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ab. 2975 B.C. till ab. 2935 B.C.
6. Pharaoh of the 1. Dynasty
Pharaonic names:
Nesw-bity: see name chaos
Horus: Hor-Den (Serekh)
Nebty: see name chaos
Golden Horus see name chaos

The best attested ruler of the 1st Dynasty

Without doubt, Den is the best attested ruler of the whole first dynasty. It is said, he brought prosperity to his realm and the time of his rulership is connected to many innovations. It was a time of technological and social raise. And even when his rulership was of course still connected to older rites, like human sacrifices at his burial, it is notable, that Den, the richest and mightiest of those early pharaohs had the lowest number of subsidiary burials near his tomb. Den was a God-King, as were all pharaohs. But he was one, who didn't need to document that post-mortem anymore. The swing to accest a king as God because what he was, not what the priests did, was in motion.
Another detail is notable: Den was the first pharaoh to use the title "King of Lower and Upper Egypt" and also the first one depicted wearing the red and white double crown, which would be later such an inevitable depiction of Egyptian kings. He was the first. This indicates, that during his rulership, the integration of the two parts of Egypt was basically a fact. The kings before him, even while ruling over a country united by the military strength of the pharaoh, ruled basically over a split country. In Den's time, it was actually one for the first time.

Tomb and Technology

Technology in those early phases of history means mostly architecture. The floor of Tomb T in Umm al-Qua'ab, Den's tomb, is made from red and balck granite. This is the first time, hard stone instead of the usual granite is used in Egyptian architecture - long before the legendary Imhotep allegedly invented this technique for Pharaoh Djoser's pyramid in Saqquara at the beginning of the 3rd dynasty.
The significance of using stone is a multiple one. First, it showed off, how rich Den was and thus is another indicator for the prosperity of his realm during this rulership. But there is more to it. Egyptian belief was focused on the life after death. Ceram, not without reason, wrote, that all life in Egypt was basically some kind of way to the death. Not in the physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. It was a testphase in which one had to lead a good and just life to earn the afterlife. Even the pharaoh. So this death cult, that makes the ancient Egyptian culture so fascinating, sometimes in a morbid way, was important. And thus, especially the tomb of a God-King was showcase and technological driving power. To work with stone demands to have the tools to work that stone. Which, for a people basically having only stone tools would be a technological quantum leap. To build the finest and one of the biggest tomb in the area, also in competition with tombs built much later, was a challenge. Not only for some crafters, but also for those who made their tools, for the workers and for the architects, who built that thing. And thus, there is another significance to see: When did those people built this tomb?
Now, what sounds like a quite stupid question, has indeed a deeper hidden meaning. This was a big project, it called for a lot of workers. Most people in Egypt were basically farmers and the Nile brought by his regular floods and the fertile Nile mud, those floods left behind, three harvests a year. Problem is, while the floods were ging on, farmers could only sit around and had no income.
Sure, slaves worked on those tombs. Some. But the mass of workers were free farmers, who used the time they couldn't farm and during that time, they were paid and fed by the king. Later, when the pyramid building would begin, this was already an established mechanism of Egyptian life. But it started here. The older tombs were built with relative low effort, but the moment, hard stone came into play, stone had to be broken, transported, worked, tools had to be produced and specialists knowing how to use those tools had to be trained. What Den'S tomb basically documents is a change in Egyptian society when it comes to work. The crafter pops up as a new specialized branch of workers and probably even the artist. Both were supported by probably thousands of temporary workers with low to no skills. But every season, those workers returned and learned more about the tools used to build this monument. Egypt became a tool society and spawned new professions.
The result is, in the context of what they had, quite impressive. Tomb T is the first royal tomb in Egypt, that was accessible via a flight of stairs. All older tombs were filled basically though the roof. This indicates the possibility, that the tomb was also used as extra-storehouse during the lifetime of Den and certainly, it would have allowed to add grave goods later in services for the dead king. In other words, those services as for other deities were established at Den's time and made this change in architecture necessary.
In the original layout, a wooden door was located about half-way up the stairs. Now, a wooden door doesn't sound like much. But Egypt was and is a desert country. They had clay, sand, some rock, a little gold they mined mostly at the Sinai and they had even less wood. Wood in ancient Egypt meant to use a material that was rarer than gold. And thus, the number of people who knew how to work with wood was necessarily small. Still there had to be one or this door wouldn't be there.
A portcullis was placed at the entrance of the burial chamber as well to keep grave robbers out. Now, aside of the use of wood also here, the building of a portcullis calls at least for some understanding of basical physical laws. On an empiric level, someone building a portcullis has to know about moving parts and, in complexer versions, counter weights. That's a new one in Egypt's technology too.
And there is another detail. I wrote already about the red and black stone. Now, that material came from Aswan. There are 230 miles or 370 km between Aswan and Abydos as the crow flies. No problem for a modern semi-rig to carry some tons of granite over. The only problem: No crows and surely no semi-rigs back in the days. The Egyptians had to use the Nile and then carry or roll the stones over logs all the way to the construction site. That means logistics and again technological knowledge. And of course a lot of muscle power. But, that is the significant point here, they did it, they were obviously able to do it. This shows, how quick things developed in Den's time because there is not much evidence for such skills before Den's time except for some little details in Merneith's tomb. Only that one was also built by Den.

Name chaos

As Den is the best attested pharaoh in the 1st Dynasty, there is also a lot written about him, by him, and in connection with him. The result is a flood of names all referring tot he same man and it is a little hard to figure out, which names were actually used formally in his days, which ones were later forms or nicknames and which ones were honor names of all kinds. Den was also known as Hor-Den (his Serekh-name), Dewen, Udimu, Nisut-Bity-Khasty (means "King of Lwoer and Upper Egyt, the one of the two deserts" and was probably his throne name), Seaptju (on the Abydos king list, which appears to be a shortform of "He of the Great Districts" and refers maybe to the original "two deserts" symbol, that was misread in ramesside times), Iaret-nebu-shen (Golden Cobra, which maybe connects to his fathers serpent name), Oúsaphaîdos (by Manetho) and Quenenti (on the Palermo Stone).
So, he had a lot of names, which normally in Egyptian history indicates his importance. However, the most important name, the Serekh-name Den or Dewen (depending who tries to read the hieroglyphs) is well attested on earthen seal impressions, ivory labels and vessels made from schist, diorite and marble (again hard materials that needed tools to work them). Later writings, for example the Medical Papyrus of Berlin, refer to Den up to the ramesside era. The name means "He, who brings water" and is a reference to the Nile floods.

Length of reign

Svholars like to fight. They don't look like that, but honestly, they like to fight, especially other nerds. What they love to fight about is usually estimation and interpretation. And nobody should believe, this is limited to modern scholars, that is going on since centuries or, given Egyptian history, since millenia. So, Manetho credited Den with 20 years of rulership. The Royla Canon of Turin (aka the Turin Stone) is damaged and doesn't give a clue, so the only other source is the Palermo stone, which indicates a reign of 42 years for Den.
Now, it had to be more than 20 years. Manetho has to be wrong. Den's impact was just too big to be achieved in merely 20 years. And we know, Den had to come on the throne in young years because Merneith retired obviously as soon as her son had reached an acceptable age to take over. However, 42 years is a little too long. Because it would bring us in conflict with later pharaohs and their times of rulership. To make things worse, one has to remember, the Palermo stone was engraved during the 5th dynasty. That is 25th century B.C. or about 300 years after Den's death. Quick, do you remember who was President of the US 300 years ago and when he exactly moved to the White House? No? Forget about it, it was a trick question, there was no President and no White House 300 years ago. Still, I bet someone actually tried to remember a President and threw some names around. So the little trick question served to show, what 300 years can do to the accuracy of history. And the "writers" of the Palermoe stone (rather masons?) were also 300 years away from Den. So, to me, an estimation of 30 to 40 years would be for now exact enough without claiming an accuracy that technically can't even exist.
We know a lot about his time as king, but it reads a little differnet depending on how it is interpreted, so lets have a look and make up our own opinion:

  • According to some archaeologists, Den had to share the early years of his reign with his mother Merneith. There is no argument about the meaning of it. Den was simply to young when his father died, to take over the power. So Merneith jumped in. The question is, was Merneith formally a pharaoh or not? Given, that her tomb is right between the other royal tombs and it is a main burial not a subsidiary one to her brother and husband's, she was buried as king, not as regular queen. That is the more significant as she wasn't ruler at the time of her death, but appears to have retired years before, when Den took over. So by all means, Merneith was a pharaoh and Egyptian titulary had to deal suddenly with a pharao(ret) which was another first one for them. However, it explains the many changes, Den invented at his own court, when it comes to titles, rites and rituals and court rules. This wasn't just a pharaoh who sat down one morning and said "now we do it all different". That was something that grew out of the special situation of that court. Den had his behavioral markers carved in stone for us to read, so had Merneith and so had his father Djet. More they really couldn't do for our understanding, so, read those damn things please. Djet had permitted, not formally, but because he probably felt it as support, the Merneith became a political power. Ahaneith meybe was good in bed or a politically convenient secondary marriage, but she played no role. And when Merneith gave birth to the heir of the throne, she gained even more power. And still, nothing indicates, Djet was in any way pissed. And still, while mistresses, consorts and probably also Ahaneith was sacrificed at Djet's funeral, Merneith not only survived but took power. And she kept it, till her son was old enough to take over. So please, ask the mothers of your own children, wouldn't it be ogical, she trained him by letting him participate? He was a kid, he wasn't the ruler, the repsonsibility was hers, but she involved him early. And that way, the story made sense. Especially, since it wasn't the first time in Egyptian history, only it was the first time, it took so many years. Queen Neithotep appears to have ruled also for a short time after the death of Pharaoh Narmer. So what we have here is a queen not in her role as queen but as Pharaoh, as actually ruling king, even she basically only held the place warm till her son was old enough. And a mother who used the situation to teach her son how to be a good and successful king. Given his record, she did a good job.
  • After he took over, or maybe starting late during the reign of his mother, Den started out with some creative activity. One can't but see him as a little bit nerdy, in the good way. So he or someone near to him invented the numbering hieroglyphs. Prior to this, events were only recorded as signs or miniatures, sometimes preceded by a renpet-hieroglyph indicating,t he writer was talking about a "year". But as important as those "numbers" were for recording history, they had a much wider use, for example for calculating taxes. Without numbers, a tax system is unthinkable. Well, in fact, without numbers, also building pyramids some centuries would be impossible. And the bigger tombs of the next dynasty, would they be possible without the ability to calculate weights and angles? Which means, his first little invention made anything later possible in the first place. Talking nerd-impact here.
  • The MacGregor label shows Den in the first depiction of an Egytian king with Nemes-crown (aka war crown). The typical pose of smiting enemies was already invented earlier, but this one os really artisticly developed since it'S earliest forms. This is not a waise king, sitting on his throne, this is a warrior, first ande foremost, smashing enemies, we can identifiy as Asians, in royal rage with his war mace. And this even is, to make things clear also described on the label as "First smiting of the East". Which indicates, other were to follow. So we can assume, Den had some military activity during his reign.
  • The invention of numbers also influenced recording history and thus, we know some events and in which year they happened. But keep in mind, this record is from the Palermo stone and thus 300 years distant in time from Den:
    • 4th year: First time counting of gold (the tax system starts to get precise)
    • 5th year: Escort of Horus (whatever that's supposed to mean) and 2nd census of cattle count
    • 7th year: Escort of Horus, 3rd cattle count
    • 18th year: The making of a statue for Wed-Wadjet
    • 19th year: Smiting of the Setjet people
    • 20th year: Creation of the Mafdet-fetish; raising of the Sentj-pillars.
    • 21st year: Smiting of the Tjesem people.
    • 22nd year: Visit to the royal domain of Semer-Netjeru; first celebration of the Hebsed.
    • 28th year: Visit to the temple of Ptah... (rest is missing).
    • 29th year: Smiting of the Iuntju people.
    • 30th year: Appearance of the king of Lower- and Upper Egypt; 2nd celebration of the Hebsed.
    • 31st year: Planning for the construction of the eastern and western canals through the districts of the Rehyts.
    • 32nd year: 2nd celebration of the Djet-festival.
    • 33rd year: Stretching the cords (foundation ceremony) for the divine fortress Isut-Netjeru (“thrones of the gods”).
    • 34th year: Stretching the cords for the royal palace of the divine fortress Isut-Netjeru by the high priest of Seshat.
    • 35th year: Inauguration of the sacred lakes at the divine fortress Isut-Netjeru; royal hippopotamus hunt.
    • 36th year: Residing at Heracleopolis and at the lake of the god Herishef.
    • 37th year: Sailing trip to Sah-Setni; foundation/destruction of the city Wer-Ka.
    • 38th year: Creation of a statue for the god Sed.
    • 39th year: Appearance of the king of Lower- and Upper Egypt; 1st race of the Apis-Bull.
    • 40th year: Creation of a statue for the goddesses Seschat and Mafdet.
    • 41st year: Appearance of the king of Lower- and... (rest is missing)
    As I said: The Palermo stone was written 300 years alter and in a time, Den was already far legend. The writers compiled data and we don't know the source of their information. So it is probably wise to take those years with a grain of salt. Interesting in this aspect is also, that the hebsed, a throne jubilee, which included also some tests whether the king was still able to rule, is documented for the 30th year of his reign. Most later kings would have had a hebset also for the 40th year, but there is nothing of that documented on the Palermos stone. So some questions are still open.
  • Den dies, after a long reign and a successful one and is interred in Tomb T, right next to the tombs of his parents.

Family and court

As we heard now several times, his mother was Merneith. As the sister of his father, she was also his aunt, so well ... Den had also some wifes: Semat, Nakht-Neith and maybe a lady named Qua-Neith. Nothing indicates this list is complete and for good measure, we should assume also some consorts and mistresses estra.
So it is no miracle, he had numerous sons and daughters and even contemporary chroniclers (conteporary to him, that is) didn't bother to list them all. Notable are Anedjib, who became Den's successor and Semerkhet, who became AnedJib's successor (even scholars like to fight over that king).
Also his court is well reasearched. Probably because the mass of saif court was strangled and buried right next to his tomb. Subsidiary tombs and palatial mastabas at Sakkara held the bodies of high officials such as Ipka, Ankh-ka, Hemaka, Nebitka, Amka, Iny-ka and Ka-Za. In a subsidiary tomb at Den´s necropolis, the rare stela of a dwarf named Ser-Inpu was found. No mentioning, what that dwarf's function was at the court.
Still, keep in mind, Den was a mighty ans successful king. So while the number of subsidiary burials from his father, via his mother to him decreased, we can assume, his court wasn't smaller, rather, it was bigger. Den's rulership was a first peak time for Egypt. But there was already a shadow over it. When Den died, how old was his oldest son? We don't know exactly, but since the heirs to the throne were married early and to youg girls, who gave foten birth the first time with 13 or 14 years of age, ... well, add to that thrity or forty years? And if Anedjib was born before his father became king, he had to be almost fifty when he finally became king. A prince that had waited, probably impatiently, for decades.

... back
Tue, May 17, 2016
12:00 AM CT

Daniel Lee Siebert
Daniel Lee Siebert is now also in our serial killer collection. A more or less garden variety strangler type who got away longer than necessary bacause some big PDs dropped the ball ... and left it to smaller ones, to get the job done.

Fri, Dec 18, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Christman Genipperteinga
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Thu, Oct 22, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Gerard John Schaefer
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Thu, Sep 24, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Royal Russel Long
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Mon, Aug 17, 2015
12:00 AM CT

The Wyoming Rodeo Murders
A story of misperceptions and midnless cabinet cleaning by police authorities that ended up with someone getting away with at least two murders on young women. Now in our collection.

Wed, Jul 15, 2015
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Joseph Vacher, the French Ripper
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Sat, Jun 20, 2015
12:00 AM CST

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Sat, May 16, 2015
12:00 AM CT

The Beauty Queen Killer
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Thu, Apr 16, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Burton W. Abbott
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Mon, Mar 16, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Darren Deon Vann
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Wed, Mar 4, 2015
12:00 AM CT

Due to technical problems, the March article was up late. Take my apologies for this glitch.

Mon, Feb 16, 2015
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Affaire of the Poisons
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Mon, Dec 8, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Joseph Bryan
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Fri, Nov 7, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Trailside Killer
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Tue, Oct 7, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Vampire of Duesseldorf
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Fri, Sep 12, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Grim Sleeper
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Thu, Aug 14, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Michael Lee Lockhart
... and with a little delay, another serial made it into the serial killer collection. Michael Lee Lockhart, not so much interesting for his "achievements" but because his case appears as if he became a psychopath only after a serious head injury.

Tue, Aug 12, 2014
12:00 AM CT

A Game of Daggers
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Pope Urban II has called for a crusade, but this news has yet to reach Cornwall. And people there have anyway to deal with other problems from storms to wreckers on their coast and when some murdered men are discovered on the beach, nobody guesses, this is only the prelude to much greater events coming to the so remote shores ...

Sat, Jul 5, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Ivan Hill
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Sun, Jun 8, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Raya and Sakina
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Thu, May 1, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Dagmar Overbye
The infamous Danish baby farmer has been added to our Serial Killer Collection.

Thu, May 1, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Pharaoh Djoser added to the Egyptian Collection
I finally came around to add a new pharaoh to our collection: Djoser, 1st Pharoh of the 3rd Dynasty.

Fri, Apr 4, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Green River Killer
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Tue, Mar 4, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Manson Family
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Fri, Feb 7, 2014
12:00 AM CT

Hans van Zon
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Mon, Jan 6, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The Syracuse Dungeon Master
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Thu, Jan 2, 2014
12:00 AM CT

The last of the 2nd dynasty pharaohs, the man who re-united Egypt, is now also in the Egyptian collection.

Thu, Dec 12, 2013
12:00 AM CT

Pharaoh Sekhemib added to the Egyptian Collection
I finally came around to add Pharaoh Sekhemib to the collection, the sixth of the 2nd Dynasty. So, with some luck, I can finish this year the 2nd dynsty, only one, Khasekhemwy is left.

Tue, Dec 10, 2013
12:00 AM CT

The Riha disappearance
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Mon, Nov 4, 2013
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