Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The pharaoh was the political and religious leader of the Egyptian people, holding the titles: 'Lord of the Two Lands' and 'High Priest of Every Temple'.
As 'Lord of the Two Lands' the pharaoh was the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt. He owned all of the land, made laws, collected taxes, and defended Egypt against foreigners.
As 'High Priest of Every Temple', the pharaoh represented the gods on Earth. He performed rituals and built temples to honour the gods.
Many pharaohs went to war when their land was threatened or when they wanted to control foreign lands. If the pharaoh won the battle, the conquered people had to recognise the Egyptian pharaoh as their ruler and offer him the finest and most valuable goods from their land.


The Pyramids


Who Built the Pyramids?

The question of who built the pyramids, and how, has long been debated by Egyptologists and historians. Standing at the base of the pyramids at Giza it is hard to believe that any of these enormous monuments could have been built in one pharaoh's lifetime. Herodotus, the Greek historian who wrote in the 5th century B.C., 500 years before Christ, is the earliest known chronicler and historian of the Egyptian Pyramid Age. By his accounts, the labor force that built Khufu totalled more than 100,000 people. But Herodotus visited the pyramids 2,700 years after they were built and his impressive figure was an educated guess, based on hearsay. Modern Egyptologists believe the real number is closer to 20,000.

Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass have been trying to solve the puzzle of where the 20,000 - 30,000 laborers who built the pyramids lived. Once they find the workers' living area, they can learn more about the workforce, their daily lives, and perhaps where they came from. Mark has been excavating the bakeries that presumably fed this army of workers, and Zahi has been excavating the cemetery for this grand labor force. It is believed that Giza housed a skeleton crew of workers who labored on the pyramids year round. But during the late summer and early autumn months, during the annual flooding of the fields with water from the annual innundation of the Nile flooded the fields, a large labor force would appear at Giza to put in time on the pyramids. These farmers and local villagers gathered at Giza to work for their god kings, to build their monuments to the hereafter. This would ensure their own afterlife and would also benefit the future and prosperity of Egypt as a whole. They may well have been willing workers, a labor force working for ample rations, for the benefit of man, king, and country.

The following interviews with Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass address the controversial question of who actually built the pyramids at Giza:

MARK LEHNER, Archaeologist, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and Harvard Semitic Museum.

NOVA: In your extensive work and research at Giza have you ever once questioned whether humans built the pyramids?

LEHNER: No. But have I ever questioned whether they had divine or super intelligent inspiration? I first went to Egypt in 1972 and ended up living there 13 years. I was imbued with ideas of Atlantis and Edgar Cayce and so on. So I went over, starting from that point of view, but everything I saw told me, day by day, year by year, that they were very human and the marks of humanity are everywhere on them. And you see there's this curious reversal where sometimes New Age theorists say that Egyptologists and archaeologists are denigrating the ancient culture. They sometimes put up a scarecrow argument that we say they were primitive. And the New Agers sometimes want to say these were very sophisticated, technologically sophisticated people who built these things, they were not primitive. Well, actually there's a certain irony here, because they say they were very sophisticated technological civilizations and societies that built the pyramids and the Sphinx, and yet they weren't the ones that we find. So to me, it's these suggestions that are really denigrating the people whose names, bodies, family relationships, tools, bakeries that we actually find.

Everything that I have found convinces me more and more that indeed it is this society that built the Sphinx and the pyramids. Everytime I go back to Giza my respect increases for those people and that society, that they could do it. You see, to me it's even more fascinating that they did this. And that by doing this they contributed something to the human career and its overall development actually. Rather than just saying, you know copping out and saying, there's no way they could have done this. I think that denigrates the people whose evidence we actually find.

NOVA: Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote that 100,000 workers built the pyramids and modern Egyptologists come up with a figure more like 20,000 workers. Can you explain that for us?

LEHNER: Yeah, well, first of all Herodotus just claims he was told that. He said, 100,000 men working in three shifts, which raises some doubt, I guess if you read it in the original Greek as to whether it's three shifts of 100,000 men each or whether you subdivide, you know, the 100,000 men. But my own approach to this stems to some extent from "This Old Pyramid." You know, the popular film that was done by NOVA [where we attempted to build a small pyramid at Giza]. And certainly we didn't replicate ancient technology 100 percent because there's no way we could replicate the entire ancient society that surrounded this technology. So our stones were delivered by a flatbed truck as opposed to barges. You know, we didn't reconstruct the barges that brought the 60-ton granite blocks from Aswan. So basically what we were doing is, as we say in the film and in the accompanying book, that we're setting up the ability to test particular tools, techniques and operations, without testing the entire building project.

One of the things that most impressed me, though, was the fact that in 21 days, 12 men in bare feet, living out in the eastern desert, opened a new quarry in about the time we needed stone for our NOVA Pyramid, and in 21 days they quarried 186 stones. Now they did it with an iron winch, you know, an iron cable and a winch that pulled the stone away from the quarry wall, and all their tools were iron. But other than that they did it by hand. So I said, taking just a raw figure, if 12 men in bare feet -- they lived in a lean-to shelter, day and night out there -- if they can quarry 186 stones in 21 days, let's do the simple math and see, just in a very raw simplistic calculation, how many men were required to deliver 340 stones a day, which is what you would have to deliver to the Khufu Pyramid to build it in 20 years. And it comes out somewhere between -- I've got this all written down -- but it comes out in the hundreds of men. Now I was bothered by the iron tools, like 400 men, 4 to 500 men. I was bothered by the iron tools, especially the iron winch that pulled the stone away from the quarry walls, so I said, let's put in a team of men, of about say 20 men, so that 12 men become 32. And now let's run the equation. Well, it turns out that even if you give great leeway for the iron tools, all 340 stones could have been quarried in a day by something like 1,200 men. And that's quarried locally at Giza. You see most of the stone is local stone.

So then because of our mapping and because of our approach where we looked at, what is the shape of the ground here, where's the quarry, where is the pyramid, let's see, where would the ramp have run, we could come up with a figure of how many men it would take to schlep the stones up to the pyramid. Now it's often said that the stones were delivered at a rate of one every two minutes or so. And New Agers sometimes point that out as an impossibility for the Egyptians of Khufu's day. But the stones didn't go in one after another, you see. And you can actually work out the coefficient of friction or glide on a slick surface, how much an average stone weighed, how many men it would take to pull that. And in a NOVA experiment we found that 12 men could pull a 1.5 ton block over a slick surface with great ease. And then you could come up with very conservative estimates as to the number of men it would take to pull an average size block the distance from the quarry, which we know, to the pyramid. And you could even factor in different configurations of the ramp which would give you a different length.

Well, working in such ways, and I challenge anybody to join in the challenge, it comes out that you can actually get the delivery that you need. You need 340 stones delivered you see, every day, and that's 34 stones every hour in a ten hour day, right. Thirty-four stones can get delivered by x number of gangs of 20 men, and it comes out to something like 2,000, somewhere in that area. We can go over the exact figures. So now we've got 1200 men in the quarry which is a very generous estimate, 2,000 men delivering. And so that's 3,200. OK, how about men cutting the stones and setting them? Well, it's different between the core stones which were set with great slop factor, and the casing stones which were custom cut and set, one to another, with so much accuracy that you can't get a knife blade in between the joints, so there's a difference there. But let's gloss over that for a moment.

One of the things the NOVA experiment showed me that no book could, is just what is it like to have a 2 or 3-ton block -- how many men can get their hands on it? Well, you can't have 50 men working on one block, you see. And you can only get about four or five, six guys at most working on a block, say two on levers, you know, cutters and so on. And you know, you put pivots under it and as few as two or three guys can pivot it around if you put a hard cobble under it. There are all these tricks they know. But it's just impossible to get too many men on a block. But you figure out how many stones have to be set to keep up with this rate, to get in with 20 years. And it actually comes up 5,000 or less men, including the stone setters. Now the stone setting gets a bit complicated because of the casing, and you have one team working from each corner, and another team working in the middle of each face for the casing and then the core. And I'm going to gloss over that.

But the challenge is out there: 5,000 men to actually do the building and the quarrying and the schlepping from the local quarry. This doesn't count the men cutting the granite and shipping it from Aswan or the men over in Tura. OK, so that increases the numbers somewhat....And that's what things like the ancient technologies series done by NOVA really bring home, I think. No, we're not recreating ancient society, and ancient pyramid building 100 percent. And probably not even 60 percent. But we are showing some nuts and bolts that are very useful and insightful, far more than all the armchair theorizing.

Now just recently I was contacted by the construction firm DMJM -- the initials stand for Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall -- it's one of the largest construction firms, they're working right now on the Pentagon. And one of the senior vice presidents decided to take on for a formal address for fellow engineers, a program management study of the Great Pyramid. So these are not guys lifting boilers in Manhattan, these are senior civil engineers with one of the largest construction corporations in the United States. And I'm sure they'd be happy to go on record with their study which looked at what they call critical path analysis. What do you need to get the job done? What tools did they have? And they contacted me and other Egyptologists and we gave them some references. Here's what we know about their tools, the inclined plane, the lever and so on. And without any secret sophistication or hidden technology, just basically what archaeologists say, this is what these folks had. DIM JIM came up with 5,000, 4 to 5,000 men could build the Great Pyramid within a 20 to 40 year period. And they have very specific calculations on every single aspect, from the gravel, for the ramps, to baking the bread. So I throw that out there, not because that's gospel truth, but because reasoned construction engineers, who plan great projects like bridges and buildings today and earthworks and so on, look at the Great Pyramid and don't opt out for lost civilizations, extraterrestrials, or hidden technologies. No, they say it's a very impressive job, extraordinary for the people who lived then and there, but it could be done. They are human monuments.

NOVA: You've made reference to inscriptions at Giza that indicate who built the pyramids. What do the inscriptions say?

LEHNER: One of the most compelling pieces of evidence we have is graffiti on ancient stone monuments in places that they didn't mean to be shown. Like on foundations when we dig down below the floor level, up in the relieving chambers above the King's chamber, and in many monuments of the Old Kingdom, temples, the Sun temples, other pyramids. Well, the graffiti gives us a picture of organization where crews, where a gang of workmen was organized into two crews. And the crews were subdivided into five phyles. The word phyles is spelled p-h-y-l-e-s. It's the Greek word for tribe. The Egyptian word is za. They were divided into five za's. In later times when the Greeks came and in bilingual inscriptions, when somebody was translating za into Greek they used the word phyles, the word for tribe, which is extremely interesting actually.

Were these militaristic kinds of conscripts? Certainly they weren't slaves. Could they actually have been natural communities of the Nile Valley kind of contributing like the way the Inca build their bridges and so on? .....So the phyles then are subdivided into divisions. And the divisions are identified by single hieroglyphs with names that mean things like endurance, perfection, strong. OK, so how do we know this -- you come to a block of stone in the relieving chambers above the Great Pyramid. And first of all you see this cartouche of a King and then some scrawls all in red paint after it. That's the gang name. And in the Old Kingdom in the time of the Pyramids of Giza, the gangs were named after kings. So for example, we have a name, compounded with the name of Menkaure, and it seems to translate 'the drunks or the drunkards of Menkaure.' There's one that's well attested, actually in the relieving chambers above the Great Pyramid, the Friends of Khufu gang, the Drunks of Menkaura gang, and then you have the green phyles and then the powerful ones. None of this sounds like slavery, does it?

And in fact it gets more intriguing. Because in certain monuments you find the name of one gang on one side of the monument and another gang, we assume competing on the other side of the monument. You find that to some extent in the temple, the Pyramid temple of Menkaure. It's as though these gangs are competing. So from this evidence we deduce that there was a labor force that was assigned to respective crew gang phyles and divisions.

NOVA: Where did the gangs come from? Were they local people or did they travel from afar?

LEHNER: There's some evidence to suggest that people were rotated in and out of the raw labor force. So that you could be a young man in a village say in middle Egypt, and you had never seen more than a few hundred people in your village, maybe at market day or something. And the King's men come and it may not have been entirely coercion, but it seems that everybody owed a labor tax. We don't know if it was entirely coercive, or if in fact, part of it was a natural community donation as in the Incan Empire for example, to building projects where they had a great party and so on. But anyway they started keeping track of people and their time on the royal labor project. And if you were brought from a distance you were brought by boat. So can you imagine floating down the Nile and say you're working on Khafre's Pyramid, and you float past the great pyramid of Meidum and the Pyramids of Dashur, and my God, you've never seen anything like this. These are the hugest things. We're talking about a society where they didn't have cameras, you didn't see yourself age. You didn't see great images. And so here are these stupendous, gigantic things thrusted up to the sky, polished white limestone, blazing in the sunshine. And then they go on down to Giza and they come around this corner, actually the corner of the Wall of the Crow right into the harbor, and there's Khufu, the biggest thing on the planet actually in the way of a building until the turn of the century -- our century. And you see, for the first time in your life, not a few hundred, but thousands, probably, of workers and people and industries of all kinds. And you're rotated into this experience and you serve in your respective crew, gang, phyles and division, and then you're rotated out and you go back because you have your own large household to whom you are assigned on a kind of an estate organized society. You have your own village, maybe you even have your own land that you're responsible for. So you're rotated back but you're not the same. You have seen the central principle of the first nation state in our planet's history, the pyramids, the centralization, this organization. And so they must have been powerful socializing forces.

Anyway, we think that that was the experience of the raw recruits. But there must have been a cadre of very seasoned laborers who really knew how to cut stone so fine that you could join them without getting a razor blade in between. And perhaps they were the stone cutters and setters, and the experienced quarry men at the quarry wall. And the people who rotated in and out were those doing all the different raw labor, not only the schlepping of the stone but preparing gypsum and we don't know to what extent the other industries were also organized in the phyles system. But it's quite an amazing picture. And one of the things that really is motivating me now is the question of what vision of society is suggested by a pyramid like Khufu's? Was it in fact coercive? Was it a militaristic kind of state WPA project? Or is it possible that we could find evidence that would bring Egypt into line with what we know of other traditional ancient societies. Like when the Inca build a bridge, and every household winds its twine together, and the twine of all the households in the village are wound into the villages' contribution to the rope. And the rope on the great day of bridge building is wound into a great cable. And all the villages' cables are wound into this virtual bridge. Or in Mesopotamia we know that they built city walls, great mud brick city walls, by the clans turning out and giving their contribution, a kind of organic, natural community involvement in the building project. I wonder if that wasn't the case with the Great Pyramid of Khufu. You know, it's almost like an Amish barnraising. But you know, the Great Pyramid of Khufu is one hell of a barn.

NOVA: Some of the theories of who built the pyramids suggest that the builders may not have been from Egypt. Can you respond to that?

LEHNER: One thing that strikes me when I read about these ideas -- that it couldn't have been the Egyptians who built the pyramids, it couldn't have been the Egyptians who built the Sphinx, of the 4th Dynasty, it had to have been an older civilization. And I think about those claims and then I look at the marvelous statue of Khafre with the Horus falcon at the back of his head. I look at the sublime ship of Khufu that was found buried south of the pyramid. And we know that these objects date from the time of Khafre and Khufu, and I think, my God, this was a great civilization. This was as great as it comes in terms of art and sculpture and building ships from any place in the planet, in the whole repertoire of ancient cultures. Why is there such a need to look for yet another culture, to say 'No, it wasn't these people, it was some civilization that's lost, even older.' And to some extent I think we feel the need to look for a lost civilization on time's other horizon because we feel lost in our civilization and somehow we don't want to face the little man behind the curtain as you had in "The Wizard of Oz." We want the great and powerful wizard with all the sound and fury. You know, go get me the broomstick of the wicked witch of the west. We want that sound and fury. We always want more out of the past than it really is.

ZAHI HAWASS, Director General of Giza.
NOVA: Let's address the question of who built the pyramids.

HAWASS: We are lucky because we found this whole evidence of the workmen who built the pyramids and we found the artisans and Mark found the bakery and we found this settlement of the camp, and all the evidence, the hieroglyphical inscriptions of the overseer of the site of the Pyramid, the overseer of the west side of the Pyramid, the craftsman we found, the man who makes the statue of the overseer of the craftsman, the inspector of building tombs, director of building tombs -- I'm telling you all the titles. We found 25 unique new titles connected with these people. Then who built the pyramids? It was the Egyptians who built the pyramids. The Great Pyramid is dated with all the evidence, I'm telling you now to 4,600 years, the reign of Khufu. The Great Pyramid of Khufu is one of 104 pyramids in Egypt with superstructure. And there are 54 pyramids with substructure. There is support (that) the builders of the pyramids were Egyptians. They are not the Jews as has been said, they are not people from a lost civilization. They are not out of space. They are Egyptian and their skeletons are here, and were examined by scholars, doctors and the race of all the people we found are completely supporting that they are Egyptians.

NOVA: The Greek historian Herodotus claimed in 500 B.C. that 100,000 people built the pyramids, and yet modern Egyptologists believe the figure to be more like 20,000 to 30,000.

HAWASS: Herodotus, when he came here, met guides who tell stories and things like that. But I really personally believe that based on the size of the settlement and the whole work of an area that we found, I believe that permanent and temporary workmen who worked at building the pyramid were 36,000.

NOVA: And how do you come to that number?

HAWASS: I came to that number based on the size of the pyramid project, a government project, the size of the tombs, the cemetery. We know we can excavate the cemetery for hundreds of years -- generations after generation can work in the cemetery -- and the second is the settlement area. I really believe there were permanent workmen who were working for the king. They were paid by the king and these are the technicians who cut the stones, and there are workmen who move the stones and they come and work in rotation. You have this group and another group. In the same time there are the people who live around the pyramids that don't need to live in the pyramids. They come by early in the morning and they work fourteen hours from sunrise to sunset.

NOVA: From your excavations of the workers' cemetery you say you found skeletons. Did you analyze the bones, and if so, what did you learn about the workmen?

HAWASS: We found 600 skeletons. And we found that those people, number one, they were Egyptians, the same like you see in every cemetery in Egypt. Number two, we found evidence that those people had emergency treatment. They had accidents during building the pyramids. And we found 12 skeletons who had accidents with their hands. And they supported the two sides of the hand with wood. And we have another one, a stone fell down on his leg, and they made a kind of operation, and they cut his leg and he lived 14 years after that.

NOVA: How do you know that?

HAWASS: Because we have a team here from the National Research Center who are doctors and they use the x-ray and they can find all the evidence about age. They found that the age of death for those workmen were from 30 to 35. Those are the people who really built the pyramids, the poor Egyptians. It's very important to prove how the pyramid was built. The pyramid you know, has magic, it has mystery. It's a structure that was built, you know, 4,600 years ago. There is no accurate book until now that really explained all of that. All the theorists, in other books they say that the stones were taken from Tura, about five miles to the east of the pyramid. This is not true. All the stones have been taken from the plateau, except the casing stones that came from Tura, and the granite in the burial chamber that came from Aswan. But the magic of the pyramid makes people think about it. An amateur comes by and looks at this structure and doesn't know the mechanics. The cult of the Egyptians, the religion, the pyramid, is a part of a whole civilization.

NOVA: There is an inscription above Khufu's burial chamber that identifies the pyramid as that of Khufu. Some people claim that is a fake inscription. Can you comment on that?

HAWASS: They say that the inscriptions inside the five relieving chambers are fake. Fine. I went last week and we lighted all of them. It has been never lighted before. We did beautiful lighting. Then we can read each single inscription.

NOVA: And what do they say?

HAWASS: The workmen who were involved in building the Great Pyramid were divided into gangs, groups, four groups, and each group had a name, and each group had an overseer. They wrote the names of the gangs. And you have the names of the gangs of Khufu as 'Friends of Khufu.' Because they were the friends of Khufu proves that building the pyramid was not really something that the Egyptians would push. You know, it's like today. If you go to any village you will understand the system of ancient Egyptians. When you build, I mean a dam, or you build a big house, people would come to help you. They would work free for you, the households will send food to feed the workmen. And when they build the houses you will do the same for them. And that's why the pyramid was the national project of Egypt because everyone had to participate in building this pyramid. By food, by workmen, this way the building of the pyramid was something that everyone felt to participate, and really it was love. They are not really pushed to do it. When the king takes the throne, the people have to be ready in participating in building the pyramid. And then when they finish it, they celebrate. That's why even now in modern Egypt we still really do celebrations when we finish any project because that's exactly what happened in ancient Egypt.

NOVA: But what about the incriptions in the relieving chambers in Khufu and the claim that they were not written in the time of Khufu?

HAWASS: They say that these inscriptions have been written by people who entered inside. And if you go and see them they are typical graffiti that can be seen around every pyramid in Egypt, because the workmen around the pyramid left this. I would like those people who talked about this to come with me. And I will take them personally to the rooms. First of all they say that only inscribed is the second room -- it's not true. All the five relieving chambers are inscribed. Number two, there are some inscriptions there that cannot be written by anyone except the workmen who put them there. You cannot go and reach there. It has to be the man who put the block above the other one to do that. I think that maybe the only few Egyptologists, the only two Egyptologists in the world that will really have an open mind, it's me and Mark Lehner, because we believe the public has the right for us to tell them the truth. We are really working excavating around the pyramids to tell the world the truth.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

2nd Dynasty (3890-2686)

Hotepsekhemwy, the 1st King of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty:
Other spellings: Bedjau; Baunetjer
His name means "the two countries are at peace."
Derived from Manetho, he ruled 2890-2852 BCE, 38 years.
Perhaps because it does not have the prestige of the 1st Dynasty, or the great monuments built during the 3rd Dynasty, Egypt's 2nd Dynasty seems almost an interlude. It is doubtful that Egyptologists have put the effort into this era that they have the dynasties before and after it. Regardless, it would seem that the 2nd Dynasty must have been a time when the economic and political foundations were put in place for a strong centralized state, though our lack of archaeological evidence does not support this conclusion.

Left: The priest, Hotep-dif, or Redjit
Basically we know the names of the first three rulers of the 2nd Dynasty, Hotepsekhemwy, Raneb and Nynetjer, from inscriptions on the back of a statue (now in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum) of a priest named Hotep-dif (or perhaps, more accurately, Redjit. Of the first of these rulers, little is known. Hotepsekhemwy (Hetepsekhemwy) was this king's Horus name, which means "Pleasing in Powers". His birth name was Hotep which passed in the royal titulary as both Nesut-bity and Nebty name of the Horus Hotepsekhemui. We are told that his nebty name meant, "the Two Mistresses are at peace", which implies that perhaps Upper and Lower Egypt was once more united after a period of trouble. On the other hand, it may have also been a proclamation of desire, wishing the two powers to be at peace. It is fairly clear that later in the dynasty, some troubles might have existed between northern and southern Egypt. Manetho gave him a reign of 38 years, though little has been found to substantiate this claim, and there is little to show for such a long reign. According to some modern sources, his reign may have lasted for 15 to 25 years, with the absolute dates being 2845 until 2825 BC.

Evidence exists that Hotepsekhemwy probably developed somewhat subtle and reasonable changes in both religion and the administration of Egypt.

Seals bearing his name have been found near the 5th Dynasty pyramid of Unas at Saqqara, that may indicate he had a tomb nearby, but it has not been specifically identified. The seals are associated with two enormous series of underground galleries. Two of the first three kings of the dynasty may have been buried here, with the third possibly in a substructure over which Djoser's Step Pyramid was built.

Right: The entrance to a possible tomb belonging to Hotepsekhemwy at Saqqara
Neither has a tomb for Hotepsekhemwy been found at Abydos, nor any evidence to support a tomb there, though his processors of the 1st Dynasty built tombs in that location. Interestingly, however, seal impressions of Hotepsekhemwy were discovered in the tomb of his predecessor, Qa'a, leading the German Archaeological Institute at Cairo, the team that excavated Qa'a's tomb to believe that Qa'a was probably Hotepsekhemwy's father. Hence, there would not be a break in the Dynasties for family reasons. However, some scholars believe that there were rulers in between Qa'a and Hotepsekhemwy, which would change the above assumptions.
While Manetho provides no reason for the dynastic change between Qa'a and Hotepsekhemwy, it may have been the result of a shift in the royal power center to Memphis.
Almost as a trivia note, we will add that an earthquake took place in the vicinity of Bubastis in the Nile Delta during this king's reign according to Manetho.

Left: Inscription bearing the serekh of Hotepsekhemwy
Other items attesting to this king include a bone cylinder, perhaps from Helwan, now in the Brooklyn Museum. It displays the serekh of Hotepsekhemwy in simplified form but in sharp detail. Two stone bowls inscribed with the name of Hotepsekhemwy were also found by Reisner in Menkaura's pyramid complex at Giza, while an alabaster vessel fragment bearing his name was found in grave 3112 at Badari.
Hotepsekhemwy was succeeded by Reneb, where we first find the inclusion of the sun god into the kings name. From there, the religion of Egypt would transform into the basis for the great pyramids.


Raneb (Nebra), The 2nd King of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty:

Almost all Egyptologists firmly believe that a king by the name of Raneb (or Nebra) succeeded the first king of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty, Hotepsekhemwy. Of course, while we have little information about Raneb, his reign is important to us because of its chronological position during the Egyptian empire's formative years. Presumably, Raneb was Hotepsekhemwy's son, or perhaps his brother, but there is little evidence to prove such. Raneb, which was probably this king's birth name, means "Re is the Lord", but many believe, because there seems to have been no specific mention of the god Re prior to this time, that it should more appropriately be read as Nebra, meaning "Lord of the Sun". There is evidence from later King lists that his birth name was probably Kakaw (or Kakau).

Manetho, the great historian of ancient Egypt, believed that Raneb reigned for some 39 years as king of Egypt. However, many modern scholars believe that his reign was much shorter, lasting between ten and nineteen years years. In fact, some scholars seem to believe that Raneb's reign and that of his predecessor, Hotepsekhemwy, should together be 38 or 39 years, with both therefore having shorter reigns then provided by Manetho.
His reign is attested to by various sources, including finding from the enormous middle Saqqara tomb A (cylinder seal impressions) south of Djoser's temenos south wall and the inscription on a statuette of Redjit. We also find references to Nebra on a Memphite stela now located in the Metropolitan Museum, a statuette, and a rock graffiti near Armant in the western desert (and possibly another at site 40 in the Eastern Desert) , close to an ancient trade route linking the Nile with the western Oasis.
Manetho also tells us that Raneb introduced the worship not only of the sacred goat of Mendes, but also of the sacred bull of Mnevis at the old sun-worship center of Heliopolis, and the Apis bull at Memphis.

However, scholars now appear to believe that the cult of the Apis bull was established by a former king, which is attested on a stele dating from the rule of Den (Udimu). Irregardless, it would seem that his name, whether stated as Raneb or Nebra, indicates a significant shift of worship to the sun god, which would have a very important impact on much of Egypt's remaining history.

Apparently at the end of the 1st Dynasty, there was considerable rebellion, presumably problems held over from the empires initial unification. We are told that Hotepsekhemwy reunited the two lands of Northern (Lower) and Southern (Upper) Egypt, so if follows that Raneb perhaps ruled during a period of a tentative peace. We are not certain of his burial place. 1st Dynasty kings appear to have mostly been buried at Abydos, but his seal impressions at Saqqara suggest that he could have been buried there, though there is absolutely no certainty on that matter. Regardless, future excavation may eventually reveal more to us on this interesting and important era of early Egyptian history and this relatively unknown king.

Raneb was succeeded by Ninetjer (Nynetjer), though once again, we have no real information on this latter king's relationship to Raneb.


Ninetjer (Nynetjer)The 3rd King of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty:

As we descend into the murky far past of Egypt's history, there is no surprise that historical details become blurred, and this certainly applies to the period between the death of Qaa at the end of the 1st Dynasty and the accession of Netjerikhet Djoser in the 3rd Dynasty. Most of the kings of the 2nd Dynasty remain obscure, and we frequently know little more about them than Egyptologists of a generation past. However, the identity and order of the first three kings is certain, thanks to an inscribed statue in the Cairo Museum, and other contemporary monuments and later kings lists can be reconciled with reasonable certainty for the first five rulers.

However, the Palermo Stone records a significant drop in the average height of the annual inundation of the Nile River, and therefore it is possible, if not likely, that ecological factors may have produced tensions and for a while, at least towards the end of the Dynasty, Egypt may have even been divided. Yet, up until and through the reign of Ninetjer, the Two Lands seems to have been ruled as one.

A granite statuette of the mortuary priest named Hetepdief, implies (because their names are listed on his shoulder) that there was continuity between the first three kings of the 2nd Dynasty, for their mortuary cults were served by only one individual, and it is known that Ninetjer maintained the mortuary cult of at least one predecessor. An inscribed stone vessel discovered in the Step Pyramid juxtaposes the serekh of Ninetjer and the ka-chapel of Hetepsekhemwy.

Ninetjer (Nynetjer) was this kings Horus name, and simply means "godlike", or "He Who Belongs to the God". The term god probably in this instance references Re, the sun god.
Ninetjer is actually by far the best attested king of the early 2nd Dynasty. Given the position of his titulary on the Palermo Stone, he must have ruled Egypt for at least thirty-five years, though Manetho gives him forty-seven. In fact, most of what we know of this king is derived from the annals recorded on the Palermo Stone, where the whole fourth register records events between his fifth or sixth year through his twentieth or twenty-first. However, the king is also evidenced by three fine tombs in the elite cemetery at North Saqqara containing sealings of Ninetjer, as well as one across the Nile in the Early Dynastic necropolis at Helwan.

There were additionally five different jar-sealings of the king discovered in a large mastaba near Giza. However, more sealings of Ninetjer eventually led to the identification of the king's own tomb at Saqqara (though some scholars doubt that this is clearly his tomb).
From the Palermo Stone, we learn of the foundation of a chapel or estate named Hr-rn during the king's seventh year on the throne. Otherwise, most of the events evidenced on that record are regular ritual appearances of the king and various religious festivals. A festival of Sokar apparently was held every six years during his reign, and the running of the Apis bull was recorded twice during years nine and fifteen of his reign. Most of the festivals recorded during his reign were held in the region of Memphis, with the exception of a ceremony associated with the goddess Nekhbet of Elkab during year nineteen.

The fact that most activity associated with this king occurred in the region of Memphis may be important. Little evidence of the king is found outside of this region and it may be that his activities was largely, if not completely confined to Lower Egypt. Towards the end of his reign, there was a good deal of internal tension in Egypt, perhaps even civil war. The Palermo Stone tantalizes us with the possibility of this beginning in Ninetjer's thirteenth year. It records the attack of several towns including one who's name means "north land" or "House of the North" (the other city was Shem-Re). Some have interpreted this entry in the Palermo Stone to mean that Ninetjer had to suppress a rebellion in Lower, or Northern Egypt.

Unfortunately, the Palermo Stone ends with the nineteenth year of his reign. However, inscriptions on stone vessels, which probably date to the latter part of his reign, appear to record several other events, such as a four occurrence of the Sokar Festival, which probably took place in year twenty-four, and the "seventeenth occasion of the [biennial] census", which may have occurred in his thirty-fourth year on the throne.

Other than the various inscribed stone vessels, only two other artifacts have been unearthed that bear the king's name. One of these is a small ivory vessel from the Saqqara area, but the other is a small statue of considerable significance, both to the king's history and especially Egyptian art. The statuette is made of alabaster, depicting the king on his throne and wearing the close fitting robe associated with the Sed-festival. Upon his head rests the White Crown of Lower Egypt. This crude stone statuette of unknown provenance, now in the Georges Michailides Collection, represents the earliest complete and identifiable example of three-dimensional royal statuary from Egypt.

It also provides evidence that the king celebrated at least one Sed-festival, which would have been likely given the apparent long reign of Ninetjer. While no contemporary inscriptions evidence this celebration, there was also a stock of stone vessels discovered in the Step Pyramid galleries that may have been prepared for this event. Some scholars theorize that this further evidences the difficulties late in the king's reign, suggesting that these were never distributed due to domestic unrest which disrupted communications and weakened the authority of the central administration. Hence, the stone vessels were later appropriated by subsequent kings of the late 2nd and early 3rd Dynasties.

The name of Ninetjer's successor to the throne, Peribsen (Seth-Peribsen), unusually referencing the god Seth, is another piece of evidence indicating unrest. However, it is likely that Peribsen did not directly replace Ninetjer. It is likely that as many as two or more shadowy rulers (Weneg, Sened and Nubnefer) took the throne of perhaps a divided Egypt. in the interim. However, most modern kings' lists do not reference all of them, and some list only one or two.



Were Hitler and his gang to have won the second World War, there would not be a question of whether history would justify his atrocities, but rather simply how they would have been justified, and how the actual winners such as Churchill and others would have been made to look evil. The curse of our past is that the winners will write our histories, recording their triumphs as good over evil. But in many instances, though we would like to think World War II is not one of these, the winners have simply buried their own wrong doings while spotlighting any atrocities committed on the part of the losers.

In ancient Egypt, we find what sometimes appears to be almost a primeval struggle between good and evil. This conflict between the followers of Seth (Set) and the followers of Horus is very ancient and may very well form a component of our modern theological concepts. Yet there may have, during the predynastic period, actually been a battle between real rulers, symbolically or otherwise associated with these two gods, over control of Egypt. In the end, the followers of Horus seem to have (more or less) triumphed, and in general, Seth as a god, appears to us as the more sinister of the two, even though one might say he was never really completely vilified.

Left: A stele of Seth Peribsen
At a few points in Egyptian history, normally when we see conflicts between the north and south, Seth appears to gain favor with the Egyptian royalty. As an example, we have the 4th (or possible the 6th) king of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty. This king originally ascended the throne as Sekhemib, meaning "Powerful in Heart". However, for the first time since the beginning of the 1st Dynasty, he specifically broke from tradition, associating his name with Seth rather than Horus. His name was changed from Sekhemib to Seth-Peribsen (Peribsen meaning "Hope of all Hearts"). However, it should be noted at this point, that apparently a minority of Egyptologists believe that Sekhemib and Seth-Peribsen were two different kings. Furthermore, some would have him changing his name from Seth Peribsen to Horus Sekhemib, though in our context of earlier Egyptian kings, this seems less likely.

Apparently, the rivalry between Upper and Lower Egypt sparked a period of internal unrest within the country, when seemingly, the followers of Seth gained an upper hand that would take at least some hold on the country through the end of this Dynasty. Most of the 1st and early 2nd Dynasty kings are better attested to in the north of Egypt, while the later kings of the 2nd Dynasty are better known from the south. However, some argue that the reign of Seth Peribsen was not nearly as violent as we might believe, and that his name change was more politically motivated in order to assure peace. Others see it as a period when upper and lower Egypt may have simply separated due to the difficulties in administering such a large state.

Egyptologists seem ready to admit that the events of the second dynasty are extremely uncertain, if not the most uncertain in Egyptian history. It is entirely possible that the events surrounding Peribsen's name change are related to religious and theological motivations that remain unknown, due to the complex mythology surrounding Horus and Seth.

It is likely that if conflicts did occur during this period, it was eventually settled by Khasekemwy, the last king of the dynasty, though perhaps not without compromise (together with no small amount of bloody conflict). His serekh (a palace facade containing his name) is surmounted by both the Jackal of Seth and the falcon of Horus. By the 3rd Dynasty, all of the kings reverted back to the Horus title.

Even though Seth-Peribsen was considered a legitimate king by later generations of ancient Egyptians, it is clear that the followers of Horus (at least in relationship to the followers of Seth) dominated Egyptian history. If indeed the struggle was originally not between gods, but rather mortal men under the leadership of ancient kings, two things seem clear. First, during at least the early dynasties, Seth (as a god) was not seen to be nearly as sinister as in later times. However, as time passed and the worship of Horus and his association with the King grew ever stronger, the attributes of Seth suffered. We know Seth today as a god of confusion, the spirit of disorder and the personification of violence, as well as bad faith. Yet in the Egyptian spirit of balance and duality, he was a necessary component of their religion.

Seth-Peribsen may have ruled for around 17 years. His predecessor is often listed as Nynetjet, though there is evidence and some acceptance among Egyptologists that two rulers, named Weneg and Sened, may have reigned between these two kings. We know that Egyptian power extended as far south as Elephantine during his reign, for seal impressions bearing his name were discovered there in 1985. Apparently, there was a temple dedicated to Seth on the Island during later times.

Left: Seth-Peribsen's tomb at Abydos
Seth Peribsen apparently built a fairly small tomb (P) at Abydos with a burial chamber lined with mudbrick, of which only the substructure survives. As might be expected, there has been no tomb of his found at Saqqara, were many of the 1st Dynasty kings were buried.


Khasekhem/Khasekhemwy of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty:

Other spellings: Khasekhemui; Khasekhemuy

Khasekhemwy is perhaps the best attested ruler of the 2nd Dynasty, a period that we know very little about in general. Egyptologists have normally placed him as the successor of Seth-Peribsen, though Manetho lists three kings between them, consisting of Sethenes (Sendji), Chaires (Neterka) and Nebhercheres (Neferkara). However, there is no archaeological evidence for these kings and almost no other information to verify their existence. However, some Egyptologists believe he had another immediate predecessor named Khasekhem, with an obviously similar name, though other scholars believe Khasekhem and Khasekhemwy were in fact the same person. They argue that Khasekhem changed his name to Khasekhemwy after he squashed a rebellion, thus reuniting Upper and Lower Egypt.

His new Horus name means "The Two Powerful Ones appear". Afterwards, the rendering of his name on his serekh was surmounted by both the Horus falcon and Seth jackel, marking it as unique in Egyptian history.

Perhaps Khasekhemwy's use of both the Horus and Seth god's representations in his name was an act of reconciliation. We might even assume a politically inspired unification of the country, were it not for evidence to the contrary. He in fact is believed to have married a northern princess, but apparently only to cement the control he gained through battle. On a stone vase, we find recorded, "The year of fighting the northern enemy within the city of Nekhet." Nekhet, now known as el-Kab, lies on the eastern bank of the Nile across from the ancient capital, Nekhen, known to the Greeks as Hierakonpolis. Hence, this was a major and dramatic battle between Upper and Lower Egyptians. On the base of two seated statues of Khasekhemwy, we are told that some 47,209 northerners were killed, a huge number considering the relatively small population of Egypt during the early dynastic period.

The Northern princess that Khasekhemwy married, a woman named Nemathap (Nimaatapis), who jar sealings reveal as "The King-bearing Mother". She probably mothered the earliest rulers of Egypt's 3rd Dynasty including Djoser.
It is also important to note that the earliest inscriptional evidence of an Egyptian king at the Lebanese site of Byblos belonged to the reign of Khasekhemwy.

Khasekhemwy apparently undertook considerable building projects upon the reunification of Egypt. He built in stone at el-Kab, Hierakonpolis and Abydos. He apparently built a unique, as well as huge tomb at Abydos, the last such royal tomb built in that necropolis (Tomb V). The trapezoidal tomb measures some 70 meters (230 ft) in length and is 17 meters (56 ft) wide at its northern end, and 10 meters (33 ft) wide at its southern end. This area was divided into 58 rooms. Prior to some recent discoveries from the 1st Dynasty, its central burial chamber was considered the oldest masonry structure in the world, being built of quarried limestone.

Here, the excavators discovered the king's scepter of gold and sard, as well as several beautifully made small stone pots with gold leaf lid coverings, apparently missed by earlier tomb robbers. In fact, Petrie detailed a number of items removed during the excavations of Amelineau. Other items included flint tools, as well as a variety of copper tools and vessels, stone vessels and pottery vessels filled with grain and fruit. There were also small, glazed objects, carnelian beads, model tools, basketwork and a large quantity of seals.

Nitched Walls of the Enclosure

However, probably more impressive is a structure located in the desert about 1,000 yards from the tomb. Known as the Shunet el-Zebib (storehouse of the Dates), it was a huge rectangular structure measuring 123 x 64 meters (404 x 210 ft). The mudbrick walls of the structure, with their articulated palace facade, were as much as 5 meters (16 ft) thick and as high as 20 meters (66 ft). Incredibly, fragments of these mudbrick walls have survived for nearly 5,000 years. Some Egyptologists believe that the complex of buildings within this enclosure may have functioned in a capacity similar to a mortuary temple. In fact, it had much in common with the enclosure of Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

Besides the niched inner walls of the parameter, a large mound of sand and gravel covered with mud brick, approximately square in plan, was discovered within the enclosure. Located in a similar position within the enclosure as the Step Pyramid in Djoser's complex, this mound may have been a forerunner of the step pyramids. Regardless, Khasekhemwy's structures are seen as an important evolutionary stage of the ancient Egyptian mortuary complex. We believe that Khasekhemwy died in about 2686 BC.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

1st Dynasty (3050 - 2890)
2nd Dynasty(3890-2686)

Little actual history is known of the pharaohs of the early dynasties. Their monuments, however, are some of the most studied artifacts in the world.

1st Dynasty(3050 - 2890)

Aha 1st Dynasty :
Other spelling: Hor-Aha

Many people believe that Aha was actually King Menes of Memphis. Menes was the founding king of the 1st Dynasty, and was the first king to unify Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom. Ancient Egypt's most predominant form of civilization began with his crowning, and did not end permanently until the beginning of the Roman era, which started with Augustus Caeser. Menes founded the city of Memphis, and chose as its location an island in the Nile, so that it would be easy to defend. He was also the founder of Crocodopolis. During his time, the Egyptian army performed raids against the Nubians in the south and expanded his sphere of influence as far as the First Cataract.
His chief wife was Queen Berenib, though she was not the mother of his heir, King Djer, and his mother was probably Neithotepe, if that lady was not also his wife. His death is a mystery, for, according to legend he was attacked by wild dogs and Nile crocodiles in the Faiyum . Aha's tomb resides at Saqqara, the famed necropolis of Memphis.

A tomb consisting of chambers numbered B10,B15 and B19, located in the Umm el Ga'ab region at Abydos, was primarily thought to compose three independent tombs.
Only recent surveys by a team of German archaeologists proved that it was in fact a single tomb for pharaoh Aha and, though the chambers are distinctly separated, they might have had shared roof. Wall thickness in chambers were approximately1.5 - 2.10 meters.
Total capacity of the tomb was 11 x 9meters. A series of tombs located east of this one possibly belonged to his nobles.

Who Was Menes:
According to ancient sources, Menes was the founder of a unified Egypt, the first king of the 1st Dynasty. Actually, Menes is the Greek form of the name provided by the third century BC Egyptian historian, Manetho. Alternative forms include Min (provided by Herodotus), Minaios (provided by Josephus), and Menas (provided by Diodorus Siculus), and there are other variations as well.
It seems almost certain that the various Greek forms of the name render the Egyptian name Mni, found in the Abydos and Turin king lists, although the etymology of the name is problematic. Some have proposed a connection with the verb, "to endure", while others wish to connect it with the Egyptian indefinite pronoun mn, meaning "so-and-so", that is, a substitute for a forgotten name. One scholar, James Allen, has sought to link the name Meni with the Egyptian name of the city of Memphis (Mn-nfr), which Menes is said to have founded.

According to Menetho, Menes founded a dynasty of eight kings from this. Manetho gives Menes a reign of about sixty years (sixty-two years according to Africanus, sixty according to Eusebius). His principal achievement is said to have been the foundation of Memphis, on land reclaimed from the Nile by means of the construction of an immense dike. Manetho reports that Menes campaigned abroad, which we now know is very possible. Diodorus Siculus says that he was the first law-giver and that it was he would establish the divine cults in Egypt. He is also said by Pliny to have invented writing, which is highly improbable. Manetho also tells us that Menes was eventually carried off by a hippopotamus.
What seems clear to us is that Menes must have been another name given to one of the better attested kings of the 1st Dynasty, if he indeed was not a legendary figure composed of several of them. Many scholars do believe that he represents a specific king, but who exactly this might be is an argument almost as old as Egyptology itself. Today, the two primary candidates are Narmer and Aha. We are more certain, though not entirely, that these two individuals reigned successively, with Narmer preceding Aha. If Narmer is considered to be Menes, then Aha would be the second ruler of the 1st Dynasty. Otherwise, Narmer would be the last ruler of the Predynastic Period, or as some have suggested, Dynasty 0.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this discussion is to remember that there has been no absolutely conclusive proof that either of these individuals was Menes, even though many scholars will and have voiced absolute opinions, because their absolute opinions are not unified. We do not know with any certainty who Menes actually was, and we may never have the answer to this question. Furthermore, opinions over the years have swung to and fro.
Narmer's claim rests largely on his earlier historical position and on the Narmer Palette, which has been interpreted as showing the king in the act of conquering Lower (Northern) Egypt.
In 1897 J.E. Quibell had been digging at El-Kab, an important site on the east bank some distance to the north of Edfu. Here the local goddess was the vulture Nekhbet who shared with the cobra Wadjet of Buto in the Delta the honor of providing the Pharaoh with his Two-Ladies title. Nekhbet was representative of upper Egypt, while Wadjet that of Lower Egypt. That year, he found little success, but the next, while just across the river at Kom el-Ahmar, he had more luck. This was known to be the ancient Nekhen mentioned in certain Old Kingdom official titles, and the Greek Hierakonpolis on account of the falcon-god Horus who was the principal deity worshipped there. The great prize he found was the famous slate palette of Na'rmer. It needed but little study to recognize in this object an indisputable link between the late predynastic and the earliest dynastic periods. Apparently, though there is some confusion in the published work of Quibell at Hierakonpolis, he also found in the same deposit fragments of a ceremonial mace head belonging to Narmer and some other mace head fragments inscribed with the name of Scorpion, one of Narmer's predecessors.
The size, weight and decoration all suggest that it was aceremonial palette, rather than an actual cosmetics palette for daily use. The titulary of Horus Narmer appears on both of its relatively flat faces. The top of both sides are decorated in a similar manner. His name is inscribed in the form of a serekh, situated between two bovine heads. It has been suggested that these heads represent cows, and are an early reference to a Hathor-like cult, but they could also easily be bulls heads, certainly symbolic of Egyptian kingship. Nevertheless, they more likely represent a Hathor goddess, who in some mythology was the mother ofHorus, the falcon god who was, at least in later times, manifested in the form of the king. .

Front and Back of the Narmer Palette

On the front side of the palette, just under the king's name, is a scene depicting Narmer wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt. He holds a mace in his left hand, while in his right he holds a type of flail. Before him are the symbols for his name, though not written in a serekh. He is followed by a servant who holds his sandals in his left hand and some kind of basket in his other hand. Above the servant is a symbol of unknown meaning.
Just in front of the king walks another figure who may either have long hair or some sort of unknown headdress. He is also accompanied by symbols of unknown meaning. However, a similar individual with the same symbols can also be found on the ceremonial mace-heads of both Narmer and Scorpion, and they have at times been described as perhaps being shaman, or priests, though their appearance would be very atypical of later Egyptian priests.
Preceding all of these figures are four individual who each hold a standard. The standards include some kind of animal skin, a dog (or perhaps a seth-animal), and two falcons. The emblems might either represent the house of Narmer, or perhaps more likely, regions that already belonged to his kingdom.
This procession is approaching, on the right of the scene, ten decapitated corpses who lie on the ground with their heads tossed between their legs. Above these victims is depicted a ship with a harpoon and a falcon in it. These symbols are usually interpreted as the conquered region. If the symbols for the nomes (provinces of ancient Egypt) remained the same over time, then this could be the region of Mareotis, the 7th Lower Egyptian nome. In front of these symbols is also the wing of a door and a sparrow, which are thought to mean "create" or "found". Therefore, one might speculate that Narmer founded a new province from this conquered land.
The central, largest scene on the front of the palette is an interesting one depicting two men tethering the stretched necks of two fabulous animals. The tying together of the necks of the two animals has often been interpreted as the joining of Upper and Lower Egypt, though in fact there is nothing much to indicate that these two animals were symbolic of southern and northern Egypt. This is a unique image in Egyptian art, and one must remember that the taming of wild animals was a traditional symbolic task of the king.
The scene at the bottom of the palette's front face continues the imagery of conquest and victory. A bull, almost certainly a symbol of the king's vigor and strength, tramples a fallen foe and attacks the walls of a city or fortress with its horns. The name of the city or fortress is written within the walls, but unknown to us.
Most of the back side of the palette is taken up by a central scene, finely carved with highly detailed raised relief. It shows the king, who must certainly be Narmer, in the classical pose found throughout Egyptian history of smiting his enemies with a war mace. He wears a short kilt with a dangling animal's tail, and on his head is what appears to be the White Crown of Upper Egypt.
Behind him we once again find a servant who holds the king's sandals in his left hand and a basket (or perhaps water bottle) in his right. We also see that, around his neck, is probably a cylinder seal for the king. Again, there are signs written behind this man's head that may denote his title, but their exact reading and meaning are unclear.. The fact that the king is represented as barefooted and followed by a sandal-bearer may suggest a ritual nature for the scene depicted on the palette.
The enemy is depicted kneeling before the king, naked but for a slight girdle. Behind the enemy are two signs that include a harpoon and perhaps a lake, the meaning of which is also unclear. It is possible that this represents the origin of the enemy, or where the possible underlying battle took place. However, one must also remember that later in Egyptian history, such scenes were highly symbolic, and need not represent a real event.
Above the enemy's head, facing the king, is what most scholars believe to be a personified marshland, with a mans head rising from it. Out of the land, six papyrus plants are growing, indicating that it was marshland, usually identified as the Egyptian Delta by most scholars. A falcon, symbolic of the king, is perched on top of the papyrus plants and appears to draw the breath of life out of the nostrils of the marshland's face.
While the marshland is often mentioned by those who suppose Narmer to be the uniter of Upper and Lower Egypt, and therefore Menes himself, some cautious scholars have also noted that, at this early time, it could in fact be symbolic of any marsh area, such as the Fayoum. However, we might tentatively believe that this was a region of Lower (northern) Egypt, given the symbolism on the front of the palette.
As a side note, in later times, the papyrus plant was used, though drawn somewhat differently than this, to denote the number 1,000. Some believe that the scene on the Narmer palette only mean that the king subdued 6,000 enemies, but this is a rather unlikely interpretation.
Below this central scene at the bottom of the palette lie two enemies, who have probably fallen in battle. To the left of each is a hieroglyphic-like sign. One is a knot, while the other is apparently a wall. Both signs are usually interpreted as names of places that have been overthrown by Narmer, though we have no real idea of what places these might be.
In his book, Egypt of the Pharaohs, Sir Alan Gardiner tells us that the symbolism of this palette is obvious, but unfortunately, a detailed analysis of it shows that, while there may be some evidence indicating a victory of the south over the north, such evidence is at least somewhat murky. Clearly the palette is overall militarily symbolic, and most likely the enemies who Narmer has overcome are from a marshy region. That Narmer wears what appears to be both the Red and White crown are more convincing, but still not altogether conclusive. Some scholars have pointed out that, while the White and Red Crowns were symbolic of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively, in later times, at this early period one or both of them could have had other importance.
Na'rmer also made his appearance at Umm el-Ka'ab (Qa'ab) at Abydos, together with the other early dynastic rulers (where their tombs are located). The only other remains of him are votive offerings found in the temple of Hierakonpolis. However as a side note, it seems that Narmer's name was recently discovered incised on a piece of an imported Egyptian wine jar in the Nahal Tillah region of southern Israel by the UCSD archaeological research expedition.

Aha's claim as Menes comes mostly from the hieroglyphs (phonetic mn, sometimes referred to as men) associated with his name on various objects. However, it is uncertain whether there exists an unbroken tradition of knowledge on the part of the Egyptians about the foundational king that could connect the name Mni with any historical person.
Yet, it should be noted that fragments of clay jar seals from Abydos, alternating Narmer and the word or name mn, suggests that mn was a leading person and possibly successor to Narmer. We know the name of Hor-Aha, or Aha, the Fighter or Fighting Hawk, by his name sign appearing in a serekh on a potsherd, now in the British Museum, and by an ivory label from the tomb at Naqada of Nithotep (possibly his mother and the wife of King Narmer, or also possibly his own wife). This label also shows the nbty name Mn in front of the serekh. The reading of the hieroglyphic sign of mn on several ivory tablets belonging to King Aha, and on a plate fragment, has prompted speculation that Aha is Menes. Again, however, many scholars also do not accept that mn equates with Menes.

Finally, there is various other evidence, some of which suggests that Narmer may have, for the most part, united Egypt, but that it was his son Aha who solidified this union and established Memphis. Other theories also suggest that Narmer and Aha were one and the same person.
In the end, no one knows, but isn't it interesting that such fine points can be argued about a man or men who lived over 5,000 years ago. One must also keep in mind that much of what we know of Menes was recorded over twenty-five hundred years after his death. It is likely, with new discoveries, that we may find out more about these early giants of Egyptian civilization, but then again,we may never fully know who really was, Menes.


Horus Djer (Itit), the 2nd King of Egypt's 1st Dynasty:

Horus Djer or Itit (his nomen) was either the second or third ruler of the 1st dynasty. His reign came after that of Narmer and Aha, though which of these two kings actually founded the first dynasty is unsure. A majority of modern scholars seems to believe that Aha was the first king of that dynasty and so was the ruler who united Upper and Lower Egypt. That would make Horus Djer, his apparent heir, the second ruler. He and the following kings are largely responsible for the consolidation of the unified state of Egypt.
Scholars believe that Djer was probably Manetho's Athothis, and that he ruled for 57 years. Most of the information we have on this ruler comes from ivory and wood labels found at Abydos and Saqqara. Regrettably, the hieroglyphs on the labels represent an early state of writing, so are difficult for Egyptologists to make out. An inscription on ivory found at Abydos with Djer's name in a serekh seems to tell us that he visited Buto, an early capital of Egypt, and Sais, both in the Delta of lower or northern Egypt. At Saqqara we find a wooden label also bearing his name that seems to refer to a ceremony connected with human sacrifice, a practice that was quickly abandoned in Egyptian culture. However, about his large tomb at Abydos (Tomb O) are 300 burials of retainers who seem to have perished at the same time as the principle internment of Djer.

Inscriptions on Ivory Recording Djer's visits to Delta Cities

From Saqqara on Wood, Possibly recording a Ceremony of Human Sacrifice

Manetho, the legendary Egyptian historian, regarded him as a scholar, and credited him with an anatomy text book that apparently still existed in Greek times. We believe that he made a military campaign deep into Nubia, for we find at Wadi Halfa his inscription. One of the kings regnal years was named, "The Year of Smiting the land of the Setjet". Setjet was a word identified with Syria-Palestine, and we also believe that he sent forces into the Sinai. There is also evidence that he made excursions into Libya to the west. These are the first recorded military campaigns outside of the "Two Lands" of Egypt.
Tomb O is at Umm el-Gaab (Abydos) and just west of the tomb of Horus Aha. The tomb is subterranean, made of brick and was much more elaborate then his predecessor's tombs. In fact, it is one of the largest tombs of the First Dynasty and the complex covers an area of 70 X40 meters, including the subsidiary burials that are in rows. From the Middle Kingdom onward, Egyptians thought that his tomb held the body of Osiris, god of the dead. King Khendjer even provided a statue of the deity, lying on a bed, and the tomb became a center of pilgrimage for later Egyptians. From his tomb we find an arm which wore the earliest surviving royal jewelry, four gold and turquoise bracelets. His apparent wife, Herneith, is buried at Saqqara in tomb number 3507, near the burials of many of the king's senior officials.
Traditionally, provides that Djer's successor was Djet (Uadji), but there is evidence provided by large tombs at Saqqara (3503) and Abydos (Tomb Y) that there might have been a consort of Djer who may have ruled prior to Djet. Her name was Merneith, and a seal from Abydos that was recently found seems to confirm this, giving the order of early kings beginning with Narmer and referencing her has King's Mother.


Djet, the 3rd King of Egypt's 1st Dynasty:

Other spellings: Wadj; Zet; Uadji

We believe that Djet (also called Wadjit, or Uadji) succeeded Djer and we traditionally place his as the third king of Egypt's 1st Dynasty. Djet would have probably been the son of Djer, though we seem to have no real direct evidence of this relationship. However, there might have been a queen that ruled between Djer and Djet. Her large tomb at Abydos (Petrie's Tomb Y) was thought at one time to belong to a king. More likely Merneith (Meryetneith) was a daughter of Djer and a consort of Djet. A fairly recent find of a clay seal at Abydos that bears her name appears to indicate that she was probably the mother of Den, Djet's successor. She may also have acted as her young son's regent upon the death of Djet. On this seal, her title was clearly given as "King's Mother".
If Djet is identical with Uenephes from Manetho's list, he is noted for a reign of 23 years. However, Egyptologists do not seem to place much reliance on Manetho's list, though there is little if anything to suggest any other length for his reign. In general, Egyptologists for the most part avoid dating this murky period of Egypt's early dynasties.

Right: Abydos Tomb Layout :
Djet's tomb at Abydos in an area known as Umm el-Ga'ab is Petrie's Tomb Z, located just west of Djer's tomb. Emile Amelineau and Flinders Petrie were the first to explore this tomb around the turn of the century. It was re-excavated by Werner Kaiser and Gunther Dreyer in 1988. For many years, he was thought to have had a tomb at Saqqara, but later investigation ascribed that structure to a nobleman named Sekhem-kha who probably served under Djet, even though the nobleman's tomb is larger then that of the king.. It is noteworthy that there were some 174 subsidiary burials around his tomb at Abydos. Most, if not all of these were not family members as found around the tombs of latter kings, but rather retainers who had probably been put to death upon the death of Djet, in order to serve him in the afterlife. These sacrificial burials were unique to this time period in Egypt. Later kings would take ushabtis, symbolic workers, to their graves.
During antiquity, there is evidence that Djet's tomb, along with other early tombs at Abydos, has been intentionally burned. Later these tombs were rebuilt and associated with the cult of Osiris.
Also found at his tomb was a stele, well known today, containing the early hieroglyphs of his name. This was a snake surmounted by a falcon (Horus) with a symbolic palace facade below the snake. Originally, there would have been a pair of these stele at the tomb entrance. We could interpret Djet's very simple name to mean, "Horus Serpent" or "Horus the Snake" from this stele and other inscriptions. The limestone stele may be found today in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Djet is further attested to by a seal impression from mastaba V in Giza.
Little else is know about this king. He probably ruled during a fairly prosperous period, if the reign of Djer is any indication, and we also believe he may have sent an expedition to the Red Sea, presumably with the aim of exploiting mines in the Easter Desert.

The Symbolic Palace Facade, Front and Top Views T.N. P

Den, the 4th King of Egypt's 1st Dynasty:

Other spellings: Dewen; Udimu

While an early King, Den, who's name means "Horus Who Strikes" (Udimu), is perhaps better attested than some. We believe he served as the 4th King of Egypt's 1st Dynasty. He may have come to the throne at an early age, with his mother, Merneith, acting as regent.
He left a number of labels and inscriptions on stone vases which cite the king, including events during his reign. We have found seals impressions and inscriptions in tombs 3035, 3036, 3038, 3504, 3506, 3507, X and a lower status tomb at Saqqara, from a tomb at Abu Rowash and of course, from King Den's own Tomb at Saqqara.
His throne name has been identified as Semti which helps us identify him as a king in the Abydos King list named Hesepti. He is believed to have been the first king to adopt a nsw-bity (King of Upper and Lower Egypt) name, which was Khasty. According to Manetho, he had a reign of some 20 years. However, he may have celebrated a Sed-festival, which usually occurred in the 30 year of rule, and some Egyptologists believe he may have reigned for as long as 50 years.
Though the reigns of Den's processor and successor seemed to have been troubled, the reign of Den was apparently a glorious and prosperous one. Yet beyond this prosperity, like Horus Djer before him, Den left behind an intellectual reputation. We believe that the spells found in the later funerary manual called the Book of the Dead was attributed to his time, as well as medical formulae that were preserved in New Kingdom papyri.
Den Apparently limited the power of high officials which had previously been allowed to grow dangerously strong during the reign of his predecessor. Such centralization always seems to have been key to a successful royal reign. However, we believe he also pursued a policy of conciliation with northern Egypt, probably creating a post of "chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt:, filled by a man named Hemaka.
Hemaka is a well known figure of this time who built an important tomb at Saqqara. The contents of this tomb provide us with our most comprehensive collection of 1st Dynasty funerary equipment. It is also from this tomb that we find possible evidence for Den's Sed-festival (along with a label found at Abydos, depicting the earliest known king wearing the double crown of Egypt).
Soon, however, it appears that Den turned his focus to military affairs. An interesting ivory label found at Abydos that was inscribed for Den records, "The time of the smitting of the East". It shows Den in the classic pharaonic posture, with his mace raised above his head about to club a foreign chieftain. This seems to correlate with the "Smiting of the Troglodytes" recorded on the Palermo stone.
We believe these campaigns included an incursion into the "Asiatic" (Palestine) territories, during his first year, where he bought back a harem of female prisoners. He also seems to have made a military expedition into the Sinai to deal with a (so called) Bedouin problem.
Den's tomb, notably excavated by Petrie in 1900 after having earlier been excavated by Emile Amelineau, has been identified as Tomb T at Abydos. Significantly, this tomb was the first we know of to utilized a significant amounts of granite in its construction. This consists of slabs of red and black granite from Aswan that was used to pave the burial chamber. In many ways, the tomb was one of the most impressive so far built in Egypt, and certainly at Abydos, with a proper stairway and a massive burial chamber that was once roofed with wood, perhaps retrieved during his Eastern military campaign(s).
The stairway, the first we find in an Egyptian tomb, was sealed with a wooden door, and just before the burial chamber was a portcullis barrier to block grave robbers. A small room to the south-west, with its own small stairway, may have been an early serdab, which was a chamber built to hold statues of the deceased. A German team who excavated the ruins (after a number of earlier excavations) revealed that grave goods or fragments included pots with seal impressions, stone vessels, inscribed labels and other carved objects in ivory and ebony, as well as inlays from boxes and furniture. A long side chamber probably held jars of wine. Near the tomb were found 136 subsidiary burials.
However, one of his queens was probably buried at Giza, and her tomb is larger than that of her husband's. It also included graves of sacrificed servants around it, but unfortunately, her name is not know. T.N.P

Anedjib, the 5th Ruler of Egypt's 1st Dynasty:

Other spellings: Adjib; Andjyeb; Enezib; Miebidos

Today, we lament the lack of information on some of Egypt's earliest dynastic kings, but in reality, we are perhaps lucky to have as much information as we do on these kings who's lives were lived, and than past almost 5,000 years ago. As excavations continue in Egypt, always providing us with more and more evidence of these kings, though sometimes raising more questions than answers, we will probably learn even more about these kings.
We believe Anedjib (Andjyeb, Enezib), who seems to have been from the area around Abydos known as This, and is recorded as a Thinite king on the Saqqara King List from the tomb of Thunery, was the 5th ruler of Egypt's 1st Dynasty. Anedjib was this king's Horus name, which means "Safe is His Heart". If he is to be identified with Manetho's Miebidos (Miebis, Merpubia), then he may have ruled Egypt for about 26 years. However, most Egyptologists seem to give him a somewhat shorter reign, though he may have served as a co-regent with his father, who was probably Den, for some time. In his A History of Ancient Egypt, Nicolas Grimal tells us that Anedjib did in fact celebrate a Sed-festival, though it seemingly took place only shortly after the death of Den, suggesting that he came to the throne as sole ruler of Egypt only late in life. Vases discovered at Abydos in the area of Umm el-Qa'ab record this jubilee, along with the addition to his name, "protection surrounds Horus".
Anedjib was probably the first king to have a nebty (Two Ladies) title and the news-bit (He of the sedge and bee) name in his royal titulary, although the nesw-bit title (without a name) had already been introduced in the reign of Den. This title reunited the two divine antagonists of the north and south in the person of the king.
There were apparently problems during Anedjib's rule, as well as that of the next king, Semerkhet. It is very possible that the long reign of Den was responsible for the succession difficulties related to these two kings. It would seem that he experienced considerable problems with Northern, or Lower Egypt and apparently had to put down several revolts in that region. His successor, Semerkhet, was probably responsible for erasing Anedjib's name from a number of inscriptions on stone vases and other objects. However, Semerkhet's name was omitted from the Saqqara King List, so it is sometimes thought that Semerkhet may have usurped the throne of Egypt after Anedjib.
Anedjib built a tomb (Tomb X) at Abydos, but it is one of the worst built and smallest of the Abydos royal tombs, measuring a mere 16.4 x 9 meters (53 3.4 x 29 1/2 feet). Interestingly, the burial chamber was constructed entirely of wood, and there were 64 graves of retainers within the area, also of low grade construction.
Another tomb which was apparently built during the reign of Anedjib is that of an official named Nebitka (tomb 3038 at Saqqara). This tomb is interesting in that it contained a mudbrick stepped structure inside the Mastaba like structure, that some Egyptologists see as a forerunner of Djoser's Step Pyramid.
Other than his tomb at Abydos, Anedjib is also attested to by seal impressions in tomb 3038 (the tomb of Nebetka) at Saqqara, in a tomb at Helwan, and also in a tomb at Abu Rawash.

Semerkhet, the 6th King of Egypt's 1st Dynasty:

Other spelling: Semempses

According to the limited information we have on Semerkhet, the traditional 6th king of Egypt's 1st Dynasty, he ruled Egypt for about nine years. This is from the Palermo Stone, but Manetho records his reign as 18 years, and notes that there were numerous disaster during his reign. This is probably due to the problems with his succession and predecessor, as it has been suggested that Semerkhet usurped the throne. He destroyed the name of his predecessor, Anedjib, on a number of stone vessels, and it would seem in return, was himself omitted from the Saqqara King list.
Semerkhet was the king's Horus name, and means "Thoughtful Friend" (though Nicolas Grimal in A History of Ancient Egypt disagrees, stating that the Horus name means "companion of the gods". Grimal also tells us that his nebty name meant "he whom the two mistresses guard", a reference to Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Nekheb (el-Kab), and Wadjet, the serpent-goddess of Pe and Dep (Buto). Grimal therefore suggests that he may have had a priestly role prior to his ascending the throne of Egypt.
His tomb is located at Abydos (Tomb U). It measures 29 x 31 meters (95 x 101 3/4 feet), which makes it considerably larger then that of his predecessor. It is also of superior quality to Anedjib's tomb. Semerkhet's tomb has a brick lined burial chamber and is surrounded by well built servants' graves. Petrie investigated Semerkhet's tomb at Abydos, and found the entrance ramp saturated up to "three feet" deep with aromatic oil, which, after some 5,000 years, still permeated the entire tomb with scent. Archaeologists have not discovered a mastaba tomb from his reign at North Saqqara, though his predecessors seem to have mostly built tombs there as well.
Left: The names of Semerkhet and Qa'a
The only object of substance to have survived from Semerkhet's reign is a black granite funeral stela found by his tomb in 1898. It had originally belonged to a pair erected outside his monument, a tradition from the very beginning of the dynasty.
Semerkhet probably conducted trade with people who lived in the Palestinian territories, judging from seal impressions found at a building bearing his, along with other 1st Dynasty kings. However, very little else is known about this king.

Qa'a, The Last King of the First Dynasty, or Was He?

Most scholars believe that Qa'a was the last king of the 1st dynasty. We may also see his name as Kaa, or several other variations. Though Egyptologists often disagree on dating, our current best guess is that he lived from about 3100 to 2890 BC.
While this information on Qa'a is highly limited, until Dreyer and Kaiser analysis their data and provide us with more information, little else is known of this early Egyptian Pharaoh.. He was probably buried in Tomb Q at Abydos, where two typical royal funerary stelae bearing his name were found on the east side of the tomb. This tomb has been excavated on a number of different occations, first by Emile Amelineau in the 1890s, then Flinders Petrie and in 1991, by Gunther Dreyer and Werner Kaiser. The work done by this later German team revealed many small artifacts and architectural details that had been overlooked by earlier excavations. These include thirty inscribed labels that describe the delivery of oil, probably made from berries or tree resins, and probably from the Syria-Palestine area.

Seal impressions and artifacts have also been discovered in Tomb Q with the name of Hetepsekhemwy, the first pharaoh of the second dynasty. This suggests that Hetepsekhemwy completed Tomb Q, and that there was no real break between the first and second dynasties of Egypt. The change in dynasties from the first to the second was originally reported by Manetho without explanation.
We also know of four tombs in Saqqara that date to this kings reign. The lower part of two wooden statues were found in one of these tombs in a set of rooms on the north side. Some scholars believe this may have been an offering chapel, and that the mortuary temple in pyramid complexes may have evolved from this structure.
Egyptologists have also discovered the stelae of two of Qa'a's officials, Merka and Sabef. These stelae have more complex inscriptions then earlier hieroglyphics, and may have signaled in increasing sophistication in the use of this writing.