Who is the First Person in History Whose Name We Know?

Iry Hor. Google Images


 Many of the names we have for Egypt’s earliest kings cannot be substantiated, as no physical evidence can be found to back up their existence. There are one or two exceptions, however, where names can be found recorded in these early King’s lifetime. Iry Hor is one.

Iry Hor was King of Upper Egypt in the pre-dynastic period, ruling around approximately 3100 BC, making him more or less contemporary with Kushim and Gal Sal-give or take a century. His name has been translated as “belonging to Horus” because of its pictograph of a falcon.

His tomb has been identified in the cemetery of Abydos-one of the oldest cities in Egypt and was excavated by Flinders Petrie in 1902. A series of tall narrow jars, stamped with the pictograph that denotes his name helped identify it. In 2012, a rock inscription in the Sinai desert was found. This again mentioned Iry Hor, showing his pictograph on a boat next to the symbol for “white walls”- the city of Memphis. This was taken as the final evidence that Iry Hor was indeed an early Egyptian King.

However, there are some problems. For a start, Iry Hor’s name never appears in a serekh, the façade that always surrounds the names of Egyptian royalty. Indeed, like Kushim, some experts believe the falcon motif does not denote a name at all but rather the title of an office holder.

However, there is one more Egyptian name to consider. And unlike the other three examples, this one can be dated.

Scorpion I

There is another tomb in the cemetery of Abydos, known as the U-J tomb. Much more elaborate than the tombs around it, it was plundered in antiquity but contained several hundred pottery vessels, made both locally and in Palestine. These vessels bear inscriptions within a royal serekh panel containing a scorpion and a tree. An ivory-headed heqa scepter- a symbol of kingship was also found.

Based on the evidence, the tomb is believed to belong to Iry Hor’s predecessor Scorpion I. His name is believed to derive from the scorpion goddess Serket whose symbol forms part of his name.

Scorpion was Upper Egypt’s first true king A 5000-year-old graffito in the Theban desert depicts him in his victory over another king, ‘Bulls head’. Bulls head’s name also appears in tomb U-J, strengthening the evidence for Scorpion as a significant King.

But it is the content of the jars that clinches the matter. For they contain the residue of wine-wine that can be dated. And based on this, we can say that Scorpion I died and was buried in 3150BC.

So with Scorpion I,  we have a verifiable royal name that can be given a place in history -which means that Scorpion I is the first person in history whose name, we can say with any kind of certainty, we know.