Raneb (Nebra), The 2nd King of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty

Raneb (Nebra), The 2nd King of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

The name of Raneb, or Nebra

Almost all Egyptologists firmly believe that a king by the name of Raneb (or Nebra) succeeded the first king of Egypt's 2nd Dynasty, Hotepsekhemwy. Of course, while we have little information about Raneb, his reign is important to us because of its chronological position during the Egyptian empire's formative years. Presumably, Raneb was Hotepsekhemwy's son, or perhaps his brother, but there is little evidence to prove such. Raneb, which was probably this king's birth name, means "Re is the Lord", but many believe, because there seems to have been no specific mention of the god Re prior to this time, that it should more appropriately be read as Nebra, meaning "Lord of the Sun". There is evidence from later King lists that his birth name was probably Kakaw (or Kakau).

Stela of Raneb

Manetho, the great historian of ancient Egypt, believed that Raneb reigned for some 39 years as king of Egypt. However, many modern scholars believe that his reign was much shorter, lasting between ten and nineteen years years. In fact, some scholars seem to believe that Raneb's reign and that of his predecessor, Hotepsekhemwy, should together be 38 or 39 years, with both therefore having shorter reigns then provided by Manetho.

His reign is attested to by various sources, including finding from the enormous middle Saqqara tomb A (cylinder seal impressions) south of Djoser's temenos south wall and the inscription on a statuette of Redjit. We also find references to Nebra on a Memphite stela now located in the Metropolitan Museum, a statuette, and a rock graffiti near Armant in the western desert (and possibly another at site 40 in the Eastern Desert) , close to an ancient trade route linking the Nile with the western Oasis.

Manetho also tells us that Raneb introduced the worship not only of the sacred goat of Mendes, but also of the sacred bull of Mnevis at the old sun-worship center of Heliopolis, and the Apis bull at Memphis. However, scholars now appear to believe that the cult of the Apis bull was established by a former king, which is attested on a stele dating from the rule of Den (Udimu).Irregardless, it would seem that his name, whether stated as Raneb or Nebra, indicates a significant shift of worship to the sun god, which would have a very important impact on much of Egypt's remaining history.

A vessel bearing the name of  Raneb

Apparently at the end of the 1st Dynasty, there was considerable rebellion, presumably problems held over from the empires initial unification. We are told that Hotepsekhemwy reunited the two lands of Northern (Lower) and Southern (Upper) Egypt, so if follows that Raneb perhaps ruled during a period of a tentative peace. We are not certain of his burial place. 1st Dynasty kings appear to have mostly been buried at Abydos, but his seal impressions at Saqqara suggest that he could have been buried there, though there is absolutely no certainty on that matter. Regardless, future excavation may eventually reveal more to us on this interesting and important era of early Egyptian history and this relatively unknown king.

Raneb was succeeded by Ninetjer (Nynetjer), though once again, we have no real information on this latter king's relationship to Raneb.

Recreation of seal impressions belonging to Raneb


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
Who Were the Phraohs? (A history of their names with a list of cartouches) Quirke, Stephen 1990 Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-26586-2