Second Dynasty of Egypt

Last updated
ca. 2890 BC–ca. 2686 BC
Capital Thinis
Common languages Egyptian language
ancient Egyptian religion
Government Absolute monarchy
Historical era Bronze Age
ca. 2890 BC
ca. 2686 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png First Dynasty of Egypt
Third Dynasty of Egypt Blank.png

The Second Dynasty of ancient Egypt (or Dynasty II, c. 2890 c. 2686 BC [1] ) 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.

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.

Thinis Lost city in Nome VIII of Upper Egypt, Ancient Egypt

Thinis or This was the capital city of the first dynasties of ancient Egypt. Thinis is, as yet, undiscovered but well attested by ancient writers, including the classical historian Manetho, who cites it as the centre of the Thinite Confederacy, a tribal confederation whose leader, Menes, united Egypt and was its first pharaoh. Thinis began a steep decline in importance from Dynasty III, when the capital was relocated to Memphis, which was thought to be the first true and stable capital after unification of old Egypt by Menes. Thinis's location on the border of the competing Heracleopolitan and Theban dynasties of the First Intermediate Period and its proximity to certain oases of possible military importance ensured Thinis some continued significance in the Old and New Kingdoms. This was a brief respite and Thinis eventually lost its position as a regional administrative centre by the Roman period.

Khasekhemwy Final king of the Second dynasty of Egypt

Khasekhemwy was the final king of the Second Dynasty of Egypt. Little is known about him, other than that he led several significant military campaigns and built the mudbrick fort known as Shunet El Zebib.


Though archaeological evidence of the time is very scant, contrasting data from the First and Third Dynasties indicates important institutional and economic developments during the Second Dynasty. [2] [3]

The First Dynasty of ancient Egypt covers the first series of Egyptian kings to rule over a unified Egypt. It immediately follows the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, possibly by Narmer, and marks the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, a time at which power was centered at Thinis.

Third Dynasty of Egypt dynasty of ancient Egypt

The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the first dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Other dynasties of the Old Kingdom include the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth. The capital during the period of the Old Kingdom was at Memphis.


For the first five pharaohs, sources are fairly close in agreement:

NameYears Reigned
Hotepsekhemwy 38
Nebra (maybe identifiable with Weneg) [4] 10–14
Nynetjer 40
Senedj (maybe identifiable with Horus Sa [5] )20

But the identity of the next two or three rulers is unclear. Surviving sources might be giving the Horus name or the Nebty name and the birth names of these rulers. They may also be entirely different individuals, or could be legendary names. This might never be resolved.

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.

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.

Manetho's list of rulers is at odds with those usually given by Egyptologists:

Manetho Egyptian historian and priest from Ancient Egypt

Manetho is believed to have been an Egyptian priest from Sebennytos who lived in the Ptolemaic Kingdom in the early third century BC, during the Hellenistic period. He authored the Aegyptiaca in Greek, a major chronological source for the reigns of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. It is unclear if he wrote his work during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter or Ptolemy II Philadelphos, but no later than that of Ptolemy III Euergetes.

Modern consensusManetho's List
Seth-Peribsen Kaires
Sekhemib-Perenmaat Sesokhris

With the last ruler, the sources return to an agreement:

NameYears Reigned
Khasekhemwy 1718

Manetho states Thinis was the capital, as in the First Dynasty. But the first three kings were buried at Saqqara, suggesting the center of power had moved to Memphis. Beyond this, little can be said about the events during this period as the annual records on the Palermo stone only survive to the end of the reign of Nebra and for parts of Nynetjer's. One important event possibly happened during the reign of Khasekhemwy.[ which? ] Many Egyptologists read his name, Khasekhemwy, as "the Two Powers arise". This might commemorate the union of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Saqqara village in Giza Governorate, Egypt

Saqqara, also spelled Sakkara or Saccara in English, is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas. Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km.

Memphis, Egypt Ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, Egypt

Memphis was the ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Mit Rahina, 20 km (12 mi) south of Giza.

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.

See also

Early Dynastic Period (Egypt) period of Ancient Egypt immediately follows the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt

The Archaic or Early Dynastic Period of Egypt is the era immediately following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt c. 3100 BC. It is generally taken to include the First and Second Dynasties, lasting from the end of the Naqada III archaeological period until about 2686 BC, or the beginning of the Old Kingdom. With the First Dynasty, the capital moved from Thinis to Memphis with a unified Egypt ruled by an Egyptian god-king. Abydos remained the major holy land in the south. The hallmarks of ancient Egyptian civilization, such as art, architecture and many aspects of religion, took shape during the Early Dynastic period.

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The Second Intermediate Period marks a period when Ancient Egypt fell into disarray for a second time, between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom.

Hotepsekhemwy Egyptian pharaoh

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 while the Ancient Egyptian historian Manetho reports that the reign of "Boëthôs" lasted for 38 years. Egyptologists consider both statements to be misinterpretations or exaggerations. They credit Hotepsekhemwy with either a 25- or a 29-year rule.

The Sixth Dynasty of ancient Egypt along with Dynasties III, IV and V constitute the Old Kingdom of Dynastic Egypt.

Sanakht Egyptian pharaoh

Sanakht was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the Third Dynasty during the Old Kingdom. His chronological position is highly uncertain, and it is also unclear under which Hellenized name the ancient historian Manetho could have listed him. Many Egyptologists connect Sanakht with the Ramesside cartouche name Nebka. However, this remains disputed because no further royal title of that king has ever been found; either in contemporary source or later ones. There are two relief fragments depicting Sanakht originally from the Wadi Maghareh on the Sinai Peninsula.

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  1. Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt . Oxford University Press. p. 480. ISBN   0-19-815034-2.
  2. Romer, John (2013) [2012]. "Chapter 18 — The Lost Dynasty". A History of Ancient Egypt. Volume 1. London, ENG: Penguin Books. pp. 221–22. ISBN   978-1-8-4614377-9. Whatever else was taking place at the court of the Second Dynasty of kings, it is clear that the fundamental institutions of pharaonic government, its systems of supply, not only survived throughout that century and a half, but flourished to the extent that, when the kings emerge into the light of history again with the pyramid builders of the Third Dynasty, the state on the lower Nile was more efficient than it had ever been: that there was, therefore, strong institutional continuity.
  3. Bard, Kathryn A. (2002) [2000]. "Chapter 4 — The Emergence of the Egyptian State". In Shaw, Ian (ed.). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (paperback) (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 85. ISBN   978-0-19-280293-4. There is much less evidence for the kings of the 2nd Dynasty than those of the 1st Dynasty until the last two reigns (Peribsen and Khasekhemwy). Given what is known about the early Old Kingdom in the 3rd Dynasty, the 2nd Dynasty must have been a time when the economic and political foundations were put in place for the strongly centralized state, which developed with truly vast resources. Such a major transition, however, cannot be demonstrated from the archaeological evidence for the 2nd Dynasty.
  4. Kahl, Jochem (2007), "Ra is my Lord", Searching for the Rise of the Sun God at the Dawn of Egyptian History, Wiesbaden.
  5. Von der Way, Thomas (1997), "Zur Datierung des "Labyrinth-Gebäudes" auf dem Tell el-Fara'in (Buto)", Göttinger Miszellen, 157: 107–11.
Preceded by
First Dynasty
Dynasty of Egypt
c. 28902686 BC
Succeeded by
Third Dynasty