Part Two: Narmer as Naram Sin


For Part One, see:

Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham


Damien F. Mackey


…. what makes most intriguing a possible collision of … Menes with a Shinarian potentate … is the emphatic view of Dr. W. F. Albright that Naram-Sin … had conquered Egypt, and that the “Manium” whom Naram-Sin boasts he had vanquished was in fact Menes himself (“Menes and Naram-Sin”, JEA, Vol. 6, No. 2, Apr., 1920, pp. 89-98).




In Part One I had concluded that there were “several powerful forces in the land at the time of Abra[ha]m: namely,

“Pharaoh [of Egypt]” ([Genesis]12:15);

“Amraphel king of Shinar” (14:1); and

“Abimelech king of Gerar” (20:2)”.

And I asked: “Could any one of these have been Narmer?”

But I then noted that I had already concluded in articles that “Pharaoh” and “Abimelech” were one and the same ruler.

So the question really became whether Narmer could have been either:

  • Abram’s Pharaoh, or
  • Abram’s foe, Amraphel, the invading king of Shinar.


In Egyptian dynastic terms, my preference for Pharaoh (= Abimelech) has been the long-reigning pharaoh, Hor-Aha (c. 3100, or 3000 BC, conventional dating). Hor-Aha, in turn, is often considered – based on his nomen – to have been the same as the legendary “Menes”. Phouka, for instance, presents pharaoh Hor-Aha’s “Nomen [as] Mn, Menes, ‘Established’.” (

And, given the legendary association of Abraham with Menes, I myself am inclined to think that the Egyptian identity of Abram’s (biblical) “Pharaoh” was Menes.

Now, whilst Hor-Aha (Menes) can also loom as a possible candidate for Narmer (i) above – {Phouka, though, suggests Narmer instead as a “presumed” father of Hor-Aha} – my preference will be for (ii): Narmer, a king of Shinar, rather than a pharaoh of Egypt.

Certainly we know form archaeology (see Part One) that Narmer, too, was a contemporary of the patriarch Abram.

So what makes most intriguing a possible collision of the semi-legendary pharaoh of Egypt, Menes, with a Shinarian potentate (and possibly “Amraphel” himself – to be discussed in Part Three), is the emphatic view of Dr. W. F. Albright that Naram-Sin (of Akkad) had conquered Egypt, and that the “Manium” whom Naram-Sin boasts he had vanquished was in fact Menes himself (“Menes and Naram-Sin”, JEA, Vol. 6, No. 2, Apr., 1920, pp. 89-98).

With Naram Sin of Akkad (c. 2200 BC) conventionally dated about a millennium after pharaoh Menes, this was an extremely radical conclusion for a scholar such as Albright to have reached. And Albright’s opening words reveal that he was completely aware of that fact: “Before proposing a synchronism between the first dynastic king of Egypt and the greatest of early Babylonian kings, one cannot but hesitate, fearful of seeming reckless”.

Even more “reckless” will be my further proposed lowering of the historical meeting of Menes and Naram Sin to c. 1870 BC (Osgood’s date for Abram – see my Part One).

Whilst Albright naturally adopted the standard view that, with the yet undiscovered city of Akkad thought to lie somewhere in Sumer (southern Babylonia), Naram Sin was essentially a Mesopotamian (“Babylonian”) king, I myself have recently moved away from this, based on Anne Habermehl’s marvellous re-location of biblical “Shinar” (long thought to be Sumer) to the Sinjar (= Shinar) region in NE Syria. See her:

Where in the World Is the Tower of Babel?

Habermehl’s preference for the mysterious Akkad, now, in this new environment, is the most ancient site of Tell Brak. (See Abstract to her article). Naram Sin and the Akkadians were indeed prominent at this site (

Of particular importance for the late 3rd millennium Akkadian Period was Mallowan’s excavation of the ‘Palace’ (actually a fortified storehouse) of Naram-Sin, a grandson of Sargon of Agade. This building provided the first known evidence for South Mesopotamian control in the area. During the 1980s-90s, further important early Akkadian Period buildings were investigated, including a unique audience hall and temple together with administrative and ‘industrial’ areas near the Naram-Sin Palace (Area SS), and a temple and possible ‘way station’ near the north gate of the city (Area FS). Cuneiform tablets and sealed bullae from these buildings tell us something of the Akkadian and later administration.

[End of quote]

Another recent article that will be of importance for what follows is D. Petrovich’s

Identifying Nimrod of Genesis 10 with Sargon of Akkad by Exegetical and Archaeological Means

in which the author presents a solid case for Sargon of Akkad’s being the same as the biblical Nimrod. I have tentatively accepted Petrovich’s conclusion.

This same Sargon is generally said to have been the grandfather of Naram Sin, though, according to S. Franke, “Naram-Sin [is] occasionally taken to be [Sargon’s] son” (Kings of Akkad: Sargon and Naram-Sin, p. 840: But why not include Sargon-Nimrod, too, as a potential candidate for Narmer, the contemporary of Abram? For, we read: “Several … early Judaic sources also assert that the king Amraphel, who wars with Abraham later in Genesis, is none other than Nimrod himself”.

Well, apart from the far closer name resemblance of Narmer

and Naram Sin, it would be really stretching things to attempt to synchronise Sargon of Akkad – if he were Nimrod – with Abram, given the legends that associate Nimrod with the Tower of Babel, considerably before Abra[ha]m (wikipedia again):

In Hebrew and Christian tradition, Nimrod is considered the leader of those who built the Tower of Babel in the land of Shinar,[4] though the Bible never actually states this. Nimrod’s kingdom included the cities of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, all in Shinar. (Ge 10:10) Therefore it was likely under his direction that the building of Babel and its tower began; in addition to Flavius Josephus, this is also the view found in the Talmud (Chullin 89a, Pesahim 94b, Erubin 53a, Avodah Zarah 53b), and later midrash such as Genesis Rabba.

[End of quote]

as well as Nimrod’s supposedly being a persecutor of the Abram as a child (loc. cit.):

A portent in the stars tells Nimrod and his astrologers of the impending birth of Abraham, who would put an end to idolatry. Nimrod therefore orders the killing of all newborn babies. However, Abraham’s mother escapes into the fields and gives birth secretly. At a young age, Abraham recognizes God and starts worshiping Him. He confronts Nimrod and tells him face-to-face to cease his idolatry, whereupon Nimrod orders him burned at the stake. In some versions, Nimrod has his subjects gather wood for four whole years, so as to burn Abraham in the biggest bonfire the world had ever seen. Yet when the fire is lit, Abraham walks out unscathed.

[End of quote]

Dr. Albright, whilst wisely allowing that (and reckless revisionists could keep these words in mind) (op. cit., p. 89): “It may possibly be that we are dealing with a mere coincidence, extraordinary perhaps, but fallacious, and that the supporting indications will reveal themselves as  conspirators against the truth”, nonetheless proceeds to make this welcome – especially given the currently vague and tentative correlations between ancient Egypt and Syro-Mesopotamia – statement: “Yet the lines of evidence, geographical, historical, chronological and archaeological, converge so remarkably in the direction of our thesis that we ought not shrink from the test – o bere o affogare!”

Impact of Akkad Upon Egypt

Dr. Albright was also most controversial – at least in conventional terms – in his firm opinion that the Magan that Naram Sin claimed to have conquered was Egypt. Although Magan and Meluhha are always considered in the neo-Assyrio/Babylonian records to indicate, respectively, Egypt and Ethiopia, when Naram Sin uses these terms, he is supposed (for some strange reason) to be referring to, say, Oman, and to a location connecting to the Indus Valley.  However, D. Potts, discussing “the booty of Magan” taken by Naram Sin (“Potts 1986 – The booty of Magan”, Oriens Antiquus 25: pp. 271-285), makes the significant observation that: “It is striking that archaeological sites of all periods in the Oman peninsula have yielded an abundance of steatite and chlorite vessels, but practically no alabaster. This fact alone must make one sceptical of an Omani origin for the booty of Magan”.

Soundly based, therefore, does Albright’s conviction appear to be, that (op. cit., pp. 89-90):

Magan may now be identified beyond reasonable doubt with Egypt, despite the general impression to the contrary, shared by no less an authority than Eduard Meyer. This consensus of opinion is based partly upon erroneous data, and partly upon the sheer inertia of old preconceptions.

Dr. Albright’s last phrase, I think, well summarises the moribund Sothic theory of the aforesaid Eduard Meyer. See my:

The Fall of the Sothic Theory: Egyptian Chronology Revisited

Albright has estimated that the “Mani lord of Magan” whom Naram Sin claimed to have smote, could not have been any petty ruler, given that Naram Sin calls him “mighty” (… Mannu dannu šar Magan). Thus he writes:

The fact that king Mannu here is called dannu, ‘mighty’, is very important, as no other of the princes conquered by Narâm-Sin has this honorific title in his inscriptions except the latter himself who, in common with the others of his dynasty, affixes dan(n)u … to his name: Narâm-Sin dan(n)u … Narâm-Sin, the mighty …. The lord of Magan must have been a powerful ruler to receive so illustrious an appellative.

[End of quote]

The Might and Power of Naram Sin

  1. van de Mieroop tells us of the extent of Naram Sin’s mighty reach, though typically understated without the inclusion Egypt and Ethiopia (A History of the Ancient Near east. Ca. 3000-323 BC, Blackwell, 2004, p. 63):


The statements of Sargon and Naram-Sin stand out, however, because of their wide geographical range: these were certainly the greatest military men of the time. Yet, as Naram-Sin had to repeat many of his grandfather’s campaigns, it seems these often amounted to no more than raids.

The Akkadian kings focused their military attention on the regions of western Iran and northern Syria. In the east they encountered a number of states or cities, such as Elam, Parahshum, and Simurrum …. In the north they entered the upper Euphrates area, reaching the city of Tuttul at the confluence with the Balikh river, the cult center of Dagan that acted as a central focus of northern and western Syria. Mari and Ebla, the most prominent political centers of the region up till then, were destroyed. These places, which had been so close to northern Babylonia in cultural terms during the Early Dynastic period, were now considered to be major enemies.

The accounts mention many places even more remote, such as the cedar forests in Lebanon, the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in eastern Turkey, Marhashi, east of Elam, and areas across the “Lower Sea,” i.e., the Persian Gulf. These were reached in far-flung forays for the procurement of rare goods, hard stone, wood, or silver. Booty from these areas was brought to Babylonia. Several stone vessels excavated at Ur and Nippur were inscribed with the statement that they were booty from Magan, for instance. It seems unlikely, however, that these areas were subsequently controlled by Akkad.

Rather, the raids aimed at monopolizing access to trade routes. Ships from overseas areas, such as Dilmun (Bahrain), Magan … and Meluhha … are said to have moored in Akkad’s harbor. So when Naram-Sin claims that he conquered Magan, it seems more likely that he used his military might to guarantee access to its resources.

Local circumstances determined to a great extent how Akkadian presence was maintained in this wide region. We observe a variety of interactions. At Susa in western Iran, for instance, the language of bureaucracy became Akkadian and the local rulers were referred to with Sumerian titles, such as governor (ensi) or general (shagina), which imply a full dependence on the kings of Akkad. On the other hand, the rulers of Susa retained some degree of authority.

Naram-Sin concluded a treaty with an unnamed ruler or high official of Susa, a document written in the Elamite language. The agreement specified no submission to Akkad, only a promise by the Elamite to regard Naram-Sin’s enemies as his own. The autonomy of Elam should not be underestimated.

In Syria the Akkadians established footholds in certain existing centers, indicated by the presence of military garrisons or trade representatives there.

At … modern Tell Brak … a monumental building was erected with bricks stamped with the name of Naram-Sin. ….

So mighty did Naram Sin become that he even began to think of himself as a divine being (ibid., pp. 64-65):


Already under Sargon the traditional title “King of Kish” came to mean “king of the world,” using the similarity of the name of the city of Kish and the Akkadian term for “the entire inhabited world,” kishshatum. Naram-Sin took such self-glorification to an extreme. First, he introduced a new title, “king of the four corners (of the universe).” His military successes led him to proclaim an even more exalted status. After crushing a major rebellion in the entirety of Babylonia, he took the unprecedented step in Mesopotamian history of making himself a god. A unique inscription found in northern Iraq, but not necessarily put there in Naram-Sin’s days, describes this act as requested by the citizens of the capital:

‘Naram-Sin, the strong one, king of Akkad: when the four corners (of the universe) together were hostile to him, he remained victorious in nine battles in a single year because of the love Ishtar bore for him, and he took captive those kings who had risen against him. Because he had been able to preserve his city in the time of crisis, (the inhabitants of) his city asked from Ishtar in Eanna, from Enlil in Nippur, from Dagan in Turrul, from Ninhursaga in Kesh, from Enki in Eridu, from Sin in Ur, from Shamash in Sippar, and from Nergal in Kutha, that he be the god of their city Akkad, and they built a temple for him in the midst of Akkad.’

Henceforth his name appeared in texts preceded by the cuneiform sign derived from the image of a star, which functioned as the indicator that what followed was the name of a god.

Conceptually, this placed him in a very different realm from previous rulers. Earlier kings had been offered a cult after death, but Naram-Sin received one while he was still alive. The court initiated a process of royal glorification through other means as well. Perhaps the most visible of these efforts was in the arts. Stylistic changes originating in the reign of Sargon culminated in amazing refinement, naturalism, and spontaneity during Naram-Sin’s reign.

Most impressive is his victory stele, a 2-meter-high stone carved in bas-relief depicting the king leading his troops in battle in the mountains. Naram-Sin dominates the composition in a pose of grandeur, and is much larger than those surrounding him. Wearing the insignia of royalty – bow, arrow, and battle ax – he is also crowned with the symbol of divinity, the horned helmet. [See photo above]

[End of quote]



Whilst Sargon and his son, Manishtusu, also refer to “Magan”, the words quoted above about “monopolizing access to trade routes”, and using “military might to guarantee access to [Magan’s] resources”, rather than perhaps overt conquest, may apply in each of their cases. But in the case of Naram Sin (and also of the biblical “Amraphel”, whether or not he equates with Naram Sin), we know that a physical conquest was actually involved.

What archaeological evidence do we have for that?

Dr John Osgood has, in “The Times of Abraham” (, so important already in my Part One, archaeologically aligned as follows the invasion of the Shinarian coalition with the Syro-Palestine of Abram’s day:

In summary, Abraham entered the land of Canaan at approximately 1875 B.C.. In his days there was a settlement of Amorites in En-gedi, identified here with the Ghassul IV people. This civilization was ended by the attack of four Mesopotamian monarchs in a combined confederation of nations, here placed in the Uruk-Jemdat Nasr period in Mesopotamia. They were a significant force in ending the Chalcolithic of Palestine as we understand it archaeologically, and Abraham and his army were a significant force in ending the Jemdat Nasr domination of Mesopotamia, and thus the Chalcolithic of Mesopotamia, by their attack on these four Mesopotamian monarchs as they were returning home.

Osgood then goes on to tie up all of this with Egypt and its expansion into southern Palestine, which event I think may, however – if Osgood is actually correct in associating the Mesopotamian archaeology with “Amraphel” – have occurred after, rather than just prior to, the invasion of the eastern kings, with Egypt (Pharaoh-Abimelech) now filling up the vacuum left by the demise of Narmer.

Egypt was just about to enter its great dynastic period, and was beginning to consolidate into a united kingdom, when from northern Egypt a surge of Egyptian stock, including the Philistines, moved north into southern Palestine to settle, as well as to trade, identified in a number of sites in that region (most notably in the strata of Tel Areini, Level VI then V) as the Philistines with whom Abraham was able to talk face to face.

Now I fully accept Osgood’s concluding statement:

The biblical narrative demands a redating of the whole of ancient history, as currently recognised, by something like a one thousand year shortening – a formidable claim and a formidable investigation, but one that must be undertaken.



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