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Monday, 28 February 2022

A Return to Object-Based Learning at the Egypt Centre

Many readers of this blog will know that the Egypt Centre is a strong advocate of object-based learning (OBL). Several blog posts have previously highlighted handling sessions delivered to Swansea University students and other audiences. While the COVID-19 Pandemic meant that in-person handing sessions couldn’t take place, since October 2021 these have been able to resume again. This semester is particularly busy as the Egypt Centre works with colleagues in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Swansea University. This short blog post will briefly highlight some of the exciting opportunities provided to Swansea University students this semester.

Fig. 1: Students examining a First Intermediate Period stela (EC148)

Second-year Egyptology students have had weekly handling sessions as part of a module led by Dr Christian Knoblauch on Egyptian Art and Architecture (CLE220). So far, they have had weeks on sculpture and relief, while the most recent session looked at the art of the Old Kingdom. These handling sessions are directly related to assessment, so the students are always very attentive. Students spend approximately fifteen minutes examining an object before switching to another one (fig. 1). In total, they have the opportunity to examine five to six objects per session. At the end, students are asked to stand next to the object they liked the most, which is always a fun experiment!

Fig. 2: Students practising conditions reports

For many years now, Egypt Centre staff have been directly involved in teaching an MA module (CL-M77) called Reaching the Public: Museums and Object Handling. During this module, students explore topics such as museum ethics, education in museums, preventive conservation, and object-based learning. As part of their assessment, students have to undertake a condition report on an unseen object from the collection. Additionally, they are required to select four objects from the collection, based around a common theme of their choice, before delivering a thirty-minute handling session to an audience. In order to prepare the students for these assessments, they have been able to handle objects over the past few weeks (fig. 2). For example, last Monday students were provided with five objects and were asked to utilise all their senses when examining them (fig. 3). They were also introduced to the Visible Thinking Strategy (VTS), which further encourages students to think critically about museum objects.

Fig. 3: ‘Objects in teaching and learning’ (Flinders University Museum of Art)

A special project started this year is the Swansea University Pottery Project (SUPP), a collaboration between Dr Christian Knoblauch and I. The aim of this project is to fully document all the pottery in the Egypt Centre collection, including providing detailed descriptions, measurements, classifications, new photography, and eventually drawings. Eleven students, ranging from first-year students right through to PhD level, have been selected to undertake these tasks. The project itself is expected to last for two years, if not more, so while some students will be able to continue with the project in the next academic year, new students will also have the opportunity to join us. This is an extramural project that doesn’t carry any credits or have any assessments, but it is clearly one that the students enjoy immensely since some of them regularly turn up ahead of the time slot so that they can start working on the objects (fig. 4). The project has already been successful so far in identifying some new provenances for some of the vessels, including one from Naqada and another from Meroe. More details about this project will follow in a separate blog post!

Fig. 4: Bethany closely examining a vessel from Meroe (W742)

Feedback from students indicates how much they enjoy these sessions and appreciate the opportunity to work directly with the Egypt Centre collection. It’s certainly wonderful to be back offering these sessions in person rather than virtually, as was the case in the last academic year!

Monday, 21 February 2022

In the Service of the Gods: The Role of Priestesses

The blog post for this week is written by Linda Kimmel, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the United States. When she retired from full-time work as a data research manager in late 2020, she began studying about the ancient world, and serving as a docent at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Linda had never heard of the Egypt Centre before the pandemic but has taken every course offered since she first noticed a tweet about the museum in the fall of 2020 and hopes to visit Swansea in late 2022 or 2023.

The last five weeks flew by as I spent my Sunday afternoons (U.S. time) enjoying the latest Egypt Centre course, In the Service of the Gods: Priests and Priestesses in Ancient Egypt, taught by Ken Griffin. While I was sad that the course was ending, I had looked forward to the final class, the role of priestesses, the entire course. Despite the claim by Herodotus that “no woman holds priestly office, either in the service of goddess or god; only men and priests in both cases” (Herodotus II, 35), we saw in both this class and the one the week before, that women filled many roles “in the service of goddess or god”. Additionally, these roles often changed over time. Women held a wide variety of titles connected to temples, although it is unclear how many were functional rather than honorific.

The titles women held varied with some being regional, and others connected to specific gods and goddesses. In our final class, Ken introduced us to many different titles held by women, including the Priestess of Hathor, the Priestess of Mut, and the Priestess of Min. We learned that female priestly roles were downgraded during the New Kingdom. At the same time, the roles of female musicians became more prominent. I was particularly intrigued by the title of Chantress and the associated Kheneret. I wanted to know more about female musicians in ancient Egypt!

Fig. 1: Female musicians with instruments (MMA 30.4.9)

Music is an important element in many religions, both ancient and modern, and the religion of ancient Egypt was no exception. For the ancient Egyptians, music served to appease the gods. While there are examples of male musicians, musicians were primarily female. It was believed that the gods were fond of music and could be “pacified” by a woman’s voice (Onstine 2005). Musicians are easy to identify in tomb reliefs by the instruments they carry, such as in this relief from Theban Tomb 38 (fig. 1).

The title of Chantress is one of the most common found for women in ancient Egypt. While priestesses reached a peak during the Old Kingdom, the title of Chantress was originally attested in the Old Kingdom but became more common in the New Kingdom. Initially, most of the women who held the title of Chantress seem to have been from elite, and even royal, families. However, as time went on, Chantresses were drawn from less elite families. In fact, the title of Chantress eventually became so common that some Egyptologists estimate that most households probably had one. Some women held multiple titles, and their titles could be associated with specific gods, such as the Chantress of Amun and the Singer of Khonsu.

Fig. 2: Image of the sistrum at the Egypt Centre (W553

But what did a Chantress do? They seem to have been responsible for singing and playing musical instruments in temple activities and festivals, and in funeral processions. They are commonly depicted carrying sistra and other musical instruments. Sistra are often associated with the goddess Hathor and were shaken to produce a noise. Graves-Brown (2010, 96) suggests that the “sistrum was shaken to drive away hostile forces and revive the gods”. The Egypt Centre has an intriguing bronze sistrum (fig. 2) dated from the Late Period to the Graeco-Roman Period that includes images of both Hathor and Bes. Chantresses can also be depicted clapping in a rhythmic manner and holding a menat, a form of jewelry also associated with the goddess Hathor (figs. 3–4). Like a sistrum, the menat necklace could be shaken to produce a swishing sound from the beads (Emerit 2013).

Fig. 3: Hathor presenting Menat necklace to Seti I (Louvre B 7)

The Chantress was originally associated with the Kheneret, but rather than being a single individual, the Kheneret was a group. The exact meaning of the group has been disputed. Early Egyptologists translated the word as meaning a “harem,” with a host of disparaging connotations. More recently, the term has been translated as a “musical troupe,” or a group of musicians who had an important role in Egyptian religion. The Kheneret are most frequently attested during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, but rarely during the New Kingdom. As with the title of Chantress, the Kheneret could be attached to specific deities, with the most common association to Hathor. The Kheneret were often associated with the palace, with the King’s daughters shown as participants. We learned about an interesting association between the Kheneret and an artifact found in many museums, such as one in the Egypt Centre (fig. 5): the paddle doll. These paddle dolls have been identified in a variety of ways by Egyptologists from actual dolls to signs of sexuality, to associations with the goddess Hathor. Ken introduced us to an article by Ellen Morris (2011) who believes the dolls represent members of the Kheneret.

Fig. 4: Menat necklace from Malqata (MMA 11.215.450)

Many details are still unclear about the titles of Chantress and Kheneret. For example, how much access did the musicians have to the temples? Did they have access to the inner sanctums of the temples or were they limited to the courtyards? Similarly, where did they live? We know male priests lived within the temple complex. However, so far, there is no evidence as to whether these female musicians lived within the temples or had their own homes.

Fig. 5: Paddle Doll in the Egypt Centre (W769)

What do we know about the women who held these positions, and how do we know it? These questions led to an exploration of a major source of information: burial equipment. From artefacts such as mummy bandages, coffins, and shabtis, we often know the names of the women, their family members, and the titles held by their family members. From such sources we know that many of the women were married to priests, although they might not have served the same gods. Some of these women are also identified by the burial equipment of their family members. For example, a mummy bandage in the Egypt Centre reveals that the deceased’s mother was the Sistrum Player of Amun-Re (fig. 6).

Fig. 6: Mummy bandage mentioning a Sistrum Player of Amun-Re (W901)

The class ended with an in-depth look at some of the funerary equipment, including an inner coffin of the Chantress of Amun, Iwesenhesetmut (fig. 7). She held this title during the Twenty-first Dynasty. Her exact tomb location is unknown but is believed to be in Western Thebes. There is a fascinating post from late last year about this equipment at the Egypt Centre blog, which can be read here.  

Fig. 7: Inner coffin of Iwesenhesetmut (W1982)

I remain sad this course is over; I could easily do another five weeks or more on the topic. But in the meantime, I will be catching up with some of the wonderful articles Ken has sent us each week, while waiting for the next course, The Funerary Artefacts of the Ancient Egyptians, to start on February 27, 2022.


Emerit, Sibylle 2013. Music and musicians. Edited by Willeke Wendrich. UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology 2013 (July).

Graves-Brown, Carolyn 2010. Dancing for Hathor: women in ancient Egypt. London: Continuum.

Morris, Ellen F. 2011. Paddle dolls and performance. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 47, 71–103.

Onstine, Suzanne Lynn 2005. The role of the chantress (šmꜥyt) in ancient Egypt. BAR International Series 1401. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Monday, 14 February 2022

The God's Wives of Amun

 This blog is written by Pam Llewellin and covers the fourth in the series of lectures on The Service of the Gods; Priests and Priestesses in Ancient Egypt. Pam is retired and now has the time to develop her special interest in ancient religions, particularly the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. She co-administers two ancient Egyptian history websites with 13,000 members in the US and around the world, and is a regular visitor to Egypt with a particular interest/obsession with Karnak Temple.

In his fourth lecture of the course In the Service of the Gods: Priests and Priestesses in Ancient Egypt, Dr Griffin discussed the God’s Wives of Amun; the office closely associated with the service of the god at the great temple of Amun at Karnak. Dr Griffin mostly covered the periods of the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Dynasties (fig. 1). The Egyptian name for this title was ḥmt ntr n I͗mn and Dr Griffin tells us that the role was active from the Middle Kingdom onwards but came to economic and political prominence during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Most of those holding the title of the God’s Wife of Amun, prior to the Third Intermediate Period, were married to and appointed by the ruler of the time at the period when the creator god Amun became the main god worshipped at Karnak, and which also saw the role of High Priest of Amun increase in importance within the temple hierarchy. The role would later be inherited by the daughter of the king through being “adopted” by her predecessor.

Fig. 1: The God's Wife Amenirdis I

To the ancient Egyptians, the concept of a mortal woman in union with the supreme god Amun as his wife and consort, was completely acceptable, particularly when it came to temple rituals and religious festivals where she could be seen portraying this role alongside Amun’s divine wives, Mut and Amunet (fig. 2). There has been some conjecture as to the role of the God’s Hand title within the office which implies that one of the God’s Wife’s duties was to “stimulate” the god sexually, believed to be achieved perhaps, by shaking her sistrum. Miriam Ayad queries this theory and points out the instances of many pharaohs and priests holding/shaking sistra, with no sexual connotation. As with so many other rituals and practices, we don’t have the evidence to substantiate this claim in one way or the other.

Fig. 2: An unnamed God's Wife performing the Ritual Buring of Fans

Her other duties, as well as the ceremonies and rituals associated with the office are somewhat shrouded in mystery. The little information we do have comes from texts, and iconography on the temples, papyri and from their chapel walls. We know she performed a priestly role and would sometimes partake in the rituals usually associated with the pharaohs, such as the “burning of the fans” or the “stretching the cord” at the early construction of a temple (fig. 3). Her iconography includes the vulture headdress, the double plumes of Amun, the modius, the sistrum, the fly whisk, baton, and a circlet.

Fig. 3: Shepenwepet II stretching the cord

One appointment of significance is that of King Ahmose II (c.1552–1527 BC) who purchased the office of priesthood for his Great Royal Wife and half-sister. In so doing, Ahmose resurrected an obscure Middle Kingdom title and gave it national importance by linking it to the cult of Amun, helping to cement his own status in the newly united Egypt. This new title would be displayed on the Donation Stela in which the new God’s Wife of Amun, Ahmose-Nefertari, is depicted (fig. 4). The stela establishing the perpetual right of the heirs of the God’s Wife to the title, office, and the economic benefits from the temple estates and to keep the successors’ independence from future generations of rulership.

Fig. 4: The Donation Stela of Ahmose II

Ramesses VI conveyed the title of God’s Wife to his daughter Isis, in an effort to bolster his power at Thebes (fig. 5). She held the office for twenty-five years and survived into the reign of Ramesses X. She is probably the first God’s Wife to live in celibacy with no evidence that she was married. While other women had held the title of Gods Wife, God’s Hand, and Divine Adoratrice, only three held all three titles: Henuttawy of the Twenty-first Dynasty; Karomama Meritmut of the Twenty-second Dynasty, and Maatkare I Mutemhat, daughter of King Psusennes I of the Twenty-sixth dynasty. Karomama Meritmut is possibly the daughter of Osorkon II of the Twenty-second Dynasty and was adopted by Henuttawy as heir and successor to the office. The overseer of her treasury Ahentefnakht presented her with the now famous bronze statue of Karomama Meritmut, the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, now on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris. When Maatkare’s mummy was discovered in the Deir el-Bahari cache, it was initially thought that she was buried with the mummy of a child alongside her, thus debunking the idea of religious celibacy. Later technology would reveal that it was the mummified body of a baboon thereby protecting her reputation as celibate.

Fig. 5: The God's Wife Isis before Osiris

Prior to the invasion of Egypt by the Nubians, the God’s Wife of Amun was already a prominent individual in Thebes and was quickly recognised by the Nubians as having great political potential. Shepenwepet I was the daughter of Osorkon III (777–749 BC) and was a single woman with no record of a husband or of her having had children (fig. 6). She was the only God’s Wife to bear the royal titles Lord of the Two Lands and Lord of Appearances. Shepenwepet was compelled to adopt Amenirdis I, the Nubian daughter of Kashta, the monarch of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and name her as her successor and chosen heir. Shepenwepet I and Amenirdis I are depicted together in a rock drawing in Wadi Gasus. It is thought she is buried in a chapel at Medinet Habu.

Fig. 1: Shepenwepet being suckled by Hathor

Amenirdis I would be in office from 714–700 BC, and would adopt Piye’s daughter Shepenwepet II as her successor and heir. She was buried in a tomb in the grounds of Medinet Habu. Shepenwepet II was appointed as the God’s Wife during the reign of Shebitqo. During her term of office, she completed the funerary chapel of Amenirdis I and had her own funerary chapel constructed alongside the woman who had “adopted” her (fig. 7).

Fig. 7: Shepenwepet II before Harakhty, Isis, and Amenirdis I

The political climate changes during the Saite Period when Psamtek of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty becomes pharaoh and appoints his daughter Nitokris I to be God’s Wife and moves her from the Delta to Thebes. As Nitokris I was only a child when her father appointed her to be God’s Wife, she was able to keep the office for seventy years, from 655–585 BC (fig. 8). Before the previous holders of the office both died, the title of God’s Wife appears to have become less important and the main title would become that of Divine Adoratrice. It is at this time that the office of High Priest of Amun also appears to have disappeared. This could possibly be linked to the association between Amun and the unpopular Kushites and, as the god Amun was not the main god of Lower Egypt, his worship and influence would be overtaken by the cult of Osiris and Isis which inevitably weakened the political power and influence of the Priesthood of Amun at Karnak. The next God’s Wife was Ankhnesneferibre the daughter of Psamtek II who was made successor to the office by Nitokris I in the middle of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. As far as we know, she is the last God’s Wife of Amun as it is questionable whether her “adopted” successor. Nitokris II. ever took up the office and the role was completely abolished when the Persians invaded Egypt and took control of the country.

Fig. 8: Nitokris I and her High Steward Pabasa

To conclude the session, Dr Griffin concentrated his talk on Princess Neferure, the daughter of Tuthmose II and the successor of her mother, Hatshepsut, who had been the God’s Wife of Amun prior her becoming the ruler of Egypt. Dr Griffin showed us W1376 from the Egypt Centre, a relief of a female figure and how, through a process of research and observation, he was able to determine that this was someone of royalty (fig. 9). He was able to determine that the figure was a female by the hieroglyph by the presence of the female pronoun in the inscription. The key to conclusively identifying the image was the hardly noticeable modius above the head on the relief, as it had been erased, but when he compared it with other images was able to confirm that the relief was Neferure. Neferure was quite young when she took up the office of God’s Wife. There are images of Neferure in several temples, including the Netjery-menu at Karnak and the Funerary Temple of Hatshepsut. Her tomb is at Wadi Gabbanat el-Qurud on the West Bank of Luxor.

Fig. 9: Relief of Neferure (W1376)

Mariam Ayad said in a recent television programme on Sacred Sites that the role of God’s Wife was akin to “that of a Medieval Pope”, and we have been shown how the role of God’s Wife could have been used as a vehicle for retaining or transmitting royal political power. How this power was used by the holder of the office is something we might never get to know but it does seem quite telling that the stewards who served the God’s Wife built some of the largest tombs ever found, whilst the God’s Wife’s tombs are more modest in comparison. However, they would leave us the legacy of their contribution to ancient Egyptian architecture by building beautiful temples and funerary chapels and their history would influence the Ptolemaic queens of Egypt who would borrow their titularies possibly in an attempt to legitimise their rule by linking with these prominent female figures from the Egyptian past. These would forever be the lasting legacies of the God’s Wife of Amun.


Ayad, Mariam F. 2009. God’s Wife, God’s Servant: the God’s Wife of Amun (ca.740–525 BC). London; New York: Routledge.

Monday, 7 February 2022

The Priesthood of Amun, or Keep It in the Family!

The blog post for this week is written by Jeanne Whitehurst, who has completed her Certificate of Egyptology from the University of Manchester. She moved to Egypt over ten years ago, just before the revolution. Initially, she lived in Luxor, overlooking Karnak Temple, but now she lives in Aswan overlooking the First Cataract. She was extremely fortunate to have worked with Ted Brock on the sarcophagus of Merenptah (KV 8) as a volunteer.

The magnificent Karnak Temple in modern-day Luxor named ipet-sut (“The Most Select of Places”) was the cult temple of the main god Amun, who was worshipped there along with his wife Mut and their son Khonsu. Together, they formed the Theban Triad. Karnak has many temples inside its mudbrick walls besides those dedicated to the Theban Triad. It is said to be one of the largest religious sites in the world.

Throughout Egypt’s history, the priesthood would serve a vital role in maintaining religious beliefs and traditions with male priests known as hem-netjer (Servants of the God). There was a hierarchy in the priesthood from the High Priest (hem-netjer-tepy, “First God’s Servant”) at the top and the wab-priests lower down. The wab-priests carried out the essential but mundane tasks of taking care of the temple complex and performing whatever function they were called upon, such as helping to prepare for festivals. There was a First God’s Servant (High Priest), a Second, Third and Fourth God’s Servant. However, it doesn’t necessarily follow this order of importance, as can be seen with the Fourth God’s Servant, Montuemhat, leading a procession while the First God’s Servant is behind him (fig. 1). They were then divided into four phyles, a sub-division of twenty priests. There are many interesting titles, including “chief of the manufacturer of wigs of Amun in Karnak”. Nefermenu held this title and several other titles including “scribe of the treasury of Amun”, “master of the divine seal”, “keeper of the balance of Amun” and “opener of the doors of the sky”. The latter was specific to Karnak and there has been much speculation as to its meaning, including that it might relate to the responsibility to the opening of the shrine.

Fig. 1: The Saite Oracle Papyrus (Brooklyn Museum 47.218.3a-j

At Karnak, the male priests lived inside the temple, at least during the First Millennium BC. Not all priests of Amun (fig. 2) worked in Karnak though as there is evidence of High Priests of Amun at Tanis during the Twenty-first Dynasty (1069–945 BC). During the reign of Rameses III, the labour force consisted of more than 81,000 people while the temple comprised of 3 orchards, 421,000 heads of livestock, 65 villages, 83 ships, and 46 workshops with hundreds of acres of farmland (according to the Great Harris Papyrus). One of the reasons they accumulated this wealth was by being exempt from paying taxes from the end of the Old Kingdom, which allowed the priests of Amun to become very powerful with vast estates and wealth. It is thought that one of the main reasons why Akhenaten moved his capital to Amarna was because the priests had become too powerful and were challenging his reign. Other pharaohs such as Thutmose III tried to stem this power by removing the hereditary rights of the priests.

Fig. 2: Shabti of the Prophet of Amun, Ankhwennefer (W660)


Evidence, perhaps slightly one-sided, is found through their burial goods, tombs, statues, stelae, temple reliefs, letters, annals, decrees, and graffiti, showing these high priests wielded great power and could affect the course of history and even rival the pharaoh himself. One example of this, which began in the New Kingdom with the regular Opet Festival, involved the oracle of Amun. The priests had the power to interpret the responses of the god, giving their answers with a yes (forward movement) or no (back movement) answer. Civil and criminal cases, matters of policy, domestic issues, and building policies were all decided at Thebes by these senior priests of Amun. An example of this is when the royal tomb builders at Deir el-Medina went on strike during the reign of Ramesses III by striking. Priestly dynasties were established as a father’s offices were passed down to his sons, and members of distinguished families intermarried to consolidate and improve their social positions. Eventually, at the end of the Twentieth Dynasty a semi-autonomous state emerged in the Theban area, ruled over by these priests. Some even styled themselves local monarchs with their names in cartouches on the walls of Karnak (fig. 3). How widespread their influence was is uncertain, but it does emphasize the power of the High Priests of Amun at this time.

Fig. 3: The High Priest Herihor depicted as a Pharaoh

Below are just a few High Priests of Amun with their very short biographies.

Hapuseneb: Reign of Hatshepsut (1473–1458 BC) from year 2 to 16: Tomb TT 67 (Sheikh Abd El Qurna).

In addition to being High priest and Vizier of the South, he was also responsible for the building of a ship, a gate, a shrine, door wings, and buildings besides the production of temple equipment. He was also the “Overseer of the construction of a royal tomb, although it is not clear whether KV 20 is meant. In the passage of his tomb, Hapuseneb’s parents are mentioned. His father, Hepu, was a Third Lector Priest of Amun.

Nebwenenef: Reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 BC): Tomb TT 157 (Dra’ Abu el-Naga).

Nebwenenef was appointed at the beginning of the long reign of Ramesses II. In an oracle interpreted by the king when he went to Thebes to celebrate the great annual festival of Amun, the god himself insisted that of all the candidates only Nebwenenef would satisfy him. Nebwenenef was at that time High Priest of the god Anhur at Thinis and High Priest of the goddess Hathor of Dendera. In his tomb, Nebwenenef depicts this story and in a famous relief, shows his audience with the King and Queen Nefertari at the palace for his formal installation. Neb­wenenef died less than seventeen years later (fig. 4). However, Nebwenenef was afforded the rare privilege of having his own mortuary temple, near the temple of Seti I. During the whole of the New Kingdom, only one other commoner, Amenhotep Son of Hapu, is known to have been honoured in this way.

Fig. 4: Shabti of the High Priest of Amun Nebwenenef (WK28)

Bakenkhonsu (I): Reign of Ramesses II: Tomb TT 35 (Sheikh Abd el-Qurna).
Bakenkhonsu was descended from a family of priests. His father was the First and Second Prophet of Amun whilst his mother was a Singer of Amun. He started his career under the pharaoh Seti I and continued under Ramesses II, initially as a wab-priest before progressing to Second, Third, and Four Prophets of Amun. Eventually, he because High Priest. He lived to at least seventy, but experts differ as to exactly how old he was when he died. There is a block statue of him in Munich Museum where he addresses future generations and gives a detailed account of his career.

Fig. 5: Statue of Bakenkhonsu in Munich (


Ramessesnakht: Ramesses IV–Ramesses IX: Tomb: TT 293.
Ramessesnakht (fig. 6) was married to Adjedet-Aat and had at least two sons and a daughter Tamerit. She was married to the Third Prophet of Amun, Amenemope (TT 148). It is known that Ramessesnakht went on a quarrying expedition to the Wadi Hammamat during the reign of Ramesses IV and secured gold and galena (for eye paint). A rock-cut stela in the Wadi Hammamat records his expedition reporting in year 3 of Ramesses IV that the High Priest Ramessesnakht lead an expedition consisting of some 8,368 men, including a fully organised division of the Egyptian army.

Fig. 6: Ramessesnakht offering to the gods

Herihor: Ramesses XI: Tomb not known.

Herihor served as High Priest and was also General. He was married to the lady Nodjmet, who may have been a sister of Ramesses XI. Herihor was the first of the High Priests to assume royal powers. During his reign, some tombs were found to be in need of “renewing the burial”. The tombs of Ramesses I, Seti I, and Rameses II required “renewing” after pillaging.

Pinudjem II990–976 BC. Buried in DB 320 (Deir el-Bahari cache)

His titles included High Priest of Amun-Re, Great Chief of the Army, and Overseer of the Treasury (fig. 7). More importantly, he was the de facto ruler of the south of the country. His tomb was shared with his wife Nesikhonsu, his niece Nesikhonsu (the daughter of the High Priest of Amun), and other family members. Following his death, many of the royal mummies of the New Kingdom and Twenty-first Dynasty were placed in his tomb for safekeeping.

Fig. 7: Pinedjem II before Osiris (British Museum EA 10793)

Priests maintained their position, with greater or lesser degrees of success, through the Ptolemaic Dynasty (332–30 BC) and even into Roman Egypt. However, by the time of the rise of Christianity in the fourth century AD, they had lost most of their power and prestige, leading to the replacement of the old faith with the new one.

This blog has only been able to show a snapshot or a clerestory window of the power, prestige, and importance of the priesthood of Amun on Egyptian history from the New Kingdom onwards.