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Sneferka is the serekh-name of an early Egyptian king who may have ruled at the end of the 1st dynasty. The exact length of his reign is unknown, but thought to have been very short and his chronological position is unclear.


A serekh was a specific important type of heraldic crest used in ancient Egypt. Like the later cartouche, it contained a royal name.

Pharaoh Title of Ancient Egyptian rulers

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.

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.


Name sources

Sneferka's serekh-name is the object of current investigations, because of the unusual typographical order of the hieroglyphic signs within the serekh. This led to several different readings: his name is read as Seneferka, Sneferka, Neferseka and Sekanefer. [2] The serekh-name "Sneferka" appears on several schist- and alabaster vessels. One was found in the mastaba of the high official Merka who served under king Qa'a; a second one in the underground galleries of the step pyramid of king Djoser (3rd dynasty) and the third was found in an anonymous mastaba, also at Sakkara. A fourth artifact with Sneferka's name is found in the private Georges-Michailidis-Collection but its authenticity is questioned by Archaeologists and Egyptologists, since its origin is unknown. Additionally, the inscription on the Michailidis-object is a serekh with no Horus-falcon, which is highly unusual for any Egyptian artifact of that time period. [3] [4] [5]

Schist Medium grade metamorphic rock with lamellar grain

Schist is a medium-grade metamorphic rock. Schist has medium to large, flat, sheet-like grains in a preferred orientation. It is defined by having more than 50% platy and elongated minerals, often finely interleaved with quartz and feldspar. These lamellar minerals include micas, chlorite, talc, hornblende, graphite, and others. Quartz often occurs in drawn-out grains to such an extent that a particular form called quartz schist is produced. Schist is often garnetiferous. Schist forms at a higher temperature and has larger grains than phyllite. Geological foliation with medium to large grained flakes in a preferred sheetlike orientation is called schistosity.

Alabaster Lightly colored, translucent, and soft calcium minerals, typically gypsum

Alabaster is a mineral or rock that is soft, often used for carving, and is processed for plaster powder. Archaeologists and the stone processing industry use the word differently from geologists. The former use is in a wider sense that includes varieties of two different minerals: the fine-grained massive type of gypsum and the fine-grained banded type of calcite. Geologists define alabaster only as the gypsum type. Chemically, gypsum is a hydrous sulfate of calcium, while calcite is a carbonate of calcium.

Qaa Egyptian ruler

Qa'a was the last king of the First Dynasty of Egypt. He reigned for 33 years at the end of the 30th century BC.


Beside Sneferka's serekh, the inscriptions mention several institutions and places already known thanks to finds dating to Qa'a's reign. They are called Qau-Netjeru ("Elevations of the gods") and Ah-Netjer ("Divine palace") and appear in several stone vessel inscriptions from Qa'a's tomb at Abydos. Egyptologists such as Peter Kaplony conclude that the inscriptions prove a chronological adjacency to king Qa'a or that the name "Sneferka" was an alternative name that Qa'a bore for a short time.

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.

Peter Árpád Kaplony was a Hungarian-born Swiss egyptologist.

Two artifacts of different origins show the serekh of a king, whose name is highly disputed, for the hieroglyphic sign used to write the king's name is almost illegible. Since at least the depiction of a bird was recognised, the king in question is called "Horus Bird". Egyptologists such as Wolfgang Helck and Peter Kaplony believe that Sneferka and "Horus Bird" fought each other to gain the throne of Egypt. The struggles peaked in the plundering of the royal cemetery of Abydos, which was therefore abandoned. The struggle for the throne was possibly brought to an end by the founder of the 2nd dynasty, king Hotepsekhemwy. An evidence supporting this theory is the Horus name of Hotepsekhemwy which means "The two powers are reconciled", and could relate to a re-unification of the Egyptian realm after a period of discord. [6] [7] [8]

Artifact (archaeology) Something made by humans and of archaeological interest

An artifact, or artefact, is something made or given shape by humans, such as a tool or a work of art, especially an object of archaeological interest.

Hieroglyph Pictographic sign

A hieroglyph was a character of the ancient Egyptian writing system. Logographic scripts that are pictographic in form in a way reminiscent of ancient Egyptian are also sometimes called "hieroglyphs". In Neoplatonism, especially during the Renaissance, a "hieroglyph" was an artistic representation of an esoteric idea, which Neoplatonists believed actual Egyptian hieroglyphs to be. The word hieroglyphics refer to a hieroglyphic script.

Hans Wolfgang Helck was a German Egyptologist, considered one of the most important Egyptologists of the 20th century. From 1956 until his retirement in 1979 he was a Professor at the University of Hamburg. He remained active after his retirement and together with Wolfhart Westendorf published the German Lexikon der Ägyptologie, completed in 1992. He published many books and articles on the history of Egyptian and Near Eastern culture. He was a member of the German Archaeological Institute and a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences.

In contrast, Egyptologist Kim Ryholt believes that Sneferka ruled during the midst of 2nd dynasty and was to be identified with Neferkara I, attested in Ramesside sources. He points to the circumstance that Ramesside scribes often added the symbol of the sun to the names of early dynastic kings, ignoring the fact that the sun was not yet an object of divine adoration at that early time. To support his view, Ryholt points to cartouche names such as Neferkara II and Nebkara I, which represent early kings and contradictorily have a sun-symbol in their names. [9] Egyptologist Aidan Dodson thinks alike and points to the fact, that nearly all serekhs of Sneferka are made "on erasures", thus leading to the conclusion that Sneferka usurped Qa'a's vessels. This behavior was typical for kings that ruled somewhat later than the original owner of the re-used artefacts and who ruled for a very short time only. [10]

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.

Neferkara I ancient Egyptian ruler

Neferkara I is the cartouche name of a king (pharaoh) who is said to have ruled during the 2nd dynasty of Ancient Egypt. The exact length of his reign is unknown since the Turin canon lacks the years of rulership and the ancient Greek historian Manetho suggests that Neferkara's reign lasted 25 years. Egyptologists evaluate his statement as misinterpretation or exaggeration.

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".

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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.

Sanakht Egyptian pharaoh

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Nynetjer Egyptian pharaoh

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Seth-Peribsen ancient Egyptian ruler

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Horus Bird (pharaoh)

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Horus Sa

Horus Sa was a possible early Egyptian pharaoh who may have reigned during the 2nd or 3rd dynasty of Egypt. His existence is disputed, as is the meaning of the artifacts that have been interpreted as confirming his existence.


Inykhnum was an ancient Egyptian high-ranking official who worked and lived during the transition time between 2nd dynasty and 3rd dynasty. The king(s) under which he served are not known for certain, the subject being currently highly disputed.


  1. Pierre Lacau & Jean-Philippe Lauer: La Pyramide à Degrés IV. – Inscriptions gravées sur les Vases: Fouilles à Saqqarah., Service des antiquités de l’Égypte, Cairo 1936
  2. I.E.S. Edwards: The Cambridge ancient history, Volume 1-3. Cambridge University Press, 1970, ISBN   0-521-07791-5, page 29.
  3. Walter Brian Emery: Great tombs of the First Dynasty: Excavations at Saqqara, vol. 3. Egypt exploration society, London/Cairo 1958. page 38.
  4. Pierre Lacau & Jan-Phillip Lauer: La Pyramide a Degrees IV. - Inscriptions Gravees sur les Vases: Fouilles à Saqqarah. Service des antiquités de l'Égypte, Kairo 1936, page 15–17.
  5. Toby Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt. Routledge, London 1999, ISBN   0-415-18633-1, page 69.
  6. Peter Kaplony: „Er ist ein Liebling der Frauen“ – Ein „neuer“ König und eine neue Theorie zu den Kronprinzen sowie zu den Staatsgöttinnen (Kronengöttinnen) der 1./2. Dynastie. In: Manfred Bietak: Ägypten und Levante. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 2006 ISBN   978-3-7001-6668-9; page 126–127.
  7. Dietrich Wildung: Die Rolle ägyptischer Könige im Bewußtsein ihrer Nachwelt. page 36–41.
  8. Wolfgang Helck: Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit. (Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, Vol. 45). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1987, ISBN   3-447-02677-4; page 117
  9. Kim Ryholt, in: Journal of Egyptian History; vol.1. BRILL, Leiden 2008, ISSN 1874-1657, page 159–173.
  10. Aidan Dodson: The Mysterious Second Dynasty In: KMT - A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt Nr.7. Kmt Communications, San Francisco 1996, ISSN   1053-0827, S. 19-31.
Preceded by
Pharaoh of Egypt Succeeded by
Horus Bird