The Mystery of Psusenes III

By Marta Farrugia. Published on In Brief, Egyptological, 21st June 2012.


John Gardner Wilkinson published his ‘Materia Hieroglyphica’ in Malta in 1828, having spent the previous year in Luxor  recording inscriptions in the Nobles’ Tombs.  The most important aspect of this volume is the inclusion of records from the Theban Tomb TTA18 which early Egyptologists used to identify pharaoh Psusenes III.  As TTA18 contains the only mention of Psusenes III, some scholars are starting to doubt if this identification of an otherwise unattested pharaoh was at all correct.  Others probed into the possibility that Psusenes III is the same person as Psusenes II.  Yet others see Psusenes III as High Priest of Amen only.

Following Wilkinson the tomb was entered by Champollion and Rosellini who recorded some selected inscriptions and scenes but not the actual royal cartouches.  After their joint expedition the location of the tomb was lost and remains lost till today.  Therefore the so called Psusenes III cartouches cannot be re-examined in situ but only be checked by reference to Wilkinson’s notes and publications.

Before I offer my analysis of the relevant inscription, I would like to introduce the tomb owner of TTA18.  His name is Amenemopet.  His career was in the Amen priesthood.  His titles are: Prophet of Amen-Re – King of the Gods, Head of Secrets, Chief Document Scribe of the Estate of Amen.  His father, his son and his grandson are also documented in his tomb’s inscriptions. And all three were employed in Amen’s priesthood, using God’s Father’ titles.  On the basis of a coffin possibly originating from Amenemopet’s son Djementefankh’s burial the family was dated to mid or late 21st Dynasty.

Two incomplete cartouches recorded in the tomb by Wilkinson appear to belong to Psusenes II, last king of the 21st Dynasty and to Sheshonk I, first king of the 22nd Dynasty. Quote:

‘… Psusenes beloved of Amen … his being promoted to … repeating his praise by the Lord of the Two Lands, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Hedjekheperre…’.  While Psusenes’ cartouche records his nomen, the incomplete Sheshonk cartouche is part of his prenomen Hedjekheperre Setepenre.  Earlier Egyptologists joined the two cartouches and inferred the existence of Psusenes III.  Conventional dates assigned to him are 969-945BC. But could there be a third possibility?  Could Amenemopet have served  two kings, Psusenes II and Shoshenk I, instead of a single ruler Psusenes III?

Surprisingly the reign of Psusenes II is devoid of any attested High Priest of Amen in Thebes. In the reign of Sheshonk I the High Priest of Amen was his son Iuput who was awarded the position in Sheshonk’s regnal year 5.  Prince Iuput was a military man and indeed such a man is pictured in the rewarding ceremony of the tomb owner Amenemopet.  Recorded by Rosellini, the ceremony scene shows that it was presided over by one God’s Father, First Prophet of Amen, Chief Commander of the Army.  This figure may represent prince Iuput, a suggestion supported by the fact that his head is not shaven in priestly fashion but is shown with a full head of hair.

In view of the above evidence an alternative hypothesis may be put forward, suggesting that the reigns of Psusenes II and Sheshonk I were wholly or partially contemporaneous.  Sheshonk would seem to have had the ‘upper hand’ in the co-regency as he managed to appoint his son into the most prestigious religious office in Ancient Egypt of High Priest of Amen also known as First Prophet of Amen.  In this proposed scenario Psusenes III never existed.


Marta Farrugia, Malta, May 2012



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