|Nisuteh, Nisut-Hu, Hu-en-nisut, Qahedjet(?), Kerpheris, Aches|
Pink granite head attributed to Huni, Brooklyn Museum
|Pharaoh of Egypt|
|Reign||24 years,, 3rd Dynasty|
|Children||Hetepheres I(?), Meresankh I(?)|
|Monuments||step pyramid at Meidum, fortress and ceremonial pyramid on Elephantine|
Huni (also read as Ni-Suteh, Nisut-Hu and Hu-en-nisut) was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of 3rd dynasty during the Old Kingdom reigning for 24 years. His chronological position as the last king of the third dynasty is fairly certain but it is unclear under which Hellenized name the ancient historian Manetho could have listed him. Most possibly he is to be identified with the Hellenized name Aches. Many Egyptologists believe that Huni was the father and direct predecessor of king Sneferu, but this is still disputed today.
Huni is not a well attested pharaoh, most of the attestations only point inderectly to him. There are only two contemporary objects with his name:
The first one is a conical stele made of red granite, discovered in 1909 on the island of Elephantine. The object is 62.99 inches long, 27.16 inches thick and 19.69 inches broad. Its shape resembles a typical Benben-stele, as known from mastaba tombs of early dynastic kings. At the front the cone presents an rectangular niche with an incarved inscription inside. The inscription mentions a royal palace named Palace of the headband of Huni and writes Huni's name above inside a royal cartouche. The decorated niche is interpreted by scholars as a so-called "apparition window". The lower part of the window frame is flattened and elongated and shows traces of a second inscription, apparently the same as inside the window. It is not fully clarified, where exactly the object was once on display. Because it was found very close to a stepped pyramid, Egyptologists such as Rainer Stadelmann propose a position on the very front of the monument, or even visibly embedded in one of the steps. Today Huni's dedication cone is on display in the Cairo Museum as object JE 41556.
The second finding, discovered recently, is a stone vessel made of polished magnesite, found at Abusir in the mastaba tomb of an high official yet unknown to archaeologists. The stone vessel inscription mentions Huni's name without a cartouche, but with the Njswt-Bity title. The orthography of the hieroglyphs that form Huni's name make a reading as Nj-swteh or Huj-en-Niswt plausible.
Huni is also attested in mastaba L6 at Saqqara, attributed to the official Metjen and dating to the end of the 3rd Dynasty. There, an inscription was found with the name of a royal domain Hw.t-njswt.-hw ("Hut-nisut-hu") of Huni.
Huni is further mentioned on the back of the Palermo stone in the section concerning the reign of the 5th Dynasty king Neferirkare Kakai. This pharaoh apparently had a mortuary temple built for the cult of Huni. This temple, however, has not yet been located.
Finally, Huni is attested in the famous papyrus Prisse, in the Instructions of Kagemni, probably dating to the 13th Dynasty. The papyrus indicates that Huni's vizier was the sage Kagemni and gives an important indication about Huni's succession :
|“||But then the majesty of king Huni died and the majesty of king Snefru was now raised up as beneficient king in this entire land. And Kagemni was raised as the new mayor of the royal capitol and became vizir of the king.||”|
From this extract it is believed that Huni was the last king of the 3rd Dynasty and immediate predecessor of Snefru.
Name and identity
Huni's cartouche name
Huni's identity is difficult to evaluate, since his name is passed down mostly as Cartouche name and in different variations. The possibly earliest mention of his cartouche name appears on the granite cone from Elephantine, it might be contemporary. The for sure earliest appearance of Huni's cartouche can be found on the Palermo Stone P1 and in Papyrus Prisse of 13th dynasty. Huni's cartouche can also be found in the Saqqara kinglist and in the Turin Canon, both dating back to the 19th dynasty. The Abydos kinglist (also 19th dynasty) mysteriously omits Huni's name and gives instead a Neferkara I who is unknown to Egyptologists.
The reading and translating of his cartouche name is also disputed. In general, two basic versions exist: An old version, which is closest to the (today unknown) original, and an temporarily younger version, which seems to be based on ramesside interpretations and misreadings.
The older version uses the hieroglyphic signs candle wick (Gardiner sign V28), juncus sprout (Gardiner sign M23), bread loave (Gardiner sign X1) and water line (Gardiner sign N35). This writing form can be found on Old Kindom objects such as the Palermo Stone recto (reign of Neferirkare), the tomb inscription of Metjen, the stone vessel found in Abusir and the granit cone from Elephantine. Whilst the stone vessel from Abusir writes Huni's name without a cartouche around, but gives the Niswt-Bity-title, all other Old Kingdom writings place the king's name inside an oval cartouche.
The ramesside versions use the hieroglyphic signs candle wick (Gardiner sign V28), beating man (Gardiner sign A25), water line (Gardiner sign N35) and arm with a stick (Gardiner sign D40). The cartouche No. 15 in the Kinglist of Saqqara writes two vertical strokes between the water line and the beating arm. The Prisse-Papyrus omitts the candle wick-sign and the beating arm. Already Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt found out, that all these cartouche versions were meaning one and the same king. He proposed, that ramesside scribes erroneously took away the juncus-sign of the Niswt-Bity title and placed it before the royal cartouche, not realizing, that the juncus sign was part of the original birth- or throne name of Huni. He also proposed, that the candle wick-sign was obviously misinterpreted as the sign for "smiting", tempting the ramesside scribes to place the hieroglyph of a beating man behind it. These sights are still fostered by scholars today.
Borchardt reads the name as Niswt Hw ("king Hu"). Hans Gödicke instead reads Ny Swteh ("He who belongs to the smiters") and is convinced, that Huni's name was leaned on the name of a deity. He compares this name construction to kings such as Nynetjer and Nyuserre. Rainer Stadelmann and Wolfgang Helck contradict this reading for good reasons: they were able to demonstrate, that no single Egyptian document knows a deity, person, place or even a common word named "Swteh". Thus, there is no grammatical source that could have been used to build a "Ny Swteh" as a royal name. Helck instead suggests a reading as Hwj-nj-niswt and translates it as "The utterance belongs to the king".
Huni's possible Horus name
The Horus name of Huni is unknown. There are several theories to connect the cartouche name "Huni" with contemporary Horus names.
In the late 1960s, the Louvre Museum bought a stele showing a king whose Horus name is Horus-Qahedjet ("the crown of Horus is raised"). For stylistical reasons the stele may be dated to the Third Dynasty and it seems possible that it represents to Huni, whose Horus-name it provides. However, the dating and authencity of the stele have been put into question several times and today the stela is seen as being either a fake, or a dedication stela for king Thutmose III (18th dynasty), imitating the artistic style of 3rd dynasty.
Other Egyptologists, such as Toby Wilkinson and Rainer Stadelmann, identify Huni with the contemporarily well attested king Horus-Khaba. Their identification is based on the circumstance, that both king's Horus names appear on incised stone vessels without any further guiding notes, a fashion that began with the death of king Khasekhemwy (end of 2nd dynasty) and ended under king Sneferu (beginning of the 4th dynasty). Thus, it was a very typical fashion of the 3rd dynasty. Additionally, Stadelmann points to the Layer pyramid at Sawyet El-Aryan. This monument was possibly built by Khaba, since a nearby mastaba contained several stone vessels with his Horus name. Since the Turin Canon credits a reign of 24 years to Huni, Stadelmann argues, that this time span would perfectly fit to finish the Layer Pyramid. Due this connection he identifies Khaba with Huni.
The genealogical position of Huni in the family line of ruling kings during the time when the 3rd dynasty ended and the 4th started, is highly disputed. Contemporary and later documents often mention Huni and his follower Snefru in the same sentence, always in direct succession. Therefore Egyptologists and historians believe that Huni might have even been related to Snefru. A key figure in this case is queen Meresankh I, the royal mother of Snefru. She definitely bore the title of a queen, but no contemporary source connects her name with the title of a daughter or wife of Huni. This circumstance raises doubts in the family relationship between Huni and Snefru. Today most scholars prefer to believe the Historian Manetho, who claims in his Aegyptiacae that with the inthronisation of Snefru a different royal house gained power over Egypt and a new dynasty had begun.
A possible wife of Huni was instead a queen Djefatnebty, whose name appears in black ink inscriptions on beer vases from Elephantine. Her name is guided by the title great one of the hetes-sceptre, making her definitely a queen consort. According to an interpretation by Günter Dreyer, Djefatnebty's death is mentioned alongside several events during the reign of king Huni, although no king is mentioned in the inscription by his name. Dreyer is convinced that the notations concern the 22nd year of Huni's reign, since the Turin canon credits him with a reign of 24 years and no 3rd dynasty king is archaeologically proven to have ruled so long. Dreyer's interpretation is not commonly accepted, though.
Until today, no child or otherwisely relative of Huni can be identified and connected to him with certainty. William Stevenson Smith and George Andrew Reisner propose to identify queen Hetepheres I (concubine of Sneferu and mother of king Khufu; 4th dynasty) as the daughter of King Huni. Hetepheres bore the female title Sat-netjer ("daughter of a god"), which led Smith and Reisner to the conclusion, this could be a hint to her family position as the daughter of Huni. In this case, Hetepheres would have been a heir princess and by marrying Snefru, she secured the blood line of the royal dynasty. But other scholars, such as Wolfgang Helck and Winfried Seipel, raise strong doubts against this theory. They argue, that the title of Hetepheres does not explicitely reveal to whom she was married at her lifetime.
As good as nothing is known about Huni's time of rulership. Huni is given a reign of 24 years by the Turin canon, which is commonly accepted by scholars. The papyrus also mentions the erection of sechem..., a certain building, which Huni is said to have erected and for which he was honoured. Further political, religious or military activities are not known from his reign. The only contemporary documents which allow any evaluations about Huni's reign are the tomb inscriptions of high officials such as Metjen, Khabausokar, A'a-akhty and Pehernefer. These are dated to the time span from the end of 3rd dynasty unto the beginning of the 4th dynasty. They show that the reign of Huni must have been the beginning of the heyday of the Old Kingdom. For the first time inscriptions give explicit insights into the power structure of the state, with nomarchs and viziers exercising important powers. The tomb inscriptions of Metjen also mentions, for the first time in Egyptian history, that titles of high-ranked officials and priests were only passed down by inheritance from father to son.
After his death, Huni seems to have enjoyed a long lasting mortuary cult. The Palermo stone, which was made over a hundred years after Huni's death, mentions donations made to a funerary complex temple of Huni. Huni's name is also mentioned in the Prisse Papyrus, a further evidence that Huni was remembered long after his death since the papyrus was written during the 12th dynasty.
- Meidum pyramid
In earlier times, the famous Pyramid of Meidum was often credited to king Huni. One long time popular theory included, that Huni had started a stepped pyramid, similar to that of king Djoser, Sekhemkhet and Khaba, but higher advanced and with more and smaller steps. When king Snefru ascended the throne, he would have simply covered the pyramid with polished limestone prisms, making it a "true pyramid". The odd appearance of the pyramid was explained in early publications by a possible catastrophe, during which the pyramid covering broke apart and many workmen had been crushed.
But closer examinations of the pyramid surroundings revealed several tomb inscriptions and pilgrim graffitos, which praise the 'beauty of the white pyramid of king Snefru and his great wife Meresankh I'. Also contemporary mastaba tombs date to the reign of king Snefru. Huni's name hasn't yet been found anywhere. Furthermore no workmen's corpses were ever found. The inscriptions and the lack of corpses now lead to the conclusion, that the pyramid of Meidum was never Huni's building, but that of king Snefru, planned and constructed as a cenotaph. The ramesside graffiti reveal that the white limestone covering still existed during the 18th dynasty and started to collide slowly after that period of time. The rest of the covering and the first inner layers were robbed during the New Kingdom period and the roman period. It continued also during the time after Christ, especially under the construction works of the Arabs during the 12th century AD. Arab writers describe the Meidum pyramid as a "mountain with fife steps". Additionally, several regional earthquakes damaged the monument.
A third argument against the theory that Snefru completed Huni's project is, that it was uncommon for rulers during the Old Kingdom to usurp or finish the tomb of a predecessor. All that a succeeding king did was close and seal the predecessor's tomb and establish a funerary cult for the deceased (in case that a longer lasting mortuary cult was economically worthwhile).
- Layer pyramid of Zawyet el'Aryan
As mentioned before, Rainer Stadelmann thinks it could be possible that Huni builded the so-called Layer Pyramid at Zawyet el'Aryan. According to Stadelmann and Jean-Phillipe Lauer, this monument was nearly finished, when it was left. It's unknown, though, if the subterranean complex actually was ever used for the burial of the king. The necropolis of the Layer Pyramid is still incompletely investigated. A nearby mastaba (Mastaba Z500), which was integrated into the pyramid complex, contained several stone vessels with the Horus name of king Khaba. Thus, the Layer Pyramid is commonly equally known as the pyramid of Khaba. Rainer Stadelmann proposes an identification of Khaba with Huni. He argues that the finishing of the pyramid lasted a long period of time and since the Turin Canon credits a 24 years reign to Huni, this time span surely covered the building time needed for the pyramid. Thus, both names ("Huni" and "Khaba") might point to one and the same ruler.
- Lepsius I - pyramid
A mysterious mud brick pyramid, once the planned size of the Khafrâ pyramid, was found at Abu Rawash and documented by Karl Richard Lepsius as Lepsius I - Pyramid. The building was already as good as destroyed during the time of examinations and excavations, only a brick layer of 17m hight was left. Lepsius found a tight corridor that lead to a nearly quadratic chamber. He also found a roughly hewn stone sarcophagus. Lepsius dated the pyramid into the late 3rd dynasty and proposed a connection to king Huni.
Today this theory is highly questioned. In 1989 Egyptologist Nabil Swelim examinated the Lepsius I - pyramid more precisely and found out, that the pyramid was made of small mud bricks and 1/4 of its inner core was hewn out of a natural rock. The rock core itself contains several rock-cut tombs dating back to the 5th and 6th dynasty. Swelim (and others, such as Toby Wilkinson) wonders, if a royal monument could really have been destroyed that much, just to be re-used for simple rock-cut tombs. Additionally, he points to the unusual, geographic position of the pyramid. Old Kingdom pyramids were commonly built on raised ground levels (on plateaus, for example), but the Lepsius I - pyramid lies on flat plains. For these circumstances, already the datation of this monument is highly disputed now.
- Cultic step pyramids
Several small step pyramids along the Nile river are also credited to Huni. Those small pyramids had a cultic function and marked important royal estates. They contained no chambers, though. One of them is located at the eastern end of Elephantine, a granite cone with Huni's name was found nearby in 1909. Therefore this little pyramid is the only one that maybe can be credited to Huni with some certainty. But some scholars, such as Andrzej Ćwiek are not so sure and point out, that it might be at least likewise possible, that the granite cone of Huni was re-used in later times, when ramesside priests restored cultic places of the Old Kingdom period. The only cultic step pyramid, that can be definitively connected to an Old Kingdom ruler, is a step pyramid at Seila. Two large stela with the name of king Snefru were found in front of the pyramid.
Notes and references
- Thomas Schneider: Lexikon der Pharaonen. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-491-96053-3, page 99.
- Alan H. Gardiner: The royal canon of Turin. Griffith Institute, Oxford 1997, ISBN 0900416483, page 13 & table 2. Turin canon, column III, line 8.
- Wolfgang Helck: Huni. In: Lexikon der Ägyptologie, vol. III, 1980, p. 85.
- Ludwig Borchardt: König Hu. In: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde (ZÄS), volume 46, 1909, page 12.
- Hans Gödicke in: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde. vol. 81, 1956, page 18.
- Wolfgang Helck: Der Name des letzten Königs der 3. Dynastie und die Stadt Ehnas. In: Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur (SAK), vol. 4. 1976, page 125-128.
- Winfried Barta: Zum altägyptischen Namen des Königs Aches. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo. (MDAIK), vol. 29. von Zabern, Mainz 1973, pages 1–4.
- Rainer Stadelmann: King Huni: His Monuments and His Place in the History of the Old Kingdom. In: Zahi A. Hawass, Janet Richards (Hrsg.): The Archaeology and Art of Ancient Egypt. Essays in Honor of David B. O’Connor. Band II, Conceil Suprême des Antiquités de l’Égypte, Kairo 2007, p. 425–431.
- M. Barta: An Abusir Mastaba from the Reign of Huni, in: Vivienne Gae Callender (et al., editors): Times, Signs and Pyramids: Studies in Honour of Miroslav Verner on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, Prague: Charles University, Faculty in Art, 2011, ISBN 978-8073082574, p. 41-51 (inscription depicted as fig. 6 on p. 48)
- Wolfgang Helck: Der Name des letzten Königs der 3. Dynastie und die Stadt Ehnas, in: Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur (SAK), 4, (1976), pp. 125-128.
- Toby A. H. Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt. Routledge, London/ New York 1999, ISBN 0-415-18633-1, p. 85-89.
- Hellmut Brunner: Altägyptische Erziehung. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1991, ISBN 3447031883, p.154.
- Nicolas Grimal: A History of Ancient Egypt, pp. 65–67.
- Wolfgang Helck: Der Name des letzten Königs der 3. Dynastie und die Stadt Ehnas. In: Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur. (SAK); 4th Edition 1976, p. 125-128.
- Ludwig Borchardt: König Hu. In: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde (ZÄS); 46th edition, Berlin/Cairo 1909, p. 12.
- Hans Gödicke: Der Name des Huni. In: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde (ZÄS); 81st edition, Berlin/Cairo 1956, p. 18.
- Toby Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt, Routledge, London/New York 1999, ISBN 0-415-18633-1, page 104-105.
- Jean-Pierre Pätznik, Jacques Vandier: L’Horus Qahedjet: Souverain de la IIIe dynastie?. page 1455–1472
- Silke Roth: Die Königsmütter des Alten Ägypten von der Frühzeit bis zum Ende der 12. Dynastie. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-447-04368-7, page 68–69 & 385.
- William Stevenson Smith: Inscriptional Evidence for the History of the Fourth Dynasty. In: Journal of Near Estern Studies, vol. 11, 1952, p. 113–128.
- George Andrew Reisner: A History of the Giza Necropolis - Volume II.: The tomb of Hetep-Heres, the mother of Cheops. A Study of Egyptian Civilization in the Old Kingdom. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1955, p. 59-61.
- Wilfried Seipel: Hetepheres I. In: Wolfgang Helck, Eberhard Otto: Lexikon der Ägyptologie. p. 1172–1173.
- Miroslav Verner: Die Pyramiden. Rowohlt Verlag, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3499608901, p. 185-195.
- Rainer Stadelmann: Snofru und die Pyramiden von Meidum und Dahschur. in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo (MDAIK), vol 36. Zabern, Mainz 1980, p. 437-449.
- Miroslav Verner: Die Pyramiden. Rowohlt, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-499-60890-1, p. 174.
- Toby A. H. Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt. Routledge, London/New York 1999, ISBN 0-415-18633-1, p. 103-105.
- Karl Richard Lepsius: Denkmäler aus Ägypten und Äthiopien. p. 21ff.
- Miroslav Verner: Die Pyramiden. Rowohlt, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-499-60890-1, p. 177.
- Nabil M. Swelim: The brick pyramid at Abu Rawash Number "I" by Lepsius. Publications of the Archeological Society of Alexandria, Kairo 1987, p.113.
- Günter Dreyer, Werner Kaiser: Zu den kleinen Stufenpyramiden Ober- und Mittelägyptens. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo (MDAIK), vol. 36, 1980, p. 57.
- Andrzej Ćwiek: Date and Function of the so-called Minor Step Pyramids. In: Göttinger Miszellen, 162. Ausgabe 1998. p. 42-44.
- Rainer Stadelmann: Snofru – Builder and Unique Creator of the Pyramids of Seila and Meidum. In: Ola El-Aguizy, Mohamed Sherif Ali: Echoes of Eternity. Studies presented to Gaballa Aly Gaballa. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-447-06215-2, p. 32.
- Meidum: Site of the Broken Pyramid & Remnants of the First True Pyramid- Virtual-Egypt
- On pharaoh Huni