Ceremonial Axe of Ahmose I

The Ceremonial axe of king Ahmose I, the founder of the 18th Dynasty. Decorated with scenes, the king appears in the form of a sphinx, Nekhbet as a vulture over lily as symbol of Upper Egypt, Wadjet as a cobra over papyrus as symbol of Lower Egypt. Finally scene “Heh” the god of eternity holds the plant signifying millions of years.

This axe was executed to commemorate the liberation of Egypt from the Hyksos. On one side are the king’s cartouches at the top, a representation of Ahmose striking down his enemy in the center, and a winged sphinx symbolizing the king at the bottom.

Ceremonial Axe of King Ahmose I
Ceremonial Axe of King Ahmose I

On the other side at the top, the god of infinite space, Heh, is holding two palm branches, the symbol of time; in the center, the guardian goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt Nekhbet and Wadjet are depicted as a vulture and a cobra; and, in the bottom register, a sphinx lifts the head of an enemy.

Egyptians hold in high esteem the two kings who unified their country: the Early dynastic period king Narmer of around 3100 BC, and Ahmose I who reunited a divided Egypt around 1550 BC. and ushered in the celebrated New Kingdom.

When young Ahmose I ascended the throne, Egypt was in tremendous turmoil. Intruders of Asiatic origin known as the Hyksos, meaning “rulers of foreign lands,” had taken control of the Nile Delta. They had savagely murdered King Seqenenre Tao, Ahmose’s father, and decimated the army. They demanded tribute from the rulers of Upper Egypt in Thebes and took their princesses as wives.

Ceremonial Axe of King Ahmose I
Ceremonial Axe of King Ahmose I

The barbarism of the Hyksos was memorialized by Egyptian historian Manetho. “[They] burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of our gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility.”

New Kingdom, early 18th Dynasty, reign of Ahmose I, ca. 1550-1524 BC. Made from copper, gold, electrum, wood and semi-precious stones. Now in the Luxor Museum.