The Scorpion King -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 16:1 (Winter 2003)
Article: The Scorpion King
Author: Gary A. Byers


The Scorpion King

For Young Archaeologists

Gary A. Byers

As usual, the Hollywood movie The Scorpion King is another example where an ancient historical character is used in a plot that has little to do with real history. “The Rock,” a professional wrestler, plays the role of the Scorpion King. I was surprised to find out that there really was an ancient Egyptian Scorpion King. Egyptologists have pieced together the story of a powerful ancient leader who was identified with the Egyptian desert scorpion.

In order to understand the Scorpion King’s power, we need to know something about Egypt’s geography. Upper Egypt is the mountain area of Egypt, which is in the south. Below Upper Egypt, two major tributaries of the Nile, the Blue Nile and the White Nile converge near Khartoum (Sudan’s capital), and form the Nile proper. This mighty river then flows northward through Sudan into Upper Egypt, and then on into Lower Egypt where it enters into the Mediterranean Sea.

More than 100 years ago, archaeologists excavated an ancient Egyptian temple in the Upper Egyptian city of Hierakonpolis. Here they discovered a stone palette used to grind cosmetics, with carving on both sides. One side had the picture of a man wearing the crown of Upper Egypt, and the other side had a man wearing the crown of Lower Egypt. Scholars decided the picture on each side was the same man, and his name was Narmer. This was the earliest representation of anyone wearing the crowns of both Upper and Lower Egypt. It suggests that this was the first king of a united Egypt.

The Scorpion King macehead. Too large to be used for anything but public ceremonies, it shows the king performing a ceremonial act while wearing the tall white crown of Upper Egypt. Before the king’s face is a scorpion (thus his name) with a seven-petaled flower above it.

A decorated Egyptian slate palette depicts a king named Narmer (inscribed in hieroglyphics between the horned heads at the top) smiting an enemy with a battle mace. On this side of the palette Narmer wears the domed crown of Upper Egypt. On the palette’s other side Narmer wears the curled crown of Lower Egypt. Wearing the crowns of both Upper and Lower Egypt suggests he was probably the first king in history of a united Egypt. The mace in Narmer’s hand on the palette is similar to a mace head that was discovered near the palette on which is depicted another king and a scorpion. This Scorpion King also wore...

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