Ro, Irj-Hor, Iri(-Hor)
Signs r-Ḥr inscribed on a large vessel from the tomb of Iry-Hor, Ashmolean Museum.
Signs r-Ḥr inscribed on a large vessel from the tomb of Iry-Hor, Ashmolean Museum.
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign early to late 32nd century BC[1], Dynasty 0
Predecessor unknown
Successor uncertain, possibly Ka
Burial Chambers B1, B2, Umm el-Qa'ab

Iry-Hor or Ro (as read by Petrie[2]) was a predynastic pharaoh of Upper Egypt during the 32nd century BC.[1] Until recently, Iry-Hor's existence was debated, with egyptologist Toby Wilkinson contesting the reading and signification of his name. However, continuing excavations at Abydos in the 1990s and the discovery in 2012 of an inscription of Iry-Hor in the Sinai establish his existence.[1] Iry-Hor is the earliest ruler of Egypt known by name.

Name and identity


Iry-Hor's name is written with the Horus falcon hieroglyph (Gardiner sign G5) above a mouth hieroglyph (Gardiner D21). While the modern reading of the name is "Iry-Hor", Flinders Petrie, who discovered and excavated Iry-Hor's tomb at the end of the 19th century, read it "Ro", which was the usual reading of the mouth hieroglyph at the time.[3][4] Werner Kaiser and Günter Dreyer translate Iry-Hor's name as "Companion of Horus".[5] Toby Wilkinson, who contested that Iry-Hor was a king, translates the signs as "Property of the king".[6] Following excavations at Abydos and the discovery of an inscription of Iry-Hor in the Sinai in 2012, however, Wilkinson's hypothesis is now rejected by most egyptologists.[1] Ludwig D. Morenz commits to no translation and suggests the neutral reading "Horus mouth".[7]

Egyptologists Jürgen von Beckerath and Peter Kaplony propose instead that the inscriptions refer to a private person whose name is to be read Wer-Ra, wr-r3 (litt. "Great mouth"), i.e. reading the bird above the mouth-sign as the swallow hieroglyph G36 rather than the Horus falcon. They translate the name as "Spokesman" or "Chief".[8][9]


Clay seal with the signs r-Ḥr.

Until 2012, the name of Iry-Hor had not been found in or next to a serekh, so that the identification of Iry-Hor as a king was controversial. Egyptologists Flinders Petrie,[2] Laurel Bestock[4] and Jochem Kahl[10] nonetheless believed that he was indeed a real ruler. They pointed to the distinctive spelling of Iry-Hor's name: the Horus falcon holds the mouth hieroglyph in its claws. On several clay seals this group of characters is found accompanied by a second, free-standing mouth hieroglyph. This notation is reminiscent of numerous anonymous serekhs held by a Horus falcon with individual hieroglyphs placed close to it rather than within the serekh as would be expected. Finally, the serekh could have been a convention that started with Ka, whose name has been found both with and without a serekh.[4] Therefore, they concluded that the argument that Iry-Hor was not a king because his name was never found in a serekh was insufficient.

Supporters of the identification of Iry-Hor as a king, such as egyptologist Darell Baker, also pointed to the size and location of his tomb. It is a double tomb as big as those of Ka and Narmer, located within a sequential order linking the older predynastic "U" cemetery with the First Dynasty tombs.[11] Furthermore Iry-Hor's name is inscribed on a large jar exhibiting the royal Horus falcon and similar to those found in the tombs of other king of this period.

At the opposite, some egyptologists were doubtful of Iry-Hor's existence, precisely because his name never appeared in a serekh, the Horus falcon being simply placed above the mouth sign. Ludwig D. Morenz and Kurt Heinrich Sethe doubted the reading of Iry-Hor's name and thus that he was a king. Morenz, for example, suspected that the mouth-symbol may simply have been a phonetic complement to the Horus falcon.[7] Sethe understood the group of characters forming Iry-Hor's name as an indication of origin (of the content of a jar and other goods to which clay seals were usually attached). Toby Wilkinson dismissed the tomb attributed to Iry-Hor as a storage pit and the name as a treasury mark. Indeed r-Ḥr may simply mean property of the king.[6][12] Supporting his hypothesis, Wilkinson also noted that Iry-Hor was poorly attested: until 2012 the only inscription of Iry-Hor outside of Abydos was located in Lower Egypt at Zawyet el'Aryan, while Ka and Narmer have many inscriptions located as far north as Canaan.

In 2012 however an inscription mentioning Iry-Hor was discovered in the Sinai, the inscription comprising furthermore an archaic empty serekh on the right of Iry-Hor's name.[1] Following this discovery, most egyptologists, among which G. Dreyer and the discovers of the inscription Pierre Tallet and Damien Laisney, now believe that Iry-Hor was indeed a king.[1]

Reign and evidence

Name of Iry-Hor as found in Abydos.[13]

Iry-Hor was most likely Ka's immediate predecessor[14] and thus would have reigned during the early 32nd century BC. He probably ruled from Hierakonpolis over Abydos and the wider Thinite region and controlled Egypt at least as far north as Memphis, since the Sinai rock inscription relates a visit of Iry-Hor to this city.[1] The egyptologists Tallet and Laisney further propose that Iry-Hor also controlled parts of the Nile Delta.[1]

He was buried in the royal cemetery of Umm el-Qa'ab near Ka, Narmer and the First Dynasty kings. Iry-Hor's name appears on clay vessels from his tomb in Abydos. A clay seal with the hieroglyphs for r-Ḥr was found in Narmer's tomb and may refer to Iry-Hor. A similar seal was also found far to the north in the tomb Z 401 of Zawyet el'Aryan in Lower Egypt.[11][15] An incision on a spindle whorl found in Hierakonpolis during James E. Quibell and Petrie excavations there in 1900 may refer to him.[16] Finally, a 2012 discovery of a rock inscription in the Sinai constitutes the northernmost attestion of Iry-Hor. The inscription shows the name of Iry-Hor on a boat, next to the word for "white wall", the ancient name of Memphis.[1]


Iry-Hor's tomb at the Umm el-Qa'ab comprises two separate chambers B1 and B2, shown in inset. Iry-Hor's tomb is located close to Ka's (B7, B8, B9) and Narmer's tombs (B17, B18).

Iry-Hor's tomb is the oldest tomb of the Abydos necropolis B in the Umm el-Qa'ab.[17] It comprises two separate underground chambers B1 (6m x 3.5m) and B2 (4.3m x 2.45m) excavated by Petrie in 1899 and later by Werner Kaiser.[2][18] A further chamber, now known as "B0", was uncovered during re-excavations of Iry-Hor's tomb in the 1990s.[11] These chambers have a size similar to those found in the tombs of Ka and Narmer. No superstructure, if there ever was one, survives to this day. Chamber B1 yielded jar fragments incised with his name.[17] Chamber B2 produced another incised jar fragment, a seal impression, several ink inscriptions and interestingly, vessel fragments bearing names of Ka and Narmer. Parts of a bed were also found onsite.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i P. Tallet, D. Laisnay: Iry-Hor et Narmer au Sud-Sinaï (Ouadi 'Ameyra), un complément à la chronologie des expéditios minière égyptiene, in: BIFAO 112 (2012), 381-395, available online
  2. ^ a b c Flinders Petrie: The Royal tombs of the earliest dynasties, 1900, pp. 29 & 30, available online.
  3. ^ W.M.F. Petrie: Abydos I, pp. 4–6.
  4. ^ a b c Laurel Bestock: The Development of Royal Funerary Cult at Abydos, pp. 16, 17, 21 & 28
  5. ^ Werner Kaiser, Günter Dreyer: Umm el-Qaab : Nachuntersuchungen im frühzeitlichen Königsfriedhof : 2. Vorbericht, in: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo (MDAIK), 38. Ausgabe. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient-Abteilung (Hrsg.). de Gruyter, Berlin 1982, pp. 211–246.
  6. ^ a b Toby Wilkinson: The identification of Tomb B1 at Abydos: refuting the existence of a king 'Ro/Iry-Hor'. In: Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (JEA), 79, Egypt Exploration Society, London 1993, ISSN 0307-5133, pp. 91–93.
  7. ^ a b Ludwig D. Morenz: Bildbuchstaben und symbolische Zeichen, p. 88
  8. ^ Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen, pp. 9 and 36, Hochspringen
  9. ^ Peter Kaplony: Inschriften der Ägyptischen Frühzeit, vol. 1, p. 468
  10. ^ Jochem Kahl: Das System der ägyptischen Hieroglyphenschrift in der 0.-3. Dynastie, pp.96–101.
  11. ^ a b c Darrell D. Baker: The Encyclopedia of the Pharaohs: Volume I - Predynastic to the Twentieth Dynasty 3300–1069 BC, Stacey International, ISBN 978-1-905299-37-9, 2008, p. 156
  12. ^ Toby Wilkinson: Early Dynastic Egypt, pp. 19, 55 & 234.
  13. ^ Dreyer, Kaiser M.D.A.I.K. 38, 1982
  14. ^ Winfried Barta: Zur Namensform und zeitlichen Einordnung des Königs Ro, in: GM 53, 1982, pp. 11–13.
  15. ^ W. Kaiser and G. Dreyer, Umm el Qa'ab: Nachuntersuchungen im frühzeitlichen Königsfriedhof', Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo (MDAIK) Vol 38, pp 211-69, 1982.
  16. ^ Quibell, Hierakonpolis, pt. 1 James E. Quibell/W. M. F. Petrie, Hierakonpolis I, London 1900.
  17. ^ a b Raffaele, Francesco. "Dynasty 0". 
  18. ^ Werner Kaiser: Einige Bemerkungen zur ägyptischen Frühzeit. In: Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde., vol. 91, 1964, pp. 86–124.
  19. ^ W Kaiser and G Dreyer, Umm el Qa'ab: Nachuntersuchungen im frühzeitlichen Königsfriedhof', Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo (MDAIK) Vol 38, pp 211-69, 1982.

External links

Preceded by
Scorpion I? Double Falcon?
King of Thinis
Succeeded by
Ka ?