The Ancient Egyptian Third Dynasty

By Francesco Raffaele (1998-2001)

Index: Historical Data
The Antecedents
The Third Dynasty
Sanakht-Nebka *
Khaba (Sedjes)
Qa Hedjet
Huni (Niswteh)
* The identity of these two rulers and their chronological position is still debated. Their reigns were probably in the second half of the dynasty.
NOTE: The the red links in this table now lead to each king's page separately (in updated version)


General bibliography: The main studies are quoted in the text; The only detailed publication on the History of this dynasty is Nabil Swelim 'Some Problems on the History of the Third Dynasty' (Archaeol. Soc. Alexandria 1983); [Here abbreviated S.P.]
R. Weill' s 'La IIe et la IIIe Dynastie' is equally very useful but much more outdated (1908).
See also Aidan Dodson 'On the Threshold of Glory: The Third Dynasty' in KMT 9:2, 1988 p.27-40, and T.Wilkinson 'Early Dynastic Egypt' 1999.
A Corpus of Third Dynasty inscriptions has been published by J. Kahl- N. Kloth- U. Zimmermann 'Die Inscriften der 3. Dynastie' 1995.

Brooklyn Museum Red Granite Head of an Unknown King (Huni or Khufu)

        Historical Introduction
Hesyra is one of the few great dignitaries of the 3rd Dynasty of whom we have some piece of information.
At Saqqara Quibell dug his tomb (n. 2405) in 1911. Already in the previous century A. Mariette had entered it and removed 5 of the 11 wooden panels (the sixth one was brought out by Quibell).
For now we ll deal with the historical period in which Hesyra lived, the century that covers the end of the II nd dynasty to the end of the III rd - beginning of the IVth.
The dignitaries, known by their statues (Bedjimes/ Ankhwa, Sepa) or by mastabas and reliefs (Khaibawsokar,Akhetaa), seem to be dated not before the first half of the III rd dyn. if not later to Huni or Snofru (like Sepa). Maybe they were born during the reign of Djoser or perhaps the one of Khasekhemwy but their tombs and artworks bear the mark of the late Dyn. III style.
Coeval of Imhotep and Hesyra is probably Nedjemankh who's known by two statues (at Leida and Paris) and who was probably the owner of the Beit Khallaf Mastaba K5 as some seal impressions lead us to think.
Many many uncertainties exist for what concerns the pharaohs of the III rd dyn. and their succession order.
Under this aspect the first dynasty is much better known.
With the age of the great pyramids we enter a completely different period, so prolific and rich in objects, royal and private funerary complexes, monuments, as to fournish us a highly wider bulk of data allowing us to even try to reconstruct the IV th dyn. royal family genealogic tree, an impossible thing to realize for the Djoser's age. These are the principal lists of royal names (XIX th dyn., exc. the fourth which is tolemaic):

Dynasty III on the Royal Canon of Turin (G.Farina 1938)
MANETHO (Africanus)
Neb-ka (19 years)
Djoser-it (19)
Djoser-ty (6)
Djoser Tety
Tyreis (7)
[Hu]Djefa (6)
Mesochris (17)
Souphis (16)
Hu-[ni] (24)
? Aches (42)

Horus names on monuments
Cartouche names on monuments
? *
- (NEBKA ?)
BA (?)

(See also the Table of the Stone vessels inscriptions from Djoser's complex and other locations)

The sum of regnal years for the 6 or 7 kings of the III dyn. should be form circa 70-80 to 120-130 years.
Manetho, through his two main quoters, Africanus and Eusebius, gives a exaggerate total of years (214).
The Royal Canon of Turin, on which the regnal years for all the III rd dyn. kings is kept, gives 74 years.
(cfr. P. O'Mara in G.M. 147 for a comparison of dates between the Turin Papyrus and Manetho; cfr. on the Turin Pap. Gardiner 'The Royal Canon of Turin' - 1959 and J. Malek in J.E.A. 68 p. 93-106).

On the Annals (Palermo Stone plus five fragments in Cairo and one in London) no III rd dyn. royal name has remained in the lines containing the royal titulary and the name of the mother-Queen; anyhow the most recent reconstructions (Kaiser Z.A.S. 86, Helck M.D.A.I.K. 30 and Thinitenzeit, Barta Z.A.S. 108) aim to place the reign of Khasekhemui (last king of dyn. II) at the beginning of the line 5 which had to go on with the dyn III so that Huni's reign had to finish just in the last year-box at the left end of the line 5; thus the fragments we have must be related to the last 6 regnal years of Nebka and the first 5 of Djoser on the line 5 of the Palermo fragment, while the last years of Djoser's, all the 6/7 of Sekhemhet's and the first 2 of his successor's are on the illeggible line 5 of K1 Cairo main fragment); 4 years (among those of the early reign)of Huni (or perhaps Nebka) are on the Petrie fragment this last one recto is to be placed right of P or left of K1).
* Cf. Second Dynasty table for Khasekhemwy's status as last king of the Second Dynasty (=Bebty) or First one of the Third Dynasty (Necherophes/Necherothes).


by Dr. Nabil M.A. SWELIM

Other contemporary Names

New Kingdom Kinglists
Africanus (Af)
Eusebius (E)
Eratosthenes (Er)
Years of Reign
Funerary Monuments
Hornub Irtdjetef
Necherophis (Af)
Nechrochis (E)
Hierakonpolis Enclosure (Fort)
Tosorthros (Af)
Sesorthos (E)
Gisr el Modir at Saqqara
Tyreis (Af)
Ptahhotep enclosure at Saqqara
(King "W") *
Mesochris (Af)
Momcheiri (Er)
El Deir enclosure/mudbrick massif at Abu Roash
Senwy or Sensen,
(King "X")
Soyphis (Af)
Stoichos (Er)
Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara
Djeserty ankh
Tosortasis (Af)
Gosormies (Er)
Unfinished Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara
Akhes (Af)
Mares (Er)
Unfinished Pyramid at Zawiyet el Aryan
Sephuris (Af)
Anoyphis (Er)
Layer Pyramid at Zawiyet el Aryan
Kerpheris (Af)
Meydum Pyramid

The (Swelim's) suggested duration of the Third Dynasty is 138 years.

* King "W" and "X" are the two on Palermo Stone line V (recto).

The conclusion presented in this table are drawn from a long study presented by Dr. Nabil Swelim in 1983 (The Archaeological Society of Alexandria; Archaeological & Historical Studies n. 7) table of page 224. Only an accurate reading of this book does justice to the solutions the Egyptian author proposed for the history, chronology and monuments of the Third Dynasty of Egypt.
Also note that, having now passed almost 20 years from the edition of that study, Dr. Swelim might have modified some of the conclusions presented in his table. Furthermore some of Swelim's conclusions are not shared by myself (cfr. text below).

by Dr. PETER KAPLONY (in R.A.R. I, 1977 p. 146-55)

Horus Za
njswt-bity Wr-Za-Khnwm (I.A.F. p. 380, 468, 611)
2 months, 23 days
Horus Netjerykhet
njswt-bity nebty Netjerykhet (Ra) Nwb
19 years
Horus Sekhemkhet
njswt-bity Nebty Djoserty
6 years
Horus NekhetZa (Zanakht)
njswt-bity Nebka (-Ra)
Horus Tehenw (.j) Nwb (I.A.F. III n. 806)
19 years
Horus Khaba
njswt-bity Shenaka
Netjer Nwb
6 years
Horus NebHedjet
njswt H(w)
Nwb Nebhedjet
24 years
(tot. c. 74 years)

The Antecedents : The Second Dynasty

It seems assured that the origin of the III rd dyn. (which signs the definitive moving of the capital from Tinis to Memphis)has to be found in the person of King KHASEKHEMUI / Nebuihotepimef , who reordered the state after a period that, owing to the archaeological remains,looks somewhat obscure.
In spite of the presence of two II nd dyn.-ending royal tombs in the necropolis of Abydos , the nevralgic center of the country in the 'thinite' age was probably fixed at Memphis already since the age of Aha,as the posterior tradition concerning the mythical Menes states (the Ist dyn. cemetery starts in the reign of Aha).
No trace of Narmer has been found at Saqqara but at that time the necropolis must have been another one as traces of Ka appear at Helwan and other Dyn. 0 royal serekhs are on vessels from Tura and souther at Tarkhan.
The Thinite area had to have a prevailing mythical-religious importance (site of the burials of archaic chiefs in the cemeteries B and U, and main center of the god Khentyimentyw worship); about its political value we can't guess it because a royal palace, administration and urban settlement has never been found (Thinis should be under the modern Girga so it hasn't been excavated to present and probably never will); the focus of this statement is that the decrease of political significance of Abydos had not to await the III rd dyn. to happen, being in act already at the time of Aha. It seems unprobable that, after a king like Narmer, so much active in the NearEast, two dynasties had to pass before the definitive moving of the capital to Memphis, already built at the dawn of the first dynasty. The true political importance of Abydos must have lasted only for the dyn. 00 and 0 period.
A royal necropolis shift had been decided and accomplished at the beginning of the II nd dyn. for we know since the early '900 that the funerary underground galleries of the huge mastabas of Hotepsekhemwy and Nineter (1st and 3rd kings of the II nd dyn.) are located beneath the causeway and pyramid of the Unas complex , not far from the south wall of Djoser at Saqqara.
All the western side of the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser, from north to south,covers galleries that must surely have been those of II nd dynasty royal tombs. Their very dangerous excavation has never been attempted.
Other contemporary tombs are further north as the wide mastaba 2302 of Ruaben coeval of King Nebra.
The funerary cult of kings such as SENEDJ and PERIBSEN was overseen, during the fourth dyn., by a priest of Saqqara, Shery , chief of the Wab priests in the necropolis of Peribsen and in the palace (or domain) of Senedj (Grdseloff in A.S.A.E. 44 pag. 294 ; cfr. Sened).
The few traces of Uneg (WNG) (stone vases in Djoser complex and in S 3014) or of SENEDJ (ramessid lists and an inscription on a vessel from the funerary complex of Khafre at Giza) would here overcarry us (See II nd dyn.).
Among the kings of the II nd dyn., the last (KHASEKHEMUI) is the less 'present' at Saqqara, if we omit the 9 inscriptions on the vessels of the Djoser complex galleries(these ones deriving from an intence activity of recovery undertaken by Djoser, not necessarily only at Saqqara and cfr. the dating provided by Helck in Z.A.S. 106,120-32).
Khasekhemwy (already Khasekhem) is also the only king, together with Peribsen, to be well known at Abydos ( by a tomb and an enclosure) and at Hierakonpolis (another enclosure -'the fort'- , door jambs with foundation scenes from the temple of Horus, inscripted stone vessels, fragments of stelas and inscripted blocks and the two beautiful statues in Cairo and Oxford); and in these southern places the mentioned sovereigns of the II dyn. beginning are at their time almost totally absent.
It seems that at the eve of the definitive shift to Memphis of the royal necropolis too , one generation before the founders of the III rd dynasty, the necessity of a southward moving of the state barycentre was felt for some very mysterious reason.
The first three kings of the II nd dyn. haven't left but scanty traces -stone vases inscriptions in Peribsen's Umm el Qaab tomb (Petrie R.T. II pl. VIII/ 8-13)-, whereas the last two (the same Peribsen and Khasekhemui), poor if not completely lacking of coeval dignitaries buried at Saqqara, returned to build their tombs in the thinite cemetery of the First dynasty Kings at Umm el Qaab, which had been abandoned at the end of that dynasty. (We rehearse once again that the absence of Hotepsekhemwy-Ninetjer at Abydos is more significant than the one of Khasekhemwy at Saqqara: here, in fact, one of the underground western galleries of Djoser complex could 've belonged to his tomb; and Scottish Mus. archaeologists seem inclined to think that the largest Saqqara enclosure 'Gisr el Mudir' might have been built just by Khasekhemwy; this latter's wife name has been found at Helwan).
Still uncertain is the position of the king Sekhemib - Perenmaat whom an old hypothesis saw as the same person as Peribsen, before the "Sethian heresy" which would have brought him to change his titulary and name (cfr. in favour of this identity the seal impression in Petrie 'Scrabs & cylinders...' tav. VIII - Peribsen/Sekhemib).
This period is often described as theater of violent warfares between two factions (Northeners followers of Seth and Southeners followers of Horus) on the basis of hypothesis shared by authoritary professors who often leaned on data coming from too historicistical reading of clues contained in later myths or tales; the fires of Umm el Qaab tombs happily supported these theories fournishing an 'archaeological' proof (with also a literary echo); there do exist an effective paucity of informations for this period; and we are inclined to consider as 'Dark ages' or of deep crisis the reigns or dynasties leaving few traces.
In the light of these considerations the reign of Khasekhemui,with its various artistic outfits and the evidences of commercial relations with Byblos (cfr. Montet, Kemi 1), seems to shed new life in the shade of a newly born splendour after the country had suffered the aftermath of who knows what a stormy period of decadence.
But the whole question could be less drastic and apocalyptic than how it looks and it's not to exclude that some kings may have reigned in the north while others did in the south after a process of slow and silent disgregation rather than after warfares and riots (the general tendence of burocracy evolution seems actually to decrease).
The events of the II nd dyn. could also be interpreted as the effect or the result of that decentralization of the administrative power (already in progress at the beginning of the Ist dyn. and perhaps to read as a presupposition or the very pillar of the unification not as the degeneration of this one) which made the higher officials buried in Saqqara so close in richness of their tombs to their own kings' ones.
These latter were buried in Abydos where they had smaller burials (but associated to the wide enclosures that Petrie named 'Tombs of Courtiers' , north of Umm el Qaab).
A further explanation, recently well credited, of this phenomenon is the one that identifies in the nobles buried at Saqqara the brothers of the king or anyhow near relatives of his; these hypothetical relations of parentage have not been deduced by titles or epithets but by the hypothesis (of Kaplony) that this kind of links did exist whenever the high officials names were written beside the Serekh of the king over the wood/ivory labels.
Moreover , as the Old Kingdom history tells us , the fact that the king tried to cement around himself a loyal group of dignitaries through parental linkage (his brothers and husbands of his sisters), can't provide us from thinking that competitions and interests conflicts did happen the same way (as the countermeasures adopted in the VI th dyn. to stem the princes' growing pretensions do demonstrate).
Whether things really went this way it's thus statable that, between the Abydos buried kings and the respective high nobles and officials of theirs dwelling in Memphis during the first dynasty, there existed a kind of relation of subordination much less rooted and severe than how it could appear; and maybe this one was the only possible way at that time to keep under control the Delta or other provincial far away regions.
So the functionaries of the kings, dislocated in cities more or less distant from the royal residence, related or not with the royal family, perhaps even related with the most powerful families of the regions they lived in, must have enjoyed a certain authonomy ,in my opinion, during a period when a strong royal centralization was yet to come.
In any case the often too overlooked proof of the actual ownership of the Saqqara mastabas of the I st dyn. to private persons or anyway non-royal individuals, is provided to us (beyond the recent results of the german equipes excavations in Umm el Qaab) by the same findings in some of the memphite necropolid tombs: (Emery in A.S.A.E. 39) boxes containing workshop tools certainly much more fitting the status of a professional man than the one of a king.
Thus by the first two dynasties the stream of goods gotten thanks to the state fiscal withdrawal had not yet the big amount that it would reach during the forthcoming dynasties.
This was naturally the effect of the inefficiency of a organism still unable to master the incomes from too vast a territory without the helpful support of local authorities; these latter held for themselves consistent percentages (necessary for building the great tombs in the cemeteries of Tura, Saqqara, Tarkhan, Abu Roash) reducing by this way the complexive amount of taxes due to the sovereigns.
We can't exclude that an important administrative center did exist in Abydos too, because we have seen that kingly presence therein was highly possible at the end of the second dyn.,but, in the impossibility of verifing these statements on the field, they remain hypothetical.
It is worth to remember that the eventuality of a scission of Higher and Lower Egypt during the second dyn. is attemptable by reading through the lines of the 'Annals' (cfr. Barta in Z.A.S. 108 p.12): without going too far we'll limit to say that it isn't so obvious whether in this document of memphite tradition and of such a year by year chronology respectful character were actually included either the 'official' kings like the thinite Khasekhem(wy) or the contemporary (?) 'gegenkonige' of Memphis (Neferkara, Neferkasokar and the 'hudjefa' lacuna documented by the Turin Canon).
KHASEKHEMUI is the authority that resetted the state after this socio-political revolution whose most visible effect appears in the royal titulary propaganda as aderence to the cult of Seth/Ash in substitution of Horus upon the serekh of king Peribsen and as repacification of Horus and Seth by KHASEKHEMUI (Nebui-hotep-im.f).
This well known religious aspect of the question has brought egyptologists (from Sethe to Emery) to propose the theory of the religious war thus mistaking a mere effect or aspetct with the cause :but ,as we know, all holy wars hide, behind the religious reasons , interests and aims of sheerer political-economical matrix; and it's just of this genere that the crisis of the II nd dyn. could have been.
But even wanting to soften the tones of the problem, it remains undeniable that the presence of Khasekhem almost totally limited at the sole Hierakonpolis, and that one of KHASEKHEMUI (the same king) more large, indicate that this latter king has to be acknowledged with some kind of unificatory action over the country.
Furthermore the presence of the tombs of Kings like Khasekhemwy and Peribsen in the same Abydos necropolis makes me think that these individuals should hardly have been antagonists. (cfr. Dynasty II pages) W. Helck proposed (Thinitenzeit 1987 p. 105) that Horus Ninetjer might have been the author of this division of the Egypt wanting to equally treat two sons of his (thus the elder -Wng- was placed at Memphis and the younger -Sekhemib ?- at Abydos) ; so there would have been a Lower Eg. King and an Upper Eg. one ; the first wouldn' t be only Bity but indeed Nswtbity,with a relevant political importance, while the southern king, known by his Horus name, would have had a prevalently religious function. Only new data can clarify which of these theories is right.
At Elefantine seal impressions of Peribsen have been found: if this could be enough to extabilish that this frontier was controlled by the half second dyn. pharaonic state, then some too radically decadentist theory about this phase should be rechecked; but, judging the results of the german excavations, it seems that the II nd dyn. datable phase can be taken to indicate a period of actual hiatus in the pharaonic presence compared with the one of the I st dyn. (Temple of Satis and Fortress) or to the III rd dyn. (administrative complex, pyramid and seal impressions - see Seidlmayer in Spencer 1996).
Further findings from other sites could increase our knowledge of dynasts and kingdoms still in the shade today allowing more certain conclusions on facts that now can only be object of ephemerally based hypothesis.
KHASEKHEMUI married queen Nimaathapi, who was buried at Bet Khallaf (K2) and who is also known in the north by seal impressions from Saqqara (???).
During his reign the technical and artistical achievements returned to the high levels of the first kings: index of a new found peace or perhaps of a real (n th) reunification of the two lands .
Over some seal impressions found by Petrie in the Abydos tomb of Khasekhemwy and by Garstang at Bet Khallaf) queen Nimaathapi bears the title of 'Motheri of the King's sons' ; being the Bet Khallaf necropolis still in use by the time of the first kings of the III rd dyn. it was hypothized that the royal couple generated Sanakht (= Nebka ?) and NETERYHET (Djoser) the first two kings (?) of the third dynasty. (For the order of the II nd dyn. kings see Helck in 'Thinitenzeit' p.100-109, 194-203 and id. in Z.A.S. 106 p. 120-32).

The III rd dyn. shines in the light reflected by a great king: Djoser; in his epoch, for the first time in egyptian history, absolute splendour levels are reached as truly monumental works witness not only in architectural field; this is the age of the first private individuals of whom we have been able to grasp something more than sheer name and titles, thanks to their wisdom, capabilities and magnificence of their last residence.
Again the central period of the dynasty is marked by deep lacunae in our knowledges , lacunae that possibly did already exist in ramessid age, at the time of the edition of the royal lists of Abydos,Saqqara, and Turin papyrus.
Some names are known in single documents : NEFERKARA and NEBKARA are respectively the 5 th of the 5 names of the Abydos list and the 3 rd over the 4 of the Saqqara list.
In this latter (Tomb of Tjuroy) the first king is Djoser whom the Royal Canon of Turin and the Abydos list in the temple of Sethi I put after NEBKA (placed as last king of the II nd dyn. in the Turin Papirus to exalt the name of Djoser, the beginner of a new epoch).
SEDJES is named only at Abydos (4 th) while in the same position the Royal Papyrus reports six years of ... ...djefa ; this, more than Sedjefa (assonance with Sedjes), can be reconstructed as "hudjefa", the same word as the one at the end of the second dynasty on the same document between NEFERKASEKER and BEBY (this last one a new kingdom misinterpretation of the Nebwyhotepimef name of Khasekhemwy.
Goedicke (J.E.A. 42 p.50) proposed to intend the passage as an indication of "lacuna" in the original document from which the papyrus had been copied, not as the name of a King as does Barta in his sistemation of the Old Kingdom chronology based on the analysis of the Palermo Stone (Z.A.S. 108, 1981) : here HUDJEFA is equated to NEFERKARA / SEDJES at his time equal to the Horus KHABA.
Recently a nice stela bought at the end of the '60 by the Louvre Museum has been reattributed to the III rd dyn. It shows the Horus QA HEDJET standing and embraced by the god Horus ; the piece had been previously dated to QA'A (I st dyn. ending) but looks stylistically closer to the Wadi Maghara reliefs of the III rd dynasty at which comparison undoubtly shows a superior precision and mastery of the traits.
Barta (op.cit.) identifies Qa hedjet with HUNI , whose Horus name is yet unknown (cfr. also Kahl et al 1995).
It is thus highly probable that the period before Huni was dominated by a succession of various kings with an ephemeral reign duration, few years or months. This would explain the discordances among the lists about the period after Sekhemhet and leave space for further addictions of new royal names.
The beginning of the dynasty, even if not absolutely devoid of problems, is with the king NEBKA/SANAKHT; he should precede (not follow as in Drioton e Vandier p.169) NETERYHET/Djoser. Anyway recently it has come back again the use of placing Sanakht after Sekhemhet (Kahl op. cit.).
The other sovereign famous by his Saqqara complex, Sekhemhet (TETY, DJOSERTETY e DJOSERTY in the king lists) precedes (rather than following) KHABA to whom is attributed the Zawiyet el Aryan Layer Pyramid.
Still remains to say something about the reason for a dynastic change : Manetho tells of '9 kings of Memphis'; although Khasekhemwy seemed to bring the capital back to Hierakonpolis in his age ,most of the regnants of the II nd dyn. are better attested at Saqqara than anywhere else and this could indicate a shift in the command city to Memphis quite before the beginning of the III rd dyn.
Apart from this, our informations could have been faked by the casuality of the survival or of the loss of objects belonging to this period.
We know that urban areas of ancient sites (This,Memphis)are under the modern settlements,so archaeologically lost. (Other reflections about the dynastic change are infra sub voce Huni).
Although lacking rich corpora of inscriptions on seals, on ivory and wooden labels and on stone vases, typical of the two 'thinite' dynasties, the third is quite superior in what concerns the examples of statuary,tomb reliefs and paintings (from the private mastaba field west of the I st dyn. tombs, North Saqqara) royal funerary complexes.
The third dyn. statuary can be devided in two main groupings: until Huni (or few before) the royal and private pieces show evident continuity with the material of the II nd dyn.
Only the two examples of Khasekhem(wy) from Hierakonpolis temple don't fit very well with the sequence,being so sharply detailed as to be considered by some scholars od Saite period.
A nice statuette of Ninether (G. Michailides collection), of which W.K. Simpson (J.E.A. 42 p. 48) writes that it "resembles the Djoser serdab statue more closely than it does the Khasekhem pair in the treatment of the volumes of the body ", isn't of firmly prooved autenticity as well.
In general second group statues show a trademark typical of the transition period running through the reigns of Huni, Snofru, Khufu.
By this time there is a relatively rapid disappearing of the 'archaic poses' and of their variants, the shapes get less squat, the materials undergo an inversion in their usage, the limestone being preferred for private statuary whereas harder stones are for the royal one.
To this second grouping belong the statues of Sepa and Neset, Methen, Rahotep and Nofret, Akhetaa.
There's the big head of a king in white crown (granite, Brooklyn Mus.) possibly representing Huni or Khufu and the so called "Chicago scribe"(granite) the older example of this particular posture.
Of the first group we mention Nedjemankh,Ankhwa(once known as Bedjmes), Redit (Turin Mus.), the "lady of Bruxelles", a king with knife in Brooklyn, Ankh, the serdab statue of Djoser and other white limestone fragments of statues of Djoser.
More archaic are 'Hotepdief'-Redjet (Cairo 1), the"lady of Naples", the Abusir limestone statuette of Berlin and the cited royal statues of Khasekhem and Ninether, along with other minor anonymous pieces.
Private Tombs
The wider private cemeteries of the III rd dyn. are in Lower Egypt, around Memphis or few farer.
The Meidum necropolis began its development just around the pyramid of Huni.
At Saqqara, after the long row of I dt dyn. mastabas on the east edge of the escarpment, the necropolis of the II-III rd dyn. began to stretch westward : in a relatively restricted space more than 2000 tombs were built, tens of which were more than 20 meters in N-S length.
The books that describe these monuments- Mariette 'Les Mastabas de l' Ancien...',Quibell 'Archaic Mastabas' and Reisner 'Development ...' - were published respectively in 1898,1923 and 1936.
Among the best known and most interesting there's the one of Hesyra briefly described infra.
Generally the superstructure is in bricks , the facade is smoothed and sometimes it covers a precedent niched facade (Giza T is an example with all 4 sides niched, Hesyra QS 2405 had niched facade only on the east side).
The entrance is on the east side, near its southern corner; a cruciform niche guests the serdab in its southern side while a long corridor runs northward throughin the two parallel eastern facades.
As for the substructure it is even harder trying to simplify ; we focus on Reisner (Tomb Development) groups IV-A(1) and IV-B(1) (cfr.Vandier 'Manuel' 1952 p.660-672) the subterranean chambers of which are reached by a ramp , a vertical pit or by both (always dug in the rock).
The IV-B(1) type, multi-chambered, can contain up to two or three underground floors.
A brief account of IIIrd dynasty cemeteries is in Swelim (Some Problems... p. 88-99, 116-123)
Royal complexes
Some mention of Royal funerary complexes will be given in the King by King section infra; worthy to remember here the presence at Saqqara of at least two wide enclosures apart from the ones known.
West of the Djoser complex (air photogr.) two sides of a smaller enclosure with its north wall located near the area of the tomb of Ptahhotep. It has been dated to the III rd dyn. but to no particular king (Ptahhotep enclosure).
Much more monumental is instead the wall rectangle west of Sekhemhet enclosure, known as "Gisr el Mudir": already sketched on J. de Morgan chart of the Memphite Necropolis, it covers a surface that's once and a half the Djoser complex's; the average thickness of the walls (de Morgan thought them to be double walls) is of 15 m. and their course is straight , not with in-and-out niches.
No remain of contemporary buildings has been found inside its area, only late age burials and few objects of the III rd dynasty. Since 1990 scotch archaeologists are testing this enclosure by means of magnetic resistivity. (cfr. J.E.A. 79/ 1993, M.D.A.I.K. 47/ 1991 and N. Swelim 'Some Problems ...' 1983).
See the high res map here 361 Kb (N.B. It takes c. 2 minutes to appear).
The Gisr el Mudir, albeit the III rd dyn. objects found in it, is likely a work of the late IInd dyn. Khasekhemwy (also the Step Pyramid galleries beneath the Western Massif and the north west area may be of IInd dynasty date).
We will speculate in the chapter of HUNI about the 7 small stepped pyramids or "Sinki" found in various parts of Egypt and almost all dated to the time of that King or slightly after him.
We are on behalf of Lauer (R.d.E. 14) in excluding for the Northern Pyramid of Zawiet el Aryan a building date higher than the half of the fourth dynasty.
This deep ramp, once dated to Nebka by a hieratic name written on some blocks Barsanti found at the begin. of the '900 (A.S.A.E. 7 and 12 , B. Gunn in A.S.A.E. 26 p. 177-96) and which Reisner thought of II nd dyn., is almost surely relatable to a Khefren successor (in the dynastic line of Djedefra or to one of those names in a lacuna on col. 3 n. 14-16 of the Turin Royal Papyrus ) or to one of the Princes of Khufw in Wadi Hammamat graffiti (Baefra, Djedefhor).
The size (of the excavation and of the stone block used), the massive use of granite stones and the evident resemblance, even if in major scale, with the Abu Roash monument of Djedefra, enhance this hypothesis; furthermore the rock cut oval sarcophagus and the corridor inside the trench are common to the monuments of Abu Roash and Zawiyet el Aryan south.
Yet do marvel some elements that are proper of the third dynasty (ramp) and that we can explain only as the result of a return to the past, happened during the IV dyn., when a perhaps unknown king projected and began the construction of a complex in the fashion of those in use almost a century before.
Don't forget that a similar occasion of a backward tendence in royal tomb construction happened in the reign of Shepseskaf, just at the end of the fourth dynasty, when a large size mastaba was adopted as king burial place; the same Djedefra pyramid of Abu Roash had its temple north of it , not east as it had become traditional.
The reading of the mentioned cursive writing has been referred to the obscure NEFERKARA or NEBKARA as well (a king to be dated at the end of the III rd dyn.,cfr. Helck, Z.A.S.106 p.120-32).
In any case it seems more convincing to look at that huge trench as the work of a pharaoh, although ephemeral, belonging to the second half of the IV th dynasty ,rather than an equally minor king of the III rd.
Nabil Swelim has presented detailed data on behalf of his theory of a third dynasty datation for the monument in object: he has dedicated a whole chapter in his book ('Some Problems ...' 1983, chapter III) to the Zawyiet el Aryan trench, expressing the convinction that it belonged to NEBKARA, predecessor of NEFERKA ('builder of the Layer Pyramid of Zawyiet el Aryan').
As far as other monuments we will also consider two mudbrick pyramid structures (cfr. Sanakht and Huni) both built at Abu Roash, ascribed to the third dynasty by N. Swelim (the earlier could also be of late second dynasty date).
SANAKHT / NEBKA (Click it to see the updated page of SANAKHT)
This King' s relative position is not sure at all ; he was once thought to be successor of Djoser, giving higher importance to the proofs in favour of this order (proofs that do anyhow exist). Indeed the Horus Sekhemhet was at that time yet unknown.
Recently this King's position has been again shifted after Sekhemhet; 1996 findings from Khasekhemwy tomb V at Umm el Qa'ab seem to value the direct succession Khasekhemui-Netjeryhet, thus Sanakht is placed after the reign of Sekhemhet (or after the one of Khaba). But the evidences from the necropolis of Zawiyet el Aryan, Beit Khallaf and Saqqara still show how hard is it to separate the apparent continuity between Sanakht-Djoser (Beit Khallaf), Djoser-Sekhemhet (Saqqara Step Pyr. Complexes) and Sekhemhet-Khaba (Pyramid underground plan).
Hence, let's see in detail all the possibilities one by one:
Sanakht after Sekhemhet is hardly possible because this would mean to separate Sanakht 's reign from Djoser's with c. 20 years and this is unacceptable for the Beit Khallaf mastabas architecture belong to close reigns.
Sanakht after Khaba is still more unacceptable: for the same motivation just told plus that we'd insert a reign between Sekhmhet and Khaba: but the Pyramid complex of Khaba, even in a minor scale, must be directly connected with the one of Sekhemhet (and the latter must have immediately followed Djoser's by its walls graffitos, the king lists and the cemetery choice evidence).
The Wadi Maghara graffitos seem to show few style differences among Djoser,Sekhemhet and Sanakht reliefs.
However I admit that the proofs just mentioned are not so strong, each one of them could be contradicted by the facts; the possibility that Djoser buried his father Khasekhemwy is very strong .
But now think again to the proof of the seal impressions of Netjeryhet near Khasekhemwy's tomb entrance; it has been interpreted as the demonstration that the former immediately followed the latter; this is questionable too : seal impressions of the 2 nd dyn. first King ,Hotepsekhemui, have been found into Qa'a 's tomb, none the less we know that at least two kings (Sneferka and Ba), albeit ephemeral, reigned after Qa'a and before the IInd dyn. foundator ....(indeed the position of Sneferka and Ba is in turn puzzling and might be in the mid IInd dyn or,for Ba, later).
I think that Sanakht must have reigned before Netjeryhet of whom was probably a relative; as we will see under Netjeryhet , Sanakht must have reigned only few years (alike Sekhemhet and Khaba).
This is what the scarcity of architectural evidence from his reign leads us to believe; only the K2 Mastaba at Bet Khallaf and perhaps some early structure in the Step Pyramid enclosure (the Mastaba 1 stage) can be assigned to him therfore he can hardly have been on the throne of Egypt for more than 5-7 years.
It's still today object of debate the belongings of the names Nebka / Sanakht to an individual king, although most of the egyptologists still accept it on the basis of a rather weak proof: Kurt Sethe read [NEB] KA onto a seal impression from Bet Khallaf (where the two names look coupled cfr.Cambridge Anc. Hist. vol. I pt.2 pag 157 and Drioton-Vandier -CLIO- p.200) with the only .... KA surely readable of the second name (Garstang M.& Bet Khallaf pl. XIX,7).
I am inclined to think (as Helck 'Thinitenzeit' p. 107) that Nebka and Sanakht are two separate kings, but it is hard even to find reasons or proofs for placing the former after the latter (see Helck in Z.A.S. 106,1979 p. 130).
Mastaba K2 at Bet Khallaf , once related to Sanakht, is probably predatable to his mother (??) Nimaathapi (Vandier -Manuel I , 870 ; Reisner - Develop. ; Lauer - Pyr. Degr.); various inscriptions and seal impressions of Sanakht have been found in it (Kahl et al. 1995 p.140-151). But note that in the main (the southern one) of the two burials within this tomb, were found bones of a tall man (almost 1,90 m) and Manetho cites that one of the last kings of the second dynasty (Sesochris) was more than 3 cubits tall... The wooden sarcophagus had been eaten by ants (Swelim S.P. p.95).
According to Petrie (A History I pp. 29-30 7.ed.) Sanakht was identical both with Nebka and Nebkara.
R.Weill (II et III dynasties) equated Sanakht with NEFERKA; Barta (op.cit.) to Nebka-Nebkara as Petrie too.
Recently it has been taken again in consideration the hypothesis (Swelim, Kahl) that Sanakht must be placed chronologically after Djoser and Sekhemhet.
Some traces do indicate that Nebka could have used a cartouche (seshen) for his second name; but during the rest of the dynasty the Horus(Serekh) Name continued to prevail,until the definitive change of importance happened under Huni, Snofru and Khufu of whom the (Nswt Bity) cartouche names are the most commonly used. The first appearance of a cartouche encircled royal name is anyhow dated to the preceeding dynasty as it is shown by the examples of Nefersenedjra, Neferkaseker and by an unpublished sealing of PERIBSEN at the Civiche Raccolte in Milan (RAN 997 02 01) (this piece is recently appeared on the Ravenna 1998 exposition catalog 'Kemet Alle sorgenti del Tempo' p.252).
The oldest Nebka cartouche pieces are those in the inscriptions of the Akhetaa mastaba (Saqqara Q 3345-3346) and others from Abusir now in Berlin and Leipzig Museums (Kahl et al. 1995 p.202-5(Nebka), 140-51(Sanakht)).
All the attestations of his name are in N. Swelim (op. cit. p.189); there is also an impression on clay jar-stoppers which was found by Quibell (Archaic Mastabas 1923 p.34) in the Saqqara Third Dynasty tomb S2322 (c. 40 m. east of Ruaben S2302).
The Horus name SANAKHT is among those ones found in Sinai near the Wadi Maghara; useful the comparison these reliefs to try to extabilish a stilistical relative sequence of Sanakht as predecessor or follower of Djoser (see the apparently more archaic style in the relief on W.S. Smith H.S.P.O.K. in the plate 30c ).
Even if, as it was said, the name Sanakht appears at Bet Khallaf , no trace has been found here of a mastaba that might be surely have been his own; it has been (not merely speculatively) suggested , that the first building- phase (Mastaba I) of Djoser' s pyramid at Saqqara was a Sanakht 's effort.
Alternatively it was proposed as his burial place the pit-gallery #3 under the east side of the same pyramid,where Lauer (see in B.I.F.A.O. 79 p. 368-9) thought that Djoser did transfer Sanakht' s body.
In a vessels deposit north of Djoser 's funerary temple various SANAKHT naming seal-impressions were found, whereas only a pair of them did come from the underground galleries of the pyramid (Kaplony I.A.F. I p.170).
Apart from the Bet Khallaf seals (Garstang, 'Mahasnah and Bet Khallaf' pl. XIX), references on some scarabs of NEBKA are in Petrie (A History of Egypt I, pp. 29,30 - 7 ed.): Sayce, Fraser, Petrie Hist.Sc.
On the scarabs the name is closed in a cartouche and the hands of the hieroglyph 'ka' are of ovoidal shape; these could be of late period but I prefer to see them as an Old Kingdom example (cfr. parallels in Kaplony 1963,1981).
Seal impressions of Sanakht have been found in the '80ies by the german archaeologists at Elefantine (see pl.65b in M.D.A.I.K. 38 and id. pag. 308 , fig.15). A. Dodson (KMT 9:2,1998 ) has proposed that one of the two Abu Roash mudbrick structures could be the tomb of Nebka (if indeed he is the first king of the dynasty); it's a "mudbrick enclosure 330 x 170 m (?) with a 20 meters central square massif of the same material, located north of the modern village of Abu Roash, known as El Deir.It has been badly damaged by drainage work since first being discovered in 1902, and now may be beyond saving. However, the plan seems to closely resemble royal funerary monuments of the late Second early Third dynasties, while pottery from the site has been dated to the latter period". (A. Dodson, KMT 9:2, 1998 p. 30)
Nabil Swelim (S.P. p.36-9) gives more details and a plan of the enclosure. No entrance has been discovered (although only the southern part of the eastern wall and c. 50 meters of the eastern part of the southern wall are preserved) but two smaller walls perpendicular to the main one, have been interpreted as a possible structure which could be a ramp for the entrance in this complex (they' replaced outside the southern part of the eastern wall, about the same place of the other enclosures' entrances).
Few officials of Sanakht are known: Nedjemankh could have begun his career under this king; the noble, administrator and visir Menka (Cambridege Anc. History vol. I pt. 2, 1971) could have instead ended his under Sanakht, but he more probably lived by the end of the second dynasty : he is actually named on some inscriptions on Djoser complex stone vessels, and these are all dated to the first two diyasties. (The 'visir' title -Thaty- appears ,before than Menka, only on the Narmer Palette whereon it is really doubtful whether it stands for a public office or not) .
Other inscriptions from Saqqara (with no royal name on them) bear the names of Htp Hpn and of Khnum-ii-n-i, maybe two individuals lived in that period (cfr. R. Weill in R.d.E. 3 p. 125-6).
The mentioned tomb Bet Khallaf K2 (with two ramps and two separate internal areas) contained fragments of seal impressions with,apart from Sanakht name and some titles (Overseer of the granaries), 2 officials' names: Inpuhotep and Sekhem Mery Maat (Petrie, A History I p.30 7th edition).
Akhetaa, a III rd dyn. priest, is said to have served in the funerary temple of Nebka (Helck in Z.A.S. 106p.129) as some of his Saqqara funerary chapel inscriptions show. (Helck 'Thinitenzeit' 1987 p. 244 ff - AaAkhty -) .
Nebka could also be the Nswt bity of Horus Sanakht -brother(?) and predecessor of DJOSER-but he is perforce to dissociate from NEBKARA (who must have lived about half a century later).
It's worth to repeat that a NEB-KA transcription was first given to the coursive writings on blocks from the cited Zawyiet el Aryan unfunished pyramid (named: Nebka is a star)(A.S.A.E. 7 p.257-86 ; R.d.E. 14p.21-36 ); but, as we said, not even convincing is the attribution to the phantomatic NEBKARA \ NEFERKARA (3 rd dyn. ending) because we are inclined to look at this complex as one of the half of the IV th dyn. (cfr.Lauer in R.d.E. 14 loc.cit. and Cerny in M.D.A.I.K. 16; cfr supra).
We can't leave out the hypothesis of a reusal by un unknown king of stone blocks marked for Nebka's burial; it is not so strange, if this was the case, that the inscriptions weren't erased (see for a recent recollocation to the III rd dyn. Dodson in D.E. 3, 1985 p.21-3; id. Z.A.S. 108, 1981 p. 171).
Fragments of a tomb in Abusir name a priest in the funerary temple of NEBKA (Leps. Denk. II,39) and, not far from there, in the funerary temple of Niuserra, a property of NEBKA is mentioned (Borchardt 'Grab. N.' 79).
In the Royal Canon of Turin NEBKA (col. III,4) precedes Djoser and is told to have reigned for 19 years.
The Petrie Museum Annals fragment has, on its recto, 4 years of reign of Nebka (4-7) (cfr. Helck cit. p.166); the Palermo Stone recto (V,1-7) bears the last seven years (v .Barta op. cit.) of his reign: mentioned here are some traditional ceremonies ('The Followers of Horus', the 'Appearance of the King of the South and of the North ' and, in the 15 th year, the erection of a copper statue of king KHASEKHEMUI (who was probably Nebka' s father); in the 16 th year there was the eighth counting of the gold and pastures (?).
In the 13 th year the construction of a Mn-Ntrt stone building; darker the 17 th year entry: "4 th time of the transportation of (to) the wall of Dwa Djefa"(?) and the "ships launching"(Schafer) or "spreading(shd G. F30) of blood (dshrt)" (thus the inauguration ?) or "receiving the red crown"; (cfr. Helck - Thinitenzeit p. 166).
In a slim discordance with the Turin Pap. , the Palermo Stone annals seem to give only 17 years, 2 months, 23 days of reign to Nebka*.
Both seem to be too long periods for such a poorly attested reign, expecially in the light of the equal length of 19 years transmitted to us for the reign of the notorious successor.
*[Note: these are student's reconstructions: the most important are those of Kaiser, Helck and Barta; they 've hypothesized the belongings of the Annals'(recto) reigns in relation with the only readable royal name (Ninether on the row V and Snofru in VI) and relatively to the supposed width of the entire wall on which they were carved)] .
Manetho reported 28 years for the III rd dyn. founder Necherothes(or Necherophes) a name that sounds highly similar to the Horus name of Djoser ,Nethetyhet, that he spells Tosorthros; but Manetho never mentions names deriving from the Horus name and, in all cases, the hint to Imuthes (Imhotep) in relation to the second king of the dynasty III, takes the doubts away; neither too strangely , also Manetho places NEBKA at the end of the II nd dynasty in order to exalt the position of Djoser as founder (the Royal Canon of Turin has it in red ink probably because Djoser was at the top of a column in the original papyrus from which the Turin document was copied).
The opposite device (Nebka postponing) seems to have been adopted (by the same purpose) in the famous tales of the Westcar Papyrus: after a prince of Khufu (no name remains but he was possibly Djedefra or Kawab) told an episode happened at the time of Djoser, Khefren tells about a prodigy of the age of the 'father' (ancestor) of Khufu, NEBKA; a chief ritualist of Nebka, Ubainer, punishes his wife's lover by throwing a wax figurine into the water where it becomes a crocodile that devours the guilty man; Ubainer 's unfaithful wife is burnt and her ashes spread in the river waters (Pap. Berlin 3033). (cfr. also Wildung 'Die Rolle ...' 1967 p.54-57)
Lastly we must mention that Helck , who has we have told denies the identity Nebka-Sanakht, also refuses the identity of Sanakht with a mysterious Horus ZA whose name has been found on stone vessels inscription from the Djoser's complex east galleries naming "the Ka-house of Horus Za". Za could be the Horus name of Wng. (cfr. Kaplony in 'The Nile Delta in transition' p. 28; Helck 'Thinitenzeit' p. 107-8; Helck Z.A.S. 106 p. 128,130).
Manetho briefly tells of a lybian rebellion happened under Nebka, but we know no further event for this period.
Certainly the evolution in the administration of a very wide territory is already in progress as the traces found on the southern frontier outpost of Elephantine (and the dignitaries' titles proliferation) demonstrate. (for Khasekhemwy-Nebka-Djoser family relations and Nebka not = Sanakht see Helck 'Thinitenzeit' p. 107-9). [For Sanakht on the WWW see also Mercer's page]

NETERYHET / DJOSER (Click it to see the updated page of NETJERYKHET- Djoser)
This is most important king of the third dynasty and one of the most famous of the whole Old Kingdom.
As we have told for Sanakht-Nebka it is still difficult to understand whether Netjerykhet was the beginner of this dynasty or the second king.
The first hypothesis has been recently preferred but some doubts still remain. (Cfr. infra to Sanakht)
I am firmly convinced that Netjerykhet was Khasekhemwy and Nimaathapy's son, but I also think that a reign by a brother of him must have preceeded his.
But I also admit that: 1) the proofs for this statement are not direct ones, but derive from the difficulty to place Sanakht elsewhere; 2) there do exist proofs of the contrary hypothesis, namely the presence of seal impressions of Netjeryhet in Khasekhemwy's tomb (V) and funerary enclosure(Shunet ez Zebib) at Abydos; but as we have seen (cfr. infra Sanakht) the apparent direct succession Qaa-Hotepsekhemwy that the latter's seal impressions in the former's tomb should prove, did not happen in reality (2 or 3 ephemeral kings reigned after Qaa).
[Note :the seal impression Wilkinson (E.D.E. 1999 p.95) mentions as found in Khasekhemwy's Abydos tomb V only shows the sign 'ntr' which could also be reconstructed as Ninetjer 's horus name (Kahl 1994 quellen 2099); certainly of Netjerykhet is instead the specimen recently found by the german mission (M.D.A.I.K. 54, pl. 15 b)].
The biggest problem is just the consistence of Sanakht's reign: it would surely fit very much better before Djoser if we knew that Sanakht reign lasted only few years; archaeological evidence is not very impressive: no tomb or funerary complex has been found and the only massive architecture datable to him is at Beit Khallaf.
So I conclude that the Turin Papyrus amount of 19 years is likely a mistake (the same number is also provided for his follower Djoser) and Djoser was effectively preceeded by Sanakht who reigned just few years.
Personalities like Imhotep, Hesyra, Nedjemankh, Khnumenii lived during Djoser's reign.
King and dignitaries of his are the prime mover of such an evident development, clearly manifest in the higher degree of architectural complexity and in the deeper and more differentiated symbolic value of the constitutive and decorative elements of the Saqqara funerary royal/private apparatus.
The technical-organizative skill of these individuals opened up the doors to prestigious careers for these officials who could thus reach the vertices of the burocracy and leadership (indipendently from their social origins); albeit the nobles were always the ones who could more easily access to higher charges, only by the IV dyn. will the top levels of the administration system begin becoming a 'monopoly' of royal family relatives .
I don't want to describe extensively the Djoser funerary complex at Saqqara; suffices it to remark few points:
in primis the importance of the excavations that, since 1920s, involved Firth, Quibell, Lauer after that briefer explorations had been lead by Segato, Perring, Brugsch and Lepsius in the century before.
1) Noteworthy is the recognization of a whole serie of architectural elements with a strong symbolic-evocative value (now reerected within the enclosure wall perimeter); they are the first attempt of a transposition to the stone masonry of archaic shrines that had been built, since then, in perishable materials (and so lost for us).
The monument is a huge funerary offering to the deceased king, granting for him the eternal repetition of his Jubilee feast (Heb Sed) by virtue of the magic which representations possessed in the ancient egyptians' belief.
The importance is in the fact that, in circa half a century, the royal funerary complexes underwent a complete transformation after which 'new forms' substituted the 'archaic ones' and these latter persisted only in altered or reelaborated manners (often distant from their original models).
It 's an archaicizant style based on models that were probably ancient even for that time , some traces of which is on the thinite labels or in some Pyramid Texts hieroglyphs and passages.
As we' ll see, no other royal complex is likely to have been ultimated in this phase until the one of Huni/Snofru in Meidum (whose traces are almost completely lost except for the pyramid).
The enclosure wall with "palace facade" course , formerly adopted in the Abydos and Hierakonpolis 'talbezirke' (once called 'forts') as for external side of the Abydos (I-II dyn) and Saqqara(I - III dyn.) mastabas, will be used past this age solely in the paintings of coffin decorations.
So , even being each Pharaoh's funerary complex a 'unicum' in itself, the one of Djoser is still more unique, owing to the absence of further similar monuments either preserved or finished (cfr. sub Sekhemhet too).
The different stages in the Step Pyramid construction starting from a mastaba and then getting a 4 steps and so finally 6 steps pyramid, the underground galleries confused nature, indicate that the project was the first attempt in this kind of architecture; it covered previously built tombs (as the 11 eastern pits under the pyramid east side and the scarcely known storerooms corridors on the west side of the complex ) of the II dynasty and early III rd.
The two later III rd dyn. funerary complexes of Sekhemhet and Khaba are, in their poorness, architectures of a more oredered design, reflecting a project which was extabilished and fixed from the beginning of the works not one that proceeded with addictions and modifications over other buildings; in this aspect Djoser complex was, alike the ones of Snofru and Khufu, a break in the tradition and a look to something new although based on the previous monuments' and ideology's foundations.
We can only speculate about the motives that led to similar kinds of developments, probably a reflection of parallel evolutions in the religious, political and certainly economical and technological sphere.
In conclusion we rehearse the concept that the Step Pyramid Complex, so aboundant of symbols from the past tradition as of new elements of differentiation from that, witnesses by its magnificence the high degree of state organization achieved and the power-display through conspicuous consumption of means and materials that the King could manage; by its multiplied symbols and evocatory manufacts it in turn witnesses the deeper and more etherogeneous ideologies evolving towards the extabilishment of the Pharaonic Egypt's traditional culture.
2) As far as inscriptional material, the underground chambers and galleries have returned tens of thousands of vessels, but their importance il limited to the study of the period immediately before this one (dyn I and II); no example bears the names of Nebka/Sanakht or Netheryhet/Djoser (cfr. Helck in Z.A.S. 106; Kahl 1994; Lacau-Lauer Pyr.Deg. IV(1959), V(1965)) .
We must remind, on this subject, that the whole area of galleries under the western side of the complex has been only superficially explored (it is dangerous and falling); more than 400 meters of comb-like stores yet perhaps not surprising in architectural structure could instead be source of many more archaeological findings;the sector must in fact have covered (Stadelmann) II dyn. mastaba substructures like the ones south of the southern wall.
Another area that could give satisfactory results is that between the funerary temple and the northern wall; it's yet uncleared but various sparse superficial findings have been done here and the western area of the northern court lies, like the western massif, over underground galleries of probable II nd dyn. date (these ones have been proposed as substructures of royal tombs of obscure kings like Wng, Send, or of the great Khasekhemwy; Stadelmann in B.d.E. 97,2 (1985) p.295-307; Dodson in KMT 7:2 (1996) p.19-31; cfr. id. Z.A.S. 115 (1988)p. 133).
The underground galleries and funerary chamber under the pyramid, as well as the South tomb, have never been open to the tourists for their conditions of stability have always been considered very dangerous; the recent 1992 earthquake has brought even more deterioration, and large faults are evident (as in the Serapeum); questions do arise about the urge to remove parts of the decorations which could be lost in case of a ceiling collapse; Johnson has pointed to a seismic analysis of faults and other damages originated by the quakes (J.A.R.C.E. 36, p.135-47).
3) Reliefs; the well known panels in the niches of the underground galleries (of both the pyramid and the 'south tomb') show the king celebrating royal rituals surrounded by geographic and magic symbols and hieroglyphs of often obscure meaning (see F.D. Friedman in J.A.R.C.E. 32, 1995 p. 1-42). These carvings have a fully new and sharper geometry and spatial organization, prefiguring the graphic style of the texts in the IV th and V th dyn. tombs.
The inscriptions begin to be enclosed by rows or columns and yet without lines the writing is more ordered and well settled into its own spaces.
Less evident is the progress in the statuary ; either the private or the royal one , still shows predilection for a set of canons belonging to the past epoch: the archaic 'Khendw' seat; facial features more accurately defined than the rest of the rawly made body; but indeed the excessive squatness in the features of the II nd dynasty statue(tte)s , the preminent head on proportionally small shoulders (except for Khasekhem's).
The Djoser's Serdab statue and a couple of later red granite heads (HUNI ?) are the only examples of IIIrd dyn. royal statuary; there are indeed various fragments from the Step pyramid complex like bases (Cairo Museum n. 6009) or limbs of statues; the same site produced too some fragments of statues socles decorated with prisoners' heads (6050), very rare specimen indeed.

Other reliefs of Djoser have been found at Horbeit (Shednu , the Lower Eg. XI th nome capital) and especially in the ruins of a temple of Heliopolis (Turin Museum) from where Schiapparelli brought back , in the beginning of the 1900, about 40 fragments of inscribed white limestone of various size; two women names appear on them: Intkaes and Hotephernebty plus a third one (tentatively the mother queen Nimaathapi,spouse of Khasekhemui).
They are at the feet of the sitting king and rendered in a much smaller scale than the king ;they bear the titles , respectively, of 'King's daughter' and 'King's wife'(Maa Hor).
Further remains from that temple show the god Geb , Seth , beautiful inscriptions in line separated columns dealing with some ritual practices to be accomplished during the Heb sed (W.S.Smith 1946 p. 133-9).
Many other stela fragments from the Step Pyramid south court and serdab court show the names of the two cited ladies, the princess Intkaes and the Queen Hotephernebty.
(For the queens' titles in the age of Djoser : Helck 'Thinitenzeit' p.108, 119-21; Aly in M.D.A.I.K. 54 p.224-6).
The tolemaic inscription (N. 81) found on the isle of Sehel is introduced by a representation of the pharaoh who praises the devine triad of Elefantine(for having given the Nile a regular flood after 7 years of famine)presenting the 'Dodecaschoinos' territory to the ancestors of the tolemaic priests of Khnum.
The pharaoh is here named by both his major royal names: NETHERYHET and DJOSER; this document, albeit not an Old Kingdom one as it was intended to appear, was useful in eliminating the last doubts about the effective appartenance of the two names to a same king; New Kingdom graffitos (Step Pyr. Complex) were already known to mention the name Djoser (Netjeryhet's Nebty or birth-name).
Click it to enlarge
As we've said, this king is likely to have been the last in his dynasty under whom the necropolis of Bet Khallaf (mastabas K1, K3,K4,K5 this last perhaps for Nedjemankh) (cfr. Garstang 1903 and 1904).
We have formerly told about the Wadi Maghara reliefs (copper and turquoise mines) (Gardiner-Peet).
As for Sanakht, it seems strange that the two sovereign, maybe brothers, to whom the Turin Papyrus attributes the same regnal duration (19 years) , are archaeologically so far from each other; the precious Turin document reports two lacunary phrases in the row (column III, 5) naming Djoser; the red color for the writing "nswt bity" indicates that the original text from which the Royal papyrus was copied (under Ramses II) had this name at the opening of a page, column or line.

The Palermo Stone (recto reg. V, 8-12) holds the first five regnal years of Djoser (?) (Schafer 1902) :
Year I - Appearance of the King of Upper Egypt , Appearance of the King of Lower Egypt; Union of the two lands; Race around the Enclosure Wall.
Year II - Appearance of the King of Upper Egypt , Appearance of the King of Lower Egypt; Passing (ibs) of the Upper Egypt King by the two Snty buildings.
Year III - Followers of Horus ; Birth of (a statue) of Min.
Year IV -Appearance of the King of Upper Egypt , Appearance of the King of Lower Egypt; Streatching of the ropes for the Qbh Ntrw (the funerary temple).
Year V - Shemsw Hor ; Dj.....(djet feast ?) (cfr. Helck - Thinitenzeit p. 167).

Djoser's seal impressions have been found, apart from Beit Khallaf Mastabas K1(16),K2(1),K3(3),K4(1),K5(8), (also ink inscriptions have been found in these tombs, see Kahl 1995), in the Shunet ez Zebib enclosure at Abydos, in the Wadi Maghara (1) in the Saqqara Mastabas of Mereri, in S3518 (1), S 2305 (1) and in S 2405 (1) the latter belonging to Hesyra) and even one in the Step Pyramid of Sekhemhet (Z. Goneim 1957 p. 10 fig. 26),at Hierakonpolis (Quibell-Green tav. 70,3 & I.A.F. fig. 803) and Elephantine (M.D.A.I.K. 43 p.109 fig. 13c t.15c).
The Abydos examples, both in Shunet ez Zebib and in Khasekhemwy tomb V at Umm el Qaab, could be seen as an archaeological proof of the continuity and direct succession of Khasekhemwy and Netjerykhet: the latter was the king who presided at his father's funerary ceremony (Wilkinson E.D.E. 1999 p. 95).
The plate fragment from Byblos of Neferseshemra could be of Khasekhemwy or of Djoser reign (cfr. Kemi 1).
The Statue's inscriptions dated to Djoser's reign in Kahl et al. 1995 corpus of III rd dyn. are the two of Ankh (granite sitting statues Leiden D93 and Louvre A39, cfr. A.S.A.E. 31), of Sepa (limestone standing statues in the Louvre - A36 and A37) and the one of Aper/Ndjeswa (limestone, Louvre A38). (R. Weill 1908).
The Turin Museum guests an important limestone stela fragment from Gebelein datable to the III rd dyn, but no royal name is kept on it; also a IInd dyn. date has been proposed, but some stylistic characteristics induce to think that its range of datation must be Khasekhemwy-to-half third dyn. with a high probability for the reign of Djoser.
Although in a provincial style, the drawing line sharpness and the register subdivision recall the reliefs of Djoser (cfr. Wilkinson E.D.E. 1999 p.302 fig. 8.7 n.3) more than those of Khasekhemwy (cfr. id. 1999 p.178 fig. 5.3 n.4); indeed the variations in the pieces' rendering during the reign of Djoser are very wide (think about the mentioned fragment from the Step Pyr. complex, this one from Gebelein early temple of Hathor , the Heliopolis reliefs and the Step Pyr. complex Heb Sed panels; this suggests , as it has been argued in relation to his building activities, a longer reign than the 19 years credited by the Royal Canon (which also gives 19 years to Nebka).
Finally an unprovenanced piece in the Cairo Museum was also linked to the Gebelein one by its close similarity (W.S. Smith 'H.S.P.O.K. p. 137-8 pl. 30).
The 1930s explorations of Djoser's complex burial chamber provided remains of a skeleton : in a typical O. K. fashion it had been wrapped in linen and covered with plaster so to receive a body-moulding.
Some recent radiocarbon dates seem to deny Old Kingdom but this may be a by contamination of the remains; it's not to discard the possibility that these bones did belong to the corpse of Djoser-Netjeryhet.
The chamber beneath the pyramid hasn't never been fully cleared ( A. Dodson in KMT 9:2, 1998 p. 27-40 ) .
Contemporary of Netjeryhet are the masterpieces from underneath the mastaba of Hesyra (see infra); the carved wooden panels contain features that will be copied for millenia ( cheek furrow beside the mouth ) and, in the same corridor but on the opposite wall, very deteriorated paintings (only the lower part is but partially visible) depicting the necessary things(work tools, games) for the dead to live his death these representations are the first stage in the so called 'daily life scenes' soon to become so common few generations after.

SEKHEMHET / DJOSER(TE)TY (Click it to see the updated page of SEKHEMKHET)
This king remained unknown (mistaken with his almost homonymous of the Ist dynasty -Semerhet-) until 1950s.
By this date the poor Zakaria Goneim began the excavations in the Saqqara complex south of Djoser's one.
The enclosure wall was 340x183 m. then enlarged to the size of 523x194 m; the inner core of the wall in local limestone was coated by well cut blocks of white limestone united by mortar , sand and clay; the course, as for his predecessor's, was in the 'palace facade' (niches and juts) design; the name of Imhotep has been found among the graffitos and red ink inscriptions on the wall (Wildung 'Imhotep und Amenhotep' p.12).
The pyramid was arranged to reach c. 70 m. in height, on 7 steps, but only few meters of it still remain and the monument never reached the 15 meters because it remained unfinished. (See this pic)
The base side is 120 m. The stone was cut in blocks of the average size almost double than the ones of Djoser and they also evidence better skill in their cutting and assembling.
A reused block was found that had to come from Sekhemhet's father (?) complex for it bore the name Neteryhet.
At the end of the long north-south ramp, under what would have been the pyramid,few corridors starting from the main one (20 - 30 m) have a much more ordered and symmetrical course.
Just equidistant from the northern side of the pyramid and the beginning of the ramp , there's a long corridor with comb-like plan going east-west for more than 150 m. before a right angle southward bending at both its extremes; after the change of direction the two corridors run parallel, at c. 150 m. of distance one from the other , for 76 m.
More than 130 rock cut niches were a satisfactory offering deposit for the king.
The entering to this corridor was not placed directly in the descending ramp : from the ramp, under the pyramid, started a pit of c. 20 m in dept (demotic burials and papyrus were found in it dated to Amasis of the XXVI dyn.), and at the bottom of this pit , throughout a hidden passage, it could be reached a corridor of 42 m. running north to the mentioned east-west stores corridor. (The pit could have been a portcullis shaft similar to those in the Beit Khallaf mastabas K1-K6). [See this reconstruction from the J.Kinnaer site taken by the Lehner's Complete Pyr.]
The 'South Tomb' , a mastaba placed closer to the pyramid south side than the one of Djoser's complex, was entered by a west-east descendant slope that met, under the mastaba, a 30 m. deep pit; the crypt was reached only in 1967 by P. Lauer (the excavations were stopped by the tragical death of Z. Goneim).
The south tomb funerary chamber contained a wooden coffin with child bones remains, stone vessels and some fragments of pale gold leaf, lapislazuli and carnelian labels: they once covered all the chamber walls.
Many other objects were found under the pyramid: hundreds of jewels, stone vessels ( with the Horus name of the king and not hollow within ) were on the ramp floor beside the pit ;at the bottom of the pit an ivory tablet had on it a brief phrase 'Nebty Djoserty Ankh' (Life to the Nebty Djoserty) giving us the nebty name of Sekhemhet (Lauer in B.I.F.A.O. 61, 1962 p. 25-8).
The alabaster sarcophagus of the pyramid funerary chamber, the oldest known in hard stone, was found untouched; but once it was opened (1954) it strangely resulted empty, although sealed by plaster and covered by a flowers garland; the monolith, of 2,35 m. in length, had no lid but its opening was on the minor side by a kind of 'T' section sliding portcullis (Goneim 'Horus Sekhemhet' 1957, 1956; Lauer in R.d.E. 20 p.197-207; M. Wissa in OrMonsp IX.-FS Lauer-1997 p.445-7; see fig. below).
This sarcophagus is still in situ; it has luckily escaped serious damages which could have been caused by recent falls of stones from the ceiling; the heaviest blocks have missed it by few centimeters...
The complex of Sekhemhet has never been open to the public for its conditions aren't safe for tourists : recent earthquakes have evidenced deteriorations that also afflict the underground galleries of Djoser (closed too): see E.D. Johnson 'The need for Seismic Analysis and planning ... Saqqara' in J.A.R.C.E. 36, 1999 p.135-147.
Sekhemhet's Burial Chamber
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 94 in Kinnaer's site.
The works on the surface had thus just begun when they were interrupted probably by the king's sudden demise.
In the northern funerary temple only the floor had beed completed whereas the sebterranean were almost ended: then it seems quite reliable the reign duration of Sekhemhet , 6 years, as reported on the Turin Royal papyrus.
If we exclude the material from his Saqqara funerary complex, the name of Sekhemhet is rare enough, on seal impressions too; one of these, along with the Horus name, mentions the fortress of Elephantine (M.D.A.I.K. 51); this island, after the protodyn. period-Ist dyn.(fort under the Museums gardens and under the temple of Sais) and the end of Second Dynasty (Peribsen seals) seems to have been reintegrated in the state organization building projects only in the advanced third dynasty epoch (Huni).
The year length in Manetho is 7 years for TYREIS (third king of the dynasty) and 29 for TOSORTHROS, the 2nd king;
M. Wissa (op.cit. 1997 p.445-7) advances that the reign length, basing on the materials found in S. complex, must have been superior to 6 years(Turin Canon), although not perforce up to 19 as proposed by N. Swelim ('Some Problems...' p.221).
The Wadi Maghara (Sinai) rock carvings present this king in the ritual gesture of smashing the enemies' heads by a mace; other two nearby reliefs show Sekhemhet (>fig.); no other representation of this king is known to us.
Only in the '50s there was the correct attribution to Sekhemhet of the serekhs once thought naming Semerhet.
The name Tety, attested on ramesside royal lists, never appears on a IIIrd dynasty monument but it could be a derivation of the -Ty in the nebty name Djoserty. 'Itety' is attested on the Abusir Papyri from the temple of King Neferirkara Kakai (3rd of the fifth dyn. but the papyri date to the end of the fifth dynasty) where it seems that a cult of a statue of Itety was held (cfr. Wildung 'Die Rolle ... 1969 p. 94-100).
It is possible that two kings bore that name (name of birth not of Horus titulary) before the VI dyn. foundator : Djosertety (Sekhemhet) and Teti, the latter could be the Horusname of a yet unknown king or a secondary name of Khaba or of Qa Hedjet; Teti is also over a scribe tablet of the V dyn. from Giza and on a ramessid relief from Saqqara, here with other kings belonging to the dyn. IV and V . (Wildung op. cit.)
Last mention goes to a late period statue (Persian) of a priest of Djoser-Netheryhet, Djoser Tety and Tety, that thus makes a clear distinction among Sekhemhet (Djosertety), Djoser and Tety; the III dyn. placing seems here out of doubt. (cfr. on this matter Smith in C.A.H. I pt.2 (1971) pag.150 and 156 ; Erman in Z.A.S. 38, 1900 p. 115).
The already mentioned inventory-scribe ivory plaque from his mortuary complex clearly shows on the right Sekhemhet's nebty name Djosert(y) (published in Goneim 1957 pl. 66 . (See pic) )
The abrupt end of Sekhemhet's reign, threw the egyptian state in a period that seems having been critical.
We can tentatively guess that the great Imhotep survived to Djoser and was again the mind behind the funerary complex works; the project is by far a more contemplated one, with few updates or modifications.
The size of the pyramid and of the underground locations clearly bears the trade-mark of a man like Imhotep, who is now not improvising anymore on a previously built architecture;he is neither unsure of his possibilities too.
Only the enclosure wall underwent a size increment; no time for other additions in the few years lasted works.
The monument of the follower, Khaba, was planned to blindly repeat Sekhmhet's; a sign of reverence for whom should have been Sekhemhet's architect ; but we 'll see that it will only be a simpler and smaller complex, sign of the lack of a superior mind at the head of its accomplishment (not of its older date as it has been proposed).
[Some www links to Sekhemhet's pages : Mercer's page ; and Kinnaer's page]

HORUS BA (Click to see the page)

KHABA (SEDJES ?) (Click it to see the updated page of KHA'BA)
Arkell published (in J.E.A. 42 and 44) various diorite and dolomite coups with Khaba serekh; some are of uncertain provenance, others from the tomb Z 500 near the "Layer Pyramid" of Zawiyet el Aryan and some are Reisner's findings from the same mudbrick building north of the pyramid which had indeed to be its funerary temple. (see Swelim S.P.)
In that area there are dynasty 0,I,II,III,XVIII necropolis.
The serie of stone bowls of Khaba represent a return to the past tradition which had ended with Khasekhemwy; in the Djoser's Step Pyramid complex no inscription of Khaba was found on Stone vessels; after Khaba the trend to produce and inscribe stone vessels will be abandoned again to be reprised only by Snofru's reign. [See a picture of Khaba's inscribed vessels].
The Layer Pyramid, 1,5 Km south of the other unfinished pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan, was explored in 1910 by Reisner who attributed it to King Khaba on the basis of the inscribed bowls with red ink name found there; indeed the same 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).
Superficially visited by Perring, Lepsius, Maspero and finally de Morgan in the end of '800, it was explored for the first time in the subterranean part too by A. Barsanti in 1900 (A.S.A.E. 2 p.92-4).
Of the pyramid, projected with only 5 steps (Lauer B.I.F.A.O. 79, 375), there remained 16 meters of the 40 of the whole height , but the construction works were actually abandoned long before the vertex was reached.
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 but it starts, in the open air for all its length, few meters north of the pyramid north east corner and runs east-west; then this gallery reaches 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.
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,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.
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).
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.
The later king lists and the necropolis shift are other proofs for a Netheryhet-Sekhemhet continuity.
Albeit lacking an enclosure wall it's possible that mastaba Z-500 was a kind of Pyramid temple (to the north side of the pyramid as in Djoser's complex) and the stone ruins known as 'El Gamal el Barek' further east could have been a proto valley temple (Swelim S.P. p.77, 96).
The Pyramid of Zawiyet el Aryan will be the object of a study by Dr. Aidan Dodson who will reconsider its design in an article to be published in the next issue of J.A.R.C.E. (n.37, 2000).
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 (Petrie 'Scrabs and cylinders..' tav. VIII on which 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; Kaplony ( I.A.F. p.173 fig. 805) ; two more bowls with Khaba Horus name 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 ,Netheryhet, Huni a seal impression of Khaba has been found at Elephantine (M.D.A.I.K. 43 p. 109, fig 13b tav. 15b).
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.
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 life.
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.

NEBKARA - NEFERKA(RA) (Click it to see the updated page of NEBKARA ...)
Almost nothing is known of Neferka(ra) : this name, very common later in the Old Kingdom, is given in the King- list of Abydos as 19 th name(between Sedjes and Snofru, whereas a Neferkara on the Saqqara list (8th name) is placed in the second dynasty between Senedj and Neferkaseker).
The Northern Pyramid (Shurl Iskender or El Kenisah) at Zawiyet el Aryan has already been postdated to the IV th dyn. and we have been quite convinced it had nothing to do with the IInd-IIIrd (Neferkara) or IIIrd (Nebkara,Nebka) as its coursive painted inscriptions from different blocks seemed to suggest; the 180 m. long side and the 110 m long ramp (x 8,5 m in width), as with the average size of the masonry stones and other technological characters led Lauer to reject the higher chronologies proposed for this monument (W.S. Smith, Z.Goneim) (see supra).
Click it to enlarge Click the image to enlarge the photo. Click HERE to see its plan and section.

But recently N. Swelim (S.P. 1983) has convincingly proposed a IIIrd dyn. date anew (see below).
Apart from some sealings (in Petrie 'Scrabs & Cylinders ..' tav. VIII) and later (XIX th dyn.) lists mentions , I don' t know anything else of this King name which, alike Nwbnefer and Neferkaseker's in the II nd dyn.,could also be another designation of an already known Horus (either Khaba or Qa Hedjet ?).
For the reading of the name on the Zawiyet el Aryan North pyr. see Dodson Z.A.S. 108 p.171; id. D.E. 3 p.21-3.
See in particular N. Swelim 'Some Problems...': this author provides a lot of data on these names; he thought that Nebkara was the ambitious IIIrd Dynasty king who began the Unfinished Pyramid of Zawyiet el Aryan, whereas Neferka "seems to have completed the burial chamber of (Meidum) Mastaba 17 for the reburial of Nebkara and filled the trench and pit of the Unfinished Pyramid in the style of architecture that would have pleased Nebkara" (Some Problems p.80); according to the same author, the bones found in Meydum Mastaba 17 burial chamber among ants eaten remains of the wooden sarcophagus, could have been those of Nebkara (op.cit. p. 97, 166).
It is impossible not to remark here that a large part of the precious study of Nabil Swelim on the Third Dynasty (op.cit. chap.3) was aimed to deny Lauer's datation of the Zawyiet el Aryan Unfinished pyramid to the fourth dynasty. The monument that the egyptian author ascribes to the IIIrd dynasty is made object of a detailed analysis which brilliantly invalidates the points which J.P. Lauer had taken as indicators of a IVth dynasty date.
It is hard to resume 55 pages of text but the summary by the same author (op. cit. p.175-6) can be here cited:
Djedefra's Abu Roash pyramid and Nebkara's at Zawyiet el Aryan have similar substructures; this because the former IVth dyn. king intended to copy IIIrd dyn. substructures; the complex around Zawyiet unfinished pyramid had no structure typical of the IVth dynasty complexes, but an enclosure wall (IIIrd dyn. characteristic) seems that would have been accomplished.
Extensive use of granite, a material already used from the thinite period, was responsible for the delay in construction: this led the followers to use limestone until a perfect mastery of masonry had been reached (Khwfw). The blocks size and weight is not out of the IIIrd dynasty builders' possibilities: at Meydum (Mastaba 17, dating to the end of IIIrd dyn.), larger blocks were used.
The sunken sarcophagus was in a transitional phase and even at the time of Djedefra and Khaefra not all the sarcophagi were sunken (Khwfw's,or Menkaura's main one that was sunken but at sea- with the ship that was bringing it to the British Museum).
Finally the mortar used, which Lauer thought to be of a precisely burnt quality, wasn't unknown before Snofrw as stated by the french scholar for an identical quality was recovered from the famous alabaster sarcophagus of IIIrd dyn. king Sekhemhet.
Therefore NEFERKA would have been a successor of NEBKARA and predecessor of HUNI.
Swelim also advanced that the Layer Pyramid of Zawyiet el Aryan was built by Neferka and the stone bowls of Khaba found in Z-500, north of the layer pyramid, could have been something like those from dynasty I found in the Step Pyramid complex.
For the reading of the names on the graffitos from Zawyiet el Aryan see Swelim (op.cit.), Dodson (op.cit), Lauer in R.d.E. 14 (1962 )p. 21-36; J. Cerny in M.D.A.I.K. 16. (1958) p.25-9.
Further old attestations of the name of Nebkara are in Gauthier (Le Livre des Rois I p. 53-54) and reported by Swelim (cit).
A. Barsanti's excavations are in A.S.A.E. VII, VIII, XII, but see also the bibliography in Swelim (op.cit. 1983, chapter III).

QA HEDJET (Click it to see the updated page of QA HEDJET)
A stela of unknown provenance bought by the Louvre Museum at the end of the '60s, bears the Horus name of this King; it is the only attestation of Qa Hedjet. (See this image of the stela at High res -c. 250 Kb)
The style of the relief and the skillness of its lines are the reasons for the widespread convinction that we have to do with a III rd dyn. datable piece , not with one of Qa'a (I st dyn. ending) as was formerly thought.
We can easily see the carving evolution in comparison with the Wadi Maghara III rd dyn. reliefs, therfore it is justifiable a datation to the half or end of this dynasty for the reign of this king and his stela.
On it the king wears a short skirt , the false tail and the Upper Egypt crown; he brings a pear headed mace and a reed in hid hands and faces an anthropomorphic Horus whom keeps an hand on the king's shoulder and another on the left arm; above, facing the falcon topped Serekh with Horus name, there's another falcon and a very short sentence: "Horus in the Hwt 'Aa").
The material used is limestone and the figuration is plainly eroded but the lines' sure touch (Horus' face, the king body, the hieroglyphs) is evident, showing a slight progress compared with the limestone stela fragment of the Turin Museum from Gebelein (dated to the II-III dyn. see Smith 'A History of Sculpture and Painting in ... 1946).
Lacking the evidences for a Horus name of the predecessor of Qa Hedjet, Neferkara, it could be hypothized that these names belonged to the same sovereign; the few traces they left make it possible that both these kings could have been immediate predecessors of Huni.
Worth of note that in the III rd dyn. corpus of inscriptions (Kahl et al. 1995) 'Qa Hedjet' is considered the Horus name of Huni: infact this king's Horus name has never been found, therfore this could even be correct; but the fortuitous and meagre attestation of these kings' monuments and names lead us to think that the third dynasty sequence could consist, even more than the second dyn., of various further kings of whom nothing has remained.
Kahl in 'S.A.H.'(1994) p. 7-10 had positioned Qa Hedjet after Huni (according to him the dynasty was closed by the mysterious BA who Helck placed at the end of the first dynasty after Qa'a and Sneferka).
Keep in mind that at least two enclosure walls at Saqqara(recently reanalyzed)west of the Step Pyramid complex and south west of Sekhemhet's , are unfortunately deprived of clues which could indicate their builders' names.
They could have,as well, been made by these ephemeral kings of the 'Sekhemhet to Huni' dark age.
So don't exclude the strong possibility that this period may reveal new royal names as it happened in the case of Qa Hedjet; anyhow the duration of the III rd dynasty shouldn't fluctuate beyond the 80 ± 10 years.
For the stela of the Louvre : Vandier in C.R.A.I.B.L. 1968 p. 16-22 and Ziegler 'Catalogue des stèles, peintures et reliefs égyptiens de l' Ancien Empire et de la Première Période Intermédiare - Musée du Louvre' 1990 p. 56).

HUNI / NISWTH / HU (Click it to see the updated page of HUNI)
The Papyrus Prisse names Huni as Snofru's predecessor [so the starter of Dyn. IV should be the son Huni had by Meresankh I and the one who married Hetepheres I ,another daughter of Huni and future mother of Khufu].
In the Old Kingdom cemetery at Elephantine , near the northern side of the (now disappeared) pyramid of the III rd dyn., a conic granite block was found, on which an inscription named a king HU or NSWT-H (Seidlmayer in Spencer 1996) differently interpreted (Smith in C.A.H. vol. I cap.XIV,1971) probably related to the name of a palace : 'Diadem of the King Huni' (Barta in M.D.A.I.K. 29(1) p.1-4).
The same Huni name variant Swtenh , Nisuteh or Nswt H, is attested on the Palermo Stone (V,1) under the V th dynasty when Neferirkara commemorated Nswteh making a monument to him (Urk.1 248,12).

Thus if Huni, who has his name in a cartouche on contemporary inscriptions,has to be equated with the Nswt H(u) just quoted, it is likely that the pyramid on the isle of Elephantine was of his reign.
According to recent theories (M.D.A.I.K. 36 p. 43-59 ; M.D.A.I.K. 38 p. 83-93 and 94-95) it appears possible that all the little step pyramids 10-17 meters high, discovered at Zawyet el Mejtin, Abydos (Sinki), Naqada (Nubt), Khula (Hierakonpolis), Edfu and Elephantine must be attributed to a single pharaoh ,maybe just Huni; the Seila pyramid is more developed (the german archaeologists date it to Snofru), but the americans (and myself) prefer an higher datation to the reign of Huni (J.A.R.C.E. 25 p.215) (when he had already ended the 8 steps Meidum Pyramid). Nabil Swelim (op.cit.p. 100- ff) added two more possible contemporary step pyramids: one at Athribis (reported by the Napoleonic savants; see also Rowe in A.S.A.E. 38) and another one at Abydos (Currelly, Abydos III, 1904 pl. XV, called 'Tomb Chapel of Ay' of Dyn.XII).
Among these monuments the one south of Edfu, at Naga el Ghonemiya, is the only one not yet studied properly.

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE 'SINKI' (Little non-funerary Step Pyramids)
The pyramid of Zawyet el Meytin, near El Miniah, the only pyramid of Egypt built on the eastern bank of the Nile, had three steps and c. 17 m of height with a square base of 22,5m each side.
It's the only (among the 'sinki') to have retained traces of a fine limestone covering .
Raymond Weill (C.R.A.I.B.L. 1912) described the inner layers of walls slightly inclined towards the center with a progressively decreasing height.
Similar to this one was the pyramid of Khola, near Nekhen (Cimmino 'Storia delle Piramidi' 1990 p.122-5) which was orientated with its edges (not its sides as commonly happens) towards the Cardinal Points. It was c. 10 m high and the base side was 18,6 m.
The pyramid of Nubt (Petrie-Quibell 'Naqada and Ballas' 1896 p. 65 tav. 85) three stepped , 22 m of base, had unlike the others, a central pit ; but the own Petrie declared he wasn't able to understand whether the hole was an original one or rather a digging made by violators in search of preciousnesses.
For the pyramids of Abydos (Sinki) and Elephantine: M.D.A.I.K. 36,37,38 and bibl. in (Ortiz) G.M. 154, 77-91 n. 4, 40.
Function Theories
The absence of internal chambers prevents from attempting funerary hypotheses.
Not convincing are either the theories of Lauer ( the 'sinki' marked the main places for the reconquest of the egyptian territory by Khasekhemui or the birth-places of the queens), Maragioglio and Rinaldi ('L' Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite' 1963 p. 70 :the function was to highlight the key-places of the myth of Horus and Seth).
Seidlmayer (in J. Spencer 'Aspects of Early Egypt' 1996 p.122 ff.) thinks that the construction of these pyramids fulfilled the same ideological needs as the slightly later representations of offerings brought to the royal estates of each nomos.
But in the offering bearers symbolism (from Snofru onwards) the figurative system was an extension of the simple device of the offering lists with goods useful for the dead afterlife (table of offerings): the importance and skill of the dead are now shown , beyond the usual titles, also in the visual description of the mass of persons and places involved in the production of goods for the deceased.
In the Third Dynasty a system of radicate administrative organization all over the valley was still in construction and it was therfore necessary that, on the provincial level, the presence of a royal cult within each nome became explicit, as did the request of products and materials that it implies; thus these monuments could reinforce the ideological presupposition of such a state-request giving it a more visible and concrete picture of the authority (and of the presence) of the one to whom the offerings were destined, the king.
By this complex theory each nomos had a similar monument as propaganda of a royal funerary estate therein ; and many other sinki that spread along the Nile valley must have been destroyed.
Furthermore it stresses the reliablity of the (Baer' s) theory of the presence of royal cults for the living pharaoh.
Though accepting the conclusions of Seidlmayer we must make here a critic onto its presuppositions : the emphasis that he puts on the 'fiscal' character of the goods gathering through funerary cult or state ceremony seems to make it the first stage in the process of development of the administration and relative bureaucracy; but this understates the fact that, at that time, the administration system had already more than half a century of life behind its back: it's proved by the officials' titles and by the names of administrative offices on the vessels and labels inscriptions from the early protodynastic (cemetery U at Abydos , Dynasty 0 , Naqada III a,b) until the age of the Thinite Kings of the first dynasties.
What for me distinguishes the oldest periods from the one we are examinating is more of quantitative nature than qualitative; thanks to accessory means such as the one hypothized by Seidlmayer (but certainly as well to the very installation of state administration offices in all the nomos), the provincial and decentralized organs of government are actually configured as an instrument of the state for which they now begin to work.
M. Lehner (The Complete Pyramids 1997 p.96) concludes in this way the page on the Provincial Step Pyramids: "These ... may have been symbols of living sovereignity, hinting that the step pyramid stood for more than the royal tomb, the marker of a dead king. It is interesting that Huni took the pyramid to the provinces just before people and produce would be brought from the provinces to the core of the Egyptian nation for building the largest pyramids of all time".
Concluding, the progress under the third dynasty is not really a matter of creation of a bureaucracy, but indeed its employment on a wider scale and in a more and more centralized way than in the Naqada III phase.
For Kaiser 'the Elephantine pyramid seems to have represented the fictive presence of the king , was a symbolic means of reinforcing state control implicit in Elephantine's role in the collection and distribution of goods'.
(W. Kaiser in K. Bard ed. Encyclopedia A.A.E. 1999 p. 283-9; W. Kaiser et al. in M.D.A.I.K. 53, 1997; see also the studies
in N. Swelim 'Some Problems...' (1983) p. 100 ff.; and A. Cwiek in G.M. 162 (1998) p.39-52).

It was once thought that Huni had built the 'Romboidal' or 'Southern' pyramid at Dahshur.
The Meidum Pyramid was credited to Snofru by the New Kingdom graffitos calling it 'beautiful temple of Snfrw'.
Today the belonging of the Meidum pyramid is still disputed (between Huni and Snofru); it appears certain that the Dahshur pyramids were both made by the foundator of the IV th dynasty, whereas the one at Meidum, albeit what was thought about it by the New Kingdom egyptians, must be the funerary monument of HUNI; it is furthermore very very probable that the same Snofru tried to make of that 8 steps pyramid a true 'smooth-edges' pyramid , perhaps causing the collapse of its revetment.
On the period of the downfall of the structure there's not concordance among the scholars; the pharaoh Snofrw apparently began his works on it during or after the erection of the Rhomboidal pyramid (Mendelsshon 'Riddle..') and maybe it was the Meidum Pyramid collapse that caused him to diminish the angle of the Dahshur monument.
The arabic historian Al Maqrizi described the Meidum Pyramid (XV th century) as formed by five steps , while the graffitos by the workmen who built it represent it with 3,4 or 5 steps.
After the relations presented by F. Norden (1737) and R.Pococke (1738) and the brief explorationse of Vyse and Perring (1835) and Lepsius (1845), the monument was taken into higher consideration by Maspero (1882), Petrie (1892, 1910) and G. Wainwright and Petrie (1912), thence by V. Maragioglio and C.Rinaldi (1964).
The Pyramid was initially made in 7 steps for 60 m circa of height; it was built around a central core on the four sides of which were laid 6 layers of inclined blocks (74° 5'46''); these , decreasing in height from the nucleus to outwards, formed the steps.
Huni modified the monument by adding a new external layer next to the base, increasing the height of the inner layers, piling new blocks on their steps and perhaps adding a eight step on the central nucleus, the top of which was the vertex of the pyramid .
After this last phase the height was 82 m circa (160 c.) and the base 122m (220 c.), with a 52° slope. (Note that we refer here not to the slope of the oblique layers -which remained unchanged- but indeed to the imaginary line passing by the edges.
Over the second and fifth step as well as on the ground around the pyramid there were found traces of ramps used to carry the blocks above. Each step had to be covered by thick limestone slabs.
The descendery, for the first time dug in the pyramid' s mass, is a corridor (0,85 m wide, 1,55 m high, 58m long, with 28° of slope) that, starting from the northern face of the second step (circa 20 m of height, hence few meters above the first step floor), goes down throughin the oblique layers and the core ending with 7 steps,and then,after further 9,45 m, with a little pit; hidden over this pit there's the entrance of a small passage ascending for 6,65 m to the funerary chamber floor, just at the ground level ; the chamber is 2,65m in width, 5,05 m in height and 5,90 m in length; its upper part is not dug in the rock but in the base of the pyramid nucleus and has a (N-S) triangular section (it's covered by a corbeled vault with 7 blocks); the chamber is not on the true north-south/east-west axis of the pyramid but it's very few est of the first (N-S) axis and some meters south of the second (E-W) axis.
Some cords and 3 cedar wood poles near the chamber pit-entrance are the only objects found within the pyramid with fragments of a wooden coffin found in a recess of the horizontal corridor (Maspero).
Snofru' s effort consisted in filling the steps and applying blocks to support the external smooth revetment.
The slope was decreased by few seconds of degree,the base grew to 144 m (280 c.), the height 91,7m (175cubits). (J. Ortiz G.M. 154, 1996 p. 77-91; P. Testa D.E. 18,1990 p.54-69; F. Petrie 'Medum' 1892; D. Wildung R.d.E. 21).
The complex was surrounded by a straight wall, 1,4 m thick and 2m high, of which only a trench remained; the original size was m. 210x210 (400x400 c.) later augmented to 220,5 x 236,25 (420 x 450c.) (Testa in D.E. 18).
The chapel on the pyramid east side, square in plant and with two uncarved stelae, should have been projected by Snofru (thus in the third and final constructive phase), because the size reciprocal relations in cubits refer to basic models used in the third phase (cfr. P. Testa in D.E. 18 page 63). Meidum (Huni-Snofru)
The 210m cerimonial causeway disappears beneath the fields of the valley; it had walls 3 cubits thick and 4c. high its floor was 6 cubits large and 3° 98' 22" inclined; the ramp is almost 4° south than the pyramid East-West axis.
The small south pyramid, 26,5 m of base (50 cubits), had four steps, a descendery, corridor and funerary crypt; both Petrie's (Meidum) as Maragioglio - Rinaldi' s (op. cit. III p. 47) publications lack of informations to deduce its possible contemporaneity with the first two construction phases or the third one, thence to Huni or Snofru .
We are here in presence of the prototype of the royal funerary monument of the subsequent dynasties, with the pyramid, the satellite pyramid(s), funerary temple, cerimonial way, and valley temple (this latter hasn not been found yet at Meidum); they are pointers of a new architectural typology that will continue to develop at Dahshur ,Giza, Saqqara.
It's not sure, as just told, whether these innovations must be credited to Huni; it's much more probable that at least the east temple and the causeway must be attributed to Snofru, whereas nothing can be said about the satellite pyramid and the valley temple; the archaic enclosure wall is surely Huni ' s work.
However it seems that the most recent essays on this period prefer to credit Snofru with the whole building of the Meydum pyramid since the beginning of its stepped phase.
The Meidum necropolis is noteworthy for some officials' mastabas too: Nefermaat (another son of Huni and first vizir of Snofru as well as father of Hemiunu, the architect and vizir of Khufu) was buried with his wife Itet in the tomb (M 16) from which the famous 'Geese of Maidum' were taken; not less famous is the statuary group of Rahotep and Nofret, whose tomb (M 6), once again double, produced a beautiful serie of reliefs now scattered in various museums and private collections (cfr. J.E.A. 72); the largest mastaba (M 17) is near the east side of the pyramid, but its owner (maybe a royal prince) is unknown.
Swelim (op. cit. p.97) thought that the bones fragments found in its burial chamber could be those of Nebkara; but the author supposed,as well, that the substructure could have been built by Neferka and the superstructure by Huni (and Snofru).
The Abu Roash L. I Mudbrick pyramid
Not to be confused with the other, earlier , mudbrick pyramid-enclosure (Ed Deir, sub v. Sanakht-Nebka), this huge monument in mudbrick was discovered in 1830s by J. Perring and surveyed by R. Lepsius (1842-3) who assigned to it the number I in his serie of Egyptian pyramids on the Denkmaler (1959).
It laid in the easternmost hills promontory in advanced state of ruin. (I.E.S. Edwards in Bard ed. E.A.A.E. p.82-3)
Dr. N. Swelim identified it (perhaps not correctly) as a mastaba; a rock core was penetrated from N to S by a 25° sloping corridor leading to a square funerary chamber of 5,5 m of bases and 5 m in height entirely cut in the rock. The mudbricks, inclined inward of 75-76°, laid over the rock core in accretion layers (I.E.S. Edwards cit.). Much of the mudbrick had been stripped away from its position. (cfr. photos in A. Dodson KMT 9:2, 1998 p. 36)
N. Swelim's researches ascertained the immense size of the monument which had a base length of 215 meters.
The Middle Kingdom date (in XII-XIII dyn mudbrick pyramids were built) can be excluded by the rock cut core (this kind of substructures is out of fashion already in the end of fourth dynasty) and by the presence of some Old Kingdom burials dug in its rock inner stratum which had already to be deprived of bricks at that time .
The mudbrick monument was never finished. Its attribution to Huni is hypothetical. (A. Dodson cit. p. 35-6)

Also very doubtful is the attribution to this king of a king statue head with Upper Egypt crown (red granite) now in the Brooklyn Museum. It' s quite certainly the first example of statuary of monumental size since the Koptos colossi (many scholars prefer to date the head to Khufu' s reign).
Another piece in Brooklyn,a diorite statuette of a god with knife should belong to this reign, while the specimens of Sepa - Neset, Rahotep - Nofret, Akhetaa, Metjen, are chronologically of the III rd to the IV th dyn transition, despite the fact that they were made for personages who were born during the end of the third dynasty.
A bit more archaic are the statuettes of Redit (Turin) and expecially Bedjmes (Ankhwa), Nedjemankh, the lady of Bruxelles, Ankh and the Chicago scribe, in harder stone (as the god with knife) and datable to the first half of the III rd dynasty.
The dynastic change is not very well explainable; we know Huni was Snofru' s father ; despite the necropolis shift from Meidum to Dahshur, nothing can enlighten the motives of the dynastic change.
We must keep in mind advices like the ones in J. Malek ' s article on J.E.A. 68 (p.93-106) to understand which and how fragile or empty could be the basis for the traditional Manethonian division into dynasties : a simple erroneous interpretation of annals or lists (as the original from which the Turin Canon was copied) might have made the sovereigns at the head of a document column the founders of that "dynastic" sequence.
There seems to be a break, between Huni and his poorly known predecessors, in the royal titulary: the cartouche, later a solar sybol, already used by previous kings (Peribsen, Nebka ?), appears with Huni for the very first time in a preferential position than the serekh; this same serekh, enclosing royal Horus names, is never attested for Huni and for his (?) debated variant Nisuteh, the latter name also found either in cartouche or with no surrounding device at all.
About the possible transformations in the religious sphere that these formal changes could underlie,it's evidently hazardous to speculate, in the almost complete missing of any written source; much attention must equally be paid in the attempt to give a backward sense to the informations hidden in the Pyramid Texts : it' s widely accepted that they also echo cults, beliefs and traditions of an older civilization, but their very equivocal character and the mere impossibility to plainly know the weight of the later redactions (V-VIII dyn.) stops easy speculations and prevents from setting diachronically the myths and the teologies enclosed in them.
[It seems anyhow almost useless to add that,albeit these methodical precisations,the corpus in question has indeed an unlimited value to catch the ideological framework that it inherits from a more or less archaic past as well as to comprehend the influence it had on the subsequent religious and funerary tradition (Coffin Texts and beyond)]. (cfr. Fattovich in A.I.U.O. 47 (1987) pages 1-14).
By Huni the Egypt returned to shine after years of uncertainty when short lived reigns weakened its power.
This king had, on the contrary, all the time to reorganize the country , for he may have reigned up to 24 years according to the Royal Canon of Turin. This document adds that a building or a city called 'Seshem....' ( Seshem-tawy in the Delta ?) was built during his reign; a lacuna doesn' t help to better understand this entry.
Thus Huni' s would be the longest reign of the third dynasty (but I don't fully trust these numerical informations).
Certainly in this dynasty only Djoser' s reign appears more innovative than Huni' s and it has been obderved how similar is the historical development of the second and third dynasty: both have a middle phase of apparent crisis and a strong, reorganizer sovereign as Khasekhemwy and Huni.
The biography of Metjen, dated to Snofru ' s reign, deals with the career of an individual who very likely was born during the second half of the third dynasty. (Urkunden I, 1-7 for the text, Breasted 'Ancient records of Egypt' 76-9 for the translation, Goedicke M.D.A.I.K. 21 for a discussion; Lepsius 'Denkmaler' II 3-7 for his Saqqara tomb).
It's enormously useful because, in its archaic language, gives a heavy load of data concerning the administration and the officials' charges through the titles that Metjen had gained during his life.
Contemporary and equally important are the inscriptions from another memphite tomb of the very end of the third dynasty: the one of Pehernefer (Z.A.S. 75, 1939 p.63 ff; Helck 'Thinitenzeit' 1987 p. 274-89).
Finally we have to note that it has been recently argued (N. Swelim 'Some problems' and Kahl 'S.A.H.' p.7) that the reigns of Qa Hedjet (cfr. supra) and Ba ought to be put at the end of this dynasty; the former king has been here discussed (cfr) while the latter, only known for few inscriptions on Djoser' s Step Pyramid stone vessels, had been previously considered an ephemeral follower of Qa'a at the end of the First dynasty.
I think, at the present state of our knowledge, that Huni is more likely the immediate predecessor of Snofrw.
Kahl et. al. (1995) consider "Qa Hedjet" the Horus name of Huni .

We interpret the third dynasty as a transitional period that, from a religious,political and artistical point of view, bridges between the thinite early state archaism (already mature in many aspects and rich in itself of innovations and developments) and the classical splendour of forms / high efficiency of means of the Old Kingdom.
Notwithstanding the scarcity of documents (which will rapidly grow in the IV th dyn.), many signals of the heavy impact of this 'age of passage' show how important it was as well as how its protagonists achievements were, for the forthcoming Egyptian history and culture.
- The religion shifts towards a more solar character (pyramids, cartouches,the god Ra) than its previous astral one (Horus,Hathor).
- The first pyramids and funerary complexes belong to the 50-60 years deviding Djoser's reign from Huni' s.
The progress is undoubtly not merely an architectural one: its roots are in the mentioned religious shift towards the heliopolitan solar doctrine, its basis are in the ruling apparatus now capable to organize and move more and more masses of workmen and raw materials necessary to enterprise the royal funerary complex constructions.
- This latter aim is reached by displacing central administration's 'branch offices' all over the Egyptian territory, granting an efficient drainage of resources and taxes from each province.
Although existing since centuries before, only under the III rd dynasty the administrative subsystem begins to function in a fully centralized way and, we repeat it, on the whole state (ex. Elephantine frontier settlement).
Snofru will benefit of the evolution in this field made by his predecessors, allowing him to concentrate even more grandly onto the building activities as well as onto firmer, more fruitful military expeditions beyond-boundaries.
- Various titles and offices of the functionaries are a further proof of the development of a widespread net of state systems, also peripherical, that function as the backbone of the new born bureaucracy.
It's just in this century that there is the decisive change from the decentralized organization of the thinite early state to the more mature and centralized memphite one.
- In the mastaba of Hesyra we encounter the earliest representations which, though in line with the archaic tradition of the 'dead in front of his offerings' picture (private stelas of Abydos, Heluan) , add for the first time the subject of the dead overlooking at the production of the goods for his tomb.
This concept is an enlargement (as said for Huni) of the 'figurative system' (Barocas 'Ideologia e lavoro...' 1978) of the tombs, that had started with the sole names inscriptions and later including titles and goods lists, to finally produce the 'daily life scenes' on the visual level and the detailed biographies on the descriptive one.
Moreover, as evidenced in the interesting article by Mrs W. Wood (in J.A.R.C.E. 15), always of this age (Djoser and Hesyra) is the beginning of another important tradition: the usage,in the burials, of a program of 'artistic expression' which is strongly tied to the architectural "path" of the tomb through an armony of communicative purposes. (see infra sub pg. Hesyra)
- The first wide biography (Methen) is dated few years after the reign of Huni: the writing is therfore getting more and more beautiful (Djoser's pyramid panels and Heliopolis temple fragments) not only aesthetically but also in the forms and contents.
- The statuary , private and royal, albeit rather poor of examples, is unrelentlessly decreasing its artistic / stylistic distance that still separates it from the half fourth dynasty classicism.

Thanks to Dr. Nabil Swelim , Dr. Aidan Dodson and Dr. John D. Degreef   for the informations kindly supplied.