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A detailed History of Dynasty 20

New Kingdom Period - Egypt Through Time - What is Ancient Egypt?

New Kingdom Period 1550 BC to 1069 BC

18th to 20th Pharaonic Dynasties

The Bronze Age and the height of Ancient Egyptian power

Pharaoh Setnakhte’s origins are currently unknown, but it appears that he was not a direct descendant of any of the previous 4 Pharaohs but may well have been a member of a more minor line from the Royal Family of the Ramessides. Whatever his provenance, he married a probable Royal Princess and daughter of Pharaoh Merneptah, Princess Tiy-Merenese.

By taking into his Regnal Year count, the Regnal Years of his predecessor, it is likely that Pharaoh Setnakhte’s reign lasted only between 2 and a half to 3 years, as no events are attested to for his Regnal Year 1. He may have seen off an incursion from the nomadic Sea Peoples, but this cannot be reliably proven.

His short reign did allow him time to stabilise his rule and invest his son and heir to become Pharaoh Ramses III. The Tomb which he had hewn for himself accidentally broke through into another Tomb in the Valley and so he abandoned this and simply usurped the Tomb of his predecessor, Queen Twosret, KV14.

Pharaoh Ramses III was the son of Pharaoh Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese and was married to 2 chief wives, Queen Iset Ta-Hemdjert and Queen Titi, and had other minor wives including Queen Tiy. His reign was Militarily and Administratively peaceful until Regnal Year 5, when the Libyans attack!

The First offensive arrived by land in the very south of Palestine which Pharaoh Ramses III and the Egyptian Army routed and scattered. The Second offensive arrived by Sea and was considered the more dangerous of the two. Pharaoh and his Generals had planned to entrap the Sea Peoples by luring them into the Nile Delta’s smaller waterway’s banks. This plan worked and after attacking the Egyptian Navy in the Nile’s tributaries the Sea Peoples were all but helpless when the shore-based Archers, that Pharaoh had positioned precisely, with the Navy’s own archers, sent volley after volley of arrows flying into the Sea People’s Ships preventing them from gaining any territory.

The Egyptian Military finished the invasion by drawing the Sea People’s vessels to them with grappling hooks and fighting them in hand-to-hand combat, which is what the Egyptians were superior at. The Sea Peoples were left decimated. The stragglers eventually regrouped and then settled in Palestine between Gaza and Mount Carmel; they are now known as the Philistines. We have all these details courtesy of Pharaoh Ramses III who portrayed the Battle in the longest detail ever recorded on the Exterior Wall of his Second Pylon at Medinet Habu, his Mortuary Temple on the Theban Necropolis. 

All was peaceful again until Regnal Year 11, when during this year a group of 5 tribes, the Meshwesh and led by the Libyans invaded the Western, Canopic Branch of the Nile Delta. Pharaoh reacted and dashed the Libyans hopes by killing 2,000 warriors and executing the Battle’s leaders. He swept up the goods that the enemy had brought into Egypt and sent them to the Treasury of Amun in Karnak, Thebes. Making the Priesthood wealthier than perhaps he should have allowed.

A group of unified Libyan Tribes joined with the Mshwesh and Seped and Tribes and invaded the west of Egypt’s Nile Delta. Allegedly, the pretext for this affiliation and then incursion was that Egypt’s new Pharaoh had obstructed in the succession of their Chief. Pharaoh Ramses III and the Egyptian Army defeated them swiftly, killing many and enslaving the remainder.

Pharaoh ensured that the Temples and the Priesthood of Egypt were rewarded for their loyalty to his early reign, and he made very considerable gifts of land to the Priesthood. He sent a trading expedition to Punt which succeeded with reviving a trading contract with them which may have lapsed since the rule of Pharaoh Hatshepsut in the 18th Dynasty, began mining for Copper in the Mines in the Sinai and for the Gold in the Mines in Nubia.

In Regnal Year 8, Pharaoh and his Court heard the news of the Trojan War and the Fall of the Mycenae of Greece. To compound this, they would have soon been aware of the uniquely named “Sea Peoples” who were devouring the late Bronze Age Civilisations around them, including Hattusa, the Hittite Capital City and then the whole Hittite Empire. This news must have rocked the Egyptian Court to its core.

Even the great Pharaoh Ramses II had been unable to completely rout the Hittites! Soon the Sea Peoples’ Army, with all the families, goods, and housing, began to march from their newly routed City in Syria towards Egypt’s eastern land border, whilst its Sea Fleet aimed for Egypt’s Mediterranean Sea border. They intended to invade, conquer, and settle.

Pharaoh commissioned among others, the following building complexes: his Mortuary Temple at Medinet Habu, additions to Karnak Temple, works in the cities of Pi-Ramses, Heliopolis, Memphis and Abydos, a Palace and Town Complex which was attached to Medinet Habu, and he introduced Tree Planting programs including one at Medinet Habu.

Regnal Year 28 shattered Pharaoh’s latterly peaceful reign when he had to oust the Vizier of Lower Egypt from his post due to proven corruption. Which was supplanted the next year by the First Strike ever to be recorded in history took place. The Artisans in the Village of Deir el Medina, in the Theban Necropolis, failed to receive their salaried rations. Consequently, they marched from their Village and staged their Strike in the Ramesseum, the Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Ramses II.

By this point it is known that Pharaoh had allowed the Temples to own one third of all of Egypt’s arable land, and that three quarters of that belonged to the Amun Priesthood at Karnak Temple, Thebes. 

Then occurred the Harem Conspiracy in the Palace in Pi-Ramses City. Minor Queen Tiy wished to put her son Prince Pentawere on the Throne, assassinating the Pharaoh, her husband and the father of her son, and grabbing the power of ruling all Egypt. The Plot unfolded with her co-conspirators preparing to kill at the annual Opet Festival where Pharaoh was poisoned by snake venom, which was in his food, weakening Pharaoh long enough so other co-conspirators could hack off one of Pharaoh’s toes making him unsteady enough so they had the opportunity to slice his oesophagus and trachea so deeply that the cut almost went through to his spine at the very rear of his neck, killing him instantaneously.

The Conspiracy is recorded to have failed as despite Pharaoh Ramses III being deceased by the time of the Trials, his intended heir rose to become Pharaoh IV. It was he who prosecuted the 40 named arrested Traitors with many being put to death. The now deceased Queen Tiye and Prince Pentawere were buried in impure Sheep skins, un-mummified and then condemned in their Afterlives by their names being thoroughly erased from their Tombs and from all official documents. Historians only know of their names from the Trial documents that have survived.

Pharaoh Ramses III was repaired for his journey to the Afterlife, including specific Amulets to protect Pharaoh from snakes. He was buried with the highest care and attention in King’s Valley Tomb KV11 which is one of the largest Tombs in the Valley. Pharaoh’s death almost prophetically ended the better times for Egypt and with the commencement of the Iron Age Egypt began to suffer from economic issues as they had no iron to export, a series of below standard levels of the Nile Flood led to a year-on-year series of droughts, and thought to be the result of a volcanic explosion the growth of plants and trees were stunted due to air pollution (this has in modern times been dated to around 20 years of stunted growth!). This impacted the levels of food available to the state to use as wage allotments which led to civil unrest and a lack of dedicated government officials led to corruption, meaning that Pharaoh Ramses III’s 31-year reign became known as the last reign of the great Egyptian Pharaohs.

Pharaoh Ramses IV was the son of Pharaoh Ramses III and probably Queen Titi and inherited the Throne aged 21. After dealing with the traitors in his father’s death he commenced a sizeable Building Docket on a par with Pharaoh Ramses II. Firstly, for his King’s Valley Tomb, by sending the largest expedition ever known to the Turquoise Mines of the Sinai and the Stone Quarries of Wadi Hammamat, the erection of a small Temple to the North of Medinet Habu, a Pylon in Heliopolis, the expansion of the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak Temple which his father had begun and his own Mortuary Temple, which is now lost, probably near that of Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s at Deir el Bahri. Despite all these achievements, perhaps the most known achievement of his reign was the now called Papyrus Harris I which was dedicated to his late father’s life and reign. It is the longest known Papyrus at 41 meters long and has 1,500 lines.

With his wife Queen Nubkhesbed, Pharaoh Ramses VI reigned from the Capital City of Pi-Ramses for roughly 8 years. Their children included the future Pharaohs Ramses VII and Ramses IX, Princess Iset and the Princes Amunherkhepeshef and Panebenkemyt. He took the first 2 years of his Throne to cease the raids that the Libyan marauders were continuing with in Thebes and Upper Egypt.

He then deemed it safe enough to set the Artisans from Deir el Medina back to work in the Valleys and instal his daughter, Princess Iset as God’s Wife of Amun and the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, at the Temple of Amun at Karnak Temple.

The remainder of Pharaoh Ramses VI’s reign was hampered due to the ongoing financial issues the Royals were facing from the lack of sufficient flooding levels and the gifting of lands to the Temples which had led to decreased amounts of state-owned foods which was a form of salary in ancient Egypt. Being unable to pay a large-scale army affected his military might and he lost land and tribute in Canaan. His building achievements were lower scale and Pharaoh would often engrave his own cartouche over the top of his predecessor’s names, claiming their builds as his own.

Regrettably due to ongoing issues with the delivery of the Workmen’s wages in the form of Food Allotments that the Pharaoh had to rely on the Temple of Amun at Karnak Temple to deliver the late food delivery. Pharaoh reigned for a regrettably short 6 and a half years before he died and was buried in his KV2 Tomb though his body was reinterred by the Theban Priests in KV35, the Royal Mummy Cache to avoid further disruption due to robbery. Pharaoh Ramses IV was succeeded by his son, Pharaoh Ramses V who was aged 13 years old.

His short 4-year reign was scarred by the loss of more wealth and power
to the Priesthood of Egypt, mainly to the Temple of Amun at Karnak Temple, as attested to by a Papyrus like a modern-day census which showed that most of Egypt’s fertile land was now owned outright by the Temple.
Further compounded by more incursions and harassing by the Libyan Raiders who attacked at will into the Theban Necropolis and the city of Thebes itself. This ceased all works by the Artisans in the Valleys, and they were encamped inside their Village at Deir el Medina defending their own families.

Pharaoh died from the Smallpox disease which he contracted through imported goods. His burial was severely delayed for up to 2 years after
his death. But why? It took the new Pharaoh, Ramses VI, this long to
ensure he had defeated the Libyan Marauders and expelled them from
Egypt fully so that the Valley of the Kings Tomb and the workers had
time to complete their intricate works. Pharaoh Ramses V was
eventually buried in the Valley of the Kings, but his original Tomb, KV9, was enlarged to also hold his successor’s remains as well, his uncle, Pharaoh Ramses VI.

Now the High Priest of the Temple of Amun in Karnak held the wealth and the subsequent power that had ebbed away from the Royals. Thebes was now run as the religious Capital City of Egypt. High Priest Ramsesnakht seemed to sympathise with Pharaoh and so he actively paid for part of Pharaoh’s Kings Valley Tomb to be finished. Pharaoh Ramses VI and was interred in his Tomb but he was soon the victim of Tomb Raiders.

Pharaoh Ramses VII was son of his predecessor, Pharaoh Ramses VI and Queen Nubkhesbed, and he reigned for approximately 7 years. His reign was tumultuous due to failing Flood Levels and lack of wealth in Egypt’s coffers. Pharaoh Ramses VII was buried in King’s Valley Tomb, KV1.

His successor was his uncle, Pharaoh Ramses VIII, who ruled for one year. He remains an ever-shadowy figure and currently neither his Tomb nor his remains have been found. The Throne then went to Pharaoh Ramses IX, a grandson of Pharaoh Ramses III who reigned for just over 18 years. The Reign is best remembered for the Tomb Robbery Trials which commenced in Regnal Years 16 and 17, which proved that several of the Royal Tombs in the Theban Valleys had been broken into and robbed. Pharaoh built the majority of his Monuments in Heliopolis around the Sun Temple, but he also added inscriptions to monuments in Nubia, the 7th Pylon at Karnak, Gezer in Canaan and in the Dakhla Oasis in Western Egypt.

Pharaoh was buried in his Tomb, KV6, in the King’s Valley which has much graffiti from the Roman and Greek Periods etched into its walls. His body by this period had been moved by the Theban Priesthood into the Mummy Cache at Deir el Bahri.

Pharaoh Ramses X reined for about 4 Regnal Years. His parentage is unknown, and no reliable administrative records have been found. His prepared Tomb was number KV18, but it does not appear that he was ever buried inside.

The last Pharaoh of this Dynasty and of the New Kingdom Period, who ruled for 29 years, was called Pharaoh Ramses XI. Roughly halfway through his reign the High Priest of Amun, Amenhotep, was usurped from his role by the Viceroy of Kush, Pinehesy. Who ended this period of unrest is currently not known and all remaining administrative documents show that Pharaoh Ramses XI was fully involved in these “schemes” maybe because they promised to secure his Throne against the Priesthood of Amun. Seemingly none the worse for his time in Thebes, Pinehesy retreated to Nubia and maintained his own Court for at least a decade.

During this same period, it appears as though one of Pharaoh’s relatives, a Princess Tentamun, the daughter of Pharaoh Ramses IX, married a man called Nesbanebdjed (also known to the Greeks as Smendes), and then Pharaoh allowed them to set up their own de facto Court and Government in the city of Tanis in Lower Egypt. Perhaps Pharaoh saw this pair as heirs to his Throne but none of these details are clear. Nesbanebdjed’s parents were the Lady Hrere, the Chief of the Harem of Mun-Re and a High Priest of Amun, and now the whole country was ruled in some form or other by the Priesthood.

At the end of Pharaoh’s reign, he moved the political capital to the city of Tanis, where his supposed heirs held their own Court, releasing the Middle and Upper sections of Egypt back to the Priesthood of Amun. Pharaoh wished to be buried in Lower Egypt, probably near Memphis, despite having commenced his own King’s Valley Tomb, KV4. This put the Artisan Village at Deir-el-Medina out of business as the Royal Necropolis was no longer needed, and the Village occupants slowly retreated out of their secret and secluded home over the coming years.

Pharaoh died and was buried by his successor, Pharaoh Nesbanebdjed I, who began Egypt’s 21st Dynasty ruling Lower Egypt from Tanis, whilst High Priest of Amun, Herihor ruled Upper Egypt from Thebes. The New Kingdom Period had reached its conclusion.


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