Western Massif

To the West of the South Court were three massifs. A structure  similar to but with its over 400 rooms considerably larger than the tombs of Hotepsekhemwi and Ninetjer, was found underneath the massif that forms the western enclosure wall of the Complex of Netjerikhet. Unfortunately, the weak structure of the rock and the resulting danger for collapse have prevented this 'gallery' from being fully cleared and examined. Both its proximity to and its close resemblance with the two other royal tombs of the 2nd Dynasty confirm that this 'gallery' too is very likely to have been a 2nd Dynasty royal tomb. However, as yet, no royal names have been discovered here, so any attempt to credit this tomb to a 2nd Dynasty king would be hypothetical:

  • A likely candidate may be Hotepsekhemwi's successor, Nebre, if, indeed, as we assume, he did not usurp his predecessor's tomb. A funerary stela bearing his name has been found in the vicinity of Memphis and is likely to once have stood near his tomb. So at least there is an indication that Reneb may have had a tomb in Saqqara. This is confirmed by the fact that he, like Hotepsekhemwi and Ninetjer did not have tombs at Abydos. But this does not mean that the tomb underneath Netjerikhet's western massif belonged to Reneb: it is indeed possible that other 2nd Dynasty tombs are still hidden in the sands.
  • There was a mortuary cult for a 2nd Dynasty king named Sened, who is not attested by any contemporary sources, at Saqqara. The tomb of an Old Kingdom priest assigned to this cult was found near the Netjerikhet Complex. This might make Sened another likely candidate for the ownership of this tomb, making it the only contemporary testimony of Sened's existence. It must, however, be noted that it would be quite strange for a king able to build a large tomb not to have left any other marks in his country.
  • Although both a tomb and a palace-simulacrum at Abydos have been identified as having belonged to Khasekhemwi, some archaeologists are convinced that the tomb under the western massif belonged to this king. The primary arguments forwarded by the proponents of this hypothesis are the size of the tomb and the presence of Khasekhemwi's name in another gallery underneath the northern part of the Netjerikhet complex. The tomb in Abydos is explained by them as a cenotaph.
  • The Western Massif is well incorporated into the funery complex of Netjerikhet, excluding it from being built after the complex. This would logically make Horus Netjerikhet the last possible king to have built the massif. Perhaps the Western Massif represents the king's first tomb, built in the tradition of the 2nd Dynasty, before Netjerikhet decided to create a larger funerary complex at the site.


Contrary to the tombs of Hotepsekhemwi and Ninetjer, the superstructure of this tomb may perhaps have been preserved. An examination by J.-P. Lauer of the different building stages of Netjerikhet's Step Pyramid has shown that the western massif already existed at the time when the Step Pyramid was extended towards the west: the west side of the pyramid only starts at a height of 4.7 metres and was partially built on top of the western massif. This means that either the western massif belonged to an earlier building-stage of the Netjerikhet Complex, or that it predates it all together.

The western massif is in fact composed of three long, narrow structures: an eastern and a western flat-roofed massif flanking a central one that is substantially higher and had a rounded roof. According to the German archaeologist Stadelmann, all three parts appear to have been built at approximately the same time. The filling material of these massifs appears for a large part to have come from the substructure, making it likely that the sub- and superstructures were also built at the same time. The western wall of Netjerikhet's complex was apparently built against the western most of these massifs, again a possible indication that the three massifs predate Netjerikhet's complex. One can only wonder why Netjerikhet chose to incorporate this already existing structure into his own, rather than demolish it.


© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017