The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt is the first dynasty of the old kingdom. Other dynasties of the Old Kingdom include the Fourth,Fifth and sixth.

After the turbulent last years of the Second Dynasty, which might have included civil war, Egypt came under the rule of Djoser, marking the beginning of the Third Dynasty. Both the Turin King list and the Abydos King list record five kings, while the Saqqara tablet only records four, and Manetho records nine, many of whom did not exist or are simply the same king under multiple names.

  • The Turin King list gives Nebka, Djoser, Djoserti, Hudjefa I, and Huni.
  • The Abydos King list gives Nebka, Djoser, Teti, Sedjes, and Neferkare.
  • The Saqqara tablet gives Djoser, Djoserteti, Nebkare, and Huni.
  • Manetho gives Necheróphes (Nebka), Tosorthrós (Djoser), Týreis (Djoserti/Sekhemkhet), Mesôchris (Sanakht, probably the same person as Nebka), Sôÿphis (also Djoser), Tósertasis (also Djoserti/Sekhemkhet), Achês (Nebtawy Nebkare; unlikely Khaba, perhaps nonexistent), Sêphuris (Qahedjet), and Kerpherês (Huni).


3rd Dynasty

Rulers of the third dynasty

The pharaohs of the Third Dynasty ruled for approximately seventy-five years. Due to recent archaeological findings in Abydos revealing that Djoser was the one who buried Khasekhemwy, the last king of the Second Dynasty, it is now widely believed that Djoser is the founder of the Third Dynasty, as the direct successor of Khasekhemwy and the one responsible for finishing his tomb. Significantly, These findings contradict earlier writings, like Wilkinson 1999, which proposed that Nebka/Sanakht was the founder of the dynasty. However, the two were not very far apart temporally; they may have been brothers, along with Sekhemkhet, as the sons of Khasekhemwy and his favoured consort Nimaathap.

Horus-name Personal Name Regnal years Burial Consort(s)
Netjerikhet Djoser third dynasty 19 or 28 Saqqara: Pyramid of Djoser Hetephernebti
Sekhemkhet Djoserty 6–7 Saqqara: Buried Pyramid Djeseretnebti
Sanakht Nebka 6–28 years, depending on identification; most likely six, 18, or 19 years Possibly mastaba K2 at Beit Khallaf
Khaba Teti third dynasty 6 ? 24, if identical to Huni Zawyet el’Aryan: Layer Pyramid
Uncertain, Qahedjet ? Huni third dynasty 24 Meidum ? Djefatnebti
Meresankh I

While Manetho names Necherophes, and the Turin King List names Nebka (a.k.a. Sanakht), as the first pharaoh of the Third Dynasty, many contemporary Egyptologists believe Djoser was the first king of this dynasty, pointing out the order in which some predecessors of Khufu are mentioned in the Papyrus Westcar suggests that Nebka should be placed between Djoser and Huni, and not before Djoser. More importantly, seals naming Djoser were found at the entrance to Khasekhemwy’s tomb at Abydos, which demonstrates that it was Djoser, rather than Sanakht, who buried and succeeded this king.  In any case, Djoser is the best known king of this period, for commissioning his vizier Imhotep to build the earliest surviving pyramids, the Step Pyramid.


Dating the Third Dynasty is similarly challenging. Shaw gives the dates as being approximately from 2686 to 2613 BCE. The Turin King List suggests a total of 75 years for the third dynasty. Baines and Malek have placed the third dynasty as spanning the years 2650–2575 BCE, while Dodson and Hilton date the dynasty to 2584–2520 BCE. Actually, it is not uncommon for these estimates to differ by more than a century.

Some scholars have proposed a southern origin for the Third Dynasty. Egyptologist, Flinders Petrie, believed the dynasty originated from Sudan based on the iconographic evidence whereas S.O.Y. Keita, a biological anthropologist, differed in his view and argued an origin in southern Egypt was “equally likely”. He cited a previous X-ray and anthropological study which suggested that the Third Dynasty nobles had “Nubian affinities”. The author also interpreted the portrait of Djoser as having little resemblance to “portraits of late dynastic Greek/Roman conquerors” and cited an iconographic review conducted by anthropologist, John Drake, as supporting evidence.

The archaeological evidence shows that Khasekhemwy, the last ruler of the Second Dynasty, was succeeded by Djoser, who at the time was only attested by his presumed Horus name Netjerikhet. Djoser’s successor was Sekhemkhet, who had the Nebty name Djeserty. The last king is Huni, who may be the same person as Qahedjet or, less likely, Khaba.