|Serekh in hieroglyphs|
facade (of the palace)
|Serekh of king Djet with the Horus falcon above|
A serekh was an ornamentic vignette, imitating the floor plan of a palace facade and the royal courtyard. The word "serekh" derives from the Egyptian word for "facade". There are countless variations of the facade decor in the serekh. The complexity and detail of the facade decor changed remarkably on any object on which it was present. It seems, that no strict artistic rules for the design of the serekh itself existed.
A serekh was normally used as a royal crest, accentuating and honouring the name of the pharaoh. Its use can be dated back as early as the Naqada-II period (ca. 3400 BC.). When naming the pharaoh, the hieroglyphs forming the king's name were placed inside a rectangular extension atop of the serekh, which represented the royal courtyard. Additionally, the falcon of the god Horus or (as in a few cases) the chimera of Seth topped the serekh, showing the celestial patrons of the named king.
If the word "serekh" was written in full letters (as shown in the infobox above), sometimes guided by a miniature of the serekh, it could be used in simple literaric context, too. Several building construction papyri would use "serekh" to actually describe the facade of a building, such as a house, temple or royal palace.
As already mentioned, the serekh as an ornamental miniature appears first time during the late Naqada-II period, when it was used as a royal crest only. From the Old Kingdom period onward, the first uses of the full written word appear in old papyri.
- Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen. Münchner Ägyptologische Studien. Bd. 49. Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 1999, ISBN 3-8053-2591-6, p. 7-9.
- Rolf Gundlach: Horus in the Palace: The centre of State and Culture in pharaonic Egypt. In: Rolf Gundlach, John H. Taylor: Egyptian royal Residences: 4. Symposium zur Ägyptischen Königsideologie (4th edition, London 2004). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-447-05888-9, p. 45–68.
- Toby A. H. Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt: Strategy, Society and Security. Routledge, London 1999, ISBN 0-415-18633-1, p. 56-57, 201-202.
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