Department of Antiquities

The 'Scorpion King' Mace head
(Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; number: AN1896-1908.E3632)

Did a 'King Scorpion' ever exist?

Egyptian Mace head (figures), AN.E3632

Egyptologists have long debated this question; some think that 'Scorpion' was the earlier name of the figure identified in historical sources as the first ruler of unified Egypt, King Menes or Narmer. Recently, German archaeologists excavating at Abydos, where the first kings of unified Egypt (Dynasty I) were buried, have found a large tomb (tomb 'U-j') where many of the jars and packages in the storerooms had labels including the scorpion-sign -- so new evidence has been added to the debate. But the names of the earliest kings of Egypt are written in a rectangular frame (serekh) symbolic of the royal palace; no writing of the scorpion-sign in such a frame has yet been found. There are other animal-signs, too, on the labels in tomb 'U-j'. Many model scorpions were found in the temple at Hierakonpolis. The scorpion carved on the macehead is shown with a little peg, by which it could have been fitted onto a sceptre or pole - like the standards carried by figures elsewhere on the macehead. So it may signify something other than a personal name -- a geographical name, perhaps; also, the scorpion delivers a vicious potentially fatal sting -- it could be a symbol of power.