Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Another Look at the Nag el-Hamdulab Iconography


This entry is essentially a spin-off of another entry, Relationship between Nagadan and "Lower Nubian" Burials, and henceforth inspired by a matter that was raised in a reader commentary.  It revolves around the veracity of allegations contained in the iconography of the Nag el Hamdulab epigraphy that is making rounds in the net.


As a matter of note, the following lines extracted from the above-mentioned entry is what spurred reaction from which this discussion takes off:

"It is difficult to make out whether the said figure is definitely wearing a "White Crown", even though the peculiarly long head on the figure would seem to suggest some kind of a head gear. What is more strongly suggestive of the figure being a "king", rather, is possibly the scepter he is holding in one hand and possibly an equipment in the other, to keep flies away, not leaving out the figure behind him, who is holding some kind of hand-held fanning object."

...henceforth, eliciting the following feedback:

"There is one significant feature of the Nag el-Hamdulab epigraph that you leave out. You point out that the epigraph does not feature any falcon/Horus figure however notice the figure in the front of the alleged king. It appears to be the exact SAME creature depicted in the Qustul incense burner which seems to be that of a baboon! This type of totem is not to my knowledge found in any of the Abydos material" - [author name withheld]

Click for enhanced view; Image details: Nag el Hamdulab epigraphy
So, just to make sure everyone is on the same page, a visual aid is placed on the right hand side of this page, which will serve as a guide for what the extraction cited above is talking about.

One estimate (NatGeo, for example) dates the epigraphic material to a range between 3200 BC to 3100 BC.


The Blog Response to the Reader's Concern? Read on:

Going back to that crude quality of the Nag el Hamdulab epigraphy, it is really hard to make out the animal with any definiteness. By comparison, as crude as the Qustul incense burner epigraphy itself was, i.e. when compared to later Dynastic era work, one could make out claw-like appendages emanating from each leg of the very animal that the Nag el Hamdulab animal is being compared to, thereby instilling a strong hint that this creature is not some dog-like creature.

Even though the snout of the creature on the Qustul burner could well have been reminiscent of that of a dog, the hump-like profile of the creature on its back, near the head, raises doubt about identifying it with a dog. The long slender tail also contributes to raising such doubt.

On the other hand, the visibly pointed ears of the creature [again, on the Qustul incense burner], right on top of the head, could raise doubt about identifying the creature with a baboon; in the many instances whereupon the present author has come across baboons, such pointed ears—clearly visible—on top of the head did not come to mind. Not even the baboons seen on Dynastic era reliefs (e.g. concerning journeys to and from Pwnt/Pwanit/Punt) feature such caricature of baboons.

Clearly baboons were revered creatures, and so, it comes as no surprise to see Ancient Egyptian royalty return with such creatures from their voyage to "Punt". Perhaps this status makes it tempting to identify the crude imagery of the Qustul incense burner creature immediately with baboons.

The creature in the Nag el-Hamdulab epigraphy on the other hand, has no clear distinguishing feature that one can unequivocally assign only to baboons; it’s that crude, and yes, cruder than the Qustul incense creature in drawing any remote reminiscence to a baboon!

For what it’s worth, unlike the creatures of these alleged “predynastic” era imagery that some observers have linked with baboons, the imagery of the falcon was for the most part, clearly given some symbolic value, given that even those seen on the Qustul burner imagery [which to remind readers, was itself crude] were generally seen as part of a composite image of a Serekh featuring a fa├žade of a palace mounted by a falcon—a common dynastic era regalia applied to symbolize royalty.

Even if one were to positively identify these creatures as baboons, whether it's that of the Nag el Hamdulab epigraphy or that of the Qustul incense burner, which at this point is still reasonably questionable, the prospect of having plain baboons in view would have no direct/obvious iconographic relevance to attaching the identity of an accompanying human figure to royalty. It simply can't be stressed enough: It is rather odd for a symbol of Horus, who himself was a symbol of the Pharaoh, to be missing in a Pharaoh's royal regalia!

Visual aids always help do the talking...

Click on the images for enlarged view.  The pictures are pretty much self-explanatory.

Let's be clear in the mean time; the present author is not ruling out the possibility that the alleged figure of a king on the Nag el-Hamdulab is actually that of a glaringly made clear in the cited blog entry (above); rather, the present author is not yet sold on the notion that one can conclusively say that such an identification is a definite one, particularly when it comes to correlating themes of this image with dynastic Egyptian guise/style & themes of what personifies a king!

Note: This is a replication of a response that was already made to the reader comment cited above, but with modifications where necessary to make it more blog presentable and reader-friendly. To nullify any confusion, "present author" in the notes above simply refers to the current blog's author!


Joshua Rangel said...

Hello Mystery Solver,I really enjoy reading your Blog.

How have you been?

Mystery Solver said...

Hey Joshua,

Glad that you enjoy the blog; that's what it's about...and giving a helping-hand in correcting misinformation, particularly when it comes to Africa. In many media circles, particularly those residing in the so-called "West", one will rarely get acquainted with the complete being of Africa. It is the most diverse landmass on the planet, not only in terms of biological richness, but also culturally...but one would not know this just by listening to the usual outlets of popular media outside of the web.

As for myself, I am as fine as ever. Got a few things to iron out, including up and coming projects for this blog. Expect to hear more from me on this site. Don't want to give any dates yet, but rest assured these developments are under way.

Hope all is well on your end, and can only urge you to stay tuned!