Ramesses XI

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Ramesses XI (also written Ramses and Rameses) reigned from 1107 BC to 1078 BC or 1077 BC and was the tenth and final pharaoh 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. 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.[3] 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.[4]

It is believed that Ramesses ruled into his Year 29 since a graffito records that the High Priest of Amun Piankh 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. Piankh is known 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 was once thought to be the son of Ramesses X by Queen Tyti who was a King's Mother, King's Wife and King's Daughter in her titles.[5] However, recent scholarly research into certain copies of parts of the Harris papyrus (or Papyrus BM EA 10052)--made by Anthony Harris—which discusses a harem conspiracy against Ramesses III reveals that Tyti was rather a queen of pharaoh Ramesses III instead.[6] Hence, Ramesses XI's mother was not Tyti and although he could have been a son of his predecessor, this is not established either. Ramesses XI married Tentamun, the daughter of Nebseny, with whom he fathered Duathathor-Henuttawy—the future wife of the high priest Pinedjem I. Ramesses XI also had another daughter named Tentamun who became king Smendes' future wife in the next dynasty.

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[citation needed]when High Priest of Amun, Amenhotep, was ousted from office by the king[citation needed]with the aid of Nubian soldiers under command of Pinehesy, Viceroy of Kush, for overstepping his authority with Ramesses XI.[citation needed]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.[citation needed]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.[citation needed]This rivalry soon developed into full-fledged civil war[citation needed]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.[citation needed]

Herihor died around Year 6 of the Whm Mswt (Year 24 of Ramesses XI) and was succeeded as High Priest by Piankh.[citation needed]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.

Reign length[edit]

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[citation needed]; 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. Late Ramesside Letter 9 establishes that the Whm Mswt period lasted into a 10th Year (which equates into Year 28 proper of Ramesses XI).[7]

Ad Thijs, in a GM 173 paper, notes that the House-list document, 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.[8] These individuals were recorded as only an 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.[9] This would suggest at first glance that the Year 12 House-list 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 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 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.

Thijs in his GM 173 paper, also demonstrated that the House-list and the Turin Taxation papyrus were close in time to each other since both documents mentioned a Year 12 date and certain individuals in both their documents such as the chief of the Medjay Nesamun, the herdsman Penhasi, and the fisherman Kadore.[10] Due to this connection, Thijs attempted to argue that the Taxation Papyrus also belonged to the whm-mswt era. However, this is not possible since the viceroy Pinehesy was listed as a supervisor in the collection of taxes in the Theban area in the Year 12 Turin taxation papyrus whereas he was designated as an enemy of the Egyptian state in Thebes at the start of the whm-mswt period in Year 19 of Ramesses XI.[11] P. BM 10383 2, 4-5 states that Pinehesy ousted Peison's superior from office at Medinet Habu and dates to Year 2 of the whm-mswt era (Year 20 proper of Ramesses XI). Pinehesy was designated as an enemy of Thebes in several Year 1 and Year 2 papyri of the whm-mswt (or Year 19 and Year 20 proper of Ramesses XI) documents and his name was consistently associated "by the nDs [or] (‘bad’) bird as its determinative" in these papyri.[12] Henceforth, Piankh acting on Ramesses XI's authority expelled Pinehesy from Upper Egypt in a series of civil wars[citation needed]until Year 10 or Year 11 of the whm-mswt (when Piankh returned from his Nubian campaigns and likely died to be succeeded in office by Herihor) and Pinehesy disappears from Egypt's political history. This demonstrates that the Taxation papyrus—and its near contemporary, the House-list, pre-date the whm-mswt era and actually belong to Year 12 proper of Ramesses XI when he was not an enemy of king Ramesses XI. Hence, the House-list must be assigned to Year 12 of Ramesses XI before the whm-mswt started.[citation needed]

At present, Thijs' proposal that Papyrus BM 10054 dates to the Whm-Mswt 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.[13] 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."[14] with 33 years being hypothethical. Krauss and Warburton specifically write that due to the existence of this time gap,

"Egyptologists generally concede that his reign could have ended 1 or 2 years later than year 10 of the wehem mesut era = regnal year 28."[15]

Either during the reign of Ramesses XI or shortly afterwards, 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.[16] 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.[17] Ramesses XI's tomb has stood open since antiquity and was used as a dwelling by the Copts.[18]

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.


  1. ^ Titulary from von Beckerath, Königsnamen, pp. 174–175 (T2 and E2)
  2. ^ [1] Ramesses XI Menmaatre-setpenptah
  3. ^ Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss & David Warburton (editors), Handbook of Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Handbook of Oriental Studies), Brill: 2006, p.475
  4. ^ Ad Thijs, "Reconsidering the End of the Twentieth Dynasty. Part III: Some Hitherto Unrecognised Documents from the Whm Mswt," Göttinger Miszellen 173 (1999), pp. 175-192.[2]
  5. ^ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, 2004, p.191
  6. ^ Mark Collier, Aidan Dodson, & Gottfried Hamernik, P. BM 10052, Anthony Harris and Queen Tyti, JEA 96 (2010), pp.242-247
  7. ^ Late Ramesside Letter 9 in "Late Ramesside Letters" by Edward F. Wente, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (SAOC) 33, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1967. pp.11-12 & 37-38
  8. ^ Thijs, GM 173 (1999), pp. 185-86
  9. ^ Thijs, GM 173 (1999), pp. 185-86
  10. ^ Thijs, GM 173, p.187
  11. ^ Jaroslav Cerny, Egypt: From the Death of Ramesses III to the End of the Twenty-first Dynasty', in I.E.S. Edwards, C.J. Gadd, N.G.L. Hammond and E. Sollberger (eds), Cambridge Ancient History Vol. II, Pt. 2, 634. 1965 (reprinted 1975) Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  12. ^ The High Priests of Amun at the End of the Twentieth Dynasty by Jennifer Palmer, Birmingham Egyptologial Journal (2014), pp.7-9
  13. ^ Annie Gasse, "Panakhemipet et ses complices (À propos du papyrus BM EA 10054, R° 2, 1–5)", JEA 87 (2001), pp.81-92
  14. ^ Hornung, Krauss & Warburton, p.475
  15. ^ Hornung, Krauss & Warburton, p.475
  16. ^ Nicholas Reeves & Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Valley of the Kings, Thames & Hudson Ltd., 1996. p.173
  17. ^ Reeves & Wilkinson, p.173
  18. ^ Reeves & Nicholson, p.172

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