Mummy Monday: Ramesses V

This week let’s take a look at another royal from the 20th Dynasty. Meet Pharaoh Ramesses V!

Life

Usermaatre Sekheperenre Ramesses V was born c. 1110 B.C.E. to Pharaoh Ramesses IV and his wife Duatentopet. Very little is known about his early life. He did have a chief wife named Tahenutwati and another wife named Taweretenro. We know he did not have a son to succeed him, but it is unclear if he had any children.

Reign

Here are his royal names:

  • Horus name: Kanakht Menmaat
  • Golden Falcon name: Userrenputmiatum
  • Prenomen: Usermaatre-sekheperenre
  • Nomen: Ramesses (Amunherkhepeshef)

Ramesses V rose to the throne after the death of his father around 1149 B.C.E. His reign was the continued growth of the power of the priesthood of Amun. They controlled much of the land of country and state finances. Multiple papyri date to his reign that describes some political turmoil.

The Turin 1887 papyrus records a financial scandal involving the temple priests of Elephantine. The Turin 2044 papyrus recorded that the workmen of Deir el-Medina stopped working on Ramesses V’s tomb in his first regnal year. This may be because of fear of Libyan raiding parties which were close to Thebes. And finally, the Wilbour Papyrus records a major land survey and tax assessment which reveals that most of the land was controlled by the Amun Temple.

Besides all these problems, Ramesses V’s reign wasn’t that eventful. He continued to build his father’s temple in Deir el-Bahri, possibly usurping it in the end. And he built himself a tomb, KV9. He only reigned for four years, until about 1145 B.C.E.

Death and Tomb

The circumstances of his death are unknown, but there are multiple theories. The strongest is that Ramesses V died of smallpox because of the lesions on his face. He is thought to be one of the earliest known victims of the disease. He was succeeded (and possibly deposed) by his uncle Ramesses VI.

You can read more about his small pox in these two articles below!

He was buried in Year 2 of Ramesses VI, which was highly irregular as most pharaohs should be buried precisely 70 days into the reign of the successor. This might be because Ramesses VI was expelling Libyans from Thebes. Possibly, he has made a temporary tomb until KV9 was done.

Although KV9 was originally made for Ramesses V, it was severely edited by Ramesses VI and they were presumably buried together. I talked all about the tomb when I covered Ramesses VI, which you can check out here!

Mummy

The mummy of Ramesses V (CG61085/JE34566) was found in 1898 in the Valley of the Kings cache in Amenhotep II’s tomb, KV35. It was found in side chamber Jb (position 6). He was found in the base of a large rectangular white coffin (CG61042). No lid was found with this coffin which was not the original coffin of the king. There are no inscriptions on this coffin that would indicate the original owner.

A shroud was found over a tangle of linens and then the body, which had been robbed in antiquity. Some of the bandages have been burnt by a corrosive agent, which may have been a result of a chemical reaction from the organic substances used during the embalming and funerary rituals.

His body was very well preserved and was unwrapped on June 25th, 1905. He was anywhere from 20 to 35 years old. His face was painted red and his earlobes were greatly stretched out, indicating that he wore large earrings. His skull was packed with 9 meters of linen through the right nostril which was then plugged with wax. There is a particularly wide gash on his side shows where the embalming was done. His organs were removed and then placed back in his abdomen.

The thieves that originally robbed the tomb did not do much damage to the mummy itself, although they did chop off some of the fingertips of his left hand, probably to get some rings.

There is also a hole in the parietal bone of the skull, which has been found on the mummies of Merenptah, Seti II, Ramesses IV, and Ramesses VI. His wound is a little different from these though. The scalp had actually been rolled back by the opening. This probably occurred just before or immediately after death as antemortem dried blood may have caused the discoloration of the area.

Another theory of his death is bubonic plague because of a possible bubo, an ulcer-like lesion, on his right groin.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramesses_V

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ramses-V

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Ramesses_V

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/chronology/ramsesv.html

https://members.tripod.com/anubis4_2000/mummypages2/20A.htm#Ramesses%20V

http://www.historyembalmed.org/egyptian-pharaohs/ramses-v.htm

Image Sources

Obelisk in the Archaeological Museum of Bologna (KS 1884) – Wikimedia Commons (Khruner)

Mummified head – Wikimedia Commons (G. Elliot Smith)

Mummy – The Theban Royal Mummy Project

Women Crush Wednesday: Cleopatra III

This week we are traveling back to the last period of Ancient Egypt, the Ptolemaic Period. I would like to introduce you to Cleopatra III, whose life was full of political turmoil.

Early Life

Cleopatra III was born around 160 BCE, most likely in Alexandria where the Ptolemaic kings ruled from. Her mother was Cleopatra II, and her father was Ptolemy VI. She had possibly four siblings: Ptolemy Eupator, Cleopatra Thea, Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator, and possibly a sister named Berenice.

Here is a short background of what occurred within the ruling family before Cleopatra III’s birth. Be careful, there are a lot of identical names involved.

Cleopatra III’s uncle, Ptolemy VIII ruled together with his siblings (and Cleopatra’s parents), Cleopatra II, and Ptolemy VI from 170 to 164 BCE. Her uncle then expelled her parents from the throne and Egypt. But he was forced to abdicate in 163, and Cleopatra III’s parents ruled until 145 BCE.

This was when her father died from injuries sustained when falling off his horse during battle. Cleopatra III had at least one brother, but it seems like he was not chosen to be the heir, or he had already died at this point. And you’ll never guess who takes the throne now? Cleopatra III? Sadly, no.

It was her uncle Ptolemy VIII, again.

Married Life

Now even those the Ptolemaic pharaohs were all of Greek origin, the arranged marriages of siblings were still done. So, Ptolemy VIII married his sister and Cleopatra III’s mother, Queen Cleopatra II, probably to solidify the throne.

But in an interesting turn of events, he also married his niece/stepdaughter, Cleopatra III. This was probably done because Cleopatra II was too old to have any more children. Cleopatra III and Ptolemy VIII were married in 139 BCE.

She had five children with him, all of which went on to rule different kingdoms. We’ll talk about her two sons Ptolemy IX Soter and Ptolemy X Alexander shortly. She had three daughters, Tryphaena, who married the Seleucid king Antiochus VII Grypus, Cleopatra IV, who married her brother Ptolemy IX (though she later divorced him and married the Seleucid King Antiochus IX Cyzienus), and Cleopatra Selene, who married her brothers Ptolemy IX and possibly Ptolemy X (then later married three Seleucid Kings Anthichus VIII, IX, and X).

It seems that Cleopatra III’s relationship with her mother was not great, as their first recorded quarrel was in 140/139. During this time, there was also an unsuccessful coup by an influential courtier named Galestes. Cleopatra III and her husband attempted to seek support from the native population to strengthen their position, but Cleopatra II rebelled against the king in 132 BCE.

This was a full-blown civil war between Cleopatra III’s mother and husband, and it is unclear who she sided with. While her mother controlled Alexandria, Cleopatra III and her husband fled to Cyrus in 132 BCE. He was able to return in 130 to regain control and she returned three years later when the civil war died down.

A full image of the wall relief seen above. Depicting Cleopatra II, Cleopatra III, and their husband Ptolemy VIII recieving the blessings of Horus. From the Temple of Kom Ombo.

And then somehow, Cleopatra II rejoined them as joint ruled in 124 BCE. Honestly, I don’t know.

Later Life

Ptolemy VIII died in 116 BCE and again Cleopatra III was allowed to jointly rule with one of her sons. Surprisingly, she skipped over her first son, Ptolemy XI (who was 14 at the time), and wanted to rule with her second son, Ptolemy X. But apparently, the Alexandrines didn’t like this and forced her to rule with her first son. Her second son was sent to Cyrus as an honorary general.

I have a feeling her mother influenced her decision because even after all the coups, Cleopatra II was still jointly ruling with her daughter and her grandson until she died in 116 or 117.

I honestly feel very bad for this family because it just seems like the family dynamics are all out of whack. Get ready for the craziest part of this rollercoaster.

In October 110, Cleopatra III expelled her first son and placed her second son as her co-ruler. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long and Ptolemy IX was soon back on the throne in February 109. Ptolemy X attempted this again in March 108 and again in October 107.

This last coup seemed to stick as Cleopatra III defeated Ptolemy IX in 102. Ptolemy X served as the annual priest of Alexander the Great. During this time, Cleopatra III tried to gain more support from the native Egyptians by presenting herself as the goddesses Maat and Isis.

Unfortunately, there were still tensions within the royal family, as according to the Latin historian Justin, Cleopatra was murdered by Ptolemy X, after he discovered her plans to kill him. This most likely happened sometime in 101 BCE, as she disappears from records in late 101. Her son marries his niece Berenice III and continues as the sole ruler.

Names

When ruling, her Horus name was Nebtaoui Kenekhet, meaning Lady of the Two Lands, Mighty Bull. Depending on who she was ruling with, she was known by different names.

Her Horus Name

While married to Ptolemy VIII and ruling with her son Ptolemy X, she was known as Cleopatra Euergetis. When ruling with her son Ptolemy IX, she was known as Cleopatra Philmetor Soteira. And according to Strabo, she was known as Kokke when discussed in relation to her son Ptolemy X.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleopatra_III

https://www.livius.org/articles/person/cleopatra-iii/

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA612

http://www.instonebrewer.com/TyndaleSites/Egypt/ptolemies/cleopatra_iii.htm

Images Sources

Cleopatra III at Kom Ombo – Wikimedia Commons

Statue at the Leiden Museum of Cleopatra II or III – https://www.livius.org/pictures/a/greek-portraits/cleopatra-ii-or-iii/

Statue at the Louvre of Cleopatra II or III – https://www.livius.org/pictures/a/greek-portraits/cleopatra-ii-or-iii-as-isis/

Hieroglyphs – Wikimedia Commons

Family Tree – http://www.instonebrewer.com/TyndaleSites/Egypt/ptolemies/cleopatra_iii.htm

Stela, British Museum – British Museum Catalog

Bust with an earring at Stuttgart Museum – https://www.livius.org/pictures/a/greek-portraits/cleopatra-iii/

Bust – https://www.pba-auctions.com/lot/10456/2145353?npp=10000&

Bust of Cleopatra II or Cleopatra III at the Walters Art Gallery – https://art.thewalters.org/detail/24043/head-of-a-queen-perhaps-cleopatra-ii-or-cleopatra-iii/

Women Crush Wednesday: Nauny

This week for Women Crush Wednesday, I want to tell you about Nauny, the mummy of an ancient Egyptian priestess located currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Come and take a look at her extensive funerary assemblage!

Life

Nauny (sometimes written as Nany) was an ancient Egyptian priestess from the 21st Dynasty. Her titles are King’s Daughter of His Body, Singer/Chantress of Amun, and Lady of the House. She was probably the daughter of High Priest and later Pharaoh Pinedjem I. It has been assumed that Pinedjem I was her father because Nauny was buried nearby his other daughters and her coffin is very similar to her presumed sister’s Henuttawy.

Her mother’s name, Tentnabekhenu, is only known from her daughter’s Book of the Dead found in her tomb. There has been speculation that she was the daughter of Herihor or possibly a Tanite King.

Tomb

Nauny was found buried in TT358, which is in Deir el-Bahri. This tomb originally belonged to an early 18th Dynasty queen Ahmose-Meritamen, the sister/wife of Amenhotep I. In Pinedjem’s 19th regnal year, Pinedjem restored the tomb and may have used it for Nauny’s burial.

But her burial was abandoned in disarray in the corridor of TT358. It most likely was looted after being deposited there. The burial party most likely ripped the gold off the coffins before leaving and left the coffins scattered in the hallway. This actually blocked off the burial of Queen Ahmose-Meritamen.

Multiple other items were not looted, which I will talk about after the coffins.

Coffins

Interestingly, her set of sycamore coffins were originally made for her mother. Nauny’s name and titles are painted over her mother’s name and her similar titles. This was not done very thoroughly, because her mother’s titles are still very visible.

Both the inner (30.3.24a,b) and outer (30.3.23a,b) coffins have pieces missing that most likely contained gold. Again, the face and hands were probably removed by the burial party immediately after the burial. This was not uncommon, unfortunately. There is also a surviving mummy board (30.3.25), which would have been placed over the mummy, but the gilded face was also removed.

Funerary Objects

Multiple items were found with her coffins. An Osiris statue was found with a hollowed-out center and a hidden circular plug that had been plastered into place. This was a secret compartment that kept Nauny’s Book of the Dead safe.

Her Book of the Dead (30.3.35), also called the Book of Going Forth by Day, contained chapters 128, 30, 75, 115, 132, 94, 71, 72, and 105. Some of the chapters have appropriate illustrations with the text while others are just illustrations. These show Nauny as a young woman in the afterlife. Interestingly, the outside of the scroll is inscribed for her mother, but on the inside, it is inscribed for Nauny.

Another text (30.3.32) was found folded 8 times and laid across the upper legs of the mummy. This is the Amuduat or the Book of That Which is in the Underworld, which is intended to help the deceased successfully pass through the 12 hours of the night. This is a severely abridged version of the text, but it does contain images of Nauny.

A faience scarab amulet (30.3.34) was found on her chest. It shows a scarab on a half-moon-shaped piece of faience. A funerary wreath (30.3.33a) was also found with the body, though it was broken into two pieces by the burial party. One piece was placed on the chest of the mummy and the other was found behind one of the coffins on the floor of the tomb. It is made out of persea leaves and lotus petals. It is sewn with a double stitch over thin strips of palm leaf.

A piece of linen (30.3.36) cut from a fringed shawl was found in one of the many layers that wrapped the mummy. The inscription would have identified the linen’s owner or its quality, but this ink has eaten through the fabric in this case. A wig (30.3.35) was also found near the head of Nauny’s mummy. It was covered with a sticky unguent at the time of discovery, probably cause it was treated with beeswax and animal fat.

Finally, seven shabti boxes were found nearby. These are very plain and painted white. None of them contain inscriptions. Five are located at the MET (30.3.26.1a,b, 30.3.27.1a,b, 30.3.28.1a,b, 30.3.29.1a,b, and 30.3.30.1a,b) and two are located in Cairo (55044 and 55080). These contained 392 shabtis. In large collections of shabtis, which remember are supposed to be “servants” that can help the deceased in the afterlife, overseer shabtis are needed to “oversee” the other shabtis. I have only included a few images of them, but the MET database has photos of all Nauny’s shabtis in their collection.

Mummy

I could not find any image (or even an accession number?) of Nauny’s mummy, but it was unwrapped. I did find out that her skull is now at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University (61599.0), meaning the rest of the mummy may be lost. It was unwrapped by Winlock at the MET in 1929 or 1930. They found that she was very short (about 4 foot 10 inches) and fat, the latter indicating that she lived a wealthy life. She was about 70 years old at her death, most likely outliving her father.

Her mummy was prepared with attention focused on aesthetic appeal. Her hair was dyed by the embalmers and padding was stuffed under her skin to create a lifelike appearance. Nauny’s face was also painted to restore a more colorful appearance to the corpse.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauny

https://mummipedia.fandom.com/wiki/Princess_Nany

https://www.reddit.com/r/ArtefactPorn/comments/9s2fym/the_wig_of_nauny_a_21st_dynasty_princess_buried/

https://sites.google.com/site/egyptologygeek/21st-dynasty-persons/princess-nany

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551111

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/548344?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=1

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/625761?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=2

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/587034?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=4

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551113?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=15

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/559954?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=16

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/559952?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=17

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/559953?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=18

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/559955?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=19

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551109?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=280&rpp=20&pos=299

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551784?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=280&rpp=20&pos=300

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551110?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=300&rpp=20&pos=302

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551112?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=300&rpp=20&pos=303

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551179?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=300&rpp=20&pos=304

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/545191?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=nany&offset=300&rpp=20&pos=306

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/561098

Image Sources

Winged Scarab – Wikimedia Commons (The MET)

Coffin face – Mummipedia

Wig with garland – https://www.reddit.com/r/ArtefactPorn/comments/9s2fym/the_wig_of_nauny_a_21st_dynasty_princess_buried/

Shabtis – Flickr (Shoshana)

Women Crush Wednesday: Winifred M. Brunton

For Women Crush Wednesday let’s talk about an Egyptologist who is known for her imaginative drawings of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt. Let’s meet Winnifred Brunton.

Early Life

Winifred Mabel Newberry was born on May 6th, 1880 in the Orange Free State of South Africa. Her father Charles Newberry was a millionaire who made his money in the diamond mining industry in Kimberly South Africa. Winifred’s mother was named Elizabeth and she was also very artistic. Her father was also the builder of Prynnsberg Estate, which is a large house in Clocolan. This house is still standing to this day and is now an elite hotel and wedding venue.

Egyptological Life

Winifred was presented to court in London in 1898. This is most likely where she met Guy Brunton, who became her future husband. Guy Brunton was an English archaeologist and Egyptologist. He most notably discovered the Badarian predynastic culture. He later became the Assistant Director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 1931.

There are very little photos of Guy Brunton that I could find, but those at the University of Cambridge archives think this is him sleeping possibly at the archaeological site of Matmar!

They were married on April 28th, 1906, and built a house together in Berea, Johannesburg later that year. Together they studied at University College London under Flinders Petrie, training with Margaret Murray. During this time, Winifred painted a portrait of Petrie.

They traveled to work with Petrie in Lahun from 1912 to 1914. Here, Winifred studied the evidence of the various paintings, sculptures, and even mummies to develop her final portraits. They also worked with Petrie at sites like Badari where Winifred drew many of the discovered artifacts.

In Guy’s publication of the excavations of Mostagedda in 1927 and 1929, he wrote that she was “the hardest-working member of the party” and “without her skill and untiring energy this volume would have had only a very small proportion of its value as a record.” Both of them would be on-site for months at a time and Guy and Winifred were equal partners. She was also known to work with Gertrude Caton Thompson and Hilda Petrie.

Winifred and her husband retired at her family’s mansion in Prynnsberg where she died in 1959 at the age of 78.

Her Art

Winifred was best known for her portraits of the ancient Egyptian kings and queens. She published many of these watercolors in her books, Kings, and Queens of Ancient Egypt in 1926 and Great Ones of Ancient Egypt in 1929.

While her portraits are not necessarily accurate, her portraits have been hugely influential and defined the faces of the Pharaohs and the Queens in popular cultures. I believe that some may need a little updating because of biases of the time.

Here is a link to some of her paintings with are on sale.

She also painted the murals in her family’s home, some of which were Egyptian-themed. The estate became a national gem, but her family’s fortune did not survive, and many items were sold in 1996. Some of the auction pieces were numerous Egyptian antiquities that the Bruntons excavated and one of her paint palettes, which is now in the collection of Lambert Vorster.

Her palette and a painting of an Egyptian

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winifred_Brunton

https://trowelblazers.com/winifred-brunton/

https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2014/01/17/cairo-camden-and-the-cape/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Brunton

Image Sources

Photo of her painting – Wikimedia Commons (Bobbyshabangu)

Cleopatra, Ramesses II, Nubian Pharaoh, ancient Egyptian couple, and other portraits – https://www.quora.com/What-do-Egyptologists-think-of-Winifred-Bruntons-portraits-of-ancient-Egyptian-royals-and-nobles

More portraits – https://alchetron.com/Winifred-Brunton

Her paint palette and a sketch of a young Egyptian – https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2014/01/17/cairo-camden-and-the-cape/

Image of Guy Brunton sleeping, possibly at Matmar – https://storestoriescambridge.wordpress.com/tag/winifred-brunton/

Portraits – http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/winiferbrunton.htm

Portraits – https://www.art.com/gallery/id–a62263/winifred-brunton-posters.htm?fbclid=IwAR2J2ACd_wjWvGC-J1rHg8i-VknxCMFQM4F2KmlQ7u5TDisfXQPZLFPcYww

Portraits – https://www.robertneralich.com/2019/05/06/sentient-in-san-francisco-6-may-2019/

Mummy Monday: Princess Ahmose

This week we are looking at another mummy found in the Valley of the Queens, who might have been the first person buried in this valley. Her name was Princess Ahmose, daughter of the 17th Dynasty pharaoh Sequenenre Tao!

Life

The name Ahmose means “Child of the Moon” and was a common name in the Late Second Intermediate Period and the early New Kingdom. Today we are talking about Princess Ahmose, the only known daughter of Pharaoh Sequenenre Tao and his sister/wife Sitdjehuti. Ahmose was the half-sister of Pharaoh Kamose, Pharaoh Ahmose I, and Queen Ahmose Nefertari, both of whom she outlived.

During her life she was given the titles of King’s Daughter and King’s Sister, indicating that she lived throughout her brother’s reign. It is estimated that she died during the rule of Thutmose I (who was her great-nephew) in the 18th dynasty when she was in her 40s.

Tomb

Ahmose’s tomb, QV47, is thought to be the earliest in the Valley of the Queens, which a nearby valley to the Valley of the Kings. This was a fairly simple tomb consisting of one chamber and a burial shaft, which are typical of the tombs in the Valley of the Queens. It is technically located in a subsidiary valley named the Valley of Prince Ahmose.

The tomb was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli during excavations in the valley from 1903 to 1905. The tomb was most likely pillaged in antiquity. The tomb contains some evidence of reuse from the Roman period, as well as evidence of modern flooding and bats.

Burial Goods

Although the tomb was looted in antiquity, enough material has been found to support a theory of a rich burial for the princess. The tomb has been cleared multiple times and objects were found every time. First, it was cleared by the Italian mission, which is when the mummy was originally found. Fragments of a wooden sarcophagus, fragments of the Book of the Dead, and leather sandals were also found.

In 1984, the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) re-excavated the tomb and found much more. They found a small cutting of human hair, inscribed shrouds, a wax seal, fragments of dyed leather, decorated wood, a fragment of a female figurine, and a fragment of a mummy. And finally, in October 2008, one more piece of a mummy was found in the tomb.

Supposedly there were almost remains of a canopic chest, though no remains of the jar. The inscription on the shroud and the fragments of the Book of the Dead (S.5051-S.5065) is what helped archaeologists identify the tomb as Ahmose’s and connect her with her father and mother. At the time of the excavation, this was the oldest Book of the Dead that had been found. It was written on linen and there are fragments of 20 different chapters.

Mummy

Her mummy (S.5050) and the majority of the other burial goods are all located in the Egyptian Museum in Turin because Schiaparelli discovered it. Unfortunately, there is very little information about the mummy. Ahmose probably died in her 40s, possibly from heart disease. She was also a relatively tall person for her advanced age.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmose_(princess)

https://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/pdf_publications/pdf/qv_vol1_part2.pdf

http://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/pdf_publications/pdf/qv_vol2.pdf

http://collezioni.museoegizio.it/en-GB/material/S_5050/?description=ahmose&inventoryNumber=&title=&cgt=&yearFrom=&yearTo=&materials=&provenance=&acquisition=&epoch=&dynasty=&pharaoh=

http://collezioni.museoegizio.it/en-GB/material/S_5051_S_5065/?description=ahmose&inventoryNumber=&title=&cgt=&yearFrom=&yearTo=&materials=&provenance=&acquisition=&epoch=&dynasty=&pharaoh=

Image Sources

Mummy – Wikimedia Commons – Khruner

Hieroglyphs – Wikipedia

Take pictures of tomb and mummy – From Valley of the Queen Assessment Report

Full Picture of Mummy, and all pieces of Papyrus – Turin Museum

Family Tree – https://historyofegypt.net/?page_id=4920

Women Crush Wednesdays: Berenice I

This week I am looking toward the end of Egyptian history at the Ptolemaic Era. Let’s talk about the second Greek Queen of Egypt, Berenice I.

Life Prior to Egypt

Cameo of a woman wearing a diadem, perhaps Berenice I. Possibly found in Pompeii, British Museum, 1814,0704,1718.

Berenice was born in Eordaea, which is an area in Northern Greece, around 340 BCE. She was the daughter of Princess Antigone of Macedon, and a Greek Macedonian nobleman called Magas. Her maternal grandfather was a nobleman called Cassander, who was the brother of Antipater, the regent for Alexander the Great’s empire.

Coin of Berenice’s son from her first marriage, Magas, King of Cyrene

In 325 BCE she married a local nobleman and military officer named Philip. He had been previously married and had other children. They had three children: Magas, future King Magas of Cyrene, Antigone, wife of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, and Theoxena. Magas dedicated an inscription to himself and his father when he served as a priest of Apollo and Pyrrhus named a city after his mother, Berenicis.

Life in Egypt

In 323 BCE, after conquering the Persian empire and almost reaching modern-day India, Alexander the Great died in Babylon. Because of this, Alexander’s empire was split into four main sections. Egypt was then ruled by one of Alexander’s generals Ptolemy, who was later known as Ptolemy I Soter.

Berenice moved to Egypt with her children in 321 BCE as a lady in waiting for the wife of Ptolemy, Eurydice, who was also Berenice’s mother’s first cousin. It is unclear if her husband came with her, but Philip seemingly died around 318 BCE, which would have been after she traveled to Egypt.

Berenice I’s daughter Arsinoe II on a gold coin

Shortly after Berenice’s arrival (and possibly after her husband’s death?), Ptolemy I took her as his concubine and married her in 317 BCE. It must be noted that he was still married to Eurydice, but this was typical. Apparently, because she was not of royal blood, a genealogy was fabricated to make her a half sister of the king.

In 308 BCE, Berenice gave birth to a son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, as well as two daughters Arsinoe II and Philotera. Berenice was crowned Berenice I, Queen of Egypt in 290 BCE.

Interestingly, her son was recognized as his father’s heir in preference to Eurydice’s children and he was made coregent by his father in 285 BCE. Ptolemy II’s second wife was his sister Arsinoe II, as we can see from this gold coin (British Museum, 1964, 1303.3) which marks them “Adelphon,” or Siblings. On the opposite side of these coins, Ptolemy I and Berenice I are marked with “Theon,” meaning Gods.

Although it is not clear, Berenice I most likely died in 277 BCE. After she died, her son and grandson decreed divine honors to her and her son named a port on the Red Sea, Berenice.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berenice_I_of_Egypt

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Berenice-I

https://www.livius.org/articles/person/berenice-i/

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1814-0704-1718

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/C_1964-1303-3

Images

Gold Coins and Cameo – British Museum

Ptolemy I statue in the Louvre – Wikimedia Commons (Marie-Lan Nguyen)

Berenice I drawing – Wikimedia Commons (Guillaume Rouille)

Coin of Magas, as King of Cyrene – Wikimedia Commons (Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.)

Coin of Arsinoe II – Wikimedia Commons (MET)

Bust of Ptolemy II, National Archaeological Museum, Naples – Wikimedia Commons (Marie-Lan Nguyen)

Mummy Monday: Unknown Man E

This Mummy Monday let’s talk about another mummy found in the Deir el Bahri cache, Unknown Man E. The identity of this mummy is not known, though there are a couple of theories. The most prominent theory is that this mummy is a Prince from the New Kingdom, who may have been involved and tried in a harem conspiracy.

Because we are not entirely sure who this mummy was, I am going to talk about the mummy first and then the theories as to who this mummy may be!

Coffin

The mummy was buried in a white simple Osiriform coffin (CG 61023) that was completely undecorated or labeled. It lacked any features to help date the coffin or identify the owner. The crossed arms on the coffin were popular in the 19th dynasty and onward, but the simple headdress dates to the earlier 18th dynasty. It was made out of expensive cedar wood, indicating whoever owned it was well off. The coffin and the mummy had seemingly not been rifled through by thieves.

Besides the mummy, two canes were found in the coffin. They were made out of braided reeds. Egyptologist Geoffrey Martin noted that the treasurer of Tutankhamun, a man named Maya, had been depicted in his tomb with two canes. Unfortunately, the canes current location has not been found.

Mummy

As I mentioned this mummy was found in the Dier el-Bahri cache (DB 320), which we have talked about several times. I’ve already posted about Nodjmet and Seqenrene Tao, who were also found in this cache.

Discovery of DB 320

The mummy we are focusing on has been labeled as Unknown Man E (CG 61098). He was about 18 to 24 years old at the time of his death. After the discovery of the cache in 1881, the mummy was transported back to Cairo where it was first unwrapped on June 6, 1886, by Gaston Maspero.

The first thing that everyone notices about the mummy is the internal scream that the face is locked in. This mummy has often been referred to as “The Screaming Mummy.” Unfortunately, this has led a few Egyptologists to assume he died a painful death, but more on that later.

The body was found wrapped in sheepskin, which for the Egyptians was a ritually unclean object. The sheepskin still has some of the original white wool attached. Beneath this were layers of thick linen, dating to the 18th dynasty, and a layer of natron salts which were applied to the final layers of the bandages. This natron had absorbed fat from the body and emitted a strong putrid odor when unwrapped. The bandages that covered that layer were impregnated with an adhesive and could only be removed with a saw, which would have destroyed any inscriptions that were on the bandages (if there were any).

It was originally believed that his hands and feet were found bound, but this could have been misinterpreted. Apparently, the bandages were held in place around the upper wrists and lower legs with knotted lengths of linen. They were tied extremely tightly because they left a definitive imprint on the skin on the upper arms. There is the possibility that the arms and legs were tied down because rigor mortis, or the stiffening of the joints and muscles of a body a few hours after death, had already set in by the time the body was mummified.

Underneath this layer was a coating of natron salt, crushed resin, and lime, which most likely consisted of calcium oxide. This was applied directly to the skin, covered the whole body, and was extremely caustic. After this was removed by Maspero and his team, they found the body of the young man. They noted that the muscles of his abdomen were extremely constricted and that his organs were still inside his body, going against all Egyptian mummification traditions. His penis was still intact but was missing when G.E. Smith examined the mummy a quarter-century later.

Gold earrings were found in his pierced ears. They were in the shape of hollow tubes “tapered at both ends and bent back to form an ellipse.” Like the canes found in the coffin, the earrings’ current location cannot be found.

Check out this image to the right and this video below to see a possible reconstruction of the face of Unknown Man E. The video also features one of his missing earrings!

Theories About the Mummy’s Death

When examining the mummy, Maspero had been convinced that there was foul play.

“All those who saw him first hand thought that [he] looked as though he had been poisoned. The contraction of the abdomen and stomach, the desperate movement with which the head is thrown back, the expression of excruciating pain spread over the face hardly allow for any other explanation.”

CT image of Unknown Man E, showing the lower neck region and shoulder joints. The scapulae are shifted to the lateral side (as seen by the arrows) and the soft tissues are inflated because of gas formation (star).

Daniel Fouquet, a physician who examined the mummy, was convinced that the mummy had died of poison, stating,

“…the last convulsions of horrid agony can, after thousands of years, still be seen.”

This seems to be based on the constriction of the abdomen. But this may be a reaction to the preservative chemicals that were placed on his skin. That substance would have sucked out all the moisture from his skin, which then would have made his internal organs shrink and thus constrict the skin of the abdomen. But one fact that may support poison is that there was no food found in his stomach which could indicate that he vomited everything up after ingesting the poison.

CT image of the lower thoracic region of the Unknown Man E. Thorax is filled with air (stars) and appears to be inflated. Residue in the diaphragm and organs (arrows) are present in the dorsal side.

A chemist named Mathey said this,

“the wretched man must have been deliberately asphyxiated–most likely by being buried alive.”

The buried alive theory seems to have been mostly attributed to the bound hands and feet and the horrible scream on the face. This is a theory that many believed in the early 1800s and 1900s and from what I know, I don’t believe there is evidence of any Egyptian being buried alive.

Some have also posed that he was impaled because his perineum was found badly torn. But this was unlikely because his large intestine was found undamaged, so the anal injury must have been post-mortem.

G.E. Smith dismissed these previous theories, saying,

“a corpse that was dead of any complaint might fall into just such an attitude as this body has assumed.”

It has been assumed that many of the earlier theories of his death were simply based on the mummy’s facial expression. Several other mummies are locked into this silent scream, which can mostly be attributed to rigor mortis, lockjaw, or the mummification method.

Theories About the Mummy’s Identity

There is very little known about who this mummy was in life, but based on the mummification techniques, there are a few theories, though only one (besides the theory of Maya, Tutankhamun’s treasurer), has a named Egyptian attached to it. Although this is one of the first theories, I’m going to talk about it last.

One of the theories is that this mummy was the unnamed Hittite prince that was sent by his father to marry Ankhsenamun, the widow/sister of King Tutankhamun. According to preserved documents, this prince was murdered on the way to Egypt. But why wasn’t he sent back to the Hittites?

One of the more important pieces of evidence for the identity of this mummy lies in the sheepskin laid on top of the body. As I mentioned, sheepskins were seen as ritually unclean by the ancient Egyptians. By why would an Egyptian noble or a Hittite prince buried in Egypt be buried with a sheepskin? Some scholars have looked at a reference is the story of the Tale of Sinuhe. In this story, the pharaoh tries to convince Sinuhe, a former friend and confidant who has been living abroad, to return to Egypt. The king says,

“You shall not die in a foreign land…you shall not be placed in a sheepskin as they make your grave.”

This implies that placing a sheepskin over a body was a non-Egyptian tradition.

This led some scholars to believe that this mummy was an important Egyptian governor or dignitary who had died abroad, possibly in an Egyptian outpost in Palestine. They speculate that maybe he died in the desert while hunting and his body was not found immediately. This would attribute to the rigor mortis that had set in and made it difficult for his body to fit in the coffin. Then his body would have been prepared by non-Egyptian embalmers, which was why the mummification was not consistent with Egyptian traditions. The sheepskin, possibly an Asiatic burial tradition, and the use of the calcium oxide mixture on the skin, which points to a Greek influence, are the two foreign features. The official may have already had the coffin prepared (since he might have been in a location where cedar wood was more accessible), but it had not been painted or inscribed with the vital texts. So they sent the mummy and the body back to Egypt.

The Egyptian officials who received it may have noticed the sheepskin and found it offensive, so they just immediately buried the coffin. Based on the location in the DB cache, the mummy was probably originally buried in the Valley of the Kings or somewhere close by. This location is probably true no matter what the identity of the mummy is.

An Answer to His Identity?

Maspero was the first to propose that this was the mummy of Pentawer, a prince of the 20th dynasty involved in a harem conspiracy that led to the death of his father. Maspero determined that the contorted expression, the organs not being removed, the tightly bound wrappings, the taboo sheepskin, and the undecorated coffin were all done to stop this person from entering the afterlife.

Bob Brier examining Unknown Man E

This theory was revived by Egyptologist Bob Brier, who was able to examine the mummy after it hadn’t been seen for almost 100 years. He also concluded that it was most likely the body of Pentawer.

Bob Brier and Zahi Hawass examining Unknown Man E. The large bundle in front of the body may the sheepskin??

Most importantly, the DNA of Ramesses III (who funnily enough was also buried in the DB 320 cache) and Unknown Man E were compared. They both shared paternal Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a and half of their DNA, which means that they were most likely father and son. Ramesses III had at least seven sons, most of which mummies have been found, so there is a small chance that this mummy could have been another one of his minor sons.

Zahi Hawass with the bodies of Unknown Man E and Ramesses III

You can check out this article by Zahi Hawass and others which studied the bodies of Ramesses III and Unknown Man E, thus helping connect them.

Who was Pentawer?

Pentawer, also known as Pentawere or Pentaweret, was the son of Pharaoh Ramesses III and his secondary wife Tiye (not related to the wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten, also called Tiye). All we know of this prince comes from the documents related to the harem conspiracy.

Image of one of the reconstructions of Unknown Man E

Interestingly the actual name of the prince is not known; this was just the name that was given to him in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin. This papyrus contains the records of the harem plot that he might have been involved in.

Harem Plot

The Judicial Papyrus of Turin is a combination of papyri in the Egyptian Museum in Turin that all describe the trial of those accused on the harem plot to kill Ramesses III. These papyri were separated by a thief to sell them. Luckily when they separated it, they did not damage the text. Papyrus Rollin, Papyrus Varzy, Papyrus Lee, Papyrus Rifaud, and Papyrus Rifaud II are all included in this collection.

The Judicial Papyrus of Turin

According to the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, Pentawer’s mother Tiye may have initiated a harem conspiracy to assassinate the pharaoh and put her son on the throne, even though the next in line to the throne was the son of Tyti. This plot was unfortunately not foiled as Ramesses III was most likely assassinated by having his throat slit on the 15th day of the third month of Shemu in 1155 B.C.E. This was the day of the Beautiful Feast of the Valley, which caused quite a commotion in the palace and harem in Medinet Habu, which was to provide cover for the assassination. Pebekkamen, a court official and one of the main conspirators, received help from a butler named Mastesuria, the cattle overseer Panhayboni, overseer of the harem Panouk, and clerk of the harem Pendua.

Ramesses III in his harem. From the Medinet Habu Temple

It was once thought by Egyptologists that Ramesses III may have survived the attack, but recent CT scans on his mummy reveal a different story. His throat was cut so severely that it severed the trachea, esophagus, and hit his neck bones. This means it was probably immediately fatal. Check out this video about recent CT examinations that helped determine these new clues.

Mummy of Ramesses III, including the extra bandages around the fatal wound on his neck

But they were unable to put Pentawer on the throne because there were too many officials still loyal to Ramesses III and his heir Ramesses IV. The new king selected 12 magistrates to investigate and judge the cases across five trials. Accusations were brought up against Tiye, Pentawer, men in charge of the harem, women from the harem, and military and civil officials.

This is a translation from a portion of the Judicial Papyrus,

“Pentawere, to whom had been given that other name. He was brought in because he had been in collusion with Teye, his mother, when she had plotted the matters with the women of the harem concerning the making rebellion against his lord. He was placed before the butlers in order to be examined; they found him guilty; they left him where he was; he took his own life.”

Check out this link to an entire book about the Harem Conspiracy by Susan Redford and check out the article below to read the Judicial Papyrus of Turin.

Pentawer may have been an unfortunate pawn in this conspiracy. And since he was a noble, he may have been given the option of killing himself by poison to be spared the alternative. 28 people were executed, meaning that they burned alive and their ashes were strewn in the streets, which would ruin their chances for the afterlife. Others like Pentawer were given the choice to kill themselves, while others had their ears and noses cut off. The punishment for Queen Tiye is not included.

The likelihood that Unknown Man E was the Prince Pentawer has gained enough traction to be more than likely. But I do appreciate the thorough study of the mummification method which concluded that this was a foreign dignitary mummified abroad. I think a lot of the unique features of the mummification method could be attributed to that, which is why I question why they (mostly the calcium oxide mixture) would be used if this was the body of Pentawer.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentawer

https://archive.archaeology.org/0603/abstracts/mysteryman.html

https://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/UnknownManE/ManE.htm

https://www.livescience.com/61749-screaming-mummy-backstory.html

https://strangeremains.com/2015/08/23/a-pharaonic-murder-mystery-that-was-solved-with-forensic-analysis/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harem_conspiracy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_Papyrus_of_Turin

https://ib205.tripod.com/unknown_man.html

Image Sources

Mummy – Wikimedia Commons – G Elliot Smith

Hieroglyphs of his name – Wikipedia Article

Bob Brier with mummy, with Zahi Hawass, and drawing of the discovery of DB320 – Pat Remler

The mummy, reconstruction, and coffin – The Theban Royal Mummy Project

Mummy of Ramesses III – Wikimedia Commons – G Elliot Smith

Judicial Papyrus of Turin – Wikimedia Commons – Khruner

Hawass, Unknown Man E, and Ramesses III – http://ambassadors.net/archives/issue34/selected_studies3.htm

Coffin Image – https://blog.selket.de/tag/pentawer

Women Crush Wednesday: Merneith

After taking about the first confirmed female pharaoh of Egypt, Sobekneferu, I also wanted to mention some earlier women who may have ruled Egypt. So let’s talk about Mereneith from the 1st Dynasty!

Life

Merneith (also known as Meritneith or Meryt-Neith) was a consort or queen during the 1st Dynasty of Egypt. Her name means “Beloved of Neith.” She may have been the daughter of Pharaoh Djer, which would have made her the granddaughter of the first pharaoh of a unified Egypt, Narmer. She was probably married to Pharaoh Djet and mother of Pharaoh Den, as indicated by a clay seal found in the tomb of Den, labeled “King’s Mother, Mereneith.”

She is believed to have ruled after the death of Djet sometime around 2950 B.C.E., although her title is still debated. It is possible that her son Den was two young to rule, so she may have ruled as regent for her son until he was old enough. But is she ruled in her own right, then she may have actually been the first female pharaoh of Egypt, or the second, if an earlier queen Neithhotep ruled in her own right. Her name is not recorded in any ancient king lists.

Merneith’s name can be seen on the far right. The vulture and the plant with shoots is the world for mother, while the three signs below it, spell her name.

She is known from only a select number of artifacts, none of which contain any depictions of her. Her name was found on a cylinder seal from the tomb of her son Den. This seal contains all the Horus names of kings from the 1st dynasty. Mereneith is mentioned here with her title, King’s Mother. Some objects were found with her name in the tomb of King Djer in Umm el-Qa’ab.

Reconstruction of the tomb of Mereneith in Abydos

In an unpresecedneted move, Mereneith may have built two sperate tombs for herself. First we will talk about her confirmed tomb in Abydos and then I will talk about her possible tomb in Saqqara.

Tomb in Abydos

Mereneith’s tomb in Abydos is located in the Umm el-Qa’ab cemetery, particularly in the 1st Dynasty royal cemetery. Her tomb is the strongest evidence that she was a ruler of ancient Egypt, because it is in the middle of the other royal tombs. She is buried in Tomb Y, which is close to the tombs of Djet and Den. Flinders Petrie discovered the tomb in 1900, and he believed that it belonged to a previously unknown male pharaoh. Two stela with her names were found outside this tomb

The tomb is only slightly smaller in scale to the other tombs at 16.5 meters by 14 meters. It was shown to contain a large underground chamber, lined with mud bricks. The actual burial chamber was dug deeper than rooms surrounding it. There were 8 storage rooms that were filled with pottery. This neck of a Levantine jug (UC 17421) which was found is currently at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. A schist bowl was also found labeled as “that which is from Mereneith’s treasury,” which confirms it was an offering from the royal treasury and not her personal property. A solar boat was found in or near her tomb, which would allow her to travel with the sun diety in the afterlife.

The tomb was surrounded by rows of small satellite burials, with at least 40 subsidiary graves for servants. During this period, servants were sacrificed to be buried with their king so that they could assist the ruler in the afterlife. This was significantly less than at her husband and her son’s tombs.

The Levantine jug handle found in the tomb of Merenneith in Abydos located in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (UC 17421)

Tomb in Saqqara

Reconstruction of the supposed tomb of Mereneith in Saqqara

Her name has also been found on inscribed stone vessels and seal impressions in a tomb in Saqqara, Mastaba S3503. This has lead some to believe that this is another tomb of Mereneith. It is 41 meters long and 16 meters wide. The exterior was decorated like a place façade, with nine niches on the long sides and three niches on the short sides. There were 23 chambers on the ground floor, with 20 subsidiary tombs arranged around the structure. Some have speculated that this tomb has features of some of the funerary structures of the 3rd dynasty. Behind the palace façade there is the base of a stepped structure.

Below the ground level there was a large burial chamber in the middle of the building with four side chambers. Although it was probably robbed in ancient times, multiple items were still found in their original locations. There was a large sarcophagus in the center, of which only a few wooden planks were found. They did contain the remains of a skeleton, but they could not be determined to be a man or a woman. Bowls and vessels were found in the remains of a chest, some of which were inscribed with the name of Mereneith. North of the sarcophagus, poles were found which were probably intended for a canopy or tent. There was also a cylinder seal found with her name inside a royal serekh. Interestingly, this serekh had an image of the goddess Neith rather than the typical Horus falcon on top of it.

The only evidence that this tomb does not belong to Mereneith is the tomb in Umm el-Qa’ab. While it is extremely unique that a pharaoh of the 1st dynasty would have two tombs, the presence of one tomb shouldn’t be the evidence against another tomb.

The only evidence that this tomb does not belong to Mereneith is the tomb in Umm el-Qa’ab. While it is extremely unique that a pharaoh of the 1st dynasty would have two tombs, the presence of one tomb shouldn’t be the evidence against another tomb.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merneith

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastaba_S3503

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/firstdynastysaqqara.htm

https://www.livius.org/articles/person/merneith/

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/abydos/abydostomby.html

https://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/queenmereneith/

http://www.ancient-egypt.org/who-is-who/m/merneith/tomb-y-at-umm-el-qaab.html

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/chronology/queenmeritneit.html

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/abydos/abydosforts2.html

Photo Sources

Detail of the tomb stela, Egyptian Museum Cairo (JE 34450) – Wikimedia Commons (Juan R. Lazaro)

Cemetery B, Umm el-Qa’ab – Wikimedia Commons (Jolle~commonswiki)

Plan of the main chamber of the tomb – Wikimedia Commons (Josiane d’Este-Curry)

Funerary enclosure – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/abydos/abydosforts2.html

Levantine jug – Petrie Museum (UC 17421)

Full stela – Ancient Egypt Fandom (Tomrowley)

Reconstruction of the tomb – http://www.ancient-egypt.org/who-is-who/m/merneith/tomb-y-at-umm-el-qaab.html

Reconstructions of Saqqara tombs – https://www.courses.psu.edu/art_h/art_h201_ejw3/egypt.html

Seal impression from the tomb of Den – http://xoomer.virgilio.it/francescoraf/hesyra/merneith.html

Royal Tombs of Abydos – Wikimedia Commons (PLstrom)

Mummy Monday: Sesheshet

This week we are going to take a look at a burial from the Old Kingdom! Let’s look at the mother of King Teti, Sesheshet.

Life

Very little is known about Sesheshet, sometimes known as Sesh. We do know that she was the mother of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Her husband’s name is unknown, but it unlikely that he was of royal blood. The last king of the 5th Dynasty, Unas, most likely died without an heir. But one of his daughters, Iput, married Teti, who them succeeded his father-in-law. It has been implied that Sesheshet had a significant role in arranging this marriage and thus enabled her son to gain the throne.

Very little is known about Sesheshet, sometimes known as Sesh. We do know that she was the mother of King Teti, the first pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Her husband’s name is unknown, but it unlikely that he was of royal blood. The last king of the 5th Dynasty, Unas, most likely died without an heir. But one of his daughters, Iput, married Teti, who them succeeded his father-in-law. It has been implied that Sesheshet had a significant role in arranging this marriage and thus enabled her son to gain the throne.

She is also referred to in the Ebers Papyrus, currently at the University of Leipzig, in Germany. In this papyrus, there was a medical recipe to cure baldness.

“Another remedy to make the hair grow, prepared for Shesh, the mother of his Majesty, The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Teti the justified.”

It is unclear if this recipe was made because the Queen was losing her hair or if the recipe was created at her request. For those curious, the cure for baldness is apparently, the claw of a dog, the hoof of a donkey and some boiled dates, though it is unclear what you were supposed to do with those ingredients!

For several other Egyptian cures for baldness, click here.

According to Manetho, a Late Egyptian priest who wrote about the history of the Egyptian pharaohs, Teti was murdered by his bodyguards in a harem plot, possibly by the usurper and next pharaoh Userkare. Though there is little evidence to back up this story, some have speculated that Sesheshet would have helped her son against the conspirators, but after her death, they defeated Teti.

Excavation

Again, we know very very little about Sesheshet. But remarkably her tomb and burial have been found.

On November 8th, 2008, the Supreme Council of Antiquties announced that they found Sesheshet’s pyramid in Saqqara. It was a subsidiary pyramid of her son Teti’s complex. The site had been excavated since 2006 and the pyramid was found in September 2008 under 7 meters of sand, a small shrine and mudbrick walls from later periods. The pyramid was not entered until January 2009.

A picture of the excavation. The pyramids in the distance are those of Teti, Userkaf, and the Step Pyramid of Djoser in the far back.

I will note that there is some conflicting data on whose pyramid this was. The Council announced that the pyramid was Sesheshet’s, but there are no inscriptions in the pyramid to prove this to be so. Some other articles mention that there was evidence within the pyramid, but do not elaborate. I believe that Sesheshet is the most likely candidate, as two other pyramids have already been identified as those of Teti’s wives.

Pyramid

The pyramid is now topless (currently 5 meters or 16 feet tall) but was most likely 14 meters or 46 feet tall when complete. It may have actually been Saqqara’s most complete subsidiary pyramid, as many of these were not completed. The base was 22 meters or 72 feet on all sides and the walls sloped at a 51 degree angle. The substructure of the pyramid was 19 meters underground.

Although I could not find a complete consensus from my sources, I believe the pyramid was found next to Teti’s Pyramid and the pyramids of his wives, Iput and Khiut. The other pryamids were found around 100 years ago and in 1994.

Sesheshet’s Pyramid is most likely north of #8, the Pyramid of Queen Iput. No map that included the new pyramid could be found.

The burial chamber was 22 meters long and 4 meters wide and a large granite sarcophagus was found inside. It had no inscriptions and the lid had two pinholes to secure it. The lid may have been around 6 tons (though other sources say the entire sarcophagus was that much). It took five hours for the lid to be lifted by the excavators.

Unfortunately, there was a vertical shaft from the top of the pyramid that was made by tomb robbers, so the excavators were not expecting much. The pyramid was mostly looted, but some treasures lay within the chamber and the sarcophagus.

According to some sources, the following items were found in the tomb: vessels made of alabaster and red clay, tools lacquered in gold, and canopic jars, possibly still holding the organs of the King’s Mother.

Mummy

Within the sarcophagus were the presumed remains of Sesheshet. Although her body may have been properly mummified when she died, the looters and time had tainted the body. A skull, legs, and pelvis were found, with bits of linen. Looters most likely took off the linen in search for gold or precious stone amulets or jewelry.

Though they were not able to take everything, as gold was found that would have covered the fingers of the deceased. If only I had a picture!

I know this wasn’t the most interesting Mummy Monday, but I wanted to try and move away from the later portion of Egyptian history, when the majority of the preserved mummies date to.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sesheshet

http://www.guardians.net/hawass/Press%20Releases/queens_pyramid_saqqara_11-08.htm

https://grahamhancock.com/phorum/read.php?1,308190

https://www.haaretz.com/1.5034161

http://judithweingarten.blogspot.com/2009/01/queens-are-magic.html

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-tomb-of-queen-sesheshet-49733615/

https://freddysetiawan.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/queens-mummy-found-in-4300-year-old-pyramid/

Photo Sources

Photos of the excavation – Mohamed Magahed

Picture of Teti Pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (Wknight94)

Teti Pyramid plan – Wikimedia Commons (Malyszkz)

Map of area – http://www.touregypt.net/sakkara.htm

Other Map – http://www.athenapub.com/aria1/_Egypt/DEpic/PE-SaqqaraNTomb1c.html

Ebers Papyrus, Mummy photos – Judith Weingarten Blog

Women Crush Wednesday: Sobekneferu

This week’s Women Crush Wednesday is a special one! She is the first woman for whom there is confirmed proof that she reigned as Pharaoh over all of Egypt. Her name is Sobekneferu and she ruled at the end of the 12th dynasty of the Middle Kingdom.

Life

The royal titulary of Sobekneferu

Sometimes her name is written as Neferusobek, instead of Sobekneferu. That is because her name is written with the nefer sign in front of the name of the crocodile god Sobek. In the Egyptian language, even if the name of a god is at the end of a word or phrase, it must always be pronounced first out of respect for the god. Her full name means “The Beauty of Sobek.”

Sobekneferu was the daughter of Amenemhat III. She may have also been the sister of Amenemhat IV, but this claim was from Manetho’s Aegyptiaca, which is not a complete or accurate source. Amenemhat IV was the son and heir of Amenemhat III, and he apparently died without a male heir.

There has been some speculation of how she was related to Amenemhat IV by scholars. Since the majority of her monumental works associate her with Amenemhat III, scholars believe she was only the stepsister of Amenemhat IV. Sobekneferu also never adopted the title of “King’s Sister,” which further supports this theory.

Sobekneferu had an older sister named Neferuptah, who was next in line after their half-brother. Her name was enclosed in a cartouche and she had her own pyramid at Hawara. But she died at an early age, probably before she even rose to the throne. This put Sobekneferu as next in line for the throne.

Reign

Sobekneferu probably ruled for about four years, circa 1806 to 1802 B.C.E. As I said before, she is the first confirmed female ruler of ancient Egypt. Some earlier Egyptian women are known to have ruled (for example, Neithotep and Merneith of the 1st dynasty), but there is no definite proof that they ruled in their own right. According to the Turin Canon Papyrus, which is a New Kingdom primary source that lists the rulers of Egypt and their reign lengths, Sobekneferu ruled for 3 years, 10 months, and 24 days.

During her reign, she made additions to the funerary complex of Amenemhat III (her father) at Hawara. Multiple fragments of the mortuary temple are inscribed with her name, including this piece of a column which included the end of the text saying, “…monument to her for her father, forever.”

Another column was found that depicted the serekhs of Amenemhat III and Sobekneferu. A serekh is a Predynastic and Old Kingdom version of a cartouche that depicts a falcon bird. This associated the king with the god Horus. Here, the serekh of Amenemhat III is giving an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life, to Sobekneferu, implying that she was a legitimate ruler through him. It is especially interesting because she is labeled as the female Horus.

Sobekneferu may have also built a sanctuary at Heracleopolis Magna, though she most likely added onto a previous structure of Senusret III.

Graffito from Semna

There is also a Nile graffito at the Nubian fortress of Semna that dates to her reign. It states that the Nile flood, or inundation, rose to a height of 1.83 meters in Year 3 of her reign. And finally, an inscription found in the Eastern Desert records, “Year 4, second month of the Season of the Emergence” of her reign.

Four cylinder seals have been found bearing her name and her royal titulary. They are all located at the British Museum (one being EA 16581). Cylinder seals are small cylinders that are engraved with either inscriptions or figurative scenes. These can be rolled in wet clay to create an impression, such as signing a document. Here her Horus name, Nebty name, Gold Horus name, and nomen are listed with an epithet of Sobek, Lord of Shedyt.

She died without an heir and her death concluded Egypt’s 12th dynasty and the Middle Kingdom.

Depictions

Only a few of her monuments have been discovered. Many headless statues of her have been preserved.

Three statues of her were found in 1941 in Tell el-Dab’a in the Delta. They were all headless. The first depicts Sobekneferu kneeling, offering something to a god. The second and the third depict her sitting on a throne, though the second was in much better condition. In this statue, her feet are seen crushing nine arches, which represent the nine enemies of Egypt. (Click through the photos to read more about them and their surviving inscriptions.)

This fragmented statue of her is located in the Louvre (E 27135). It is made out of red sandstone and depicts the chest and waist of the Queen. There is a pendant around her neck that looks very similar to pendants carved on statues of Senusret III and Amenemhat III. Her cartouche is carved on her belt, which helps identify this fragment. This statue also shows a mix of male and female characteristics. She wears both a female sheath dress and a male kilt overtop of it. She is also clearly wearing a nemes headdress. This is not to suggest that she was pretending to male, because is always uses female suffixes on her title. This may have just been a way to pacify critics of her rule or as a desire to represent herself as a traditional pharaoh.

One statue of her head is known. It was purchased by the Egyptian Museum Berlin (no 14476) in 1899, but it was lost in WWII (it is unclear if it was stolen, destroyed, or literally lost). It is now only known from photographs and plaster casts. It was 14 cm high and made of greywacke. The face of the woman shows signs of age, which helps date it stylistically to the Late Middle Kingdom.

Recently, it has been concluded by Egyptologist Biri Fay that this head would have fit on a lower part of a royal statue discovered in the Temple of Taharqa in the Nubian fortress in Semna.

This piece is currently located at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (24.742) and is 21.4 cm tall. The chair that Sobekneferu sits on contains a sema -tawy sign. This is a motif of a lotus and a papyrus plant being tied together and it a symbol of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. This sign is typically only used with Egyptian royalty, particularly the pharaoh, so it can be presumed to depict Sobekneferu.

Burial

Now, unfortunately, even though Sobekneferu is the first confirmed female ruler, this is all we really know about her. Her reign was short and thus she probably did not have time to build a pyramid or funerary complex, as was typical of Middle Kingdom royalty.

There is some speculation that she may have planned or been buried in a pyramid complex in Mazghuna, south of Dahshur. There are the ruins of two pyramids here, both of which are of similar layout and completely uninscribed. Since the southern complex has been tentatively attributed to Amenemhat IV, the northern pyramid could have belonged to Sobekneferu. A papyrus from Harageh dating to her rule mentions a place called Sekhemneferu, which could have been the name of her pyramid.

The remains of the Northern Mazghuna Pyramid

The North Mazghuna Pyramid was either built in the late 12th or early 13th dynasty. It was unfinished and no royal inscriptions have been found. It was rediscovered in 1910 by Ernest Mackay and excavated the following year by Flinders Petrie.

Plan of the North Pyramid of Mazghuna

The superstructure of the pyramid was never started, but it was most likely intended to be larger than the Southern Mazghuna pyramid. The substructure of the pyramid, otherwise called the hypogeum, is a twisting path, changing direction six times. The entrance is on the north side of the pyramid and has a staircase leading down to a square chamber. This then leads to another staircase and the first quartzite blocking stone. These stones were intended to fend off tomb robbers, but many of these stones were not put into place, probably because construction was abandoned.

Substructure or hypogeum of the Northern Mazghuna Pyramid

After that two other chambers are connected by a passage with another blocking stone. After the third chamber, there is a stairway and an antechamber. This room leads to the burial chamber, which was partially covered by an inverted V-shaped ceiling. The chamber was entirely filled by a huge sarcophagus lid, made out of a 42-ton quartzite slab. This was never fitting into the chamber. There was another room behind the burial chamber, whose function is unknown.

All exposed quartzite had been painted with red paint and sometimes decorated with vertical black stripes. Typically pyramid complexes had a few associated buildings, including a mortuary temple, a causeway, and a valley temple, none of which were found in this case. One portion of the causeway has been discovered, but again construction may have been abandoned early on in the building process.

Though we do not know much about Sobekneferu or her burial, she is still extremely important to our understanding of Egyptian history and the role of ancient Egyptian women!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sobekneferu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Sobekneferu

https://collections.mfa.org/objects/145757

https://ancientegyptonline.co.uk/sobekneferu/

https://mathstat.slu.edu/~bart/egyptianhtml/kings%20and%20Queens/Sobekneferu.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Mazghuna_pyramid

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA16581

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/Y_EA66159

http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=23673&langue=en

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17057387149/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17242980762/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17218263246/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17112628709/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17319324991/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17132263418/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/17382539481/in/album-72157628918539107/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71637794@N04/7049052547/in/album-72157628918539107/

Photo Sources

Statue at the Louvre – Wiki Commons Public Domain

Statue at Berlin – Wiki Commons (Hedwig Fecheimer)

Cylinder seal, drawn by Flinders Petrie – Wiki Commons (Flinders Petrie)

Interior of Pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (I, Bakha)

Drawing of the pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (Lespsius)

Inscription – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt//hawara1/archive/uc14337.jpg

Plan of Pyramid – https://egyptphoto.ncf.ca/mazghuna.htm

Ruins of Pyramid -https://famouspharaohs.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-pyramid-of-sobekneferu.html

Column, inscriptions, statues – Flickr (Juan R. Lazaro)

Royal Titulary – https://mathstat.slu.edu/~bart/egyptianhtml/kings%20and%20Queens/Sobekneferu.html