Semerkhet - Name Sources

Name Sources

Semerkhet is well attested in archaeological records. His name appears in inscriptions on vessels made of schist, alabaster, breccia and marble. His name is also preserved on ivory tags and earthen jar seals. Objects bearing Semerkhet's name and titles come from Abydos and Sakkara.

Semerkhet's serekh name is commonly translated as "companion of the divine community" or "thoughtful friend". The latter translation is questioned by many scholars, since the hieroglyph khet (Gardiner-sign F32) normally was the symbol for "body" or "divine community".

Semerkhet's birth name is more problematic. Any artefact showing the birth name curiously lacks any artistic detail of the used hieroglyphic sign: a walking man with waving cloak or skirt, a nemes head dress and a long, plain stick in his hands. The reading and meaning of this special sign is disputed. Egyptologists such as Toby Wilkinson, Bernhard Grdseloff and Jochem Kahl read Iry-Netjer, meaning "He belongs to the gods". This word is often written with single vowels nearby the ideogram of the man. Some ivory tags show the Nebty name written with the single sign of a mouth (Gardiner-sign D21). Therefore they read Semerkhet's throne name as Iry (meaning "one of them/he who belongs to...") and the Nebty name as Iry-Nebty (meaning "He who belongs to the Two Ladies"). This reconstruction is strengthened by the observation that Semerkhet was the first king using the Nebty title in its ultimate form. For unknown reason Semerkhet did not use the Nebuy title of his predecessor. It seems that he felt connected with the 'Two Ladies', a title referring to the goddesses Nekhbet and Wadjet, both the female equivalents of Horus and Seth. The Nebty title was thought to function as an addition to the Nisut-Bity title.

Scribes and priests of the Ramesside era were also confused, because the archaic ideogram that was used during Semerkhet's lifetime was very similar to the sign of an old man with a walking stick (Gardiner sign A19). This had been read as Semsu or Sem and means "the eldest". It was used as a title identifying someone as the head of the house. Due to this uncertainty, it seems that the compiler of the Abydos king list simply tried to imitate the original figure, whilst the author of the Royal Canon of Turin seems to have been convinced about reading it as the Gardiner-sign A19 and he wrote Semsem with single vowels. The Royal Table of Sakkara omits Semerkhet's throne name. The reason for that is unknown, but all kings from Narmer up to king Den are also missing their throne names.

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