Label with a scene showing the jubilee of King Den

From Abydos, Egypt
1st Dynasty, around 2950 BC

Ebony or ivory?

Jar labels are one of the most important sources of written material of the earliest Dynasties. In later periods, it became more common to write on the jar in hieratic script. It seems that these early labels performed a more important function than simply to indicate the contents of the jar. In fact they are probably the first commemorative medium from ancient Egypt.

At the top of this label is a scene of a king seated in a small kiosk on a pedestal. The kiosk is approached by a stairway. To the right, the king is shown running. Both these scenes are central elements of the sed or jubilee festival. The texts beneath may refer to conquests of the king. The name of one of the high officials of the reign, Hemaka, who was buried at Saqqara, is also written on the label. The oil contained in the jar is called 'setji-her'.

The label comes from Den's tomb at Abydos and was excavated by Flinders Petrie; the tomb has recently been re-excavated by the German Archaeological Institute using modern techniques. The Institute discovered an extraordinary seal-impression with the names of several First-Dynasty kings.

Find in the collection online

More information


A.J. Spencer, Catalogue of Egyptian antiqu-4 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

A.J. Spencer, Early Egypt, The rise of civil (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)


Length: 8.000 cm
Width: 5.500 cm

Museum number

EA 32650


Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore