Sandal Ivory Label of King Den Striking Down Asiatic Tribesman

This ivory label originally attached to a pair of royal sandals, found at his tomb in Abydos, showing the king Den with an upraised mace, about to strike a captive. The king’s name is written before him in a Serekh, in the center of the top of the label.

The king wears a bull’s tail, symbolic of fertility and ferocious power. Instead of a crown, however, Den wears an archaic version of a royal headdress, with the rearing neck and head of a royal uraeus cobra at his forehead.

Sandal Ivory Label of King Den, MacGregor plaque
Sandal Ivory Label of King Den, MacGregor plaque

The label is also known as the MacGregor plaque, and with the depictions of Narmer, among the oldest images of a ruler.

It is well-preserved and restored from three fragments, with a hole for attachment at the top right-hand corner. The two lower corners have been cut off at an angle.

That the enemy is an Easterner is indicated by his long locks and pointed beard, which resemble those on later depictions of Asiatic foes. On the right is the standard of Wepwawet ‘the jackal’ and an inscription.

Behind the figure of the king are three signs giving the name of the official Inka. The reverse side of the label bears an incised picture of a pair of sandals, indicating the type of object to which the label was attached.

Den was the first to use the title “King of Upper and Lower Egypt” and the first depicted as wearing the Pschent or the double crown (red and white). Notably, the floor of his tomb at Umm El Qa’ab, near Abydos, was constructed using red and black granite, making it the earliest known use of this hard stone as a building material in Egypt with a flight of stairs leading to it.

Early Dynastic Period, 1st Dynasty, around 3000 BC. Dimensions: height: 4.50 cm, width: 5.30 cm, depth: 0.30 cm, weight: 10 gm. Now in the British Museum. EA 55586