April 22, 2012

The royal burial chambers at Tanis and 21st Egyptian Dynasty

The royal burial chambers at Tanis
Further links between Tanis and Thebes manifested themselves in a temple dedicated to the Theban trio of Amun, Mut and Khonsu at Tanis. It was within the precinct of this temple that Pierre Montet found in 1939-40 the stone-built burial chambers of the 21st Dynasty kings. The rich tomb of Psusennes was found intact, the only pharaonic grave ever discovered thus (the fabulous tomb of Tutankhamun having been robbed twice in antiquity before being resealed, p. 135).

A large carved red granite sarcophagus enclosed a black granite anthropoid coffin, which in turn held a silver inner coffin. Over the face of the mummy lay a gold face mask, but the mummy had been substantially destroyed by the poor conditions. The large sarcophagus had originally been used 170 years earlier for the burial of Merneptah, successor of Ramses II, in the Valley of the Kings, as his still readable cartouches on the lid showed. The black granite coffin had belonged to a high-ranking 19th Dynasty noble who could not be identified.

The reuse of a Theban sarcophagus shows that there was friendly contact between north and south, and also that the Valley of the Kings was in course of being officially looted or its contents recycled. Other members of the royal court buried at Tanis included Psusennes' wife, Mutnodjmet, and his son and successor, Amenemope. Curiously Amenemope was buried in his mother's tomb and not in the one prepared for him. His burial at Tanis produced a fine group of funerary material, including a rather bland-looking gold face mask, but was not so rich as that of Psusennes.

The Royal Tombs of Tanis
Between the reigns of Amenemope and Siamun there seems to have been a ruler called Aakheperre Setepenre, usually referred to as 'Osorkon the Elder', who may have reigned for up to six years, but the evidence is very scanty.

Siamun, who came to the throne in about 978 BC, reigned for almost 20 years. He is chiefly represented by his extensive building work in the Delta, at Piramesse but principally at Tanis where he enlarged the temple of Amun. His name, however, is also very prevalent at Thebes, where it occurs several times with different regnal years on the bandages used in the rewrapping of a number of the later royal mummies from the Deir el-Bahari cache of 1881 (DB 320).

The little light that is thrown on the 21st Dynasty comes largely from the Biblical record, since the period coincides with the struggle of David in Israel to unite the tribes and destroy the Philistines, exemplified initially in the story of David and Goliath. Siamun obviously kept a watching brief on the Near Eastern situation and Egypt was able to interfere from time to time to protect her own interests and trade routes. Now, however, there was an evident change in the Egyptian view of diplomatic marriages. Where, hitherto, there had been a stream of foreign princesses coming to the Egyptian court, the process was slightly reversed, with Egyptian princesses 'marrying out'.

One princess married Hadad, the crown prince of the kingdom of Edom, when he took refuge in Egypt after succumbing to David's attacks. A son of this union, Genubath, was brought up in the old tradition at the Egyptian court and his father eventually regained his throne after David's death, no doubt still maintaining close family and trade ties with Egypt.

An Egyptian campaign in which Gezer was seized from the weakened Philistines is recorded in the Old Testament. Solomon had succeeded his father David and an Egyptian alliance was sealed by Solomon's marriage to an Egyptian princess. The end of the dynasty came with Psusennes II whose reign, lasting 14 years, is little known. His successor, Sheshonq I, the founder of the 22nd Dynasty, married Maatkare, Psusennes' daughter, thus forging another dynastic marriage tie.

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