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"Appearing in Thebes"

Statue of Khaemwaset from the British Museum, London.

High Priest of Ptah Successor:
Parehotep II
Dynasty 19th Dynasty
Pharaoh(s) Seti IRamesses II
Titles Crown Prince
King's Son
High Priest of Ptah
Mayor of Memphis
Sem Priest of Ptah
Royal Scribe
Father Ramesses II
Mother Isetnofret I
Spouse(s) Meheweskhet (?)
Issue Ramesses
Isetnofret (II?)
Burial KV5
For other pages by this name, see Khaemwaset.

Khaemwaset (transliteration: ḫꜥ-m-wꜣst, meaning: "Appearing in Thebes") was an ancient Egyptian Crown Prince of the Nineteenth Dynasty during the New Kingdom. Khaemwaset has been described as "the first Egyptologist" due to his efforts in identifying and restoring historic buildings, tombs and temples. His contributions to Egyptian society were remembered for centuries after his death.[1]


Khaemwaset was the second son of Ramesses II and Queen Isetnofret I, and the fourth son in line of the throne. He was born during the reign of Seti I his paternal grandfather. His brothers include Ramesses and Merenptah, while Bintanath and Isetnofret were his sisters.

Not much is known about Khaemwaset's wife, though in the demotic story Setna II, a work of ancient Egyptian literature from Roman Egypt, his wife bears the name Meheweskhet.[2]

Khaemwaset had two sons named Ramesses and Hori, the latter of whom became High Priest of Ptah. His grandson Hori would serve as Vizier of Egypt later in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty. Khaemwaset also had a daughter named Isetnofret, after his mother, who might have married Merenptah and would in that case identify as Queen Isetnofret II. However, Isetnofret II could instead also be Khaemwaset's sister; Isetnofret.


According to historian Miriam Lichtheim:

"Here I should like to stress that Prince Setne Khamwas, the hero of the two tales named for him, was a passionate antiquarian. The historical prince Khamwas, was the fourth son of King Ramses II, had been high priest of Ptah at Memphis and administrator of all the Memphite sanctuaries. In that capacity he had examined decayed tombs, restored the names of their owners, and renewed their funerary cults. Posterity had transmitted his renown, and the Demotic tales that were spun around his memory depicted him and his fictional adversary Prince Naneferkaptah as very learned scribes and magicians devoted to the study of ancient monuments and writings."[3]

Militairy activity[]

In the latter years of the reign of Seti I, crown prince Ramesses put down a minor revolt in Nubia. Ramesses took his young sons Amunherwenemef and Khaemwaset with him on this military campaign. Khaemwaset and his older brother are shown making a charge on the battlefield in a chariot. The events were recorded in scenes in the temple at Beit el Wali.[4]

Khaemwaset grew up with his brothers during a time of foreign conflict and he is present in scenes from the Battle of Kadesh in Year 5 of Ramesses II, the Siege of Tunip in Year 8, and the Siege of Dapur in Year 10. In the battle of Kadesh scenes, Khaemwaset is shown leading sons of the chiefs of Hatti before the gods. These princes were prisoners of war. In scenes depicting the siege of Tunip, Khaemwaset is shown both leading prisoners before his father and serving as an attendant of his father. In the scenes of the siege of Dapur, Khaemwaset is present during the battle.[5]


After this initial period where Khaemwaset may have had some military training, or at least was present at the battlefield, he became a Sem Priest of Ptah in Memphis. This appointment occurred in c. Year 16 of Ramesses II's reign. He would have initially been a deputy to the High Priest of Ptah in Memphis named Huy. During his time as Sem-Priest Khaemwaset was quite active in rituals, including the burial of several Apis bulls at the Serapeum. In Year 16 of Ramesses, the Apis bull died and was buried in the Serapeum. Funerary gifts were presented by Huy, Khaemwaset himself, his brother prince Ramesses, and Vizier Paser. The next burial took place in year 30 and at that time the gifts came from the Overseer of the Treasury Suty and Huy. After this second burial Khaemwaset redesigned the Serapeum. He created an underground gallery where a series of burial chambers allowed for the burial of several Apis bulls.[4] While he was a Sem-priest, Khaemwaset may have constructed and built additions to the temple of Ptah in Memphis. There are several inscriptions which attest to Khaemwaset's activities in Memphis.[5]

Khaemwaset was promoted to High Priest of Ptah around the Year 45 of the reign of Ramesses II.[4] An occupation that includes being the Mayor of Memphis.

Restoration projects[]

Khaemwaset restored the monuments of earlier kings and nobles. Restoration texts were found associated with the pyramid of Unas at Saqqara, the tomb of Shepseskaf called the Mastabat al-Fir’aun, the sun-Temple of Nyuserre Ini, the Pyramid of Sahure, the Pyramid of Djoser, and the Pyramid of Userkaf. Inscriptions at the pyramid temple of Userkaf show Khaemwaset with offering bearers, and at the pyramid temple of Sahure Khaemwaset offers a statue of the goddess Bast.[5]

Khaemweset restored a statue of Prince Kawab, a son of King Khufu. The inscription on the throne reads:

"It is the Chief Directing Artisans and Sem Priest, the King's Son, Khaemwaset, who was glad over this statue of the King's Son Kawab, and who took it from what was cast (away) for debris (?), in [...] .. of his father, the King of South and North Egypt Khufu. Then the S[em-Priest and King's Son, Kha]em[waset] decreed that [it be given] a place of favor of the Gods in company with the excellent Blessed Spirits at the Head of the Spirit (Ka) chapel of Ro-Setjau, – so greatly did he love antiquity and the noble folk who were aforetime, along with the excellence (of) all that they had made, so well, and repeatedly ("a million times"). These (things) shall be for (for) all life, stability and prosperity, enduring upon earth, [for the Chief Directing Artisans and Sem-Priest, the King's Son, Khaemwaset, after he has (re)established all their cult procedures of this temple, which had fallen into oblivion [in the remembrance] of men. He has dug a pool before the noble sanctuary (?), in work (agreeing) with his wishes, while pure channels existed, for purity, and to bring libations from (?) the reservoir (?) of Khafre, that he may attain (the status of) "given life"."[5]

Some of these restorations took place during his later tenure as Sem-priest. The work on the pyramid of Djoser is dated to year 36 of Ramesses II. Some of the inscriptions mention Khaemwaset's title as "Chief of the Artificers" or "Chief of Crafts". Hence, some of these restorations were undertaken after his promotion as the High Priest of Ptah.[4]

Heb Sed Festivals[]

Around the 25th regnal year of his father, his older brother Ramesses became crown prince, and in the 30th year, Khaemwaset's name started to appear in the announcements of the Heb-sed Festivals. These were traditionally held in Memphis, but some of the announcements were made in Upper Egypt at El Kab and Gebel el-Silsila.

Crown Prince[]

Khaemwaset became Crown Prince in Year 50 until he died in Year 55 of his father's reign. He was succeeded in this position by his full-brother, Merenptah.[1]


Whilst first exploring the Serapeum of Saqqara between 1851 and 1853, French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette was confronted by a huge rock, which could only be moved by the use of explosives. Once the shattered remnants of the rock were removed, an intact coffin was discovered which contained the mummy of a man, accompanied by numerous funerary treasures. A gold mask covered his face, and amulets gave his name as Prince Khaemweset, son of Ramesses II and builder of the Serapeum. These remains have now been lost but Egyptologists believe that this was not the grave of Khaemweset and that the remains were those of an Apis Bull made into a human form to resemble the Prince.

It seems more likely that he was interred with his brothers in KV5, a massive tomb constructed in the Valley of the Kings for the sons of Ramesses II.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 170-171.
  2. Simpson & Ritner 2003, p. 490.
  3. Miriam Lichtheim. "Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol III"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Kitchen 1983, p. 40, 89, 102-109, 162, 170, 227-230.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Kitchen 1996; 1999.


  • Dodson, A./Hilton, D., 2004: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Kitchen, K.A., 1983: Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II, King of Egypt. Aris & Phillips.
  • Kitchen, K.A., 1996: Ramesside Inscriptions Translated and Annotated: Translations. Vol. 2: Ramesses II; Royal Inscriptions. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Translations and (in the 1999 volume below) notes on all contemporary royal inscriptions naming the king.
  • Kitchen, K.A., 1999: Ramesside Inscriptions Translated and Annotated: Notes and Comments. Vol. 2: Ramesses II; Royal Inscriptions. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
  • Simpson, W.K./Ritner, R.K., 2003: The Literature of Ancient Egypt. Yale University Press.
High Priest of Ptah
19th Dynasty
Parehotep II