Khaba's Stone Vessels:  Click to see the Hi-res image

In 1956 and 1958 A.J. Arkell published (in J.E.A. 42 and 44) a number of diorite and dolomite coups and bowls with Horus Kha'ba serekh; some were of uncertain provenance, others from the tomb Z 500 north of the "Layer Pyramid" of Zawiyet el Aryan and some more were Reisner's findings from the same mudbrick building (north of the pyramid) which was thought to be its funerary temple. The area of Zawiyet el-Aryan is known to have guested necropolis of dynasty 0,1,2,3,18.

Zawiyet el Aryan map (presented by M. Lehner in P. Der Manuelian 1996 p. 509)

The serie of stone bowls of Khaba represent a return to the past tradition which had ended with Khasekhemwy; in Djoser's Step Pyramid complex no inscription of Khaba was found on Stone vessels; after Khaba the trend to produce and inscribe stone vessels was abandoned again to be reprised only during the reign of Snofru.

The Layer Pyramid, 1,5 Km south of the other unfinished pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan, was superficially visited by Perring, Lepsius, Maspero and finally de Morgan in the end of '800; it was explored for the first time also in its subterranean part by the Italian archaeologist Alessandro Barsanti in 1900 (A.S.A.E. 2 p.92-4). He began the excavation on March, 11, starting to clear the east-west descending entrance passageway which de Morgan had found in 1896. In 1910-11 the Boston Museum of Fine Arts expedition directed by G.A. Reisner with C. Fisher reenvestigated the site; they were the first ones to attribute the Pyramid to King Khaba on the basis of the inscribed bowls with red ink name they found in the Z500 tomb, c. 200 m north of the pyramid; indeed the American archaeologist proposed, years later (Tomb Development 1936, p. 134), a higher datation to an unknown II nd dyn. king, mantaining that the underground labyrinths (always in comb-like plan) were a late effort by saitic pharaohs (keep in mind that the similar galleries under the pyramid of Sekhemhet had not yet been discovered at that time).

When, in 1963, the Italian Vito Maragioglio and Celeste Rinaldi published the second volume of their massive and very useful study 'L' Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite' (p.41-9), it was noted for the first time that there were very deep incongruities in comparing the drawings of Barsanti with those of Reisner-Fisher.

In 1978 appeared a volume of the then 87 years old Dows Dunham dealing with part of the c.300 graves of Zawiyet el Aryan;.
the author re-published Reisner-Fisher's map of the Layer pyramid (which has always been more credited than Barsanti' s) and provided some of the BMFA unpublished drawings and photos; most of the tombs are Late predynastic and early Ist Dynasty (serekh of Horus Aha in Z.2 and of Narmer in Z.401).
Dunham (Zawiyet el-Aryan - The Cemeteries adiacent to the Layer Pyramid p.29) states that Mastaba Z.500 had a east-west orientation: perhaps he misinterpreted a sketch by C. Fisher (Lehner,1996 fig. 2) which probably represented the eastern part of the pyramid's east-west entrance. As recently precised by Lehner (see below) Z500 has a north-south major axis.

In his thesis on the History of the Third Dynasty (1983), Nabil Swelim attributed the Layer Pyramid to king Neferka, who had already 'completed' the burial of his predecessor Nebkara at Zawiyet el Aryan North (Unfinished Pyramid); (these two kings were placed by Dr. Swelim at the end of the Third Dynasty, before Qa Hedjet- Huni). Swelim's view was focused on the possibility that Z500 was a kind of northern-temple building for the unfinished complex of Neferka, which was meant to imitate Netjerykhet's and Sekhemkhet's complexes: the east-west orientation of this building seemed a tempting motif to accept this view. He also advanced that some structures farther to the east, stone ruins known as 'El Gamal el Barek', could have been a proto valley temple; about this, Dodson writes that Perring describes an "inclined approach from the plain beneath"; but the author (op. cit., 87) leaves out such a possibility of an eastern causeway owing to the too steep inclination of the surface east of the Layer pyramid.
No enclosure, which might have been in mudbrick, was ever noticed in the ground and aerial surveys.
As seen, Z.500 is indeed a niched Mastaba with North-South orientation; Nabil Swelim based this theory on the wrong assumption of a East-West orientation of this building (as erroneously stated in Dows Dunham, 1978 p. 29); the Egyptian archaeologist later refined his view ('Rollsiegel, Pierre de Taille and an Update on a King and Monument List of the Third Dynasty' in 'Intellectual Heritage of Egypt - Studies Presented to Laszlo Kakosy .... his 60th Birthday' Studia Aegyptiaca 14. 1992/ 541-554).
The opinion of Swelim about Horus Khaba (op.cit. p. 199 ff) is that this king must be a close follower of Khasekhemwy, and surely to be placed well before Sanakht and Sekhemkhet: this is shown by the earlier character of the stone bowls of Khaba in comparison with those of Sanakht from Bet Khallaf (Swelim used data provided by the important study on the Archaic Egyptian Stone Vessels - from Predynastic to the Third Dynasty - published by Ali el Khouli in 1978).
Finally the presence of bowls inscribed by Khaba around the pyramid could be compared with similar practices later attested in Khaefra, Menkaura and Sahura funerary temples, and previously witnessed in the enormous amount of vessels preserved for Netjerykhet-Djoser: archaic kings' inscribed stone vessels gathered for later sovereigns' funerary monuments.
The conclusions of Dr. Swelim (Some Problems,1983) for almost all of the Third dynasty kings, including Khaba, do remain someway distant from the mainstream of the currently accepted theories. Anyhow the field work and the publications of this scholar bright among the most useful (and luckily always more frequent) achievements of egyptology towards a more detailed comprehension of the Early Dynastic period.

The site of Zawiyet el Aryan has been the object of two recent and important studies: one by Mark Lehner and the other by Aidan Dodson (respectively in P. Der Manuelian ed. 'Studies in honor of W.K. Simpson' 1996 and in J.A.R.C.E. n.37, 2000).
The first study reveals that many photographs and sketches of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts 1910-1911 expedition were still available, and publishes a map of the Layer Pyramid based on a 1977 aerial photo. The orientation of Z.500 is now definitively recognized as north-south, and not even in axis with the middle N-S axis of the pyramid.
The tomb is a niched mastaba, as the photograph of page 521 shows; the fact that it has no direct relation with the pyramid (which is more than 200 m from Z 500) doesn't affect the possibility of a link of the layer pyramid with Horus Khaba.

In the most recent work concerned with the site in object, Dr. Aidan Dodson re-examinates the problem from an archaeological and chronological point of view. The second part of the study doesn't add much to the known situation: the English scholar seems to be oriented in the traditional identification of Khaba as one of the kings in the lacuna (hudjefa / sedjes) of the Turin Canon and Abydos kings list respectively (but the table 2, p.90 is fallacious because it places the lacuna between Nebkara and Huni, while it is indeed between Djoserty and Nebkara).
Anyhow Dodson stresses the continuity between Sekhemkhet's and the Layer Pyramid, showing how restricted is the slot into which the Layer pyramid can fit.
The first part of the same study is very instructive for the knowledge of the pyramid attributed to Khaba.
The author evidences once again, on the path already traced by Maragioglio and Rinaldi's work, the discrepancies between the measurements of Barsanti and those of Reisner as reflected also by their respective plans; he shows that the former author is more reliable, possibly also because some parts of the substructure were fulfilled again with sand in the 10 between the two excavations.
Furthermore the main central gallery proceeds horizontally in its southernmost course, after a part of it descends to the burial chamber, up to a point directly above this chamber: this is shown in Barsanti's plan but not in Reisner and Fisher's; nonetheless the American archaeologists must have noted this feature because a photograph of theirs, which Dodson publishes at page 84, has been taken just in front of the descending ramp with that horizontal continuation of the main gallery (E1 in JARCE 37 p.82) in the foreground.
Dodson developes a possible evolution of the substructures of the monument (see the 1st figure below, bottom right);
he also provides a logical explanation for the unusual eastern access to the pyramid substructures, the only example of non- northern pyramid entrance with the exception of Sesostri II's (and Snofru's at the Bent Pyramid, where the main entrance is however the northern one, the western gallery being a stand-alone additonal feature): the north-south main approach ramp was substituted by one from the east not for topographical reasons or, as Maragioglio and Rinaldi thought, to leave free space for building the northern temple, but because the project of the pyramid of Sekhemkhet had revealed the need for a fastidious expedient, a lateral narrow passageway, to connect the main N-S corridor to the E-W storerooms.
(This solution is a further proof that the monument in object,although constructionally simpler, is later than Sekhemkhet's one).

Layer Pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan: Barsanti's drawings (1900) and Dodson's Substructures development (2000)  Layer Pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan: Section and Map of the Boston MFA expedition (Reisner-Fisher 1910-11)
Plans and sections of the Layer Pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan.
Compare the section of A. Barsanti with that of Reisner-Fisher :
There are many differences in galleries length and a whole gallery
(over the burial chamber) lacks in the Americans' map.

Views of the Layer Pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan

Aerial view of Zawiyet el Aryan southern pyramid (After A. Dodson in J.A.R.C.E. 37, 2000 p. 89 - Bristol city Museum, Leslie Grinsell photo archive)

Remains of the Layer Pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan (south)  
A section of the inclined inner coarses of the Zawiyet el Aryan pyramid (Lehner- The Complete Pyramids p. 95)

Of the pyramid, projected with only 5 steps (Lauer B.I.F.A.O. 79, 375), only 16 meters of the whole height still remained, but the construction works were actually abandoned long before the vertex was reached (it would have reached c. 40 meters).
The base side is 83 m.; the funerary chamber,found empty, is at the dept of 26 m; here's how to arrive to it: the descending ramp has not a north-south direction (as for Sekhemkhet) but it starts, in the open air for all its length, few meters north of the pyramid's north east corner and runs east-west; after a 36m long stair (at which initial part de Morgan had abandoned the excavations) then it's reached a pit just on the central N-S axis of the pyramid; going on the left (south), after circa 80 m., a short and sloping ramp and another last corridor, the chamber is finally entered, sharply placed under what would have been the pyramid vertex.
The empty burial chamber is m. 3,63 in length, 2,65 in breadth and 3,0 in height.
Going right from the basis of the first ramp (northward) a corridor is reached leading into the perpendicular (east-west) gallery with comb-like store rooms; this is 120 m. long (and 1,4 m. large for 1,8 high) and, as for that of Sekhemhet, goes on to its two extremities where, after a 90 degree angle, continues to the south for further 38 m. There are, in the U shaped corridor, 32 comb-like rooms of 1,6 m in breadth and 5m in length, each one dug perpendicularly to the corridor in the direction of the pyramid;
20 of these 'rooms' projects southwards from the east-west corridor and 6 on each one of the two north-south ending portions.
Barsanti, who also explored in that period the gallery of Hotepsekhemwy at Saqqara finding therein various seal impressions and fragmentary vessels, was unable to accomplish the most meaningless finding in the Layer pyramid substructures. He believed that
"La galerie inferiéure[?] était réservée à la reine,mais elle n'à pas été achevé non plus,et les galeries latérales n' ont pas recu les momies des princes ou des princesses à qui elles étaient destinées.Tant de travail a été en pure perte"(op.cit.,94).

Let's focus now on the following characters of this monument's project : the compact layers blocks in the core of the pyramid, perpendicular to the pyramid sloping side; the stores in comb shape; the funerary chamber and pyramid vertex perfectly aligned; these main features had been thought as an imitation of the Saqqara complex of Sekhemhet.
Yet there are evident differences in the course of the ramp and corridors leading to the sepulchral chamber as in the niche-like store rooms, only 32 in number and solely dug in the inner side of the corridor (in the direction of the pyramid).
Contrary to the other pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan and to the Saqqara coeval enclosures, we have here no trace of an enclosure wall; maybe only a mudbrick wall was erected to enclose the complex (Cimmino 1990 p.120,357) but no trace of it is visible in the aerial photographs.
The mere size is quite smaller than in the monument of the predecessor: for this reason it has been proposed to place Khaba' s reign before Sekhemhet's; but we have already said that the Saqqara complex could have been another one from Imhotep whilst the architect of Khaba was quite less ambitious. It remains impossible (also for other reasons mentioned elsewhere) to separate the reigns of Netjerykhet and Sekhemkhet by an intermediary King's reign.
(Eventually the later king-lists and the choice of the necropolis are other proofs for a Netheryhet-Sekhemhet continuity).

Zawiyet el Aryan: Tomb Z500 (After D. Dunham 1978 p.XII)

Khaba is almost absent in any other part of Egypt : few sealings or impressions with the name Khaba have been found at Hierakonpolis (Quibell-Green pt. II pag. 3, 55 and tav. 70,1) or elsewhere: Kaplony ( I.A.F. p.173 fig. 805).
In Petrie's 'Scarabs and cylinders with names...' tav. VIII it seems that the first occurance of a 'Hor Nubty' royal name can be found: IRT DJED.F ; the origin of this piece is unknown; two more bowls with Khaba Horus named inscriptions come from Sahura complex at Abusir and from e the necropolis of Naga ed Deir (Smith , C.A.H. vol.1 pt. 2 (1971) pag. 156).
As for Sanakht and Netheryhet a seal impression of Khaba has been found at Elephantine (M.D.A.I.K. 43 p. 109, fig 13b tav. 15b) [See these drawings of seal impressions (after J. Kahl- N. Kloth- U. Zimmermann, 1995) and this internet link].

Horus Khaba, Hor Nwb IrtDjedef (London UC 11755) Provenance Unknown

For a possible birth name 'Teti' of the Horus Khaba see Smith in C.A.H. cit.; A.Dodson in KMT 9:2, 1998 p. 35.
I.E.S. Edwards has recently repeated his convinction to equate Khaba with Huni (K. Bard ed. Enciclopedia A.A.E. p. 889); such an hypothesis was first advanced by W. Helck.
Nabil Swelim (op.cit.) considered Khaba a predecessor of Netjerykhet (half Second Dynasty II or beginning of IIIrd Dyn.); the author didn't ascribe to him the Layer Pyramid of Zawyiet el Aryan.
More hypotheses on these ephemeral kings' names are in Kaplony (R.A.R. I, 1977 p. 146-155; cfr. table in my Third dyn. page) who (op. cit. p. 154) proposed to identify Horus Khaba - Netjer Nwb with njswt-bity Shenaka (in Zawiyet el Aryan unfinished northern pyramid inscriptions) reigning for 6 years between Nekhet-za (Sanakht) and Neb Hedjet Nwb - H(w).

As for Sekhemhet, we are here again having to do with a situation where the premature demise of the sovereign justifies (and can equally be deduced from) the few more than 5 years of reign . In the same manner as with the previous king, the works in the funerary complex were rapidly abandoned after few years from their start.
The general impression is that, after circa 40 years from its beginning, the III rd dynasty state encountered some kind of problem that profoundly hit its organization.
The succession of ephemeral kings, with short reign, could be a cause (but an effect too) of the crisis. Archaeological evidence could be misleading but for now we must rely on it to interpret this age as a dark one.
The immediately following period is, if possible, even harder for us to comprehend.
For most of the Second and Third Dynasty history the possibility to replace void speculations with real facts lies, as always, in the future archaeological researches or in the fortuitous finding (in sites as well as in museums).
Index:   Historical Data
The Antecedents
The Third Dynasty
Khaba (Sedjes)
Qa Hedjet