Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dynasty 11

Antef lived around 2130 B.C.
Mentuhotep (I)
Antef, Ibkhenetre, Segerseni

The rulers of dynasty eleven started the process of reunification of Egypt.They brought the lifestyle and local gods of the south to the whole country. In some charts this dynasty belongs to the Middle Kingdom and most charts have six rulers starting with Antef I. Since the dynasty only ruled the united Egypt for around 40 years at the end, it's not correct to put it in the Middle Kingdom. The kings called Mentuhotep can be three or four in different lists (even those made by scholars of the trade) depending on which Mentuhotep is concidered to be the founder. Their throne names is the best way for a correct identification.

"Prince of the South"
"Antef - son of Ikui"

The earliest known leader from Thebes before this dynasty was formed was a curtain "Antef - son of Ikui". (Antef can also have the spellings Intef and Inyotef). He must have lived around 2130 B.C. and is mentioned as predecessor of Mentuhotep (I) from the "Hall of an- cestors" in the Karnak temple from the 18th dynasty built by Thotmes III. He is there given the unusual title: "Count and Hereditary Prince." A stela from Drab Abu Naga calls him: "the Hereditary Price, Count of the Great Lord of the Theban Nome - Antef." A stela from Dendera describes him in asimilar way as: "The Great Prince of the South - Antef". Possibly he was related to the old royal family as he was given a prince-title, but the origin of his parents are unknown and a remark- able fact is that just his father's name is mentioned (several times) and not his mother's from whom he (if so) had inherited his title. There are no records telling if the following pharaohs were descendents of his, but since three of them were called Antef it may be the case.


Mentuhotep (I)
"Chief of Thebes "
"Supreme chief of Upper Egypt"

This leader called himself "Supreme chief of Upper Egypt" and is in some modern lists numbered as Mentuhotep I and as such the founder of the dynasty. It is not known who his father was, but it might be the Antef mentioned above. No con- temporary remains tell that he ever claimed to be pharaoh over Egypt and his name has not been found written within sereks or cartouches from his own time. His son and follower on the other hand (below) called himself "King over the Two Lands". The Canon of Turin has for this 11th dynasty a row (first of six) where the name is lacking and this might indicate that he was concidered a king and had a throne name of his own, which now is lost. Whether he was the first pharaoh named Mentuhotep is therefor just a question of taste. By the total years given for the whole dynasty (just six rulers in the canon) his reign is estimated to have been around seven years. The place of his tomb has not been located, but may have been in the Western Thebes the mountain side like the other rulers of dynasty 11.


Inyotef I
2074-2064 B.C.

Nomen : Intef
Horus name: Sehertawy
Burial place : Thebes (aff el-Dawaba)
Son of ( Mentuhotep I ) and ( Neferu I )

Inyotef I was the founder of the 11th Dynasty. He took Thebes as the Capitol of Egypt and ruled it from 2074 till 2064 BC. He was the son of Montuhotep I, the "elder". The king took over a divided Egypt and tried to reunite the north and the south under his power. Herakleopolitans ruled Northern Egypt during the period of the 9th and 10th Dynasties' kings. Inyotef was buried in Thebes in the mortuary complex that he built. His royal successors honored his mortuary complex and did not modify it.

The "Saff tomb" made by the Antefs I-III and the last kings of dynasty 11. A courtyard was cut into the hillside ending with several tombs for the royal family hewn in to the bedrock. The length varied from 75 to 150 metres. Remains indicate that a small pyramid might have been placed in the yard.


Inyotef II

Inyotef II was the second king of the 11th Dynasty. The king ruled Egypt from 2064 till 2015 B.C. and took Thebes as the capitol during his reign. He was the younger brother of Inyotef I. The king led an army against his Herakloplitan allies in Assyout. His enemies ruined the city of Thinis and desecrated its tombs. Inyotef captured the entire nome but did not continue to fight the Heraklopolitans. He decided to trade with them and maintain the integrity of the Southern Kingdom without further wars. Inyotef II's wife was Queen Neferukayet. He was listed in the Westcar Papyrus and was inscribed on a mortuary stela.

Antef II, who was ruling the 7 provinces in the south of the country, struck back, and the front was moving many times from north to south before he finally manage to drive his opo- nents as far north as a good strech of valley north of Abydos up to the 13th province right at today's Asyut. By doing so half of Upper Egypt was in his hands, and the rest of his reign was peaceful. In the south he broke through to the first cataract at Aswan early in his reign. By this he regained Egypt's traditional southern border to the south and built a temple to the goddess Satet on the island Elephantine at the very same location.

After his earthly deeds he was put to rest in a rock cut tomb next to his predecessor's in the Theban necropolis. In his mortuary chapel was retrieved a magni- ficent limestone stela with high reliefs of the king's favourite dogs (picture left), standing by their master.

Curiously this fine work of art was known to Egyptologist before it was found, because it had been written about in other records from the twentieth dynasty a thousand years after it was made.

A necropolis inspector had come across it and considered it s very re- markable old work of art worth reporting to his chief about, and so he did which was a lucky strike for egyptology.

Two of the dogs can be identified by the hieroglyphs beside them telling their Libyan names with the Egyptian translation at the side. The one in the middle probably had a name common for the two languages. From the top they are:

1) BEHEKAY (Egyptian: Mahedj) meaning "gazelle".
2) ABAQER (no translation) meaning "greyhound", probably in both languages.
3) PEHETEZ (Egyptian: Kemu) meaning "Blackie".

The last name has the same word root for "black" (kem) as Kemet (the black land) which was the Egyptians' name for their country.

These three dogs (slightly adjusted in the picture) are probably the oldest in human history known by their names. Notable is the artist’s practical aim to get a straight vertical right end to his work, and this was achieved by ordering Blackie to sit down on his master's foot!


Inyotef III
2069 - 2060

Son of : Inyotef II Wahankh
Wife : Iah
Son : Mentuhotep II
Daughter: Neferu II

This king does not appear in any of the other sources for as far as I known.

Inyotef was the third king of the 11th Dynasty. He ruled Ancient Egypt from 2015 till 2007 BC. As any 11th Dynasty king, he took Thebes as the capitol for his throne. Inyotef kept all the regions that his Theban predecessors left for him to rule. He defended the city of Abydos from many Herakleopolitan assaults. Inyotef's name is inscribed in the mountains of Silsileh. Queen Aoh was his main wife and the mother of his heir Montuhotep II. Inyotef's daughter Neferu married his heir. The king had a second queen in his reign called Henite.



This period is marked with foreign trade and enormous building projects. There is a refinement in the making of jewelry. Prosperity and renaissance existed for a long period of time, but eventually, internal problems become apparent.

Mentuhotep II
First Ruler of the Middle Kingdom

Son of Inyotef III and Iah : Winlock has Nebhepetre as the son of a king named Se’ankh-ib-tawy Mentuhotep.


Amunet : Buried in the temple precinct of the temple at Deir el-Bahari.
As : A concubine mentioned in the inscriptions of the temple at Deir el-Bahari
Ashayet : Buried in tomb DBXI.17 within the mortuary temple of her husband. Her sarcophagus and mummy are in the Cairo museum.
Henhenet: Buried in tomb DBXI.15 within the mortuary temple of her husband. Died in child-birth.
Kawit : Buried in tomb DBXI.9 within the mortuary temple of her husband.
Kemsit : Buried in TT308. Title given as "sole adornment of the king"
Ment: Royal Lady mentioned on bandages of Amunet
Neferu II: Daughter of Inyotef III and Iah, sister-wife of Mentuhotep II. Buried in TT319 at Deir-el-Bahari.
Ten-net: Royal Lady mentioned on bandages of Amunet
Sadhe: Buried in tomb DBXI.7 within the mortuary temple of her husband.
Tem : Mother of Mentuhotep III. Buried in tomb DBXI.15 within the mortuary temple of her husband.

This king does not appear in any of the other sources for as far as I known.

For everyone who studies Egyptian history, we like to point out occasionally the fallacy of accepting a single reference about many different ancient topics. One problem with experts is they have their own opinions, which they often state unequivocally, even though others disagree. References on the first ruler of the Middle Kingdom are a perfect example of this.

His throne name was most certainly Neb-hetep-re, meaning "Pleased is the Lord Re", though we also find it spelled Nebhepetra. But this is not his common, or birth name, and here we run into problems. "Chronicle of the Pharaohs" by Peter A. Clayton refers to him as Mentuhotep I, and gives his reign as 2060-2010. However, the "Oxford History of Ancient Egypt" edited by Ian Shaw gives his name as Mentuhotep II, with a reign from 2055-2004 while Aidan Dodson in his book, "Monarchs of the Nile" refers to him as Montjuhotpe II, with a reign from 2066-2014. "A History of Ancient Egypt" by Nicolas Grimal calls him Mentuhotpe II, with a reign from 2040-2009, while "Who Were the Pharaohs" by Stephen Quirke simple calls him, as well as the following two kings Mentuhotep, without elaboration or dates.

So much for Egyptology being consistent, but never fear, they are all talking about the same king, and they all place his rule as the first of the Middle Kingdom and within the 11th Dynasty. However one names him, his birth name, Mentuhotep, means "The God Montu is Content". It should be noted that Montu was a Theban god of war. Mentuhotep ruled Egypt from Thebes, which until then, had not been as prominent as it later became.

We believe he was the son or heir of Intef III, for a number of reasons. First, there is a relief located at Wadi Shatt el-Rigal, near Gebel es-Silsila, that incorporates a colossal figure of Mentuhotep II dwarfing three other figures believed to be he mother, Intef III and Khety his chancellor. There is also a masonry block found at Tod with reliefs portraying Mentuhotep II towing over three kings, named Inhtef, lined up behind him. However, Mentuhotep worked so diligently to enhance his reputation with his contemporaries with self-deification that some Egyptologists believe he may not have been a legitimate heir to the throne, though this might also be explained by his efforts to reunite Egypt.

Part of the Jubilee celebration scene of Mentuhotep II from Armant.

Montuhotep's principle wife was Tem, but he had a number of lesser consorts. A second major wife was Neferu, who mothered his heir to the throne, and we also know of a wife named Henhenet who died in childbirth.

Though he reunited Egypt after the First Intermediate Period, he did not do this immediately, and we find him with a number of Horus names that follow a progression. First, he was "He who gives heart to the Two Lands", followed by "Lord of the White Crown" (Upper Egypt) and finally Sematuawy, "Uniter of the Two Lands", as he apparently unified Egypt. Indeed, in later inscriptions, the king was set alongside Menes as being the second founder of the Egyptian State.

At first, his reign was probably peaceful, but latter became most certainly a bloody one, and with a highly militaristic focus. Near his temple at Thebes, American archaeologist Herbert Winlock found a mass tomb in the 1920s with the bodies of 60 of his soldiers who were lain in battle. There place of burial near the King suggests that the battle they fought was an important one, but sources disagree on where they might have fought. In the tomb of a local prince or general named Mesehti at Asyut, we also find models of marching Egyptian soldiers and even in the tombs of common people, we find an increase in the inclusion of weapons among grave goods.

In year 14 of his rule, we know that a revolt took place in the Abydos area by the Hierakleopolitan forces, and that he quickly crushed it. Afterwards, his armies slowly drove the Hierakleopolitan

Reconstruction of the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep at Deir el Bahari in West Thebes. His tomb was cut deep into the bedrock behind and underneath the building. Right: a life size sandstone statue of the king.

forces north eventually leading to his overall rule of Egypt, but even by year 39 of his rule, when the country was wellunder his control, he continued his military campaigns into Nubia. It would appear that there might have even been an Egyptian based local kingdom established in the area around Abu Simbel, and so he apparently crushed these upstarts, as well as initiating other policing actions in Lower Nubia. One such expedition was led by his Chancellor, Khety, illustrating the importance Mentuhotep II placed on reopening Egypt's access to Nubia, and beyond.

However, he did have a long reign, perhaps as long as 50 years, and peace did finally return to Egypt proper, along with prosperity. Mentuhotep II initiated a number of building projects, including in the areas of el-Kab, Gebelein, Tod, Deir el-Ballas, Dendera, Karnak, Abydos, Aswan and Armant. His greatest building work, however, was his temple and tomb on the west bank at Thebes (Modern Luxor). It is located in the cliffs at Deir el-Bhari, next to the later and today more famous temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Many of his high officials are buried near him including his chancellor Akhtoy, his viziers Dagi and Ipi, and his chief steward Henenu.


Mentuhotep III
of Ancient Egypt's

Horus name: Seankhtawyef

Nebty name: Seankhtawyef

Golden Falcon name: Hetep
Prenomen: Sankhkare
Nomen: Mentuhotep
Son of: Mentuhotep Nebhepetre

Mentuhotep III (actually, the second Mentuhotep of the Middle Kingdom and sometimes referred to as Mentuhotep II), benefited from a strong and flourishing country upon the death of his father, Mentuhotep II. He used this to good advantage, though by the time he took the throne of Egypt in about 2010 BC he was relatively old and only ruled for about twelve years. Though an 11th Dynasty ruler, his order in this dynasty, perhaps as its fifty king, differs according to any number of chronicles of the period, due to the inclusion or exclusion of previous kings.

Mentuhotep, which means "The god Montu is Content" was this king's throne name. His throne name was Sankhkare, which means "Giving Life to the Soul of Re". We know little about his family. His father was presumably Mentuhotep II, and his mother is believed to have been Queen Tem.

Mentuhotep III evidently continued with many of the policies of his predecessors, which included maintaining a defensive attitude towards his neighbors on the northern frontiers, and he was eager to extend trade beyond the First Cataract of the Nile to the south. In the north, he built a series of fortresses along the border of the eastern Delta, where a cult was later dedicated to himself and the Herakleopolitan ruler, Khety III at the site of el-Khatana.

This king initiated a number of expeditions to gather raw material for his many building works, which included a number of temples and shrines. In Year 8 of his reign, we specifically learn, from a long inscription in the Wadi Hammamat, of an expedition led by his steward, Henenu, from Koptos to Wadi Gasus. The road they used had to be cleared of rebels prior to their departure, and with him, Henenu took some 3,000 soldiers. Wood was carried by his soldiers in order to build ships once they reached the Red Sea, and along their journey, they sank twelve wells to support future expeditions. After having built their ships, they departed for the land of East Africa land of Punt, the first such expedition we know of during the Middle Kingdom to do so. They acquired a number of products while in Punt, including perfume and gum. Upon their return, they apparently stopped in Wadi Hammamat in order to query stone.

It is also interesting to note the care with which Henenu treated his men. Each soldier was provided with a leather bottle, a carrying pole, two jars of water and 20 loaves a day. In addition, "the asses were laden with sandals" to provide for the troops in this harsh terrain.

Mentuhotep III's building work is characterized by a certain amount of architectural innovation. For example, at Medinet Habu he built a triple sanctuary that foreshadowed the 18th Dynasty temple built for "family" triads of gods. He was also responsible for the temple atop Thoth Hill, the highest peak overlooking the Valley of the Kings, not only had a triple sanctuary, but also incorporated the earliest extant temple pylons. Not far away lies the remains of another of his temples. He also apparently finished much of his father's building activities at Abydos, Elkab, Armant, Tod and Elephantine.

The artwork commissioned during the reign of Mentuhotep III was also innovative, and the relief work during this period is arguably the beast of the Middle Kingdom. Most of the stone carving is very fine, with raised relief conveying tremendous spatial depth with a differentiation of no more than a few millimeters of thickness within the stone. The subtlety of the portraiture and the details within the clothing on the reliefs from Tod are far better than the works commissioned by his father.

Though overall, Mentuhotep III reign seems to have been very positive, we do learn from some correspondence from a man named Hekanakht, who was the funerary priest under the vizier Ipy at Thebes, that towards the end of the king's reign, there was apparently the onset of famine in the Theban region.

We believe that, upon his death in about 1998 (according to some sources, a few years earlier) BC, Mentuhotep III was probably buried in a bay in the cliffs to the south of his fathers monument at Deir el-Bahari. Little remains of his mortuary temple beyond a causeway that apparently ends at a sloping passage going into the rock at Deir el-Bahari. His mortuary temple may have been intended to be similar to that of his fathers, but it was unfinished and uninscribed. In 1997, a Hungarian team led by Gyoro Voros found an early Middle Kingdom tomb below the peak of Thoth Hill on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes), that very likely belonged to this king. Its architecture may have been the inspiration of the bab-tombs of the early 18th Dynasty.

One wonders why Mentuhotep III's mortuary temple was unfinished, given his other monumental building activities. His successor, Mentuhotep IV could have usurped the throne, since he is missing from some king lists. His mother was apparently a commoner with no royal titles other than King's mother, so he may not have even been a member of the royal family.


Mentuhotep IV Nebtawyre

Horus name: Nebtawy

Nebty name: Nebtawy

Golden Falcon name: Netjeruneb

Prenomen: Nebtawyre

Nomen: Mentuhotep

Son of Mentuhotep III and the King’s Mother Imi.

Though Mentuhotep III Sankhkare (Mentuhotep II in a number of texts) is said by both the Saqqara and Abydos king lists as being the last of the 11th Dynasty rulers, followed immediately by Amenemhet I who founded the 12th Dynasty, the fragmentary papyrus known as the Royal Canon of Turin says there was a period of seven years without a king after Mentuhotep III. Egyptologists believe that it was Nebtawyre Mentuhotep IV who fit within this slot for a short reign of about six years. Mentuhotep was this king's birth name, meaning "The God Montu is Content". His Throne name, Nebtawyre, means "Lord of the Two Lands is Re". Unfortunately, no images of this king are known to us from reliefs or statuary.

Because his name is missing from all of these kings lists, many presume that he may have usurped the throne. His mother was a commoner with no royal titles other than "king's mother', so it is possible that he may not even have been a member of the royal family. We know virtually nothing about any other of his family members. It should also be noted that inscriptions from the Hatnub travertine quarry suggest that some of the nomarchs (provinces) in Middle Egypt might have been troublesome at about this time.

We should also note that the temple on the West Bank at Thebes cupped in a spectacular amphitheater of cliffs just a short walk from the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, which has traditionally been ascribed to Amenemhet I, is now believed by some scholars to be attributable to Mentuhotep IV. If so, this would be about the only building established by this king.

This is a shadowy king and records regarding his reign are rare. From the reign of Amenemhet I, we find a fragment of a slate bowl discovered at Lisht in the first nome with both the name of Nebtawyre Mentuhotep and Amenemhet I. However, we do know that a vizier under Mentuhotep IV was one Amenemhet, who is well attested from a long inscription that he left in the Wadi Hammamat, He acted as Governor of the South under Mentuhotep IV, and most Egyptologists seem to believe that he is one and the same as King Amenemhet.

As vizier to Mentuhotep IV, he records that he went with an army of 10,000 (some sources say 1,000) men into the Wadi to seek and retrieve a fine flock of stone suitable for the lid of the king's sarcophagus. The text says that they were led to the block by a pregnant gazelle which, having dropped its young on to the stone to mark it, was immediately sacrificed on the block. A second miraculous event was also recorded when, after a ferocious rainstorm at Wadi Hammamat, a well 10 cubits square was revealed that was full of water to the brim. In such barren terrain, this would certainly have been a spectacular discovery.

Apparently, the block was successfully detached from the surrounding rock and safely taken to Thebes. However, during their expedition, they were also charged with finding a more favorable port on the Red Sea. Apparently, the port they found was Mersa Gawasis (Kuser), which was not established until the reign of Amenemhet II as the embarkation point for expeditions to Punt.

Regrettably, one of the reasons this king remains so obscure is that his tomb, and the sarcophagus made from the block as well as his mummy, has never been found. Perhaps Mentuhotep IV was never able to use the stone since it appears that Amenemhet, with the backing of his 10,000 (or 1,000) men, overthrew his master and proclaimed himself king, founding the 12th Dynasty. It has been suggested by Richard Tidyman tht the name of the new capital, Lisht, was a direct reference to this event, and that the literary texts known as the Prophecy of Neferti and the Instruction of Amenemhat I should be considered in the light of evidence for a civil war accompanying the takeover. However, there is really no direct evidence of such revolt and it is also possible that Mentuhotep IV simply died without an heir.


Antef, Ibkhenetre, Segerseni

obscure rulers in the south

At the very end of the eleventh dynasty the central power of Thebes seems to have declined for a while, at least where the authority over the province of Nubia was concerned. In nine cities an otherwise unknown "king" made his presence known by recording his name on rocks. He had both a throne name - Kakare, and a personal nomen - Antef. Maybe he was heading for the throne in Thebes but he obviously did not reach that far.

Another ruler manifesting himself in Nubia was probably called Ibkhenetre and he only showed himself with a fancy cartouche (below).

A third chief is known during the same period and he was called Segerseni with the throne name Menkhkare. He is attested for only in rock inscriptions near the town of Umbarakab in Lower Nubia.

We don't know if these local chiefs ruled simultaneously or if they succeeded each other. Egyptologist von Beckerath advocates that their reigns were at the same time ruling different parts of Nubia.

When the eleventh dynasty was coming to an endEgypt had been at peace for 40 years.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why the Ancient Egyptians
Built PyramidsA matter of Religion

We see Egypt's ancient pyramids as monumental structures that inspire our imagination with awe and wonder. They were monumental tombs for the kings, but why did the Egyptians go to so much trouble, toiling sometimes over many years in order to build them? In fact, while tombs indeed, the great pyramids were also fundamental to their religious beliefs.

A part of ancient Egyptian life was the Nile inundation. As rains fell during the spring in the Ethiopian highlands the level of the Nile River in Egypt rose above its banks, flooding the Nile Valley between June and October. This turned much of the valley into large lakes, but as the waters receded, they left behind fertile silt from which new life would emerge, at first on the highest mounds of earth.
It was almost certainly this annual experience that the Egyptians linked to their concept of creation. One of their earliest creation myths envisioned the first place in the world as a mound of earth emerging from the waters of a universal ocean. Here the first life form was seen as a lily, growing on the peak of the primeval mound. To the Egyptians, the lily was connected with a god named Nefertum, whose name means "perfect and complete". Nefertum was honored as a harbinger of the sun, which rose from the lily's petals to bring life to the newly created world. Even the mound itself was deified as a god named Tatjenen, meaning "the emerging land".

It seems that the earliest temples of Egypt, particularly in the north, sometimes incorporated a mound of earth as a symbol of the original site of all life. The earliest such mounds may have been a small hill of earth or sand, but the icon eventually took the form of a small pyramid carved from a single block of stone, known as a bnbn (benben). This name comes from the root, bn, which means to "sell up" or "swell forth". The benben also, because of the sun's part in creation, came to be an icon of both the primeval mound as well as the sun which rose from it. In fact, the Egyptian word for the rising sun is wbn, which comes from the same root as benben.
Thus, from the outset, the pyramid shape represented the idea of new life, emerging from a mound of earth to be bathed in the light and warmth of the sun. However, to the ancient Egyptians, the benben was more than just an image. Like the primeval mound itself, the Egyptians thought that it somehow incorporated the very power of life itself and even the force that made it possible for new life to emerge after a period of dormancy.
Hence, it is not at all surprising that the Egyptians sought the power of the benben in their funerary monuments. In the ancient Egyptian mind, death was not an end of life but rather the beginning of a new form of existence, particularly for the king. Basically, to the ancient Egyptians, each human was made up of various elements. Among these were the body, the ba and the ka. The body was the physical form that the living being inhabited. The ba was similar to our modern notion of the soul. It was the unique essence of each individual, while the ka was the energy of life itself, a force that was transferred from the creator to each living person. In fact, death occurred when this force was separated from the ka and its body, but after death, the ba and the ka were thought to reunite. This union allowed the individual to continue living, but in a spiritual rather than physical form. This new form of life, called akh, was more or less eternal, though the Egyptians did believe in an end of time.
Thus, the benben was incorporated within the structure of the tomb and provided the power for the spiritual rebirth to take place. The tombs of early rulers, and later on, officials, were usually surmounted by a rectangular structure of mud brick known as a mastaba, but mounds of earth have also been found within these buildings above the burial chamber. However, the mastaba itself may have been seen as symbolizing the primeval mound. The first known pyramid, that of the 3rd Dynasty King, Djoser, began as a mastaba but was made into a pyramid of six steps by the construction of five successively smaller mastabas on top of one another. This seems to have been a progression in the visualization of the primeval mound. In fact, this step structure can actually be found within earlier mastabas at Saqqara.

The true pyramids that began to be built in the 4th Dynasty wee derived from the original step shape by filling in the steps to create four smooth faces, thus being large scale representations of the more common pyramidal benben. In fact, some recently discovered tombs of officials from the same period to the south of the three Great Pyramids of Giza were surmounted by conical mounds that almost certainly served the same purpose of the monumental royal pyramids.
Outside of their power to give new life to the deceased, not much is known about the role that the earliest pyramids were thought to play in the afterlife. Nevertheless, there were successive changes to these structures and new innovations in their architecture and plan that suggest an evolution in Egyptian funerary theology. However, by the 5th Dynasty, the layout of the chambers within the royal pyramid became standardized in a form that reflects a vision of the afterlife that characterized Egyptian thought from then on.

At this point, the typical interior plan of these later Old Kingdom pyramids consisted of three main elements. These elements consisted of an antechamber beneath the apex of the pyramid, connected to the outside by an entrance corridor that opens into the pyramid's north face; a burial chamber to the west of the antechamber; and a stone sarcophagus at the west end of the burial chamber.
Initially, all three of these elements are first found in the 4th Dynasty tomb of King Shepseskaf, though his was, for the first time in 150 years, not a pyramid. He built instead a mastaba, perhaps designed to reflect those of Egypt's first kings at Abydos in Southern Egypt. Abydos was a cult center for Osiris, the Egyptian god most closely associated with the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. Like the primeval mound, Osiris represented the force of new life. At first, he was probably more of a fertility god, with power over the transmission of life from one generation to the next and in the growth of new plants out of seemingly dormant seeds. However, he came to be integral to the Egyptian understanding of the daily solar cycle, and was thus closely connected to the sun god. Each night the sun sank, or to the ancient Egyptians, died in the west, yet in the morning it emerged again into the world, reborn to live once more. To the ancient Egyptians, this could only be possible if there were a force that regenerated the sun.
A View of Shepseskaf's Mastaba Tomb

There were actually two different myths that coexisted to explain this process. In one, the sun reentered the womb of Nut, the goddess of the sky, in the evening and was born again in the morning. However, in the other myth the sun sank into a netherworld, know as the Duat, where in the middle of the night, it merged with the mummy of Osiris. From this union it received the ability to come once again to life. While two different myths, together they combined the role of mother and father in the production of new life. And both of these concepts are reflected in the standardized layout of the interior chambers that were introduced by King Shepseskaf and adopted in the pyramids of his successors of the 5th and 6th Dynasties.
The night sky represented as the goddess Nut from the tomb of Ramesses VI
We know this because of the Pyramid Texts, a collection of funerary rituals and spells first inscribed on the walls of the interior chambers in the Pyramid of Unas. They were also inscribed on his sarcophagi. Unas was the last king of the 5th Dynasty, and these texts show that the king's afterlife was thought to parallel the daily solar cycle.
Each night, as the sun once again reentered the body of Nut and the netherworld, the king's spirit would come back to the interior of his tomb. The stone sarcophagus in the west end of the burial chamber was an analogue of Nut's womb. Within the sarcophagus, the king's mummy was both a fetus and an analogue of the mummy of Osiris lying in the Duat. The Pyramid Texts refer to the burial chamber itself as the Duat, and the spells inscribed on the walls of this room refer to the king not only by his own name, but also as Osiris. As the sun united with the mummy of Osiris in the Duat, the king's spirit was thought to join with his own mummy in the Duat of his tomb and, like the sun, receive through this union the power of new life.
In the burial chamber, the texts describe two funeral rituals. They begin with a ritual of offerings, always inscribed on the north wall of the burial chamber. The priests would repeat this spell each day in the mortuary temple attached to the pyramid, which would therefore continue to provide the king's ba with the necessities of daily life. The second ritual was for resurrection, intended to release the king's ba from its attachment to the body so that it could rejoin its ka and enjoy life once again. It begins by assuring the king that "you have not gone away dead: you have gone away alive," and then encourages him to "go and follow your sun...and be beside the god, and leave your house to your son of your begetting". It ends by reassuring the king that "you shall not perish, you shall not end: your identity will remain among the people even as it comes to be among the gods".
As the sun left the womb of Nut and the Duat, the king's spirit, now revitalized, proceeded from the pyramid's burial chamber to the antechamber. To the ancient Egyptians, this room corresponded to the Akhet, a zone between the netherworld and the day sky. In practical terms, this zone was an explanation of why the sun's light appears in the morning before the sun itself has risen above the horizon. The name Akhet means "place of becoming effective" and refers to the process through which, both the sun and the deceased, take on new life.
While the texts within the burial chamber were meant to be repeated by the living priests on behalf of the king, the texts within the antechamber were mostly intended to be recited by the king himself, now once again alive. They provided him with the magical spells to overcome the hazards of his journey between the Duat and the world of the living. Various spells would help him overcome physical obstacles, to control and vanquish those entities that would stop him, to persuade the celestial ferryman to accept him as a passenger, and to encourage the gods to accept him in their company.
Now, the texts no longer identify the king with Osiris, but only by his royal name. After Nut gives birth to the morning sun, the king's akh leaves his tomb. In the earliest pyramids, apparently he was thought to do so through the long corridor connecting the antechamber to the outside on the north of the pyramid, which seems to be an analogue of the birth canal. However, from the 4th Dynasty onward, the pyramid complex included a mortuary temple on the east side of the pyramid with a false door adjacent to the pyramid through which the akh of the king could emerge in the direction of the rising sun to the east. Either way, the king was then able to enjoy life once again, journeying across the sky with the sun and visiting the world of the living.
Therefore, from at least the time of King Shepseskaf, we believe that the ancient Egyptians thought of the afterlife as a daily cycle of spiritual rebirth. The kings of the 5th and 6th Dynasties reverted back to the pyramid shape of tomb, but kept Shepseskaf's layout of the interior chambers. They were, in effect, creating a strong magic that combined both the powers of Osiris and that of the primeval mound.
While there are many mysteries yet to be solved about Egypt's ancient pyramids, it is clear that they were not simply monumental tombs, at least in the eyes of the Egyptian kings. They were also, and more fundamentally, resurrection machines, designed to produce and ensure eternal life.

In Ancient Egypt, there were no tools to build with or trucks to move things with. The Egyptians had to use their hands to make big blocks out of different kinds of sand, clay, and stone. After they made the blocks, they pulled them up big ramps onto the pyramid. The largest pyramid ever built was over 450 feet high!! It is called Khufu, but most people just call it the Great Pyramid. It is taller than the Statue of Liberty!! Take a look...

The pyramids are the last wonder of the ancient world - the only ones that haven't been destroyed by time. We can learn a lot about the Ancient Egyptians from what we find in the pyramids.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

7th and 8th Dynasties

This was a very troubled time. There was a breakdown of centralized government, with many kings having overlapping reigns. Montuhotep established order from his capital at Thebes.

Dynasty 7
2150 - 2134

During this period chaos ruled the country and civil disorder split the nation into different centres of power. Thus the names of the pharaohs can be many since at times three had their reign simultaneously. The Turin Canon has few entries and notes this was 955 years after the unification by king Menes, a mythical event that in that case happened around 3150 BC.

Manetho uses a metaphor: "70 kings ruled for 70 days". The Abydos list has 17 kings (below) for dynasties 7-8. Other minor sources have given the names: Menkamin I/II, Neferkare V/VI, Ibi I, Sekhemkare, Iti, Imhotep, Isu and Iytenu. No one of these has been attested for by archaeological remains of subsance.

Neterkare & Menkare

These two kings are the first to be named at the Abydos list after the break down of dynasty 6. Manetho says that Nitokris (last of dynasty six) built the "third pyramid" probably meaning at Giza confused by Menkaure of the fourth dynasty. It's possible that Nitokris' throne name was Men-ka-re. No physical evidence has been found of Neter-ka-re and the duration of his reign is not known.

Neferkare II & Neferkare III Nebi

NEFERKARE II ("Beautiful is the Ka (soul) of Re") is from the Abydos list solely. The common name might be an entry for another better-known ruler. No remains from him have been found. Neferkare NEBI ("The protector") was a son of King Pepi II. He is present in the Abydos list and twice mentioned in the tomb of his mother - queen Ankhesenpepi II. No remains from him have been found.

from the Abydos only comes Djedkare SHEMU ("Permanent is Ka (soul) of Re) and his birth name Shemu (or Shemai) possibly "nomad", shown by the hieroglyph of a man with a stick over his shoulder. No remains have been found that have confirmed this pharaoh. Neferkare KHENDU ("striding") is known only from the Abydos list. No remains from his reign have been found.

Merenhor is in cartouche forty-six on the wall in Abydos and doesn't have solar god Re in his throne name. His name (from bottom): water waves, a mouth, a hoe and the old falcon god Hor (Horus). SNEFERKA comes only from the Abydos list cartouche number 47. His name doesn't contain a god and can possibly be read: The beautiful Ka (soul). No remains have been found from these kings.

Nekare & Neferka Tereru

Abydos list number forty-eight notes NEKARE. He's not known from elesewhere and no remains have been found from him. Neferka TERERU is in position number forty-nine from the Abydos list. His personal name TERERU (or possibly Tererl), are the four hieroglyphs starting at the bottom and the meaning is possibly: "Respected by". No remains from these two kings have been found so far.

This king ruled in the break between the seventh and eighth dynasty and he obviously praised the old falcon god Hor(us). The parts tell that "the Ka (soul) of Horus is beautiful" instead of solar god Re. Horus from the Upper Egypt was the older of the two and represented pharaoh himself but since dynasty four Re (as a sun disk) had been within the cartouches marking the king's title as "Son of Re". Neferkahor and a few other rulers of this period temporarily broke this tradition. No remains of his have been found.

Dynasty 8
2150 - 2134 BC

By this time Egypt had been divided into at least three parts. The capital Memphis had no longer power over Upper Egypt (Herakleopolis) and parts of the delta. Aboute a dozen kings from Memphis are known, just by their names at the Abydos list and have left no traces from their reigns. From what's possibly dynasty 8 and onwards the Turin Canon hastwo notations similar to the Abydos list. The colour of the numbers below indicate where the entry comes from. The Abydos list only (blue numbers) or from the Turin Canon as well (black).

1. NeferkarePepisneb.
2. Sneferka-re Annu.
3. --- iw-kaure.
4. Nefer-kaure.
5. Nefer-kauhor.
6. Neferer-kare II.


King Wadjkare (meaning: "Prosperous is the Soul of Re") is known from a written remain from his exemption decree with a cartouche containing his throne name. A very long birth name (Demedjibtawy) has by some been considered his, and others claim that he (Wadjkare) actually was a king from dynasty nine. His residence was probably located in the capital Memphis and he is one of few kings from this time who have left archaeological remnants confirming his existence.

The ruler is confirmed by the Turin Canon and the Table of Abydos, plus a quite substantial amount of graffiti in a remote place called Tomas in Nubia. Nothing about his deeds during his short reign (possibly just a few years) is known. His throne name as pharaoh: Qakare Ibi means, "Strong is the Soul of Re" (in picture left) and his birth name was the shorter Ibi (picture right). He built a small pyramid located at South Sakkara, near the same type of monument from Pepi II. It was the last to be built on this classical burial ground. It was investigated in the early 1800s by the German Egyptologist Lepsius who found it to be a true pyramid though it by then looked more like a mastaba in its ruined state. The identification of the builder has been made through reading hieroglyphic writings on the walls in the grave chamber, the latest so called "pyramid texts" known. Today they are protected by constructions made of concrete within the monument, which is just a three metre high pile of rubble.

The pyramid of king Ibi is of a modest size compared to the monuments from the pyramid era.An entrance from the north side leads to the (red) burial chamber and the serdab - side chamber, (green).A small mortuary temple was builtat the east side.

Today the pyramid of king Ibi is hardly recognizable as a monument and a pile of stone rubble is all there is left.

The whole complex was not oriented in the cardinal directions (see picture above) and the mortuary temple was built of bricks and hardly more elaborated in size than a small chapel. No causeway has been detected leading from it and there possibly never was one, and the same goes for a valley temple. The measures of the pyramid are roughly estimated but the sides are likely to have been 31,5 metres and the height of the building about 21 metres.

Dynasty 8 concluded the Old Kingdom and a period of social disorder followed. The Turin Canon notes eighteen kings from Herakleopolis, but does not divide them into two dynasties as Manetho does. This dusky era is called:

The First Intermediate Period

Dynasties 9 and 10.

c. 2134 - 1970 B.C.

Little is known about these two dynasties ruling simultaneously to dynasty 11.

The country was split into the North (Herakleopolis) and the South (Thebes) and for a short period the rulers from downstream seem to have control over the Nile Valley down to the Abydos area under one of their kings named Khety. The Theban dynasty seems to have been stable with half a dozen rulers known, but Herakleopolis saw about 18 kings, if the later list are correct.

After a state of war for almost a century one king from Thebes conquered the rest of the country. The Abydos list leaves out these two dynasties and beneath follows the entries from the Royal Canon of Turin which is damaged in this place. Probably all kings mentioned are from Herakleopolis.

Neferkare Khety, Senen..., (...), Meribre?, Shed...y, H...several kings named Kheti

Meri-Hathor (?)Merikare.

plus 9 other kings whose names are lost. Then follows a summation ending at 18 pharaohs. Other records give further names, probably none from Thebes. The division into dynasties is not from contemporary documents and the names in total is about 18 just as in the the Turin Canon.


Khety Akhtoy (five kings)

Neferkare Ankhtify



Neferkare(?)Akhtoy ?

Meryhathor (possible founder of dynasty X)

Wahkare Akhtoy

Iytjenu (mentioned as a dyn. X personal name from Sakkara) Difficult to place:


and a mysterious king from Middle Egypt called:


Obscure ruler with a big monument

The name of Pharaoh Khui means "Protector" (seen within a cartouche right) and has only has been attested for once and it's in connection with quite an object for an unstable period like this. He built (or at least started) a big pyramid at the otherwise unknown site of Dara located 30 km north of Asyut in Middle Egypt.

It was first investigated in the late 1940s and early 1950s by the French Egyptologists Raymond Weill. Its construction (remains) makes it doubtful whether it was a pyramid or a stepped mastaba, because the mud brick super- structure has sloping sides and is built in steps, a type of con- struction leaving both alternatives possible. Thus different opinions of its original/intended looks has been put forward. Its plan was almost square, with a base side of impressive 130 metres, making it truly a great pyramid/mastaba just about the size of king Djoser's Step Pyramid. An exclusive architectural detail was found - the corners were rounded, a rare feature in the Egyptian design of tombs and buildings in general. Today (2005) it's in a ruined state and it's difficult to say whether it was dismantled after once being finished, or if it was finished at all. The outer walls reach about four metres above the surrounding desert and more investigations are needed to get a grip of this unusual monument. A writing of its plan is shown below.

When the grave chamber was entered nothing at all was found in it. What makes Khui to be the supposed builder is an inscription on a block of stone that possibly once was a part of the pyramid. It was found in a tomb just to the south and had an offering scene in relief carved in to it, plus his name written within a car- touche. This is up to now the only evidence telling that a ruler bearing this name has ever existed.

The entrance corridor from the north side is at first horizontal and open and then becomes a descending vaulted tunnel ending at a single burial chamber at a level of about 9 metres below ground surface. It is lined with roughly hewn limestone, probably taken from dynasty 6 tombs in the neighbourhood. The outer structure on the other hand, is made purely of mud bricks and the sloping sides are still visible. It may have been intended to make a casing of stone. The material making the inner core was obviously just filling of gravel and sand indicating that the owner, despite the great size of his tomb, was a ruler of limited means.

What seems to have been a mortuary temple has also been detected, but its general plan can't be determined. It consists of the outer part of massive mud brick masonry with a length of about 35 meters. Khui may have been a local ruler and the site is placed midway between the two centres at the time - Herakleopolis in the north and Thebes in the south. Regrettably there are few published illustrations/photos of the monument, at least on the Internet.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

The First Certain Female King of Egypt

Undoubtedly, the structuring of Egyptian royalty was meant to focus upon a male king, who was considered to be the earthly manifestation of Horus, a male god. Normally, a king would be succeeded by his senior surviving son, but every so often in Egyptian history, a woman rose to power, sometimes acting as regent for a young son, but at other times taking the throne completely, as in the case of Hatshepsut. However, Hatshepsut was not the first nor the last woman to rule Egypt. In fact, the last ruler of a pharaonic Egypt is frequently considered to be Cleopatra, prior to Egypt's fall into Roman hands.

Perhaps the first woman to wield executive power in Egypt was Merytneith, a probable wife of Djet who acted as regent during her son's (Den) early years. However, few claim that she was a king in her own right.

So who was the first woman to rule Egypt? The earliest candidate for an actual female king of Egypt is Khentykaues I, who lived at the end of the 4th Dynasty. Her unusual tomb is located at Giza, and on its granite doorway is recorded a set of titles that can be read either as "Mother of Two Kings" or "King and Mother of a King". In support of the latter title is her image, which was altered to show her in a kingly pose, including a false beard.

Khentykaues I may have ruled during the youth of her presumed son, Sahure, possibly in conjunction with Userkaf, the founder of the 5th Dynasty. However, despite the fact that she was apparently considered the ancestress of the 5th Dynasty and was commemorated in the mortuary chapel at Abusir of Khentykaues II, the wife of Neferirkare and mother of Reneferef (and probably Nyuserre Ini), her name has never been found in a royal cartouche. It should be pointed out that most modern lists of Egyptian kings do not include Khentykaues I as a ruler.

A more mysterious candidate for the first female king of Egypt is recorded many centuries later in the work of the Egyptian Historian, Manetho. He, in an obvious error known to us today, says that Nitokris built the third pyramid. Herodotus also mentions Nitokris, telling us that she killed hundreds of Egyptians to avenge the king, her brother, whom his subjects had killed. She accomplished this by constructing a huge underground chamber where she invited to a banquet all those she knew to be responsible for her brother's death. Then, when the banquet was underway, she let the river in on them through a concealed pipe. Afterwards, in order to escape her punishment, she was reported to have flung herself into a room full of embers. Interestingly, Herodotus does not ascribe the third pyramid at Giza to this woman, but rather to another female courtesan of the 26th Dynasty.

Nitokris is actually a Greek rendering of the Egyptian name Neitaqerti, and in the Turin king-list, which can be dated to the 19th Dynasty, this Egyptian name appears on a fragment that seems to belong to the late 6th Dynasty portion of the papyrus. Initially, many scholars linked this name to the legendary queen. However, work on linking the misplaced parts of the papyrus during the mid 1990s has suggested that the Nitokris cartouche is actually part of the titulary of a clearly male king named Siptah. Furthermore, it has also been suggested that "Neitaqerti" is actually the result of a faulty transcription of the prenomen, "Netjerkare", which was assumed by a king on his accession.

This would fit nicely with the only other kings-list, at Abydos, that covers the period. It places a "Netjerkare" in exactly the right spot, though it is clear that by the early 19th Dynasty, when both lists were compiled, that there was some confusion that resulted in a "Neitaqerti" being inserted in some historical documents concerning the period after Pepi II, though no others. This does give us one possibility for the link between Nitokris and the third pyramid at Giza. Three reigns after Pepi II, the Abydos list records a King Menkare, a name which is very close to Menkaure, the actual 4th Dynasty builder of the third pyramid at Giza. Given Manetho's claim that the third pyramid belonged to Nitokris, a transformation from Menkaure to Menkare to Neitaqerti could be used to suggest that the prenomen of Neitaqerti was Menkare. It is also possible that the Giza pyramid female connection might actually be with the tomb of Khentykaues I, the size of which has sometimes led to its being called the "fourth pyramid" at Giza.

It should be note, however, that several sources list Nitokris (Nitiqret) as a king of Egypt, including the Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Aidan Dodson's Monarchs of the Nile and Nicolas Grimal's A History of Ancient Egypt. However, it should be noted that each of these sources appears to rely completely on Manetho and the kings-lists. Other evidence for her rule is practically nonexistent, and there is no contemporary trace of a King Nitakris (the English term "queen" can mean both a female king and the wife of a king, but in Egyptian the terms for the two are completely distinct). Hence, her rule is very suspect.

It is not until the end of the Middle Kingdom that we find, for the first time, clear evidence for a female king of Egypt. Her name was Sobekneferu (Nefrusobk, Neferusobek, Sobekkara). The name 'Sobekneferu' means, "The beauties of Sobek", the crocodile god. The rulers of the 12th Dynasty established a religious and economic center in the Fayoum where the crocodiles were nurtured and worshipped.

During the prosperity and innovations of this period, it is possible that Amenemhat III may have even contemplated a female as his heir. A daughter of the king named Nefruptah was invested with a cartouche around her name, something never before done for anyone other than a king, and she was given titles often used by a king's wife, though apparently she was never married to a king. After her death, she was first buried in her father's burial chamber, but was then reburied in her own pyramid some two kilometers away.

However, she did not succeed Amenemhat III. After Amenemhat III's death, Amenemhat IV came to the throne, but he died early and was succeeded on the throne by a woman named Sobekneferu, who was presumably a sister of Nefruptah. She may have been the wife and sister of Amenemhat IV as well. Sobekneferu apparently ruled for only some four years, but is known from a number of monuments and artifacts, including five statues, fragments relating to the mortuary temple of Amenemhat III at Hawara, scarabs, seals and beads, as well as from a Nile inundation record. This latter document from the Nubian fortress of Kumma relates a poor flood of some 1.83 meters, and dates to Sobekneferu's last year.

Usually, the queen uses feminine titles, but several masculine ones were also used. Three headless statues of the queen, discovered in the Fayoum, and a few other items contain her name. In one damaged statue of the queen of unknown origin, the costume she wears is unique in its combination of elements from male and female dress, echoing her occasional use of male titles in her records. In another intriguing statuette of the queen now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the queen wears a sed-festival cloak and a most unusual crown, which may have resulted from an attempt to combine unfamiliar iconographic elements of male and female rulers. She contributed to Amenemhat III's Labyrinth, and also built at Herakleopolis Magna.

Generally, Sobekneferu is known as the last Egyptian king of the Middle Kingdom, prior to the confusion of the Second Intermediate Period. She is the last ruler prior to the New Kingdom to appear in the offering lists found at Abydos and Saqqara, which suggests some kind of posthumous verdict that separates her from the kings who followed her with equally short reigns.

Amenemhet4 Brother Husband --Sobekneferu--Amenemhet3 father

Nothing is known of Sobekneferu's death or burial. Some have suggested that her burial might be one of the pyramids at Mazghuna, but this is very unlikely. Thus, one of the most powerful women of early world history final destiny remains a mystery to us.

The Muzghuna Pyramids:

The South Mazghuna Pyramid - About 4.8 km south of Sneferu's Bent Pyramid, it was surrounded by a wavy wall of the kind that we begin to see in earlier middle kingdom monuments. The ruins of the pyramid, heavily damaged , were investigated by Ernest MacKay in 1910. Whereas the mudbrick core can still be discerned, no trace of the limestone casing has been found.. The inclination of the wall and the height of the pyramid thus remain unknown. Presumably, it basically resembled the pyramid at Hawara, though not in its dimensions. This view as well as as well as the attribution the Amenemhet IV are based on the ground plan of the substructure and the way the burial chamber was built. The entrance to the underground part of the pyramid was on in the middle of the south side.

The Pyramid of South Mazghuna had a base length of 52.5 m. Though it had a complicated substructure, the superstructure was never completed.

The North Mazghuna Pyramid (Sobekneferu?) ground plan

The North Mazghuna Pyramid - As in the case of the South Mazghuna Pyramid, the North Pyramid is attributed solely on the grounds of a few bits of structural and archeological evidence to Queen Sobekneferu. She reigned not quite four years, and her relationship to the previous rulers has not determined with certainty. It is assumed that she was Amemmehet III's daughter and the full or half sister- and possibly a consort- of Amemmehet IV. The North Mazghuna Pyramid was larger than the South Pyramid, and the plan of its substructure is more advanced from a typographical point of view.. Although the pyramids substructure was completed, no one was buried in it. Moreover, neither the pyramid's superstructures nor the complex as a whole was ever completed.