City of the hawk, Hierankonpolis

Egypt’s First Capital

Stephanie Koss, Senior Reporter

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, world-renowned archaeologist Dr. Renee Friedman gave a presentation in Graff Main Hall regarding her research at Hierakonpolis, one of the most important sites in the world for studying ancient Egyptian and pre-dynastic history.

Friedman received her master’s degree in Egyptian Archaeology from the University of California – Berkeley in 1981, and she received her PhD in 1994. During her time as an archaeologist, she has visited many different archaeological sites throughout Egypt.

Hierakonpolis, also known more publicly as Nekhen or the “city of the hawk”, served as the religious capital of the Upper Egypt region near the end of the predynastic period, 3200 to 3100 BC.

Hierakonpolis is comprised of over 3 kilometers of area along the Nile River’s flood plain. By 3600 BC, dozens of neighborhoods and separate quarters existed in the city of Hierakonpolis. It is considered to be one of the busiest urban centers along the Nile River during the early and predynastic periods.

Perhaps one of the most famous artifacts known to have come from this site is the Palette of Narmer, which was one of the first documents to be created in history and is associated with the First King of the First Dynasty. However, there is much more that this site contains that provides implications for its importance in understanding Egyptian history.

Friedman first visited the site of Hierakonpolis and joined the research team in 1983. Since then, she and her team have visited the site for their research and studies more than twenty times.

During her time studying the Hierakonpolis site, Friedman and her team have discovered an abundance of artifacts.

“The various different artifacts that we have recovered and the recreation of the city helps us to understand how the world’s predynastic rulers expressed their power,” she said.

Friedman and her team have discovered many different predynastic cemeteries throughout the desert region of Hierakonpolis.

“Hierakonpolis is one of the few sites at which widely separated and distinct cemeteries for the different segments of society have been found,” said Friedman.

Besides these predynastic cemeteries, many different decorated dynastic tombs, forms of rock art, and breweries have been discovered. In addition, there is a tall standing structure that dominates the lower desert region of Hierakonpolis. This structure, built of sun-dried mud brick, has come to be known as “the Fort.”

“The Fort is also the oldest freestanding monumental mud-brick structure in the world and one of the earliest upstanding remnant of Egypt’s long and rich tradition of mud-brick construction, which paved the way for its more famous stone architecture,” said Friedman.

Friedman mentioned to the public that although she and her team have discovered a lot during their time studying at Hierakonpolis, there is still so much more to be learned about ancient Egyptian and predynastic history, and specifically, the “city of the hawk,” Hierakonpolis.

For more information about the work being done at the Hierakonpolis site, visit Friedman’s website at