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unknown till unkown
2. Pharaoh of the 2. Dynasty
Pharaonic names:
Horus: Raneb, Nebra
Golden Horus  

The Name

Aside of a lot of names and forms of names in later king lists, there are two main ways to refer to this pharaoh. Either as Raneb or as Nebra. Now, that sounds very different in out language, but basically those are the same hieroglyphs only interpreted in a different way.
I admit, I love it! Because it shows the difference between the behavioral and the textbook egyptology 101 appraoch. Egyptologists have a problem here. This guy spelled his name with a sun sign. With a freaking sun sign. And egyptologists know for sure, there was no cult of the sun as a deity of its own during Raneb's/Nebra's time. Mostly, religion during the time of the 2nd Dynasty concentrated on keeping the balance between the two main deities Horus und Seth, who would control the sun, a celestial being under their control or rather under the control of one of them, and who, that would depend on which priest your would ask. Now, if one reads the hieroglyphs as Ra-Neb, then we have here Ra, the later sun god, who at this time, wasn't even a worshiped deity at all. And Ra-Neb, as they would translate it, means »Ra is my Lord«, which points out, Ra would be a higher deity as the pharaoh, who was worshiped as Son of Horus or living Horus … no way. So, egyptologists turned the thing around, literally, use the »lord« first and make it Nebra, which would be »Lord of the sun« as in Neb-Ra. Which, at least as far as the religious ideas of the egyptologists go, implies, the pharaoh rules over the sun which indeed would be as celestial body under the control of Horus or Seth, depending which priest one would have asked. Now, who needs an Aspirin?
Now, lets try to see the thing from a behavioral angle. »Neb« means »Lord«. If it is read as second part, the first part says who the lord is. If it is the first part, the second part indicates lord of who or what. Well, that's a little simplified, but that is how those egyptologists read hieroglyphs. But is that really how such a name worked? Try to express »lord of the sun«, »sun-lord« and »lord 'sun'« … or lets go very explicit here, try »Sun, symbolizing lord« and »lord symbolized by the sun«. What did you think, when I said »explicit?
Now, if you actually tried that, you end up with Neb-Ra, Ra-Neb, Neb-Ra, Ra-Neb, Neb-Ra ...doesn'z that look like a case of »dooh«? But the truth is, if you have only two symbols, there are only two possible orders, you can write them in. The rest is interpretation. Which is, how names work. Still, up to today. My name is Peter. Peter comes from Greek: Petra, the stone. Am I a jewel? A gall stone? A ton of bricks? The Rock of Gibraltar? Hard as stone? Heavily congested? Well, I won't discuss the latter one. In fact, I won't discuss any of them. The interpretation depends on the context. With names, the context is always, what I know about a person and if said person is a king, it means, he is a politician and the context includes his political ideology, his program, his concept to rule. So to understand, what Ranebnebbra meant, when he painted two hieroglyphs on a papyrus in an order nobody could say which would be the first one, we have to look at his mind. What do we know? He was the second king in a dynasty that probably had no royal roots at all. His predecessor and in my opinion probably father, just had created a completely new view on royal traditions and religious implications, had imported the house goddess to Lower Egypt and had made himself a very popular guy. So, here he is, the new king. He knows, we are kings. Opposite to his daddy, he knew, he grew up with that knowledge. He had no »new kid on the block« bonus. People, still mourning his predecessor expected him to continue with what made his father so successful.
And here, hold the horses! Chances are, Hotepsekhemwy acted a lot of times by instinct. And his insticts were obviously able to tell him, what would be perceived well in the population. One could say, it made him a man of the people. Men of the people are usually not men of the other politicians or back then »nobles«. Bad politicians hate the good ones. So, there was one part of the population that weren't his pals. The nobles. And new king meant new chance. So, what was one of the successful parts, the fat attitude that had made Hotepsekhemwy successful? Explicit-icy … naah, not what you think now! I meant rather the political incorrect method of the straight forward statement. Hotepsekhemwy got the throne of a kingdom, that had been united, split, united, split and re-united with a long tradition of both parts disgusting each other. So he takes up a royal name saying »Now they are together, the gods are good with that, bring it on if you think it sucks«. And even more, he couldn't get popular in the North by treating the North badly. So obviously, he didn't. Would nobility from the South have accepted that or would they have wanted to exploit the new part of their realm of power? And if they couldn't do so, who could have been in their way if not the king?
Now, lets apply the same logic to a man who just got a throne, knows, he has a damn big pair of shoes to fill and knows as well, at least half of the most powerful men in Egypt pray he would die in a fire! So he takes his throne name. Just two hieroglyphs. And basically he leaves it to the reader to read it as Ra-Neb or Neb-Ra. It doesn't matter. For a folk living at the edge of the desert, as anybody who ever visited Egypt can confirm, »sun« is not good news. Even not if the sun is just hot, not worshiped, not a deity on it's own. Just hot, destructive. Now, what gives the combination of »lord« and »hot, destructive«? It clearly says: »The Sun-Lord will burn your ass if you try something stupid.« The sun wasn't a deity then, the sun was symbol for power, a power that burned whole lands. Look just some miles away from the Nile. The sun, in the perception of the early Egyptians wasn't actually something »nice« or »desirable«. The sun, at least till architecture provided a thousand years later enough buildings offering shade, was something whose anger people avoided. Behavioral, this name is an explicit threat to all who try to cross the king, the Sun-Lord. And therefore, the stress is on the lord-part. Because that is the power behind the thread. And the use of »neb« in this case would be entirely correct and refer to the divine nature of those god kings.
Now, we have also other names for this king. He is identified with the cartouche name Kakau of the Ramesside era, Kechoos, probably a greekisized version of Kakau, Weneg-Nebti, a very mysterious king of which nobody knows whether he really existed, Nubnefer, another king of which nobody knows whether he existed, but with even less people who think, he may could have existed … err, well. Most of those names are rather misreadings or references to king lists written ten to fifteen centuries later. So, there is enough room for mistakes.


Not much is known about his reign. The entries on the Palermo Stone as well as on pottery refer mostly to administrative routine acts. The appearance of his name together with Hotepsekhemwy's name on clay seal in Saquarra indicate, he performed the burial of his predecessor.
There exists a story, written up much later (as in probably centuries later), that Nebra came to the power by a kind of palace coup. There is no evidence for or against this story in the ways of archaeological material. But if Hotepsekhemwy was buried with all royal honors in the new kind of royal tomb, Gallery Tomb B and Nebra later chose to share this gallery tomb with him, then this indicates on the behavioral level a much friendlier relation between those two than a palace revolt. And since the little we know about Nebra's reign appears pretty consistent with Hotepsekhemwy's behavior, we could also guess, that Nebra leanred his business from Hotepsekhemwy, which would make him probably his son.
Manetho wrote also another anecdote about Nebra, saying that under king Kêchoós (the Greek version of the name Kakau) the deities Apies, the goat of Mendes and Menevus were "introduced and worshipped as gods". Of course, modern egyptologists have problems with that (only psychiatrists have more problems than egyptologists). This time they think, this is wrong because there was already an Apis cult which probably went back till in predynastic times. Now, lets solve a problem then? Yep, there was an Apis cult. It was, at least since the first unification of Egypt, also connected to the Ptah cult. Ptah … dear egyptologists, got the hint? That is Memphite! So, how many chances had a memphite deity before to be systematically spread over Egypt? Wait, the cult, not the animal of course! So, like zero? But now, with some popular originally Upper Egyptian kings on the steering wheel? Maybe even with a certain political need to water down the power of some priesthoods by promoting more deities? Which would explain, why Nebra not only transported something Memhpite through the whole kingdom, but also, after his father just brought an Upper Egyptian goddess to Lower Egypt, began to promote the cat godess' Bastet's popularity over all Egypt? Bastet was Lower Egyptian and under Nebra, we find the kitty suddenly till almost the Nubian border. So, there was a reason for this excessice exchange of deities and that gives Manetho right: Those deities, not only Apis, but for example Bastet as well, were before local deities, now they became Egyptian, were "introduced and worshipped as gods" all over the kingdom. Which of course split power between more priesthoods and ensured a pretty peaceful reign for the king.

Family and tomb

We have the same problem with Nebra's family as we had with Hotepsemhekwy's family. Oh wait, that was because the mysterious Perneb, priest of Sopdu, son of the king (without saying which one) was exactly in one place mentioned. The tomb. Which, as it looks, was for both the same one. So, it's the same problem and we still don't know which of the two kings was Perneb's father, if any at all. Which in a way, also makes writing about the tomb obsolete.

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