Alternative Serekh of Sanakht

There is some debate regarding Sanakhte (“strong protection”). Some sources consider him to be one and the same as Nebka, who is listed as the first pharaoh of Dynasty Three in the Turin list, the Abydos list and by Manetho. This assumption is based on a seal impression found in Mastaba K2 near Beni Khallaf which records Sanakht’s name along with the element “ka” of “Nebka” – which is hardly conclusive evidence but may yet be correct and has the support of many prominent Egyptologists (Toby Wilkinson, Stephan Seidlmayer, Kenneth Kitchen, and Rainer Stadelmann). Other possibilities, with less support, are that Sanakhte was the pharaoh referred to by Manetho as Mesochris (linked by others with Khaba) or the shadowy Horus Sa.

Even if Sanakhte is agreed to be one and the same as Nebka, his position in the dynasty is a subject of debate. Some sources suggest that Sanakhte should be placed later in the dynasty, possibly even after Khaba or Huni. Certainly, the Westcar Papyrus (written during the Middle Kingdom) places Nebka after Djoser, and it is argued that seal impressions bearing Djoser’s name which were discovered in the tomb of Khasekhemwy (the last king of the Second Dynasty in the Early Dynastic Period) imply that he had arranged the burial because he was Khasekhemwy’s son and successor.

It has also been ventured that Sanakhte usurped the throne at the beginning of the dynasty. When Djoser took power back, he arranged for the burial of his father, Khasekhemwy. Finally, it is suggested that he may have been Djoser’s brother, but this theory does not seem to have much support.

Sanakhte smiting an enemy from Wadi Maghara (copyright Captmondo)

His name appears on a fragment of sandstone from Wadi Maghara in the Sinai, near to the turquoise and copper mines. The king is shown in the familiar smiting pose wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, but only his Horus name (Sanakht) is recorded.

His name also appears within a small pyramid on the island of Elephantine. As both Huni and Sneferu built small pyramids throughout the country which were not used as tombs, this may support the idea that Sanakht reigned later in Dynasty Three.

Pharaoh’s Names

Manetho; Necherophes or Mesochris

Sanakht's Nomen 'Nebka' from the Abydos list

Nomen; Nebka (from the Abydos kings list)

Sanakht's Nomen 'Nebka'

Nomen; Nebka (from the Turin kings 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
  • Kemp, Barry J (1991) Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation
  • Malek, J (2000) “The Old Kingdom”, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt Ed I. Shaw
  • Rice, Michael (1999) Who’s Who in Ancient Egypt
  • Van De Mieroop, Marc (1999) A History of Ancient Egypt

Copyright J Hill 2010