Back to the
Cracow Conference
Main Page
International Conference
Origin of the State. Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt

(Cracow, Poland: 28th August - 1st September 2002)
Back to
Early Dynastic Egypt
Main Page


First Dynasty Jewellery and Amulets Finds from the Naqada Tomb, Comparisons and Interpretation


Carsten Niebuhr Institute, Copenhagen (Denmark)


The finds from the niched mastaba in Naqada from the time of King Aha (here: the Naqada tomb), are currently under investigation for a final publication by Jochem Kahl, Eva Engel, Susanne Petschel and Tine Bagh (Cf. J. Kahl et al. 2001). De Morgan excavated the tomb in 1897 and it was subsequently investigated by L. Borchardt in 1891 and J. Garstang in 1904. The position of this type of grand tomb and the identity of the tomb owner have always puzzled us and this new study is bringing light to an important collection of material from the crucial period of the beginning of the 1st dynasty.

Fig. 1: The Naqada Tomb
Fig. 1
: The Naqada Tomb

The Naqada tomb contained objects for personal adornment such as bead necklaces including small labels with the number of beads for each necklace and different kinds of tiny bracelets of bone. Parallels for these bracelets occur in other tombs of the period and their small size would pose the question whether they were actually worn on the arm or possibly bearing some symbolic meaning as tomb equipment.

Fig. 2: Bone labels with number of beads from the Naqada Tomb.
Fig. 2: Bone labels with number of beads from the Naqada Tomb.

15 fish amulets of bone, each 5-7cm long, were also among the grave goods. These can be divided into two main types being tilapiae with its characteristic high and flat body and mullets with a long slim and more rounded body and both types are pierced through the mouth and to a little below it. Part of a fish, probably a mullet, was found in the tomb of Aha at Abydos and the offerings from the temple at Hierakonpolis included a small tilapia, but otherwise the Naqada fish are unique. In later times, i.e. in the Middle Kingdom, fish pendants are known as hair/plait pendants and as such they may have had a protective function.



The connection between the tilapiae and the concept rebirth is well known and at least from the Old Kingdom, mullets are also associated with the cycle of life. Some finds from the tomb are thus unique others have parallels from contemporary tombs in Abydos and Saqqara.

Fig. 3: Example of a. Tilapiae, b. Mullet from the Naqada Tomb.
Fig. 3
: Example of a. Tilapiae, b. Mullet from the Naqada Tomb.

The size of the tomb together with the tomb equipment as for example one gold bead and vessels of precious imported material such as obsidian definitely points towards a royal burial and the main theory according to the inscribed material from the tomb is that it belonged to Queen Neith-Hotep. The burnt bones from the burial chamber was analysed and seemed to be from a male person, so the question can not yet be determined with certainty.


KAHL, J.; BAGH, T.; ENGEL, E.-M. & PETSCHEL, S., Die Funde aus dem 'Menesgrab' in Naqada: ein Zwischenbericht. MDAIK, 57 (2001): 171-186.
KAHL, J. & ENGEL, E.-M., Vergraben, verbrannt, verkannt und vergessen. Funde aus dem "Menesgrab". Münster, 2001.



Back to the Cracow Conference Abstracts
Next Page >>>