A few years ago, the Archaeological Institute of America published an article hypothesizing that the formation of ancient Egypt was linked to recurrent Predynastic zombie attacks due to outbreaks of Solanum virus. Further study has proven the early hypothesis to be true. In matters of archaeology, history, and development of civilizations, this finding is every bit as significant as learning that the Higgs boson, theorized since the early 1960’s, does, in fact, exist.
Solanum, as you may know, was isolated in 2003 by famous zombie researcher Max Brooks, who immediately published his findings in the scholarly Zombie Survival Guide. Solanum is the insidious virus that feasts on the frontal lobe, killing its human host’s ability to maintain basic bodily functions. (The virus has absolutely no relation to the plant genus of the same name, despite the fatal characteristics of the nightshades. The tastier, less deadly members of this plant genus include tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.)
The virus keeps the victim’s brain alive, though, and actually mutates it so that it is no longer oxygen-dependent. As the Urban Dictionary correctly points out, “By removing the need for this all-important resource, the undead brain can utilize, but is in no way dependent upon, the complex support mechanism of the human body.” The mutated brain eventually controls the body of the host, but in a very different way than the original, uninfected brain.
The most recent outbreak of Solanum happened just three years ago but was apparently confined to the jackalope population. This outbreak was particularly disturbing because for the first time Solanum was proven to have infected a non-human host. However, in examining the historical documents, it appears likely that the Rabbit of Caerbannog, encountered by the British King Arthur and his loyal Knights of the Round Table in their quest for the Holy Grail, may well have suffered the undeadly effects the Solanum virus, too.
Headless skeletons found at Egypt’s historic city of Hierakonpolis are what gave the ancient zombie plague away. According to archaeologists studying the site, “[t]he number and the standard position of the cut marks (usually on the second-fourth cervical vertebrae; always from the front) indicate an effort far greater than that needed simply to cause the death of a normal (uninfected) person. The standard position also indicates these are not injuries sustained during normal warfare.”
The archaeologists’ findings mirror what we know to be true about modern zombies. In multiple documentaries about the zombie plague, George A. Romero taught us that the best way to stop a zombie is by decapitating or braining it. Deprive the Solanum of its host, destroy the tissue in which it lives, and it cannot animate that which ought not to be animated in the first place. And if you think for a moment that these films are not important, think again: in 1999, the first of the documentaries was one of 25 selected by the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress as one of the most “historically… important” films ever made.
Recent studies of the Narmer palette, discovered at Hierakonpolis, served as the interpretive breakthrough the scientists needed to piece together the clues at the dig site. We don’t have to tell you that the Narmer Palette was named for the famous Egyptian King of Dynasty 0. That’s a zero, not a letter, and it stands for the dynasty that begat all future Egyptian dynasties, back when begetting was still a new thing. (The people of the Levant would jump on the begetting bandwagon about fifteen hundred years later. They would maintain the trend until 70 C.E. That’s when the Romans sent them out on a diaspora, which is the Aramaic term for “schlepping your kids all over creation.”)
About 5100 years ago, Narmer ruled Upper Egypt (the south part, closer to the source of the Nile). He was known among his people as “Raging Catfish,” which, as a mascot and spirit animal, does not exactly seem terribly fearsome, but nevertheless, that’s what “Narmer” means in ancient Egyptian. The Catfish moniker may have come from his propensity to dam up the Nile to increase the tillable acres in his kingdom. Dams make for still water, where catfish like to scavenge, but when they want to go farther and butt their whiskered heads against the wall of the dam, well, they rage.
But as history would happen, the Solanum virus outbreak in the Nile Delta, to the north, got out of hand and the northern king ruling the area couldn’t keep things under control. The hordes started to move south, toward Narmer’s kingdom. Narmer would have none of that.
As soon as Narmer finished putting down the zombie hordes, the grateful citizens of the upper and lower Nile Deltas held themselves an election and declared Narmer King of Everything. It seems that the old king of Lower Egypt had lost his head, and thus his crown, in the zombie wars, the grateful inhabitants of the delta decided to give that crown to Narmer, to wear in conjunction with his own crown. Fortunately, the adoration of so many Egyptians of every stripe made Narmer’s head big enough to hold two crowns, and thus Upper and Lower Egypt united under a single ruler and the First Dynasty began.
The ancient stonecutters of the Nile were especially delighted that they could go around carving things without jumping and running for their lives every time they heard a moan. In grateful appreciation, they got together and designed the Narmer Palette, a big stone carved on both sides chronicling events of the zombie uprising.
As Egyptian rulers would frequently do upon the resolution of some momentous event, Narmer decided to change his royal sobriquet. Besides, folks in the north thought “Catfish” was too endearingly redneck for the ruler of two magnificent kingdoms. He became “Menes” and founded the northern city of Men Nefer, which means “enduring and beautiful.” In modern language, Men Nefer’s name is pronounced “Memphis.”
While “enduring” might suit the victor of the Great Zombie War who had saved humanity, Narmer/Menes probably had enough battle wounds to disqualify himself as “beautiful.” His southern subjects recognized the need for a name change but did not like the one he chose for himself. Some people wanted him to take the title of Zombie King, but others suggested that name was probably culturally insensitive given the circumstances. So, they came up with the next most deadly creature they could think of, and they called him the Scorpion King.