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