Disc-shaped macehead

Predynastic, Naqada l–Early Naqada II

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 101

Maces were important weapons in the Predynastic era, and became symbols of power and prestige. The heads, which were made of stone and fastened to wooden shafts, follow a clear development, from disc-shaped examples like the one here, to a piriform type (see for example 10.130.1213). This latter type of mace is seen wielded by the king as he smites his enemies throughout much of pharaonic history, even after such weapons fell out of actual use.

This mace comes a shallow rectangular grave, disturbed in antiquity, that contained the skeleton of a child, along with a number of additional grave goods that included along with vessels, baskets, clay and carnelian beads, two ivory pendants, three small copper tools, and fragments of a clay figurine (see 09.182.2–.8). The quantity and variety of these objects indicate that this child was born into a wealthy family.

In any society, status is conferred by either birth or achievement. Adults can acquire position through their own efforts, but children can possess wealth only through the efforts of adults. Although the highest elite in the Predynastic era were generally adult males, both women and children sometimes attained a significant status, as is clearly the case here.

Disc-shaped macehead, Hornblende diorite

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