horus bird could actually a hook but either way, it symbolises the breath of life that Horus is taking out of the fallen land. Either that or it is just taking it captive.

But two years ago, I made a different interpretation as to what the image is actually showing. It was still symbolic but it wasn’t hieroglyphic. I suggested that this is actually a stylised picture of the Great Sphinx – a real, physical symbol of the north of Egypt – taken captive by Narmer, depicted as Horus.

If the Sphinx did have a human head originally and if it was partly covered by sand, or maybe the paws of the lion were not even carved out yet, then maybe what we are looking at is a the earliest representation of the Great Sphinx, and the reason it is included on the palette, is because such a colossal statue would have been an iconic symbol of the north. It would have been THE symbol of Lower Egypt, and so Horus taking the Proto-Sphinx captive would also portray Narmer conquering the north.

Was the Narmer Palette showing the Proto-Sphinx in Phase 1 from the Maadi Culture?

Today if you ask someone to name three things from Ancient Egypt, they will probably say pyramids, the sphinx and King Tutankhamen. Today, the Sphinx is a symbol of Ancient Egypt known by adults and children alike around the world, so if it dates back to pre-dynastic times, situated at the juncture between Upper and Lower Egypt - so close to the main Maadi Cultural centre south of Cairo, well, it would have surely have been a powerful symbol back then, known by everybody in the land, north and south.

I came to the Sphinx interpretation for a number of reasons. First of all, it reminded me of this old photograph of the Sphinx partly covered in sand (see above) but there are also a number of similarities to later examples of Sphinxes in Ancient Egyptian art that really put me on this train of thought.

For example, as many 18th dynasty votive stele show, above the Sphinx is often a hawk holding an ankh that is aimed at the Sphinx.

Stela discovered at the Sphinx showing Horus above holding an ankh

Of course this is different to a hawk holding a hook or rope to the nose of the Sphinx, as on the Narmer palette, but the general layout of the Sphinx below and the hawk above is what is most striking to me. As Selim Hassan writes in his book ‘The Sphinx: Its History in the Light of Recent Excavations’,

“There is always a close connection between the hawk and the sphinx, due to its identification with the Gods, Horus and Horakhty, whose sacred bird was the hawk.”

Why Horus and Horahkty are associated with a lion and sphinx is somewhat of a mystery but a very interesting subject, and I’ll be making a video on this in the future.

The important thing to take home for the sake of this video is that the 'Horus or Horakhty hawk' was always associated with the Sphinx, shown in many examples of New Kingdom artwork and of course the New Kingdom personal name of the Sphinx was Horemakhet, meaning Horus the Dweller in the Horizon.

On the Narmer Palette, like New Kingdom artwork, the Horus hawk is once again above what I am calling the Proto-Sphinx, but this time it is being conquered by it which may explain the origins of the association between Horus and the Sphinx we know today. 

Because the Sphinx is being conquered by Narmer aka Horus, my hypothesis implies that it was originally an important monument to the lives of the indigenous people of the north, the people who Narmer is defeating on the palette and not the Horus kings of the south.

So if it is the Sphinx, why doesn’t it look like a lion on the Narmer palette? Well its possible the legs were not yet carved. The dynastic kings could have quarried down to turn this statue into a lion when the country was unified or even in the 4th dynasty. Alternatively the Sphinx monument could have been a larger piece of bedrock and the dynastic Egyptians simply carved into it to turn it into a lion and then also re-carving the head too. We simply don’t know, but stylistically, the lion aspects of the Sphinx matches the lion statuettes found in early dynastic tombs, indicating the sphinx lion could be early dynastic or Old Kingdom in origin.

Early Dynastic lion gaming pieces with the same form and style as the Sphinx, with the tail curling up and over the right hind paw.

There is also clear evidence of Old Kingdom repair-work to the Sphinx, yet if this statue was first carved out in the 4th dynasty, as Egyptologists lead us to believe, why are there repairs from the same era? It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe they are not repair blocks as such, but blocks that were essential to transform the existing pre-dynastic Maadi monument into a lion, to add rock where there was no rock.

Another key feature to address on what I am calling the Proto-Sphinx is the fan of papyrus stems on its back. Now, Papyrus was a symbol of the north just as the lotus was a symbol of the south. For example, powerful god of the Nile inundation, Hapi, was known as Hap-Meht in the north and was depicted with Papyrus plants. In the south he was called Hap-Reset and was depicted with lotus plants. After Egypt was unified these two gods are sometimes depicted together as twins with the lotus and the papyrus plants being tied together.

So, what am I getting at with this? Well, the key thing here is the fact there is a fan on the back of my proto-Sphinx as seen on the Narmer Palette. On many examples of New kingdom and Late Period imagery, the Sphinx is also shown with a fan on its back. In these later examples, it is a lotus fan, which makes sense because the lotus was a symbol of the Horus kings who originated in the south. But the Sphinx on the Narmer palette has a fan of papyrus on its back, which also makes sense if this was an original northern Egypt monument. We see the same symbolism but represented a different way.

Great Sphinx shown with a lotus fan on its back

Fans are often shown behind kings of Egypt and in the case of New Kingdom stele that show the Sphinx, the fan behind it is huge. It is always protruding from the Sphinx’s back. According to Manu Seyzadeh and Robert Schoch, the word for the fan symbol in the manner of the Sphinx is Shuyt, which denotes an attribute of the god of invisibility and air, known as Shu. He was the father of Geb and Nut, grandfather of Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys and great grandfather of Horus. His lioness wife was Tefnut and these 9 deities together were the original Ennead deities.

So the fan symbol may be related to the father of the gods, Shu, and in the first intermediate period, there is a very old depiction of the Sphinx with a feather on its head, an allusion to Shu.

Shu was a primordial god of Lower Egypt – the north – and although represented as a man primarily, in his function as a fighter and defender as the sun god he sometimes has a lion’s head. His wife Tefnut was a lioness goddess and together they were known as the twin lion gods. 

The southern Egyptian version of Shu was Anhwr, who eventually merged with Shu and Tefnut’s lioness equivalent was Anhwr’s wife Mehit, a goddess who Schoch and Seyzadah believe the original Sphinx monument identifies with.

Back to the Narmer Palette and as we have seen, the Delta or marsh symbol is displayed like a fan on the back of what I’m calling The Sphinx and could be the earliest representation of the Shu-fan seen on new Kingdom stele that portray The Sphinx – Shu being a father god that arose in Lower Egypt aka the north. In early dynastic times, the lotus flower used on New Kingdom stele was a symbol of the conquering kings from the south. Therefore, the lotus would not be be used on the back of the Sphinx on the Narmer palette – they would use northern iconography aka the papyrus. These are images portraying the same thing, but differently.

Comparing a New Kingdom Sphinx depiction with fan to the Narmer Palette

So, let’s take a step back again and compare New Kingdom depictions of the Sphinx with what I say is this Narmer Palette depiction of the Sphinx.

Both images have a human head connected to an inhuman body. Both have a variant of the Shu fan on their backs. Both have the Horus hawk above, one is giving life with the ankh symbol, one is taking life with the rope or hook. The layout of the imagery is very similar.

So, I think it’s a fair assumption that this could be an image of The Sphinx in pre-dynastic times. I would guess that the face of the Sphinx was re-carved from a northern king or god, to that of a dynastic king of the Old Kingdom, to change its form from the pre-dynastic legacy. Either is possible and the fact there are Old Kingdom blocks added does give some physical evidence to say it could have been an existing monument before the Old Kingdom, and blocks were necessary to transform it.

It’s not too unbelievable, because even the New Kingdom Egyptians had no idea when the monument was originally made. The earliest mention of the Sphinx is by Amenhotep II, who lived between 1448 and 1420 BC. On his great limestone stela in his Sphinx Temple, he mentions “the pyramids of Horemakhet”, which some say implies he thought the Sphinx was older than the pyramids. He also refers to the Sphinx as both Horemakhet and Horakhty, the latter being a god that is even older than Ra, who eventually merged with Ra.

Thutmose IV named the Sphinx Horemakhet-Khepri-Ra-Atum and he therefore considered the Sphinx to be some kind of equivalent to Atum, Khepri and Ra combined. These gods are mentioned in the pyramid texts but according to Selim Hassan, Horakhty is older than all of them. Therefore The Sphinx could be considered one of the oldest gods in Egypt, but this comes from New Kingdom texts, people who were probably as much in the dark as we are.

The 26th Dynasty Inventory Stele, possibly a copy of an older text, seems to agree with Amenhotep II, that the Sphinx is older than the pyramids, saying that Khufu restored it, an idea that seems possible because of the Old Kingdom blocks added to the structure.

The Inventory Stela, showing the Sphinx in the bottom left hand corner.


So, the Sphinx could well be older than the pyramids and based on the geology and archaeology of Giza, I agree with Colin Reader that the Sphinx enclosure is late pre-dynastic in origin, an idea that marries up with the known climate history and Nile levels in northern Egypt. I think it is possible there was a proto-Sphinx carved by the Maadi culture as there is evidence they were at Giza, and the Sphinx enclosure could have been re-cut by Khafre or Khufu in later times. They could have also dug down to turn or dug into the stone structure that was there, to turn it the into a lionesque figure. It may have originally had the head of a human, not a lion, a jackal or a hawk, all of which I’ve considered in the past.

If the Narmer palette does indeed portray the Sphinx, it implies the monument’s paws were not yet carved, and furthermore, it would imply that its original face was that of the enemy – possibly an indigenous northern ruler or god. So who’s face was it? Who were the enemy in the north of Egypt that are portrayed on the palette?

Hieroglyphs next to the enemy's head read 'Washa'

Well, the hieroglyphs next to the person being smited by Narmer either read as the personal name of a man, possibly a king of the north known as Washa, or it could translate to the ‘Harpoon Nome’, a region located in the northwest of the Nile Delta. It is more likely the name of the person as the hieroglyphs are next to his head, and most scholars agree.

We don’t know who Washa is, but all indications are that he is a king or leader in northern Lower Egypt, a man from the marshes. That is sadly all we know. The Sphinx could have had his face or another king or a god worshipped in the north, there is no way of knowing as this whole idea is speculative.

There isn’t much further I can go with this hypothesis because pre-dynastic Egypt is a mystery and finds from this time have differing interpretations. It was a time of rapid cultural development and widespread change. I know that most researchers will disagree with my ideas and as always, that’s fine. It’s an original hypothesis that I have put together based on the information I’ve presented in this video.

We don’t know a great deal about Giza in pre-dynastic times. We know it was close to Memphis, where legend says that Menes, possibly another name for Narmer, constructed the new Ancient capital city of Egypt after the unification. To choose this location means it must have already held some importance and its easy to see why. We know the Maadi Culture had their main settlement just south of Cairo and we know they were at Giza based on archaeological finds.

Memphis as well as Giza are strategic locations, a point where Upper and Lower Egypt were once divided. Giza and Memphis were part of the most southerly nome of Lower Egypt, the first nome you reach when traveling from Upper Egypt via the River Nile. You would have passed by Giza, sailed by the Sphinx on your way into the heart of the Delta region. It would have greeted any invaders from the south and would therefore, in my opinion, be a symbol of the northern lands.

Just as I was concluding this essay, I found something I’d never seen before, another pre-dynastic depiction of my so-called proto-sphinx, this time on an object known as the Metropolitan Museum Knife Handle.

The Metropolitan Museum Knife Handle showing my 'Proto-Sphinx'

It is a proto-dynastic object, a gift to the mentioned museum from Howard Carter, but it is unknown who’s reign it was made in, although both sides seem to show a southern king controlling the people of the north. It is likely to be commemorating the reign of Narmer due to parallels with the Narmer Palette. Its condition is poor and the boss side, which is the side we are interested in, is worn, cracked and flaked away in areas, so context is difficult to ascertain when analysing the imagery.

What we do know from the people who have finely analysed it is that the features to the left of the proto-Sphinx are actually the tops of the heads of bound prisoners, thought to have northern characteristics. To the right of them and directly left of the proto-Sphinx are three overlapping plants that consist of fan-shaped leaves on stalks, very similar to the so-called papyrus plants on the Narmer Palette. You can’t see the detail on the diagram, but the work I’m quoting is more recent than the age of this old diagram.

To the right on these three plants is a very special find for me – yes, it’s the only other depiction of my proto-sphinx known in the archaeological record. Writing in the late 1980s, Bruce Williams wrote in the journal of Near Eastern Studies, that we see a flattened oval from which protrude seven stalks. Towards the left end is an almost triangular element that protrudes over the end. Within the mass of this element is the curl-shape of an ear, which indicates this is a head. The author states: “The parallel to the Narmer palette is decisive.”

The authors believed the symbol to be a symbol of Lower Egypt and that the people bound, which are hard to see are therefore the prisoners of Lower Egypt. Therefore, is this just a symbol of the people of the marshes of Lower Egypt – a hieroglyphic depiction, or was the Sphinx the actual physical symbol of the people of Lower Egypt, a monument that was so iconic that it identified the people in captive?

This is a problem for the mainstream interpretation of the Narmer Palette because personifying the marshland is apparently only there because Horus is there. There is a man connected to the marshes because it allows us to see pictorially that Horus is taking the people of the marshes prisoner. Without Horus, this so-called hieroglyph is just ‘people’ or ‘leader’ of the northern delta marshes. On the knife handle we apparently have bound enemies, followed by a marsh symbol followed by the people of the marshes hieroglyph. It seems like an unnecessary detail and the people and the marshes are depicted separately, unless of course it isn’t merely a hieroglyph but is geographical, which is possible as the majority of the knife handle is a boat scene, showing a scene of what is happening, and yes, we know the Sphinx was on the bank of the Nile, so is not out of place amongst boats.

As stated, many scholars and alternative researchers won’t agree with my hypothesis, and that’s absolutely fine, but I don’t think we can rule out the idea that this image on the Narmer Palette is the Sphinx in its earliest form, a monument that would become re-classified as the hawk-headed lionesque solar god Horakhty in the dynastic era.

Matthew Sibson

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Solving the Mystery of the Great Pyramid of Egypt (2020 Documentary) | Ancient Architects

A title with a bold claim of solving the mystery of the Great Pyramid of Egypt needs to the most in-depth study ever produced by the Ancient Architects YouTube channel, and in this new documentary (first published 2020) I attempt to do just that with a feature-length 90-minute video (below).

After reading just about every primary and secondary source available, I present the most logical explanation for the pyramid - who built it, when it was built, how it was built and what function it actually had. I attempt to explain every major anomaly inside the pyramid, including the Queen's Chamber "air" shafts and Gantenbrink's Doors, the unfinished Subterranean Chamber, the damage in the King's Chamber and where the secret chambers lie within.

I also draw upon microgravimetry data from the 1980s, muon scans by the ScanPyramids project, architectural ideas from Jean Pierre Houdin and Old kingdom cosmological afterlife beliefs as studied by Anthony Sakovich to help me formulate a master plan - a plan that works for me and satisfies the complex Great Pyramid conundrum.

You can watch the video here: