A place name sign that was discovered in Sudan is in fact the world’s oldest. An ancient stone that was found two years ago contained four hieroglyphs and recent analysis has deciphered it as being a name sign.
The discovery was made in Wadi Al-Malik which is the bed of an extinct river in Sudan where not many archaeological digs have occurred. After analyzing the four hieroglyphs, a team of experts from the University of Bonn (with the collaboration of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities) deciphered them as reading, “Domain of the Horus King Scorpion”.
Incredibly, the name was carved more than 5,000 years ago which makes it the oldest place sign in the world. This is pretty astonishing considering that the oldest road sign in America dates back to the 1750s when the “Braddock Stone” was erected near Frostburg, Maryland, with directions to specific places like Captain Smyth’s Inn and Redstone Old Fort.
Based on the fact that a round symbol was carved into the top right hand side of the stone, the experts agreed that it was a place name sign – the territory of an ancient ruler that lived in 3070 BC (although how long he reigned is currently unclear). Professor Dr. Ludwig D. Morenz, who is an Egyptologist from the University of Bonn, explained, “This ruler called ‘Scorpion’ was a prominent figure in the phase of the emergence of the first territorial state in world history.”
Along with the name “Scorpion”, there were three other hieroglyphs carved on the stone. Next to the “Scorpion” was what appeared to be a predatory arachnid in addition to two other images. Since the carvings indicated a ruler’s territory, “This is precisely why the new discovery of the rock inscription is so valuable,” Morenz noted. He went on to say, “Despite its brevity, the inscription opens a window into the world of the emergence of the Egyptian state and the culture associated with it,” adding, “There were already ruling systems elsewhere before, but these were much smaller.”
The place name sign wasn’t the only discovery made at the site. More early rock inscriptions and carvings as well as pottery from that same time period were also unearthed. But much more work needs to be conducted at the site which will probably reveal more interesting finds. “This area is still in the early stages of archaeological investigation,” Morenz said.
Pictures of the stone and the hieroglyphs can be seen here.