On the west bank of the Nile, opposite El-Kab, is another site, although off-limits to visitors. Called Kom al-Ahmar (Red Mound) in Arabic, it is better known to Egyptologists by the name bestowed upon it by the Ancient Greeks: Hierakonopolis (City of the Falcon) – itself derived from its Ancient Egyptian name, Nekhen, and its association with a local falcon-god, Nekheny, later amalgamated with Horus.

The city flourished during the late Pre-dynastic and Early dynastic eras (c.4000–2686 BC) and may have been the first administrative capital of the Two Lands, judging by two famous artefacts found here that are now in the Egyptian Museum. The Palette of Narmer and the Scorpion Macehead are the oldest-known symbols of Egyptian kingship, prefiguring the iconography of the dynastic era.

Over a century of research, continuing with the present Hierakonopolis Expedition, has confirmed the site’s role in the transition from prehistory to early Egyptian civilization. Among recent discoveries are Egypt’s oldest mummies (c.3600 BC); an industrial-scale brewery; the first mention of hair-extensions and the use of henna to colour hair; and Egypt’s one and only elephant burial. For news of ongoing excavations, visit w hierakonopolis-online.org.

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