Semerkhet - Tomb

Tomb

Semerkhet's burial site was excavated in 1899 by archaeologist and Egyptologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie at Abydos and is known as "Tomb U". While excavating, Petrie found no stairways like he did at the necropolis of Den and Adjib. He found a ramp, four metres wide and leading straight into the main chamber. The ramp starts around ten metres east outside the tomb and has a base slope of 12°. Inside the tomb the ramp shows irregular graduations. Petrie was also confused by the small number of clay seals. Only 17 seals were found. For archaeologists and Egyptologists, the complete arrangement of the burial site looks like the builders were pressed for time. When Petrie freed the ramp from sand, he found that the complete ramp was thickly covered in aromatic oil, which still gave off a scent. Beside the ramp several wooden and hand-made baskets and earthen jars were found. These were dated to the Ramesside era. Scholars now think that Semerkhet's tomb was re-opened and restored when Ramesside priests and kings saw the tomb of king Djer as the ritual burial of Osiris's head. The findings inside the main chamber included precious objects such as inlays and fragments of furniture (especially pedestals), copper-made armatures and jewelry made of ebony, amethyst and turquoise. Some vessels originating from the Levant were also found. They once contained Bescha oil, which was of great value to the Egyptians. Outside the tomb, close to the entrance, a damaged tomb stela made of black granite displaying Semerkhet's serekh name was excavated.

The burial chamber measures 29.2 × 20.8 metres and is of simple construction. Petrie found that the king's mastaba once covered the whole of the subsidiary tombs. Now the royal burial formed a unit with the 67 subsidiary tombs. Egyptologists such as Walter Bryan Emery and Toby Wilkinson see this architectural development as proof that the royal family and household were killed willingly when their royal family head had died. Wilkinson goes further and thinks that Semerkhet, as the godlike king, tried to demonstrate his power over the death and life of his servants and family members even in their afterlife. The tradition of burying the family and court of the king when he died was abandoned at the time of king Qaa, one of the last rulers of the 1st dynasty. The tombs of 2nd dynasty founder Hotepsekhemwy onward have no subsidiary tombs.

  • Pottery shard bearing Semerkhet's serekh, on display at the Musée du Louvre.

  • Clay jar incised with Semerkhet's serekh, Musée du Louvre.

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