Pharoah Sekhemkhet ruled during the Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom. He was originally named Djoser-tety at birth, but his Hellenized name was Tyreis, as per the historical records of the Greek historian Manetho. Sekhemkhet's name is sometimes written as Sechemchet, according to the English translation of the Egyptian inscriptions. His reign was quite short, only seven years, from 2648 B.C. to 2640 B.C., according to the Royal Turin King List.
The short duration of Sekhemkhet's reign is marked only by the construction of a step pyramid for his own burial in Saqqara and a famous Rock inscription at Wadi Maghareh in the Sinai Peninsula.
Sekhemkhet's Personal Life
Sekhemkhet is presumed to be either the younger brother or son of Djoser, the famous Egyptian Pharaoh. Having said that, no definite evidence has been found to define his real relationship with his predecessor. Hence, the detail about Sekhemkhet's parentage is still in the dark. Probably Djeseretnebti was the name of his wife, though there is still dispute over this theory, as no queen’s title has been found to be attached to this specific name. Nothing can be known about the number of Sekhemkhet's children or their names. Even the name of his successor is not yet fully determined, as some historians believe Khaba succeeded him, while a few modern Egyptologists claim that Sanakht was actually the next ruler after Sekhemkhet.
Step Pyramid of Sekhemkhet
The step pyramid of Pharaoh Sekhemkhet was built at Saqqara diagonally across from the pyramid of his predecessor, Djoser. It was excavated in 1952 by an Egyptian archaeologist called Zakaria Goneim. In addition to being known as ‘Sekhemkhet’s pyramid,’ this structure is now known as ‘Djeserteti´s pyramid’ and more commonly as ‘the buried pyramid.’ The pyramid was built from limestone blocks. The total necropolis of this pyramid remained unfinished, probably due to the sudden death of Sekhemkhet. Only the first tier of the pyramid could be finished, giving it the appearance of a mere mastaba, although probably six or seven levels were planned to be built here.
The measurement of the sizeable quadratic base is 377 ft x 377 ft, with its entrance to the north. The gateway leads to an open passage of around 200 ft, which meets a vertical shaft and ends at the surface of this structure, which is the doorway to the main tomb. It would have been located in the second tier of the pyramid if the entire structure had been completed as planned. From the point of the shaft, another passage leads to a U-shaped gallery, hidden under the earth’s surface, which contains 120 spaces for sitting arrangement, giving the whole gallery the appearance of a considerable comb. Two more galleries surround the main burial chamber in a U-shape, but these galleries were not completed.
The burial chamber of this pyramid is 29 ft x 17 ft, with a height of 15ft. But even this chamber could not be finished as per the building plan. The casket of Sekhemkhet is placed in the center of this chamber and is made of well-polished alabaster. But the most unusual fact is that the coffin is empty, and the whereabouts of the mortal remains of Pharaoh Sekhemkhet are still unknown.