Last updated

Bikheris is the Hellenized name of an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, who may have ruled during the 4th Dynasty (Old Kingdom period) around 2570 BC. Next to nothing is known about this ruler and some Egyptologists even believe him to be fictitious. [1]

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Pharaoh Ruler of Ancient Egypt

Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE, although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.

Fourth Dynasty of Egypt dynasty of ancient Egypt

The Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Dynasty IV lasted from c. 2613 to 2494 BC. It was a time of peace and prosperity as well as one during which trade with other countries is documented.



Possible name sources

In attempts to reconstruct Ancient Egyptian king lists, Egyptologists and historians face several problems. As already mentioned, Bikheris is a Hellenized name variation. The name appears in the book Aegyptiaca written by Manetho around 300 BC. In a Latin copy of Manetho, written by Eratosthenes, a king named Biuris is placed at the date when Bikheris allegedly ruled. Scholars wonder if both names actually derive from one and the same Egyptian source. [2]

Manetho Egyptian historian and priest from Ancient Egypt

Manetho is believed to have been an Egyptian priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolemaic Kingdom in the early third century BC and authored the Aegyptiaca, a major chronological source for the reigns of the ancient pharaohs.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Eratosthenes ancient Greek scientist

Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theorist. He was a man of learning, becoming the chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria. He invented the discipline of geography, including the terminology used today.

However, Ancient Egyptian sources are scarce. The oldest possible royal name source may come from an unfinished pyramid shaft at Zawyet el'Aryan. The shaft was excavated in 1904 by Italian Egyptologist Alessandro Barsanti. He discovered several black ink inscriptions inside the shaft, some of which actually show a royal cartouche name. Unfortunately, Barsanti made no facsimile, but sloppy drawings and all but the cartouche name remains illegible. At least the second (lower) hieroglyph can be identified as a Ka-symbol, thus making the king's name a ...ka. [1] [3]

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern and Western Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.

Alessandro Barsanti Italian egyptologist

Alessandro Barsanti (1858–1917) was an Italian architect and Egyptologist who worked for the Egyptian Antiquities Service. He excavated throughout Egypt. He was also in charge of the transfer of collection of the Cairo Museum from its site at Giza to the current location in Cairo itself.

Ink liquid or paste that contains pigments or dyes

Ink is a liquid or paste that contains pigments or dyes and is used to color a surface to produce an image, text, or design. Ink is used for drawing or writing with a pen, brush, or quill. Thicker inks, in paste form, are used extensively in letterpress and lithographic printing.

The temporally next possible source appears in the famous Westcar Papyrus of the 13th Dynasty. The text mentions a king's son, Bau-ef-Ra. Scholars wonder if this Bauefre may be identical with Bikheris. A very similar name from the New Kingdom period can be found in a rock inscription at Wadi Hammamat. The inscription consists of an honorary prayer surmounted by a short king list. The list contains the names Khufu , Djedefra, Khafra , Djedefhor and Baefra. [4]

Westcar Papyrus Ancient Egyptian text

The Westcar Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian text containing five stories about miracles performed by priests and magicians. In the papyrus text, each of these tales are told at the royal court of king Cheops by his sons. The story in the papyrus usually is rendered in English as, "King Cheops and the Magicians" and "The Tale of King Cheops' Court". In German, in which the text of the Westcar Papyrus was first translated, it is rendered as Die Märchen des Papyrus Westcar.

The Thirteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is often combined with Dynasties XI, XII and XIV under the group title Middle Kingdom. Some writers separate it from these dynasties and join it to Dynasties XIV through XVII as part of the Second Intermediate Period. Dynasty XIII lasted from approximately 1803 BC until approximately 1649 BC, i.e. for 154 years.

New Kingdom of Egypt period 1550 to 1070 BC in ancient Egypt

The New Kingdom, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire, is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties of Egypt. Radiocarbon dating places the exact beginning of the New Kingdom between 1570 BC and 1544 BC. The New Kingdom followed the Second Intermediate Period and was succeeded by the Third Intermediate Period. It was Egypt's most prosperous time and marked the peak of its power.


Alan B. Lloyd is convinced that the names Baka, Bakare, Baefra, Bauefra and Biuris are all identical to Manetho's Bikheris. [2] This, in turn, is doubted by Kim Ryholt, who points out that the names Baefra and Bauefra contain no syllable that would phonetically fit to "Bikheris". Thus, Ba(u)efra and Bikheris might be two different kings. [5] This view is strengthened by the fact that Bauefra is entitled in contemporary documents only as "king's son", which is the title of a prince, not that of a ruler. [6]

Kim Steven Bardrum Ryholt is a professor of Egyptology at the University of Copenhagen and a specialist on Egyptian history and literature. He is director of the research center Canon and Identity Formation in the Earliest Literate Societies under the University of Copenhagen Programme of Excellence and director of The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection & Project.

The only Old Kingdom name that could indeed fit is the now incomplete name X-ka, as found at Zawyet el'Aryan. According to Peter Jánosi, the mysterious name could be a Baka, written with a ram symbol. A son of Djedefra was actually named Baka, his name was indeed written with a ram- and a ka-symbol. It might be possible that prince Baka was meant to become king on the royal throne, but then he died unexpectedly during his coronation year, leaving an unfinished tomb shaft. Maybe Baka changed his name from "Baka" into "Baka-Re" after his coronation, or perhaps it was done posthumously. If the theory is correct, Bikheris was the hellenized variant of Baka(re). [6]

Sheep Domesticated ruminant bred for meat, wool and milk

Domestic sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like most ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name sheep applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over one billion, domestic sheep are also the most numerous species of sheep. An adult female sheep is referred to as a ewe, an intact male as a ram or occasionally a tup, a castrated male as a wether, and a younger sheep as a lamb.

Historical figure

Some scholars suspect that the line of throne successions during the 4th Dynasty of Egypt may have been much less smooth than mainstream Egyptologists believe. In support of this, they point out that it was already suspicious that king Djedefra broke with the family tradition of building royal tombs at Giza. In fact, Djedefra had left the Giza necropolis in an attempt to found a new royal cemetery at Abu Rawash instead. Alan B. Lloyd also points out that Djedefra dared another break with royal traditions by introducing the cult of Ra and placing Ra over all other deities. If Djedefra broke with family traditions, then Bikheris, as his son, may have done the same thing. This, and the obviously very short reign, may have led to Bikheris' exclusion from official records. [2] [4]

Another problem is how later historians depict the 4th Dynasty: Manetho and Eratosthenes both describe Bikheris as the sixth ruler of the 4th Dynasty and as the son and successor of king Djedefra. However, both authors chronologically misplace the kings completely since they give the succession Snofru → Khufu → Khafra → Menkaura → Djedefra → Shepseskaf → Thamphthis; archaeological records however give the correct succession Snofru → Khufu → Djedefra → Khafra → Menkaura → Shepseskaf. The reason for the numerous misplacements of kings in Hellenistic documents may be caused by the ancient authors' erroneous idea that the three builders of the Giza pyramids (Khufu, Khafra and Menkaura) automatically must have been direct throne successors. Also, the Hellenistic authors seem to have built the king list on the historical importance of each king: first the "famous pyramid builders" everyone knew at their time (because of their still practiced mortuary cults and their impressive monuments), then the "lesser important" followers. [2] [4]

Thus, most scholars are convinced that Bikheris, should he have existed, must have ruled either between Djedefra and Khafra, or between Khafra and Menkaura. Since Bikheris is described as the son and follower of Djedefra, a chronological position between Djedefra and Khafra seems possible. However, the Ramesside king lists provide evidence for placing Bikheris' reign between Khafra and Menkaura. The Saqqara king list provides a very odd sequence of succeeding kings for the 4th Dynasty: after king Khafra, the cartouches from him up to king Userkaf (the first ruler of the 5th Dynasty) are destroyed and thus illegible today. But their number is puzzling, since between Khafra and Userkaf only two kings are archaeologically detected: Menkaura and Shepseskaf. On the other hand, the Saqqara king list gives five cartouches between Khafra and Userkaf: Khafra → ??? → (Menkaura) → (Shepseskaf) → (Thamphthis) → ??? → Userkaf. One was possibly preserved for Bikheris, whilst the second may have been reserved for a king Thamphthis. The third cartouche (the one before Userkaf) remains a mystery. [2] Jürgen von Beckerath proposes king Nyuserre as the holder of the third cartouche, he thinks it is possible that Nyuserre was simply misplaced to the beginning of the 5th Dynasty. The Saqqara king list would therefore give the following succession: Khafra → Bikheris → Menkaura → Shepseskaf → Thamphthis → Nyuserrê → Userkaf. [1]

The Royal Canon of Turin also provides an unusual sequence: after king Khafra, the papyrus on which the king list was written is damaged, and only a few year notes have survived. According to the numbers of preserved year notes, between Khafra and Menkaura a further king must have been listed, because an additional line starts with "king of Upper- and Lower Egypt" (the year notes here are damaged and illegible, though). The following year note about "18 years of rulership" must belong to king Menkaura. After Menkaura, 4 years of rulership are mentioned, this line was surely reserved for king Shepseskaf. After Shepseskaf, however, a further, additional year notes gives "2 years of rulership" before starting the 5th Dynasty with Userkaf. Egyptologists think that the gap between Khafra and Menkaura once named either Bauefra or Bikheris and the gap between Shepseskaf and Userkaf may have mentioned Thamphthis. [2] [4]


The length of Bikheris' reign is subject to some dispute. Manetho credits Bikheris with 22 years of rulership, Eratosthenes gives Biuris 10 years and the Royal Canon of Turin provides 2 years. Modern Egyptologists and historians believe Manetho's and Eratosthenes' year numbers to be exaggerations or misinterpretations. They credit Bikheris with a reign of either 2 years (likewise to the Turin Canon) or even less than one year (as Peter Jánosi suggests). Such a short reign would explain why Bikheris left virtually no monuments and/or documents. [2] [4]


The tomb of Bikheris is unknown. If he is indeed identical to the archaeologically attested prince Baka, he might have been buried in the Unfinished Northern Pyramid of Zawyet el'Aryan. This tomb was left unfinished right after the foundation was completed--only an oval-shaped, imbedded sarcophagus was found. The condition of the tomb suggests the sudden death of the king, which forced the tomb workers to leave the necropolis behind. The unfinished tomb would therefore fit well to a supposed short-lived ruler such as Bikheris. [4] [6]

Related Research Articles

Old Kingdom of Egypt period of Ancient Egypt in the 3rd millennium BC

In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2686–2181 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid builders of the Fourth Dynasty—King Sneferu perfected the art of pyramid-building and the pyramids of Giza were constructed under the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Egypt attained its first sustained peak of civilization—the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley.

Khufu Fourth Dynasty ancient Egyptian pharaoh

Khufu, known to the Greeks as Cheops, was an ancient Egyptian monarch who was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty, in the first half of the Old Kingdom period. Khufu succeeded his father Sneferu as king. He is generally accepted as having commissioned the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but many other aspects of his reign are poorly documented.

Menkaure Egyptian pharaoh of the 4th dynasty

Menkaure, was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 4th dynasty during the Old Kingdom, who is well known under his Hellenized names Mykerinos and Menkheres. According to Manetho, he was the throne successor of king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidences he rather was the successor of king Khafre. Menkaure became famous for his tomb, the Pyramid of Menkaure, at Giza and his beautiful statue triads, showing the king together with his wives Rekhetre and Khamerernebty.

Khafra ancient Egyptian pharaoh of 4th dynasty

Khafra was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 4th dynasty during the Old Kingdom. He was the son of Khufu and the throne successor of Djedefre. According to the ancient historian Manetho, Khafra was followed by king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidences he was rather followed by king Menkaure. Khafra was the builder of the second largest pyramid of Giza. The view held by modern Egyptology at large remains that the Great Sphinx was built in approximately 2500 BC for Khafra. There is not much known about Khafra, except the historical reports of Herodotus, writing 2,000 years after his life and who describes him as a cruel and heretic ruler, who kept the Egyptian temples closed after Khufu had sealed them.

Egyptian pyramids ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt

The Egyptian pyramids are ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt. As of November 2008, sources cite either 118 or 138 as the number of identified Egyptian pyramids. Most were built as tombs for the country's pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.

Hetepheres II Ancient Egyptian queen consort

Hetepheres II was a Queen of Ancient Egypt during the 4th dynasty.

Djedefre Egyptian Pharaoh

Djedefre was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the 4th dynasty during the Old Kingdom. He is well known under his Hellenized name form Ratoises. Djedefre was the son and immediate throne successor of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza; his mother is not known for certain. He was the king who introduced the royal title Sa-Rê and the first to connect his cartouche name with the sun god Ra.

Huni ancient Egyptian king

Huni was an ancient Egyptian king and the last pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. Following the Turin king list, he is commonly credited with a reign of 24 years, ending c. 2600 BC.

Shepseskaf Egyptian pharaoh

Shepseskaf was the sixth and last pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. He reigned 6 to 8 years starting circa 2510 BC. The only activities firmly datable to his reign are the completion of the temple complex of the Pyramid of Menkaure and the construction of its own mastaba tomb at South Saqqara, the Mastabat al-Fir’aun, "stone bench of the pharaoh".

Userkaf Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh

Userkaf was an Egyptian pharaoh, founder of the Fifth Dynasty, who reigned for seven to eight years in the early 25th century BC. He belonged, in all probability, to a branch of the Fourth Dynasty royal family, although his parentage remains uncertain and the identity of his queen is in doubt. Userkaf may have been the son of Khentkaus I marrying Neferhetepes. He had at least one daughter and very probably a son who succeeded him as pharaoh Sahure.

Neferirkare Kakai Egyptian pharaoh

Neferirkare Kakai was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the third king of the Fifth Dynasty. Neferirkare, the eldest son of Sahure with his consort Meretnebty, was known as Ranefer A before he came to the throne. He acceded the day after his father's death and reigned for eight to eleven years, sometime in the early to mid-25th century BCE. He was himself very likely succeeded by his eldest son, born of his queen Khentkaus II, the prince Ranefer B who would take the throne as king Neferefre. Neferirkare fathered another pharaoh, Nyuserre Ini, who took the throne after Neferefre's short reign and the brief rule of the poorly known Shepseskare.

Neferefre Pharaoh of Egypt

Neferefre Isi was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, likely the fourth but also possibly the fifth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He was very probably the eldest son of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai and queen Khentkaus II, known as prince Ranefer before he ascended the throne.

Nyuserre Ini Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty

Nyuserre Ini was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the sixth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. He is credited with a reign of 24 to 35 years depending on the scholar, and likely lived in the second half of the 25th century BCE. Nyuserre was the younger son of Neferirkare Kakai and queen Khentkaus II, and the brother of the short-lived king Neferefre. He may have succeeded his brother directly, as indicated by much later historical sources. Alternatively, Shepseskare may have reigned between the two as advocated by Miroslav Verner, albeit only for a few weeks or months at the most. The relation of Shepseskare with Neferefre and Nyuserre remains highly uncertain. Nyuserre was in turn succeeded by Menkauhor Kaiu, who could have been his nephew and a son of Neferefre.

Shepseskare Egyptian pharaoh

Shepseskare or Shepseskara was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the fourth or fifth ruler of the Fifth Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. Shepseskare lived in the mid-25th century BC and was probably the owner of an unfinished pyramid in Abusir, which was abandoned after a few weeks of work in the earliest stages of its construction.

Henutsen Egyptian queen (4th dynasty)

Henutsen is the name of an Ancient Egyptian queen consort who lived and ruled during the 4th dynasty of the Old Kingdom Period. She was the second or third wife of pharaoh Khufu and most possibly buried at Giza.

Thamphthis is the hellenized name of an ancient Egyptian ruler (pharaoh) of the 4th dynasty in the Old Kingdom, who may have ruled around 2500 BC under the name Djedefptah for between two and nine years. His original Egyptian name is lost, but it may have been Djedefptah or Ptahdjedef according to William C. Hayes. Thamphthis is one of the shadowy rulers of the Old Kingdom, since he is completely unattested in contemporary sources. For this reason, his historical figure is discussed intensely by historians and egyptologists.

Khentkaus I Queen of Ancient Egypt during the 4th dynasty

Khentkaus I, also referred to as Khentkawes, was a royal woman who lived in ancient Egypt during the Fourth and the Fifth Dynasties. She may have been a daughter of king Menkaure, the wife of both king Shepseskaf and king Userkaf, the mother of king Sahure, and perhaps, in her own right, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt. Her Mastaba at Giza – tomb LG100 – is located very close to Menkaure's pyramid complex. This close connection may point to a family relationship, but the relationship is not clear, but the proximity of the pyramid complex of Khentkaus to that of king Menkaure has led to the conjecture that she may have been his daughter.

Baufra is the name of an alleged son of the ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) Khufu from the 4th dynasty of the Old Kingdom. He is known from a story in the Papyrus Westcar and from a rock inscription at Wadi Hammamat. He is neither contemporarily nor archaeologically attested, which makes his historical figure disputable to scholars up to this day.

Unfinished Northern Pyramid of Zawyet El Aryan smooth-sided pyramid

The Unfinished Northern Pyramid of Zawyet El Aryan, also known as Pyramid of Baka and Pyramid of Bikheris is the term Archaeologists and Egyptologists use to describe a large shaft part of an unfinished pyramid at Zawyet El Aryan in Egypt. It is dated by mainstream scholars to the early or the mid-4th Dynasty during the Old Kingdom period. The pyramid owner is not known for certain and most egyptologists, such as Miroslav Verner, think it should be a king known under his hellenized name, Bikheris, perhaps from the Egyptian Baka. On the contrary, Wolfgang Helck and other egyptologists doubt this attribution.

Baka is the name of an ancient Egyptian prince. He is known for his destroyed statuette. He is also subject of a theory that claims he was pharaoh of Egypt for a very short time. Thus, he might be identical to a scarcely known king named Bikheris.


  1. 1 2 3 Jürgen von Beckerath: Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten. Die Zeitbestimmung der ägyptischen Geschichte von der Vorzeit bis 332 v. Chr. (= Münchner ägyptologische Studien, vol. 46). von Zabern, Mainz 1997, ISBN   3-8053-2310-7, p. 158.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Alan B. Lloyd: Commentary. In: Herodotus, Book II (= Etudes préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'empire romain, vol. 43). BRILL, Leiden 1993, ISBN   9004077375, p.76-78.
  3. Miroslav Verner: Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology. In: Archiv Orientální, Vol. 69. Prag 2001, p. 363–418.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Peter Jánosi: Giza in der 4. Dynastie. Die Baugeschichte und Belegung einer Nekropole des Alten Reiches. Bd. I: Die Mastabas der Kernfriedhöfe und die Felsgräber. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 2005, ISBN   3-7001-3244-1, p. 64-65.
  5. K. S. B. Ryholt, Adam Bülow-Jacobsen: The Political Situation in Egypt During the Second Intermediate Period, c. 1800 – 1550 B.C (= CNI publications, Carsten Niebuhr Institut København, vol. 20). Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997, ISBN   8772894210, p. 17-18.
  6. 1 2 3 George Andrew Reisner: A History of the Giza Necropolis, Vol. I. Harvard University Press, Harvard 1942, p. 28.