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Sekhemkhet

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Sekhemkhet
Djosertety, Djoserty, Tyreis
Relief of Sekhemkhet from Wadi Maghareh
Relief of Sekhemkhet from Wadi Maghareh
Pharaoh
Reign 6 or 7 years, ca. 2650 BC (3rd Dynasty)
Predecessor Djoser
Successor Sanakht (most likely) or Khaba
Royal titulary [show]
Consort Djeseretnebti
Burial Buried Pyramid
Sekhemkhet (also read as Sechemchet) was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of 3rd
dynasty during the Old Kingdom. His reign is thought to have been from about 2648
BC until 2640 BC. He is also known under his later traditioned birth name Djoser-
tety and under his Hellenized name Tyreis (by Manetho; derived from Teti in the
Abydos king list). He was probably the brother or eldest son of king Djoser. Little
is known about this king, since he ruled for only a few years. However, he erected
a step pyramid at Saqqara and left behind a well known rock inscription at Wadi
Maghareh (Sinai Peninsula).

Contents [hide]
1 Reign
2 Family
3 Tomb
3.1 The pyramid
3.2 Subterranean structure
3.3 Necropolis complex
4 See also
5 References
6 Bibliography
Reign[edit]

Cartouche name Teti from the Abydos king list.


The duration of Sekhemkhet's reign is believed to have been 6 to 7 years. The royal
Turin Canon attributes 6 years of reign to Sekhemkhet,[2] a figure also proposed by
Myriam Wissa based on the unfinished state of Sekhemkhet's pyramid.[3] Using his
reconstruction of the Palermo Stone (5th dynasty), Toby Wilkinson assigns 7 years
to this king. This figure is based on the number of year registers preserved in
Cairo Fragment I, register V.[4] Wilkinson states that this figure is fairly
certain, since the [king's] titulary begins immediately after the dividing line
marking the change of reign..[5] Similarly, the Greek historian Manetho lists
Sekhemkhet under the name of Tyreis and indicates that he reigned for 7 years.
Nabil Swelim, by contrast, proposed a reign of 19 years, because he believed that
Sekhemkhet might be the Tosertasis mentioned by Manetho.[6] However, such a long
reign is at odds with the unfinished state of the buried pyramid and this view is
generally rejected by Egyptologists.

Clay seal from the island of Elephantine showing Sekhemkhet horus and nebty names.
Little is known about activities conducted during Sekhemkhet's reign. The only
preserved documents showing Sekhemkhet are two rock inscriptions at Wadi Maghareh
in the Sinai peninsula. The first one shows Sekhemkhet twice once wearing the
Hedjet crown, another wearing the Deshret crown. The second inscription depicts a
scene known as smiting the enemy Sekhemkhet has grabbed a foe by its hair and
raises his arm in an attempt to club the enemy to death with a ceremonial sceptre.
The presence of these reliefs at Wadi Maghareh suggests that local mines of copper
and turquoise were exploited during Sekhemkhet's reign.[7][8] These mines were
apparently active throughout the early 3rd Dynasty since reliefs of Djoser and
Sanakht were also discovered in the Wadi Maghareh.

Several clay seals presenting an unusual nebty name together with Sekhemkhets
Horus name were found at the eastern excavation site on the island of Elephantine.
The Egyptologist Jean Pierre Ptznik reads the nebty name as Ren nebty meaning The
two ladies are pleased with his name. It is not entirely clear whether this is
indeed Sekhemkhets nebty name or that of a yet unknown queen.[8]

Family[edit]
Sekhemkhet's wife may have been Djeseretnebti, but this name appears without any
queen's title, and Egyptologists dispute the true meaning and reading of this name.
[9] The name has alternatively been read as Djeser-Ti and identified with the
cartouche-name Djeser-Teti presented in the Saqqara King List as the direct
successor of Djoser.[10] Sekhemkhet surely had sons and daughters, but up to this
date no personal name was found.

Tomb[edit]
Main article Buried Pyramid

Schematical depiction of Sekhemkhets step pyramid


King Sekhemkhet was buried beneath his step pyramid at Saqqara, diagonally across
from his predecessors pyramid, the necropolis of King Djoser. This tomb is known
today as Sekhemkhets pyramid, Djesertetis pyramid and as Buried pyramid.
Sekhemkhets tomb was excavated in 1952 by Egyptian archaeologist Zakaria Goneim.

The pyramid[edit]
Sekhemkhets pyramid was planned as a step pyramid from the first. Its base was a
square footprint measuring 378 ft x 378 ft (220 x 220 cubits). If the pyramid had
been completed, it would have had six or seven steps and a final height of 240.5 ft
(140 cubits). These proportions would have given the pyramid an angle of elevation
of 5150', identical to the pyramid at Meidum and the Great Pyramid at Giza. Like
Djosers pyramid, Sekhemkhet's was built of lime stone blocks. The monument was not
finished, possibly because of the pharaohs sudden death. Only the first step of
the pyramid was completed, leaving a monument in the shape of a large, quadratic
mastaba.

Subterranean structure[edit]
The entrance to Sekhemkhets burial lies at the northern site of the step pyramid.
An open passage leads down for 200 ft, track halfway a vertical shaft meets the
passage from above, it leads to the surface and its entrance would lie at the
second step of the pyramid, if the monument had been completed.

At the meeting spot of passage and shaft another passway leads down to a
subterranean, u-shaped gallery containing at least 120 magazines. The whole gallery
complex has the appearance of a giant comb. Shortly before the burial chamber the
main passage splits into two further magazin galleries, surrounding the burial
chamber like an u (similar to the big northern gallery), but they were never
finished.

The burial chamber has a base measurement of 29 ft x 17 ft and a height of 15 ft.


It was also left unfinished, but surprisingly a nearly completely arranged burial
was found. The sarcophagus in the midst of the chamber is made of polished
alabaster and shows an unusual feature its opening lies at the front side and is
sealed by a sliding door, which was still plastered with mortar when the
sarcophagus was found. The sarcophagus was empty, however and it remains unclear
whether the site was ransacked after burial or whether King Sekhemkhet was buried
elsewhere.
A shell shaped container made of gold was found by an Egyptian Antiquities Service
excavation team in 1950.[11] The object has a length of 1.4 in and is currently on
display in Room 4 of the Cairo Museum.[12]

An ivory plaque bearing the form of Sekhemkhet's Saqqara Kinglist name of Djoserti
found in the remains of his step pyramid tomb.
Necropolis complex[edit]
Because the necropolis of Sekhemkhet was never finished, it is hard to say which
planned cultic building had already existed. The pyramid courtyard was surrounded
by a niched enclosure wall facing north-west. It was 1.850 ft long, 607 ft wide and
33 ft high. The only archaeologically preserved cultic building is the Southern
Tomb, its base measurement is estimated to be 105 ft x 52 ft. The subterranean
structure included a tight corridor, beginning at the western site of the tomb and
ending in a double chamber. In this chamber in 1963 Jean-Philippe Lauer excavated
the burial of a 2-years-old toddler. The identity of this child remains a mystery,
the only for sure known fact about it is that it cannot be king Sekhemkhet himself,
since the king was always depicted as a young man.

No further cultic buildings were detected, but egyptologists and archaeologists are
convinced, that once upon a time a mortuary temple and a serdab existed, but were
destroyed due the looting of stone from his cult buildings in antiquity.

See also[edit]
List of Egyptian pyramids
List of megalithic sites
References[edit]
Jump up ^ Alan H. Gardiner The Royal Canon of Turin, Griffith Institute, Oxford
1997, ISBN 0-900416-48-3.
Jump up ^ Alan H. Gardiner The Royal Canon of Turin, Griffith Institute, Oxford
1997, ISBN 0-900416-48-3, Vol. 2.

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