Horus SNEFERKA - Horus Bird - Horus SEKHET (?) - Horus BA

(Dynasty I-II)
We are going to approach the study of the reigns of some ephemeral kings whose chronological position in the Early Dynastic period hasn't been yet estabilished with full certainty. There is no tomb or other architecture which we can attribute to them. Their archaeological footprints are very scanty.
Horus SNEFERKA inscriptions

is known by three inscriptions found on stone vessels; 1) one is from the Step Pyramid complex galleries (PD IV n. 86; Horus Seneferka's Ah-Ntr in Qaw-Ntrw); on this schist vessel the name in the serekh has been almost certainly carved over that of another previous king, probably Qa'a (to whom Qaw Ntrw belonged); a possible official name on it maybe read Swdj Khnemw (Kaplony). 2) Another short inscription was found by Emery on a schist vessel in the vast tomb S3505 at Saqqara; it names the Memphite palace Hwt Za ha nb. Contrarily to the other two inscriptions, the serekh is, in this case, without the Horus falcon atop of it. 3) The last inscription, published by Kaplony (Steingefasse, n.13), comes from the private collection of Georges Michailides and, although unprovenanced, is doubtlessly from Saqqara: it reads Hm Shenwwt Hrw Snfrka, thus referring to the service in the granaries. Kaplony (ibid.) notes that, among the few inscriptions on stone vessels known, the latter is the only one to have been inscribed on a vase originally prepared for this person (i.e. no vessel reuse and inscription erasure).
In my opinion, the presence of at least one serekh without falcon and a possible different reading of the name as NeferKaes (Nefer-Ka-s: cf. the female personal name Int-Ka-s (Djoser's daughter) or the 1st king of Vth Dyn. Userkaf) might hint at a further reigning queen rather than an ephemeral king.

UPDATE: March 2003 excavations at Saqqara by Zahi Hawass / SCA have yielded new evidence for Sneferka ('Nefer-sieka' in the web-report):
some inscribed fragments of alabaster vessels from a late First Dynasty tomb (thanks to Aayko Eyma for the link);
see this page http://www.guardians.net/hawass/articles/new_discovery_from_dynasty_1.htm
The tomb was found in 1995 during the construction of additional magazines for storing finds from the Saqqara necropolis (Youssef, GM 152, 1996, 105-111) but only in 2003 a thorough excavation was undertaken. East of the mastaba ten smaller (contemporary) tombs were found, reused in NK and LP.

Notwithstanding the scanty informations available fot this king we can assume that, the only presence of a sovereign, albeit an ephemeral one, at the end of the First Dynasty, throws some clouds on this phase of the Egyptian history which seemed to be rather well known (and which indeed remains much more clear than the following two dynasties).
Although not as troublesome as the Second and Third Dynasty, also the First Dynasty is not lacking in still obscure aspects: the position and status of at least two queens, the 'usurped' inscriptions on the last kings of the dynasty's stone vessels, and the names of kings known by very few inscriptions, the ones we are currently examinating; we are left with only a restricted number of documents which could be helpful in depicting the scenario in which the important dynastic change developed.
This event was accompained by a further concentration of the royal power in the Lower Egyptian capital, Memphis, and not one early- Second Dynasty royal tomb has ever been found in the cemetery of Abydos).
Horus Sneferka, Ah-Netjer Qaw-Netjerw, SwdjKhnemw (Kaplony, Z.A.S. 88 p. 13, fig. 15)
We can conclude saying that the epigraphical sources seem to favour a direct succession Qa'a - Sneferka; the usurpation of vessels must have been like that happened for Adjib, Semerkhet and Qa'a, between direct successors.
No other important alternative proposal has been done for this king's position. Sometimes this name, as that of Ba, has been fit into different problematic positions of the Second and Third Dynasty, but without convincing motivations.

[UPDATE - May 2008] - In a recent paper, Kim Ryholt (whom I thank for sending me her article, published in JEH 1, 2008, 159-173, and presently available on line) has proposed to identify Seneferka with the King Lists "Neferkara" (IInd Dynasty follower of Senedj in Turin and Saqqara KL).

More inscriptions of ephemeral rulers, possible successors of QAA, provide three further names: (see Kaplony in M.D.A.I.K. 20, p. 1 ff): the Horus name of a king BA (?) has been recently credited to have reigned later, in the Third Dynasty (> below); a king name written with an undetailed bird (Bird/Vogel) was found by Petrie at Abydos (R.T. II pl. 8A,6 = P.D. IV pl.encr. IV,4) in the tomb of Qa'a (Q); it is perhaps the same ruler of the inscription from the Step Pyramid galleries vessel PD IV n.108 (= pl.en IV,7). It's noteworthy that the Abydos inscription is the only one (for the first three kings in object) not from Memphis. For an uncorrect identification of this ruler with BA see below.
Finally an almost unlegible name was found at Saqqara by Walter Brian Emery (cfr. bibl.) on a clay seal impression from tomb S 3505 (the same of Sneferka 's schist vessel): this has been attibuted to the same ruler of the inscription on a schist vessel found in the Djoser's complex substructures (PD IV n.97), but there's not an absolute certainty that the two fragmentary Horus names are identical [possible reading Sekhet (??? but Cf. the UPDATE below) with the glyph T26 (skht)
or alternatively O 45 (ipt)].
Horus Bird inscriptions
Horus ??? inscriptions
All these three royal names (except for Ba), are followed by short inscriptions naming their Memphite palace: Hwt Ha-Za-Neb (Sneferka, Bird) and Hwt Ha-Ka-Za (Sekhet) which relate them to Qa'a; and the official Swdj-Khnwm appears also on inscriptions of Qa'a (but this is of no help if, as we have already specified above, the inscription of Sneferka - PD n.186 - was really usurped to Qaa as it seems). None of these late Ist Dynasty kings has been linked to any name in king-lists or Manetho (but these sources weren't based on Horus names).
UPDATE: I have recently found out that the inscription in the schist vase (Step Pyr IV n. 97) and in the seal impressions from S3505 which are shown in the figure on the left, must belong to the same ruler of the serekh in the figure on the right: the seal would show a bird tail, and also PyrDeg IV, nr. 97 must be a BIRD if you well look at the oblique figure in the effaced serekh. Thus another possible interregnum; yet Horus Bird's traces are not confined to Saqqara necropolis: they' ve also emerged at Abydos! (cf. right fig. and van den Brink serekhs pt. II; also cf. David Gould, 2003, 38 -said to be 'Horus BA'-).

(Dynasty II - III)
Horus BA
(< CLICK THE LINK FOR HIS PAGE) was thought to be another of these local Lower Egyptian predecessors of Hotepsekhemwy maybe mistaking his name with the possible name of Bird (Kaplony in MDAIK 20 p.3 proposes Ba as the reading of that bird).
More recently N. Swelim (1983) and J. Kahl (1994) have proposed a different chronological position for Ba (end of the III rd Dynasty, after Huni and Qa Hedjet). We must consider Ba as a later king of the Third Dynasty.
The best source for the few documents concerning Ba is N. Swelim's 'Some Problems...' 1983 (cfr. bibliography below).
Ba is attested in a serekh on a little basalt slab found by Firth at the Step Pyramid complex (not inserted in the publication) which was recorded only many years later by Goneim (Saqqara register of antiquities n. S-10034). It was composed by the signs of the human leg (B) + ram (BA) (Gard. D58 and E11).
A different writing, with only the leg, was reported by Ricci in 1820 and by Lepsius in 1858 (this latter's one was without falcon of the serekh, Konigsbuch n.905); Kurt Sethe briefly discussed this king's status in a note of an article in Z.A.S. 35 (1899, p.6,7 n.4). Now, because at the half of the twentieth century M. Cerny found the manuscript of Ricci in Banks Manuscript XX A.I (of the Wadi Maghara inscriptions of Sekhemkhet), Swelim asks if the source of Lepsius could have been a completely different one from Ricci's (op. cit p. 183; also see Cerny, The inscriptions of Sinai, 1955 p. 55-6).
The probable presence in Sinai increases the possibility that this Ba must be a short reigning king of the period of Netjerykhet, Sanakht and Sekhemkhet. This king should therefore have reigned in the obscure period of the middle 3rd dynasty.
J. von Becherath, in his Handbuch der Ag. Konigsnamen (1984) p. 49 doubiously identifies king Ba (Foot + Ram), with the one we have here named BIRD; some scholars have recently followed him (Wilkinson, Early Dynastic Egypt), bur the two Horus names in question must belong to different rulers, and we have precised that there's no indication that the bird in Horus Bird's serekh is a Ba, because too few details are drawn.
Swelim places Horus Ba as one of the 4 predecessors of Djoser (but it's unprobable that, as the Egyptian archaeologist theorizes, 4 kings with long reigns separated Djoser from Khasekhemwy): to Ba he attributes the Ptahhotep enclosure at Saqqara, west of the Step Pyramid complex (see the table in the Third Dyn. page).

Nabil Swelim adds a further interesting note on the possible later cult of king BA which would be suggested by the name of NiankhBA whose tomb, south of Djoser's complex nearby to that of Nebkauhor - Idu, is close to the entrance of Ninetjer's gallery, north of the Unas causeway (Nabil Swelim, 'The Dry moat of the Netjertkhet complex', in Baines et al. ed., Pyramid Studies and other essays presented to I.E.S. Edwards, 1988 p. 12-22, fig. 4), and in the same area as another tomb whose owner has the name formed with that of the IIIrd Dynasty king Nebka: NiankhNebka.
Inscriptions of (Horus) BA (IIIrd Dynasty ?)

We can conclude with few words on the succession from the Ist to the IInd Dynasty; despite Qa'a was thought to have solved definitively the troubles which had visibly affected the reigns of his immediate predecessors, some scholars have begun to interpret this period as the first one in the Egyptian dynastic history showing some sign of crisis or difficult political transition (but some labels or vessels' inscriptions' usurpations are too little a proof for drawing any historical conclusion).
The serie of royal tombs at Umm el Qaab (as the Abydos funerary palaces) ends with Qa'a 's reign and the cemetery seems to have been abandoned by the kings until a new brief utilization more than 60 years after, at the end of the Second Dynasty, by Seth Peribsen and Horus Seth Khasekhemwy.
At North Saqqara instead, the higher officials' Ist Dynasty (easternmost) necropolis is followed by the earlier use towards a more western area (necropolis of IInd and then IIIrd dyn.) for the great dignitaries (i.e. Ruaben); at the same time the kings of the initial Second Dynasty built at least two giant tombs south of the area wher Djoser's complex southern wall would be later built; the superstructures were levelled during the woks for the pyramid and causeway of Unas, but seal impressions found by Barsanti in 1901 and, 50 years later by Hassan in two very long galleries name Hotepsekhemwy, Nebra, Nineter.
Therefore Hotepsekhemwy or one of his ephemeral predecessors, moved for the first time the true royal burial-place;
but, on the other hand, Hotepsekhemwy is also present on seal impressions from the tomb of Qa'a at Umm el Qaab (Abydos) and this would make us suppose a certain degree of continuity, which the presence of the 2 or 3 kings discussed denies.
Some scholars have become convinced that the clay seals found by the German excavators directed by Gunter Dreyer were the proof that Hotepsekhemwy directed the funerals of Qaa, thence no king could have reigned between them: Sekhet, Seneferka and Ba might also be Horus names of some middle Second Dynasty rulers, as recently proposed by Dodson in an article in KMT (7:2, 1996 p.19-31). I think that having these kings had very short reigns, their chronological placement after Qaa doesn't imply that Hotepsekhemwy couldn't have performed a symbolical reburial or funerary commemoration of Qa'a, legitimizing the (new ?) dynasty. But If the finding context should be associated with concrete works to complete the burial and the architecture of tomb Q, we could be forced to search for a different collocation of these kings we have described: the period after Ninetjer, around the reigns of Wng, Snd, Nwbnefer, Neferkaseker, Neferkara, Za, Sekhemib is the best alternative (or we could equate these Horus names with known Nebty-Neswt bity names of the same period). Sneferka's usurpation of Qaa inscriptions is a terminus post quem which prevents from searching for an earlier position of his reign before or after Semerkhet.
To the present state of our knowledge, basing on the scarce sources we have, it is impossible to estabilish any sure conclusion; we will see that the same (if not worse) indefinable situation occurs again in the following dynasties.

- C.A.H. III I.1 (1970) p.29;
- Lacau-Lauer 'La Pyramide à Degres' IV- Inscriptions graveès sur les vases v. I, p.4,15 pl. 17 n.86; vol. 2 p.40 (Sneferka).
- Kaplony in Z.A.S. 88 (1962) p. 12-14 e fig.15; (Sneferka; = Lacau-Lauer Pyr.Deg. IV n.86)
- Kaplony in M.D.A.I.K. 20 (1965) p.1-46; (at page 3 the author lists "Ba (?)" for the Horus Bird)
- Emery 'Great Tombs...' III (1958) pag. 11,31 pl.38 n.1) (Sneferka);
- Emery 'Great Tombs...' III (1958) plate 37 n.6) = Kaplony I.A.F. III n. 742 (Sekhet)
- Helck in Z.A.S. 106 (1979) p.120-132 (Chronology of the kings here discussed from the inscriptions in Step Pyramid complex vessels)
- Kahl 'Das System der ägyptischen Hieroglyphenschrift in der 0. - 3. Dynastie' 1994 - Wiesbaden p. 7-10
- Swelim 'Horus Seneferka' Publications of the Egyptological society of Alexandria 5, 1974 p. 67-77
- Swelim 'Horus Ba' conference in ???
- Swelim 'Some problems on the History of the Third Dynasty '(1983) esp. 182-3 (Ba in Step Pyr. slab and in Sinai + bibl.)
- R. Weill 'IIe et IIIe dyn.' (1908) p. 136 (Ba)
- K. Sethe Z.A.S. 35 (1899) p. 6 n.4 (Ba)
- Helck 'Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit' 1987 (all)
- J. von Becherath, Handbuch der Ag. Konigsnamen (1984) p. 49 (BA)
- T. Wilkinson 'Early Dynastic Egypt' 1999 (Sneferka, Ba; the author uncorrectly identifies Horus Ba with Horus Bird)
- D. Gould, 'A Study of the Relationship between the Different Dynastic Factions of the Early Dynastic Period and of the Evidence for internal Political Disruption', in: S. Bickel - A. Loprieno (eds.) Basel Egyptology Prize 1, Aegyptiaca Helvetica 17, 2003, 29-53.

Seal impression from S 3505

© Francesco Raffaele