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Egypt: Djet, the 3rd King of Egypt's 1st Dynasty


Djet, the 3rd King of Egypt's 1st Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

Horus Djet, the King's name

Horus Djet, the king's name

We believe that Djet (also called Wadjit, or Uadji) succeeded Djer and we traditionally place his as the third king of Egypt's 1st Dynasty. Djet would have probably been the son of Djer, though we seem to have no real direct evidence of this relationship. However, there might have been a queen that ruled between Djer and Djet. Her large tomb at Abydos (Petrie's Tomb Y) was thought at one time to belong to a king. More likely Merneith (Meryetneith) was a daughter of Djer and a consort of Djet. A fairly recent find of a clay seal at Abydos that bears her name appears to indicate that she was probably the mother of Den, Djet's successor. She may also have acted as her young son's regent upon the death of Djet. On this seal, her title was clearly given as "King's Mother".


If Djet is identical with Uenephes from Manetho's list, he is noted for a reign of 23 years. However, Egyptologists do not seem to place much reliance on Manetho's list, though there is little if anything to suggest any other length for his reign. In general, Egyptologists for the most part avoid dating this murky period of Egypt's early dynasties.

Floorplan of Djet's tomb at Abydos

Abydos Tomb Layout

Djet's tomb at Abydos in an area known as Umm el-Ga'ab is Petrie's Tomb Z, located just west of Djer's tomb. Emile Amelineau and Flinders Petrie were the first to explore this tomb around the turn of the century. It was re-excavated by Werner Kaiser and Gunther Dreyer in 1988. For many years, he was thought to have had a tomb at Saqqara, but later investigation ascribed that structure to a nobleman named Sekhem-kha who probably served under Djet, even though the nobleman's tomb is larger than that of the king.. It is noteworthy that there were some 174 subsidiary burials around his tomb at Abydos. Most, if not all of these were not family members as found around the tombs of latter kings, but rather retainers who had probably been put to death upon the death of Djet, in order to serve him in the afterlife. These sacrificial burials were unique to this time period in Egypt. Later kings would take ushabtis, symbolic workers, to their graves.

A stela from Djet's tomb at Abydos

During antiquity, there is evidence that Djet's tomb, along with other early tombs at Abydos, has been intentionally burned. Later these tombs were rebuilt and associated with the cult of Osiris.

Also found at his tomb was a stele, well known today, containing the early hieroglyphs of his name. This was a snake surmounted by a falcon (Horus) with a symbolic palace facade below the snake. Originally, there would have been a pair of these stele at the tomb entrance. We could interpret Djet's very simple name to mean, "Horus Serpent" or "Horus the Snake" from this stele and other inscriptions. The limestone stele may be found today in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Djet is further attested to by a seal impression from mastaba V in Giza.

Little else is know about this king. He probably ruled during a fairly prosperous period, if the reign of Djer is any indication, and we also believe he may have sent an expedition to the Red Sea, presumably with the aim of exploiting mines in the Easter Desert.

The Symbolic Palace Facade, Front and Top Views

The Symbolic Palace Facade, Front and Top Views


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

Complete Valley of the Kings, The (Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs)

Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H.

1966

Thames and Hudson Ltd

IBSN 0-500-05080-5

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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