The Ancient Egyptian Third Dynasty
By Francesco Raffaele (1998-2001)
* The identity of these two rulers and their chronological position
is still debated. Their reigns were probably in the second half of the dynasty.
the red links in this table now lead to each king's page separately (in updated
General bibliography: The main studies
are quoted in the text; The only detailed publication on the History of this
dynasty is Nabil Swelim 'Some Problems on the History of the Third Dynasty'
(Archaeol. Soc. Alexandria 1983); [Here abbreviated S.P.]
R. Weill' s 'La IIe et la IIIe Dynastie' is equally very useful but much more
See also Aidan Dodson 'On the Threshold of Glory: The Third Dynasty' in KMT
9:2, 1988 p.27-40, and T.Wilkinson 'Early Dynastic Egypt' 1999.
A Corpus of Third Dynasty inscriptions has been published by J. Kahl- N. Kloth-
U. Zimmermann 'Die Inscriften der 3. Dynastie' 1995.
- Brooklyn Museum Red Granite Head of an
Unknown King (Huni or Khufu)
- Hesyra is one of the few great dignitaries of the 3rd Dynasty of whom we
have some piece of information.
- At Saqqara Quibell dug his tomb (n. 2405) in 1911. Already in the previous
century A. Mariette had entered it and removed 5 of the 11 wooden panels (the
sixth one was brought out by Quibell).
- For now we ll deal with the historical period in which Hesyra lived, the
century that covers the end of the II nd dynasty to the end of the III rd
- beginning of the IVth.
- The dignitaries, known by their statues (Bedjimes/ Ankhwa, Sepa) or by mastabas
and reliefs (Khaibawsokar,Akhetaa), seem to be dated not before the first
half of the III rd dyn. if not later to Huni or Snofru (like Sepa). Maybe
they were born during the reign of Djoser or perhaps the one of Khasekhemwy
but their tombs and artworks bear the mark of the late Dyn. III style.
Coeval of Imhotep and Hesyra is probably Nedjemankh who's known by two statues
(at Leida and Paris) and who was probably the owner of the Beit Khallaf Mastaba
K5 as some seal impressions lead us to think.
- Many many uncertainties exist for what concerns the pharaohs of the III
rd dyn. and their succession order.
- Under this aspect the first dynasty is much better known.
- With the age of the great pyramids we enter a completely different period,
so prolific and rich in objects, royal and private funerary complexes, monuments,
as to fournish us a highly wider bulk of data allowing us to even try to reconstruct
the IV th dyn. royal family genealogic tree, an impossible thing to realize
for the Djoser's age. These are the principal lists of royal names (XIX th
dyn., exc. the fourth which is tolemaic):
Dynasty III on the Royal Canon of Turin (G.Farina
Neb-ka (19 years)
? Aches (42)
Horus names on monuments
Cartouche names on monuments
- (NEBKA ?)
HUNI - HU - NISWT H
(See also the Table of
the Stone vessels inscriptions from Djoser's complex
and other locations)
The sum of regnal years for the 6 or 7 kings of the III dyn. should
be form circa 70-80 to 120-130 years.
Manetho, through his two main quoters, Africanus and Eusebius, gives a exaggerate
total of years (214).
The Royal Canon of Turin, on which the regnal years for all the III rd dyn.
kings is kept, gives 74 years.
(cfr. P. O'Mara in G.M. 147 for a comparison of dates between the Turin Papyrus
and Manetho; cfr. on the Turin Pap. Gardiner 'The Royal Canon of Turin' - 1959
and J. Malek in J.E.A. 68 p. 93-106).
- On the Annals (Palermo Stone plus five fragments
in Cairo and one in London) no III rd dyn. royal name has remained in the
lines containing the royal titulary and the name of the mother-Queen; anyhow
the most recent reconstructions (Kaiser Z.A.S. 86,
Helck M.D.A.I.K. 30 and Thinitenzeit, Barta Z.A.S. 108) aim to place the reign
of Khasekhemui (last king of dyn. II) at the beginning of the line 5 which
had to go on with the dyn III so that Huni's reign had to finish just in the
last year-box at the left end of the line 5; thus the fragments we have must
be related to the last 6 regnal years of Nebka and the first 5 of Djoser on
the line 5 of the Palermo fragment, while the last years of Djoser's, all
the 6/7 of Sekhemhet's and the first 2 of his successor's are on the illeggible
line 5 of K1 Cairo main fragment); 4 years (among those of the early reign)of
Huni (or perhaps Nebka) are on the Petrie fragment this last one recto is
to be placed right of P or left of K1).
- * Cf. Second Dynasty table for Khasekhemwy's status as last
king of the Second Dynasty (=Bebty) or First one of the Third Dynasty (Necherophes/Necherothes).
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF THE THIRD DYNASTY
BASED ON THE STUDY OF
SOME PROBLEMS ON THE HISTORY OF THE THIRD DYNASTY (1983) p.224
by Dr. Nabil M.A. SWELIM
Other contemporary Names
New Kingdom Kinglists
Years of Reign
Hierakonpolis Enclosure (Fort)
Gisr el Modir at Saqqara
Ptahhotep enclosure at Saqqara
(King "W") *
El Deir enclosure/mudbrick massif at Abu Roash
Senwy or Sensen,
(King "X") *
Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara
Unfinished Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara
Unfinished Pyramid at Zawiyet el Aryan
Layer Pyramid at Zawiyet el Aryan
The (Swelim's) suggested duration of the Third Dynasty is
* King "W" and
"X" are the two on Palermo Stone line V (recto).
The conclusion presented in this table are drawn
from a long study presented by Dr. Nabil Swelim in 1983 (The Archaeological
Society of Alexandria; Archaeological & Historical Studies n. 7) table of
page 224. Only an accurate reading of this book does justice to the solutions
the Egyptian author proposed for the history, chronology and monuments of the
Third Dynasty of Egypt.
Also note that, having now passed almost 20 years from the edition of that study,
Dr. Swelim might have modified some of the conclusions presented in his table.
Furthermore some of Swelim's conclusions are not shared by myself (cfr. text
IIIrd DYNASTY ROYAL NAMES
by Dr. PETER KAPLONY (in R.A.R. I, 1977 p. 146-55)
njswt-bity Wr-Za-Khnwm (I.A.F. p. 380, 468, 611)
2 months, 23 days
njswt-bity nebty Netjerykhet (Ra) Nwb
njswt-bity Nebty Djoserty
Horus NekhetZa (Zanakht)
njswt-bity Nebka (-Ra)
Horus Tehenw (.j) Nwb (I.A.F. III n. 806)
(tot. c. 74 years)
The Antecedents : The
It seems assured that the origin of the III rd dyn. (which signs the definitive
moving of the capital from Tinis to Memphis)has to be found in the person
of King KHASEKHEMUI / Nebuihotepimef , who reordered the state after a period
that, owing to the archaeological remains,looks somewhat obscure.
In spite of the presence of two II nd dyn.-ending royal tombs
in the necropolis of Abydos , the nevralgic center of the country in the 'thinite'
age was probably fixed at Memphis already since the age of Aha,as the posterior
tradition concerning the mythical Menes states (the Ist dyn. cemetery starts
in the reign of Aha).
No trace of Narmer has been found at Saqqara but at that
time the necropolis must have been another one as traces of Ka appear at
Helwan and other Dyn. 0 royal serekhs are on vessels from Tura and souther
The Thinite area had to have a prevailing mythical-religious
importance (site of the burials of archaic chiefs in the cemeteries B and
U, and main center of the god Khentyimentyw worship); about its political
value we can't guess it because a royal palace, administration and urban
settlement has never been found (Thinis should be under the modern Girga
so it hasn't been excavated to present and probably never will); the focus
of this statement is that the decrease of political significance of Abydos
had not to await the III rd dyn. to happen, being in act already at the
time of Aha. It seems unprobable that, after a king like Narmer, so much
active in the NearEast, two dynasties had to pass before the definitive
moving of the capital to Memphis, already built at the dawn of the first
dynasty. The true political importance of Abydos must have lasted only for
the dyn. 00 and 0 period.
A royal necropolis shift had been decided and accomplished
at the beginning of the II nd dyn. for we know since the early '900 that
the funerary underground galleries of the huge mastabas of Hotepsekhemwy
and Nineter (1st and 3rd kings of the II nd dyn.) are located beneath the
causeway and pyramid of the Unas complex , not far from the south wall of
Djoser at Saqqara.
All the western side of the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser,
from north to south,covers galleries that must surely have been those of
II nd dynasty royal tombs. Their very dangerous excavation has never been
Other contemporary tombs are further north as the wide
mastaba 2302 of Ruaben coeval of King Nebra.
The funerary cult of kings such as SENEDJ and PERIBSEN
was overseen, during the fourth dyn., by a priest of Saqqara, Shery , chief
of the Wab priests in the necropolis of Peribsen and in the palace (or domain)
of Senedj (Grdseloff in A.S.A.E. 44 pag. 294 ; cfr. Sened
The few traces of Uneg
vases in Djoser complex and in S 3014) or of SENEDJ
(ramessid lists and an inscription on a vessel from the funerary complex
of Khafre at Giza) would here overcarry us (See II nd dyn.).
Among the kings of the II nd dyn., the last (KHASEKHEMUI)
is the less 'present' at Saqqara, if we omit the 9 inscriptions on the vessels
of the Djoser complex galleries(these ones deriving from an intence activity
of recovery undertaken by Djoser, not necessarily only at Saqqara and cfr.
the dating provided by Helck in Z.A.S. 106,120-32).
Khasekhemwy (already Khasekhem) is also the only king, together
with Peribsen, to be well known at Abydos ( by a tomb and an enclosure) and
at Hierakonpolis (another enclosure -'the fort'- , door jambs with foundation
scenes from the temple of Horus, inscripted stone vessels, fragments of stelas
and inscripted blocks and the two beautiful statues in Cairo and Oxford);
and in these southern places the mentioned sovereigns of the II dyn. beginning
are at their time almost totally absent.
It seems that at the eve of the definitive shift to Memphis
of the royal necropolis too , one generation before the founders of the
III rd dynasty, the necessity of a southward moving of the state barycentre
was felt for some very mysterious reason.
The first three kings of the II nd dyn. haven't left but
scanty traces -stone vases inscriptions in Peribsen's Umm el Qaab tomb (Petrie
R.T. II pl. VIII/ 8-13)-, whereas the last two (the same Peribsen and Khasekhemui),
poor if not completely lacking of coeval dignitaries buried at Saqqara,
returned to build their tombs in the thinite cemetery of the First dynasty
Kings at Umm el Qaab, which had been abandoned at the end of that dynasty.
(We rehearse once again that the absence of Hotepsekhemwy-Ninetjer at Abydos
is more significant than the one of Khasekhemwy at Saqqara: here, in fact,
one of the underground western galleries of Djoser complex could 've belonged
to his tomb; and Scottish Mus. archaeologists seem inclined to think that
the largest Saqqara enclosure 'Gisr el Mudir' might have been built just
by Khasekhemwy; this latter's wife name has been found at Helwan).
Still uncertain is the position of the king Sekhemib -
Perenmaat whom an old hypothesis saw as the same person as Peribsen, before
the "Sethian heresy" which would have brought him to change his
titulary and name (cfr. in favour of this identity the seal impression in
Petrie 'Scrabs & cylinders...' tav. VIII - Peribsen/Sekhemib).
This period is often described as theater of violent warfares
between two factions (Northeners followers of Seth and Southeners followers
of Horus) on the basis of hypothesis shared by authoritary professors who
often leaned on data coming from too historicistical reading of clues contained
in later myths or tales; the fires of Umm el Qaab tombs happily supported
these theories fournishing an 'archaeological' proof (with also a literary
echo); there do exist an effective paucity of informations for this period;
and we are inclined to consider as 'Dark ages' or of deep crisis the reigns
or dynasties leaving few traces.
In the light of these considerations the reign of Khasekhemui,with
its various artistic outfits and the evidences of commercial relations with
Byblos (cfr. Montet, Kemi 1), seems to shed new life in the shade of a newly
born splendour after the country had suffered the aftermath of who knows
what a stormy period of decadence.
But the whole question could be less drastic and apocalyptic
than how it looks and it's not to exclude that some kings may have reigned
in the north while others did in the south after a process of slow and silent
disgregation rather than after warfares and riots (the general tendence
of burocracy evolution seems actually to decrease).
The events of the II nd dyn. could also be interpreted
as the effect or the result of that decentralization of the administrative
power (already in progress at the beginning of the Ist dyn. and perhaps
to read as a presupposition or the very pillar of the unification not as
the degeneration of this one) which made the higher officials buried in
Saqqara so close in richness of their tombs to their own kings' ones.
These latter were buried in Abydos where they had smaller
burials (but associated to the wide enclosures that Petrie named 'Tombs
of Courtiers' , north of Umm el Qaab).
A further explanation, recently well credited, of this
phenomenon is the one that identifies in the nobles buried at Saqqara the
brothers of the king or anyhow near relatives of his; these hypothetical
relations of parentage have not been deduced by titles or epithets but by
the hypothesis (of Kaplony) that this kind of links did exist whenever the
high officials names were written beside the Serekh of the king over the
Moreover , as the Old Kingdom history tells us , the fact
that the king tried to cement around himself a loyal group of dignitaries
through parental linkage (his brothers and husbands of his sisters), can't
provide us from thinking that competitions and interests conflicts did happen
the same way (as the countermeasures adopted in the VI th dyn. to stem the
princes' growing pretensions do demonstrate).
Whether things really went this way it's thus statable
that, between the Abydos buried kings and the respective high nobles and
officials of theirs dwelling in Memphis during the first dynasty, there
existed a kind of relation of subordination much less rooted and severe
than how it could appear; and maybe this one was the only possible way at
that time to keep under control the Delta or other provincial far away regions.
So the functionaries of the kings, dislocated in cities
more or less distant from the royal residence, related or not with the royal
family, perhaps even related with the most powerful families of the regions
they lived in, must have enjoyed a certain authonomy ,in my opinion, during
a period when a strong royal centralization was yet to come.
In any case the often too overlooked proof of the actual
ownership of the Saqqara mastabas of the I st dyn. to private persons or
anyway non-royal individuals, is provided to us (beyond the recent results
of the german equipes excavations in Umm el Qaab) by the same findings in
some of the memphite necropolid tombs: (Emery in A.S.A.E. 39) boxes containing
workshop tools certainly much more fitting the status of a professional
man than the one of a king.
Thus by the first two dynasties the stream of goods gotten
thanks to the state fiscal withdrawal had not yet the big amount that it
would reach during the forthcoming dynasties.
This was naturally the effect of the inefficiency of a
organism still unable to master the incomes from too vast a territory without
the helpful support of local authorities; these latter held for themselves
consistent percentages (necessary for building the great tombs in the cemeteries
of Tura, Saqqara, Tarkhan, Abu Roash) reducing by this way the complexive
amount of taxes due to the sovereigns.
We can't exclude that an important administrative center
did exist in Abydos too, because we have seen that kingly presence therein
was highly possible at the end of the second dyn.,but, in the impossibility
of verifing these statements on the field, they remain hypothetical.
It is worth to remember that the eventuality of a scission
of Higher and Lower Egypt during the second dyn. is attemptable by reading
through the lines of the 'Annals' (cfr. Barta in Z.A.S. 108 p.12): without
going too far we'll limit to say that it isn't so obvious whether in this
document of memphite tradition and of such a year by year chronology respectful
character were actually included either the 'official' kings like the thinite
Khasekhem(wy) or the contemporary (?) 'gegenkonige' of Memphis (Neferkara,
Neferkasokar and the 'hudjefa' lacuna documented by the Turin Canon).
KHASEKHEMUI is the authority that resetted the state after
this socio-political revolution whose most visible effect appears in the
royal titulary propaganda as aderence to the cult of Seth/Ash in substitution
of Horus upon the serekh of king Peribsen and as repacification of Horus
and Seth by KHASEKHEMUI (Nebui-hotep-im.f).
This well known religious aspect of the question has brought
egyptologists (from Sethe to Emery) to propose the theory of the religious
war thus mistaking a mere effect or aspetct with the cause :but ,as we know,
all holy wars hide, behind the religious reasons , interests and aims of
sheerer political-economical matrix; and it's just of this genere that the
crisis of the II nd dyn. could have been.
But even wanting to soften the tones of the problem, it remains
undeniable that the presence of Khasekhem almost totally limited at the sole
Hierakonpolis, and that one of KHASEKHEMUI (the same king) more large, indicate
that this latter king has to be acknowledged with some kind of unificatory
action over the country.
Furthermore the presence of the tombs of Kings like Khasekhemwy
and Peribsen in the same Abydos necropolis makes me think that these individuals
should hardly have been antagonists. (cfr. Dynasty II pages) W. Helck proposed
(Thinitenzeit 1987 p. 105) that Horus Ninetjer might have been the author
of this division of the Egypt wanting to equally treat two sons of his (thus
the elder -Wng- was placed at Memphis and the younger -Sekhemib ?- at Abydos)
; so there would have been a Lower Eg. King and an Upper Eg. one ; the first
wouldn' t be only Bity but indeed Nswtbity,with a relevant political importance,
while the southern king, known by his Horus name, would have had a prevalently
religious function. Only new data can clarify which of these theories is
At Elefantine seal impressions of Peribsen have been found:
if this could be enough to extabilish that this frontier was controlled
by the half second dyn. pharaonic state, then some too radically decadentist
theory about this phase should be rechecked; but, judging the results of
the german excavations, it seems that the II nd dyn. datable phase can be
taken to indicate a period of actual hiatus in the pharaonic presence compared
with the one of the I st dyn. (Temple of Satis and Fortress) or to the III
rd dyn. (administrative complex, pyramid and seal impressions - see Seidlmayer
in Spencer 1996).
Further findings from other sites could increase our knowledge
of dynasts and kingdoms still in the shade today allowing more certain conclusions
on facts that now can only be object of ephemerally based hypothesis.
KHASEKHEMUI married queen Nimaathapi, who was buried at Bet
Khallaf (K2) and who is also known in the north by seal impressions from Saqqara
During his reign the technical and artistical achievements
returned to the high levels of the first kings: index of a new found peace
or perhaps of a real (n th) reunification of the two lands .
Over some seal impressions found by Petrie in the Abydos
tomb of Khasekhemwy and by Garstang at Bet Khallaf) queen Nimaathapi bears
the title of 'Motheri of the King's sons' ; being the Bet Khallaf necropolis
still in use by the time of the first kings of the III rd dyn. it was hypothized
that the royal couple generated Sanakht (= Nebka ?) and NETERYHET (Djoser)
the first two kings (?) of the third dynasty. (For the order of the II nd
dyn. kings see Helck in 'Thinitenzeit' p.100-109, 194-203 and id. in Z.A.S.
106 p. 120-32).
The III rd dyn. shines in the light reflected by a great king: Djoser; in
his epoch, for the first time in egyptian history, absolute splendour levels
are reached as truly monumental works witness not only in architectural field;
this is the age of the first private individuals of whom we have been able
to grasp something more than sheer name and titles, thanks to their wisdom,
capabilities and magnificence of their last residence.
Again the central period of the dynasty is marked by deep lacunae in our
knowledges , lacunae that possibly did already exist in ramessid age, at the
time of the edition of the royal lists of Abydos,Saqqara, and Turin papyrus.
Some names are known in single documents : NEFERKARA and NEBKARA are respectively
the 5 th of the 5 names of the Abydos list and the 3 rd over the 4 of the
In this latter (Tomb of Tjuroy) the first king is Djoser whom the Royal
Canon of Turin and the Abydos list in the temple of Sethi I put after NEBKA
(placed as last king of the II nd dyn. in the Turin Papirus to exalt the name
of Djoser, the beginner of a new epoch).
SEDJES is named only at Abydos (4 th) while in the same position the Royal
Papyrus reports six years of ... ...djefa ; this, more than Sedjefa (assonance
with Sedjes), can be reconstructed as "hudjefa", the same word as
the one at the end of the second dynasty on the same document between NEFERKASEKER
and BEBY (this last one a new kingdom misinterpretation of the Nebwyhotepimef
name of Khasekhemwy.
Goedicke (J.E.A. 42 p.50) proposed to intend the passage as an indication
of "lacuna" in the original document from which the papyrus had
been copied, not as the name of a King as does Barta in his sistemation of
the Old Kingdom chronology based on the analysis of the Palermo Stone (Z.A.S.
108, 1981) : here HUDJEFA is equated to NEFERKARA / SEDJES at his time equal
to the Horus KHABA.
Recently a nice stela bought at the end of the '60 by the Louvre Museum
has been reattributed to the III rd dyn. It shows the Horus QA HEDJET standing
and embraced by the god Horus ; the piece had been previously dated to QA'A
(I st dyn. ending) but looks stylistically closer to the Wadi Maghara reliefs
of the III rd dynasty at which comparison undoubtly shows a superior precision
and mastery of the traits.
Barta (op.cit.) identifies Qa hedjet with HUNI , whose Horus name is yet
unknown (cfr. also Kahl et al 1995).
It is thus highly probable that the period before Huni was dominated by
a succession of various kings with an ephemeral reign duration, few years
or months. This would explain the discordances among the lists about the period
after Sekhemhet and leave space for further addictions of new royal names.
The beginning of the dynasty, even if not absolutely devoid of problems,
is with the king NEBKA/SANAKHT; he should precede (not follow as in Drioton
e Vandier p.169) NETERYHET/Djoser. Anyway recently it has come back again
the use of placing Sanakht after Sekhemhet (Kahl op. cit.).
The other sovereign famous by his Saqqara complex, Sekhemhet (TETY, DJOSERTETY
e DJOSERTY in the king lists) precedes (rather than following) KHABA to whom
is attributed the Zawiyet el Aryan Layer Pyramid.
Still remains to say something about the reason for a dynastic change : Manetho
tells of '9 kings of Memphis'; although Khasekhemwy seemed to bring the capital
back to Hierakonpolis in his age ,most of the regnants of the II nd dyn. are
better attested at Saqqara than anywhere else and this could indicate a shift
in the command city to Memphis quite before the beginning of the III rd dyn.
Apart from this, our informations could have been faked by the casuality
of the survival or of the loss of objects belonging to this period.
We know that urban areas of ancient sites (This,Memphis)are under the modern
settlements,so archaeologically lost. (Other reflections about the dynastic
change are infra sub voce Huni).
Although lacking rich corpora of inscriptions on seals, on ivory and wooden
labels and on stone vases, typical of the two 'thinite' dynasties, the third
is quite superior in what concerns the examples of statuary,tomb reliefs and
paintings (from the private mastaba field west of the I st dyn. tombs, North
Saqqara) royal funerary complexes.
The third dyn. statuary can be devided in two main groupings: until Huni
(or few before) the royal and private pieces show evident continuity with
the material of the II nd dyn.
Only the two examples of Khasekhem(wy) from Hierakonpolis temple don't fit
very well with the sequence,being so sharply detailed as to be considered by
some scholars od Saite period.
A nice statuette of Ninether (G. Michailides collection), of which W.K.
Simpson (J.E.A. 42 p. 48) writes that it "resembles the Djoser serdab
statue more closely than it does the Khasekhem pair in the treatment of the
volumes of the body ", isn't of firmly prooved autenticity as well.
In general second group statues show a trademark typical of the transition
period running through the reigns of Huni, Snofru, Khufu.
By this time there is a relatively rapid disappearing of the 'archaic poses'
and of their variants, the shapes get less squat, the materials undergo an
inversion in their usage, the limestone being preferred for private statuary
whereas harder stones are for the royal one.
To this second grouping belong the statues of Sepa and Neset, Methen, Rahotep
and Nofret, Akhetaa.
There's the big head of a king in white crown (granite, Brooklyn Mus.) possibly
representing Huni or Khufu and the so called "Chicago scribe"(granite)
the older example of this particular posture.
Of the first group we mention Nedjemankh,Ankhwa(once known as Bedjmes),
Redit (Turin Mus.), the "lady of Bruxelles",
a king with knife in Brooklyn, Ankh, the serdab statue of Djoser and other
white limestone fragments of statues of Djoser.
More archaic are 'Hotepdief'-Redjet (Cairo 1), the"lady of Naples", the Abusir limestone statuette of
Berlin and the cited royal statues of Khasekhem and Ninether, along with other
minor anonymous pieces.
The wider private cemeteries of the III rd dyn. are in Lower Egypt, around
Memphis or few farer.
The Meidum necropolis began its development just around the pyramid of Huni.
At Saqqara, after the long row of I dt dyn. mastabas on the east edge of
the escarpment, the necropolis of the II-III rd dyn. began to stretch westward
: in a relatively restricted space more than 2000 tombs were built, tens of
which were more than 20 meters in N-S length.
The books that describe these monuments- Mariette 'Les Mastabas de l' Ancien...',Quibell
'Archaic Mastabas' and Reisner 'Development ...' - were published respectively
in 1898,1923 and 1936.
Among the best known and most interesting there's the one of Hesyra briefly
Generally the superstructure is in bricks , the facade is smoothed and sometimes
it covers a precedent niched facade (Giza T is an example with all 4 sides
niched, Hesyra QS 2405 had niched facade only on the east side).
The entrance is on the east side, near its southern corner; a cruciform
niche guests the serdab in its southern side while a long corridor runs northward
throughin the two parallel eastern facades.
As for the substructure it is even harder trying to simplify ; we focus
on Reisner (Tomb Development) groups IV-A(1) and IV-B(1) (cfr.Vandier 'Manuel'
1952 p.660-672) the subterranean chambers of which are reached by a ramp ,
a vertical pit or by both (always dug in the rock).
The IV-B(1) type, multi-chambered, can contain up to two or three underground
- THE THIRD DYNASTY
: AN OVERVIEW
A brief account of IIIrd dynasty cemeteries is in Swelim (Some Problems...
p. 88-99, 116-123)
Some mention of Royal funerary complexes will be given in the King by King
section infra; worthy to remember here the presence at Saqqara of at least
two wide enclosures apart from the ones known.
West of the Djoser complex (air photogr.) two sides of a smaller enclosure
with its north wall located near the area of the tomb of Ptahhotep. It has
been dated to the III rd dyn. but to no particular king (Ptahhotep enclosure).
Much more monumental is instead the wall rectangle west of Sekhemhet enclosure,
known as "Gisr el Mudir": already
sketched on J. de Morgan chart of the Memphite Necropolis, it covers a surface
that's once and a half the Djoser complex's; the average thickness of the
walls (de Morgan thought them to be double walls) is of 15 m. and their course
is straight , not with in-and-out niches.
No remain of contemporary buildings has been found inside its area, only late
age burials and few objects of the III rd dynasty. Since 1990 scotch archaeologists
are testing this enclosure by means of magnetic resistivity. (cfr. J.E.A. 79/
1993, M.D.A.I.K. 47/ 1991 and N. Swelim 'Some Problems ...' 1983).
See the high res map here 361 Kb (N.B. It takes
c. 2 minutes to appear).
The Gisr el Mudir, albeit the III rd dyn. objects found in it, is likely a
work of the late IInd dyn. Khasekhemwy (also the Step Pyramid galleries beneath
the Western Massif and the north west area may
be of IInd dynasty date).
We will speculate in the chapter of HUNI about the 7 small stepped pyramids
or "Sinki" found in various parts of Egypt and almost all dated to
the time of that King or slightly after him.
We are on behalf of Lauer (R.d.E. 14) in excluding for the Northern Pyramid
of Zawiet el Aryan a building date higher than the half of the fourth dynasty.
This deep ramp, once dated to Nebka by a hieratic name written on some blocks
Barsanti found at the begin. of the '900 (A.S.A.E. 7 and 12 , B. Gunn in A.S.A.E.
26 p. 177-96) and which Reisner thought of II nd dyn., is almost surely relatable
to a Khefren successor (in the dynastic line of Djedefra or to one of those
names in a lacuna on col. 3 n. 14-16 of the Turin Royal Papyrus ) or to one
of the Princes of Khufw in Wadi Hammamat graffiti (Baefra, Djedefhor).
The size (of the excavation and of the stone block used), the massive use
of granite stones and the evident resemblance, even if in major scale, with
the Abu Roash monument of Djedefra, enhance this hypothesis; furthermore the
rock cut oval sarcophagus and the corridor inside the trench are common to
the monuments of Abu Roash and Zawiyet el Aryan south.
Yet do marvel some elements that are proper of the third dynasty (ramp)
and that we can explain only as the result of a return to the past, happened
during the IV dyn., when a perhaps unknown king projected and began the construction
of a complex in the fashion of those in use almost a century before.
Don't forget that a similar occasion of a backward tendence in royal tomb
construction happened in the reign of Shepseskaf, just at the end of the fourth
dynasty, when a large size mastaba was adopted as king burial place; the same
Djedefra pyramid of Abu Roash had its temple north of it , not east as it
had become traditional.
The reading of the mentioned cursive writing has been referred to the obscure
NEFERKARA or NEBKARA as well (a king to be dated at the end of the III rd
dyn.,cfr. Helck, Z.A.S.106 p.120-32).
In any case it seems more convincing to look at that huge trench as the
work of a pharaoh, although ephemeral, belonging to the second half of the
IV th dynasty ,rather than an equally minor king of the III rd.
Nabil Swelim has presented detailed data on behalf of his theory of a third
dynasty datation for the monument in object: he has dedicated a whole chapter
in his book ('Some Problems ...' 1983, chapter III) to the Zawyiet el Aryan
trench, expressing the convinction that it belonged to NEBKARA, predecessor
of NEFERKA ('builder of the Layer Pyramid of Zawyiet el Aryan').
As far as other monuments we will also consider two mudbrick pyramid structures
(cfr. Sanakht and Huni) both built at Abu Roash, ascribed to the third dynasty
by N. Swelim (the earlier could also be of late second dynasty date).
THE THIRD DYNASTY
: KING BY KING
/ NEBKA (Click it to see the updated page of SANAKHT)
This King' s relative position is not sure at all ; he was once thought
to be successor of Djoser, giving higher importance to the proofs in favour
of this order (proofs that do anyhow exist). Indeed the Horus Sekhemhet was
at that time yet unknown.
Recently this King's position has been again shifted after Sekhemhet; 1996
findings from Khasekhemwy tomb V at Umm el Qa'ab seem to value the direct
succession Khasekhemui-Netjeryhet, thus Sanakht is placed after the reign
of Sekhemhet (or after the one of Khaba). But the evidences from the necropolis
of Zawiyet el Aryan, Beit Khallaf and Saqqara still show how hard is it to
separate the apparent continuity between Sanakht-Djoser (Beit Khallaf), Djoser-Sekhemhet
(Saqqara Step Pyr. Complexes) and Sekhemhet-Khaba (Pyramid underground plan).
Hence, let's see in detail all the possibilities one by one:
Sanakht after Sekhemhet is hardly possible because this would mean to separate
Sanakht 's reign from Djoser's with c. 20 years and this is unacceptable for
the Beit Khallaf mastabas architecture belong to close reigns.
Sanakht after Khaba is still more unacceptable: for the same motivation
just told plus that we'd insert a reign between Sekhmhet and Khaba: but the
Pyramid complex of Khaba, even in a minor scale, must be directly connected
with the one of Sekhemhet (and the latter must have immediately followed Djoser's
by its walls graffitos, the king lists and the cemetery choice evidence).
The Wadi Maghara graffitos seem to show few style differences among Djoser,Sekhemhet
and Sanakht reliefs.
However I admit that the proofs just mentioned are not so strong, each one
of them could be contradicted by the facts; the possibility that Djoser buried
his father Khasekhemwy is very strong .
But now think again to the proof of the seal impressions of Netjeryhet near
Khasekhemwy's tomb entrance; it has been interpreted as the demonstration
that the former immediately followed the latter; this is questionable too
: seal impressions of the 2 nd dyn. first King ,Hotepsekhemui, have been found
into Qa'a 's tomb, none the less we know that at least two kings (Sneferka
and Ba), albeit ephemeral, reigned after Qa'a and before the IInd dyn. foundator
....(indeed the position of Sneferka and Ba is in turn puzzling and might
be in the mid IInd dyn or,for Ba, later).
I think that Sanakht must have reigned before Netjeryhet of whom was probably
a relative; as we will see under Netjeryhet , Sanakht must have reigned only
few years (alike Sekhemhet and Khaba).
This is what the scarcity of architectural evidence from his reign leads
us to believe; only the K2 Mastaba at Bet Khallaf and perhaps some early structure
in the Step Pyramid enclosure (the Mastaba 1 stage) can be assigned to him
therfore he can hardly have been on the throne of Egypt for more than 5-7
It's still today object of debate the belongings of the names Nebka / Sanakht
to an individual king, although most of the egyptologists still accept it
on the basis of a rather weak proof: Kurt Sethe read [NEB] KA onto a seal
impression from Bet Khallaf (where the two names look coupled cfr.Cambridge
Anc. Hist. vol. I pt.2 pag 157 and Drioton-Vandier -CLIO- p.200) with the
only .... KA surely readable of the second name (Garstang M.& Bet Khallaf
I am inclined to think (as Helck 'Thinitenzeit' p. 107) that Nebka and Sanakht
are two separate kings, but it is hard even to find reasons or proofs for
placing the former after the latter (see Helck in Z.A.S. 106,1979 p. 130).
Mastaba K2 at Bet Khallaf , once related to Sanakht, is probably
predatable to his mother (??) Nimaathapi (Vandier -Manuel I , 870 ; Reisner
- Develop. ; Lauer - Pyr. Degr.); various inscriptions and seal impressions
of Sanakht have been found in it (Kahl et al. 1995 p.140-151). But note that
in the main (the southern one) of the two burials within this tomb, were found
bones of a tall man (almost 1,90 m) and Manetho cites that one of the last
kings of the second dynasty (Sesochris) was more than 3 cubits tall... The
wooden sarcophagus had been eaten by ants (Swelim S.P. p.95).
According to Petrie (A History I pp. 29-30 7.ed.) Sanakht was identical
both with Nebka and Nebkara.
R.Weill (II et III dynasties) equated Sanakht with NEFERKA; Barta (op.cit.)
to Nebka-Nebkara as Petrie too.
Recently it has been taken again in consideration the hypothesis (Swelim,
Kahl) that Sanakht must be placed chronologically after Djoser and Sekhemhet.
Some traces do indicate that Nebka could have used a cartouche (seshen)
for his second name; but during the rest of the dynasty the Horus(Serekh)
Name continued to prevail,until the definitive change of importance happened
under Huni, Snofru and Khufu of whom the (Nswt Bity) cartouche names are the
most commonly used. The first appearance of a cartouche encircled royal name
is anyhow dated to the preceeding dynasty as it is shown by the examples of
Nefersenedjra, Neferkaseker and by an unpublished
sealing of PERIBSEN at the Civiche Raccolte in Milan
(RAN 997 02 01) (this piece is recently appeared on the Ravenna 1998 exposition
catalog 'Kemet Alle sorgenti del Tempo' p.252).
The oldest Nebka cartouche pieces are those in the inscriptions of the Akhetaa
mastaba (Saqqara Q 3345-3346) and others from Abusir
now in Berlin and Leipzig Museums (Kahl et al. 1995 p.202-5(Nebka), 140-51(Sanakht)).
All the attestations of his name are in N. Swelim (op. cit. p.189); there is
also an impression on clay jar-stoppers which was found by Quibell (Archaic
Mastabas 1923 p.34) in the Saqqara Third Dynasty tomb S2322 (c. 40 m.
east of Ruaben S2302).
The Horus name SANAKHT is among those ones found
in Sinai near the Wadi Maghara; useful the comparison these reliefs to try to
extabilish a stilistical relative sequence of Sanakht as predecessor or follower
of Djoser (see the apparently more archaic style in the relief on W.S. Smith
H.S.P.O.K. in the plate 30c ).
Even if, as it was said, the name Sanakht appears at Bet Khallaf , no trace
has been found here of a mastaba that might be surely have been his own; it
has been (not merely speculatively) suggested , that the first building- phase
(Mastaba I) of Djoser' s pyramid at Saqqara was a Sanakht 's effort.
Alternatively it was proposed as his burial place the pit-gallery #3 under
the east side of the same pyramid,where Lauer (see in B.I.F.A.O. 79 p. 368-9)
thought that Djoser did transfer Sanakht' s body.
In a vessels deposit north of Djoser 's funerary temple various SANAKHT
naming seal-impressions were found, whereas only a pair of them did come from
the underground galleries of the pyramid (Kaplony I.A.F. I p.170).
Apart from the Bet Khallaf seals (Garstang, 'Mahasnah and Bet Khallaf' pl.
XIX), references on some scarabs of NEBKA are in Petrie (A History of Egypt
I, pp. 29,30 - 7 ed.): Sayce, Fraser, Petrie Hist.Sc.
On the scarabs the name is closed in a cartouche and the hands of the hieroglyph
'ka' are of ovoidal shape; these could be of late period but I prefer to see
them as an Old Kingdom example (cfr. parallels in Kaplony 1963,1981).
Seal impressions of Sanakht have been found in the '80ies by the german
archaeologists at Elefantine (see pl.65b in M.D.A.I.K. 38 and id. pag. 308
, fig.15). A. Dodson (KMT 9:2,1998 ) has proposed that one of the two Abu
Roash mudbrick structures could be the tomb of Nebka (if indeed he is the
first king of the dynasty); it's a "mudbrick enclosure 330 x 170 m
(?) with a 20 meters central square massif of the same material, located north
of the modern village of Abu Roash, known as El Deir.It has been badly
damaged by drainage work since first being discovered in 1902, and now may
be beyond saving. However, the plan seems to closely resemble royal funerary
monuments of the late Second early Third dynasties, while pottery from the
site has been dated to the latter period". (A. Dodson, KMT 9:2, 1998
Nabil Swelim (S.P. p.36-9) gives more details and a plan of the enclosure.
No entrance has been discovered (although only the southern part of the eastern
wall and c. 50 meters of the eastern part of the southern wall are preserved)
but two smaller walls perpendicular to the main one, have been interpreted
as a possible structure which could be a ramp for the entrance in this complex
(they' replaced outside the southern part of the eastern wall, about the same
place of the other enclosures' entrances).
Few officials of Sanakht are known: Nedjemankh could have begun his career
under this king; the noble, administrator and visir Menka (Cambridege Anc.
History vol. I pt. 2, 1971) could have instead ended his under Sanakht, but
he more probably lived by the end of the second dynasty : he is actually named
on some inscriptions on Djoser complex stone vessels, and these are all dated
to the first two diyasties. (The 'visir' title -Thaty- appears ,before than
Menka, only on the Narmer Palette whereon it is really doubtful whether it
stands for a public office or not) .
Other inscriptions from Saqqara (with no royal name on them) bear the names
of Htp Hpn and of Khnum-ii-n-i, maybe two individuals lived in that period
(cfr. R. Weill in R.d.E. 3 p. 125-6).
The mentioned tomb Bet Khallaf K2 (with two ramps and two separate internal
areas) contained fragments of seal impressions with,apart from Sanakht name
and some titles (Overseer of the granaries), 2 officials' names: Inpuhotep
and Sekhem Mery Maat (Petrie, A History I p.30 7th edition).
Akhetaa, a III rd dyn. priest, is said to have served in the funerary temple
of Nebka (Helck in Z.A.S. 106p.129) as some of his Saqqara funerary chapel
inscriptions show. (Helck 'Thinitenzeit' 1987 p. 244 ff - AaAkhty -) .
Nebka could also be the Nswt bity of Horus Sanakht -brother(?) and predecessor
of DJOSER-but he is perforce to dissociate from NEBKARA (who must have lived
about half a century later).
It's worth to repeat that a NEB-KA transcription was first given to the
coursive writings on blocks from the cited Zawyiet el Aryan unfunished pyramid
(named: Nebka is a star)(A.S.A.E. 7 p.257-86 ; R.d.E. 14p.21-36 ); but, as
we said, not even convincing is the attribution to the phantomatic NEBKARA
\ NEFERKARA (3 rd dyn. ending) because we are inclined to look at this complex
as one of the half of the IV th dyn. (cfr.Lauer in R.d.E. 14 loc.cit. and
Cerny in M.D.A.I.K. 16; cfr supra).
We can't leave out the hypothesis of a reusal by un unknown king of stone
blocks marked for Nebka's burial; it is not so strange, if this was the case,
that the inscriptions weren't erased (see for a recent recollocation to the
III rd dyn. Dodson in D.E. 3, 1985 p.21-3; id. Z.A.S. 108, 1981 p. 171).
Fragments of a tomb in Abusir name a priest in the funerary temple of NEBKA
(Leps. Denk. II,39) and, not far from there, in the funerary temple of Niuserra,
a property of NEBKA is mentioned (Borchardt 'Grab. N.' 79).
In the Royal Canon of Turin NEBKA (col. III,4) precedes Djoser and is told
to have reigned for 19 years.
The Petrie Museum Annals fragment has, on its recto, 4 years of reign of
Nebka (4-7) (cfr. Helck cit. p.166); the Palermo Stone recto (V,1-7) bears
the last seven years (v .Barta op. cit.) of his reign: mentioned here are
some traditional ceremonies ('The Followers of Horus', the 'Appearance of
the King of the South and of the North ' and, in the 15 th year, the erection
of a copper statue of king KHASEKHEMUI (who was probably Nebka' s father);
in the 16 th year there was the eighth counting of the gold and pastures (?).
In the 13 th year the construction of a Mn-Ntrt stone building; darker
the 17 th year entry: "4 th time of the transportation of (to) the wall
of Dwa Djefa"(?) and the "ships launching"(Schafer) or "spreading(shd
G. F30) of blood (dshrt)" (thus the inauguration ?) or "receiving
the red crown"; (cfr. Helck - Thinitenzeit p. 166).
In a slim discordance with the Turin Pap. , the Palermo Stone annals seem
to give only 17 years, 2 months, 23 days of reign to Nebka*.
Both seem to be too long periods for such a poorly attested reign, expecially
in the light of the equal length of 19 years transmitted to us for the reign
of the notorious successor.
*[Note: these are student's reconstructions: the most important are those
of Kaiser, Helck and Barta; they 've hypothesized the belongings of the Annals'(recto)
reigns in relation with the only readable royal name (Ninether on the row V
and Snofru in VI) and relatively to the supposed width of the entire wall on
which they were carved)] .
Manetho reported 28 years for the III rd dyn. founder Necherothes(or Necherophes)
a name that sounds highly similar to the Horus name of Djoser ,Nethetyhet,
that he spells Tosorthros; but Manetho never mentions names deriving from
the Horus name and, in all cases, the hint to Imuthes (Imhotep) in relation
to the second king of the dynasty III, takes the doubts away; neither too
strangely , also Manetho places NEBKA at the end of the II nd dynasty in order
to exalt the position of Djoser as founder (the Royal Canon of Turin has it
in red ink probably because Djoser was at the top of a column in the original
papyrus from which the Turin document was copied).
The opposite device (Nebka postponing) seems to have been adopted (by the
same purpose) in the famous tales of the Westcar Papyrus: after a prince of
Khufu (no name remains but he was possibly Djedefra or Kawab) told an episode
happened at the time of Djoser, Khefren tells about a prodigy of the age of
the 'father' (ancestor) of Khufu, NEBKA; a chief ritualist of Nebka, Ubainer,
punishes his wife's lover by throwing a wax figurine into the water where
it becomes a crocodile that devours the guilty man; Ubainer 's unfaithful
wife is burnt and her ashes spread in the river waters (Pap. Berlin 3033).
(cfr. also Wildung 'Die Rolle ...' 1967 p.54-57)
Lastly we must mention that Helck , who has we have told denies the identity
Nebka-Sanakht, also refuses the identity of Sanakht with a mysterious Horus
ZA whose name has been found on stone vessels inscription from the Djoser's
complex east galleries naming "the Ka-house of Horus Za". Za could
be the Horus name of Wng. (cfr. Kaplony in 'The Nile Delta in transition'
p. 28; Helck 'Thinitenzeit' p. 107-8; Helck Z.A.S. 106 p. 128,130).
Manetho briefly tells of a lybian rebellion happened under Nebka, but we
know no further event for this period.
Certainly the evolution in the administration of a very wide territory is
already in progress as the traces found on the southern frontier outpost of
Elephantine (and the dignitaries' titles proliferation) demonstrate. (for
Khasekhemwy-Nebka-Djoser family relations and Nebka not = Sanakht see Helck
'Thinitenzeit' p. 107-9). [For Sanakht on the WWW see also Mercer's
/ DJOSER (Click it to see the updated page of NETJERYKHET-
This is most important king of the third dynasty and one of the most famous
of the whole Old Kingdom.
As we have told for Sanakht-Nebka it is still difficult to understand whether
Netjerykhet was the beginner of this dynasty or the second king.
The first hypothesis has been recently preferred but some doubts still remain.
(Cfr. infra to Sanakht)
I am firmly convinced that Netjerykhet was Khasekhemwy and Nimaathapy's
son, but I also think that a reign by a brother of him must have preceeded
But I also admit that: 1) the proofs for this statement are not direct ones,
but derive from the difficulty to place Sanakht elsewhere; 2) there do exist
proofs of the contrary hypothesis, namely the presence of seal impressions
of Netjeryhet in Khasekhemwy's tomb (V) and funerary enclosure(Shunet ez Zebib)
at Abydos; but as we have seen (cfr. infra Sanakht) the apparent direct succession
Qaa-Hotepsekhemwy that the latter's seal impressions in the former's tomb
should prove, did not happen in reality (2 or 3 ephemeral kings reigned after
[Note :the seal impression Wilkinson (E.D.E. 1999 p.95) mentions as found
in Khasekhemwy's Abydos tomb V only shows the sign 'ntr' which could also
be reconstructed as Ninetjer 's horus name (Kahl 1994 quellen 2099); certainly
of Netjerykhet is instead the specimen recently found by the german mission
(M.D.A.I.K. 54, pl. 15 b)].
The biggest problem is just the consistence of Sanakht's reign: it would
surely fit very much better before Djoser if we knew that Sanakht reign lasted
only few years; archaeological evidence is not very impressive: no tomb or
funerary complex has been found and the only massive architecture datable
to him is at Beit Khallaf.
So I conclude that the Turin Papyrus amount of 19 years is likely a mistake
(the same number is also provided for his follower Djoser) and Djoser was
effectively preceeded by Sanakht who reigned just few years.
Personalities like Imhotep, Hesyra, Nedjemankh, Khnumenii lived during Djoser's
King and dignitaries of his are the prime mover of such an evident development,
clearly manifest in the higher degree of architectural complexity and in the
deeper and more differentiated symbolic value of the constitutive and decorative
elements of the Saqqara funerary royal/private apparatus.
The technical-organizative skill of these individuals opened up the doors
to prestigious careers for these officials who could thus reach the vertices
of the burocracy and leadership (indipendently from their social origins);
albeit the nobles were always the ones who could more easily access to higher
charges, only by the IV dyn. will the top levels of the administration system
begin becoming a 'monopoly' of royal family relatives .
I don't want to describe extensively the Djoser funerary complex at Saqqara;
suffices it to remark few points:
in primis the importance of the excavations that, since 1920s, involved Firth,
Quibell, Lauer after that briefer explorations had been lead by Segato, Perring,
Brugsch and Lepsius in the century before.
1) Noteworthy is the recognization of a whole serie of architectural elements
with a strong symbolic-evocative value (now reerected within the enclosure
wall perimeter); they are the first attempt of a transposition to the stone
masonry of archaic shrines that had been built, since then, in perishable
materials (and so lost for us).
The monument is a huge funerary offering to the deceased king, granting
for him the eternal repetition of his Jubilee feast (Heb Sed) by virtue of
the magic which representations possessed in the ancient egyptians' belief.
The importance is in the fact that, in circa half a century, the royal funerary
complexes underwent a complete transformation after which 'new forms' substituted
the 'archaic ones' and these latter persisted only in altered or reelaborated
manners (often distant from their original models).
It 's an archaicizant style based on models that were probably ancient even
for that time , some traces of which is on the thinite labels or in some Pyramid
Texts hieroglyphs and passages.
As we' ll see, no other royal complex is likely to have been ultimated in
this phase until the one of Huni/Snofru in Meidum (whose traces are almost
completely lost except for the pyramid).
The enclosure wall with "palace facade" course , formerly adopted
in the Abydos and Hierakonpolis 'talbezirke' (once called 'forts') as for external
side of the Abydos (I-II dyn) and Saqqara(I - III dyn.) mastabas, will be used
past this age solely in the paintings of coffin decorations.
So , even being each Pharaoh's funerary complex a 'unicum' in itself, the
one of Djoser is still more unique, owing to the absence of further similar
monuments either preserved or finished (cfr. sub Sekhemhet too).
The different stages in the Step Pyramid construction
starting from a mastaba and then getting a 4 steps and so finally 6 steps
pyramid, the underground galleries confused nature, indicate that the project
was the first attempt in this kind of architecture; it covered previously
built tombs (as the 11 eastern pits under the pyramid east side and the scarcely
known storerooms corridors on the west side of the complex ) of the II dynasty
and early III rd.
The two later III rd dyn. funerary complexes of Sekhemhet and Khaba are,
in their poorness, architectures of a more oredered design, reflecting a project
which was extabilished and fixed from the beginning of the works not one that
proceeded with addictions and modifications over other buildings; in this
aspect Djoser complex was, alike the ones of Snofru and Khufu, a break in
the tradition and a look to something new although based on the previous monuments'
and ideology's foundations.
We can only speculate about the motives that led to similar kinds of developments,
probably a reflection of parallel evolutions in the religious, political and
certainly economical and technological sphere.
In conclusion we rehearse the concept that the Step Pyramid Complex, so
aboundant of symbols from the past tradition as of new elements of differentiation
from that, witnesses by its magnificence the high degree of state organization
achieved and the power-display through conspicuous consumption of means and
materials that the King could manage; by its multiplied symbols and evocatory
manufacts it in turn witnesses the deeper and more etherogeneous ideologies
evolving towards the extabilishment of the Pharaonic Egypt's traditional culture.
2) As far as inscriptional material, the underground chambers and galleries
have returned tens of thousands of vessels, but their importance il limited
to the study of the period immediately before this one (dyn I and II); no
example bears the names of Nebka/Sanakht or Netheryhet/Djoser (cfr. Helck
in Z.A.S. 106; Kahl 1994; Lacau-Lauer Pyr.Deg. IV(1959), V(1965)) .
We must remind, on this subject, that the whole area of galleries under
the western side of the complex has been only superficially explored (it is
dangerous and falling); more than 400 meters of comb-like stores yet perhaps
not surprising in architectural structure could instead be source of many
more archaeological findings;the sector must in fact have covered (Stadelmann)
II dyn. mastaba substructures like the ones south of the southern wall.
Another area that could give satisfactory results is that between the funerary
temple and the northern wall; it's yet uncleared but various sparse superficial
findings have been done here and the western area of the northern court lies,
like the western massif, over underground galleries
of probable II nd dyn. date (these ones have been proposed as substructures
of royal tombs of obscure kings like Wng, Send, or of the great Khasekhemwy;
Stadelmann in B.d.E. 97,2 (1985) p.295-307; Dodson in KMT 7:2 (1996) p.19-31;
cfr. id. Z.A.S. 115 (1988)p. 133).
The underground galleries and funerary chamber under the pyramid, as well
as the South tomb, have never been open to the tourists for their conditions
of stability have always been considered very dangerous; the recent 1992 earthquake
has brought even more deterioration, and large faults are evident (as in the
Serapeum); questions do arise about the urge to remove parts of the decorations
which could be lost in case of a ceiling collapse; Johnson has pointed to
a seismic analysis of faults and other damages originated by the quakes (J.A.R.C.E.
3) Reliefs; the well known panels in the niches of the underground galleries
(of both the pyramid and the 'south tomb') show the king celebrating royal
rituals surrounded by geographic and magic symbols and hieroglyphs of often
obscure meaning (see F.D. Friedman in J.A.R.C.E. 32, 1995 p. 1-42). These
carvings have a fully new and sharper geometry and spatial organization, prefiguring
the graphic style of the texts in the IV th and V th dyn. tombs.
The inscriptions begin to be enclosed by rows or columns and yet without
lines the writing is more ordered and well settled into its own spaces.
Less evident is the progress in the statuary ; either the private or the
royal one , still shows predilection for a set of canons belonging to the
past epoch: the archaic 'Khendw' seat; facial features more accurately defined
than the rest of the rawly made body; but indeed the excessive squatness in
the features of the II nd dynasty statue(tte)s , the preminent head on proportionally
small shoulders (except for Khasekhem's).
The Djoser's Serdab statue and a couple of later red granite heads (HUNI
?) are the only examples of IIIrd dyn. royal statuary; there are indeed various
fragments from the Step pyramid complex like bases (Cairo Museum n. 6009)
or limbs of statues; the same site produced too some fragments of statues
socles decorated with prisoners' heads (6050), very rare specimen indeed.
Other reliefs of Djoser have been found at Horbeit (Shednu , the Lower Eg.
XI th nome capital) and especially in the ruins of a temple of Heliopolis
(Turin Museum) from where Schiapparelli brought back , in the beginning of
the 1900, about 40 fragments of inscribed white limestone of various size;
two women names appear on them: Intkaes and Hotephernebty plus a third one
(tentatively the mother queen Nimaathapi,spouse of Khasekhemui).
They are at the feet of the sitting king and rendered in a much smaller
scale than the king ;they bear the titles , respectively, of 'King's daughter'
and 'King's wife'(Maa Hor).
Further remains from that temple show the god Geb , Seth , beautiful inscriptions
in line separated columns dealing with some ritual practices to be accomplished
during the Heb sed (W.S.Smith 1946 p. 133-9).
Many other stela fragments from the Step Pyramid south court and serdab
court show the names of the two cited ladies, the princess Intkaes and the
(For the queens' titles in the age of Djoser : Helck 'Thinitenzeit' p.108,
119-21; Aly in M.D.A.I.K. 54 p.224-6).
The tolemaic inscription (N. 81) found on the isle of Sehel is introduced
by a representation of the pharaoh who praises the devine triad of Elefantine(for
having given the Nile a regular flood after 7 years of famine)presenting the
'Dodecaschoinos' territory to the ancestors of the tolemaic priests of Khnum.
The pharaoh is here named by both his major royal names:
NETHERYHET and DJOSER; this document, albeit not an Old Kingdom one as it
was intended to appear, was useful in eliminating the last doubts about
the effective appartenance of the two names to a same king; New Kingdom
graffitos (Step Pyr. Complex) were already known to mention the name Djoser
(Netjeryhet's Nebty or birth-name).
As we've said, this king is likely to have been the last in his dynasty
under whom the necropolis of Bet Khallaf (mastabas K1, K3,K4,K5 this last
perhaps for Nedjemankh) (cfr. Garstang 1903 and 1904).
We have formerly told about the Wadi Maghara reliefs (copper and turquoise
As for Sanakht, it seems strange that the two sovereign, maybe brothers,
to whom the Turin Papyrus attributes the same regnal duration (19 years) ,
are archaeologically so far from each other; the precious Turin document reports
two lacunary phrases in the row (column III, 5) naming Djoser; the red color
for the writing "nswt bity" indicates that the original text from
which the Royal papyrus was copied (under Ramses II) had this name at the
opening of a page, column or line.
The Palermo Stone (recto reg. V, 8-12) holds the first five regnal years of
Djoser (?) (Schafer 1902) :
Year I - Appearance of the King of Upper Egypt , Appearance of the King
of Lower Egypt; Union of the two lands; Race around the Enclosure Wall.
Year II - Appearance of the King of Upper Egypt , Appearance of the King
of Lower Egypt; Passing (ibs) of the Upper Egypt King by the two Snty buildings.
Year III - Followers of Horus ; Birth of (a statue) of Min.
Year IV -Appearance of the King of Upper Egypt , Appearance of the King
of Lower Egypt; Streatching of the ropes for the Qbh Ntrw (the funerary temple).
Year V - Shemsw Hor ; Dj.....(djet feast ?) (cfr. Helck - Thinitenzeit p.
Djoser's seal impressions have been found, apart from Beit Khallaf Mastabas
K1(16),K2(1),K3(3),K4(1),K5(8), (also ink inscriptions have been found in these
tombs, see Kahl et.al 1995), in the Shunet ez Zebib enclosure at Abydos, in
the Wadi Maghara (1) in the Saqqara Mastabas of Mereri, in S3518 (1), S 2305
(1) and in S 2405 (1) the latter belonging to Hesyra) and even one in the Step
Pyramid of Sekhemhet (Z. Goneim 1957 p. 10 fig. 26),at Hierakonpolis (Quibell-Green
tav. 70,3 & I.A.F. fig. 803) and Elephantine (M.D.A.I.K. 43 p.109 fig. 13c
The Abydos examples, both in Shunet ez Zebib and in Khasekhemwy tomb V at
Umm el Qaab, could be seen as an archaeological proof of the continuity and
direct succession of Khasekhemwy and Netjerykhet: the latter was the king
who presided at his father's funerary ceremony (Wilkinson E.D.E. 1999 p. 95).
The plate fragment from Byblos of Neferseshemra could be of Khasekhemwy
or of Djoser reign (cfr. Kemi 1).
The Statue's inscriptions dated to Djoser's reign in Kahl et al. 1995 corpus
of III rd dyn. are the two of Ankh (granite sitting statues Leiden D93 and
Louvre A39, cfr. A.S.A.E. 31), of Sepa (limestone standing statues in the
Louvre - A36 and A37) and the one of Aper/Ndjeswa (limestone, Louvre A38).
(R. Weill 1908).
The Turin Museum guests an important limestone stela
fragment from Gebelein datable to the III rd dyn, but no royal name is
kept on it; also a IInd dyn. date has been proposed, but some stylistic characteristics
induce to think that its range of datation must be Khasekhemwy-to-half third
dyn. with a high probability for the reign of Djoser.
Although in a provincial style, the drawing line sharpness and the register
subdivision recall the reliefs of Djoser (cfr. Wilkinson E.D.E. 1999 p.302
fig. 8.7 n.3) more than those of Khasekhemwy (cfr. id. 1999 p.178 fig. 5.3
n.4); indeed the variations in the pieces' rendering during the reign of Djoser
are very wide (think about the mentioned fragment from the Step Pyr. complex,
this one from Gebelein early temple of Hathor , the Heliopolis reliefs and
the Step Pyr. complex Heb Sed panels; this suggests , as it has been argued
in relation to his building activities, a longer reign than the 19 years credited
by the Royal Canon (which also gives 19 years to Nebka).
Finally an unprovenanced piece in the Cairo Museum was also linked to the
Gebelein one by its close similarity (W.S. Smith 'H.S.P.O.K. p. 137-8 pl.
The 1930s explorations of Djoser's complex burial chamber provided remains
of a skeleton : in a typical O. K. fashion it had been wrapped in linen and
covered with plaster so to receive a body-moulding.
Some recent radiocarbon dates seem to deny Old Kingdom but this may be a
by contamination of the remains; it's not to discard the possibility that
these bones did belong to the corpse of Djoser-Netjeryhet.
The chamber beneath the pyramid hasn't never been fully cleared ( A. Dodson
in KMT 9:2, 1998 p. 27-40 ) .
Contemporary of Netjeryhet are the masterpieces from underneath the mastaba
of Hesyra (see infra); the carved wooden panels contain features that will be
copied for millenia ( cheek furrow beside the mouth ) and, in the same corridor
but on the opposite wall, very deteriorated paintings (only the lower part is
but partially visible) depicting the necessary things(work tools, games) for
the dead to live his death these representations are the first stage in the
so called 'daily life scenes' soon to become so common few generations after.
/ DJOSER(TE)TY (Click it to see the updated page of SEKHEMKHET)
This king remained unknown (mistaken with his almost homonymous of the Ist
dynasty -Semerhet-) until 1950s.
By this date the poor Zakaria Goneim began the excavations in the Saqqara
complex south of Djoser's one.
The enclosure wall was 340x183 m. then enlarged to the size of 523x194 m;
the inner core of the wall in local limestone was coated by well cut blocks
of white limestone united by mortar , sand and clay; the course, as for his
predecessor's, was in the 'palace facade' (niches and juts) design; the name
of Imhotep has been found among the graffitos and red ink inscriptions on
the wall (Wildung 'Imhotep und Amenhotep' p.12).
The pyramid was arranged to reach c. 70 m. in
height, on 7 steps, but only few meters of it still remain and the monument
never reached the 15 meters because it remained unfinished. (See
The base side is 120 m. The stone was cut in blocks of the average size
almost double than the ones of Djoser and they also evidence better skill
in their cutting and assembling.
A reused block was found that had to come from Sekhemhet's father (?) complex
for it bore the name Neteryhet.
At the end of the long north-south ramp, under what would have been the
pyramid,few corridors starting from the main one (20 - 30 m) have a much more
ordered and symmetrical course.
Just equidistant from the northern side of the pyramid and the beginning
of the ramp , there's a long corridor with comb-like plan going east-west
for more than 150 m. before a right angle southward bending at both its extremes;
after the change of direction the two corridors run parallel, at c. 150 m.
of distance one from the other , for 76 m.
More than 130 rock cut niches were a satisfactory offering deposit for the
The entering to this corridor was not placed directly in the descending
ramp : from the ramp, under the pyramid, started a pit of c. 20 m in dept
(demotic burials and papyrus were found in it dated to Amasis of the XXVI
dyn.), and at the bottom of this pit , throughout a hidden passage, it could
be reached a corridor of 42 m. running north to the mentioned east-west stores
corridor. (The pit could have been a portcullis shaft similar to those in
the Beit Khallaf mastabas K1-K6). [See this reconstruction
from the J.Kinnaer site taken by the Lehner's Complete Pyr.]
The 'South Tomb' , a mastaba placed closer to the pyramid south side than
the one of Djoser's complex, was entered by a west-east descendant slope that
met, under the mastaba, a 30 m. deep pit; the crypt was reached only in 1967
by P. Lauer (the excavations were stopped by the tragical death of Z. Goneim).
The south tomb funerary chamber contained a wooden coffin with child bones
remains, stone vessels and some fragments of pale gold leaf, lapislazuli and
carnelian labels: they once covered all the chamber walls.
Many other objects were found under the pyramid: hundreds of jewels, stone
vessels ( with the Horus name of the king and not hollow within ) were on
the ramp floor beside the pit ;at the bottom of the pit an ivory
tablet had on it a brief phrase 'Nebty Djoserty Ankh' (Life to the Nebty
Djoserty) giving us the nebty name of Sekhemhet (Lauer in B.I.F.A.O. 61, 1962
The alabaster sarcophagus of the pyramid funerary chamber, the oldest known
in hard stone, was found untouched; but once it was opened (1954) it strangely
resulted empty, although sealed by plaster and covered by a flowers garland;
the monolith, of 2,35 m. in length, had no lid but its opening was on the
minor side by a kind of 'T' section sliding portcullis (Goneim 'Horus Sekhemhet'
1957, 1956; Lauer in R.d.E. 20 p.197-207; M. Wissa in OrMonsp IX.-FS Lauer-1997
p.445-7; see fig. below).
This sarcophagus is still in situ; it has luckily escaped serious damages
which could have been caused by recent falls of stones from the ceiling; the
heaviest blocks have missed it by few centimeters...
The complex of Sekhemhet has never been open to the public for its conditions
aren't safe for tourists : recent earthquakes have evidenced deteriorations
that also afflict the underground galleries of Djoser (closed too): see E.D.
Johnson 'The need for Seismic Analysis and planning ... Saqqara' in J.A.R.C.E.
36, 1999 p.135-147.
Sekhemhet's Burial Chamber
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 94
in Kinnaer's site.
The works on the surface had thus just begun when they were interrupted
probably by the king's sudden demise.
In the northern funerary temple only the floor had beed completed whereas
the sebterranean were almost ended: then it seems quite reliable the reign
duration of Sekhemhet , 6 years, as reported on the Turin Royal papyrus.
If we exclude the material from his Saqqara funerary complex, the name of
Sekhemhet is rare enough, on seal impressions too; one of these, along with
the Horus name, mentions the fortress of Elephantine (M.D.A.I.K. 51); this
island, after the protodyn. period-Ist dyn.(fort under the Museums gardens
and under the temple of Sais) and the end of Second Dynasty (Peribsen seals)
seems to have been reintegrated in the state organization building projects
only in the advanced third dynasty epoch (Huni).
The year length in Manetho is 7 years for TYREIS (third king of the dynasty)
and 29 for TOSORTHROS, the 2nd king;
M. Wissa (op.cit. 1997 p.445-7) advances that the reign length, basing on
the materials found in S. complex, must have been superior to 6 years(Turin
Canon), although not perforce up to 19 as proposed by N. Swelim ('Some Problems...'
The Wadi Maghara (Sinai) rock carvings present
this king in the ritual gesture of smashing the enemies' heads by a mace;
other two nearby reliefs show Sekhemhet (>fig.); no other representation
of this king is known to us.
Only in the '50s there was the correct attribution to Sekhemhet of the serekhs
once thought naming Semerhet.
The name Tety, attested on ramesside royal lists, never appears on
a IIIrd dynasty monument but it could be a derivation of the -Ty in the nebty
name Djoserty. 'Itety' is attested on the Abusir Papyri from the temple of
King Neferirkara Kakai (3rd of the fifth dyn. but the papyri date to the end
of the fifth dynasty) where it seems that a cult of a statue of Itety was
held (cfr. Wildung 'Die Rolle ... 1969 p. 94-100).
It is possible that two kings bore that name (name of birth not of Horus
titulary) before the VI dyn. foundator : Djosertety (Sekhemhet) and Teti,
the latter could be the Horusname of a yet unknown king or a secondary name
of Khaba or of Qa Hedjet; Teti is also over a scribe tablet of the V dyn.
from Giza and on a ramessid relief from Saqqara, here with other kings belonging
to the dyn. IV and V . (Wildung op. cit.)
Last mention goes to a late period statue (Persian) of a priest of Djoser-Netheryhet,
Djoser Tety and Tety, that thus makes a clear distinction among Sekhemhet
(Djosertety), Djoser and Tety; the III dyn. placing seems here out of doubt.
(cfr. on this matter Smith in C.A.H. I pt.2 (1971) pag.150 and 156 ; Erman
in Z.A.S. 38, 1900 p. 115).
The already mentioned inventory-scribe ivory plaque from his mortuary complex
clearly shows on the right Sekhemhet's nebty name Djosert(y) (published in
Goneim 1957 pl. 66 . (See pic) )
The abrupt end of Sekhemhet's reign, threw the egyptian state in a period
that seems having been critical.
We can tentatively guess that the great Imhotep survived to Djoser and was
again the mind behind the funerary complex works; the project is by far a
more contemplated one, with few updates or modifications.
The size of the pyramid and of the underground locations clearly bears the
trade-mark of a man like Imhotep, who is now not improvising anymore on a
previously built architecture;he is neither unsure of his possibilities too.
Only the enclosure wall underwent a size increment; no time for other additions
in the few years lasted works.
The monument of the follower, Khaba, was planned to blindly repeat Sekhmhet's;
a sign of reverence for whom should have been Sekhemhet's architect ; but
we 'll see that it will only be a simpler and smaller complex, sign of the
lack of a superior mind at the head of its accomplishment (not of its older
date as it has been proposed).
[Some www links to Sekhemhet's pages : Mercer's
page ; and Kinnaer's
HORUS BA (Click
to see the page)
(SEDJES ?) (Click it to see the updated page of KHA'BA)
Arkell published (in J.E.A. 42 and 44) various diorite and dolomite coups
with Khaba serekh; some are of uncertain provenance, others from the tomb
Z 500 near the "Layer Pyramid" of Zawiyet el
Aryan and some are Reisner's findings from the same mudbrick building
north of the pyramid which had indeed to be its funerary temple. (see Swelim
In that area there are dynasty 0,I,II,III,XVIII necropolis.
The serie of stone bowls of Khaba represent a return to the past tradition which
had ended with Khasekhemwy; in the Djoser's Step Pyramid complex no inscription
of Khaba was found on Stone vessels; after Khaba the trend to produce and inscribe
stone vessels will be abandoned again to be reprised only by Snofru's reign.
[See a picture of Khaba's inscribed vessels].
The Layer Pyramid, 1,5 Km south of the other unfinished pyramid of Zawiyet
el Aryan, was explored in 1910 by Reisner who attributed it to King Khaba on
the basis of the inscribed bowls with red ink name found there; indeed the same
archaeologist proposed, years later (Tomb Development 1936, p. 134), a higher
datation to an unknown II nd dyn. king, mantaining that the underground labyrinths
(always in comb-like plan) were a late effort by saitic pharaohs (keep in mind
that the similar galleries under the pyramid of Sekhemhet had not yet been discovered
at that time).
Superficially visited by Perring, Lepsius, Maspero and finally de Morgan
in the end of '800, it was explored for the first time in the subterranean
part too by A. Barsanti in 1900 (A.S.A.E. 2 p.92-4).
Of the pyramid, projected with only 5 steps
(Lauer B.I.F.A.O. 79, 375), there remained 16 meters of the 40 of the whole
height , but the construction works were actually abandoned long before the
vertex was reached.
The base side is 83 m.; the funerary chamber,found empty, is at the dept
of 26 m; here's how to arrive to it: the descending ramp has not a north-south
direction but it starts, in the open air for all its length, few meters north
of the pyramid north east corner and runs east-west; then this gallery reaches
a pit just on the central N-S axis of the pyramid; going on the left (south)
,after circa 80 m., a short and sloping ramp and another last corridor, the
chamber is finally entered, sharply placed under what would have been the
Going right from the basis of the first ramp (northward) a corridor is reached
leading into the perpendicular (east-west) gallery with comb-like store rooms;
this is 120 m. long and,as for that of Sekhemhet,goes on to its two extremities
where, after a 90 degree angle, continues to the south for further 38 m.
Let's focus now on the following characters of this monument's project :
the compact layers blocks in the core of the pyramid, perpendicular to the
pyramid sloping side; the stores in comb shape; the funerary chamber and pyramid
vertex perfectly aligned; these main features had been thought as an imitation
of the Saqqara complex of Sekhemhet.
Yet there are evident differences in the course of the ramp and corridors
leading to the sepulchral chamber as in the niche-like store rooms, only 32
in number and solely dug in the inner side of the corridor (in the direction
of the pyramid).
Contrary to the other pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan and to the Saqqara coeval
enclosures, we have here no trace of an enclosure wall; maybe only a mudbrick
wall was erected to enclose the complex(Cimmino 1990 p.120,357).
The mere size is quite smaller than in the monument of the predecessor :for
this reason it has been proposed to place Khaba' s reign before Sekhemhet's;
but we have already said that the Saqqara complex could have been another
one from Imhotep whilst the architect of Khaba was quite less ambitious.
The later king lists and the necropolis shift are other proofs for a Netheryhet-Sekhemhet
Albeit lacking an enclosure wall it's possible that mastaba Z-500 was a kind
of Pyramid temple (to the north side of the pyramid as in Djoser's complex)
and the stone ruins known as 'El Gamal el Barek' further east could have been
a proto valley temple (Swelim S.P. p.77, 96).
The Pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan will be the object of a study by Dr. Aidan
Dodson who will reconsider its design in an article to be published in the
next issue of J.A.R.C.E. (n.37, 2000).
Khaba is almost absent in any other part of Egypt : few sealings or impressions
with the name Khaba have been found at Hierakonpolis (Quibell-Green pt. II pag.
3, 55 and tav. 70,1) or elsewhere (Petrie 'Scrabs and cylinders..' tav. VIII
on which it seems that the first occurance of a 'Hor Nubty' royal name can be
found - IRT DJED.F - ; the origin of this piece is unknown; Kaplony ( I.A.F.
p.173 fig. 805) ; two more bowls with Khaba Horus name inscriptions come from
Sahura complex at Abusir and from e the necropolis of Naga ed Deir (Smith ,
C.A.H. vol.1 pt. 2 (1971) pag. 156); as for Sanakht ,Netheryhet, Huni a seal
impression of Khaba has been found at Elephantine (M.D.A.I.K. 43 p. 109, fig
13b tav. 15b).
For a possible birth name 'Teti' of the Horus Khaba see Smith in C.A.H.
cit.; A.Dodson in KMT 9:2, 1998 p. 35.
I.E.S. Edwards has recently repeated his convinction to equate Khaba with
Huni (K. Bard ed. Enciclopedia A.A.E. p. 889); such an hypothesis was first
advanced by W. Helck. Nabil Swelim (op.cit.) considered Khaba a predecessor
of Netjerykhet (half Second Dynasty II or beginning of IIIrd Dyn.); the author
didn't ascribe to him the Layer Pyramid of Zawyiet el Aryan.
As for Sekhemhet, we are here again having to do with a situation where
the premature demise of the sovereign justifies (and can equally be deduced
from) the few more than 5 years of reign . In the same manner as with the
previous king, the works in the funerary complex were rapidly abandoned after
few years from their start.
The general impression is that, after circa 40 years from its beginning,
the III rd dynasty state encountered some kind of problem that profoundly
hit its life.
The succession of ephemeral kings, with short reign, could be a cause (but
an effect too) of the crisis. Archaeological evidence could be misleading
but for now we must rely on it to interpret this age as a dark one.
The immediately following period is , if possible, even harder for us to
NEFERKA(RA) (Click it to see the updated
page of NEBKARA ...)
Almost nothing is known of Neferka(ra) : this name, very common later in
the Old Kingdom, is given in the King- list of Abydos as 19 th name(between
Sedjes and Snofru, whereas a Neferkara on the Saqqara list (8th name) is placed
in the second dynasty between Senedj and Neferkaseker).
The Northern Pyramid (Shurl Iskender or El Kenisah) at Zawiyet el Aryan
has already been postdated to the IV th dyn. and we have been quite convinced
it had nothing to do with the IInd-IIIrd (Neferkara) or IIIrd (Nebkara,Nebka)
as its coursive painted inscriptions from different blocks seemed to suggest;
the 180 m. long side and the 110 m long ramp (x 8,5 m in width), as with the
average size of the masonry stones and other technological characters led
Lauer to reject the higher chronologies proposed for this monument (W.S. Smith,
Z.Goneim) (see supra).
Click the image to enlarge the photo. Click
HERE to see its plan and section.
But recently N. Swelim (S.P. 1983) has convincingly proposed a IIIrd dyn.
date anew (see below).
Apart from some sealings (in Petrie 'Scrabs & Cylinders ..' tav. VIII)
and later (XIX th dyn.) lists mentions , I don' t know anything else of this
King name which, alike Nwbnefer and Neferkaseker's in the II nd dyn.,could
also be another designation of an already known Horus (either Khaba or Qa
For the reading of the name on the Zawiyet el Aryan North pyr. see Dodson
Z.A.S. 108 p.171; id. D.E. 3 p.21-3.
See in particular N. Swelim 'Some Problems...': this author provides a lot
of data on these names; he thought that Nebkara
was the ambitious IIIrd Dynasty king who began the Unfinished Pyramid of Zawyiet
el Aryan, whereas Neferka "seems to
have completed the burial chamber of (Meidum) Mastaba 17 for the reburial
of Nebkara and filled the trench and pit of the Unfinished Pyramid in the
style of architecture that would have pleased Nebkara" (Some Problems
p.80); according to the same author, the bones found in Meydum Mastaba 17
burial chamber among ants eaten remains of the wooden sarcophagus, could have
been those of Nebkara (op.cit. p. 97, 166).
It is impossible not to remark here that a large part of the precious study
of Nabil Swelim on the Third Dynasty (op.cit. chap.3) was aimed to deny Lauer's
datation of the Zawyiet el Aryan Unfinished pyramid to the fourth dynasty.
The monument that the egyptian author ascribes to the IIIrd dynasty is made
object of a detailed analysis which brilliantly invalidates the points which
J.P. Lauer had taken as indicators of a IVth dynasty date.
It is hard to resume 55 pages of text but the summary by the same author (op.
cit. p.175-6) can be here cited:
Djedefra's Abu Roash pyramid and Nebkara's at Zawyiet el Aryan have similar
substructures; this because the former IVth dyn. king intended to copy IIIrd
dyn. substructures; the complex around Zawyiet unfinished pyramid had no structure
typical of the IVth dynasty complexes, but an enclosure wall (IIIrd dyn. characteristic)
seems that would have been accomplished.
Extensive use of granite, a material already used from the thinite period,
was responsible for the delay in construction: this led the followers to use
limestone until a perfect mastery of masonry had been reached (Khwfw). The
blocks size and weight is not out of the IIIrd dynasty builders' possibilities:
at Meydum (Mastaba 17, dating to the end of IIIrd dyn.), larger blocks were
The sunken sarcophagus was in a transitional phase and even at the time
of Djedefra and Khaefra not all the sarcophagi were sunken (Khwfw's,or Menkaura's
main one that was sunken but at sea- with the ship that was bringing it to
the British Museum).
Finally the mortar used, which Lauer thought to be of a precisely burnt quality,
wasn't unknown before Snofrw as stated by the french scholar for an identical
quality was recovered from the famous alabaster sarcophagus of IIIrd dyn.
Therefore NEFERKA would have been a successor of NEBKARA and predecessor of
Swelim also advanced that the Layer Pyramid of Zawyiet el Aryan was built
by Neferka and the stone bowls of Khaba found in Z-500, north of the layer
pyramid, could have been something like those from dynasty I found in the
Step Pyramid complex.
For the reading of the names on the graffitos from Zawyiet el Aryan see Swelim
(op.cit.), Dodson (op.cit), Lauer in R.d.E. 14 (1962 )p. 21-36; J. Cerny in
M.D.A.I.K. 16. (1958) p.25-9.
Further old attestations of the name of Nebkara are in Gauthier (Le Livre
des Rois I p. 53-54) and reported by Swelim (cit).
A. Barsanti's excavations are in A.S.A.E. VII, VIII, XII, but see also the
bibliography in Swelim (op.cit. 1983, chapter III).
HEDJET (Click it to see
the updated page of QA HEDJET)
A stela of unknown provenance bought by the Louvre
Museum at the end of the '60s, bears the Horus name of this King; it is the
only attestation of Qa Hedjet. (See this image of
the stela at High res -c. 250 Kb)
The style of the relief and the skillness of its lines are the reasons for
the widespread convinction that we have to do with a III rd dyn. datable piece
, not with one of Qa'a (I st dyn. ending) as was formerly thought.
We can easily see the carving evolution in comparison with the Wadi Maghara
III rd dyn. reliefs, therfore it is justifiable a datation to the half or
end of this dynasty for the reign of this king and his stela.
On it the king wears a short skirt , the false tail and the Upper Egypt
crown; he brings a pear headed mace and a reed in hid hands and faces an anthropomorphic
Horus whom keeps an hand on the king's shoulder and another on the left arm;
above, facing the falcon topped Serekh with Horus name, there's another falcon
and a very short sentence: "Horus in the Hwt 'Aa").
The material used is limestone and the figuration is plainly eroded but
the lines' sure touch (Horus' face, the king body, the hieroglyphs) is evident,
showing a slight progress compared with the limestone stela fragment of the
Turin Museum from Gebelein (dated to the II-III dyn. see Smith 'A History
of Sculpture and Painting in ... 1946).
Lacking the evidences for a Horus name of the predecessor of Qa Hedjet,
Neferkara, it could be hypothized that these names belonged to the same sovereign;
the few traces they left make it possible that both these kings could have
been immediate predecessors of Huni.
Worth of note that in the III rd dyn. corpus of inscriptions (Kahl et al.
1995) 'Qa Hedjet' is considered the Horus name of Huni: infact this king's
Horus name has never been found, therfore this could even be correct; but
the fortuitous and meagre attestation of these kings' monuments and names
lead us to think that the third dynasty sequence could consist, even more
than the second dyn., of various further kings of whom nothing has remained.
Kahl in 'S.A.H.'(1994) p. 7-10 had positioned Qa Hedjet after Huni (according
to him the dynasty was closed by the mysterious BA who Helck placed at the
end of the first dynasty after Qa'a and Sneferka).
Keep in mind that at least two enclosure walls at Saqqara(recently reanalyzed)west
of the Step Pyramid complex and south west of Sekhemhet's , are unfortunately
deprived of clues which could indicate their builders' names.
They could have,as well, been made by these ephemeral kings of the 'Sekhemhet
to Huni' dark age.
So don't exclude the strong possibility that this period may reveal new
royal names as it happened in the case of Qa Hedjet; anyhow the duration of
the III rd dynasty shouldn't fluctuate beyond the 80 ± 10 years.
For the stela of the Louvre : Vandier in C.R.A.I.B.L. 1968 p. 16-22 and
Ziegler 'Catalogue des stèles, peintures et reliefs égyptiens
de l' Ancien Empire et de la Première Période Intermédiare
- Musée du Louvre' 1990 p. 56).
HUNI / NISWTH
/ HU (Click it to see the updated page of HUNI)
The Papyrus Prisse names Huni as Snofru's predecessor [so the starter of
Dyn. IV should be the son Huni had by Meresankh I and the one who married
Hetepheres I ,another daughter of Huni and future mother of Khufu].
In the Old Kingdom cemetery at Elephantine , near the northern side of the
(now disappeared) pyramid of the III rd dyn., a conic granite block was found,
on which an inscription named a king HU or NSWT-H (Seidlmayer in Spencer 1996)
differently interpreted (Smith in C.A.H. vol. I cap.XIV,1971) probably related
to the name of a palace : 'Diadem of the King Huni' (Barta in M.D.A.I.K. 29(1)
The same Huni name variant Swtenh , Nisuteh or Nswt H, is attested on the
Palermo Stone (V,1) under the V th dynasty when Neferirkara commemorated Nswteh
making a monument to him (Urk.1 248,12).
Thus if Huni, who has his name in a cartouche on contemporary inscriptions,has
to be equated with the Nswt H(u) just quoted, it is likely that the pyramid
on the isle of Elephantine was of his reign.
According to recent theories (M.D.A.I.K. 36 p. 43-59 ; M.D.A.I.K. 38 p. 83-93
and 94-95) it appears possible that all the little step pyramids 10-17
meters high, discovered at Zawyet el Mejtin, Abydos (Sinki), Naqada (Nubt),
Khula (Hierakonpolis), Edfu and Elephantine must be attributed to a single pharaoh
,maybe just Huni; the Seila pyramid is more developed (the german archaeologists
date it to Snofru), but the americans (and myself) prefer an higher datation
to the reign of Huni (J.A.R.C.E. 25 p.215) (when he had already ended the 8
steps Meidum Pyramid). Nabil Swelim (op.cit.p. 100- ff) added two more possible
contemporary step pyramids: one at Athribis (reported by the Napoleonic savants;
see also Rowe in A.S.A.E. 38) and another one at Abydos (Currelly, Abydos III,
1904 pl. XV, called 'Tomb Chapel of Ay' of Dyn.XII).
Among these monuments the one south of Edfu, at Naga el Ghonemiya, is the
only one not yet studied properly.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE 'SINKI' (Little non-funerary
The pyramid of Zawyet el Meytin, near El Miniah, the only pyramid of Egypt
built on the eastern bank of the Nile, had three steps and c. 17 m of height
with a square base of 22,5m each side.
It's the only (among the 'sinki') to have retained traces of a fine limestone
Raymond Weill (C.R.A.I.B.L. 1912) described the inner layers of walls slightly
inclined towards the center with a progressively decreasing height.
Similar to this one was the pyramid of Khola, near Nekhen (Cimmino 'Storia
delle Piramidi' 1990 p.122-5) which was orientated with its edges (not its
sides as commonly happens) towards the Cardinal Points. It was c. 10 m high
and the base side was 18,6 m.
The pyramid of Nubt (Petrie-Quibell 'Naqada and Ballas' 1896 p. 65 tav.
85) three stepped , 22 m of base, had unlike the others, a central pit ; but
the own Petrie declared he wasn't able to understand whether the hole was
an original one or rather a digging made by violators in search of preciousnesses.
For the pyramids of Abydos (Sinki) and Elephantine: M.D.A.I.K.
36,37,38 and bibl. in (Ortiz) G.M. 154, 77-91 n. 4, 40.
The absence of internal chambers prevents from attempting funerary hypotheses.
Not convincing are either the theories of Lauer ( the 'sinki' marked the
main places for the reconquest of the egyptian territory by Khasekhemui or
the birth-places of the queens), Maragioglio and Rinaldi ('L' Architettura
delle Piramidi Menfite' 1963 p. 70 :the function was to highlight the key-places
of the myth of Horus and Seth).
Seidlmayer (in J. Spencer 'Aspects of Early Egypt' 1996 p.122 ff.) thinks
that the construction of these pyramids fulfilled the same ideological needs
as the slightly later representations of offerings brought to the royal estates
of each nomos.
But in the offering bearers symbolism (from Snofru onwards) the figurative
system was an extension of the simple device of the offering lists with goods
useful for the dead afterlife (table of offerings): the importance and skill
of the dead are now shown , beyond the usual titles, also in the visual description
of the mass of persons and places involved in the production of goods for
In the Third Dynasty a system of radicate administrative organization all
over the valley was still in construction and it was therfore necessary that,
on the provincial level, the presence of a royal cult within each nome became
explicit, as did the request of products and materials that it implies; thus
these monuments could reinforce the ideological presupposition of such a state-request
giving it a more visible and concrete picture of the authority (and of the presence)
of the one to whom the offerings were destined, the king.
By this complex theory each nomos had a similar monument as propaganda of
a royal funerary estate therein ; and many other sinki that spread along the
Nile valley must have been destroyed.
Furthermore it stresses the reliablity of the (Baer' s) theory of the presence
of royal cults for the living pharaoh.
Though accepting the conclusions of Seidlmayer we must make here a critic
onto its presuppositions : the emphasis that he puts on the 'fiscal' character
of the goods gathering through funerary cult or state ceremony seems to make
it the first stage in the process of development of the administration and
relative bureaucracy; but this understates the fact that, at that time, the
administration system had already more than half a century of life behind
its back: it's proved by the officials' titles and by the names of administrative
offices on the vessels and labels inscriptions from the early protodynastic
(cemetery U at Abydos , Dynasty 0 , Naqada III a,b) until the age of the Thinite
Kings of the first dynasties.
What for me distinguishes the oldest periods from the one we are examinating
is more of quantitative nature than qualitative; thanks to accessory means
such as the one hypothized by Seidlmayer (but certainly as well to the very
installation of state administration offices in all the nomos), the provincial
and decentralized organs of government are actually configured as an instrument
of the state for which they now begin to work.
M. Lehner (The Complete Pyramids 1997 p.96) concludes in this way the page
on the Provincial Step Pyramids: "These ... may have been symbols
of living sovereignity, hinting that the step pyramid stood for more than
the royal tomb, the marker of a dead king. It is interesting that Huni took
the pyramid to the provinces just before people and produce would be brought
from the provinces to the core of the Egyptian nation for building the largest
pyramids of all time".
Concluding, the progress under the third dynasty is not really a matter
of creation of a bureaucracy, but indeed its employment on a wider
scale and in a more and more centralized way than in the Naqada III phase.
For Kaiser 'the Elephantine pyramid seems to have represented
the fictive presence of the king , was a symbolic means of reinforcing state
control implicit in Elephantine's role in the collection and distribution
(W. Kaiser in K. Bard ed. Encyclopedia A.A.E. 1999 p. 283-9; W. Kaiser et
al. in M.D.A.I.K. 53, 1997; see also the studies
in N. Swelim 'Some Problems...' (1983) p. 100 ff.; and A.
Cwiek in G.M. 162 (1998) p.39-52).
THE PYRAMID OF MEYDUM
It was once thought that Huni had built the 'Romboidal' or 'Southern' pyramid
The Meidum Pyramid was credited to Snofru by the New Kingdom graffitos calling
it 'beautiful temple of Snfrw'.
Today the belonging of the Meidum pyramid is still disputed (between Huni
and Snofru); it appears certain that the Dahshur pyramids were both made by
the foundator of the IV th dynasty, whereas the one at Meidum, albeit what
was thought about it by the New Kingdom egyptians, must be the funerary monument
of HUNI; it is furthermore very very probable that the same Snofru tried to
make of that 8 steps pyramid a true 'smooth-edges' pyramid , perhaps causing
the collapse of its revetment.
(NOTE: THERE'S NO CONCRETE PROOF FOR THE ATTRIBUTION TO HUNI OF THE MEYDUM
On the period of the downfall of the structure there's not concordance among
the scholars; the pharaoh Snofrw apparently began his works on it during or
after the erection of the Rhomboidal pyramid (Mendelsshon 'Riddle..') and
maybe it was the Meidum Pyramid collapse that caused him to diminish the angle
of the Dahshur monument.
The arabic historian Al Maqrizi described the Meidum Pyramid (XV th century)
as formed by five steps , while the graffitos by the workmen who built it
represent it with 3,4 or 5 steps.
After the relations presented by F. Norden (1737) and R.Pococke (1738) and
the brief explorationse of Vyse and Perring (1835) and Lepsius (1845), the
monument was taken into higher consideration by Maspero (1882), Petrie (1892,
1910) and G. Wainwright and Petrie (1912), thence by V. Maragioglio and C.Rinaldi
The Pyramid was initially made in 7 steps for 60 m circa of height; it was
built around a central core on the four sides of which were laid 6 layers
of inclined blocks (74° 5'46''); these , decreasing in height from the
nucleus to outwards, formed the steps.
Huni modified the monument by adding a new external layer next to the base,
increasing the height of the inner layers, piling new blocks on their steps
and perhaps adding a eight step on the central nucleus, the top of which was
the vertex of the pyramid .
After this last phase the height was 82 m circa (160 c.) and the base 122m
(220 c.), with a 52° slope. (Note that we refer here not to the slope
of the oblique layers -which remained unchanged- but indeed to the imaginary
line passing by the edges.
Over the second and fifth step as well as on the ground around the pyramid
there were found traces of ramps used to carry the blocks above. Each step
had to be covered by thick limestone slabs.
The descendery, for the first time dug in the pyramid' s mass, is a corridor
(0,85 m wide, 1,55 m high, 58m long, with 28° of slope) that, starting
from the northern face of the second step (circa 20 m of height, hence few
meters above the first step floor), goes down throughin the oblique layers
and the core ending with 7 steps,and then,after further 9,45 m, with a little
pit; hidden over this pit there's the entrance of a small passage ascending
for 6,65 m to the funerary chamber floor, just at the ground level ; the chamber
is 2,65m in width, 5,05 m in height and 5,90 m in length; its upper part is
not dug in the rock but in the base of the pyramid nucleus and has a (N-S)
triangular section (it's covered by a corbeled vault with 7 blocks); the chamber
is not on the true north-south/east-west axis of the pyramid but it's very
few est of the first (N-S) axis and some meters south of the second (E-W)
Some cords and 3 cedar wood poles near the chamber pit-entrance are the
only objects found within the pyramid with fragments of a wooden coffin found
in a recess of the horizontal corridor (Maspero).
Snofru' s effort consisted in filling the steps and applying blocks to support
the external smooth revetment.
The slope was decreased by few seconds of degree,the base grew to 144 m
(280 c.), the height 91,7m (175cubits). (J. Ortiz G.M. 154, 1996 p. 77-91;
P. Testa D.E. 18,1990 p.54-69; F. Petrie 'Medum' 1892; D. Wildung R.d.E. 21).
The complex was surrounded by a straight wall, 1,4 m thick and 2m high,
of which only a trench remained; the original size was m. 210x210 (400x400
c.) later augmented to 220,5 x 236,25 (420 x 450c.) (Testa in D.E. 18).
The chapel on the pyramid east side, square in plant and with two uncarved
stelae, should have been projected by Snofru (thus in the third and final
constructive phase), because the size reciprocal relations in cubits refer
to basic models used in the third phase (cfr. P. Testa in D.E. 18 page 63).
The 210m cerimonial causeway disappears beneath the fields of the valley;
it had walls 3 cubits thick and 4c. high its floor was 6 cubits large and
3° 98' 22" inclined; the ramp is almost 4° south than the pyramid
The small south pyramid, 26,5 m of base (50 cubits), had four steps, a descendery,
corridor and funerary crypt; both Petrie's (Meidum) as Maragioglio - Rinaldi'
s (op. cit. III p. 47) publications lack of informations to deduce its possible
contemporaneity with the first two construction phases or the third one, thence
to Huni or Snofru .
We are here in presence of the prototype of the royal funerary monument
of the subsequent dynasties, with the pyramid, the satellite pyramid(s), funerary
temple, cerimonial way, and valley temple (this latter hasn not been found
yet at Meidum); they are pointers of a new architectural typology that will
continue to develop at Dahshur ,Giza, Saqqara.
It's not sure, as just told, whether these innovations must be credited
to Huni; it's much more probable that at least the east temple and the causeway
must be attributed to Snofru, whereas nothing can be said about the satellite
pyramid and the valley temple; the archaic enclosure wall is surely Huni '
However it seems that the most recent essays on this period prefer to credit
Snofru with the whole building of the Meydum pyramid since the beginning of
its stepped phase.
The Meidum necropolis is noteworthy for some officials' mastabas too: Nefermaat
(another son of Huni and first vizir of Snofru as well as father of Hemiunu,
the architect and vizir of Khufu) was buried with his wife Itet in the tomb
(M 16) from which the famous 'Geese of Maidum' were taken; not less famous
is the statuary group of Rahotep and Nofret, whose tomb (M 6), once again
double, produced a beautiful serie of reliefs now scattered in various museums
and private collections (cfr. J.E.A. 72); the largest mastaba (M 17) is near
the east side of the pyramid, but its owner (maybe a royal prince) is unknown.
Swelim (op. cit. p.97) thought that the bones fragments found in its burial
chamber could be those of Nebkara; but the author supposed,as well,
that the substructure could have been built by Neferka and the superstructure
by Huni (and Snofru).
The Abu Roash L. I Mudbrick pyramid
Not to be confused with the other, earlier , mudbrick pyramid-enclosure
(Ed Deir, sub v. Sanakht-Nebka), this huge monument in mudbrick was discovered
in 1830s by J. Perring and surveyed by R. Lepsius (1842-3) who assigned to
it the number I in his serie of Egyptian pyramids on the Denkmaler (1959).
It laid in the easternmost hills promontory in advanced state of ruin. (I.E.S.
Edwards in Bard ed. E.A.A.E. p.82-3)
Dr. N. Swelim identified it (perhaps not correctly) as a mastaba; a rock
core was penetrated from N to S by a 25° sloping corridor leading to a
square funerary chamber of 5,5 m of bases and 5 m in height entirely cut in
the rock. The mudbricks, inclined inward of 75-76°, laid over the rock
core in accretion layers (I.E.S. Edwards cit.). Much of the mudbrick had been
stripped away from its position. (cfr. photos in A. Dodson KMT 9:2, 1998 p.
N. Swelim's researches ascertained the immense size of the monument which
had a base length of 215 meters.
The Middle Kingdom date (in XII-XIII dyn mudbrick pyramids were built) can
be excluded by the rock cut core (this kind of substructures is out of fashion
already in the end of fourth dynasty) and by the presence of some Old Kingdom
burials dug in its rock inner stratum which had already to be deprived of
bricks at that time .
The mudbrick monument was never finished. Its attribution to Huni is hypothetical.
(A. Dodson cit. p. 35-6)
Also very doubtful is the attribution to this king of a king statue head with
Upper Egypt crown (red granite) now in the Brooklyn Museum.
It' s quite certainly the first example of statuary of monumental size since
the Koptos colossi (many scholars prefer to date the head to Khufu' s reign).
Another piece in Brooklyn,a diorite statuette of a god with knife should
belong to this reign, while the specimens of Sepa - Neset, Rahotep - Nofret,
Akhetaa, Metjen, are chronologically of the III rd to the IV th dyn transition,
despite the fact that they were made for personages who were born during the
end of the third dynasty.
A bit more archaic are the statuettes of Redit (Turin) and expecially Bedjmes
(Ankhwa), Nedjemankh, the lady of Bruxelles, Ankh and the Chicago scribe,
in harder stone (as the god with knife) and datable to the first half of the
III rd dynasty.
The dynastic change is not very well explainable; we know Huni was Snofru'
s father ; despite the necropolis shift from Meidum to Dahshur, nothing can
enlighten the motives of the dynastic change.
We must keep in mind advices like the ones in J. Malek ' s article on J.E.A.
68 (p.93-106) to understand which and how fragile or empty could be the basis
for the traditional Manethonian division into dynasties : a simple erroneous
interpretation of annals or lists (as the original from which the Turin Canon
was copied) might have made the sovereigns at the head of a document column
the founders of that "dynastic" sequence.
There seems to be a break, between Huni and his poorly known predecessors,
in the royal titulary: the cartouche, later a solar sybol, already used by
previous kings (Peribsen, Nebka ?), appears with
Huni for the very first time in a preferential position than the serekh; this
same serekh, enclosing royal Horus names, is never attested for Huni and for
his (?) debated variant Nisuteh, the latter name also found either in cartouche
or with no surrounding device at all.
About the possible transformations in the religious sphere that these formal
changes could underlie,it's evidently hazardous to speculate, in the almost
complete missing of any written source; much attention must equally be paid
in the attempt to give a backward sense to the informations hidden in the
Pyramid Texts : it' s widely accepted that they also echo cults, beliefs
and traditions of an older civilization, but their very equivocal character
and the mere impossibility to plainly know the weight of the later redactions
(V-VIII dyn.) stops easy speculations and prevents from setting diachronically
the myths and the teologies enclosed in them.
[It seems anyhow almost useless to add that,albeit these methodical precisations,the
corpus in question has indeed an unlimited value to catch the ideological
framework that it inherits from a more or less archaic past as well as to
comprehend the influence it had on the subsequent religious and funerary tradition
(Coffin Texts and beyond)]. (cfr. Fattovich in A.I.U.O. 47 (1987) pages 1-14).
By Huni the Egypt returned to shine after years of uncertainty when short
lived reigns weakened its power.
This king had, on the contrary, all the time to reorganize the country ,
for he may have reigned up to 24 years according to the Royal Canon of Turin.
This document adds that a building or a city called 'Seshem....' ( Seshem-tawy
in the Delta ?) was built during his reign; a lacuna doesn' t help to better
understand this entry.
Thus Huni' s would be the longest reign of the third dynasty (but I don't
fully trust these numerical informations).
Certainly in this dynasty only Djoser' s reign appears more innovative than
Huni' s and it has been obderved how similar is the historical development
of the second and third dynasty: both have a middle phase of apparent crisis
and a strong, reorganizer sovereign as Khasekhemwy and Huni.
The biography of Metjen, dated to Snofru ' s reign, deals with the career
of an individual who very likely was born during the second half of the third
dynasty. (Urkunden I, 1-7 for the text, Breasted 'Ancient records of Egypt'
76-9 for the translation, Goedicke M.D.A.I.K. 21 for a discussion; Lepsius
'Denkmaler' II 3-7 for his Saqqara tomb).
It's enormously useful because, in its archaic language, gives a heavy load
of data concerning the administration and the officials' charges through the
titles that Metjen had gained during his life.
Contemporary and equally important are the inscriptions from another memphite
tomb of the very end of the third dynasty: the one of Pehernefer (Z.A.S. 75,
1939 p.63 ff; Helck 'Thinitenzeit' 1987 p. 274-89).
Finally we have to note that it has been recently argued (N. Swelim 'Some
problems' and Kahl 'S.A.H.' p.7) that the reigns of Qa Hedjet (cfr. supra)
and Ba ought to be put at the end of this dynasty; the former king has been
here discussed (cfr) while the latter, only known for few inscriptions on
Djoser' s Step Pyramid stone vessels, had been previously considered an ephemeral
follower of Qa'a at the end of the First dynasty.
I think, at the present state of our knowledge, that Huni is more likely
the immediate predecessor of Snofrw.
Kahl et. al. (1995) consider "Qa Hedjet" the Horus name of Huni
We interpret the third dynasty as a transitional period that, from a religious,political
and artistical point of view, bridges between the thinite early state archaism
(already mature in many aspects and rich in itself of innovations and developments)
and the classical splendour of forms / high efficiency of means of the Old
Notwithstanding the scarcity of documents (which will rapidly grow in the
IV th dyn.), many signals of the heavy impact of this 'age of passage' show
how important it was as well as how its protagonists achievements were, for
the forthcoming Egyptian history and culture.
- The religion shifts towards a more solar character (pyramids, cartouches,the
god Ra) than its previous astral one (Horus,Hathor).
- The first pyramids and funerary complexes belong to the 50-60 years deviding
Djoser's reign from Huni' s.
The progress is undoubtly not merely an architectural one: its roots are
in the mentioned religious shift towards the heliopolitan solar doctrine,
its basis are in the ruling apparatus now capable to organize and move more
and more masses of workmen and raw materials necessary to enterprise the royal
funerary complex constructions.
- This latter aim is reached by displacing central administration's 'branch
offices' all over the Egyptian territory, granting an efficient drainage of
resources and taxes from each province.
Although existing since centuries before, only under the III rd dynasty
the administrative subsystem begins to function in a fully centralized way
and, we repeat it, on the whole state (ex. Elephantine frontier settlement).
Snofru will benefit of the evolution in this field made by his predecessors,
allowing him to concentrate even more grandly onto the building activities
as well as onto firmer, more fruitful military expeditions beyond-boundaries.
- Various titles and offices of the functionaries are a further proof of
the development of a widespread net of state systems, also peripherical, that
function as the backbone of the new born bureaucracy.
It's just in this century that there is the decisive change from the decentralized
organization of the thinite early state to the more mature and centralized
- In the mastaba of Hesyra we encounter the earliest representations which,
though in line with the archaic tradition of the 'dead in front of his offerings'
picture (private stelas of Abydos, Heluan) , add for the first time the subject
of the dead overlooking at the production of the goods for his tomb.
This concept is an enlargement (as said for Huni) of the 'figurative system'
(Barocas 'Ideologia e lavoro...' 1978) of the tombs, that had started with
the sole names inscriptions and later including titles and goods lists, to
finally produce the 'daily life scenes' on the visual level and the detailed
biographies on the descriptive one.
Moreover, as evidenced in the interesting article by Mrs W. Wood (in J.A.R.C.E.
15), always of this age (Djoser and Hesyra) is the beginning of another important
tradition: the usage,in the burials, of a program of 'artistic expression'
which is strongly tied to the architectural "path" of the tomb through
an armony of communicative purposes. (see infra sub pg. Hesyra)
- The first wide biography (Methen) is dated few years after the reign of
Huni: the writing is therfore getting more and more beautiful (Djoser's pyramid
panels and Heliopolis temple fragments) not only aesthetically but also in
the forms and contents.
- The statuary , private and royal, albeit rather poor of examples, is unrelentlessly
decreasing its artistic / stylistic distance that still separates it from
the half fourth dynasty classicism.
Thanks to Dr. Nabil Swelim , Dr. Aidan Dodson
and Dr. John D. Degreef for the informations kindly