Egyptian Symbols: Serekh

The serekh is another important symbol of ancient Egyptian iconography. It is one of the two devices (the other one being the cartouche) used to contain the pharaoh’s name. It takes the form of a rectangular frame containing a niched façade of the palace or walling symbolic of ancient Egyptian architecture. It usually surmounted by the Horus falcon on top of it. Within the enclosure would be the pharaoh’s Horus name. Both the falcon and the Horus name signify the importance of kingship and the significance of the knowledge of the specific pharaoh’s reign known to future generations of rulers. The serekh is normally found in coffins even during the Predynastic Period thereby predating the more popular cartouche.

It is believed that the serekh is one of the most meaningful glyphs. The sides of the enclosure represent the walls like that of a building plan. The whole symbol itself is the representation of the town or city where the king or pharaoh lived as an incarnation of the sky god, Horus.

Proof of its existence in art form and decoration exists as far back as the earliest history of Egypt. During the First Dynasty, in the memorial the pharaoh Djet, the serekh is the only décor found.

The use of the Horus name in the enclosure began in the Fifth Dynasty. The statue made of alabaster of the Sixth Dynasty ruler Pepy shows a stylish use of the serekh. In this specific statue, four falcons guard the king in the same manner as that of the Khepren monument. The only difference is that the falcon is perched perpendicularly to the pharaoh instead of facing him and wrapping its wings around the king’s head. At the backside of the king’s throne, his name is carved within the serekh symbol. This led to the belief that the serekh may have meant throne when translated.

The serekh may also be found in other relics and texts. In coffins from the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom, aside from its normal function, it became closely associated with the Ka of the pharaoh.