Hor-Aha (or Aha or Horus Aha) is considered the second pharaoh of the First Dynasty of ancient Egypt in current Egyptology. He lived around the thirty-first century BC and is thought to have had a long reign.
The commonly-used name Hor-Aha is a rendering of the pharaoh's Horus-name, an element of the royal titulary associated with the god Horus, and is more fully given as Horus-Aha meaning Horus the Fighter.
For the Early Dynastic Period, the archaeological record refers to the pharaohs by their Horus-names, while the historical record, as evidenced in the Turin and Abydos king lists, uses an alternative royal titulary, the nebty-name. The different titular elements of a pharaoh's name were often used in isolation, for brevity's sake, although the choice varied according to circumstance and period.
The same process has led to the identification of the historical Menes (a nebty-name) with Narmer (a Horus-name) evidenced in the archaeological record (both figures are credited with the unification of Egypt and as the first pharaoh of Dynasty I) as the predecessor of Hor-Aha (the second pharaoh).
There has been some controversy about Hor-Aha. Some believe him to be the same individual as the legendary Menes and that he was the one to unify all of Egypt. Others claim he was the son of Narmer, the pharaoh who unified Egypt. Narmer and Menes may have been one pharaoh, referred to with more than one name. Regardless, considerable historical evidence from the period points to Narmer as the pharaoh who first unified Egypt (see Narmer Palette) and to Hor-Aha as his son and heir.
Successor to Narmer
Seal impressions discovered by G. Dreyer in the Umm el-Qa'ab from Merneith and Qa'a burials identify Hor-Aha as the second pharaoh of the first dynasty. His predecessor Narmer had united Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt into a single kingdom. Hor-Aha probably ascended the throne in the late 32nd century BC or early 31st century BC.
Hor-Aha seems to have conducted many religious activities. A visit to a shrine of the goddess Neith is recorded on several tablets from his reign. The sanctuary of Neith he visited was located in the north-east of the Nile Delta at Sais. Furthermore, the first known representation of the sacred Henu-bark of the god Seker was found engraved on a year tablet dating from his reign.
Vessel inscriptions, labels and sealings from the graves of Hor-Aha and Queen Neithhotep suggest that this queen died during the reign of Aha. He arranged for her burial in a magnificent mastaba excavated by Jacques de Morgan. Queen Neithhotep is plausibly Aha's mother The selection of the cemetery of Naqada as the resting place of Neithhotep is a strong indication that she came from this province. This, in turn, supports the view that Narmer married a member of the ancient royal line of Naqada to strengthen the domination of the Thinite kings over the region.
Most importantly, the oldest mastaba at the North Saqqara necropolis of Memphis dates to his reign. The mastaba belongs to an elite member of the administration who may have been a relative of Hor-Aha, as was customary at the time. This is a strong indication of the growing importance of Memphis during Aha's reign.
Few artifacts remain of Hor-Aha's reign. However, the finely executed copper-axe heads, faience vessel fragments, ivory box and inscribed white marbles all testify to the flourishing of craftsmanship during Aha's time in power.
Activities outside Egypt
Inscription on an ivory tablet from Abydos suggests that Hor-Aha led an expedition against the Nubians. On a year tablet, a year is explicitly called 'Year of smiting of Ta-Sety' (i.e. Nubia).
During Hor-Aha's reign, trade with the Southern Levant seems to have been on the decline. Contrary to his predecessor Narmer, Hor-Aha is not attested outside of the Nile Valley. This may point to a gradual replacement of long-distance trade between Egypt and its eastern neighbors by a more direct exploitation of the local resources by the Egyptians. Vessel fragment analysis from an Egyptian outpost at En Besor suggests that it was active during Hor-Aha's reign. Other Egyptian settlements are known to have been active at the time as well (Byblos and along the Lebanese coast). Finally, Hor-Aha's tomb yielded vessel fragments from the Southern Levant.
Hor-Aha's chief wife was Benerib, whose name was "written alongside his on a number of [historical] pieces, in particular, from tomb B14 at Abydos, Egypt". Tomb B14 is located directly adjacent to Hor-Aha's sepulchre. Hor-Aha also had another wife, Khenthap, with whom he became father of Djer. She is mentioned as Djer's mother on the Cairo Annals Stone.
The tomb of Hor-Aha is located in the necropolis of the kings of the 1st Dynasty at Abydos, known as the Umm el-Qa'ab. It comprises three large chambers B10 B15 and B19 which are directly adjacent to Narmer's tomb. The chambers are rectangular, directly dug in the desert floor, their walls lined with mud bricks. The tombs of Narmer and Ka had only two adjacent chambers, while the tomb of Hor-Aha comprises three substantially larger yet separated chambers. The reason for this architecture is that it was difficult at that time to build large ceilings above the chambers, as timber for these structures often had to be imported from Palestine.
A striking innovation of Hor-Aha's tomb is that members of the royal household were buried with the pharaoh, the earliest known retainer sacrifices in Egypt. It is unclear if they were killed or committed suicide. Among those buried were servants, dwarfs, women and even dogs. A total of 36 subsidiary burials were laid out in three parallel rows north-east of Hor-Aha's main chambers. As a symbol of royalty Hor-Aha was even given a group of young lions.
Kestner Museum 04.jpg
Cylinder vessel of Hor-Aha from Saqqara, 1st dynasty; Kestner-Museum.
Ivory label inscribed with the serekh of Hor-Aha and bearing the name of his wife Benerib.
Ivory label bearing the serekh of Hor-Aha. It reports the victory over the "arch-using setjet-folks" (center) and the visit at the domain "Horus thrives with the cattles" (right).
Fragmented ebony label of Hor-Aha relating a visit of the king to the shrine of the goddess Neith of Sais in the Delta, British Museum.
- Ancient Egypt
- Ancient Egyptian retainer sacrifices
- First dynasty of Egypt
- History of Egypt
- List of Pharaohs
- The Greatest Pharaohs
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- Lloyd 1994: 7
- Cervelló-Autuori 2003: 174
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- Corpus of Wooden and Ivory Labels - Aha by Francesco Raffaele