|Hudjefa II.?, Sedjes?, Huni?|
Serekh of Khaba on a stone bowl of unknown provenance, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UC 15800.
|Pharaoh of Egypt|
|Reign||duration unknown; ca. 2670 BC, Later 3rd Dynasty|
|Predecessor||Sekhemkhet or Sanakht|
|Successor||Huni (most likely, if not identical to him), Sanakht, Qahedjet|
|Burial||Layer Pyramid at Zawyet el'Aryan|
King Khaba is considered a rather shadowy figure of ancient Egypt. Indeed, in spite of the fact that his name is archaeologically well attested by stone bowls and mud seal impressions, scholars still debate his chronological position within the 3rd dynasty. It is not known exactly when he ruled, for how long he was king nor which political and cultural events took place during his reign. These problems originate in part from the contradicting kinglists, all dating to later periods, especially the Ramesside era. Thus, scholars encounter difficulties when trying to identify any cartouche name from the Ramesside king list with king Khaba in an attempt to built up a straight and reliable king list. It is also unknown under which Hellenized name the ancient historian Manetho listed him; he might be the same person as the listed Mesôchris or Sôÿphis.
Khaba's likeness appears on nine polished stone bowls, variously made of magnesite, travertine and diorite, which were found at the archaeological locales of Zawyet el'Aryan, Abusir, and Naga-ed-Deir. The bowls were found mostly intact; they show only the king's serekh name on their polished surfaces. As was conventional at the time, they contain no additional inscriptions for context.
His name also appears on several mud seal impressions found at Zawyet el'Aryan, Hierakonpolis, and Elephantine. Most of the mud seals were excavated at modern-day Elephantine; it is possible that more of them lie under the current Elephantine museum's garden. More inscriptions are visible on these impressions than on the bowls, although most of the seals are only preserved as small fragments and their surfaces have been roughened over the years.
Only one seal shows a complete preserved row of names or titles; the seal, named UC-11755, is undated and is now on display in the Petrie Museum at London. The inscription alternates between Horus and Golden Horus names.
- Royal name
Khaba is known by his serekh and Golden Horus name only. His Nisut-Bity title and his Nebty name are unknown. Additionally, Khaba is one of the very few kings of the Early Dynastic times and Old Kingdom with an archaeologically proven Gold name, a likely predecessor to the Golden Horus name, which Khaba may also have introduced. The only kings with Gold names before king Snefru, founder of the 4th dynasty, were Djer, Den, Nynetjer, Khasekhemwy, and Djoser. From Snefru onward, the Golden Horus name became a fixed royal title to any ruling king, no matter how long the king ruled. Khaba's Golden Horus name can be found on several seal impressions, although its correct reading and translation are disputed. Peter Kaplony interprets it as Nub-iret or Nub iret-djedef, though he is unsure whether the syllable djedef was an inherent part of the name or an additional honorary title. Thomas Schneider and Jürgen von Beckerath, in contrast, see Khaba's Golden Horus as Netjer-nub, which means "golden falcon". Khaba's Gold name is the first to show the infinite form of the royal Gold name.
- Identification with Ramesside king lists
Scholars face several problems in attempt to connect Khaba to royal names known to be from Ramesside. Unfortunately, these lists offer no clear consensus about the number or names of the kings of the 3rd dynasty. The Abydos king list gives Nebka, Djoser, Teti, Sedjes, and Neferkarê, while the Turin Canon offers Nebka, Djoser, Djoserteti, Hudjefa, and Huni. The kinglist of Saqqara lists Djoser, Djoserteti, Nebkarê, and Huni. The ancient historian Manetho gives nine names: Necheróphes, Tosorthrós, Týreis, Mesôchris, Sôÿphis, Tósertasis, Achês, Sêphuris, and Kerpherês. Egyptologist Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards, for example, identifies Khaba with the Ramesside cartouche name Teti.
In contrast, Egyptologists Wolfgang Helck and Aidan Dodson suggest that Khaba could have been identical to the Ramesside names Sedjes and Hudjefa II. Both "names" are actually pseudonyms for a royal title that was illegible when the Ramesside scribes compiled the kinglists. This would match a king who ruled only a short time. A short period of 6 years is given by the Turin Canon for Hudjefa II..
There is little dispute among modern Egyptologists that Khaba is identical to a Ramesside cartouche name known as Huni. This name can be credited to a king, who is handed down by Ramesside as the last ruler of the 3rd dynasty. Rainer Stadelmann, Nicolas Grimal, Wolfgang Helck, and Toby Wilkinson point to a step pyramid at Zawyet el'Aryan, called the Layer Pyramid. This monument is assigned to Khaba (see section below) and since Stadelmann and Wilkinson hold that the pyramid was finished, they believe that a long-reigning king, such as king Huni, would have been necessary to oversee the project. Huni is attested in the Turin Canon to have reigned for 24 years. In addition, Stadelmann points to the seal impressions found at Elephantine: they come from a site very close to a stepped pyramid which is said to have been built by Huni.
- Chronological position
Because of the contradictions within Ramesside king lists and the lack of contemporary, festive inscriptions, the exact chronological position of Khaba remains disputed. Egyptologist Nabil Swelim believes that Khaba could have been the direct successor to King Khasekhemwy, the last ruler of the 2nd dynasty. He bases his assumptions on similarities between the two's names: both begin with the syllable kha. As a comparison, he points to the names Netjerikhet (Djoser) and Sekhemkhet (Djoserteti), which also display such similarity and are widely assumed to have ruled back-to-back.
However, Swelim's theory is not widely accepted. Grimal, Helck, Wilkinson and Stadelmann point out that during the 3rd dynasty it became a fashion that royal stone bowls with polished surfaces showed only Horus names, without any guiding inscriptions. This is also the case for the stone bowls of king Khaba. This decor style was practiced still under king Snefru, the founder of 4th dynasty. Thus, the reign of Khaba slips rather very close to the end of third dynasty. A chronologically datation of Khaba into the 3rd dynasty is seen as secure.
- Reign duration
The correct duration of Khaba's reign is also unknown. Should he be identical to the ramesside cartouche names Sedjes (meaning "omitted") and Hudjefa (meaning "erased"), he might have ruled for 6 years, as the Turin Canon pretends. Should Khaba be identical to king Huni, he might have ruled for 24 years, as the Turin Canon says.
The current archaeological situation allows no closer evaluation of Khaba's reign. The seal impressions from Elephantine only prove that this island seems to have been an important place to visit at Khaba's time. The inscriptions reveal that the seals and their belonging vessels originated from Thinis and that they were registered by the governor of Elephantine. Other seals show the depiction of the goddess Bastet. The Hierakonpolis seal was found in early dynastic ruins of a local Horus temple, it shows also traces of a god, most possibly the god Ash.
Khaba is commonly associated with the Layer Pyramid, located at Zawyet el'Aryan, about 8 km south-west of Giza. The pyramid's construction is typical of Third Dynasty masonry with mudbricks arranged in layers around a natural bedrock core. The pyramid was planned to be about 42 to 45 meters tall, but is now only 17 meters. It is unclear whether part of the pyramid has been eroded over time or its construction was never finished. While there are no inscriptions directly relating the pyramid to Khaba, his serekh appears on stone bowls that were discovered in a nearby mastaba.
One possible way Khaba is associated with the pyramid is that he was interred in Besaid Mastaba (known as "Mastaba Z500"), located about 200 meters north of the pyramid. Inside Besaid, several stone bowls with Khaba's Horus name and two seal fragments have been found. This implies that the mastaba may belong to king Khaba and the pyramid to another, yet unknown king.
- Thomas Schneider: Lexikon der Pharaonen. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-491-96053-3, p. 97.
- Aidan Dodson: Khaba in Zawjet el-Ariyan and other contemptorary sources. In: Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt (JARCE), No. 37. American Research Center (Hg.), Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake 1987, ISSN 0065-9991, p. 82.
- Toby A. H. Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt, Routledge, London (UK) 2002, ISBN 1134664206, p. 84-86, 171, 172 & 177.
- Nabil Swelim: Some Problems on the History of the Third Dynasty - Archaeological and Historical Studies, vol. 7. The Archaeological Society of Alexandria, Alexandria 1983, p. 199-202.
- Jean-Pierre Pätznik: Die Siegelabrollungen und Rollsiegel der Stadt Elephantine im 3. Jahrtausend v. Chr. p. 73-75.
- Edwin Smith and others: Siegelinschriften des Alten Reiches aus Naga-ed-Deir und Abusir. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts in Kairo (MDAIK), No. 43. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient-Abteilung (Hg.). de Gruyter, Berlin 1987, p. 108-109; obj.13b in table 15b.
- Peter Kaplony: Inschriften der ägyptischen Frühzeit. Band III, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1963, ISBN 3-447-00052-X, p. 173-174.
- Thomas Schneider: Lexikon der Pharaonen. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-491-96053-3, p. 97.
- Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards u.a.: The Cambridge ancient history, vol.1, p. 156.
- Wolfgang Helck: Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit (= Ägyptologische Abhandlungen (ÄA), vol. 45). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1987, ISBN 3-447-02677-4, p.109.
- 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, vol. II. Conceil Suprême des Antiquités de l’Égypte, Kairo 2007, p. 425–431.
- Nicolas-Christophe Grimal: A history of ancient Egypt. Wiley & Blackwell, London (UK) 1994, ISBN 0631193960, p. 66.
- Gerald P. Verbrugghe, John Moore Wickersham: Berossos and Manetho, Introduced and Translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. University of Michigan Press, 2001, ISBN 0472086871, p. 189.
- Miroslav Verner: Die Pyramiden. Rowohlt, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-499-60890-1, p. 174-177.