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Egypt: Horus Djer (Itit), Second King of the First Dynasty


Horus Djer (Itit)

By Jimmy Dunn

Horus Djer (Itit)

Horus Djer or Itit (his nomen) was either the second or third ruler of the 1st dynasty. His reign came after that of Narmer and Aha, though which of these two kings actually founded the first dynasty is unsure. A majority of modern scholars seems to believe that Aha was the first king of that dynasty and so was the ruler who united Upper and Lower Egypt. That would make Horus Djer, his apparent heir, the second ruler. He and the following kings are largely responsible for the consolidation of the unified state of Egypt.


Scholars believe that Djer was probably Manetho's Athothis, and that he ruled for 57 years. Most of the information we have on this ruler comes from ivory and wood labels found at Abydos and Saqqara. Regrettably, the hieroglyphs on the labels represent an early state of writing, so are difficult for Egyptologists to make out. An inscription on ivory found at Abydos with Djer's name in a serekh seems to tell us that he visited Buto, an early capital of Egypt, and Sais, both in the Delta of lower or northern Egypt. At Saqqara we find a wooden label also bearing his name that seems to refer to a ceremony connected with human sacrifice, a practice that was quickly abandoned in Egyptian culture. However, about his large tomb at Abydos (Tomb O) are 300 burials of retainers who seem to have perished at the same time as the principle internment of Djer.

Inscriptions on Ivory Recording Djer's visits to Delta Cities

Inscriptions on Ivory Recording Djer's visits to Delta Cities


From Saqqara on Wood, Possibly recording a Ceremony of Human Sacrifice

From Saqqara on Wood, Possibly recording a Ceremony of Human Sacrifice

Manetho, the legendary Egyptian historian, regarded him as a scholar, and credited him with an anatomy text book that apparently still existed in Greek times. We believe that he made a military campaign deep into Nubia, for we find at Wadi Halfa his inscription. One of the kings regnal years was named, "The Year of Smiting the land of the Setjet". Setjet was a word identified with Syria-Palestine, and we also believe that he sent forces into the Sinai. There is also evidence that he made excursions into Libya to the west. These are the first recorded military campaigns outside of the "Two Lands" of Egypt.

Jewelry from Tomb O at Abydos

Tomb O is at Umm el-Gaab (Abydos) and just west of the tomb of Horus Aha. The tomb is subterranean, made of brick and was much more elaborate then his predecessor's tombs. In fact, it is one of the largest tombs of the First Dynasty and the complex covers an area of 70 X40 meters, including the subsidiary burials that are in rows. From the Middle Kingdom onward, Egyptians thought that his tomb held the body of Osiris, god of the dead. King Khendjer even provided a statue of the deity, lying on a bed, and the tomb became a center of pilgrimage for later Egyptians. From his tomb we find an arm which wore the earliest surviving royal jewelry, four gold and turquoise bracelets. His apparent wife, Herneith, is buried at Saqqara in tomb number 3507, near the burials of many of the king's senior officials.

Traditionally, provides that Djer's successor was Djet (Uadji), but there is evidence provided by large tombs at Saqqara (3503) and Abydos (Tomb Y) that there might have been a consort of Djer who may have ruled prior to Djet. Her name was Merneith, and a seal from Abydos that was recently found seems to confirm this, giving the order of early kings beginning with Narmer and referencing her has King's Mother.

References:

Title

Author

Date

Publisher

Reference Number

Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt)

Clayton, Peter A.

1994

Thames and Hudson Ltd

ISBN 0-500-05074-0

History of Ancient Egypt, A

Grimal, Nicolas

1988

Blackwell

None Stated

Monarchs of the Nile

Dodson, Aidan

1995

Rubicon Press

ISBN 0-948695-20-x

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The

Shaw, Ian

2000

Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-815034-2

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