The Rule and Tomb of Semerkhet

Smerkhet was an Egyptian pharaoh that reined during the first age of Egypt. This time period covers the early history of Egypt after the upper and lower kingdoms of Egypt were united.

Smerkhet is a Horus name, which is the name of the pharaohs after he ascended to the throne. During the early period of his life he may also have been called Semêmpsés, which is an alternative spelling for Smerkhet. The name Smerkhet has the meaning “thoughtful friend”, and the royal interpretation is “companion of the divine.”
Rein of Smerkhet


The number of years that Smerkhet reined is up for much debate. His rule is frequently reported as being 72 years by the Royal Canon of Turin, and later Manetho placed his reign at 18 years, which is quite a discrepancy. Modern Egyptologists believe that he ruled for about eight and a half years. This information is based on the Cairo Stone inscription. As you can see, there are several differences of opinion on his reign; although, more than likely it was the latter due to records that have been found.

The ancient Greek historian Manetho offers some of the earliest reporting on the life of Smerkhet that do not come from the reporting of royal historians. Manetho states that his rule was marked by bad time, but he does not go into detail about the matter.

A longstanding theory about the rule of Smerkhet is that he actually usurped the throne, but this is not so readily accepted by all. This is because his name is reported on royal tablets related to persons that he would have deposed, and the name would have been struck out as a matter of Egyptian practices. In addition, his name is also shown as being one of the children of a previous ruler so this is another proof that he may have gotten the throne as a matter of inheritance.

During his reign, there were several battles between upper Egyptian dissenters. History indicates that Smerkhet defeated the rebellion by taking the ships of the dissenters. This resulted in the meaning of his name being changed to “The Judge of the Devine.” The date and official cause of death is not accurately known.
Burial and Tomb

The tomb of Smerkhet was excavated by Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1899. The tomb is unique in that it has a ramp leading to the tomb rather than stone steps that were carved from a previously laid ramp. The entrance to the tomb leads directly in from the large stone doors into the main burial chamber. The tomb also only has seventeen seals rather than the traditional multiple dozens of seals. This combined with the smaller size of the tombs hints that the chamber may have not been fully prepared in time.

Like most Egyptian tombs, the tomb of Smerkhet had been looted in what appears to be multiple times before its official excavation. However, Egyptologists were able to cover a large number of shards inside of the tomb. This includes broken pieces of furniture, a large number of statue fragments, and what appears to be shards from the vessels that were used to hold the organs of the deceased.