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ab. 2916 B.C. till ab. 2890 B.C.
9. Pharaoh of the 1. Dynasty
Pharaonic names:
Nebty: Qa,a also Ka'a
Golden Horus  

Qa'a's Reign

Most egyptologists agree on a reign of 33 years for Qa'a. Manetho lists him with 26 years. However, since there are stone vessels mentioning a second Sed celebration, and since the first one was after 30 years and the second could be earliest after three more years, Qa'a must have reigned at least 33 years.
But otherwise, we don't know much about his reign. There are some cultic events mentioned on the Cairo Stone, but those are more the usual routine rituals, nothing out of the line. And the numerous ivory tags found from his time depict also mostly burial offerings, including counts of what had been offered and lists of personal belongings to the pharaoh.
Several burials of high officials from his period of reign are documented, even in some cases only the fact that those men were buried while their tombs remain undetected. Nevertheless, the tombs of Merks and Sabef, which were both found, contained a number of finds (inscribed vessels, ivory tags) giving the impression, that the reign of Qa'a, and keep in mind, Egypt was split at that time, so he ruled only over half the country, was actually a time of propserity but otherwise boring normality. No big wars, no disasters, no civil uproar. Which in a cheating way appears to sound rather nice. But there is a catch to it. It reflects, that everyone was happy with two countries instead of one, that everybody was just out to make money and let every other thing out of consideration. In other words, to me, it screams "status quo". Which in itself isn't a bad thing if the status quo works. Only experience tells, that those things rarely have a long life, that change and adaption would be a more stable way to survive. In that, the end of Qa'a's reign, and with that, the end of the 1st Dynasty show some signs of slumber, the kind that either leads to the end of a civilization or ends with some violent but powerful vision, that rips a whole nation out of said slumber and send it on a warpath.


Not much is known about his family, so most is assumption. For example, it is assumed, that his father was either Adjib or Semerkhet, one of his predecessors on the throne, simply based on the fact, that tradition demanded that the crown would go to the eldest sons. Nevertheless, there is circumstantial evidence, that, in cases, this wasn't possible, the break of traditions was quite easy. Remember Queen Merneith? And since Qa'a is the last king of the first dynasty, we know for a fact, that after him, a break in tradition had to follow. Well, apparently, it was not that an easy act at that time, there are sings, that several throne candidates, obviously all not the oldest son of Qa'a, were fighting for the power. A proper war of roses.
This development, the fact, there are no wives mentioned in connection with him and no names of sons at all, it seems to indicate, that he had not much of a family life. We can take guesses, like he had only daughters, or he wasn't interested in women at all, but in the end, all we know is, there is no family mentioned and the later course of history confirms at least, there was no actual heir to the throne worth even a try.

The Tomb

Qa'a's tomb is Tomb Q in the Abydos necropolis. It measures 98.5 x 75.5 feet (30 x 23 meters), so it is quite a big one, which in itself is another evedence that Qa'a has to have ruled for a long time. Such big things aren't build over night and weren't in ancient times neither.
Steles in Qa'a's tomb as well as in the tomb of Merka, a nobleman of his time, indicate by number and quality a porsperous and politically stable time. Aside of the fact, that not one of those numerous inscriptions mentions even the faintest snag in this time, no riots, no natural desasters, no nothing.
Near to the entrance, German egyptologists found a seal of Pharaoh Hotepsekhemwy, indicating, that this king ruled later (in fact, he founded the 2nd Dynasty). So, in a way, this confirms, what Manetho wrote and was already known from other evidence, but it is always nice to find one more finger print of history.
The main tomb is surrounded with 26 sacrificial tombs. This is, compared to the numbers around the tombs of his ancestors rather modest and in a way, it fits the time. But basically it indicates to me rather, that his court was rather small, compared to other kings of the 1st Dynasty.
The note-worthy part is the part that is missing. While the findings show in their quality, it was a prosperous time, there are no new forms, no new shapes, no new architectural details, no marks of new kinds of tools in the building or the steles and vessels. Nothing, nothing at all. Thus Qa'a's tomb documents once more, while a lot was produced and on a high level, there was no development in it. It was mere reproduction of older forms. Together with all other signs of an utterl eventless reign for at least 33 years, this paints the picture #of a civilization basically already asleep. At this point, so historic experience tells us, one of two things can happen: Either this civilization stays asleep and is at some point conquered or integrated by another one, or something quick and violent happens, rips the whole nation out of the sleep and gives a new vision.

Aftermath After Qa'a's death, archaeological evidence appears to indicate that some kind of succession struggle broke out. This would be highly unlikely if there would have been a legitimate heir to the throne in an age able to take up rulership. Thus, we can conclude, Qa'a either died without a surviving son or all existing sons were too young to take the throne.
There are two names popping up regularly on this subject. The first one is Sneferka also spelled Seneferka and other similar forms of it. Sneferka is a serekh-name that appears on several vessels. The problem is, while the writing is without doubt a serekh, it is an unusual one by the order of the used hieroglyphs, thus allowing a number of possible readings: Sneferka, Seneferka, Neferseka, Sakenefer and as at least one egyptologist claims also as Neferkaes, which would make that king a queen ... and no, the ancient Egyptians had no idea about that kind of surgery.
The places, where this serekh was found, are interesting. Number 1 is the tomb of Merka, a nobleman from the time of Qa'a. Which essentially places Sneferka or Neferkaes or whatever one prefers as reading, in time next to Qa'a, making this one a possible successor. Number two was found in the gallery of Pharaoh Djoser's tomb in Saqquara. Now, Djoser is 3rd Dynasty, approximately 230-250 years later. And since Djoser's tomb, the famous step-pyramid at the time of Sneferka not even was an idea, either, this was a replicate of an older original or an original that was transported from somewhere else. For unknown reasons, a lot of people assume, that things, without clear origin in our time always bear the taint of fake per se, but if something is found in an old tomb, even it is more than two centuries away from the time it was allegedly produced, people buy it without questions. This trust in guys, who have a history to fake all kinds of inscriptions, knew the methods, had unrestricted access to the original items, tools and materials and possible motive, it makes me always a little uneasy.
Number three stems from an anonymous mastaba in Saqquara ... well, and since all Saqquara is a 2nd, 3rd and early 4th Dynasty necropolis, there is some chance, this one is maybe in time a little nearer than the step pyramid. Well, maybe even about fifty years near to the time it was allegedly produced. Which basically poses the same problem as #2.
There is actually a #4. It is in the private Georges-Michailidis-Collection. This one is the only one without a Horus which in itself makes it look a little fishy and since there is no clear origin, most egyptologists ignore it due to doubts of it's authenticity.

So far about Sneferka. There is another one, but since all we have from him is hard to read, almost unrecognizable and also wirtten in a quite erratic way that makes even Sneferka look like the grammatical genius, nobody really dares to officially read this name. And since there appears to be a bird in it and since the over-bird in Egypt was of course Horus, he got more nicknamed than really read as "Horus-Bird".
Now, Qa'a dead, two names popping up, it had to be a power struggle? But lets have a closer look at the options. Since, at least one egyptologist thinks, it could be Neferkaes instead of Sneferka, the first name could as well be a queen who took over for a time till a son was old enough (as Merneith did). Or they were really contenders for the throne. Or one was maybe from Upper, the other one from Lower Egypt and one tried already then to reunite Egypt. We don't know and that is the only thing, we know for sure. But whether option it was, for Egypt, it had to be a time of political uncertainty. So, personally, I don't want to hang the subject of two names appearing for a short time after Qa'a died (and some claim Sneferka was maybe a name Qa'a used himself for a short time), too high. We talk about times without modern appendix surgeries, no penicillin, not even a headache pill. Chances, that some disease or an accident got even to a pharaoh are pretty high and since all the ones before got mostly away, maybe we see here just two regular kings who got killed by some flu. Statistically even that is possible and would lead to the same ripples as a power struggle. Because there is one detail, we also know: When Hotepsekhemwy appears on the stage as first pharaoh of the 2nd Dynasty, he is already ruler over a reunited Egypt, he is in power, he is already pretty strong by all we can estimate. Which means, the country, he rulled, it was strong as well, it just doesn't appear to be weakened by a civil war. Thus, in my opinion, there are some doubts possible about the common consensus of a war of roses in this time of Egyptian history.

... back
Tue, May 17, 2016
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Wed, Jul 15, 2015
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Sat, May 16, 2015
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Thu, Apr 16, 2015
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Mon, Mar 16, 2015
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Wed, Mar 4, 2015
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Mon, Feb 16, 2015
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Mon, Dec 8, 2014
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Fri, Nov 7, 2014
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The Trailside Killer
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Tue, Oct 7, 2014
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Thu, Aug 14, 2014
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Tue, Aug 12, 2014
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Sun, Jun 8, 2014
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Thu, May 1, 2014
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Thu, May 1, 2014
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Fri, Apr 4, 2014
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Tue, Mar 4, 2014
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Fri, Feb 7, 2014
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Mon, Jan 6, 2014
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The Syracuse Dungeon Master
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Thu, Jan 2, 2014
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Thu, Dec 12, 2013
12:00 AM CT

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Tue, Dec 10, 2013
12:00 AM CT

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Mon, Nov 4, 2013
12:00 AM CT

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Wed, Oct 2, 2013
12:00 AM CT

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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