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Alabaster vessel showing the (damaged) double name of Sekhemib
Alabaster vessel showing the (damaged) double name of Sekhemib
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign ca. 2720 BC, 2nd dynasty
Predecessor uncertain, Peribsen
Successor uncertain, Khasekhemwy
Burial unknown

Sekhemib, or Sekhemib-Perenma´at, is the horus name of an early Egyptian king who ruled during the 2nd dynasty. Similar to his predecessor Seth-Peribsen, Sekhemib is contemporarily well attested in archaeological records, but he does not appear in any posthumous document. The exact length of his reign is unknown and his burial site has not yet been found.[1]

Name sources[edit]

Sekhemib´s name is known from seal impressions and from inscriptions on vessels made of alabaster and breccia. They were found in the entrance of Peribsen´s tomb at Abydos, in the underground galleries beneath the step pyramid of (3rd dynasty) king Djoser at Sakkara and on the Isle of Elephantine.[1][2][3][4]

Sekhemib´s serekh name is unusual, because it is the first in Egyptian history that was extended by an epithet. Beside the first name, Sekhem-ib, several seal impressions and stone vessel inscriptions show the epithet Perenma´at inside the serekh. Sekhemib used both name forms, the single horus name and the double name, at the same time. Egyptologists such as Herman te Velde and Wolfgang Helck think that the double name of Sekhemib came in use when the Egyptian state was split into two independent realms. It seems that Sekhemib tried to stress the peaceful political situation prevailing in Egypt at the time. An increased form of such a double name was created and used by a successor of Sekhemib, king Khasekhemwy. This king also used a double name and even placed Horus and Seth together as protective deities atop his serekh. Khasekhemwy had tried to express peace and reconciliation between Upper- and Lower Egypt with his unusual serekh, too.[5][6]


Vase of Sekhemib bearing the inscription reproduced on the right. It reads The king of Upper and Lower Egypt Sekhemib-Perenmaat, the priest of Kherty offers at the house-of-copper, National Archaeological Museum (France).

The historical figure of Sekhemib is the subject of investigation and discussions by Egyptologists and historians to this day. The contradictory findings allow room for plenty of interpretations and theories.

Egyptologists such as Walter Bryan Emery, Kathryn A. Bard and Flinders Petrie believe that Sekhemib was same person as king Peribsen, a ruler who had connected his name with the deity Seth and who ruled only Upper Egypt. Emery, Bard and Petrie point to several clay seals that were found in the tomb entrance of Peribsen's necropolis. Sekhemib's tomb has not yet been found.[2][7][8][9]

In contrast, Egyptologists such as Hermann Alexander Schlögl, Wolfgang Helck, Peter Kaplony and Jochem Kahl believe that Sekhemib was a different ruler to Peribsen. They point out that the clay seals were only found at the entrance area of Peribsen's tomb and that none of them ever shows Peribsen and Sekhemib's names together in one inscription. They compare the findings with the ivory tablets of king Hotepsekhemwy found at the entrance of king Qaa's tomb. Therefore Schlögl, Helck, Kaplony and Kahl are convinced that Sekhemib's seals are merely proof that Sekhemib buried Peribsen.[6][10]

Egyptologists such as Toby Wilkinson and Helck believe that Sekhemib and Peribsen could have been related. Their theory is based on the stone vessel inscriptions and seal impressions that show strong similarities in their typographical and grammatical writing styles. The vessels of Peribsen for example show the notation "ini-setjet" ("tribute of the people of Sethroë"), whilst Sekhemib's inscriptions note "ini-chasut" ("tribute of the desert nomads"). A further indication for a relationship between Peribsen and Sekhemib is the serekh-name of both, as they both use the syllables "per" and "ib" in their names.[11][12]

Egyptologists such as Helck identify Sekhemib with the ramesside cartouche name “Wadjenes” and equate Peribsen with a king named Senedj. Egyptologist Dietrich Wildung thinks alike and identifies Sekhemib with the nebty name Weneg-Nebty and Peribsen with Senedj.[6][13]


Clay seal of Sekhemib

Since archaeological records seem to support the view that the Egyptian state was divided during the reign of king Sekhemib, it has been the subject of discussion by egyptologists and historians as to why it was decided to split the state.

Egyptologists such as Wolfgang Helck, Nicolas Grimal, Hermann Alexander Schlögl and Francesco Tiradritti believe that king Ninetjer, the third ruler of 2nd dynasty and a predecessor of Peribsen, left a realm that was suffering from an overly complex state administration and that Ninetjer decided to split Egypt between his two sons (or, at least, his two successors), in the hope that the two rulers could better administer the two states.[14][15] In contrast Egyptologists such as Barbara Bell believe that an economic catastrophe such as a famine or a long-lasting drought affected Egypt at that time. To help solve the problems of feeding the Egyptian population, Ninetjer split the realm and his successors ruled two independent realms until the famine was successfully brought to an end. Bell points to the inscriptions of the Palermo stone, where, in her opinion, the records of the Nile floods show consistently low levels.[16] Bell´s theory is refuted today by Egyptologists such as Stephan Seidlmayer, who corrected Bell´s calculations. Seidlmayer has shown that the annual Nile flood was normal during Ninetjer´s time up to the period of the Old Kingdom. Bell had overlooked that the height of the Nile floods in the Palermo stone inscription only takes into account the measurements of the nilometers around Memphis, and not elsewhere along the river. Any long-lasting drought at that time can therefore be excluded.[17]

Whatever the exact reason for the division of Egypt, there is clear archaeological evidence that Sekhemib ruled only in Upper Egypt. His realm extended to the Isle of Elephantine, where a new administrative centre called "The white house of treasury" was founded under Peribsen.[18] Because Sekhemib ruled in Upper Egypt only, the administrative titles of the scribes, seal-bearers and overseers had to be adjusted to the new political situation. For example, titles like "sealer of the king" were changed into "sealer of the king of Upper Egypt". The administration system since the time of Peribsen and Sekhemib shows a clear and well identified hierarchy; an example: Treasury house → pension office → property → vine yards → private vine yard. King Khasekhemwy, the last ruler of 2nd dynasty, was able to re-unify the state administration of Egypt and therefore unite the whole of Ancient Egypt. He brought the two treasury houses of Egypt under the control of the "House of the King", bringing them into a new, single administration center.[19][20]

Three officials from Sekhemib´s reign are known to egyptologists by seal impressions: Nebhotep, Inykhnum and Maapermin.[21]

Rulers of Upper and Lower Egypt[edit]

Fragment of a diorite vase inscribed with part of the name of pharaoh Sekhemib Perenmaat from the Pyramid of Djoser and now in the Egyptian Museum. The inscription reads (from right to left): "King of Lower- and Upper Egypt, Sekhemib-Per(enma'at), tribute of the foreigners, provisions to...".

Egyptologists and historians such as Helck, Tiradritti, Schlögl, Emery and Grimal are convinced that Sekhemib had to share his throne with other kings. Since the artefacts surviving from his lifetime show that he and his predecessor Peribsen ruled only in Upper Egypt, it is the subject of investigation as to who ruled in Lower Egypt at that time. The Rammesside king lists differ in their succession of royal names from king Senedj onward. A reason may be, that the royal table of Sakkara and the royal canon of Turin reflect Memphite traditions, which allow Memphite rulers to be mentioned. The Abydos king list instead reflects Thinite traditions and therefore only Thinite rulers appear on that list. Until king Senedj, all posthumous king lists accord with each other. After him, the Sakkara list and the Turin list mention three kings as successors: Neferkara I, Neferkasokar and Hudjefa I. The Abydos king list skips these kings and jumps forward to Khasekhemwy, calling him “Djadjay”. The discrepancies are considered by Egyptologists to be the result of the partition of the Egyptian state during the 2nd dynasty.[1][10][14][15]

A further problem are the horus-names and nebty-names of different kings in inscriptions found in the Great Southern Gallery in the necropolis of (3rd dynasty) king Djoser at Sakkara. Stone vessel inscriptions mention kings such as Nubnefer, Weneg-Nebty, Horus Ba, Horus “Bird” and Za, but each of these kings is mentioned only a few times, which suggests to egyptologists that each of these kings did not rule very long. King Sneferka might be identical with king Qa´a or an ephemeral successor of his. King Weneg-Nebty might be identical with the Ramesside cartouche name Wadjenes. But kings such as “Nubnefer”, “Bird” and “Za” remain a mystery. They never appear anywhere else in the historical record other than at Sakkara where the number of objects surviving from their lifetimes is very limited. Schlögl, Helck and Peter Kaplony postulate that Nubnefer, Za and Bird were the corresponding rulers to Peribsen and Sekhemib and ruled in Lower Egypt, whilst the latter two ruled Upper Egypt.[1][10][14][15][22]


It is unknown where Sekhemib had his tomb. If he was actually the same person as Peribsen, he was buried in tomb P at Abydos. If not, his burial site may be located at Sakkara.[2][7][9]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Toby A. H. Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt. Routledge, London und New York 1999, ISBN 0-415-18633-1, page 90–91.
  2. ^ a b c William Matthew Flinders Petrie & Francis Llewellyn Griffith: The royal tombs of the first dynasty. Volume II., Trübner & Co., London, 1900, page 7, 14, 19, 20 & 48.
  3. ^ Pierre Lacau und Jan-Phillip Lauer: La Pyramide a Degrees IV. – Inscriptions Gravees sur les Vases: Fouilles à Saqqarah. Service des antiquités de l'Égypte, Cairo, 1936. page 18 und 91, Bildtafel 39.
  4. ^ Jeoffrey A. Spencer: Early Dynastic Objects. British Museum Publications, London 1980, page 76–78; Obj. No. 278.
  5. ^ Herman te Velde: Seth, God of Confusion: a study of his role in Egyptian mythology and religion. Brill, Leiden 1977, ISBN 90-04-05402-2, page 72, 73 & 110.
  6. ^ a b c Wolfgang Helck: Untersuchungen zur Thintenzeit. (Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, Volume 45), Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1987, ISBN 3-447-02677-4, page 104–111 & 183.
  7. ^ a b Walter Bryan Emery: Ägypten - Geschichte und Kultur der Frühzeit. Fourier, Munich 1964, page 106.
  8. ^ J. P. Pätznik in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo (MDAIK), 1999. page 54.
  9. ^ a b Kathryn A. Bard: The Emergence of the Egyptian State. in: Ian Shaw: The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. page 86.
  10. ^ a b c Hermann A. Schlögl: Das Alte Ägypten. Geschichte und Kultur von der Frühzeit bis zu Kleopatra. Verlag C. H. Beck, München 2006, ISBN 3-406-54988-8, page 78.
  11. ^ Siegfried Schott: Altägyptische Festdaten. Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz/Wiesbaden 1950, page 55.
  12. ^ Toby Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt. page 90–91; see also: Walter Bryan Emery: Ägypten – Geschichte und Kultur der Frühzeit. page 106.
  13. ^ Dietrich Wildung: Die Rolle ägyptischer Könige im Bewußtsein ihrer Nachwelt. Volume I: Posthume Quellen über die Könige der ersten vier Dynastien. Münchener Ägyptologische Studien, Volume. 17, Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich/Berlin, 1969. page 14 & 250.
  14. ^ a b c Nicolas Grimal: A History of Ancient Egypt. Wiley-Blackwell, Weinheim 1994, ISBN 978-0-631-19396-8, page 55.
  15. ^ a b c Francesco Tiradritti & Anna Maria Donadoni Roveri: Kemet: Alle Sorgenti Del Tempo. Electa, Milano 1998, ISBN 88-435-6042-5, page 80–85.
  16. ^ Barbara Bell: Oldest Records of the Nile Floods, In: Geographical Journal, No. 136. 1970, page 569–573; M. Goedike: Journal of Egypt Archaeology, No. 42. 1998, page 50.
  17. ^ Stephan Seidlmayer: Historische und moderne Nilstände: Historische und moderne Nilstände: Untersuchungen zu den Pegelablesungen des Nils von der Frühzeit bis in die Gegenwart. Achet, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-9803730-8-8, page 87–89.
  18. ^ Jean-Pierre-Pätznik: Die Siegelabrollungen und Rollsiegel der Stadt Elephantine im 3. Jahrtausend vor Christus. Archaeopress, Oxford (UK) 2005, ISBN 1-84171-685-5, page 64–66.
  19. ^ Jean-Pierre Pätznick: Die Siegelabrollungen und Rollsiegel der Stadt Elephantine im 3. Jahrtausend v. Chr. page 211–213; see also: Jean-Pierre Pätznick in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Ägyptologischen Instituts Kairo. No. 55, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient-Abteilung(Hrsg.). de Gruyter, Berlin 1999, page 90–92.
  20. ^ Christian E. Schulz: Schreibgeräte und Schreiber in der 0. Bis 3. Dynastie. GRIN, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-638-63909-6, page 9–15
  21. ^ Peter Kaplony: Inschriften der ägyptischen Frühzeit. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1963, Band III, ISBN 3-447-00052-X, page 406–479.
  22. ^ Peter Kaplony: A building named “Menti-Ankh”. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo (MDAIK), volume 20. de Gruyter, Berlin 1965, page 1–46.