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The Ramesside Renaissance or Wehem Mesut (ancient Egyptian: wḥm-mswt, "Repetition of Births") marked a period of a restored degree of order in roughly the last decade of the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses XI of the Twentieth Dynasty, at the very end of the New Kingdom.


Timespan with important individuals in their positions during the Ramesside Renaissance (by User:Khaemwaset).


Ramesses XI's reign was characterized by the gradual disintegration of the pharaoh's authority over the Egyptian state. Tomb robbing was prevalent all over Thebes as Egypt's fortunes declined and her Asiatic empire was lost. A power struggle existed between the High Priest of Amun and Viceroy of Kush, causing civil unrest. Year 19 of Ramesses XI marked the end of this chaos[1] and the beginning of the Ramesside Renaissance which lasted for the remainder of Ramesses XI's reign.

Not long before Year 19 of Ramesses XI's reign, the High Priest of Amun Amenhotep was ousted from office by the Viceroy of Kush Panehesy. However, a heavily damaged inscription published by Wente is highly suggestive of Amenhotep having been restored to his former position after an appeal to the king.[2] Ultimately, Panehesy fled south and managed to maintain a powerbase in Nubia.

Sometime prior to Year 7 of the Renaissance (Year 25 of Ramesses XI) Amenhotep was succeeded in office by Piankh, since the latter is now attested as High Priest of Amun.[3][4] Some Egyptologists have argued that Herihor ruled in between,[citation needed] though recent studies by Karl Jansen-Winkeln now dispute this.[5][6] Piankh is also attested to have been Viceroy of Kush in Year 7,[7] perhaps suggesting that Panehesy's authority over Nubia in its entirety was by now limited or at least contested.

By Year 10 of the Renaissance (Year 28 of Ramesses XI) the then High Priest of Amun Piankh, in his position of Viceroy of Kush, led an army into Nubia with the apparent aim to "meet Panehesy", probably the former Viceroy. Although it is often postulated that it was the aim of this expedition to attack Panehesy and regain control over Nubia,[8] this is by no means certain. The sources are actually ambiguous on this point and the political climate may well have changed over the years. There is some evidence that at this time Piankh may no longer have been a loyal servant of Ramesses XI, which allows for the possibility that he was secretly negotiating with Panehesy,[9][10] possibly even plotting against the reigning king. As Wente wrote: "One has the impression that the viceroy and his Nubian troops were loyalists, for the remarks made by his opponent Piankh in letter No. 301 are quite disparaging of the pharaoh, Ramesses XI."[11] In this letter, better known as LRL no. 21, Piankh remarks:

"As for Pharaoh, L.P.H., how shall he reach this land? And of whom is Pharaoh, L.P.H., superior still?"[12]

In the same letter and two others (LRL no. 34 and no. 35) Piankh gives the order to the Scribe of the Necropolis Tjaroy (=Thutmose), Nedjemet and a certain Payshuweben to secretly arrest and question two Medjay policemen about certain things they had apparently said:

"If they find out that (it is) true, you shall place them (in) two baskets and (they) shall be thrown (into) this water by night. But do not let anybody in the land find out."[12]

It has been argued that, given Piankh's prominent position at the time, the secrecy can only have concerned the king.[13] Unfortunately, due to the very limited nature of the sources, the exact relationships between Piankh, Panehesy and Ramesses XI remain far from clear. A fourth figure, Herihor, had meanwhile advanced through the ranks of the military under Ramesses XI and came out as the beneficiary of this complex political situation. He eventually held the offices of High Priest of Amun and Viceroy of Kush, both of which he might have inherited from Piankh. When Ramesses XI died, Herihor ultimately became the de facto ruler of Upper Egypt and Nubia, because his authority there had superseded that of the king.


  1. Thijs 1999, p. 98.
  2. Wente 1966.
  3. Nims 1948, p. 157-162.
  4. Thijs 2009, p. 343-353.
  5. Jansen-Winkeln 1992, p. 22-37.
  6. Shaw 2000, p. 309.
  7. Thijs 2003, p. 296.
  8. Török 1997.
  9. Niwiński 1992, p. 257-258.
  10. Thijs 2003, p. 299.
  11. Wente 1990, p. 171.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Wente 1967, p. 53.
  13. Thijs 2003, p. 301-302.


  • Jansen-Winkeln, K., 1992: Das Ende des Neuen Reiches. ZAS 119.
  • Nims, C.F., 1948: An Oracle Dated in "The Repeating of Births". Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3.
  • Niwiński, A., 1992: Bürgerkrieg, militärischer Staatsstreich und Ausnahmezustand in Ägypten unter Ramses XI: Ein Versuch neuer Interpretation der alten Quellen. In: Gamer-Wallert, Helck (eds.), Gegengabe: Festschrift für Emma Brunner-Traut. Attempto, Tübingen.
  • Shaw, I., 2000: The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press.
  • Thijs, A., 1999: Reconsidering the End of the Twentieth Dynasty. Part III: Some Hitherto Unrecognised Documents from the Wḥm Mswt. Göttinger Miszellen, Vol. 173.
  • Thijs, A., 2003: The Troubled Careers of Amenhotep and Panehsy: The High Priest of Amun and the Viceroy of Kush under the Last Ramessides. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur (SAK), Vol. 31.
  • Thijs, A., 2009: The Second Prophet Nesamun and his claim to the High-Priesthood. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur (SAK), Vol. 38.
  • Török, L., 1997: The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meriotic Civilization. Brill Academic Publishers.
  • Wente, E.F., 1966: The Suppression of the High Priest Amenhotep. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 25.
  • Wente, E.F., 1967: Late Ramesside Letters. SAOC 33.
  • Wente, E.F., 1990: Letters from Ancient Egypt. Atlanta.