The Giants of Ancient Egypt: Part II – Physical Evidence of the Giant Characters
In Part I of this Giant investigation, inspired by the report of the find of a so-called ‘giant’ Egyptian Pharaoh who stood about 5 inches (13cm) taller than the average ancient Egyptian, Hugh Newman brings to light evidence of more substantial giants in Egyptian history. Here we see some of more credible physical evidence that hints at the existence of much larger than average Egyptians.
A Giant King over 8 Feet Tall
King Khasekhemui (also spelled Khasekhemwy and Khasekhem, ca. 2690 BC) was the final ruler of the Second Dynasty of Egypt based near Abydos and was involved in the construction of Hierakonpolis, the Predynastic capital. This is the same site where the previously mentioned gigantic knife was discovered. He was buried at the necropolis at Umm el-Qa'ab in what was once described as the earliest stone structure in Egypt. The large limestone tomb was not sophisticated in any way and when Prof. Robert Temple investigated the site in 2001 he was amazed that the quality of the construction was so primitive. Especially compared to the step pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, which has been dated to the start of the third dynasty, just a few years later. Djoser was also thought to have ‘buried’ Khasekhemui at this site before moving north to the area of Saqqara.
Top: Mortuary buildings at Hierakonpolis. Bottom: The burial site and map of cemetery. Courtesy Google Earth and “ Odyssey, Adventures in Archaeology ”
Khasekhemui’s skeleton was never found, suggesting it was looted long before the excavation. The Second Dynasty King is unique in Egyptian history as having both the symbols of Horus and Set on his serekh. Some Egyptologists believe that this was an attempt to unify the two factions, but after his death Set was dropped from the serekh permanently. He was the earliest Egyptian king known to have built statues of himself.
But the most startling thing about this Pharaoh was the fact that he was something of a giant. Flinders Petrie, who first excavated the site, found evidence from the 3rd Century BC that he was “…5 cubits and 3 palms high, which would be about 8 English feet (2.44m), if the short cubit of 17.4 inches were used .” In the most recent translation of Manetho it is said: “ He was five cubits and three palms (eight and one-half feet) tall .” Manetho is believed to have been an Egyptian priest from Sebennytus who lived during the Ptolemaic era in the early 3rd century BC and he wrote about this giant in Aegyptiaca (Αἰγυπτιακων), or History of Egypt , a book written at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
However, if we use the ‘Royal Cubit’ his height increases to 14ft, 7in (4.45 meters) tall. Considering he was a ‘King’ perhaps the ‘Royal’ cubit should be considered, but this kind of stature is well out the normal range of humans, so although tantalizing and correlating with other accounts, the more conservative height range of 8ft to 8ft 6in (2.44-2.6 meters) is much more likely. A statue of him is on display at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, but it does not give details about how tall he was.
Limestone statue of Khasekhemui at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Photo by Hugh Newman.
Pharaoh Khasekhemui was said to have ruled for 48 years and united Upper and Lower Egypt during his reign. Perhaps he was feared, as a king of this stature must have been very influential and towered over his contemporaries and his enemies. It is also important to note that the earliest inscriptional evidence of an Egyptian king at the Lebanese site of Byblos belonged to the reign of Khasekhemui.
Being very close to Abydos and the earlier sunken temple called the Osirion, can we consider he was involved in its superior construction? This would certainly explain how such massive blocks could have been moved into place, but the primitive stonework of his reign is inconsistent with this.
The Osirion at Abydos showing sophisticated stone construction. Photo by Hugh Newman.
Interestingly the famous Abydos King List is carved on the Seti l Temple at Abydos and depictions from the 19th Dynasty shows a larger than life Seti represented as about 8 feet (2.44 meters) tall. In a strange twist, Khasekhemui was omitted from the final list, as were certain other early notable kings, who were apparently considered illegitimate.