One of the things that long-time fans of the Tomb Raider series may have noticed is the series’ quirky blend of historical fact and archaeological fantasy. The Last Revelation is no exception. Does the Tomb of Semerkhet really exist? The answer is yes….and no.
In The Last Revelation, Semerkhet is said to be a High Priest of Horus who helped the falcon-headed sun god seal Seth, the Lord of Darkness, in a sarcophagus in order to save the world from falling into chaos and despair. This Semerkhet’s tomb is located within the Karnak Temple complex and visitors are forced to play a game of Senet, the Egyptian “game of passing”, before they can continue on their journey. This popular Egyptian board game will be explored in greater detail in a future edition of Arte-Factual so keep your eyes open for that. So far, so fictional.
There was, however, a real Semerkhet whose tomb was discovered by the renowned Egyptologist and archaeologist William H. Flinders Petrie at the Umm el-Qa’ab cemetery at Abydos in 1899. This Semerkhet was a king who ruled during the 1st Dynasty (ca. 3100-2890 BC) and may have only been on the throne for just over 8 years. Little is known about Semerkhet’s background or family but legend has it that a great calamity befell Egypt during his short reign, though, sadly, there are no detailed accounts of this supposed calamity in any surviving historical records. Interestingly, an inscription on the stone slab referred to as the “Cairo Stone” mentions that he was an escort of Horus and that the first year of his reign saw the “destruction of Egypt”. Could this have been the inspiration behind the backstory of Last Revelation’s fictional High Priest? ;)
Semerkhet’s tomb, also referred to as “Abydos Tomb U”, can be entered by walking down a ramp that leads into a rectangular brick-lined burial chamber. Here, Petrie and his team found a number of precious grave goods, which included jewellery made of ebony, turquoise and amethyst and fragments of pottery, marble vessels and furniture. The discovery of vessels which once contained aromatic oils imported from Syria or Palestine suggests that early dynastic Egypt had already established trade links with its eastern neighbours. The chamber itself is surrounded by 67 smaller, subsidiary tombs which were once part of Semerkhet’s tomb and some archaeologists believe that members of the king’s family and household may have been sacrificed and buried alongside him so that they could obey and serve the deceased king in the afterlife, a tradition that was abandoned towards the end of the 1st Dynasty. Having friends in high places didn’t always pay off…
That’s all for this edition of Lara’s Travels. If you’d like to learn more about some of the places Lara has visited over the years, you can find an archive of all previous editions of Lara’s Travels over here.
Further reading & sources:
- Semerkhet (Wikipedia)
- Semerkhet (WikiRaider)
- King Semerkhet’s Peculiar Tomb (Michele Moll, ANP 491: Archaeology of Ancient Egypt)
- Semerkhet, the 6th King of Egypt’s 1st Dynasty (Tour Egypt)
- Early Dynastic Egypt by Toby A.H. Wilkinson, Routledge (2001)
- Lara’s Travels: KV5
- Arte-Factual: The Times Exclusive Level: Anubis Shrine
- Arte-Factual: Tomb Raider I: Egyptian Cat Statue
- Jean-Yves Empereur: A Career in Ruins