Ceremonial temple knife - ROM2008_10296_3


Ceremonial temple knife

Medium:Flint, pressure flaked, with gold handle
Geography: Undetermined site, Egypt
Date: c. 3100-2890 BC
Period: Reign of Djer, 1st Dynasty, Early Dynastic Period
37 x 8.6 cm
Object number: 914.3
Credit Line: Gift of Z.A. Lash
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This beautiful example of an Early Dynastic (3000-2686 BC) knife, with its very fine flint flaking, features a handle covered with a thin sheet of gold. It is inscribed with the name of King Djer, probably the third king of Egypt's long pharaonic history. This knife was undoubtedly of ceremonial use, but as its provenance is unknown, all context is lost. However, there is a persuasive argument about its origins.

It was purchased in Luxor in 1914, so may have come from an area close b. It might have come from the royal tombs at Abydos or Sakkara, though it might also have been found at the temple mound at Hierakonpolis. Generally, the finer examples of flint knives have been found in graves. The probability is that it came from the tomb of Djer at Abydos.  The Swiss theologian and archaeologist, Edouard Naville, had been digging at the tomb of Djer between 1908 and 1911, and finding material "which had at an unknown period strayed from the royal tombs."  This knife may have 'strayed' into the hands of a visitor to the site, a workman, and/or a dealer.

The late ROM Curator, Winnifred Needler, noted that such a fine "knife immediately suggests the ritual slaughter of animals offered to the king during or after his funeral."  Miss Needler went on to suggest it might have been used "to kill a human victim, as pictured on a tablet of Djer." (JEA 42, pp.41-44)

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