Prince KhamweseThe People
Prince Khamwese may safely be considered as the most intriguing of Pharaoh Ramses II’s children
Parents: Pharaoh Ramses II, Ramses the Great, and Queen Isetnofret
Born: Approx. 1285BC and Died: Approx. 1224BC
Meaning of his name: Manifest in Thebes
Career: Priest of Ptah for the Creator God of Memphis where he began as a Sem Priest and was elevated to High Priest
Remembered for: His commitment to Egypt’s antiquities, hieroglyphs, and sacred spaces
Known as: First Egyptologist
Life & Works
Prince Khamwese used his position as a Priest of Ptah in Memphis to read the many texts in their Library and inform his father, Pharaoh Ramses II, of any interesting accounts that he found.
One of the most important roles during his time as a Priest was the death of an Apis Bull which required his attention to be buried in the Saqqara Necropolis. Once the Bull had died, it was then mummified before High Priest Khamwese and his father, Pharaoh Ramses II, assembled to take part in its burial ceremonies. This included a procession to take the Bull from its Temple Home in Memphis to Saqqara, where it was buried in his own gigantic 100 ton plus sarcophagus, surrounded by the Bull’s own Funerary Goods.
Roughly 14 years later the next Apis Bull died, and the High Priest Khamwese was roughly 60 years old, the Prince had to repeat his role to bury the Bull. But this time he initiated the building of the Serapeum which this and every subsequent Apis Bull was buried in for the next 13 centuries. In unison he also commissioned a Temple for the Apis Cult to be erected above the Serapeum. He opened the Temple with the following words, which were inscribed:
“Oh, you priests and dignitaries of the temple of Ptah, and every knowledgeable scribe, who shall enter this temple which I have created for the living Apis, and who shall see the things which I have done, engraved on the stone walls as great and effective! Never has the like been done before…… It will seem great to you, in contrast to the poor and ignorant work of the ancestors…… So, remember my name, when decreeing future work. O Apis, great god, I am the sem-priest, Prince Khamwese!”
After the Cult of the Apis Bull ceased the Serapeum fell into disuse and disrepair. By the time it was rediscovered in 1852 it had been completely covered by the sands of Saqqara and little was left within. Although Archaeologist August Mariette did find jewels which held the names of Prince Khamwese and Pharaoh Ramses II.
Death and Burial
Prince Khamwese seems to have rejected his father’s plan that all his sons be buried near him in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes, and although his burial is yet to be located, it is thought that he chose to be buried near his Apis Bulls somewhere near the Serapeum.
Being a High Priest meant that to the populace, Prince Khamwese was someone who possessed magic powers and even 1,000 years after his death, during the period where the Ptolemies ruled, his status still endured as a pre-eminent Magician.