Summary Notes on Horus DEN (Nswt-bity Khasety or Zemty; Manetho's Usaphais)

Particular of the Brussels M.R.A.H. stela of Den (E562) cfr. below


Horus Den is one of the most important figures of the whole Fruhzeit, including the Third Dynasty. There are infact few kings of the First half of the Third Millenium whom have left similar amount of data and evidence of ongoing transformations in the administrative, economic, religious, architectural and iconographic sphere. I would just mention Narmer, Khasekhemwy and Netjerykhet alongside with Den as the most profound innovators of the period. For each one of these whole books might be dedicated: although 5000 years old their reigns have left a relatively large amount of evidence to deal with.
The reign of Den marked an important step forward, not only in funerary architecture development, but also in the progress of the State and of its subsystems (administration, economy, crafts, religion, kingship) as witnessed by the proliferation of titles of nobles, officials and lesser aristocracy (stelae of Abydos and Abu Rawash), the increment in the use of seals and labels, the arts masterpieces (stone vessels fashioned in daring shapes: see the one in figure below), new attributes of the king(ship) (the new 'Nswt-bity' royal title, canonization of king's role, attire and attitude; cf. H. Sourouzian, in: Kunst des Alten Reich = SDAIK 28, 1995, 133-154; id., in: Grimal ed., Les Critères de datation..., = BdE 120, 1998, 305-352). By far most of the known First Dynasty private tombs date to Den's reign (especially at Saqqara and Abu Rawash).
Den reigned after a short 'interregnum' of his mother Merneith, probably queen of Djet (to her period date S 3503 and her own tomb at Abydos, Y).
Example of year label (with indications of the hieroglyphics meaning)

He is the First Dynasty ruler for whom the largest amount of different year-labels are attested (more than fifty). These were almost all found a century ago by Petrie in the king'stomb (T) at Umm el Qaab Abydos. Some more are from (intrusive finds?) nearby tombs and from the elite mastabas of Saqqara (S3035, S3036, SX, S3506); these tags are of immense value to comprehend the function of the 'state-mechanism during that period. The private tombs of Saqqara are a clear evidence of the apex in richness achieved in this reign, surely linked to the successful administrative and organizative reforms Den must have promoted. No Ist Dynasty ruler is as much attested at North Saqqara in the highest elite tombs : S3035, S3036, S3041, S3506 and some minor ones more, not to count the Abu Rawash niched mastabas I, II, VI, VII, VIII, XII (Montet, Kemi 7, 8, 1938-9), a niched tomb at Helwan and a possible area of royal cult excavated by Macramallah near the Serapeum (1940; also see Kaiser in MDAIK 41, 1985) where some minor officials inscriptions (i.e. Ipka in tomb 59) were discovered.
The line-up of the tombs may suggest that in that area a royal enclosure (like Gisr el Mudir, Djoser's one or those at Abydos) in perishable material could have once been there. The private and his own tomb underwent an important change during this reign: the first apparition of a stairway leading to the burial chamber. Another important feature recently observed during the German re-excavations at Umm el Qaab, is the presence of a side chamber at the SE corner of the tomb probably meant to guest a royal statue, like a proto-serdab. The main chamber was paved with an aboundant quantity of (Assuan) pink granite.

MRAH Brussels E562
A round topped stela of Den is at Brussels MRAH (E562) (H.G. Fischer in J.A.R.C.E. 2, 1963, 17-51) and this certainly comes from the Abydos tomb T. Ankhka, Medjedka and especially Hemaka are the most important chancellors (Khetemw-Bity a quasi-'visir' position) of the period whose tombs (3036, 3035, 3506) reveal great innovations in the building techniques and availability of outstanding amounts of resources. The long debated appartenence of the Saqqara tombs to princes and high officials not to the kings has been finally resolved in the last decades with the German excavations at Abydos. The latter are not cenotaphs but the real burials of Thinite kings. Thus Egyptologists have returned to the Petrie's statements before Emery 's excavations at SAQQARA.
The innovative character of this king's reign is also evident in the first attestation of the third royal name of the titulary: the NswtBity, whose incertain reading for Den is Khasety (or rather Zemty); the first reading of the double glyph of hills would allude to the foreign lands some of which might have been conquered or raided by this king as shown on the MacGregor label (link above n. Den 31), thus NswtBity the Foreigner; the other possible reading, NswtBity Zemty, could refer to the king's power over the whole territory: the two (western and eastern) deserts beside the Nile valley as well as the Noerth and South of Egypt (Nswt-Bity) (cfr. Wilkinson, Early Dynastic Egypt 1999 p. 206). Also the information and the mini-scenes ("events") on the labels become more developed since his reign. More inscriptions are found on Stone vessels from Saqqara (Step Pyr complex) and Abydos.
The reign of Den is partly present on the Palermo Stone recto line 3 (few more than 13 year-cases in the second half of the reign); there are three mention of ceremonies pertaining to the inauguration of the Hwt St-Ntrw, possibly his cult place at Memphis. The apparition (Kha) of the Neswtbity in the same year of the Hebsed; some erections of gods' sattues; a defeat of 'Iwntyw' possibly related to the same event depicted on the cited MacGregor ivory label (referred to 'Iabtjw', Easterners). The Annals fragment published by J.L. de Cenival ('Un nouveau Fragment de la Pierre de Palerme' in B.S.F.E. 44. Dec. 1965, p. 13-17) surely refers to the same reign because it has the beginning of Den's titulary (Horus name) above the last of the 4+ readable year-cases; there is the recording of a victory of Setjetyw (Palestine or Nubian -Elephantine- nomads) and one over the Tjesemw (Dogs); a ceremony is attested at the Hwt Smr-Ntrw; the fashioning of a Imy-wt fetish is recorded at the Senty cult place, while on the first partly preserved case there is a Hedj-Wr baboon. This figure also appears on a limestone slab relief from S3507 (and might be earlier) with the representation of the king wearing the red crown. More corrispondences between Annals and Labels evenemential inscriptions are in G. Godron ("Etudes sur l' Horus Den..." Geneve 1990).

Den stela from Saqqara 3507, BM 67153

The recently found private tomb at Minshat el Ezzat has provided a little treasure of objects with some inscriptions of Den (on a flint blade); one of the most remarkable objects is a decorated slate palette which has been interpreted by the SCA excavators (cfr. Boghdady in Archeo Nil 9, 1999) as possibly contemporary to Den; this must be wrong because there s yet no evidence of such objects after the very early Ist dyn, so the palette could have been already some centuries old at the time of the burial during the reign of Den. But this is the 3rd decorated palette found in archaeological excavations (with the two from the Main Deposit of Hierakonpolis, Narmer and 2 Dogs).
Metropolitan Museum stone vessels (mid Ist dynasty)
The artistic vein is full of marvellous examples datable to this king: the hard stone vessels are fashioned in exotic shapes, as the Ankh-ka vessel in Metropolitan Museum of Arts which is built as a Ka-hands 'embracing' an Ankh hieroglyph, in a real 3d rebus of the person's name. Another vessel in MM is shaped as a lotus feather, while one in Cairo has an original circular shape with a tripartite feature within (Cairo JdE 71295, from S3111 of Sabu, period of Den-Adjib, Emery G.T. I, 1949). Some 'roundels' of Hemaka bear sharp zoomorphic motifs in relief (Emery, The tomb of Hemaka, 1938). No statue is known from this reign but I would suggest that the ivory portrait of a king with white crown and Heb Sed robe found by Petrie at Abydos might represent him, rather than the generally more referenced Narmer; but the range of dates remains at least late Dynasty 0 to IInd Dynasty.
Seal impressions of Den in Brussels M.R.A.H. (E129)
The huge quantity of material for this reign, witnesses therefore a number of innovations in the administrative, architectural, artistic, religious and other fields; many administrative titles, iconographic motifs or stylistic and architectural features were introduced just during this reign. The reign length has been reconstructed on the basis of the Annals fragments hypothesized collocation (Kaiser, Helck, Barta) as c. 45 years long. Apart from the Palermo stone case there is also the recently found evidence of a 2nd HebSed of the king (Dreyer et al. MDAIK 46, 1990 p. 80 fig.9 pl 26d).

There are also the NK mentions of his nswtbity name on the Abydos King list, Turin Canon (col. II, I,16) and in several other papyri (Ebers 103, 1-2; Berlin Medical Pap. 15,1, in the Book of the Dead ch. 64 and 130) of NK, 3rd IP and LP: the total of later period sources is comparable and even superior to that of "Menes" (cfr Wildung, Die Rolle...,1969 p. 21-31).
The year-labels provide administrative as iconographic and historical (?) informations; I ve already anticipated that many components of the "royal regalia" apparatus have been found for the first time on Den's labels (cfr. Wilkinson op.cit. 1999 p. 183-229).

Many more observations and data could be added to this summary of Den's reign. Probably the cultural peak under many aspects of the Ist Dynasty and at least as innovative and dense of manifold transformations as those of Narmer and Aha.

Bibliography -
G. Godron 1990 Etudes sur l' Horus Den ...
Wilkinson 1999 Early Dynastic Egypt
Whitehouse 1987 Horus Den in Oxford O.J.A. 6, 257-267
Helck 1987 Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit
Cialowicz 2001 La naissance d'un royaume...
Emery 1961 Archaic Egypt
Petrie 1900 Royal Tombs I
Emery 1938 The tomb of Hemaka
Emery 1949 Great Tombs I
Emery 1954 Great Tombs II
Emery 1958 Great Tombs III
Kaplony 1963 Die Inschriften der agyptischen Fruhzeit I-III
Kahl 1994 Das System der agyptischen Hieroglyphenschrift dyn 0.-3.
Vercoutter 1992 L' Egypte et la vallée du Nil, I
Francesco Raffaele 1-23-2002
(Thanks to Miss Christine Van Heertum for the images of Den's stela and seal impression in Brussels)


Note : TO BE REWRITTEN (da riscrivere)
Inizialmente a DEN venne attribuita la tomba T di Abydos (Umm el Aqqab), poi, dopo gli scavi di Firth e soprattutto di Emery, la S 3035 di Saqqara (56x25m) inizialmente attribuita ad Hemaka venne ritenuta la tomba di Den; infine questa mastaba venne giustamente "restituita" all'importante funzionario Hemaka il cui nome, gia dalla scoperta, era stato trovato sui sigilli.
Recentemente G. Deryer e la sua equipe del D.A.I.K. ha riscavato e restaurato il monumento (Dreyer in M.D.A.I.K. 46, 1990, A.S.A.E 75, 1999-2000 p. 25 ff) oggi ritenuto il sepolcro dell' Horus Den.
Oltre a questa anche la vicina 3036 (con fossa per barca solare) e la 3506 appartengono al suo regno.
Contornata da ben 133 sepolture satellite, la tomba T di Abido appartenuta di sicuro al re in questione costituisce il primo esempio di uso della pietra in architettura, avendo tutto il pavimento in granito.
Emery era convinto,date le somiglianze architettoniche, che una tomba assai rovinata del sito di Giza (V), poco più piccola di quella di Hemaka, potesse esser attribuita ad una anonima regina di DEN.
Del '' Palazzo funerario'' di DEN tra le ''Tombe dei cortigiani'' a nord di Umm el Qab (Abido) e' stata recentemente ritrovata l' ubicazione (D. O' Connor) presso quelli di DJER e DJET. Piu' a Nord dovrebbe trovarsi quello di Qa'a (a Deir Sitt Damiana).
E' invece noto il nome della madre di DEN, MERNEITH,quasi certamente figlia di DJER e consorte di DJET, che potrebbe aver regnato brevemente negli anni fra il marito ed il figlio;sull'impronta di un sigillo di Abido,è stata recentemente trovata una lista di re da NARMER a DEN, con il nome della regina messo in associazione al titolo "Madre di Re"; la tomba di MERNEITH ad Abido,circondata da 41 sepolture di servi, ha restituito una famosa stele con il suo nome; è molto vicina a quella di DJET,così come la mastaba S3503 sorge presso quella del regno di Djet (S 3504, Sekhemkasedj).
DEN, che K.Sethe chiamò UDIMU attribuendo valore pittografico ai due segni del suo nome che invece significherebbe "Uccisore", fu il primo re a portare il titolo-nome di NSUBITY, aggiungendolo all' HOR ed al NEBTY,e inoltre associò il simbolo dell'oro al falco HOR anticipando il 3° nome usato dalla XII din.
La sua politica fu inizialmente diretta a contenere il preoccupante fenomeno costituito dall'eccessivo potere accumulato dai funzionari durante gli anni immediatamente precedenti alla sua intronizzazione forse agevolati da deboli e brevi regni quali quello di DJET e di MERNEITH; è un fatto che le sepolture di alti funzionari (HEMAKA, SEKHEMKA-SEDJ) sono talvolta addirittura piu' elaborate e ampie (se prese da sole senza considerare i recinti funerari abideni) di quelle costruite per i re coevi.
Nel primo anno di regno si volse al Vicino Orienteper una campagna militare (!!!???!!! Grimal); combattè i beduini del Sinai e, per la Pietra di Palermo, sotto di lui venne costruita una fortezza, celebrate cerimonie per Atum ed Api e fatto un censimento dell'intero paese oltre ad una ovvia politica di riappacificazione con il Basso Egitto , che traspare dal nome della regina contenente il simbolo della dea di Sais , Neith , e dall'istituzione della carica di "cancelliere del Re del Basso Egitto" il cui primo titolare fu proprio il famoso HEMAKA poi sepolto con grandeur a Saqqara in una tomba gia nominata,la 3035, nella quale,fra le altre cose, venne trovata un'interessantissima tavoletta che ricorda un suo giubileo (o l' incoronazione ?) durante il quale sembra esser avvenuta la traslazione della mummia di DJER, suo nonno.
Altro suo funzionario noto è l' ANKHKA della tomba 3036 di Saqqara.
USAPHAIS è il suo nome Manetoniano;la lettura del Nsubity è sempre stata incerta tra ZEMTY / SEMTY e KHASTY (Straniero,Uomo del deserto); esso compare ad Abido (5°)e sul Canone Reale (dopo ITA e prima di MERBIAPEN) mentre, come detto,14 anni di un sovrano ignoto sulla Pietra di Palermo, dovrebbero esser gli ultimi del suo regno di circa mezzo secolo; infine è omesso a Saqqara nella lista della tomba dello scriba Tjuloy,che comincia con il nome di MERBIAPEN, Nsubity di ADJIB. (Bibl. vedi re precedenti). F.R. 1995