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.
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.