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Khasekhemwy- Bridge to the Pyramid Age


Thanos5150
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The Dynastic Egyptians leading up to Djoser and the beginning of the 3rd Dynasty were prolific producers of fine stoneware with known examples numbering in the tens of thousands. Unparalleled masters of the craft at this point in time, as with carpentry, the sum of the labor required to produce these vessels is estimated to be equivalent to the 4th Dynasty pyramids. While no stone working tools have been found, curiously absent even in the pyramid age, the copper carpentry tools discovered are exemplary- in some instances little different than what one would buy today at a modern hardware store. The stone vessels further show that various drills, lathes, and turning wheels must have been part of the DE tool kit as well. Despite the prolific DE monumental architectural works of the 1st Dynasty, with few examples, notably a few portcullis doors and a tomb floor, they otherwise did not utilize stone in construction until the end of the 2nd Dynasty during the reign of Khasekhemwy.  

His burial tomb at Umm al-Qa’ab (Abydos), for example, is considered the "world's oldest" use of quarried stone construction blocks and he is further credited with restoring and expanding pre-existing mud brick sites, which very likely includes Shunet el-Zebib, including retrofitting some with new stone "hardware" such as granite door jambs and the like. The 5th Dynasty Palermo Stone credits Khasekhemwy with building an as yet to be identified stone building named "Mn-n rt". Also with Khasekhemwy, though smaller in size, we find the identical style of stone statuary as seen from the 3rd Dynasty onward prior to which were made of wood.  

For reasons not quite clear, though I believe it stems from a revolt against the gruesome practice of the decades long practice of ritual murder of hundreds of retainers culminating in the sacking by fire of many of the large serekh palace façade tombs at Saqqara and elsewhere, a story for another time, the end of the 1st Dynasty marked a destabilization of a unified Upper and Lower Egypt which continued with earnest until the end of the 2nd Dynasty and the rule of Khasekhemwy. Not only was he a stabilizing force in Egypt, seemingly reuniting Upper and Lower Egypt once again after perhaps a century or more of civic malaise, but he had also renewed long distance trade with the Levant/Byblos, something that had abruptly disappeared at the end of the 1st Dynasty, which interestingly earned him the title "overseer of foreign lands". Even though the stone working of Khasekhemwy pales in comparison in scope, complexity, and skill to that of his immediate 3rd Dynasty successor Djoser, there is no comparison really, he nonetheless represents at least the impetus for the use of stone for construction which almost certainly dates towards the latter part of his reign  directly coinciding with renewed foreign relations. 

However limited the stone construction ability of Khasekhemwy was compared to Djoser, the seed was planted nonetheless which what was to directly follow, in just mere years, was nothing short of an inexplicable explosion of fully developed stone masonry, regardless of Khasekhemwy. Despite the fact we are told there is no difference in the tools and materials before and after Djoser, nor the ability to work stone, something obviously and abruptly changed dramatically that not only allowed for the instantaneous birth of the stone working construction and quarrying industry, which would also include the necessary logistical, engineering, and architectural principles required to go with it, but also the materials of tooling to allow for such prolific and industrial use of stone of which many question if copper alone is possible.

To get back to what may have been the "stone building" Khasekhemwy is said to have built, the fact is there are no such buildings of this period save what is found supposedly directly after him at Saqqara. As we know the Saqqara pyramid was built in multiple stages, perhaps over pre-existing structures:

8d1c10c74803cebab6d75260512c4197.jpg

Found in the passage system below the the pyramid were some 40,000 stone vessels mostly dating from the 1st and 2nd Dynasties including those of Khasekhemwy. A 2nd Dynasty necropolis was found at south Saqqara including a seal which bears Khasekhemwy's name which implies he was contemporaneous with the necropolis. Regardless, the presence of the 1st and 2nd Dynasties at Saqqara is clear leaving me to wonder if "Mn-n rt", the "stone building" credited to Khasekhemwy, may in fact be the core structure, "M1", of the Saqqara stepped pyramid later converted by Netjerikhet (Djoser) to the stepped pyramid we see today. While it is thought by some M1 was originally a mastaba, this is debated as it is unlike any known mastaba which are rectangular whereas M1 is a square. Just a thought. 


To circle back, as to how the "Saqqara problem" all came about, a work in progress mind you, I propose it was the result of yet another round of foreign influence that filled the vacuum left by the collapse of the 1st Dynasty leading to the 2nd. It is impossible such technology and methods were just magically invented overnight literally from one pharaoh to the next fully developed both technically, logistically, and aesthetically with no sign of precedent. While this is all credited to the "genius" of Djoser's vizier Imhotep, the rub is that nowhere in AE literature is Imhotep credited as the builder or architect of the Step Pyramid nor the genius behind the sudden stone working explosion of the beginning of the 3rd Dynasty. This comes from Manetho some 2500yrs later and has been repeated by Egyptologists so many times it is now a "fact" despite there being no evidence of such. The only contemporary inscription alluding to anything of the sort is found on a statue of Djoser:

josimhotepcarv.jpg

It reads:

"The chancellor of the king of Lower Egypt, the first after the king of Upper Egypt, administrator of the great palace, hereditary lord, Greatest of Seers, Imhotep, the builder, the sculptor, the maker of stone vases."

 A lot to unpack here, for another time, but regardless, though he is a "builder" we have no idea what he is a "builder" of and while is "maker of stone vases" and sculptor-why no stone mason?  

At any rate, it had to have come from "somewhere" which there is no evidence it came from Egypt all by itself if at all. This is all well and good, but equally implausible is that the entirety of these tens of thousands of cut and dressed stone blocks, both limestone and granite with some of the latter weighing upwards of 30 tons, were all fabricated using copper tools. As we are told, and to be fair so far what the archeology has discovered as well, is that there is literally no difference whatsoever in the tooling available before and after the construction of Saqqara yet somehow the same old copper tools became magic copper tools and voila-stone working on a massive scale. Real life doesn't work this way with the only solution being that if the tools did not change then the materials the tools were made of must have.

This amazing bowl and ewer set was found by Petrie among hundreds of other precious artifacts in the Umm al Qa'ab 2nd Dynasty tomb of our friend Khasekhemwy:

Bronze_bowl_and_ewer.jpg

They are not copper, but bronze.

Bronze artifacts do not appear regularly in Egypt until the late Middle Kingdom, which they were largely imported, though bronze was being manufactured in Mesopotamia for more than 1,000yrs before Khasekhemwy, the "overseer of foreign lands". Making alloys is a skill that requires trial and error to get right or at the very least the right recipe and skilled metallurgists. It seems highly unlikely to me the AE imported tin, or "accidentally mixed ores", just to make these vessels. Given the established contact between Khasekhemwy and regions that made bronze in abundance, i.e. the Levant (Mesopotamia by way of the Levant), it seems to me a forgone conclusion these objects, like many other goods and materials like boatloads of cedar wood from Lebanon, were in fact imported by the DE. Not that they couldn't make them mind you as evidenced by the many amazing copper wares found going back to the beginnings of Dynastic Egypt, but if they could make bronze instead of copper it goes without saying they would have made a hell of a lot more. And out of the hundreds of artifacts found in Khasekhemwy's tomb, including much gold, these were the only bronze objects found and quite amazing ones at that further suggesting a rarity of something imported and not made indigenously. Fit to bury with the king no less.

And if such exquisite bronze objects such as this ewer and bowl set were imported, or brought as the case may be, there is nothing stopping tools from being made/imported as well. I suggest this is what happened and it is the importation of bronze that was at least partly responsible for the sudden transition to monumental stone working at Saqqara. In short, it was possible, in part, because bronze made the job more practical and ultimately achievable in the first place. While these artifacts do not "prove" this was the case, what it does prove and create precedent for is that the DE clearly had access to bronze centuries before the great pyramids were built which common sense, as well as the implication of the evidence itself, suggests they also also utilized it for tool making which was the catalyst, among other things, for the sudden transition to stone. 

Lee Anderson

 

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On 11/23/2021 at 12:47 AM, Thanos5150 said:

"The chancellor of the king of Lower Egypt, the first after the king of Upper Egypt, administrator of the great palace, hereditary lord, Greatest of Seers, Imhotep, the builder, the sculptor, the maker of stone vases."

 

 

 

I just want to make an observation on the titles of Imhotep and their implications. That text is all that there is from his times, so has to be taken as the most accurate description of him. He is titled "Greatest of Seers", which means that he is the high priest at Heliopolis, an "astronomer priest" involved in what was surely a change in religious thought that led to the invention of the pyramid. Yet, he is also "builder". I believe that this means he was the architect, and so could be connected to Thoth. Being a sculptor and maker of stone vases makes him a craftsman, and this ties him to Ptah, and after his times he was directly associated with Ptah to the extent of being depicted almost the same way as Ptah. Curiously, I think, if you look up the entry for Imhotep in Wilkinson's gods and goddesses, he is only associated with Ptah. How did Wilkinson miss Imhotep's only known religious rank when he was alive putting him firmly at Heliopolis, not Memphis? Anyhoo, clearly Imhotep was a polymath and a master of various skills looked over by multiple gods, so perhaps it is not surprising that he was deified, a man surpasing the actual gods in knowledge and skill.

So, the Step Pyramid. I'll not go into what tools they used, which is of course an issue, but into why it was built in the first place, and is it entirely Egyptian, or something foreign that has been adapted, namely the ziggurat. I believe that while the Egyptians probably knew of ziggurats, they did not copy them, the Step Pyramid is not a ziggurat, and while there were layered mastabas, they were hardly ziggurats. What we see I think is the native genius of the Egyptians personified by Imhotep working for Djoser. Imhotep as HP at Heliopolis has, presumably with others, worked out a theological need for a king's tomb to be a pyramid shape, and this also sets it apart from the temple that is a ziggurat. Given Imhotep's titles, he was uniquely positioned to work out the theological need for a pyramid, and how the idea can be turned into reality from concept to design to construction.

To me, the pyramid is the result of a new theology that needed an expression in stone, not an existing structure, the ziggurat, needing a theological raison d'être to suit the Egyptians, and this needed the skill sets of three major gods manifest in one man to accomplish. That text with his titles, IMO, states this.

Edited by Wepwawet
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19 hours ago, Wepwawet said:

I just want to make an observation on the titles of Imhotep and their implications. That text is all that there is from his times, so has to be taken as the most accurate description of him. He is titled "Greatest of Seers", which means that he is the high priest at Heliopolis, an "astronomer priest"

An assumption based on later associations imposed from the late OK, but if so what it would mean is he was the "high priest of RA", a solar cult, not necessarily an "astronomer priest". Which makes sense if the pyramid is supposed to represent the rays of the sun, i.e. RA. And before the 6th Dynasty this title is an administrative one, not priestly.  

The 1st mention of RA is late 2nd Dynasty, I assume the reign of Khasekhemwy, which would be interesting to track down. Who was RA in the 3rd Dynasty namely the lifetime of Imhotep? Where does RA come from? 

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involved in what was surely a change in religious thought that led to the invention of the pyramid.

Did it? The DE were building stepped pyramids in the 1st Dynasty which these at least I believe were directly influenced by their Mesopotamian counterparts.  

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Yet, he is also "builder". I believe that this means he was the architect,

Which is what it would be is a "belief". Again, in all the annals of DE history, his name omitted from history until the NK in which he does not even become a notable figure until the Late Period, Manetho is the first to make the claim he was the architect of the pyramid and inventor of stone architecture. The assertion by Egyptologists this is "fact" we see repeated over and over again is simply not true. We do not know and Manetho (by way of how many later translations? ) said a lot of things.  

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and so could be connected to Thoth. Being a sculptor and maker of stone vases makes him a craftsman, and this ties him to Ptah, and after his times he was directly associated with Ptah to the extent of being depicted almost the same way as Ptah. Curiously, I think, if you look up the entry for Imhotep in Wilkinson's gods and goddesses, he is only associated with Ptah. How did Wilkinson miss Imhotep's only known religious rank when he was alive putting him firmly at Heliopolis, not Memphis? Anyhoo, clearly Imhotep was a polymath and a master of various skills looked over by multiple gods, so perhaps it is not surprising that he was deified, a man surpasing the actual gods in knowledge and skill.

You've out foxed the experts once again....What was this title and relationship to Heliopolis at the beginning of the 3rd Dynasty? Maybe because the nature of the connection to any god at such time with this title is not known which the association with Ptah, granted from 2000+ years later, is actually attested.  And regardless this connection would be to RA. 

Quote

So, the Step Pyramid. I'll not go into what tools they used, which is of course an issue, but into why it was built in the first place, and is it entirely Egyptian, or something foreign that has been adapted, namely the ziggurat. I believe that while the Egyptians probably knew of ziggurats, they did not copy them, the Step Pyramid is not a ziggurat, and while there were layered mastabas, they were hardly ziggurats. What we see I think is the native genius of the Egyptians personified by Imhotep working for Djoser. Imhotep as HP at Heliopolis has, presumably with others, worked out a theological need for a king's tomb to be a pyramid shape, and this also sets it apart from the temple that is a ziggurat. Given Imhotep's titles, he was uniquely positioned to work out the theological need for a pyramid, and how the idea can be turned into reality from concept to design to construction.

To me, the pyramid is the result of a new theology that needed an expression in stone, not an existing structure, the ziggurat, needing a theological raison d'être to suit the Egyptians, and this needed the skill sets of three major gods manifest in one man to accomplish. That text with his titles, IMO, states this.

I appreciate the qualifiers. And its not just about the tools-to quote the OP: 

Quote

Despite the fact we are told there is no difference in the tools and materials before and after Djoser, nor the ability to work stone, something obviously and abruptly changed dramatically that not only allowed for the instantaneous birth of the stone working construction and quarrying industry, which would also include the necessary logistical, engineering, and architectural principles required to go with it, but also the materials of tooling to allow for such prolific and industrial use of stone of which many question if copper alone is possible.

And this isn't just the pyramid but the entire compound including roofed temples. We take for granted how all complex this is which all told, no I do not believe it came the the genius of one man which there is no evidence to support this claim regardless.  

Regardless, the OP does not mention ziggurats or where the impetus for building pyramids came from. Regardless, both the Mesopotamians and Egyptians built these fundamentally similar structures as an earthly connection to the stars-a "stairway to heaven". All things considered, while the way it was built may be unique the the DE (accretion method and later making true pyramids), it beggars belief to think the latter was not inspired by the former.       

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4 hours ago, Thanos5150 said:

An assumption based on later associations imposed from the late OK, but if so what it would mean is he was the "high priest of RA", a solar cult, not necessarily an "astronomer priest". Which makes sense if the pyramid is supposed to represent the rays of the sun, i.e. RA. And before the 6th Dynasty this title is an administrative one, not priestly.  

The 1st mention of RA is late 2nd Dynasty, I assume the reign of Khasekhemwy, which would be interesting to track down. Who was RA in the 3rd Dynasty namely the lifetime of Imhotep? Where does RA come from? 

Did it? The DE were building stepped pyramids in the 1st Dynasty which these at least I believe were directly influenced by their Mesopotamian counterparts.  

Which is what it would be is a "belief". Again, in all the annals of DE history, his name omitted from history until the NK in which he does not even become a notable figure until the Late Period, Manetho is the first to make the claim he was the architect of the pyramid and inventor of stone architecture. The assertion by Egyptologists this is "fact" we see repeated over and over again is simply not true. We do not know and Manetho (by way of how many later translations? ) said a lot of things.  

You've out foxed the experts once again....What was this title and relationship to Heliopolis at the beginning of the 3rd Dynasty? Maybe because the nature of the connection to any god at such time with this title is not known which the association with Ptah, granted from 2000+ years later, is actually attested.  And regardless this connection would be to RA. 

I appreciate the qualifiers. And its not just about the tools-to quote the OP: 

And this isn't just the pyramid but the entire compound including roofed temples. We take for granted how all complex this is which all told, no I do not believe it came the the genius of one man which there is no evidence to support this claim regardless.  

Regardless, the OP does not mention ziggurats or where the impetus for building pyramids came from. Regardless, both the Mesopotamians and Egyptians built these fundamentally similar structures as an earthly connection to the stars-a "stairway to heaven". All things considered, while the way it was built may be unique the the DE (accretion method and later making true pyramids), it beggars belief to think the latter was not inspired by the former.       

Atum in those times was the prime god at Heliopolis, which is why I did not use the rank "High priest of Ra". Now the rank "Greatest of Seers" is not too clear as to it's origins, but I don't think this is too much of an issue here as no matter how the title in early times is translated, "He who sees the Great One" is an option, it is a Heliopolitan title and does involve observing, and at Heliopolis they observed the Sun and the heavens, which fits into the pyramid and the journey of the king in the afterlife, though of course that journey is not recorded until the first PT and has to be assumed, but it did not appear overnight.

Ra as a god is a manifestation of the Sun, which Atum was not in the first instance, who became the dying/setting Sun. The Sun, Ra, had of course always been there in the sky, and Ra, Re, Pre, Aten, or whatever else, was just the name for the visible Sun. As Atum was not the actual Sun, I presume they needed to create a mythology for how the Sun was born, and so the Ra element of the Heliopolitan creation myth was concocted. They do fit together, even if not perfectly, and also complement the Memphite theology.

Certainly stepped structures existed before Djoser, but I do not see them as pyramids.

Imhotep has the title "builder" extant in his own times as we see on the text you posted, what then do you suppose is meant by "builder". Certainly I am positing my own opinion on this, but it is based on what could be possible. Clearly he was not an actual labourer, which really only leaves him to be the architect, and that profession is within the domain of Thoth, who had been created by the Third Dynasty. Likewise I do not think he actually sculpted stone or made vases, but may have been responsible for their manufacture. Such things are made by craftsmen, and their god is Ptah, who also existed in those times, and the Apis bull is attested from the 1st Dynasty. So where I am coming from here is looking at what Imhotep's titles were, and looking at what they could actually signify when I do not believe he was an actual mason, labourer, sculptor or vase maker. What I have suggested fits with the existance of the relevant gods in his time, and his titles may be a form of shorthand for what he was actually doing, not unknown for the AE. There is a difference to what I am suggesting and what you see as Egyptologist "dogma", and I have not seen any dissection made of his titles in the way I have, though as is the way of these things, I don't doupt that there exist papers that cover this in far more depth than I ever could.

As too "outfoxing the experts", well, if only I could, but the fact is that Imhotep does have the title "Greatest of Seers", which no matter how this is spun, is only linked to Heliopolis, and Wilkinson makes no mention of this title at all and says, and I quote "Although apparently a commoner by birth, he served as a priest of Ptah", and he goes on to state that he became a high priest. I've always taken this at face value, but we come back to this rank of "Greatest of Seers". No matter any doubt about the origins of this title, it was not a title connected to Ptah. I can do no more than look at this title and take it as having the same meaning that we know it did after his times, and, as you say, this does connected him, if not to Ra, at least to Heliopolis, which leads to the theology.

Before the PT we of course are somewhat groping in the dark when it comes to their theology. We know the names of gods and what they were associated with, we also know where their main temples were, and, even with some murkiness at Heliopolis, we do know that there was a High Priest of Hermopolis, a title held by some OK princes. I do see the Step Pyramid as a step change, and while so much information is lost, I do see that a change of emphasis from Horus to Atum has taken place. From step to bent to true pyramid took place very quickly, and I believe without doubt that Djoser was the originator of this, he was king, he had to be, though Imhotep, and others of high rank, in Rome or anywhere else, I believe had serious input. I do not see the Step Pyramid as an evolution of any other structure, the older stepped structures not withstanding, but that is a matter of opinion. It's the Helipolitan connection and, admittedly rather loose connections to other major gods bundled up in this one man that makes me think something bold took place in their thinking, and the later pyramids, then the Fifth Dynasty Sun temples, being evolutions of the Step Pyramid and the theology behind it.

So, while I see your point that the earlier forms informed the later, I, in the absence of any record of what the theology behind these earlier structures was, am taking the line that while they had practice at making a stepped structure, the theological purpose of the Step Pyramid was different and new. I'm not totally sure that a pyramid was a "stairway to heaven" as I see the emphasis of the structure as being from the top down, even while we know from the PT that the king ascends. I say that because at least from the PT we know that it is Atum at the top of the pyramid, and obelisk, looking down and protecting, but who knows exactly what was going through their minds, possibly a mass of what to us would be unreconcilable contradictions.

 

Edited by Wepwawet
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On 11/25/2021 at 1:36 PM, Wepwawet said:

Imhotep has the title "builder" extant in his own times as we see on the text you posted, what then do you suppose is meant by "builder".

Would you say these statements regarding Imhotep are "fact":

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Of course, Imhotep is most famous as the builder of Djoser's unprecedented step pyramid complex, called the "The Refreshment of the Gods.” Imhotep designed this complex on a scale that surpassed everything achieved by his predecessors....

Imhotep replaced the traditional organic and mudbrick building materials with small blocks of limestone. Because he lacked experience with this innovative material, he used stone blocks close to the same size as the traditional mudbricks. But the stone allowed Imhotep to work toward his goal of designing a true copy of the king's earthly palace as an "eternal" residence in stone.

From Miroslav Bárta/ARCE no less, something you will see repeated in one form or another ad nauseum. 

And this is still said despite the article that begins:

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According to later legends, Imhotep - “he who comes in peace” - invented building in stone around 2600 BCE, at the beginning of the 3rd dynasty. This achievement corresponds with the spread of monumental stone architecture during the reign of Khasekhemwy, last king of the second dynasty and Djoser’s predecessor on the throne – and probably his father. While no break in political development seemed evident between the second and third dynasties, the reign of Djoser marked a new era characterized by an incredible rise in complexity of the Old Kingdom state. 

Almost as if he forgot this part.

Nothing wrong with "believing" Imhotep is responsible for these things, it stands to reason he no doubt was involved in one way or another, but I think it really sucks when these things get repeated as fact when they are not which happens quite a bit. Another thread you make a comment about tricks of the fringe, well, this would be the other shoe. 

Another example is Verner who says a graffito found on the enclosure wall of the Sekhemkhet pyramid complex (not just pyramid mind you) "...indicates that the brilliant architect Imhotep built this pyrmaid as well as Djoser's". 

Uhh, no it doesn't. 

Interestingly, regarding the Djoser inscription with Imhotep's titles he notes:

Quote

Imhotep's extraordinary position in Egyptian society is documented on the statue base of Djoser – now kept in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. That base contains the most important and only known titles of Imhotep: "prince, royal seal-bearer of the king of Lower Egypt, high priest of Heliopolis, director of sculptors." 

Curiously the "builder" title is missing from an article largely about Imhotep being the builder. 

Another:

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"chancellor of the king of lower Egypt", the "first one under the king", the "administrator of the great mansion", the "hereditary Noble", the "high priest of Heliopolis", the "chief sculptor", and finally the "chief carpenter".

No mention of "builder". 

Nor here: Imhotep: A Sage between Fiction and Reality.. Though Escolano-Poveda alludes to a title "related to building" does not actually include "builder" in the list of titles. 

According to Romer though, my original source, the title "builder" is included.  

Here it is included as well:

Quote

For example, a statue of king Djoser was found at Saqqara with an inscription, exceptionally, naming Imhotep and a list of his epithets, such as ‘the builder, sculptor and maker of stone vases’, the ‘overseer of masons and painters’, ‘royal chancellor’, ‘ruler of the great mansion’ and the ‘greatest of seers’. 

So which is it really? 

As an aside, the beautiful top of the base this inscription is found:

8c7b7226a3593c90c027a2efe7a5df13.jpg

 

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