Ramesses XI (Menmaatresetepenptah) in Tour Egypt
RAMESSES XI, THE LAST NEW KINGDOM PHARAOH
by Jimmy Dunn --
Ramesses may be translated as " Re has Fashioned Him", and Ramesses XI's Epithet was Khaemwaset Mereramun
Netjerheqaiunu, which means, "Appearing in Thebes, Beloved of Amun, God, Ruler of Heliopolis". His throne
name, Menmaatre Setepenptah translates as "The Justice of Re Remains, Chosen of Ptah". We believe that he
reigned for some 28 years on the throne of Egypt between 1098 and 1070 BC, though to give him credit as the
true king of the Two Lands throughout this period might be an exaggeration. We know little about his family,
other than that he had a daughter by the name of Henuttawy.
Ramesses III was the last great pharaoh of Egypt, and there is no question that, by the time of the last
Pharaoh of Egypt's 20th Dynasty, Ramesses XI, at the tail end of the New Kingdom, Egypt's glorious empire
was well into its twilight years. From the vary beginning of Egypt's history, kings had sent its
representatives north into southern Syria to the city of Byblos, for various trade, and they would have
normally been accepted as honored visitors and given whatever they required for their Egyptian King.
However, we are told just how far Egypt had fallen by this time in the Tale of Wenamun, now preserved in
Moscow. When Wenamun was sent by Ramesses XI to Byblos to secure cedar for a new barque of Amun at Thebes,
he was robbed on his journey. On arrival in that ancient port, he was required to pay for the wood, that
might in an earlier era been given freely, but now had no money for its purchase. Such was the fate of Egypt
only one Dynasty past the time of Ramesses the Great, no more than several hundred years before.
It must be noted that, while many generalities about the reign of Ramesses XI are agreed upon by
Egyptologists, specifics vary dramatically. There is no question that some, if not much of his reign was
marked by a division of control in Egypt between the north and the Theban region south. The crisis that had
gripped the Theban region in the previous decades grew worse, with persistent trouble from Libyan attacks
that prevented workmen on the West Bank from completing their duties, tomb robberies, famine (the "year of
the hyenas"), and even civil war. What is in disagreement, or arguable, is the various parties' alliance, or
at least the degree of alliance, to the king in Lower (northern) Egypt. It would seem that repeatedly,
individual's who were possibly sent to Thebes by the king to Thebes to establish order instead established
themselves as at least de facto rulers of Lower Egypt.
It seems likely that Ramesses XI did not take control of a completely undivided Egypt upon his ascent to the
throne after the death of Ramesses X. The previous regimes had witnessed an elevation in the power of the
priesthood at Thebes, and as early as the reign of Ramesses IX, a High Priest of Amun named Amenhotep had
himself depicted on the same scale as that king on two reliefs at Karnak. Apparently, that priest survived
through the reign of Ramesses X and at least up until the twelfth year of Ramesses XI's reign.
At some point prior to that time, Panehsy (Panehesy) who was the viceroy of Nubia, marched north with Nubian
troops, possibly at the request of Ramesses XI, to restore order in Thebes. However, whether he did so on
behalf of the king or on his own seems questionable due to alter events, which might even indicate that the
High Priest, Amenhotep, was perhaps, more under the control of Ramesses IX than might be otherwise
evidenced. Apparently, in order to feed his men and perhaps even to help limit the power of the High Priest,
Panehsy was either given, or perhaps usurped, the office of "overseer of the granaries". Obviously, this
would have certainly brought him into conflict with the priesthood of Amun, for that temple owned the bulk
of the land and its produce. This event escalated into a civil war, as, during a period of eight or nine
months sometime between years 17 and 19 of Ramesses XI's reign, Paneshy besieged the high priest at the
fortified temple of Medinet Habu.
We do not know if the High Priest, Amenhotep, survived this attack, but strangely, he may have appealed to
Ramesses XI for protection, which appears to have resulted in an even wider civil war. We are told that
Paneshy marched north, reaching as far as Hardai in Middle Egypt, which he sacked. He may have even driven
farther north, but his advance was eventually met by the king's army and he was driven back. Paneshy
eventually had to retreat to Nubia where he apparently caused trouble for some years before his death.
In the interval, the army of the Pharaoh, under the leadership of a general Piankh, drove on into Thebes,
where he too seems to have usurped power from the king. He seems to have taken on the titles of Paneshy and
even styled himself as vizier. Whether the former High Priest died in the siege at Medinet Habu or not,
after his death, Paneshy also became high priest of Amun. With these high offices, General Piankh began a
period of the wehem mesut, or "renaissance", a term used by earlier kings at the beginning of the 12th and
19th Dynasties to indicate that the empire had been reborn after a period of chaos. Now, Theban documents
began to be dated by the years of the renaissance rather than that of the King in Piramesses, so we find
correspondence between years one and ten of the renaissance and the king's reignal years nineteen through
After the death of Piankh, his son-in-law named Herihor took over his offices and assumed control of the
south. However, Herihor's rule of southern Egypt was not so much of an usurpation as one of tacit
recognition by both he and Ramesses XI of each other's sphere of influence. It was Herihor who had built the
temple of Khonsu, dedicated to the moon god son of Amun, which lies just within the southern termenos wall
of the Karnak complex. Here, depictions of both Herihor and Ramesses XI were carved at the same scale,
though not in the same scenes. Though Herihor's name and titles are depicted in a royal cartouche in the
forecourt of this temple, it would seem that there was cooperation between the two. Egyptologists disagree
on which of these two men died first, but irregardless, upon the death of Ramesses XI, Smendes came to the
throne in the north and the Third Intermediate Period was born, as the glory of the New Kingdom passed into
It should be noted that, while Ramesses XI had a tomb excavated in the Valley of the Kings (KV4) opposite
Thebes (modern Luxor) on the West Bank, it was never finished, and apparently it was not used for Ramesses
XI's burial. In fact, after having been fully investigated in 1980, many fragments of material relating to
earlier royal burials found in the debris. It would seem that the tomb was put to use as a workshop where
some of the royal mummies in the process of being transferred to other hiding places were stripped of any
valuables that could be used to bolster the Theban regions ailing economy. Thus far, Ramesses XI's mummy has
not been identified.
Ramesses XI in Wikipedia
Ramesses XI (also written Ramses and Rameses) reigned from 1107 BC to 1078 BC or 1077 BC and was the tenth and final king of the
Twentieth dynasty of Egypt. He ruled Egypt for at least 29 years although some Egyptologists think he could have ruled for as long
as 30 years. The latter figure would be up to 2 years beyond this king's highest known date of Year 10 of the Whm-Mswt era or Year
28 of his reign. One scholar, Ad Thijs, has even suggested that Ramesses XI reigned as long as 33 years-such is the degree of
uncertainty surrounding the end of his long reign. He was, perhaps, the son of Ramesses X by Queen Tyti who was a King's
Mother. He married both Baketwernel a King's Sister, and Tentamun, the daughter of Nebseny, with whom he fathered Henuttawy--the
future wife of the high priest Pinedjem I.
It is believed that Ramesses ruled into his Year 29 since a graffito records that the High Priest of Amun Piankhy returned to
Thebes from Nubia on III Shemu day 23-or just 3 days into what would have been the start of Ramesses XI's 29th regnal year. Piankhy
is know to have campaigned in Nubia during Year 28 of Ramesses XI's reign (or Year 10 of the Whm Mswt) and would have returned home
to Egypt in the following year.
Ramesses XI's reign was characterized by the gradual disintegration of the Egyptian state. Civil conflict was already evident
around the beginning of his reign when High Priest of Amon, Amenhotep, was ousted from office by the king with the aid of Nubian
soldiers under command of Pinehesy, Viceroy of Nubia, for overstepping his authority with Ramesses XI. Tomb robbing was prevalent
all over Thebes as Egypt's fortunes declined and her Asiatic empire was lost.
As the chaos and insecurity continued, Ramesses was forced to inaugurate a triumvirate in his Regnal Year 19, with the High Priest
of Amun Herihor ruling Thebes and Upper Egypt and Smendes controlling Lower Egypt. Herihor had risen from the ranks of the Egyptian
military to restore a degree of order, and became the new high Priest of Amun. This period was officially called the Era of the
Renaissance or Whm Mswt by Egyptians. Herihor amassed power and titles at the expense of Pinehesy, Viceroy of Nubia, whom he had
expelled from Thebes. This rivalry soon developed into full-fledged civil war under Herihor's successor. At Thebes, Herihor usurped
royal power without actually deposing Ramesses, and he effectively became the defacto ruler of Upper Egypt because his authority
superseded the king's.
Herihor died around Year 6 of the Whm Mswt (Year 24 of Ramesses XI) and was succeeded as High Priest by Piankh. Piankh initiated
one or two unsuccessful campaigns into Nubia to wrest control of this gold-producing region from Pinehesy's hands, but his efforts
were ultimately fruitless as Nubia slipped permanently out of Egypt's grasp. This watershed event worsened Egypt's woes, because
she had now lost control of all her imperial possessions and was denied access to a regular supply of Nubian gold.
Ramesses XI's reign is notable for a large number of important papyri that have been uncovered, including the Adoption Papyrus,
which mentions Regnal Years 1 and 18 of his reign; the Turin Taxation Papyrus; the House-list Papyrus; and an entire series of Late
Ramesside Letters written by the scribes Dhutmose, Butehamun, and the High Priest Piankh -the latter of which chronicle the severe
decline of the king's power even in the eyes of his own officials.
Thijs, in his GM 173 paper, notes that the House-list Papyrus, which is anonymously dated to Year 12 of Ramesses XI (i.e., the
document was compiled in either Year 12 of the pre-Renaissance period or during the Whm Mswt era itself), mentions two officials:
the Chief Doorkeeper Pnufer, and the Chief Warehouseman Dhutemhab. These individuals were recorded as only ordinary Doorkeeper and
Warehouseman in Papyri BM 10403 and BM 10052 respectively, which are explicitly dated to Year 1 and 2 of the Whm Mswt period. This
would suggest that the Year 12 House-list Papyrus postdates these two documents and was created in Year 12 of the Whm Mswt era
instead (or Regnal Year 30 proper of Ramesses XI), which would account for these two individuals' promotions. Thijs then proceeds
to use several anonymous Year 14 and 15 dates in another papyrus, BM 9997, to argue that Ramesses XI lived at least into his 32nd
and 33rd Regnal Years (or Years 14 and 15 of the Whm Mswt). This document mentions a certain Sermont, who was only titled an
Ordinary Medjay (Nubian) in the Year 12 House-list Papyrus but is called "Chief of the Medjay" in Papyrus BM 9997. Sermont's
promotion would thus mean that BM 9997 postdates the House-list Papyrus and must be placed late in the Renaissance period.
If true, then Ramesses XI should have survived into his 33rd Regnal Year or Year 15 of the Whm Mswt era before dying.
Unfortunately, however, it must be stressed that there are clear inconsistencies in the description of an individual's precise
title even within the same source document itself. For instance, Papyrus Mayer A mentions both a certain Dhuthope, a doorkeeper of
the temple of Amun as well as a Dhuthope, Chief Doorkeeper of the temple of Amun. The reference to the first Dhuthope occurs in the
regular papyrus entry while the other appears towards the end of the list but few people would dispute that they refer to the same
man. Similarly, the Necropolis Journal entry from Year 17 of Ramesses XI lists the Chief Workman Nekhemmut as well as a workman
named Nekhemmut, son of Amenua. While they appear to be the same person at first glance, their official titles are different with
the latter lacking the senior title 'Chief'. Hence, Thijs' case for a Year 33 proper for Ramesses XI may be illusory. Since there
are two attested promotions of individuals in 2 separate papyri, however, there is a small possibility that Ramesses XI did live
into his 33rd Regnal Year. Against this view, however, is the fact that no evidence survives of any Heb Sed Feasts for Ramesses XI.
At present, only his proposal that Papyrus BM 10054 dates to Year 10 of the Whm-Mswt (or Year 28 proper of Ramesses XI) has been
confirmed by other scholars such as Von Beckerath and Annie Gasse-the latter in a JEA 87 (2001) paper which studied several newly
discovered fragments belonging to this document. Consequently, it would appear that Ramesses XI's highest undisputed date is
presently Year 11 of the Whm-Mswt (or Year 29 proper) of his reign, when Piankh's Nubian campaign terminated which means that the
pharaoh had a minimum reign of 29 years when he died-which can perhaps be extended to 30 years due to the "gap between the
beginning of Dynasty 21 and the reign of Ramesses XI.", with 33 years being hypothethical at present.
When Ramesses XI died, the village of Deir El Medina was abandoned because the Royal Necropolis was shifted northward to Tanis.
There was no further need for their services at Thebes.
Sometime during this troubled period, Ramesses XI died in obscurity. While he had a tomb prepared for himself in the Valley of the
Kings (KV4), it was left unfinished and only partly decorated since Ramesses XI instead arranged to have himself buried away from
Thebes, possibly near Memphis. This pharaoh's tomb, however, includes some unusual features, including four rectangular, rather
than square, pillars in its burial chamber and an extremely deep central burial shaft– at over 30 feet or 10 metres long– which was
perhaps designed as an additional security device to prevent tomb robbery. Ramesses XI's tomb was used as a workshop for
processing funerary materials from the burials of Hatshepsut, Thutmose III and perhaps Thutmose I during the 21st dynasty under the
reign of the High Priest of Thebes, Pinedjem I. Ramesses XI's tomb has stood open since antiquity and was used as a dwelling by
Since Ramesses XI had himself buried in Lower Egypt, Smendes rose to the kingship of Egypt, based on the well known custom that he
who buried the king inherited the throne. Since Smendes buried Ramesses XI, he could legally assume the crown of Egypt and
inaugurate the 21st Dynasty from his hometown at Tanis, even if he did not control Middle and Upper Egypt, which were now
effectively in the hands of the High Priests of Amun at Thebes.