Amenirdis I

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Amenirdis I (Khaneferumut) was a God's Wife of Amun in ancient Egypt.[1] She was a Kushite princess, the daughter of Pharaoh Kashta and Queen Pebatjma. She is likely to have been the sister of pharaohs Shabaka and Piye.[1][2] Kashta arranged to have Amenirdis I adopted by the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, Shepenwepet I, at Thebes as her successor.[3] This shows that Kashta already controlled Upper Egypt prior to the reign of Piye, his successor.[4] She was installed as heir by Kashta before 755 BC [5] and died most likely before Taharqa’s accession in 690 BC.

She ruled as high priestess approximately between 714 and 700 BCE, under the reigns of Shabaka and Shabataka, and she adopted Piye's daughter Shepenwepet II as her successor. As sister or half-sister of Piye, this would make Amenirdis Shepenwepet's biological aunt. [6] Upon her death, she was buried in a tomb in the grounds of Medinet-Habu.[1]

She is depicted in the Osiris-Hekadjet ('Osiris, Ruler of Eternity') temple in the Karnak temple complex, and in Wadi Gasus, along with Shepenwepet I. She is mentioned on two offering tables, five statues, a stela and several small objects including scarabs.[1]

God's Wife of Amun[edit]

Amenirdis was the first Nubian woman to become God's Wife of Amun, a title given to the wives or daughters of Egyptian Kings and the highest position for women of the time. It pertained to the Temple of Amun at Karnak and the highest ranking priestess of the cult. Eventually the title developed into one that meant celibacy for its bearers and was passed down to adopted heirs picked by the king. These heirs almost always held the title of Adoratrix before being called as God’s Wife, and Amenirdis was Adoratrix from 755-730 BC. The pattern originally started with Shepenwepet I, daughter of King Osorkon III from Thebes. Before her death in 700 BC she adopted Amenirdis, daughter of the Nubian King Kashta. She was followed by two Nubian princesses. These titles are important in the historical process in understanding the real power held by certain men. King Kashta for example wrote on a stele in the Khnum temple in Elephantine that he was King of Upper and Lower Egypt. This is supported by the fact that he could legitimately place one of his daughters, Amenirdis I, as God’s Wife of Amun. [7] Amenirdis is also frequently given the title ‘God’s Hand.’ It is found as a reference to the Queen in the temple of Osiris-Heqadjet, the chapel of Osiris-Wennefer-in-the-Persea-Tree, and on the statue of Harua. Acting as the actual God’s Wife of Anum, Amenirdis calls her adopted daughter by such a title in the temple of Osiris-Heqadjet and on the Shepenwepet II basin. It therefore could be thought of as an intermediate title before the death of the current God’s Wife. In a lintel found in the temple of Osiris Pededankh at North Karnak there is a depiction of God’s Wife Nitokris I on the right, God’s Hand Amenirdis at center, and to the left an Adoratrix Shepenwepet, along with the High Stweard Padihorresnet dated to Psammetichus I’s reign. It is still up for debate with this particular document whether the Amenirdis here attributed is I or II, but it is clear that Amenirdis held both prestigious titles of God’s Wife of Amun and God’s Hand. Whether these titles formed a hierarchy or were synonyms can be argued, but both attest to the opportunity of power given to certain women at this time in Egypt. [8]

Cult Practice and High Priestess[edit]

It is known that Amenirdis was High Priestess of the cult of Amun, as there sits in the Chicago Art Institute a scarab seal labeled “The High Priestess Amenaridas, the Royal Wife of Kasta.” [9] Amun grew in power as one of Egypt’s greatest deities, eventually uniting with Ra to become Amun-Ra. Amenirdis' association with this cult as its High Priestess thus lays claim to the power held in the title of God’s Wife as it is associated with partial ruler of Thebes and likewise Egypt. One heart scarab also denotes the title of the Queen. Heart scarabs were used in the after life to magically influence the judgment day in the weighing of the heart against truth. This scarab bears the inscription “Recitation by the Divine Consort, Amenardis.” Synonymous with the title God’s Wife, it is claimed as having belonged to the sacerdotal princess and virtual ruler of Thebes during the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. [10] An offering table for God’s Wife Shepenwepet II found in the Amun temple at Medinet Habu displays the Priestess as tribute beneficiary. Other images of the God’s Wives were recovered near the temple and suggest that their mortuary chapels were themselves structures devoted to the mortuary cult. The designation of Amenirdis’s chapel as a Ka-House, the definition of such a mortuary chapel used in cult worship, is shown in various pieces of art. [11] The titles of God’s Wife of Amun, God’s Hand, and High Priestess of the Amun Cult thus all coincide and pertain to Amenirdis.

Funeral Chapel[edit]

Amenirdis built her funerary chapel southeast of the mortuary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu. Many burial sites of Egyptian officials contain prayers inscribed along the interior walls that were used to guide the spirits of the dead in the world of the dead. These prayers were often cadenced by priests of the cult after the death of the official, pausing at each scene of the text that would require a different ritual. Comprising 45 scenes, Amenirdis's copy is one of the most extensive known versions of the ritual. [12] The funerary texts of Amenirdis have revealed that her unique and concise selections from the Pyramid Texts were meticulously chosen and deliberately laid out on the various walls of her funerary chapel. No other contemporary had a similar selection of Pyramid Text used in their tombs. God’s Wife Ankhnesneferibre and the Napatan king Aspelta had sarcophagi so different in their contents that, without the same titles, it would appear as if the two did not even belong to the same cult. Amenirdis altered the texts to directly deal with herself, changing for instance Text 903c "How good it is, what Horus has done for this king " to "How good it is what Horus has done, namely the protection of his father! How good it is what Horus has done for you, his mother, Amenirdis!" The Hau-nebut and imperishable stars are placed at the north ends of the East and West Walls and pointed her Spirit north as she would become imperishable also. The architecture, orientation of signs, and the symbolic references found at strategic junctures in her texts empowered the written Pyramid Texts like no other king or queen had done before. Her great implementation of symbolism and art within her tomb show the impression the cult had on her and show her leadership as a powerful woman in Egypt. [13]


  1. ^ a b c d Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson (2004) ISBN 0-500-05128-3, p.238
  2. ^ Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press 2003. p.347
  3. ^ Alexander J. Peden, The Graffiti of Pharaonic Egypt: Scope and Roles of Informal Writings (c. 3100-332 B.C.), Brill Academic Publishers 2001. p.276
  4. ^ László Török, The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meroitic Civilization. (Handbuch der Orientalistik 31), Brill 1997. p.149
  5. ^ Morkot, in Wenig (ed.), ‘’Studien,’’ 194-196.
  6. ^ Kenneth Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100-650 B.C.), 2nd ed. (Warminster, 1986), 359
  7. ^ Mieroop, Marc Van De. A History of Ancient Egypt (Blackwell History of the Ancient World).
  8. ^ Dodson, Aidan. The Problem of Amenirdis II and the Heirs to the Office of God's Wife of Amun during the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 88 (2002), pp. 179-186. Web Access:
  9. ^ Pier, Garrett Chatfield. Historical Scarab Seals from the Art Institute Collection, Chicago. ‘’The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Oct., 1906), pp.75-94’’ Web Access:
  10. ^ C.L.R. Heart Scarab of Queen Amenardis. ‘’The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 6 (June., 1915), pp. 116-117.’’ Web Access:
  11. ^ Hays, Harold M. A New Offering Table for Shepenwepet. ‘’Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 40 (2003), pp. 89-102.’’ Web Access:
  12. ^ Ayad, Mariam F. The Selection and Layout of the Opening of the Mouth Scenes in the Chapel of Amenirdis I at Medinet Habut. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 41 (2004), pp 113-133. Web Access:
  13. ^ Ayad, Mariam F. The Pyramid Texts of Amenirdis I: Selection And Layout. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 43 (2007), pp. 71-92. Web Access:
Preceded by
Shepenwepet I
God's Wife of Amun Succeeded by
Shepenwepet II
Preceded by
Shepenwepet I
Divine Adoratrice of Amun Succeeded by
Shepenwepet II