South Levantine Early Bronze Age chronological correlations with Egypt in light of the Narmer serekhs from Tel Erani and Arad: New interpretations

Eliot Braun
W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem, Israel and Centre de Recherche Français de Jérusalem, Israël

Ever since the first serekh of Narmer from the southern Levant was discovered at Tel Erani, scholars have been trying to identify Early Bronze Age (EBA) occupations contemporary with that Egyptian king’s reign. The serekh, assigned in a series of publications to Tel Erani Stratum IV, was subsequently considered a chronological peg for south Levantine-Egyptian correlations at the end of the 4th millennium. The unearthing of a second Narmer serekh at Arad, definitively assigned to the Stratum IV occupation there, was considered an additional fixed point for chronological correlations.

Despite discoveries in the southern Levant of more than a score of additional serekhs, many bearing Narmer’s name and one incised for his predecessor, Ka, none of the additional examples was discovered in situ, in sound stratigraphic context. Thus, the absolute chronological correlations between the southern Levant and Egypt for this time span rest solely on the evidence of the serekhs from Tel Erani and Arad. Although both purportedly derive from chronologically relevant contexts, careful consideration of their find spots questions their stratigraphic ascriptions and hence their utility as chronological benchmarks.

This paper reviews germane data on the archaeological provenance of these two serekhs, including some previously unpublished information from the excavation records of Tel Erani. Also considered are the Strata IV and III occupations at Arad in light of what is understood of Egyptian activity in the southern Levant at the end of Dynasty 0. The result of this inquiry offers a slightly refined scheme for the chronological correlation of south Levantine occupations with the reign of Narmer, last ruler of Dynasty 0. Additionally, it offers evidence of tangential importance for understanding the beginnings of the Egyptian state by identifying neighboring polities with which it came into contact on the very eve of Dynasty 1.

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To reference this article we suggest:

Braun, E. 2009. South Levantine Early Bronze Age chronological correlations with Egypt in light of the Narmer serekhs from Tel Erani and Arad: New interpretations. BMSAES 13: 25–48. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_13/braun.aspx

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ebraun@netvision.net.il