Djer was the second or third pharaoh of the first dynasty of
Egypt, which dates from approximately 3100 B.C. Some
however, debate whether the first pharaoh, Menes or Narmer,
and Hor-Aha might have been different rulers. If they were
separate rulers, this would make Djer the third pharaoh in
dynasty. A mummified wrist of Djer or his wife was
but has been lost.
Djer's Horus name means "Horus who succours".
The Abydos King List lists the second pharaoh as Teti, the
Turin Canon lists Iteti, while Manetho lists Athothis.
Length of reign
While the Egyptian priest Manetho, writing in the third
century B.C., stated that Djer ruled for 57 years, modern
research by Toby Wilkinson in Royal Annals of Ancient Egypt
stresses that the near-contemporary and therefore, more
accurate Palermo Stone ascribes Djer a reign of "41 complete
and partial years." Wilkinson notes that Years 1-10 of
Djer's reign are preserved in register II of the Palermo
Stone, while the middle years of this pharaoh's reign are
recorded in register II of Cairo Fragment One.
The evidence for Djer's life and reign is:
Tomb in Umm el-Qa'ab, Abydos
Seal prints from graves 2185 and 3471 in Saqqara
Inscriptions in graves 3503, 3506 and 3035 in Saqqara
Seal impression and inscriptions from Helwan (Saad 1947:
165; Saad 1969: 82, pl. 94)
Jar from Turah with the name of Djer (Kaiser 1964: 103,
UC 16182 ivory tablet from Abydos , subsidiary tomb 612 of
the enclosure of Djer (Petrie 1925: pl. II.8; XII.1)
UC 16172 copper adze with the name of Djer (tomb 461 in
Abydos, Petrie 1925: pl. III.1, IV.8)
Inscription of his name (of questioned authenticity,
however) at Wadi Halfa, Sudan
The inscriptions, on ivory and wood, are in a very early
form of hieroglyphs, hindering complete translation, but a
label at Saqqarah may depict the early Old Kingdom practice
of human sacrifice. An ivory tablet from Abydos mentions
that Djer visited Buto and Sais in the Nile Delta. One of
his regnal years on the Cairo Stone was named "Year of
smiting the land of Setjet", which often is speculated to be
Sinai or beyond.
Djer was a son of a pharaoh Hor-Aha and his wife Khenthap.
His grandfather was probably Narmer, and his grandmother was
Neithhotep. Women carrying titles later associated with
queens such as great one of the hetes-sceptre and She who
sees/carries Horus were buried in subsidiary tombs near the
tomb of Djer in Abydos or attested in Saqqara. These women
are thought to be the wives of Djer and include:
Nakhtneith (or Nekhetneith), buried in Abydos and known from
Herneith, possibly a wife of Djer. Buried in Saqqara.
Seshemetka, buried in Abydos next to the king. She was
said to be a wife of Den in Dodson and Hilton.
Penebui, her name and title were found on an ivory label
bsu, known from a label in Saqqara and several stone vessels
(reading of name uncertain; name consists of three fish
Similarly to his father Hor-Aha, Djer was buried in Abydos.
Djer's tomb is tomb O of Petrie. His tomb contains the
remains of 300 retainers who were buried with him. Several
objects were found in and around the tomb of Djer:
A stela of Djer, now in the Cairo Museum probably comes from
Sealings of a king named Khent.
Labels mentioning the name of a palace and the name of
Fragments of two vases inscribed with the name of Queen
Bracelets of a Queen were found in the wall of the tomb.
In the subsidiary tombs excavators found:
Stela of several individuals
Ivory objects with the name of Neithhotep.
From the 18th Dynasty on, the tomb of Hor-Aha was revered as
the tomb of Osiris, and the First Dynasty burial complex,
which includes both this and the tomb of Djer, was very
important in the Egyptian religious tradition.
Manetho indicates that the First Dynasty ruled from Memphis
– and indeed Herneith, one of Djer’s wives, was buried
nearby at Saqqara. Manetho also claimed that Athothes, who
is sometimes identified as Djer, had written a treatise on
anatomy that still existed in his own day, over two
Horus Djer or Itit (his nomen) was either the second or
third ruler of the 1st dynasty. His reign came after that of
Narmer and Aha, though which of these two kings actually
founded the first dynasty is unsure. A majority of modern
scholars seems to believe that Aha was the first king of
that dynasty and so was the ruler who united Upper and Lower
Egypt. That would make Horus Djer, his apparent heir, the
second ruler. He and the following kings are largely
responsible for the consolidation of the unified state of
Egypt. Scholars believe that Djer was probably Manetho's
Athothis, and that he ruled for 57 years. Most of the
information we have on this ruler comes from ivory and wood
labels found at Abydos and Saqqara. Regrettably, the
hieroglyphs on the labels represent an early state of
writing, so are difficult for Egyptologists to make out. An
inscription on ivory found at Abydos with Djer's name in a
serekh seems to tell us that he visited Buto, an early
capital of Egypt, and Sais, both in the Delta of lower or
northern Egypt. At Saqqara we find a wooden label also
bearing his name that seems to refer to a ceremony connected
with human sacrifice, a practice that was quickly abandoned
in Egyptian culture. However, about his large tomb at Abydos
(Tomb O) are 300 burials of retainers who seem to have
perished at the same time as the principle internment of
Manetho, the legendary Egyptian historian, regarded him as a scholar, and credited him with an anatomy text
book that apparently still existed in Greek times. We believe that he made a military campaign deep into
Nubia, for we find at Wadi Halfa his inscription. One of the kings regnal years was named, "The Year of
Smiting the land of the Setjet". Setjet was a word identified with Syria-Palestine, and we also believe
that he sent forces into the Sinai. There is also evidence that he made excursions into Libya to the west.
These are the first recorded military campaigns outside of the "Two Lands" of Egypt. Tomb O is at Umm el-
Gaab (Abydos) and just west of the tomb of Horus Aha. The tomb is subterranean, made of brick and was much
more elaborate then his predecessor's tombs. In fact, it is one of the largest tombs of the First Dynasty
and the complex covers an area of 70 X40 meters, including the subsidiary burials that are in rows. From
the Middle Kingdom onward, Egyptians thought that his tomb held the body of Osiris, god of the dead. King
Khendjer even provided a statue of the deity, lying on a bed, and the tomb became a center of pilgrimage
for later Egyptians. From his tomb we find an arm which wore the earliest surviving royal jewelry, four
gold and turquoise bracelets. His apparent wife, Herneith, is buried at Saqqara in tomb number 3507, near
the burials of many of the king's senior officials. Traditionally, provides that Djer's successor was Djet
(Uadji), but there is evidence provided by large tombs at Saqqara (3503) and Abydos (Tomb Y) that there
might have been a consort of Djer who may have ruled prior to Djet. Her name was Merneith, and a seal from
Abydos that was recently found seems to confirm this, giving the order of early kings beginning with Narmer
and referencing her has King's Mother.