April 22, 2012

Ramses XI Pharaoh 1098-1070BC

Ramses XI
(Menmaatre ) Setepenptah 
Dynasty 20
1098-1070BC

With the long 28-year reign of Ramses XI the 20th Dynasty comes to a close. At least a little more is known about him than his ephemeral predecessors. Some idea of the internal situation of Egypt is given in a papyrus set towards the end of the reign - the Tale of Wenamun, preserved in Moscow. Wenamun was sent by Ramses XI to Byblos to secure cedars of Lebanon for the barque of Amun at Thebes. In days gone by he would have been an honoured visitor and been given whatever he required for the Egyptian king. Now, not only was it so unsafe to travel that he was robbed on his way to Byblos, but Egypt's stock had fallen so low in the Near East that Wenamun had to pay the princes of Byblos for the wood, and he had lost the payment in the robbery. It is a tale of vicissitudes that reflects the instability of Egypt.

Relief of Ramesses IX at Karnak
The office of Viceroy of Kush, and hence an interest in Nubia, still existed since a letter to the Viceroy, Panehesy (in Turin), of Year 17 exhorts him to chase up a laggard royal butler who had gone to collect suitable materials for a shrine. Civil war now raged on and off in the Theban region with the king ruling from the north at his capital, Piramesse, whilst the High Priests of Amun held the south of the country. Amenhotep, High Priest of Amun, appears to have over-reached himself, however, since he disappears before Year 12 and Panehesy established himself at Thebes, acting for the king. Some time between Years 12 and 19 Herihor appeared on the scene as High Priest of Amun, having risen through army ranks rather than priestly ones it seems. By Year 19 Panehesy had disappeared. Herihor claimed Panehesy's titles as Viceroy of Kush and other high-ranking offices, and he appears to have taken over the supreme office of vizier, leaving him in a position of unassailable power in the south.

The major monument confirming the might of Herihor is the temple of Khonsu, the moon-god son of Amun, which lies just within the southern temenos wall of the Karnak complex. Reliefs here depict Herihor at the same scale as the king, although not in the same scenes, and in the forecourt Herihor's name and titles appear in the royal cartouche. The implications are obvious. It seems that there might have been as much as a six-year overlap in the reigns of Ramses XI and Herihor, each ruling in their own northern and southern domain respectively, and with Herihor dying before Ramses XI. The story is not so much one of blatant usurpation as of a tacit recognition by each of the other's sphere of influence. The documents certainly recognize this with dual dating, where Year 2 of Herihor is equated with Year 25 of Ramesses.

The Interior of Ramesses IX's KV6 royal tomb
Ramses XI had a tomb excavated in the Valley of the Kings (KV 4), just outside the main eastern group and a little further up a narrow wadi beyond the tomb of Amenhotep Ill's parents-in-law, Yuya and Tuya. Although the tomb has been open since antiquity, it was only cleared scientifically in 1980 on behalf of the Brooklyn Museum. A curious story emerged. Apparently, Ramses XI had not been buried in the tomb and it was, as usual, unfinished.

However, from the many fragments of material relating to earlier royal burials found in the debris, it appears that after the tomb was abandoned it became a workshop where some of the royal mummies in process of being transferred to other hiding places (i.e. KV 35 and DB 320, p. 103) were stripped of any valuables that could be used to bolster the country's failing economy; even gold leaf was adzed off coffins such as that of Tuthmosis III. Ramses XI's mummy has not been found and may well yet be located in a third cache, along with other 'missing persons'.

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