20 years of raiding!
Hello, Tomb Raider fans! I am back from a most mountainous adventure that I may share at a later date! Let me just say, it was a double ice axe ice climbing crampon type of adventure that took me 10,188’ up the side of a mountain! Mt Rainier to be exact! LOVE! However, now I must concentrate on the task at hand which is one of my favourite subjects, “The Egyptology of Tomb Raider“ (which is also a new section coming soon to my site in celebration of the 20th anniversary) and the lovely Tomb depicted in Tomb Raider 4. “The Tomb of Semerkhet”
It is in this tomb Lara encounters a giant size version of an ancient Egyptian game known as Senet. If you have ever played TR4 you know it well, and I will bet spent much time trying to figure out how to advance your playing piece down the pathway to success.
Being a student of Egyptology, I am attracted to this entire game, for the rich Egyptian theme running throughout. I also enjoy Tomb Raider for some of the ancient historical information it blows the dust off and removes the cobwebs from to bring it to life in a most magical way. Each area (level) is quite explorable in their own right, and that allows for a virtual feast. I not only enjoy the game for its brilliant puzzles, I also adore Tomb Raider for its environments that allow the gamer to get lost. The art detail from actual art from the time period of the level in question is amazing no matter the pixel definition. When accurate, it feels like a mini vacation.
I can tell in some of the vast areas of these games much research was done to make such a detailed landscape and interiors. Now, when I explored the tomb of Semerkhet, I knew the name must be based on the real person, for you just don’t randomly choose a name like that from thin air and on top of it all make the character a priest of which it is believed Semerkhet was before becoming King. I was taken away with the idea he would be featured in this already brilliant game. Now the question:
Who was Semerkhet?
The depicted Semerkhet in Tomb Raider 4 was indeed an actual ancient Egyptian. In fact, Semerkhet (about 3100-2890 BC) was the 6th King of Egypt’s 1st Dynasty! What information Egyptologists have about him remains limited; however, what we do know about him is gripping.
Though there is some that argue the name meaning, here are the ideas of what his name means as far as his Horus name is concerned, which is “Semerkhet” Horus name meaning could be “Thoughtful Friend” However, Nicolas Grimal in “A History of Ancient Egypt” says the name means “Companion of the gods”
A Priestly Role?
Perhaps he did hold a priestly role before he assumed the throne. Mr. Grimal states that Semerkhet’s nebty name meaning is “he whom the two mistresses guard”
This is a reference to Nekhbet she is a vulture goddess of Nekheb (el-Kab), and Wadjet, she is the serpent-goddess of Pe and Dep (Buto). This is why Grimal believes that Semerkhet could have been a priest before ascending to the throne of Egypt.
A Fine Scented Tomb?
When you walk through the antediluvian tapestry that is ancient Egypt you wonder what the people were like, and even what the places smelled like. Yes, that’s correct I said “smelled like” Our sense of smell is actually a trigger sense in many ways that bring on memories of every variety. However, we can’t have memories from ancient Egypt, but we can gain knowledge of what the scent factor of the ancient tombs was like when you enter the corridor of Semerkhet’s tomb. I will get to that part shortly.
Discovered by Petrie, Semerkhet’s tomb is located by Abydos in Umm el-Qa’ab and is labelled (Tomb U). It is a well-made tomb and better, stronger and larger than Anedjib’s tomb for one example. By this I mean his burial chamber is completely lined with bricks and surrounded by well-built servants’ graves and other people of the royal court. When Petrie explored Semerkht’s tomb, he discovered the 5000-year-old ossuary’s entry ramp was three-feet deep in aromatic oils that still held their fragrance. The entire tomb was permeated with the scent of these oils. This is a true ancient echo.
The following is an illustration of the layout of the tomb of Semerkhet.
Although he had a most wonderful tomb his reign is in question and this is why.
There is another conflict with how long Semerkhet ruled. According to the Palermo Stone, his rule was 9 years. However, the writings of the ancient Egyptian priest and historian Manetho are largely regarded as accurate and he writes that Semerkhet ruled for 18 years. During that time there were many calamities. Historians believe these troubles arose because of his succession, for it is suggested but unfounded that Semerkhet usurped the throne. There is even an implausible account from the Royal Canon of Turin, which credits him with a whopping reign of 72 years!
Nevertheless, Egyptologists are leaning more towards a shorter reign. The reason being, the Cairo stone Fragment CF1 records in a series of 9-year cells the entire reign of Semerkhet which comes away as 8.5 years, a relatively short reign, indeed.
It is recorded that Semerkhet destroyed his predecessor’s name which was Anedjib on many stone Jubilee vessels among other items, and it appears in return his name was left out of the Saqqara King list. No one actually knows if this is correct. Keep in mind the list in question is greatly inaccurate. Even the chronology is wrong in many places. If you look at the Abydos Kings List you will most certainly find Semerkhet listed.
The Gallery is made up of objects found in Semerkhet’s tomb. There is one depiction of the King from the Kings List of Abydos. All images other than Semerkhets cartouche are from the British Museum and the Petrie Museum. When you click on an image, be sure to use the down arrow to scroll and read the description for each photo.
So the character in the game was more than likely based on him. The location for his tomb is different and his role in the game is a bit different, too. However, it is a game and reality has the license to twist in this case. I find it fascinating at the very least that elements of actual places and people in the ancient world are incorporated into these fine games from a fantastic franchise.
Well, there you have it. My 20th-anniversary piece done and dusted. This marks the beginning of a bigger project at hand. Now back to work. Keep exploring, and for goodness sake, stop locking Winston in the freezer! LOL!
|Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt)||Clayton, Peter A.||1994||Thames and Hudson Ltd||ISBN 0-500-05074-0|
|History of Ancient Egypt, A||Grimal, Nicolas||1988||Blackwell||None Stated|
|Monarchs of the Nile||Dodson, Aidan||1995||Rubicon Press||ISBN 0-948695-20-x|
|Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The||Shaw, Ian||2000||Oxford University Press||ISBN 0-19-815034-2|