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Two Problematical Proto/Early Dynastic Serekhs
from Burg el Hamam

Alan M. Fildes

It is my desire through the publication of this brief article, to raise awareness of an irreplaceable piece of mans heritage, in imminent danger of obliteration. The rock inscriptions are in urgent need of thorough scientific investigation, before being lost forever.
As modern industry steadily encroaches on many archaeological sites, one of those currently threatened is Burg el Hamam ‘Pigeon Rock’.
Inselberg, Burg el Hamam
Fig.1: Burg el Hamam.
The ‘Inselberg’ overlooking the tarmac road, showing the ravages of weather and vandalism on the surface of the sandstone.
Inscriptions - Burg el Hamam
Fig.2: The Inscriptions.
Bottom left – New Kingdom inscription of the priest Hornakht and above to the right the serekh of an apparently unknown King.
Burg el Hamam - Egyptian Inscriptions
Fig.3: Overdrawing of the serekhs
Burg el Hamam
Fig.4: Drawings of the serekhs.
(Drawings by Mark Ollett)
This ancient inselberg of cretaceous Nubian sandstone located close to the southern edge of Wadi Hilal near El Kab is covered with petroglyphs dating from the Predynastic period to the New Kingdom; its proximity to a busy tarmac road is increasing their obvious vulnerability to modern vandalism (Fig.1).
As recently as 1982-1983, the site was the focus of a campaign by Dr Dirk Huyge of the Belgium Archaeological Mission to El Kab to survey and record the ancient rock art.
Since when the site has been the subject of increasing amounts of graffiti, some in chalk others in more permanent forms.
During the author’s most recent visit to the site to photograph and record the petroglyphs in February 2006, two Proto/Early Dynastic period serekhs were discovered beneath a later New Kingdom inscription.
Unfortunately these are well within reach of any passer by who may feel inclined to leave their mark, as the recent vandalism testifies only too well.
The aim of this brief article is to outline the position of these early serekhs before they too are obscured or destroyed.
The Inscriptions: (Figs.2-4).
Above an inscription cut in the New Kingdom (1550-1069BC) by the priest Hornakht, the serekh of an apparently unknown King can be seen slightly above and to the right.
The falcon is clearly visible upon the palace façade, which encloses what appears to be a plant or branch shaped glyph (possibly M3/M3B in Gardiner’s sign list), coupled with a faint trace of a hieroglyph possibly a mace (T2 in Gardiner’s sign list). The mace in the act of smiting?, bisecting the plant form.
Adjacent to the latter, and badly weathered, is possibly a second serekh above which the tail of the falcon is evident. The tail touches the cabin of a papyrus boat most probably dated to Naqada II (3500-3200BC).
The inscription bears the name of the waab priest Mes, cut within the boat that can be dated to the New Kingdom ( 1550-1069BC ).
The palace façade outline running through the boat appears to contain the netjer ‘god’ sign (R8 in Gardiner’s sign list) which reaches below the hull of the boat. The top of the serekh is indiscernible.
Other visible graffiti include an ostrich dated to the Old Kingdom (2686-2181BC) and a number of indistinct linear marks.
The complex assortment of incised graffiti adorning the western and eastern faces of the rock bears witness to the reverence afforded the site in ancient times.
Predynastic activity is attested by a variety of animals including donkeys, giraffe and vultures, together with a sickle shaped boat securely dated to the Naqada II period (3500-3200BC).
The discovery of a crudely incised serekh of the Horus Qa’a from the 1st dynasty (c2950BC) by the Belgian Mission in 1982 supports the possibility of an unknown King leaving his mark at Wadi Hilal, in an area already well-known to his predecessors.
Huyge D, 1984. Horus Qa’a in the El-Kab Area, Upper Egypt, Orientalia Lovaniesia Periodica 15: 5-9.
Huyge D, 1999. January/February. Discovering Archaeology 1. Bearers of the Sun, 48-58.
Vandekerckhove H, Muller-Wollermann R, 2001. El-Kab  VI,1.El-Kab VI, 2. Die Felsilschriften des Wadi Hilal..
Clarke S. 1922. El Kab and its Temples. JEA 8.

Wilkinson T.A.H. 1995. Brief communications. A new king in the Western Desert. JEA 81,205-210.    

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