This is a jar for oil, dating to around the time of the unification of Egypt about 5000 years ago – it has the name of Narmer on it, inside a serekh, and the rest of the inscription has something to do with taxes. The three strokes below the name indicate the quality of the oil.

It was found at Tarkhan (probably) and is now in the Cairo Museum (as of 2016; acc. no.: JE71602). It’s not really what you might think of as one of the key pieces – it’s not very pretty, the writing is a bit of a scribble – but that’s part of why it’s interesting.

It’s a part of the reality of life in this new state – somebody was (I presume) fulfilling their new obligation to their new ruler by providing him with oil. Some bureaucrat somewhere ticked him off on a list, and scribbled a note on the jar.

Or was this new? Maybe it just felt like “same stuff different day”? Meet the new king same as the old local lord? How long had taxes been a part of life? There was little explanation on the label (I’ve told you pretty much all of it) so I’m left with these questions and more!

Was this good quality oil? What oil was it? Was this the whole of someone’s tax burden or a fraction? Who would’ve paid it, a single person or a whole village? Did it feel like a lot or not? Did they feel like they got something in return? Or was it just a protection racket?

Oil Jar with Name of Narmer. The inscription is probably something to do with taxes. Probably from Tarkhan. Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty 1, reign of Narmer, c. 2960 BCE. Acc. No.: JE71602

See it on my photo site:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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