- The Naqada Label -

  1st Dynasty   Naqada Label    
  Narmer   Titulary    
  Aha   Umm el-Qa'ab (tomb)    


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Ever since its discovery in the late 19th century, the Naqada label has been an important argument in the debates surrounding the identity of Menes. Two groups of signs, located in the top-right corner of the label, are believed by many researchers to not only mention Menes’ name, but also to give an indication about his identity. The first group can easily be identified as the Horus-name of king Aha. To the right, the second group combines a vulture and a snake, each perched upon a basket, written above a rectangular sign. This second group is written within a booth with a triangular roof.

The Naqada Label  

The Naqada Label is divided into three registers. The top register identifies the king, Aha. The rightmost group has often been interpreted as the Nebti-name of Menes.

Soon after the discovery of this label, the German Egyptologist Borchhardt identified the second group as the Nebti-name of Menes. The vulture and snake perched upon a basket were taken to symbolise the Nebti-group and the rectangular sign below them could be read Men, which, in Greek, could have become Menes. Borchhardt also connected this Nebti-name with the nearby Horus-name of Aha and concluded that Menes was none other than the Horus Aha.

The Naqada label has since often been forwarded as the ultimate proof that Menes is to be identified with the Horus Aha. Grdsellof, on the other hand, noted that during the 1st Dynasty, it was customary for a king’s Horus- and Nebti-names to face each other, which is not the case on the Naqada label. He also pointed to the importance of the fact that the Nebti-name was written within a sign representing a building that he identified as a funerary structure dedicated to the deceased Menes. According to Grdsellof, the Naqada label would thus show the living Aha while attending a funerary ritual performed for the deceased Menes. As the heir of the deceased person normally performed funerary rituals, Menes would need to be identified as Aha’s predecessor, the Horus Narmer.

Schott, on the other hand, did not interpret the rectangular sign within the booth as the name Menes, but as the verb "to remain". For him, the entire group translates to "The Two Ladies remain", which he interprets as the name of a shrine dedicated to the patron goddesses of Upper- and Lower Egypt. Although he has not provided any arguments when forwarding this hypothesis, several Egyptologists follow it and no longer consider the Naqada label as evidence about the identity of Menes.

Against the interpretation of the signs in the booth as a Nebti-name, it should be noted that the Nebti-name does not become a standard part of the royal titulary until the reign of Den, several generations after Aha. Neither Djer nor Djet, Aha’s successors, appear to have used this name and if one accepts Grdsellof’s interpretation that the Naqada label provides us with the Nebti-name of Narmer, then Aha too does not appear to have used it.

The apparent absence of Nebti-names before Den’s reign could support Schott’s hypothesis that the Naqada-label does not provide us with a Nebti-name. Several documents from the 1st and 2nd Dynasties confirm the existence of a shrine dedicated to the Two Ladies, symbolised by the signs representing the two goddesses, perched upon a basket, drawn above two buildings. In some cases, this group is written within a sign representing another building. None of these sources, however, mentions the name of this shrine as being "The Two Ladies remain". Schott’s hypothesis too, can not be confirmed by other sources.

In conclusion, the Naqada-label has not revealed all of its secrets yet. This is due to the fact that we know too little about the nature of writing in this early period of the Ancient Egyptian history. What is clear is that the label does not in any way provide us with a Nebti-name of a king, let alone that this king would be Menes and that the label would help identify Menes with either Aha or his predecessor Narmer.


A Nebti Name?

The sign group with the alleged Nebti-name of Menes.