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Title: Nebka  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Djoser, Third Dynasty of Egypt, Unfinished Northern Pyramid of Zawyet el'Aryan, Bikheris, Khaba
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Nebka is the birth name of an Ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) who ruled during the 3rd dynasty of the Old Kingdom. He is thought to be identical with the Hellenized name form Necherophes (by Manetho). Nebka is one of the most disputed kings of the Old Kingdom, since his name is handed down as cartouche name only, but is preserved always in the same typographical way. And because the sources for the name “Nebka” are that numerous, this ruler is seen as a historically important figure.

Name sources

The earliest source for Nebka´s name is the mastaba tomb of a high official named A'akhty, who lived and worked at the end of 3rd dynasty. The chronologically next source is the famous Westcar Papyrus of 13th dynasty, in which a king “Nebka” appears within a story known as “Nebka and the crocodile”. The next sources are all from 19th dynasty. The Royal Table of Saqqara though lists no “Nebka”, but instead a king “Nebkarâ” and places that name close to the end of 3rd dynasty, as the direct predecessor of Huni (who was the last king of the 3rd dynasty).[2][3][4]


Even today, egyptologists are disputing the identity and chronological position of Nebka. Some scholars, such as Toby Wilkinson, Kenneth Anderson Kitchen, Stephan Seidlmayer and Rainer Stadelmann are convinced, that Nebka was identical with a king Hor-Sanakht.[1][4][5] Their assumption is based on a single clay seal fragment, which shows traces of a sign which the egyptologists believe to be the rest of a cartouche with the sign Ka from “Nebka”.[6]

Egyptologists such as John D. Degreef, Nabil Swelim and Wolfgang Helck contradict the identification of Nebka with Sanakht.[1][3][7] They point out that the remains of the inscriptions on the clay seal in question is that damaged, that the alleged cartouche can be hardly identified as such. Instead, it could also be the rest of an oval shaped crest of a royal fortress with one or several boats in it, this city was already mentioned under king Peribsen by its name “Elder´s boats”. The clay seal as a proof was therefore not convincing enough. They also point out, that the mother of king Djoser, queen Nimaethap, was entitled as a “Mother of a king”, and that this title was used in a singular form. Therefore she should have had only one son, who ascended the throne - no place for a “Sanakht” or “Nebka”. Additionally, in the tomb of her husband, king Khasekhemwy, only clay seals of Djoser were found, not a single one of Sanakht or Nebka. Kenneth A. Kitchen (who identifies Sanakht with Nebka) points out, that the Turin Canon inexplicably gives the same length of reign for Nebka (namely 19 years) as it does for Djoser - a circumstance that shouldn´t be. For this reason many scholars believe that the name “Nebka” was simply misplaced by mistake.[1][3][7][8]


  1. ^ a b c d Thomas Schneider: Lexikon der Pharaonen. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-491-96053-3, page 167 & 243.
  2. ^ Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der Ägyptischen Königsnamen (= Münchner ägyptologische Studien, vol. 49). von Zabern, Mainz 1999 (2nd edition), ISBN 3-8053-2591-6, page 49, 283 & 293.
  3. ^ a b c Wolfgang Helck: Untersuchungen zur Thintenzeit (= Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, vol. 45). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1987, ISBN 3-447-02677-4
  4. ^ a b Kenneth Anderson Kitchen: Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated and Annotated Notes and Comments, vol. 2. Wiley-Blackwell, London 1998, ISBN 063118435X, page 534 – 538.
  5. ^ Toby A. H. Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt. Strategies, Society and Security. Routledge, London u. a. 1999, ISBN 0-415-18633-1, page 101 – 104.
  6. ^ Jean-Pierre Pätznik: Die Siegelabrollungen und Rollsiegel der Stadt Elephantine im 3. Jahrtausend vor Christus. Spurensicherung eines archäologischen Artefaktes (= Breasted´s Ancient Records (BAR), International Series, vol. 1339). Archaeopress, Oxford 2005, ISBN 1-84171-685-5, page 69 – 72 & 78 – 80.
  7. ^ a b Dietrich Wildung: Die Rolle ägyptischer Könige im Bewusstsein ihrer Nachwelt. Volume 1: Posthume Quellen über die Könige der ersten vier Dynastien (= Münchner ägyptologische Studien, vol. 17). B. Hessling, Berlin 1969. page 54 – 58.
  8. ^ Nabil Swelim: Some Problems on the History of the Third Dynasty - Archaeological and Historical Studies, vol. 7. The Archaeological Society of Alexandria, Alexandria 1983, page 196–198.
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