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Hotepsekhemwy is the Horus name of an early Egyptian king who was the founder of the 2nd dynasty. The exact length of his reign is not known; the Turin canon suggests an improbable 95 years [4] while the Ancient Egyptian historian Manetho reports that the reign of "Boëthôs" lasted for 38 years. [5] Egyptologists consider both statements to be misinterpretations or exaggerations. They credit Hotepsekhemwy with either a 25- or a 29-year rule. [6]

Horus name

The Horus name is the oldest known and used crest of Ancient Egyptian rulers. It belongs to the "Great five names" of an Egyptian pharaoh. However, modern Egyptologists and linguists are starting to prefer the more neutral term: the "serekh name". This is because not every pharaoh placed the falcon, which symbolizes the deity Horus, atop his serekh.

Second Dynasty of Egypt dynasty of ancient Egypt

The Second Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the latter of the two dynasties of the Egyptian Archaic Period, when the seat of government was centred at Thinis. It is most known for its last ruler, Khasekhemwy, but is otherwise one of the most obscure periods in Egyptian history.

Turin King List ancient Egyptian manuscript

The Turin King List, also known as the Turin Royal Canon, is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus thought to date from the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II, now in the Museo Egizio in Turin. The papyrus is the most extensive list available of kings compiled by the ancient Egyptians, and is the basis for most chronology before the reign of Ramesses II.


Name sources

Cartouche name of Hotepsekhemwy in the Abydos King List (cartouche no. 9). Abydos KL 02-01 n09.jpg
Cartouche name of Hotepsekhemwy in the Abydos King List (cartouche no. 9).

Hotepsekhemwy's name has been identified by archaeologists at Sakkara, Giza, Badari and Abydos from clay seal impressions, stone vessels and bone cylinders. Several stone vessel inscriptions mention Hotepsekhemwy along with the name of his successor Raneb. [1] [7] [8] [9]

Giza City in Egypt

Giza is the third-largest city in Egypt and the capital of the Giza Governorate. It is located on the west bank of the Nile, 4.9 km (3 mi) southwest of central Cairo. Along with Cairo Governorate, Shubra El Kheima, Helwan, 6th October City and Obour, the six form the Greater Cairo metropolis.

Abydos, Egypt City in ancient Egypt

Abydos is one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, and also of the eighth nome in Upper Egypt. It is located about 11 kilometres west of the Nile at latitude 26° 10' N, near the modern Egyptian towns of el-'Araba el Madfuna and al-Balyana. In the ancient Egyptian language, the city was called Abdju. The English name Abydos comes from the Greek Ἄβυδος, a name borrowed by Greek geographers from the unrelated city of Abydos on the Hellespont.

The Horus name of Hotepsekhemwy is the subject of particular interest to Egyptologists and historians, as it may hint at the turbulent politics of the time. The Egyptian word "Hotep" means "peaceful" and "to be pleased" though it can also mean "conciliation" or "to be reconciled", too. So Hotepsekhemwy's full name may be read as "the two powers are reconciled" or "pleasing in powers", which suggests a significant political meaning. In this sense, "the two powers" could be a reference to Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt as well as to the major deities Horus and Seth. [1] [10] [11]

Hotep Egyptian word meaning "to be at peace"

Hotep is an Egyptian word that roughly translates as "to be at peace". The word also refers to an "offering" ritually presented to a deity or a dead person, hence "be pleased, be gracious, be at peace". It is rendered in hieroglyphs as an altar/offering table. The noun ḥtp.w means "peace, contentment". Davies (2018) interprets the concept of ḥtp as "the result of action in accord with maat [the proper order of the universe]".

Upper Egypt strip of land on the Nile valley between Nubia and Lower Egypt

Upper Egypt is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.

Lower Egypt northernmost region of Egypt

Lower Egypt is the northernmost region of Egypt, which consists of the fertile Nile Delta, between Upper Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea — from El Aiyat, south of modern-day Cairo, and Dahshur. Historically, the Nile River split into seven branches of the delta in Lower Egypt. Lower Egypt was divided into nomes and began to advance as a civilization after 3600 BC. Today, it contains two major channels that flow through the delta of the Nile River.

From the reign of Hotepsekhemwy onward it became a tradition to write the Horus name and the nebty name in the same way. It is thought that some kind of philosophic background affected that choice, since the Horus name reveals a clearly defined, symbolic meaning in its translation. Horus- and nebty names being the same might also indicate, that the Horus name was adopted after ascending the throne. [1]

Nebty name

The Nebty name was one of the "great five names" used by Egyptian pharaohs. It was also one of the oldest royal titles. The modern term "Two-Ladies-name" is a simple derivation from the translation of the Egyptian word nebty.

Philosophy The rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?


The name of Hotepsekhemwy's wife is unknown. A “son of the king” and “priest of Sopdu” named Perneb might have been his son, but since the clay seals providing his name and titles were found in a gallery tomb which is attributed to two kings equally (Hotepsekhemwy and his successor, Raneb), it is uncertain whose son Perneb really was. [12] [13]

Perneb is the name of an Ancient Egyptian prince and priest, who lived at the beginning of the 2nd dynasty.


Bone cylinder inscribed with the serekh of Hotepsekhemwy. Cylinder Inscribed with a King's Name - Egypt, Dynasty 2, reign of Hetepsekhemwy, c. 2800-2780 BC, bone - Egypt- Brooklyn Museum - Brooklyn, NY - DSC08700.JPG
Bone cylinder inscribed with the serekh of Hotepsekhemwy.

Hotepsekhemwy is commonly identified with the Ramesside cartouche names Bedjau from the Abydos king list, Bedjatau from Giza, Netjer-Bau from the Sakkara king list and the name Bau-hetepju from the royal canon of Turin. Egyptologist Wolfgang Helck points to the similar name Bedjatau, which appears in a short king list found on a writing board from the mastaba tomb G1001 of the high official 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 signs of two Sekhem sceptres were misread as a leg and a drill. A similar phenomenon 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 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. [1] [14] [15]

Ramesses II Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt

Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. His successors and later Egyptians called him the "Great Ancestor".

Cartouche oval with inscriptions

In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. The first examples of the cartouche are associated with pharoahs at the end of the 3rd Dynasty, but did not come into common use until the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu. While the cartouche is usually vertical with a horizontal line, if it makes the name fit better it can be horizontal, with a vertical line at the end . The Ancient Egyptian word for it was shenu, and it was essentially an expanded shen ring. In Demotic, the cartouche was reduced to a pair of brackets and a vertical line.

Abydos King List

The Abydos King List, also known as the Abydos Table, is a list of the names of seventy-six kings of Ancient Egypt, found on a wall of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, Egypt. It consists of three rows of thirty-eight cartouches in each row. The upper two rows contain names of the kings, while the third row merely repeats Seti I's throne name and nomen.


Little is known about Hotepsekhemwy's reign. Contemporary sources show that he may have gained the throne after a period of political strife, including ephemeral rulers such as Horus "Bird" and Sneferka (the latter is also thought to be an alternate name used by king Qaa for a short time). As evidence of this, Egyptologists Wolfgang Helck, Dietrich Wildung and George Reisner point to the tomb of king Qaa, which was plundered at the end of 1st dynasty and was restored during the reign of Hotepsekhemwy. The plundering of the cemetery and the unusually conciliatory meaning of the name Hotepsekhemwy may be clues of a dynastic struggle. Additionally, Helck assumes that the kings Sneferka and Horus “Bird” were omitted from later king lists because their struggles for the Egyptian throne were factors in the collapse of the first dynasty. [1] [10] [16]

Seal impressions provide evidence of a new royal residence called "Horus the shining star" that was constructed by Hotepsekhemwy. He also built a temple near Buto for the little-known deity Netjer-Achty and founded the "Chapel of the White Crown". The white crown is a symbol of Upper Egypt. This is thought to be another clue to the origin of Hotepsekhemwy's dynasty, indicating a likely source of political power. [1] [17] Egyptologists such as Nabil Swelim point out that there is no inscription from Hotepsekhemwy's reign mentioning a Sed festival, indicating the ruler cannot have ruled longer than 30 years (the Sed festival was celebrated as the anniversary marking a reign of 30 years). [18]

Entrance to the gallery tomb beneath the Unas passway. Saqqarah Hotepsekhemoui.jpg
Entrance to the gallery tomb beneath the Unas passway.

The ancient Egyptian historian Manetho called Hotepsekhemwy Boëthôs (apparently altered from the name Bedjau) and reported that during this ruler's reign "a chasm opened near Bubastis and many perished". Although Manetho wrote in the 3rd century BC – over two millennia after the king's actual reign – some Egyptologists think it possible that this anecdote may have been based on fact, since the region near Bubastis is known to be seismically active. [5]


The location of Hotepsekhemwy's tomb is unknown. Egyptologists such as Flinders Petrie, Alessandro Barsanti and Toby Wilkinson believe it could be the giant underground Gallery Tomb B beneath the funeral passage of the Unas-necropolis at Saqqara. Many seal impressions of king Hotepsekhemwy have been found in these galleries.

Egyptologists such as Wolfgang Helck and Peter Munro are not convinced and think that Gallery Tomb B is instead the burial site of king Raneb, as several seal impressions of this ruler were also found there. [9] [19] [20] [21] [22]

Related Research Articles

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Sanakht Egyptian pharaoh

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Nynetjer Egyptian pharaoh

Nynetjer is the Horus name of the third pharaoh of the Second Dynasty of Egypt. The length of his reign is unknown. The Turin Canon suggests an improbable reign of 96 years and Egyptian historian Manetho suggested that Nynetjer's reign lasted 47 years. Egyptologists question both statements as misinterpretations or exaggerations. They generally credit Nynetjer with a reign of either 43 years or 45 years. Their estimation is based on the reconstructions of the well known Palermo Stone inscription reporting the years 7–21, the Cairo Stone inscription reporting the years 36–44. According to different authors, Nynetjer ruled Egypt from c. 2850 BC to 2760 BC or later from c. 2760 BC to 2715 BC.

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