Semerkhet - Reign


An old theory, supported by Egyptologists and historians such as Jean-Philippe Lauer, Walter Bryan Emery, Wolfgang Helck and Michael Rice once held that Semerkhet was a usurper and not the rightful heir to the throne. Their assumption was based on the observation that a number of stone vessels with Semerkhet's name on them were originally inscribed with king Adjib's name. Semerkhet simply erased Adjib's name and replaced it with his own. Furthermore they point out that no high official and priest associated with Semerkhet was found at Sakkara. All other kings, such as Den and Adjib, are attested in local mastabas.

Today this theory has little support. Egyptologists such as Toby Wilkinson, I. E. S. Edwards and Winifred Needler deny the 'usurping theory', because Semerkhet's name is mentioned on stone vessel inscriptions along with those of Den, Adjib and Qa'a. The objects were found in the underground galleries beneath the step pyramid of (3rd dynasty) king Djoser at Sakkara. The inscriptions show that king Qa'a, immediate successor of Semerkhet and sponsor of the vessels, accepted Semerkhet as a rightful ancestor and heir to the throne. Furthermore, the Egyptologists point out that nearly every king of 1st dynasty had the habit of taking special vessels (so-called 'anniversary vessels') from their predecessor's tomb and then replace their predecessor's name with their own. Semerkhet not only confiscated Adjib's vessels, in his tomb several artifacts from the necropolis of queen Meritneith and king Den were also found. The lack of any high official's tomb at Sakkara might be explained by the rather short reign of Semerkhet. It seems that the only known official of Semerkhet, Henu-Ka, had survived his king: His name appears on ivory tags from Semerkhet's and Qaa's tomb.

Seal impressions from Semerkhet's burial site show the new royal domain Hor wep-khet (meaning "Horus, the judge of the divine community") and the new private household Hut-Ipty (meaning "house of the harem"), which was headed by Semerkhet's wives. Two ivory tags show the yearly 'Escort of Horus', a feast connected to the regular tax collections. Other tags report the cult celebration for the deity of the ancestors, Wer-Wadyt ("the Great White"). And further tags show the celebration of a first (and only) Sokar feast.

While the Cairo Stone reports the whole of Semerkhet's reign, unfortunately, the surface of the stone slab is badly worn and most of the events are now illegible. The following chart follows the reconstructions by Toby A. H. Wilkinson, John D. Degreef and Hermann Alexander Schlögl:

Cairo Stone, main fragment:

  • Year of coronation: Appearance of the king of Lower- and Upper Egypt; unifying the two realms.
  • 1st year: Escort of Horus; destruction of Egypt.
  • 2nd year: Appearance of the king; creation of a statue for Seshat and Sed.
  • 3rd year: Escort of... (rest is missing)
  • 4th year: Appearance of the king of Upper Egypt; creation of... (rest is missing)
  • 5th year: Escort of... (rest is missing)
  • 6th year: Appearance of the king of Upper Egypt... (rest is missing)
  • 7th year: Escort of... (rest is missing)
  • 8th year: Appearance of the king of Lower- and Upper Egypt... (rest is missing)
  • year of death: The month and day. (damaged)

Egyptologists and historians pay special attention to the entrance "Destruction of Egypt" in the second window of Semerkhet's year records. The inscription gives no further information about that event. But it has a resemblance to the Manetho's report. The Eusebius version says: His son, Semémspês, who reigned for 18 years; in his reign a very great calamity befell Egypt. The Armenian version sounds similar: Mempsis, annis XVIII. Sub hoc multa prodigia itemque maxima lues acciderunt. ("Mempsis, 18 years. Under him many portents happened and a great pestilence occurred."). Mysteriously none of the documents from after Semerkhet's reign is able to report which kind of "calamity" took place under Semerkhet.

Read more about this topic:  Semerkhet

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