Examples of Mesopotamian Influence on Ancient Egypt - Part I

Francesco Raffaele maintains an admirable web site with a massive catalog of objects from predynastic Egypt. See:


As he states:

Another element which preceded the serekh (and in part coexisted with it, as in Lower Nubia) was the rosette; this symbol appears since late Naqada II on seal impressions, gold and ivory knife-handles, an ivory comb, the Scorpion II mace-head and the Qustul tomb 24 incense burner . The rosette/flower/star has been linked by H.S. Smith to the concept of (divine) kingship and to the Sumerian and especially Elamite glyptic.

Here is a picture of the Scorpion mace-head.

The enlarged picture of the King on the right, taken from the surface of the mace-head shown on the left, has a rosette in the upper right corner. It is believed the rosette was a symbol for kingly authority. The origin of this symbolism is unknown.

Other of many examples are illustrated by the following. Click on the image for a larger view.

The famous Narmer palette, created as a memorial to a victorious campaign by that early king, also carries the rosette motif. Following is from the rear and the front respectively.

The rosette continued to have a royal symbolism down into later times. The following is from a statue of Meryetamun, daughter of Ramses II, c. 1250 BC, located in the Cairo Museum. Note the rosette on her left breast.

The following pictures show some of the rosette symbols from Mesopotamia. See


Note the rosettes rising above the crown headdress of a Queen, showing their great significance. A King is shown with a sacred tree, on which the boughs terminate in rosettes. The gold vase has a rosette engraved on the bottom, denoting royal property. Some of these images date to 3,000 BC.

Scorpions and Rosette

c.3300 B.C. Gawra period.

Steatite. Stamp seal.

North Mesopotamia

Inanna's symbol, the eight-pointed star
or rosette, appears between the pincers
of two scorpions on the square face of this stamp seal.


But the rosette continued to be a symbol of Mesopotamian royal dignity and authority into later times.

A Hittite tomb stela from the 8th century BC portrays a wonderful example of this symbol hovering over a princess and her attendant. What appears to be a sun-disk contains an eight-pointed rosette with two highly detailed and very bird-like wings stretching out on either side.

A light gray steatite Hittite spool seal dating from 1500 BC has a stag on one side and a rosette on the other. The seal is drilled in the center of each edge.



We might question the origin of the rosette images. Consider this carved ivory disk from a child's burial at the Late Aurignacian site in Sungir, Russia, dated to about 28,000 years ago. Clearly the rosette has a very old history, dating back to the times of the Cave Paintings of Europe, and the Great Flood, or earlier.

This motif was widespread throughout Europe and the Near East. It was known on the Island of Crete perhaps somewhat earlier than the reign of Ramses II. The Phaistos disk was found in 1903 in a building at the Minoan palace at Hagia Triada. The disk is 16 centimeters in diameter (or 6 inches, approximately the size of the palm of your hand). The exact date of manufacture is uncertain; some archaeologists ascribe it to the 17th century BC. It is made of clay and now is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion. Many regard it as the first example of printing, since the embedded impressions (figures) were placed there by some form of prepared punch. How such symbolic tools were used otherwise is unknown, since similar examples have never been discovered.

We can see from the cropped figures that the rosette appears on both sides of the Phaistos Disk, and had important symbolic meaning to the person who created it.

Click on the pictures for a larger image.