The Life of Khaemweset: Ancient Archaeologist And The First Egyptologist
The golden eras of ancient Egyptian history are marked by powerful kings and pharaohs, whose rule continuously expanded Egyptian influence and propelled it to great heights. As history often teaches us, only the eldest son, the first born, usually succeeded to the throne, and followed in the footsteps of their father. But what of all the younger sons and daughters of these powerful pharaohs? What of the generals, officials, and highly powerful priests? They too have an important place in the history of Ancient Egypt, but even so they are often overlooked.
Today we are going to learn more about Khaemweset, the fourth son of the famed Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II or Ramesses the Great. Even though Khaemweset was not destined to rule, this prominent prince was a highly important figure in the Egyptian royal court and contributed a lot to the continuation of its oldest history. In many regards, he is considered the very first Egyptologist and this is his story!
Ramesses II is one of the most famous and most important of all the rulers of Ancient Egypt. Ruling from 1279 to 1213 BC, he was the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt and brought his people into a truly golden era, expanding his influence and might. He was also known to have fathered many sons and daughters.
He had several legal wives, and sired close to 50 sons, and between 40 to 53 daughters. Naturally, succession was to be an issue in such a case, where it was the usual practice for the firstborn son to inherit the throne. However, Ramesses II long rule challenged this tradition: his firstborn son, Amunherkhepeshef, died before his own father. Eventually, the pharaoh was succeeded by his 13th son, Merneptah (who was around 70 years old at the time).
But this didn’t mean that all his sons that were least likely to ascend to the throne were not in powerful positions. During this period, Egypt’s crown princes held important positions: some became high priests, others served as commanders, and some served as high court officials.