Ninetjer's name in a serekh

Nynetjer (or Ninejter, “godlike”) is thought to have been the third ruler of the Second Dynasty. The Palermo stone records numerous festivals and ceremonies held between the 6th and the 20th year of his reign. However, Manetho suggested that he actually ruled for 47 years because at least seventeen biennial censuses were recorded. Turin Canon gives him a reign of 96 years, which seems rather improbable. Most Egyptologists credit him with 43 or 45 years.

Nynetjer, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nynetjer ruled from Memphis and all of the events recorded on the Palermo stone (with the exception of a ceremony in honour of the goddess Nekhbet in Elkab) took place around Memphis, leading some to suggest that his power was limited to the Memphite region. However, his name also appears on a rock inscription near Abu Handal in Lower Nubia, so he may have dispatched a military expedition there.

Manetho claims that during his reign the right of a woman to reign over Egypt was confirmed. Some Egyptologists have suggested that this was in order to recognise the contributions of the first dynasty Queen Mereneith and Neithhotep who may have ruled as regents while their sons were very young.

The end of his reign seems to have been marked by poor harvests, internal tension, and possibly even civil war. The Palermo Stone records fighting in several towns including one named “the House of the North”. This reference may suggest that the king had to suppress a rebellion in Lower Egypt.

His name has been found on inscriptions from a number of mastaba tombs in Saqqara, Giza, Helwan and Abydos. Archaeologists also found an inscription referring to the king in the tomb of his successor Sekhemhib (Seth-Peribsen) in Abydos. However, some scholars believe that a series of shadowy rulers (Weneg, Sendji, Neferkare, Neferkasokar, Nubnefer) ruled over a divided Egypt before Sekhemhib reunited the country.

Diorite vase of Nynetjer bearing the king's name and mentioning a palace of the king in Upper Egypt (copyright Juan R. Lazaro)
Nynetjer’s serekh, Juan R. Lazaro, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Some Egyptologists place Nynetjer before Weneg, and others after him, while a few suggest that they ruled concurrently in different parts of Egypt (as the events listed on the Palermo stone were all held in Lower Egypt). However, the granite statuette of the mortuary priest Hetepdief, implies that there was continuity between the first three kings of the Second Dynasty (Hotepsekhemwy , Raneb (Nebra), and Nynetjer).

This confusing situation has prompted some scholars to suggest that Nynetjer actually split his country between his two sons or successors in order to cope with the burdens of an overly complex bureaucracy.

An alabaster statuette depicting Nynetjer on his throne wearing the close fitting robe of the Heb-Sed jubilee is the earliest complete example of three-dimensional royal statuary. A stock of stone vessels discovered in the Step Pyramid galleries may have been created for this jubilee, but later appropriated by subsequent kings of the late Second and early Third Dynasties.

A large mastaba once thought to be his tomb is now confirmed to belong to one of his officials, a man named Ruaben. His tomb is now agreed to be the large set of galleries and tunnels close to the causeway of Unas. It bears similarities to Gallery Tomb B (thought to be the tomb of Raneb or Hotepsekhemwy). Part of the tomb had been reused for a Ramesside burial, but the southern gallery was relatively undisturbed and contained a wide array of burial goods including flint knives, razors, beer, and wine jars (some from the first dynasty), carrying nets, wooden boxes, and decorated alabaster bottles.

Pharaoh’s Names

Manetho; Binothris

Nynetjer's Nebty

Nebty; Nynetjer

Nynetjer's alternative Nebty

alternative Nebty; ht

Golden Horus name 'Ren Nebu'

Golden Horus; Ren Nebu

Nynetjer's Nomen 'Banetjer' from the Abydos kings list

Nomen; Banetjer (from the Abydos kings list)

Nynetjer's Nomen 'Banetjerw' from the Turin list

Nomen; Banetjerw (from the Turin list)

Nynetjer's Nomen 'Banetjerw' from the Saqqara list

Nomen; Banetjerw (from the Saqqara List)

  • Bard, Kathryn (2008) An introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
  • Dodson, A and Hilton, D. (2004) The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt
  • Malek, Jaromir (2000) “The Old Kingdom”, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt Ed I. Shaw
  • Rice, Michael (1999) Who’s Who in Ancient Egypt
  • Wilkinson, Toby (1999) Early Dynastic Egypt
  • Wilkinson, Toby (2010) The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt

Copyright J Hill 2009