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unknown till unkown
1. Pharaoh of the 2. Dynasty
Pharaonic names:
Horus: Hotepsekhemwy
Golden Horus  

The King in the Dark

While most egyptologists agree, that Hotepsekhemwy was the first ruler of the second dynasty and it's founder, there is otherwise not much to agree on. We know so little about this king, even egyptologists can't fight too well about it.
The Turine Stone credits him with a reign of 95 years, and everyone agrees, this is not possible. Manetho lists him as »Boëthôs« with a reign of 38 years, but most egyptologists consider even this a misinterpretation or pure exaggeration and credit him with either 25 or 29 years on the throne.

Name sources and identification

Archaeologists found Hotepsekhemwy's bane in Sakkara, Giza Abydos and Badari on clay seals, vessels and bone cylinders. On several stone vessels, Hotepsekhemwy appears together with his successor Raneb (Serekh-name is Nebra).
The word »hotep« means »peace«, »at peace«, but as well »conciled« or »reconciled« and »pleased with«. Thus the name can be read as »the two powers are pleased« or »the two powers are reconciled«. Together with the undeniable fact, that Egypt was reunited under his rule, even we can't say too sure, whether he inherited it as a united country or united it himself, this Horus name clearly references to the reunification of Egypt and therefore probably also to a political reunification of the two major deities, Horus and Seth. So, there is no doubt about the political hinting in this name. The remaining question is, is this name documenting a thing, that already had happened when this king picked this Horus name or whether it was more a declaration of intention at the time, he picked it.
With the beginning of the Second Dynasty, it became usual to write Horus name and Nebty name the same way. We don't know exactly why, a number of egyptologists speculates about a philosophical background enforcing this change, but seen from a behavioral angle, it could as well be, that the upcoming Second Dynasty simply started to make up her own traditions in the attempt to distinguish itself from the gone First Dynasty while at the same time, to keep the legitimation. Hotepsekhemwy is also commonly identified with the names Bedjau from the Abydos king list, Bedjatau from Giza, Netjer-Bau from the Saqquara king list and Bau-hetepju from the Turin Canon. Bedjatau, also appears in a short king list found on a writing board from tomb G1011 ther mastaba tomb of Mesdjeru. "Bedjatau" means "the foundryman" and is thought to be a misreading of the name "Hotepsekhemwy", since the hieroglyphic signs used to write "Hotep" in its full form are very similar to the signs of a pottery kiln and a chick in hieratic writings. The double Sekhem-sceptres could have been misread as a leg and a drill. A similar effect might have occurred in the case of King Khasekhemwy, where the two sceptres in the horus name were misread as two leg-symbols or two drill-signs. The Abydos king list consequently imitates this Old Kingdom name form of »Bedjatau«. The names "Netjerbau" and "Bau-hetepju" are problematic, since Egyptologists can't find any name source from Hotepsekhemwy's time that could have been used to form them. However, keep in mind those are from Saquarra and the Turin Canon, i.e. a lot younger and maybe subject to reconstruction attempts after someone in the time of those lists noticed the problem with the misread names per se. Not always, the attempt to reconstruct something wrong copied leads back to the original, it can as well lead to an entirely new creative failure.


We have no readable names of any wife of Hotepsekhemwy and no names of children, we can firmly lionk to him. There is a person named Perneb, the »son of the king« and »priest of Sopdu« mentioned on clay seals, but those seals where found in the gallery tomb shared by Hotepsekhemwy and Nebra. Thus, this mysterious Perneb could be as well be a son of Nebra.
The interesting detail however, may is hidden in the fact, that Nebra (aka Raneb) and Hotepsekhemwy shared the same gallery tomb. This was certainly not Hotepsekhemwy's decision because when it was made, he was dead since many years and Nebra was king for at least a decade. So the question is, what would Nebra make choosing the tomb already occupied by his predecessor as his own. Unless of course, Nebra, second king of a new royal house and slowly realizing, »hey, we're a new dynasty« had the idea to create with a royal mass grave kind of a legitimation focus. Who looked that way, he didn't see in Nebra's successors anymore the new wannabe, son of the new kid on the block. Who looked there saw, kings of the past, legitimation for every future king who could claim to be of that blood line. Which, in consequence, would indicate, Nebra aka Raneb felt not only as king, but also as son of Hotepsekhemwy.


While there is no actual date known for his reign and, based on the detail, that archaeologists found no inscription mentioning a Sed celebration, conclude that Hotepsekhemwy can't have ruled longer than 29 years (instead of considering the possibility, they missed inscriptions or the other real possibility, that maybe nobody risked to check the ability to rule on of the first ruler who brought stability to Egypt). So, in fact, there are a lot of possibilities that would render the modern Egyptologist's ideas as wrong. Technically their evidence is at least as anorexic as Manetho's when he gave Hetepsekhemwy 38 years. But then, Manetho was several times a little bit over the top with the times of rulership.
So, we know not much about the time and what we think, we know is far from certain. The more interesting is it to see, what happened instead of when exactly it happened.
According to seal impressions, Hotepsekhemwy started construction of a new royal residence called »Horus, the shining star«. Now, this information is mentioned in a lot of books and publications as more or less a side note. But it is of significance. A new royal residence, one has to smile about the egyptologist's attempt to avoid the political incorrect word »palace«, was a big thing. Not every king built just his new house. And one also has to keep in mind, that such a residence wasn't just a living space for the king. A royal residence was a center of administration and therefore power. Those things were, in comparison to the technical possibilities as big if not bigger than the pharaonic tombs, which, by price, established a significant drain of the nation's wealth and therefore weren't projects started just on a whim. We know, there was a time which may or may not indicated throne struggles and a lot of egyptologists love the idea of a veritable war of the roses after Kinh Qua'a's death leading to the collapse of the First Dynasty. I think, I mentioned already my doubts.
Keep some details in mind:
  • The number of identified throne heirs decreased, the further we followed the 1st Dynasty. One can interpret that of course as a consequence of lost documentation, for example in form of no inscriptions. But, here is the rub: One could also interpret this as a consequence of too much inbreeding. How many royal wifes had we, who were also sisters or at least half-sisters of their royal husbands? And how many of them were already product of similar marriages? One can't but notice, that at the end of the 1st Dynasty the dynasty was not really fresh anymore on the genetic side. And such genetic degeneration often comes with other effects like diminishing mental capacities, lesser numbers of surviving children and lower life expectancy of the offspring. And, since we talk god-kings here, probably also a noticeable stand still of development in the whole realm. The pharaohs were more than just paper pushers. Their will drove Egypt at least in those early times. Technological progress started with architecture in their tombs and residences, medical process started in their palaces with their families, educational progress started in their houses of the scribes. If the pharaoh didn't push, Egypt didn't move. Qua'a didn't push. His reign showed all signs of a long lasting status quo. And his successors made it barely in the annals and were some generations later so deep lost in oblivion, their names don't even appear on the king lists.
  • A new residence, while prices and a financial burden for the whole country, was also, aside of building tombs, the second big job creation program of ancient Egypt. And at the same time, since in constructing such a residence the most recent technologies were used, did it establish a kind of learning by doing school for probably at least a decade since construction tumes of ten, twenty, even thirty years were not rare.
    Now, while such a project documents, that Egypt hat left the state of stagnation it had reached under Qua'a, it also documents, time had to be peaceful and political stable. Nobody could have dared such an effort while standing back to the wall, all the time threatened by the next riot or civil war. Thus, Hotepsekhemwy was no king, who just had won a civil war. Such a ruler would have had other things to do than to kick his realm on the way to progress, he would have been busy with securing his power. Hotepsekhemwy was over that, if there had been such a phase in the first place. This residence project, as well as a temple project in Buto show, he demonstrated motion forward, progress to his countrymen. This was a political message in more than one aspect and it makes only sense in connection with socio-behavioral tendencies of the time. Obviously, not only the message but also the consequence of it was well received because the kingdom, Nebra took over was much richer and far more productive.
  • Actually, there are no archaeological hints in the found material proving, the 1st Dynasty collapsed in any kind of struggle. No mass graves, no casualty lists, no sudden appearance of noble tombs all in the time frame of a few years. Those would be signs of a civil war. The only thing, we have, is two names of persons who may or may not parked their rear for a definitively insignificant time on the throne, one obviously a nickname and may or may not used by Qua'a himself who had his rear parked there rightfully for decades already.
    Lets face it: If there would have been one or several throne contenders, they would have been at least adolescent, more likely adults. They would have lead troops to fight each other. People would have died, also nobles who would have been forced to take a side. No tombs, no sudden loss of administrative powers is indicated anywhere. And even the loser in such a war of roses would have left inscriptions, simply because he had to, it was the ancient Egyptian way of propaganda. The more would a winner have left inscriptions about his victory. And even then, after a civil war of such dimensions, the next generation or two would have been busy to clean the mess up, politically as social. Instead, we can see, under Hotepsekhemwy, Egypt went forward again. They didn't catch up with what they had for the war and had lost, they were already there and could start off form there, for example with a new residence.
So, what Hotepsekhemwy took over, it was disoriented, and no wonder why. The stabilizing factor, royalty had vanished. But it was not a polarized society. Consequently, Hotepsekhemwy's job was not to suppress the losers of a civil war. His job was, to give the realm a place to look at. Therefore a residence.
There are more little hints in that direction. Qua'a's tomb had been plundered at the end of the 1st Dynasty and restored at the beginning of the 2nd Dynasty. Now, those who want to see a war of roses, claim, this shows, there was a civil war. But in the first place, it shows degeneration and degradation of the official functionality of the kingdom. Without a pharaoh, there was no legit administration. Plundering a king's tomb demonstrates on the behavioral side desperation because if caught, the perpetrators would have suffered a death as unpleasant as technical possible. It also demonstrates possibilities, because nobody would plunder a tomb without at least a reasonable hope to get away with it. Which means, the tomb and probably the other ones around, weren't as guarded anymore. This shows once more degeneration of the system but not a civil war because every party would have needed to demonstrate, they would be the ones able to uphold the laws to win the population. In a civil war, it wouldn't have mattered which side had control over the area, either one would have made sure, the perpetrators were punished and the tomb restored. Qua'a was their only legitimation! So unless there was actually nobody who tried to get the throne by legitimation of his blood relation to the last legit king, there was no way, that tomb would have stood there long enough for Hotepsekhemwy to restore it.
Now, another project of his was the founding of the »Chapel of the White Crown«. Indeed, the white corwn is a symbol of Upper Egypt and therefore probably a hint of his origin and his source of political power. Now, political helpers and power sources demand for acknowledgment. You can ask any US President about that. So, yes, we can conclude he came from Upper Egypt. This is also consistent with another construction project, a temple for a goddess named Netjet-Achty near Buto. Now, you probably have never heard of Netjet-Achty, but more important, one can doubt, the people of Buto had ever heard of her. Netjet-Achty was worshiped and in a really modest degree, in Upper Egypt. Buto was as Lower Egypt as it can be. So this poses two questions:
First, how could Hotepsekhemwy dare to export an Upper Egyptian Goddess right into the center of Lower Egypt. The only explanation is, he was so firm in the saddle (take that as a metaphor, no riding in that time in Egypt), that he didn't risk a thing. That would indicate more than military power, that would indicate a high degree of popularity in fact. Especially since the second question is, why would Hotepsekhemwy chose a minor deity ad not one of the big guns of Upper Egypt for this cultural take over? Also here, the answer is pretty simple if you consider behavioral mechanisms. If Netjet-Achty was kind of his house goddess, she would have been, regardless of her own origins, acceptable for her connection with a popular ruler and unacceptable if the same ruler would have been considered some kind of ursuper. So, it all hung on the king's person, not on the goddess. Even more, if the king was popular, the people of Buto would maybe even have liked the gesture to get a temple of the beloved pharaoh's house deity in their town. Bottom line, this was no act of suppression, and even more important, it wasn't seen as such. It was an act of integration and acceptance.
We can see another effect start under Hotepsekhemwy's rule: The replacement of the Buto-culture. Already since predynastic times, Lower Egypt had developed it's own style and culture, distinct from the Upper Egypt main stream. With the 2nd Dynasty, this culture is step by step replaced by it's Upper Egypt equivalent. And this happened without violence, suppression more like an administrative act than anything. Now, there are in world history only a few instances known, where such a thing happened that peacefully. All of them had in common, that those who were about to lose their cultural identity wanted actually to become part of the new culture. There was more a sucking in of cultural traits than an impressing on. Those things, of course, could happen partially or completely. In the US, after WWI, the South took over parts of Northern lifestyle. Germany took parts of the US swing and rock culture and adapted it to German conditions. So, Egypt during the 2d Dynasty was not the only case in the history books, just one of the earliest documented cases.
To understand the importance of all those projects and effects, we have to keep in mind, there was and is only one way, culture is actually transported: Trade!
Now I can hear some people yell »and war« but they are wrong. You can't transfer cutlure by war. Because the defeated are pissed off and will do hell than to leanr your culture. They will despise it. Of course, if you go after the war and trade long enough with them, there is a chance, then they will take over cultural traits.
The real point is, to transport that effectively culture, also the trade had to be extensive. Thus, we can conclude, under Hotepsekhemwy, not only architecture but also economy came back from hibernation. Egypt, which had at the end of the 1st Dynasty become a sleeping beauty was kissed awake again. And that, in my opinion, is the inportance of Hotesekhemwy.

Earthquake anybody?

Manetho tells, that during Hotepsekhemwy's reign »a chasm opened near Bubastis and many perished«. This is usually interpreted as an earthquake and actually, the area of Bubastis is and was seismic active. So there is no real surprise there. But since we have no evidence linking Manetho's report to one single earthquake at a certain day, hour and minute, we have to see this as unproven anecdote.
However, lets think about it for a moment, because this could be the answer to an unsolved mystery. I mean, we can see, that this king was popular in Lower Egypt, popular enough to build a temple for his Upper Egyptian house goddess there without political repercussions. But how would a guy from Upper Egypt become that popular in Lower Egypt in the first place? It wasn't that he could pay off some reporters and read something from a teleprompter. Rulers back then had to show real substance and were in their political opinion catching hampered by the lack of mass media and the long travel times. Even news traveled slower then.
There was one thing, that would make a king from Upper Egypt very popular. The very same thing, politicians like to use still up to today: Disaster help! Politicians don't cause disasters – well, not THAT kind of disasters – but they use them. They also don't pay for any helping measures for the victims, they use the wealth of the taxpayers. Still, after all is said and done, it is not the government that gets popular, it's the political leader. We can see, that Hotepsekhemwy had this or a similar kind of popularity in an area that had been for the last ten generations at least a rather hostile stomping ground for rulers of his origin. The only catch, he needed a disaster to turn the table. And therefore, it's quite interesting, that Manetho mentions this earthquake.

The Tomb

As so many things with Hotepsekhemwy, the tomb is a problem as well. Because it is effectively not found till today. There is no stand alone mastaba that would fit the bill, no burial that would be immediately recognizable as royal due to a number of satellite burials as with the tombs of the First Dynasty.
Instead, we find a gallery tomb. Often, this tomb is referred to as Gallery Tomb B, sometimes as A … since egyptologists don't agree easily on anything, including the use of letters. So, the interesting on in this case is the one under the pyramid of King Unas (5th Dyn.), south of Djoser's step pyramid. The other one is a little east of it, so still south of Djoser's pyramid.
Both tombs have been reused over time, plundered, filled, plundered again, used as storage rooms and so on and so on. So by all means, it's more of a miracle archaeologists found still anything of significance there. For sure they didn't find mummies of Hotepsekhemwy or his successor Nebra (Raneb). What they found were clay seals and a few seriously damaged inscriptions. So, here is the situation: Everybody thinks, Tomb B was either built by Hotepsekhemwy or Nebra. If it was Nebra, the question remains where was Hotepsekhemwy buried. If it was Hotepsekhemwy, then why did Nebra use it for his own burial as well.
The real problem is, there were too many clay seals and inscriptions referring to Hotepsekhemwy to claim, this was all just to honor the dead daddy of the real owner of the tomb. On the other hand, as earlier mentioned, there would have been reasons, to combine the tomb with the dynasty's founders tomb for the second king of a new dynasty. And it would be also significant, that the third king, Ninetjer, had the other Gallery tomb right next to it, thus basically followed the same symbolism of a giant underground complex holding the roots of their royal legitimation. But as it is, we can guess, we don't know and thus, the Gallery Tombs will be ignition factor the egyptologist's favored pasttime: Heated discussions and published insults!
There is something else, I personally find a lot more intriguing. The tombs of the 1st Dynasty were oversized mastabas. They were big, visible and demonstrative. The Gallery Tombs A and B, they show an entirely different idea, an entirely different mindset. My readers know, I usually prick my ears if I stumble over such a thing.
Now, this calls for some imagination. You have to understand, when those tombs were constructed, the area there was empty. It would take at least four to six more generations till Djoser would start to build his step pyramid and till King Unas would build his pyramid over the Gallery Tomb, not knowing, it was there, some centuries would pass. All that was there were some noble tombs, classic mastabas, from the time of the 1st Dynasty, but no royal tombs. And even those were on the northeast side of the plateau. The entrance to the first gallery tomb would be far south of them.
So … we see a break. Not only the selection of another necropolis, documenting a stronger connection to Memphis than ever, because the royal tombs of the 1st Dynasty are in Abusir. We also see a new style, we see tombs carved deep in the ground. A labyrinth of store rooms, cult rooms, galleries till one finally reaches what we assume today was once the burial chamber. And right next to this monster, we talk about 135 by 45m or 443 by 148ft, the over-next king started to dig the next of this kind, not really much smaller. And we know, in later times, pharaohs would return to mastabas which would develop into pyramids, just one dynasty later.
So why? When we look at the entrances of those gallery tombs today, we see a whole leading down in the ground. Unobtrusive, hidden. But was that actually, what those kings had built there? Or are we missing something. Well, we miss something, literally. We miss the whole part of the complex above ground. We miss it since a long time, because obviously, latest about 2400 BC when King Unas built his final resting place, all of it was gone already. Which once more is no miracle or mystery. The plateau is higher and open to the desert wind (or was at least till someone built some pyramids on it). The building material of the 1st and 2nd 'Dynasties was sun-dried bricks. Two things will destroy buildings made of that entirely. Hefty rain or wind. And while rain is rather rare and never hefty enough to do such a thing in Egypt, there is wind. So, the wind carried the bricks away, grain by grain, over centuries. But they were there, thousands of them. They had to! Because the ternal life of the dead king relied on regular religious service, sacrifices of wheat, whine, geese, beer … yep, beer was important in ancient Egypt … and of course incense. There was no royal tomb without a temple. And while the galleries include some rooms which may could have served for rituals, nothing indicates a complete underground temple. Ergo, the temple had to be above ground. And that made it visible, big, demonstrative. Even more than the mastabas of the 1st Dynasty. Because there was, what those older royal tombs lacked: Life! Priests conducted services there, after Nebra was buried there already for two dead kings and Ninetjer (aka Nynetjer, Banetjer, Banetjeru and some other spellings), the third king of the dynasty built his burial complex right next to it, so there were in fact three funeral temples which technically either were constructed wall to wall or formed together an even bigger complex. Even better, under it, as anybody would think to know in an era of superstition, there would be a maze in which the dead Gods, Osiris himself by name, laid in all their glory, keeping their secrets who would be too powerful, too complex and simply not supposed to be understood by mere mortal minds. Nobody except for a handful of priests ever saw those rooms after the funeral and probably, those who saw them during construction were not able to talk about it anymore. Above, the temples were running, a reminder of the divine nature of those kings. Where the kings of the 1st Dynasty, or more likely the priests supporting that philosophy, killed humans to make human rulers in death immortal deities to create legitimation, the kings of the 2nd Dynasty delivered running temples with, supposed for and actually used to worship the dead Gods of Egypt. Which explains, why human sacrifice ended with the 2nd Dynasty. Those guys weren't any nicer, than the earlier kings, and certainly were their priests nicer. But they had neither use nor space for satellite burials for slaughtered members of their entourage. From that point on, to be buried next to the king would become a honor, radiating a little bit of the dead king's divinity on the dead mortal resting in his shadow. And yes, that is EXACTLY the wording used in a number of those tombs.
So we see here a complete and intentional break with burial traditions of the 1st Dynasty. From the start, the 2nd Dynasty made an effort to establish itself as something in it's own rights, not just an extension of the kings of old. Basically, with Hotepsekhemwy, they stomped a ew cult out of the ground, invented a new architecture to support it and changed the religion accordingly. This indicates, the first of them Hotepsekhemwy himself, had to advise a plan to do so. And even while we have no conclusive evidence, he was actually buried in Gallery Tomb B, it is the only possible place. Because if he would have made an attempt to connect to the older traditions, there would be somewhere a mastaba with a lot of clay seals bearing his names. There is not. And I'm sure, archaelogists, who conclude from not finding a single line of inscription on a celebration that didn't happen, would have found such a big thing as a royal mastaba. So the only possibility is, he planned from the start on that new kind of tomb. And he could do so because he had no need to connect to the older traditions but a need to demonstratively create new ones. On a behavioral level, this means, he never claimed to be a descendant of any of the 1st Dynasty kings and even more, everybody knew he wasn't and accepted that fact. Which leaves us only with the possible origin of a royal house from Upper Egypt or, more likely a soldier dynasty, because if his family would have been royal before, he would have been forced to connect to their royal traditions. His political power base, if royal, would have demanded the use of those traditions. Only if he had no royal roots, he could, in my opinion, invent an entirely new royal tradition. That is, what, on a behavioral level, is hidden behind those gallery tombs.

... back
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12:00 AM CT

Richard N. Clarey jr.
Clarey is one of the lesser known serial killers, skirting the definition a little. Still, for some reasons an interesting case.

Wed, Oct 2, 2013
12:00 AM CT

Now in the collection: William E. Cosden
A garden variety sexual predator, notable only because his existence shows, how wrong the idea of 1 monster at 1 time in 1 area is.

Copyright if not otherwise mentioned Peter and Diane Brendt 2010-. All copies, also in parts, demand the written consent of the copyright holders