OLDEST PORTRAIT OF A PHARAOH
FINALLY IDENTIFIED AFTER 120 YEARS
IT was there for all to see, staring Egyptologists in the face since it was discovered 120 years ago ....
Only now have experts taken a closer look at carvings on rocks near Aswan ... and realized that the carvings show the oldest known depiction of an Egyptian pharaoh ... carved 5,000 years ago.
The discovery shows once again that the sands of Egypt still have much to offer historians ... and that many archaeological treasures are routinely overlooked by experts overwhelmed by the sheer volume of artifacts from Ancient Egypt.
Found on vertical rocks at Nag el-Hamdulab, four miles north of the Aswan Dam, the roughly hewn images depict a pharaoh riding boats with attendant prisoners and animals in what is thought to be a tax-collecting tour.
"We don't know with certainty who the king represented at Hamdulab is. We can guess on paleographic and iconographic grounds," Maria Carmela Gatto, associate research scholar in Egyptology at Yale University and co-director of thee Aswan-Kom Ombo archaeological project in Egypt, told Discovery News.
Indeed, the style of the carvings suggests that the images were made at a late Dynasty date, around 3200-3100 B.C. This would have been the reign of Narmer, the first king to unify northern and southern Egypt, thus regarded by many scholars as Egypt's founding pharaoh.
"There are depictions of local rulers since the first half of the fourth millennium BC, but Hamdulab seems by date to be the earliest datable representation of a king wearing one of the recognizable crowns of the ruler of all Egypt, engaged in a labeled royal ritual," John Darnell, professor of Egyptology at Yale University, told Discovery News.
Discovered in the 1890s by the archaeologist Archibald Sayce, the carvings remained unnoticed for over a century. In the 1960s, Egyptian archaeologist Labib Habachi photographed Sayce's drawings of the rock images, but never published them.
When one of Habachi's pictures resurfaced in 2008, Gatto investigated the site, discovering an entire rock art gallery.
Meanwhile, we are still waiting for someone to dust off a rock inscription which says: "Secret Entrance to Lost Tomb of Antinous Located Under This Stone."