- Heb Sed -

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The Heb-Sed is the ritual celebration or jubilee of a king's reign. Normally, it was first held during the 30th regnal year of a king, and from then on, every 3 years.

Several kings, however, held their first Heb Sed at a much earlier date: Hatshepsut held her first jubilee during her 16th regnal year, while Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten chose to dedicate his festival to his solar-god Aten at the early beginnings of his reign. The latter case is remarkable since Amenhotep III, Akhenaten's father, stressed the fact that he had restored the Sed-festival to the way it was celebrated in the past. In addition, Akhenaten's first Sed-festival would have coincided with the one that Amenhotep III would have celebrated in his 40th year as king of Egypt.

Because Ramesses II often left 2 instead of 3 years between his Heb Seds, he was able to celebrate 14 such jubilees during his 67 years of reign.

During the celebrations, the king performed a ritual run and dance, aimed at proving that he was still physically able to rule the country. In doing so, he was also rejuvenated and reborn.

The same type of ritual run or dance could also be represented on temple walls or in mortuary complexes to convey the idea that the king would eternally rejuvenate. Representations of the ritual run and dance should therefore not be taken as evidence that the king in question did have a real Heb Sed.

The oldest known example of this Heb-Sed is believed to have been found on the decoration of the ritual mace head of Narmer, which is taken by some to be an indication that this king ruled for at least 30 years. It should, however, be pointed out that it is possible that the tradition of having the 1st Heb Sed during the 30th year was not followed by every king and that it may be of later date than Narmer. In addition, it is possible that the decoration on this mace head does not represent the Heb Sed at all.

Djoser's Heb-Sed

The ritual run of the Horus Netjerikhet (Djoser) from his funerary complex at Saqqara does not prove that this king actually celebrated a Heb-Sed during his lifetime.

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