Abydos And The First Three Dynasties

Until the recent discoveries had been made, which have thrown so much

light upon the early history of Egypt, the traditional order and names

of the kings of the first three Egyptian dynasties were, in default of

more accurate information, retained by all writers on the history of the

period. The names were taken from the official lists of kings at Abydos

and elsewhere, and were divided into dynasties according to the system
r /> of Manetho, whose names agree more or less with those of the lists and

were evidently derived from them ultimately. With regard to the fourth

and later dynasties it was clear that the king-lists were correct, as

their evidence agreed entirely with that of the contemporary monuments.

But no means existed of checking the lists of the first three dynasties,

as no contemporary monuments other than a IVth Dynasty mention of a IId

Dynasty king, Send, had been found. The lists dated from the time of

the XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties, so that it was very possible that with

regard to the earliest dynasties they might not be very correct. This

conclusion gained additional weight from the fact that no monuments of

these earliest kings were ever discovered; it therefore seemed probable

that they were purely legendary figures, in whose time (if they ever did

exist) Egypt was still a semi-barbarous nation. The jejune stories told

about them by Manetho seemed to confirm this idea. Mena, the reputed

founder of the monarchy, was generally regarded as a historical figure,

owing to the persistence of his name in all ancient literary accounts

of the beginnings of Egyptian history; for it was but natural to suppose

that the name of the man who unified Egypt and founded Memphis would

endure in the mouths of the people. But with regard to his successors

no such supposition seemed probable, until the time of Sneferu and the


This was the critical view. Another school of historians accepted all

the kings of the lists as historical en bloc, simply because the

Egyptians had registered their names as kings. To them Teta, Ateth, and

Ata were as historical as Mena.

Modern discovery has altered our view, and truth is seen to lie between

the opposing schools, as usual. The kings after Mena do not seem to be

such entirely unhistorical figures as the extreme critics thought;

the names of several of them, e.g. Merpeba, of the Ist Dynasty, are

correctly given in the later lists, and those of others were simply

misread, e. g. that of Semti of the same dynasty, misread "Hesepti" by

the list-makers. On the other hand, Mena himself has become a somewhat

doubtful quantity. The real names of most of the early monarchs of Egypt

have been recovered for us by the latest excavations, and we can now see

when the list-makers of the XIXth Dynasty were right and when they were

wrong, and can distinguish what is legendary in their work from what is

really historical. It is true that they very often appear to have been

wrong, but, on the other hand, they were sometimes unexpectedly near

the mark, and the general number and arrangement of their kings

seems correct; so that we can still go to them for assistance in the

arrangement of the names which are communicated to us by the newly

discovered monuments. Manetho's help, too, need never be despised

because he was a copyist of copyists; we can still use him to direct our

investigations, and his arrangement of dynasties must still remain the

framework of our chronological scheme, though he does not seem to have

been always correct as to the places in which the dynasties originated.

More than the names of the kings have the new discoveries communicated

to us. They have shed a flood of light on the beginnings of Egyptian

civilization and art, supplementing the recently ascertained facts

concerning the prehistoric age which have been described in the

preceding chapter. The impulse to these discoveries was given by the

work of M. de Morgan, who excavated sites of the early dynastic as

well as of the predynastic age. Among these was a great mastaba-tomb at

Nakada, which proved to be that of a very early king who bore the name

of Aha, "the Fighter." The walls of this tomb are crenelated like

those of the early Babylonian palaces and the forts of the Northerners,

already referred to. M. de Morgan early perceived the difference between

the Neolithic antiquities and those of the later archaic period of

Egyptian civilization, to which the tomb at Nakada belonged. In the

second volume of his great work on the primitive antiquities of Egypt

(L'Age des Metaux et le Tombeau Royale de Negadeh), he described

the antiquities of the Ist Dynasty which had been found at the time he

wrote. Antiquities of the same primitive period and even of an earlier

date had been discovered by Prof. Flinders Petrie, as has already been

said, at Koptos, at the mouth of the Wadi Hammamat. But though Prof.

Petrie correctly diagnosed the age of the great statues of the god

Min which he found, he was led, by his misdating of the "New Race"

antiquities from Ballas and Tukh, also to misdate several of the

primitive antiquities,--the lions and hawks, for instance, found at

Koptos, he placed in the period between the VIIth and Xth Dynasties;

whereas they can now, in the light of further discoveries at Abydos, be

seen to date to the earlier part of the Ist Dynasty, the time of Narmer

and Aha.

It is these discoveries at Abydos, coupled with those (already

described) of Mr. Quibell at Hierakonpolis, which have told us most of

what we know with regard to the history of the first three dynasties.

At Abydos Prof. Petrie was not himself the first in the field, the site

having already been partially explored by a French Egyptologist, M.

Amelineau. The excavations of M. Amelineau were, however, perhaps

not conducted strictly on scientific lines, and his results have been

insufficiently published with very few photographs, so that with the

best will in the world we are unable to give M. Amelineau the full

credit which is, no doubt, due to him for his work. The system of Prof.

Petrie's publications has been often, and with justice, criticized, but

he at least tells us every year what he has been doing, and gives us

photographs of everything he has found. For this reason the epoch-making

discoveries at Abydos have been coupled chiefly with the name of Prof.

Petrie, while that of M. Amelineau is rarely heard in connection with

them. As a matter of fact, however, M. Amelineau first excavated the

necropolis of the early kings at Abydos, and discovered most of the

tombs afterwards worked over by Prof. Petrie and Mr. Mace. Yet most of

the important scientific results are due to the later explorers, who

were the first to attempt a classification of them, though we must

add that this classification has not been entirely accepted by the

scientific world.

The necropolis of the earliest kings of Egypt is situated in the great

bay in the hills which lies behind Abydos, to the southwest of the main

necropolis. Here, at holy Abydos, where every pious Egyptian wished to

rest after death, the bodies of the most ancient kings were buried. It

is said by Manetho that the original seat of their dominion was This,

a town in the vicinity of Abydos, now represented by the modern Grirga,

which lies a few miles distant from its site (el-Birba). This may be a

fact, but we have as yet obtained no confirmation of it. It may well be

that the attribution of a Thinite origin to the Ist and IId Dynasties

was due simply to the fact that the kings of these dynasties were buried

at Abydos, which lay within the Thinite nome. Manetho knew that they

were buried at Abydos, and so jumped to the conclusion that they lived

there also, and called them "Thinites."

Their real place of origin must have been Hierakonpolis, where the

pre-dynastic kingdom of the South had its seat. The Hid Dynasty was no

doubt of Memphite origin, as Manetho says. It is certain that the

seat of the government of the IVth Dynasty was at Memphis, where the

pyramid-building kings were buried, and we know that the sepulchres

of two Hid Dynasty kings, at least, were situated in the necropolis of

Memphis (Sakkara-Medum). So that probably the seat of government was

transferred from Hierakonpolis to Memphis by the first king of the Hid

Dynasty. Thenceforward the kings were buried in the Memphite necropolis.

The two great necropoles of Memphis and Abydos were originally the

seats of the worship of the two Egyptian gods of the dead, Seker and

Khentamenti, both of whom were afterwards identified with the Busirite

god Osiris. Abydos was also the centre of the worship of Anubis, an

animal-deity of the dead, the jackal who prowls round the tombs at

night. Anubis and Osiris-Khentamenti, "He who is in the West," were

associated in the minds of the Egyptians as the protecting deities of

Abydos. The worship of these gods as the chief Southern deities of the

dead, and the preeminence of the necropolis of Abydos in the South, no

doubt date back before the time of the Ist Dynasty, so that it would

not surprise us were burials of kings of the predynastic Hierakonpolite

kingdom discovered at Abydos. Prof. Petrie indeed claims to have

discovered actual royal relics of that period at Abydos, but this seems

to be one of the least certain of his conclusions. We cannot definitely

state that the names "Ro," "Ka," and "Sma" (if they are names at all,

which is doubtful) belong to early kings of Hierakonpolis who were

buried at Abydos. It may be so, but further confirmation is desirable

before we accept it as a fact; and as yet such confirmation has not been

forthcoming. The oldest kings, who were certainly buried at Abydos, seem

to have been the first rulers of the united kingdom of the North and

South, Aha and his successors. N'armer is not represented. It may

be that he was not buried at Abydos, but in the necropolis of

Hierakonpolis. This would point to the kings of the South not having

been buried at Abydos until after the unification of the kingdom.

That Aha possessed a tomb at Abydos as well as another at Nakada seems

peculiar, but it is a phenomenon not unknown in Egypt. Several kings,

whose bodies were actually buried elsewhere, had second tombs at Abydos,

in order that they might possess last resting-places near the tomb

of Osiris, although they might not prefer to use them. Usertsen (or

Senusret) III is a case in point. He was really buried in a pyramid at

Illahun, up in the North, but he had a great rock tomb cut for him in

the cliffs at Abydos, which he never occupied, and probably had never

intended to occupy. We find exactly the same thing far back at the

beginning of Egyptian history, when Aha possessed not only a great

mastaba-tomb at Nakada, but also a tomb-chamber in the great necropolis

of Abydos. It may be that other kings of the earliest period also had

second sepulchres elsewhere. It is noteworthy that in none of the early

tombs at Abydos were found any bodies which might be considered those

of the kings themselves. M. Amelineau discovered bodies of attendants

or slaves (who were in all probability purposely strangled and buried

around the royal chamber in order that they should attend the king

in the next world), but no royalties. Prof. Petrie found the arm of a

female mummy, who may have been of royal blood, though there is nothing

to show that she was. And the quaint plait and fringe of false hair,

which were also found, need not have belonged to a royal mummy. It is

therefore quite possible that these tombs at Abydos were not the actual

last resting-places of the earliest kings, who may really have been

buried at Hierakonpolis or elsewhere, as Aha was. Messrs. Newberry

and Gtarstang, in their Short History of Egypt, suppose that Aha was

actually buried at Abydos, and that the great tomb with objects bearing

his name, found by M. de Morgan at Nakada, is really not his, but

belonged to a royal princess named Neit-hetep, whose name is found in

conjunction with his at Abydos and Nakada. But the argument is equally

valid turned round the other way: the Nakada tomb might just as well be

Aha's and the Abydos one Neit-hetep's. Neit-hetep, who is supposed by

Messrs. Newberry and Garstang to have been Narmer's daughter and Aha's

wife, was evidently closely connected with Aha, and she may have been

buried with him at Nakada and commemorated with him at Abydos.* It is

probable that the XIXth Dynasty list-makers and Manetho considered the

Abydos tombs to have been the real graves of the kings, but it is by no

means impossible that they were wrong.

* A princess named Bener-ab ("Sweet-heart"), who may have

been Aha's daughter, was actually buried beside his tomb at


This view of the royal tombs at Abydos tallies to a great extent with

that of M. Naville, who has energetically maintained the view that M.

Amelineau and Prof. Petrie have not discovered the real tombs of the

early kings, but only their contemporary commemorative "tombs" at

Abydos. The only real tomb of the Ist Dynasty, therefore, as yet

discovered is that of Aha at Nakada, found by M. de Morgan. The fact

that attendant slaves were buried around the Abydos tombs is no bar to

the view that the tombs were only the monuments, not the real graves,

of the kings. The royal ghosts would naturally visit their commemorative

chambers at Abydos, in order to be in the company of the great Osiris,

and ghostly servants would be as necessary to their Majesties at Abydos

as elsewhere.

It must not be thought that this revised opinion of the Abydos tombs

detracts in the slightest degree from the importance of the discovery of

M. Amelineau and its subsequent and more detailed investigation by Prof.

Petrie. These monuments are as valuable for historical purposes as

the real tombs themselves. The actual bodies of these primeval kings

themselves we are never likely to find. The tomb of Aha at Nakada had

been completely rifled in ancient times.

The commemorative tombs of the kings of the Ist and IId Dynasties at

Abydos lie southwest of the great necropolis, far within the bay in the

hills. Their present aspect is that of a wilderness of sand hillocks,

covered with masses of fragments of red pottery, from which the site has

obtained the modern Arab name of Umm el-Ga'ab, "Mother of Pots." It

is impossible to move a step in any direction without crushing some

of these potsherds under the heel. They are chiefly the remains of the

countless little vases of rough red pottery, which were dedicated here

as ex-votos by the pious, between the XIXth and XXVIth Dynasties, to

the memory of the ancient kings and of the great god Osiris, whose tomb,

as we shall see, was supposed to have been situated here also.

4000 B.C.]

Intermingled with these later fragments are pieces of the original

Ist Dynasty vases, which were filled with wine and provisions and were

placed in the tombs, for the refreshment and delectation of the royal

ghosts when they should visit their houses at Abydos. These were thrown

out and broken when the tombs were violated. Here and there one sees a

dip in the sand, out of which rise four walls of great bricks, forming

a rectangular chamber, half-filled with sand. This is one of the royal

tomb-chambers of the Ist Dynasty. That of King Den is illustrated above.

A straight staircase descends into it from the ground-level above. In

several of the tombs the original flooring of wooden beams is still

preserved. Den's is the most magnificent of all, for it has a floor of

granite blocks; we know of no other instance of stone being used for

building in this early age. Almost every tomb has been burnt at some

period unknown. The brick walls are burnt red, and many of the alabaster

vases are almost calcined. This was probably the work of some unknown


The wide complicated tombs have around the main chamber a series of

smaller rooms, which were used to store what was considered necessary

for the use of the royal ghost. Of these necessaries the most

interesting to us are the slaves, who were, as there is little reason to

doubt, purposely killed and buried round the royal chamber so that their

spirits should be on the spot when the dead king came to Abydos; thus

they would be always ready to serve him with the food and other things

which had been stored in the tomb with them and placed under their

charge. There were stacks of great vases of wine, corn, and other food;

these were covered up with masses of fat to preserve the contents,

and they were corked with a pottery stopper, which was protected by

a conical clay sealing, stamped with the impress of the royal

cylinder-seal. There were bins of corn, joints of oxen, pottery dishes,

copper pans, and other things which might be useful for the ghostly

cuisine of the tomb. There were numberless small objects, used, no

doubt, by the dead monarch during life, which he would be pleased to see

again in the next world,--carved ivory boxes, little slabs for grinding

eye-paint, golden buttons, model tools, model vases with gold tops,

ivory and pottery figurines, and other objets d'art; the golden royal

seal of judgment of King Den in its ivory casket, and so forth. There

were memorials of the royal victories in peace and war, little ivory

plaques with inscriptions commemorating the founding of new buildings,

the institution of new religious festivals in honour of the gods, the

bringing of the captives of the royal bow and spear to the palace, the

discomfiture of the peoples of the North-land.

about 4000 B.C.]

All these things, which have done so much to reconstitute for us the

history of the earliest period of the Egyptian monarchy, were placed

under the care of the dead slaves whose bodies were buried round the

empty tomb-chamber of their royal master in Abydos.

The killing and entombment of the royal servants is of the highest

anthropological interest, for it throws a vivid light upon the manners

of the time. It shows the primeval Egyptians as a semi-barbaric people

of childishly simple ways of thought. The king was dead. For all his

kingship he was a man, and no man was immortal in this world. But yet

how could one really die? Shadows, dreams, all kinds of phenomena which

the primitive mind could not explain, induced the belief that, though

the outer man might rot, there was an inner man which could not die

and still lived on. The idea of total death was unthinkable. And where

should this inner man still live on but in the tomb to which the outer

man was consigned? And here, doubtless it was believed, in the house to

which the body was consigned, the ghost lived on. And as each ghost had

his house with the body, so no doubt all ghosts could communicate with

one another from tomb to tomb; and so there grew up the belief in a

tomb-world, a subterranean Egypt of tombs, in which the dead Egyptians

still lived and had their being. Later on the boat of the sun, in which

the god of light crossed the heavens by day, was thought to pass through

this dead world between his setting and his rising, accompanied by the

souls of the righteous. But of this belief we find no trace yet in the

ideas of the Ist Dynasty. All we can see is that the sahus, or bodies

of the dead, were supposed to reside in awful majesty in the tomb,

while the ghosts could pass from tomb to tomb through the mazes of

the underworld. Over this dread realm of dead men presided a dead god,

Osiris of Abydos; and so the necropolis of Abydos was the necropolis of

the underworld, to which all ghosts who were not its rightful citizens

would come from afar to pay their court to their ruler. Thus the man

of substance would have a monumental tablet put up to himself in this

necropolis as a sort of pied-a-terre, even if he could not be buried

there; for the king, who, for reasons chiefly connected with local

patriotism, was buried near the city of his earthly abode, a second tomb

would be erected, a stately mansion in the city of Osiris, in which his

ghost could reside when it pleased him to come to Abydos.

Now none could live without food, and men living under the earth needed

it as much as men living on the earth. The royal tomb was thus provided

with an enormous amount of earthly food for the use of the royal ghost,

and with other things as well, as we have seen. The same provision had

also to be made for the royal resting-place at Abydos. And in both cases

royal slaves were needed to take care of all this provision, and to

serve the ghost of the king, whether in his real tomb at Nakada, or

elsewhere, or in his second tomb at Abydos. Ghosts only could serve

ghosts, so that of the slaves ghosts had to be made. That was easily

done; they died when their master died and followed him to the tomb.

No doubt it seemed perfectly natural to all concerned, to the slaves as

much as to anybody else. But it shows the child's idea of the value of

life. An animate thing was hardly distinguished at this period from an

inanimate thing. The most ancient Egyptians buried slaves with their

kings as naturally as they buried jars of wine and bins of corn with

them. Both were buried with a definite object. The slaves had to die

before they were buried, but then so had the king himself. They all had

to die sometime or other. And the actual killing of them was no worse

than killing a dog, no worse even than "killing" golden buttons and

ivory boxes. For, when the buttons and boxes were buried with the king,

they were just as much dead as the slaves. Of the sanctity of human

life as distinct from other life, there was probably no idea at all. The

royal ghost needed ghostly servants, and they were provided as a matter

of course.

But as civilization progressed, the ideas of the Egyptians changed

on these points, and in the later ages of the ancient world they were

probably the most humane of the peoples, far more so than the Greeks,

in fact. The cultured Hellenes murdered their prisoners of war without

hesitation. Who has not been troubled in mind by the execution of Mkias

and Demosthenes after the surrender of the Athenian army at Syracuse?

When we compare this with Grant's refusal even to take Lee's sword

at Appomattox, we see how we have progressed in these matters; while

Gylippus and the Syracusans were as much children as the Ist Dynasty

Egyptians. But the Egyptians of Gylippus's time had probably advanced

much further than the Greeks in the direction of rational manhood. When

Amasis had his rival Apries in his power, he did not put him to death,

but kept him as his coadjutor on the throne. Apries fled from him,

allied himself with Greek pirates, and advanced against his generous

rival. After his defeat and murder at Momemphis, Amasis gave him a

splendid burial. When we compare this generosity to a beaten foe with

the savagery of the Assyrians, for instance, we see how far the later

Egyptians had progressed in the paths of humanity.

The ancient custom of killing slaves was first discontinued at the death

of the lesser chieftains, but we find a possible survival of it in the

case of a king, even as late as the time of the XIth Dynasty; for at

Thebes, in the precinct of the funerary temple of King Neb-hapet-Ra

Mentuhetep and round the central pyramid which commemorated his memory,

were buried a number of the ladies of his harim. They were all buried

at one and the same time, and there can be little doubt that they were

all killed and buried round the king, in order to be with him in the

next world. Now with each of these ladies, who had been turned into

ghosts, was buried a little waxen human figure placed in a little model

coffin. This was to replace her own slave. She who went to accompany

the king in the next world had to have her own attendant also. But, not

being royal, a real slave was not killed for her; she only took with her

a waxen figure, which by means of charms and incantations would, when

she called upon it, turn into a real slave, and say, "Here am I," and do

whatever work might be required of her. The actual killing and burial

of the slaves had in all cases except that of the king been long

"commuted," so to speak, into a burial with the dead person of

ushabtis, or "Answerers," little figures like those described above,

made more usually of stone, and inscribed with the name of the deceased.

They were called "Answerers" because they answered the call of their

dead master or mistress, and by magic power became ghostly servants.

Later on they were made of wood and glazed faience, as well as stone.

By this means the greater humanity of a later age sought a relief from

the primitive disregard of the death of others.

Anthropologically interesting as are the results of the excavations at

Umm el-Gra'ab, they are no less historically important. There is no need

here to weary the reader with the details of scientific controversy; it

will suffice to set before him as succinctly and clearly as possible the

net results of the work which has been done.

Messrs. Amelineau and Petrie have found the secondary tombs and have

identified the names of the following primeval kings of Egypt. We

arrange them in their apparent historical order.

1. Aha Men (?).

2. Narmer (or Betjumer) Sma (?).

3. Tjer (or Khent). Besh.

4. Tja Ati.

5. Den Semti.

6. Atjab Merpeba.

7. Semerkha Nekht.

8. Qa Sen.

9. Khasekhem (Khasekhemui)

10. Hetepsekhemui.

11. Raeneb.

12. Neneter.

13. Sekhemab Perabsen.

Two or three other names are ascribed by Prof. Petrie to the

Hierakonpolite dynasty of Upper Egypt, which, as it occurs before the

time of Mena and the Ist Dynasty, he calls "Dynasty 0." Dynasty 0,

however, is no dynasty, and in any case we should prefer to call the

"predynastic" dynasty "Dynasty I." The names of "Dynasty minus One,"

however, remain problematical, and for the present it would seem safer

to suspend judgment as to the place of the supposed royal names "Ro" and

"Ka"(Men-kaf), which Prof. Petrie supposes to have been those of two

of the kings of Upper Egypt who reigned before Mena. The king

"Sma"("Uniter") is possibly identical with Aha or Narmer, more

probably the latter. It is not necessary to detail the process by which

Egyptologists have sought to identify these thirteen kings with the

successors of Mena in the lists of kings and the Ist and IId Dynasties

of Manetho. The work has been very successful, though not perhaps quite

so completely accomplished as Prof. Petrie himself inclines to believe.

The first identification was made by Prof. Sethe, of Gottingen, who

pointed out that the names Semti and Merpeba on a vase-fragment found

by M. Amelineau were in reality those of the kings Hesepti and Merbap

of the lists, the Ousaphais and Miebis of Manetho. The perfectly certain

identifications are these:--

5. Den Semti = Hesepti, Ousaphais, Ist Dynasty.

6. Atjab Merpeba = Merbap, Miebis, Ist Dynasty.

7. Semerkha Nekht= Shemsu or Semsem (?), Semempres, Ist Dynasty.

8. Qa Sen = Qebh, Bienehhes, Ist Dynasty.

9. Khasekhemui Besh = Betju-mer (?), Boethos, IId Dynasty.

10. Neneter = Bineneter, Binothris, IId Dynasty.

Six of the Abydos kings have thus been identified with names in the

lists and in Manetho; that is to say, we now know the real names of six

of the earliest Egyptian monarchs, whose appellations are given us

under mutilated forms by the later list-makers. Prof. Petrie further

identifies (4) Tja Ati with Ateth, (3) Tjer with Teta, and (1) Aha with

Mena. Mena, Teta, Ateth, Ata, Hesepti, Merbap, Shemsu (?), and Qebh are

the names of the 1st Dynasty as given in the lists. The equivalent of

Ata Prof. Petrie finds in the name "Merneit," which is found at Umm

el-Ga'ab. But there is no proof whatever that Merneit was a king; he

was much more probably a prince or other great personage of the reign

of Den, who was buried with the kings. Prof. Petrie accepts the

identification of the personal name of Aha as "Men," and so makes him

the only equivalent of Mena. But this reading of the name is still

doubtful. Arguing that Aha must be Mena, and having all the rest of the

kings of the Ist Dynasty identified with the names in the lists, Prof.

Petrie is compelled to exclude Narmer from the dynasty, and to relegate

him to "Dynasty 0," before the time of Mena. It is quite possible,

however, that Narmer was the successor, not the predecessor, of Mena.

He was certainly either the one or the other, as the style of art in his

time was exactly the same as that in the time of Aha. The "Scorpion,"

too, whose name is found at Hierakonpolis, certainly dates to the same

time as Narmer and Aha, for the style of his work is the same. And it

may well be that he is not to be counted as a separate king, belonging

to "Dynasty 0 "(or "Dynasty -I") at all, but as identical with Narmer,

just as "Sma" may also be. We thus find that the two kings who left the

most developed remains at Hierakonpolis are the two whose monuments at

Abydos are the oldest of all on that site. That is to say, the kings

whose monuments record the conquest of the North belong to the period

of transition from the old Hierakonpolite dominion of Upper Egypt to the

new kingdom of all Egypt. They, in fact, represent the "Mena" or Menes

of tradition. It may be that Aha bore the personal name of Men, which

would thus be the original of Mena, but this is uncertain. In any case

both Aha and Narmer must be assigned to the Ist Dynasty, with the result

that we know of more kings belonging to the dynasty than appear in the


Nor is this improbable. Manetho's list is evidently based upon old

Egyptian lists derived from the authorities upon which the king-lists of

Abydos and Sakkara were based. These old lists were made under the

XIXth Dynasty, when an interest in the oldest kings seems to have been

awakened, and the ruling monarchs erected temples at Abydos in their

honour. This phenomenon can only have been due to a discovery of Umm

el-Ga'ab and its treasures, the tombs of which were recognized as

the burial-places (real or secondary) of the kings before the

pyramid-builders. Seti I. and his son Ramses then worshipped the kings

of Umm el-Ga'ab, with their names set before them in the order, number,

and spelling in which the scribes considered they ought to be inscribed.

It is highly probable that the number known at that time was not quite

correct. We know that the spelling of the names was very much garbled

(to take one example only, the signs for Sen were read as one sign

Qebh), so that one or two kings may have been omitted or displaced.

This may be the case with Narmer, or, as his name ought possibly to be

read, Betjumer. His monuments show by their style that he belongs to

the very beginning of the Ist Dynasty. No name in the Ist Dynasty list

corresponds to his. But one of the lists gives for the first king of the

IId Dynasty (the successor of "Qebh" = Sen) a name which may also be read

Betjumer, spelt syllabically this time, not ideographically. On this

account Prof. Naville wishes to regard the Hierakonpolite monuments of

Narmer as belonging to the IId Dynasty, but, as we have seen, they are

among the most archaic known, and certainly must belong to the beginning

of the Ist Dynasty. It is therefore probable that Khasekhemui Besh

and Narmer (Betjumer?) were confused by this list-maker, and the

name Betjumer was given to the first king of the IId Dynasty, who was

probably in reality Khasekhemui. The resemblance of Betju to Besh

may have contributed to this confusion.

So Narmer (or Betjumer) found his way out of his proper place at the

beginning of the 1st Dynasty. Whether Aha was also called "Men" or not,

it seems evident that he and Narmer were jointly the originals of the

legendary Mena. Narmer, who possibly also bore the name of Sma, "the

Uniter," conquered the North. Aha, "the Fighter," also ruled both South

and North at the same period. Khasekhemui, too, conquered the North, but

the style of his monuments shows such an advance upon that of the days

of Aha and Narmer that it seems best to make him the successor of Sen

(or "Qebh "), and, explaining the transference of the name Betjumer

to the beginning of the IId Dynasty as due to a confusion with

Khasekhemui's personal name Besh, to make Khasekhemui the founder of the

IId Dynasty. The beginning of a new dynasty may well have been marked

by a reassertion of the new royal power over Lower Egypt, which may have

lapsed somewhat under the rule of the later kings of the Ist Dynasty.

Semti is certainly the "Hesepti" of the lists, and Tja Ati is probably

"Ateth." "Ata" is thus unidentified. Prof. Petrie makes him = Merneit,

but, as has already been said, there is no proof that the tomb of

Merneit is that of a king. "Teta" may be Tjer or Khent, but of this

there is no proof. It is most probable that the names "Teta," "Ateth,"

and "Ata" are all founded on Ati, the personal name of Tja. The king

Tjer is then not represented in the lists, and "Mena" is a compound of

the two oldest Abydos kings, Narmer (Betjumer) Sma (?) and Aha Men (?).

These are the bare historical results that have been attained with

regard to the names, identity, and order of the kings. The smaller

memorials that have been found with them, especially the ivory plaques,

have told us of events that took place during their reigns; but, with

the exception of the constantly recurring references to the conquest of

the North, there is little that can be considered of historical interest

or importance. We will take one as an example. This is the tablet No.

32,650 of the British Museum, illustrated by Prof. Petrie, Royal Tombs

i (Egypt Exploration Fund), pi. xi, 14, xv, 16. This is the record of

a single year, the first in the reign of Semti, King of Upper and Lower

Egypt. On it we see a picture of a king performing a religious dance

before the god Osiris, who is seated in a shrine placed on a dais. This

religious dance was performed by all the kings in later times. Below we

find hieroglyphic (ideographic) records of a river expedition to fight

the Northerners and of the capture of a fortified town called An. The

capture of the town is indicated by a broken line of fortification,

half-encircling the name, and the hoe with which the emblematic hawks

on the slate reliefs already described are armed; this signifies the

opening and breaking down of the wall.

On the other half of the tablet we find the viceroy of Lower Egypt,

Hemaka, mentioned; also "the Hawk (i. e. the king) seizes the seat of

the Libyans," and some unintelligible record of a jeweller of the palace

and a king's carpenter. On a similar tablet (of Sen) we find the words

"the king's carpenter made this record." All these little tablets are

then the records of single years of a king's life, and others like them,

preserved no doubt in royal archives, formed the base of regular annals,

which were occasionally carved upon stone. We have an example of one of

these in the "Stele of Palermo," a fragment of black granite, inscribed

with the annals of the kings up to the time of the Vth Dynasty, when

the monument itself was made. It is a matter for intense regret that the

greater portion of this priceless historical monument has disappeared,

leaving us but a piece out of the centre, with part of the records

of only six kings before Snefru. Of these six the name of only one,

Neneter, of the lid Dynasty, whose name is also found at Abydos, is

mentioned. The only important historical event of Neneter's reign seems

to have occurred in his thirteenth year, when the towns or palaces of

Ha ("North") and Shem-Ra ("The Sun proceeds") were founded. Nothing

but the institution and celebration of religious festivals is recorded

in the sixteen yearly entries preserved to us out of a reign of

thirty-five years. The annual height of the Nile is given, and the

occasions of numbering the people are recorded (every second year):

nothing else. Manetho tells us that in the reign of Binothris, who

is Neneter, it was decreed that women could hold royal honours and

privileges. This first concession of women's rights is not mentioned on

the strictly official "Palermo Stele."

More regrettable than aught else is the absence from the "Palermo Stele"

of that part of the original monument which gave the annals of the

earliest kings. At any rate, in the lines of annals which still exist

above that which contains the chronicle of the reign of Neneter no

entry can be definitely identified as belonging to the reigns of Aha

or Narmer. In a line below there is a mention of the "birth of

Khasekhemui," apparently a festival in honour of the birth of that king

celebrated in the same way as the reputed birthday of a god. This shows

the great honour in which Khasekhemui was held, and perhaps it was he

who really finally settled the question of the unification of North and

South and consolidated the work of the earlier kings.

As far as we can tell, then, Aha and Narmer were the first conquerors

of the North, the unifiers of the kingdom, and the originals of the

legendary Mena. In their time the kingdom's centre of gravity was still

in the South, and Narmer (who is probably identical with "the Scorpion")

dedicated the memorials of his deeds in the temple of Hierakonpolis. It

may be that the legend of the founding of Memphis in the time of "Menes"

is nearly correct (as we shall see, historically, the foundation may

have been due to Merpeba), but we have the authority of Manetho for

the fact that the first two dynasties were "Thinite" (that is, Upper

Egyptian), and that Memphis did not become the capital till the time of

the Hid Dynasty. With this statement the evidence of the monuments fully

agrees. The earliest royal tombs in the pyramid-field of Memphis date

from the time of the Hid Dynasty, so that it is evident that the kings

had then taken up their abode in the Northern capital. We find that soon

after the time of Khasekhemui the king Perabsen was especially connected

with Lower Egypt. His personal name is unknown to us (though he may

be the "Uatjnes" of the lists), but we do know that he had two

banner-names, Sekhem-ab and Perabsen. The first is his hawk or

Horus-name, the second his Set-name; that is to say, while he bore the

first name as King of Upper Egypt under the special patronage of Horus,

the hawk-god of the Upper Country, he bore the second as King of Lower

Egypt, under the patronage of Set, the deity of the Delta, whose fetish

animal appears above this name instead of the hawk. This shows how

definitely Perabsen wished to appear as legitimate King of Lower as well

as Upper Egypt. In later times the Theban kings of the XIIth Dynasty,

when they devoted themselves to winning the allegiance of the

Northerners by living near Memphis rather than at Thebes, seem to have

been imitating the successors of Khasekhemui.

Moreover, we now find various evidences of increasing connection with

the North. A princess named Ne-maat-hap, who seems to have been the

mother of Sa-nekht, the first king of the Hid Dynasty, bears the name of

the sacred Apis of Memphis, her name signifying "Possessing the right of

Apis." According to Manetho, the kings of the Hid Dynasty are the first

Memphites, and this seems to be quite correct. With Ne-maat-hap the

royal right seems to have been transferred to a Memphite house. But the

Memphites still had associations with Upper Egypt: two of them, Tjeser

Khet-neter and Sa-nekht, were buried near Abydos, in the desert at Bet

Khallaf, where their tombs were discovered and excavated by Mr. Garstang

in 1900. The tomb of Tjeser is a great brick-built mastaba, forty feet

high and measuring 300 feet by 150 feet. The actual tomb-chambers are

excavated in the rock, twenty feet below the ground-level and sixty feet

below the top of the mastaba. They had been violated in ancient times,

but a number of clay jar-sealings, alabaster vases, and bowls belonging

to the tomb furniture were found by the discoverer. Sa-nekht's tomb is

similar. In it was found the preserved skeleton of its owner, who was a

giant seven feet high.

3700 B.C.]

It is remarkable that Manetho chronicles among the kings of the early

period a king named Sesokhris, who was five cubits high. This may have

been Sa-nekht.

Tjeser had two tombs, one, the above-mentioned, near Abydos, the

other at Sakkara, in the Memphite pyramid-field. This is the famous

Step-Pyramid. Since Sa-nekht seems really to have been buried at Bet

Khal-laf, probably Tjeser was, too, and the Step-Pyramid may have been

his secondary or sham tomb, erected in the necropolis of Memphis as a

compliment to Seker, the Northern god of the dead, just as Aha had his

secondary tomb at Abydos in compliment to Khentamenti. Sne-feru, also,

the last king of the Hid Dynasty, seems to have had two tombs. One of

these was the great Pyramid of Medum, which was explored by Prof. Petrie

in 1891, the other was at Dashur. Near by was the interesting necropolis

already mentioned, in which was discovered evidence of the continuance

of the cramped position of burial and of the absence of mummification

among a certain section of the population even as late as the time of

the IVth Dynasty. This has been taken to imply that the fusion of the

primitive Neolithic and invading sub-Semitic races had not been effected

at that time.

With the IVth Dynasty the connection of the royal house with the South

seems to have finally ceased. The governmental centre of gravity was

finally transferred to Memphis, and the kings were thenceforth for

several centuries buried in the great pyramids which still stand in

serried order along the western desert border of Egypt, from the Delta

to the province of the Fayyum. With the latest discoveries in this

Memphite pyramid-field we shall deal in the next chapter.

The transference of the royal power to Memphis under the Hid Dynasty

naturally led to a great increase of Egyptian activity in the Northern

lands. We read in Manetho of a great Libyan war in the reign of

Neche-rophes, and both Sa-nekht and Tjeser seem to have finally

established Egyptian authority in the Sinaitic peninsula, where their

rock-inscriptions have been found.

In 1904 Prof. Petrie was despatched to Sinai by the Egypt Exploration

Fund, in order finally to record the inscriptions of the early kings

in the Wadi Maghara, which had been lately very much damaged by the

operations of the turquoise-miners. It seems almost incredible that

ignorance and vandalism should still be so rampant in the twentieth

century that the most important historical monuments are not safe from

desecration in order to obtain a few turquoises, but it is so. Prof.

Petrie's expedition did not start a day too soon, and at the suggestion

of Sir William Garstin, the adviser to the Ministry of the Interior, the

majority of the inscriptions have been removed to the Cairo Museum for

safety and preservation. Among the new inscriptions discovered is one of

Sa-nekht, which is now in the British Museum. Tjeser and Sa-nekht were

not the first Egyptian kings to visit Sinai. Already, in the days of the

1st Dynasty, Semerkha had entered that land and inscribed his name upon

the rocks. But the regular annexation, so to speak, of Sinai to Egypt

took place under the Memphites of the Hid Dynasty.

With the Hid Dynasty we have reached the age of the pyramid-builders.

The most typical pyramids are those of the three great kings of the IVth

Dynasty, Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura, at Giza near Cairo. But, as

we have seen, the last king of the Hid Dynasty, Snefru, also had one

pyramid, if not two; and the most ancient of these buildings known to

us, the Step-Pyramid of Sakkara, was erected by Tjeser at the beginning

of that dynasty. The evolution of the royal tombs from the time of the

1st Dynasty to that of the IVth is very interesting to trace. At the

period of transition from the predynastic to the dynastic age we have

the great mastaba of Aha at Nakada, and the simplest chamber-tombs

at Abydos. All these were of brick; no stone was used in their

construction. Then we find the chamber-tomb of Den Semti at Abydos

with a granite floor, the walls being still of brick. Above each of the

Abydos tombs was probably a low mound, and in front a small chapel, from

which a flight of steps descended into the simple chamber. On one of the

little plaques already mentioned, which were found in these tombs, we

have an archaic inscription, entirely written in ideographs, which

seems to read, "The Big-Heads (i. e. the chiefs) come to the tomb." The

ideograph for "tomb" seems to be a rude picture of the funerary chapel,

but from it we can derive little information as to its construction.

Towards the end of the Ist Dynasty, and during the lid, the royal tombs

became much more complicated, being surrounded with numerous chambers

for the dead slaves, etc. Khasekhemui's tomb has thirty-three such

chambers, and there is one large chamber of stone. We know of no other

instance of the use of stone work for building at this period except in

the royal tombs. No doubt the mason's art was still so difficult that it

was reserved for royal use only.

Under the Hid Dynasty we find the last brick mastabas built for royalty,

at Bet Khallaf, and the first pyramids, in the Memphite necropolis.

In the mastaba of Tjeser at Bet Khallaf stone was used for the great

portcullises which were intended to bar the way to possible plunderers

through the passages of the tomb. The Step-Pyramid at Sakkara is, so to

speak, a series of mastabas of stone, imposed one above the other; it

never had the continuous casing of stone which is the mark of a true

pyramid. The pyramid of Snefru at Medum is more developed. It also

originated in a mastaba, enlarged, and with another mastaba-like

erection on the top of it; but it was given a continuous sloping casing

of fine limestone from bottom to top, and so is a true pyramid. A

discussion of recent theories as to the building of the later pyramids

of the IVth Dynasty will be found in the next chapter.

In the time of the Ist Dynasty the royal tomb was known by the name of

"Protection-around-the-Hawk, i.e. the king"(Sa-ha-heru); but under

the Hid and IVth Dynasties regular names, such as "the Firm," "the

Glorious," "the Appearing," etc., were given to each pyramid.

We must not omit to note an interesting point in connection with the

royal tombs at Abydos, In that of King Khent or Tjer (the reading of

the ideograph is doubtful) M. Amelineau found a large bed or bier of

granite, with a figure of the god Osiris lying in state sculptured in

high relief upon it. This led him to jump to the conclusion that he

had found the tomb of the god Osiris himself, and that a skull he found

close by was the veritable cranium of the primeval folk-hero, who,

according to the euhemerist theory, was the deified original of the god.

The true explanation is given by Dr. Wallis Budge in his History of

Egypt, i, p. 19. It is a fact that the tomb of Tjer was regarded by

the Egyptians of the XIXth Dynasty as the veritable tomb of Osiris.

They thought they had discovered it, just as M. Amelineau did. When the

ancient royal tombs of Umm el-Ga'ab were rediscovered and identified at

the beginning of the XIXth Dynasty, and Seti I built the great temple of

Abydos to the divine ancestors in honour of the discovery, embellishing

it with a relief of himself and his son Ramses making offerings to the

names of his predecessors (the "Tablet of Abydos "), the name of King

Khent or Tjer (which is perhaps the really correct original form) was

read by the royal scribes as "Khent" and hastily identified with the

first part of the name of the god Khent-amenti Osiris, the lord of

Abydos. The tomb was thus regarded as the tomb of Osiris himself, and

it was furnished with a great stone figure of the god lying on his bier,

attended by the two hawks of Isis and Nephthys; ever after the site was

visited by crowds of pilgrims, who left at Umm el-Ga'ab the thousands of

little votive vases whose fragments have given the place its name of the

"Mother of Pots." This is the explanation of the discovery of the "Tomb

of Osiris." We have not found what M. Amelineau seems rather naively to

have thought possible, a confirmation of the ancient view that Osiris

was originally a man who ruled over Egypt and was deified after his

death; but we have found that the Egyptians themselves were more or less

euhemerists, and did think so.

It may seem remarkable that all this new knowledge of ancient Egypt is

derived from tombs and has to do with the resting-places of the kings

when dead, rather than with their palaces or temples when living. Of

temples at this early period we have no trace. The oldest temple in

Egypt is perhaps the little chapel in front of the pyramid of Snefru at

Medum. We first hear of temples to the gods under the IVth Dynasty, but

of the actual buildings of that period we have recovered nothing but one

or two inscribed blocks of stone. Prof. Petrie has traced out the plan

of the oldest temple of Osiris at Abydos, which may be of the time of

Khufu, from scanty evidences which give us but little information. It is

certain, however, that this temple, which is clearly one of the oldest

in Egypt, goes back at least to his time. Its site is the mound

called Kom es-Sultan, "The Mound of the King," close to the village of

el-Kherba, and on the borders of the cultivation northeast of the royal

tombs at Umm el-Oa'ab.

Of royal palaces we have more definite information. North of the Kom

es-Sultan are two great fortress-enclosures of brick: the one is known

as Sunet es-Zebib, "the Storehouse of Dried Orapes;" the other is

occupied by the Coptic monastery of Der Anba Musas. Both are certainly

fortress-palaces of the earliest period of the Egyptian monarchy. We

know from the small record-plaques of this period that the kings were

constantly founding or repairing places of this kind, which were always

great rectangular enclosures with crenelated brick walls like those of

early Babylonian buildings.

We have seen that the Northern Egyptian possessed similar

fortress-cities which were captured by Narmer. These were the seats of

the royal residence in various parts of the country. Behind their walls

was the king's house, and no doubt also a town of nobles and retainers,

while the peasants lived on the arable land without.

3900 B.C.]

The Shunet ez-Zebib and its companion fortress were evidently the royal

cities of the 1st and IId Dynasties at Abydos. The former has been

excavated by Mr. E. R. Ayrton for the Egypt Exploration Fund, under the

supervision of Prof. Petrie. He found jar-sealings of Khasekhemui and

Perabsen. In later times the place was utilized as a burial-place for

ibis-mummies (it had already been abandoned as a city before the time of

the XIIth Dynasty), and from this fact it received the name of Shenet

deb-hib, or "Storehouse of Ibis Burials." The Arab invaders adapted

this name to their own language in the nearest form which would have

any meaning, as Shunet ez-Zebib, "the Storehouse of Dried Grapes."

The Arab word shuna ("Barn" or "Storehouse") was, it should be noted,

taken over from the Coptic sheune, which is the old-Egyptian shenet.

The identity of sheune or shuna with the German "Scheune" is a

quaint and curious coincidence. In the illustration of the Shunet

ez-Zebib the curved line of crenelated wall, following the contour of

the hill, should be noted, as it is a remarkable example of the building

of this early period.

It will have been seen from the foregoing description of what

far-reaching importance the discoveries at Abydos have been. A new

chapter of the history of the human race has been opened, which contains

information previously undreamt of, information which Egyptologists

had never dared to hope would be recovered. The sand of Egypt indeed

conceals inexhaustible treasures, and no one knows what the morrow's

work may bring forth.

Ex Africa semper aliquid novi!