Francesco Raffaele
Early Dynastic Egypt




Khasekhemwy: part of a granite jamb from Hierakonpolis (Cairo Mus. JdE 33896)


Khasekhemwy was certainly one of the most relevant characters of the Early Dynastic Egyptian History.
According to some scholars, he managed to re-unify Egypt after a critical period (corresponding with the middle part of the Second Dynasty) when Egyptian state would be perhaps splitted into two realms.
The name change from [Horus] Khasekhem to [Horus-Seth] Khasekhemwy Nebwyhotepimef (Hetep-Netjerwy-imef) would mark the successful restoration of the Egyptian dual crown and throne achieved by this king.
Even wanting to keep less extreme positions, it should be nonetheless explained why did Khasekhem and his predecessor chose the Abydos royal cemetery as their burial ground, in place of the Memphite necropolis which had hosted the other Second Dynasty kings' burials (after the Abydos Umm el-Qaab royal cemetery had been abandoned for unknown reasons at the end of the First Dynasty).
The reign of Khasekhemwy witnessed a clear return to the old splendour of the Egyptian State, introducing it into what will be a truly majestic age, that of his (direct?) follower Horus Netjerykhet (Djoser), early in the IIIrd Dynasty.
I am trying to resume (and reexhume) sketches of life of a great ruler of the Egyptian political and cultural history.
One of the most apparent innovations of late IInd dynasty was the massive introduction of stone masonry for the main building projects (Gisr el Mudir walls at Saqqara, Abydos tomb V funerary chamber, Hierakonpolis lintels) although the mudbrick constructions were still if not more important than ever (mastaba tombs at Saqqara, Bet Khallaf, Abydos and, most of all, the Shunet ez Zebib, the Hierakonpolis "Fort" and the niched monumental gateway in the town of Nekhen).
Despite his apparently outstanding role, objects bearing the names Khasekhem / Khasekhemwy have been found in a few centers only: Hierakonpolis/ElKab, Abydos, Saqqara and Byblos; yet the attestations from the former three places refer to different contexts, monuments and sites within each area; there are also some unprovenanced objects inscribed with K.'s name, plus a pair of relief fragments from Gebelein (with no royal name preserved) which have been dated to the (late?) Second Dynasty.
The first part of the Second Dynasty seems to have been characterized by an abrupt end of foreign relations, both commercial and military ones, possibly due to the inner tensions which Egypt would suffer at that time. With Khasekhem (thus especially in the early years of reign) there are clues about possible battles against Libyans and Nubians as well as indications of a reprise in the other relations with northern and southern territories (the latter thing occurred already with Peribsen's reign). The king had acquired enough power to start his ambitious building program.
The end of K.'s reign on Palermo stone line V (right hand), which mentions a copper statue built for this king in his 15th regnal year, was previously considered to refer to Nebka, but recent studies tend to reconstruct that portion of the Royal Annals as Khasekhemwy's own reign (immediately followed by Djoser's one).
Finally, it has been recently advanced the hypothesis that the inscriptions writted in ink on stone vessels found gathered in galleries VI-VII of Netjerykhet's complex infrastructures, might mostly date to Khasekhemwy's own reign, rather than to Ninetjer's one as hitherto generally accepted, after W. Helck's 1979 study (cf. I. Regulski, 2004).




......... (D. Wildung, Die Rolle ägyptischer Könige im Bewußtsein ihrer Nachwelt, 1969, 52-53)



Hierakonpolis/El Kab area

The "Fort" and its relief-decorations

The mudbrick gateway

Horus Temple at Nekhen

El Kab


Abydos area

Umm el-Qa'ab Tomb V

Umm el Qa'ab Abydos, part of  tomb V (Khasekhemwy) during the recent DAIK re-excavations


Shunet ez Zebib enclosure

Some Photos of Abydos, Shunet ez Zebib




Gisr el Mudir

Djoser's complex
(Western Massif galleries, North Court NW gallery and MM A4)

Private tombs
(S 3043, S3034)
S3043: IAF I, 163



Statues and fragments thereof

Stelae and reliefs

Stone vessels (Abydos, Saqqara, Byblos)

The datation of ink inscribed stone vessels from the Step Pyramid Complex galleries VI-VII

Seal impressions (Saqqara, Abydos Umm el-Qaab, Kom es-Sultan)

Royal family: Njmaathapi (Bet Khallaf, Abydos, Saqqara, Heliopolis, Gebelein)

Royal succession: Horus Netjerykhet (direct successor?)







Plate  Ia - Khasekhem statues in  Cairo, Oxford and Boston
pl. Ib - Khasekhem statues in  Cairo, Oxford and Boston
pl. Ic - Khasekhem statues in  Cairo, Oxford and Boston
pl. IIa - Stone vases with gold foil cover from Khasekhemwy's tomb at Abydos (Umm el-Qaab V) [Cairo Mus. JdE 34941-34942]
pl. IIb - Khasekhem(wy) inscriptions on Stone Vessels
Seal Impressions
Abydos tomb V:
pl. IIIa - Petrie
pl. IIIb - Dreyer

N. Abydos, Shunet;
Saqqara & elsewhere
pl.  IVa1 - Khasekhemwy: pink granite door-jamb from Hierakonpolis (Cairo Museum JE 33896)
pl. IVa2 - Cairo Museum (JE 33896):  part of a pink granite door-jamb of Khasekhemwy from Hierakonpolis
pl. IVb - Cairo JdE 33895
pl. IVc - Araba el Madfuna (Abydos): Granite Stela of Khasekhemwy (R.A. Farag, MDAIK 36, 1980, 77-79). Thanks to J. Degreef
pl. IVd - Relief decoration of Khasekhemwy's Royal Enclosure (The "Fort") at Hierakonpolis [after N. Alexanian 1998, pl. 1-3]
pl. IVe - Gebelein stela (late 2nd dyn) Turin Museum S. 12.341
pl. IVf - Gebelein stela , Cairo Museum (TL 20/1/21/7)
pl. V - Khasekhem (?) name incised on a copper axe in G. Michailides' private collection
pl. VI
Objects from Khasekhemwy's tomb, Abydos
pl. VIIa-b
5th Dynasty Annals
(Palermo stone)

5th Dynasty Annals
(London U.C.)

pl. VIIIa-b
NK King lists

'Royal Canon'




La IIe et la IIIe Dynasties (R. Weill) 1908 (97-111, 360f., 451f., 492f.)
A History of Egypt (W.M.F. Petrie) 1912 (7th ed.; p. 27ff.)
Manuel d'archéologie égyptienne I, 1952 (J. Vandier) (statues, tomb, enclosures: cf. the index, p. 1009)
Archaic Egypt (W.B. Emery) 1961
Die Inschriften der Ägyptischen Fruhzeit (P. Kaplony) 1963 (seal impressions, 160ff.)
L'Egypte (E. Drioton - J. Vandier) 1962 (143ff., 158, 164f., 638)
Egypt before the Pharaohs (M.A. Hoffman) 1979 (p. 274f. and chapter 21 - Khasekhemui: a postscript to Prehistory, p. 348-354)
Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit (W. Helck) 1987
Early Dynastic Egypt (T.A.H. Wilkinson) 1999 (esp. p. 91-94)
Vereniging van de Beide Landen en de vroeg Egyptische Staat (J. van Wetering)
2004 (esp. p. 86-95)
(Also cf. the article by A. Dodson, The Mysterious Second Dynasty, in: KMT 7:2, 1996, 19-31)

Chasechem(ui) (P. Kaplony) L.A. I, 910-912
Chasechem / Chasechemui (T. Schneider) in id. ed. Lexikon der Pharaonen (1994) p. 98-99
Khasekhemwy (Khasekhem) (c.2686) (I. Shaw - P. Nicholson) British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt (1995) p. 149-150
Khasekhem / Khasekhemwy (M. Rice) in id. ed. Who's Who in Ancient Egypt (1999) p. 95
Khasekhemwy (G. Dreyer) in D. B. Redford ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Vol. 2 (2001) p. 231

Main Excavations

Hierakonpolis I (J.E. Quibell - F. Petrie) 1900 (on-line book)
Hierakonpolis II (J.E. Quibell - J. Green) 1902
The Royal Tombs of the Earliest Dynasties (W.M.F. Petrie) 1901 (Umm el Qa'ab, Tomb V)
Abydos, Part III (Ayrton - Currely - Weigall) 1904
The Egyptian Expedition 1934-1935. The Museum's Excavations at Hierakonpolis, in: BMMA (NY) 30, 1935, 37-45 (The 'Fort')
Tomb of the Courtiers and Oxyrinchos (W.M.F. Petrie) 1925 (Shunet ez Zebib) (on-line book)
Umm el-Qaab : Nachuntersuchungen im fruhzeitlichen Konigsfriedhof. 9. /10. (G. Dreyer et al.) M.D.A.I.K. 54. 1998, 164-6 (Umm el Qa'ab, Tomb V)
Umm el-Qaab : Nachuntersuchungen im fruhzeitlichen Konigsfriedhof. 11./12. (G. Dreyer et al.) M.D.A.I.K. 56. 2000, 122-8 (Umm el Qa'ab, Tomb V)
Umm el-Qaab. Nachuntersuchungen im fruhzeitlichen Konigsfriedhof 13./14./15. Vorbericht (Dreyer et al.) MDAIK 59, 2003, 108-124 (Tomb V)
Umm el-Qaab. Nachuntersuchungen im fruhzeitlichen Konigsfriedhof 16./17./18. Vorbericht (Dreyer, Engel, Müller, Hartmann, Lacher et al.) MDAIK 62, 2006, 67-129

Other articles and books

- The Set rebellion of the IInd Dynasty (P.E. Newberry) AE 7, 1922, 40-6
- Notes et documents pour ... Egypte et la Syrie (P. Montet) Kemi 1, 1928, 83-93
- Figurines d'animaux. Pieds de meubles. Tête de Khasekhem. Gravures de la base des statues de Khasekhem (J. Capart) Documents pour servir à l'étude de l'art égyptien. Vol. II : 3-9, pl. 1-5 (1931)
- A Foundation Scene of the Second Dynasty (R. Engelbach) JEA 20, 1934, 183-4
- The Museum's excavations at Hierakonpolis (A. Lansing) Supplement of BMMA 30 n. 11, 1935, 37-45
- The Step Pyramid (C.M. Firth - J. E. Quibell - J.P. Lauer) 1935 p. 17, 141
- La Pyramide a Degrees I (J.P. Lauer) 1936 (Western Massif of Djoser complex) p. 180-186
- La Pyramide a Degrees III (J.P. Lauer) 1939 (Western Massif of Djoser complex) pl. 22
- Fragment de vase en brêche livrant le cartouche de Khasekhemoui (M. Dunand) in id. Fouilles de Byblos. I. 1926-1932 (1939) p. 26-27
- Notes d' epigraphie Archaique (B. Grdseloff) ASAE 44, 1944, 279-306
- Evolution de la tombe royale egyptienne jusqu'à la Pyramide à degrés (J.P.Lauer) MDAIK 15, 1957, 148-65
- La Pyramide a Degrees IV.1 (P. Lacau - J.P. Lauer) 1961 n. 18, 95
- La Pyramide a Degrees IV.2 (P. Lacau - J.P. Lauer) 1961 p. 8, 44-45
- Bemerkungen zu einigen Steingefasen mit archaischen Konigsnamen (P. Kaplony) MDAIK 20, 1965, 1-46
- Abydos and the Royal Tombs of the First Dynasty (B.J.Kemp) JEA 52, 1966, 13-22
- Two Archaic Egyptian Sculptures (W.S. Smith) BMFA 65, 1967, 70-84 (ONLINE paper)
- A Propos d' une inscription de l' Horus Khasekhem (G. Godron) CdE 43, 1968, 34-5
- Murs à redans encadrés par les "tombs of courtiers"et"forts"d' Abydos (J.P. Lauer) MDAIK 25, 1969, 79-84
- Zu den koniglichen Talbezirken der 1und 2 Dynastie in Abydos und zur Baugeschichte des Djoser Grabmals (Kaiser) MDAIK 25, 1969, 1-21
- Preliminary Report on the First two Seasons at Hierakonpolis p. II Early Dynastic Palace (K.R. Weeks) JARCE 9, 1971, 29-33
- Zu den "Talbezirken" in Abydos (W. Helck) MDAIK 28, 1972, 95-99
- Die Datierung der Gefasaufschriften aus der Djoserpyramide (Wolfgang Helck) ZAS 106, 1979, 120-32
- Le Developpement des Complexes Funeraires Royaux en Egypte (J.P. Lauer) BIFAO 79, 1979, 355-94
- A Stela of Khasekhemuy from Abydos (R.A. Farag) MDAIK 36, 1980, 77-9
- Thinitenzeit (W. Helck) LÄ VI, 486-493
- Die Oberbauten der Konigsgraber der 2. Dynastie in Sakkara (R. Stadelmann) BdE. 97,2 (Mel. Mokhtar II) 1985, 295-307
- New Funerary Enclosures (Talbezirke)of the Early Dynastic Period at Abydos (D.O'Connor) JARCE 26, 1989, 51-86
- A Fragment from the Cairo Statue of Khasekhemwy (B. Adams) JEA 76, 1990, 161-3
- Some Remarks on the Great Rectangular Monuments of Middle Saqqara (N. Swelim) MDAIK 47, 1991, 389-402
- Zur Unteririrdischen Anlage der Djoserpyramide und ihrer entwicklungsgeschichtlichen Einordung (W. Kaiser) in Wallert- Helck eds. ' Gegengabe - FS Emma Brunner Traut' 1992, 167-190
- Preliminary Report of the Nat. Mus. of Scotland Saqqara Surv. Proj. 1990-91(Mathieson,Tavares) JEA. 79, 1993, 17-31
- Zu den Konigsgrabern der 2. Dynastie in Sakkara und Abydos (W. Kaiser) in Bryan-Lorton eds. Essays in Egyptology in honor of H. Goedicke, 1994, 113-123 (1991 paper)
- Analytical Bibliography of the Prehistory and Early Dynastic period in Egypt and Northern Sudan (S. Hendrickx), 1995 (+ updates in Archéo Nil)
- The Relief-Decoration of King Khasekhemui from the so-called Fort at Hierakonpolis (N. Alexanian), in C. Eyre (ed.), Seventh International Congress of Egyptologists, Cambridge 3-9 September. Abstracts of Papers, 3, 1995
- The Mysterious Second Dynasty (A. Dodson) KMT 7:2, 1996, 19-31
- ... Vase of King Khasekhemui (G.D. Scott), in: N. Thomas (ed.), The American Discovery of Ancient Egypt, 113, 1996, 116-118
- ... Vase inscribed with the name of Khasekhem (S.P. Harvey) in D.P. Silverman (ed.), Searching for Ancient Egyptian Art, Architecture and Artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum p. 92-95 (1997)
- The National Museums of Scotland Saqqara Survey Project 1993-1995 (Mathieson -Tavares et al.) JEA, 83, 1997, 17-53
- Abydos. Umm el-Qa'ab, Grab des Chasechemui (E.-M. Engel), BCE 20, 1997, 25-28
- Der erste König der 3. Dynastie (G. Dreyer), in: H. Guksch & D. Polz (eds.), Stationen. Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte Ägyptens (Fs Stadelmann) Mainz, 1998, 31-34
- Die Reliefdekoration des Chasechemui aus den sogennanten Fort in Hierakonpolis (N. Alexanian) in N. Grimal ed. Les Criteres de datation stilistiques à l' Ancien Empire, 1998, 1-21 (BdE 120)
- The Relief Decoration of Khasekhemwy at the Fort (N. Alexanian) Nekhen News, 11, 1999, 14-15 (on-line issue)
- Investigations in the Fort of Khasekhemwy (R. F. Friedman) Nekhen News, 11, 1999, 9-12 (on-line issue)
- Abydos. Umm el-Qa'ab, Grab des Chasechemui (E.-M. Engel), BCE 21, 2000, 50-58
- Funerary Enclosures. Early Dynastic "Forts" Reexamined (D. Sharp) KMT 12:1, 2001, 60-72
Jasejem y Ta-Sty (A. Jimenez-Serrano) BAEDE 12, 2002
- Second Dynasty Ink Inscriptions from Saqqara paralleled in the Abydos Material from the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH) in Brussels (I. Regulski), in: S. Hendrickx et al. (eds.), Egypt at its Origins, 2004, 949-970
- Die Entwicklung des Systems der ägyptischen Nomoi in der Frühzeit (E.-M. Engel) MDAIK 62, 2006, 151-160

(Also cf. Nekhen News issues, for articles on the Hierakonpolis Fort and related salvage campagins)

Internet pages (external links)

- THE FORT- and following pages (by R. Friedman)
- Digital Egypt: (... and related links)
- (J. Müller - K. Adams)
- TourEgypt: (by. J. Dunn)
- Absolute Egyptology: (by O. Vendel)

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Thanks to John D. Degreef and Bastiaan Lieffering for all the pleasing discussions about Early Egyptian history, archaeology, annals and other sources.

© Francesco Raffaele