Sheshonq II and the Treasure Trove of his Burial

Sheshonq II and the Treasure Trove of his Burial

by Jimmy Dunn

Our knowledge of Sheshonq II, though a very obscure king, is an excellent example of both ongoing controversies and problems related to references in Egyptology. While his life is much under debate amongst specific scholarly circles, references often make clear cut statements that defy those underlying debates without referencing other likly possibilities.

Pectoral of Sheshonq II. Click for more information

The discovery in the Delta City of Tanis of a series of rich kingly tombs of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties by the French Egyptologist Pierre Montet should have captured the imagination of the world, but they did not. Europe was on the brink of war, and in no mood for such news at the time. He had stumbled inadvertently upon a veritable necropolis of Third Intermediate Period kings.

Montet's recorded reaction to his entry into one of these, on March 17th, 1939, may have lacked originality, "a day of marvels worthy of the Thousand and One Nights", but it was appropriate enough. Dropping gingerly through the roof, the decorated chamber would prove to be the tomb of King Psusennes I. There, he was surrounded by veritable heaps of burial equipment, including much that belonged to, at that time, an unknown king by the name of Heqakheperre Shoshenq (II).

Pectoral of Sheshonq II, Click for more info

Even today, we know very little about Sheshonq (Shoshonq) II. His birth name and epithet were Sheshonq (meryamun), meaning Sheshonq, Beloved of Amun. Heqa-kheper-re Setep-en-re, meaning "The Manifestation of Re rules, Chosen of Re" was his Throne name. He was a member of the Libyan, or Bubastite Dynasty (22nd Dynasty).

Most current references refer to Sheshonq II as the son of Osorkon I and state that he became the High Priest of Amun at Karnak (probably 924-894 BC) prior to being made a co-regent of his father in about 890 BC. He was probably about 50 years of age at this time. His mother was perhaps Maatkare, according to a statue of the personification of the Inundation that was dedicated by Sheshonq II. Shoeshonq II may have married a lady named Nesitanebetashru and another named Nesitaudjatakhet. Some scholars believe that he may have at least fathered a child (known as Osorkon D) who would also become a High Priest of Amun, though this is certainly not clear. Another child, Harsiese, if he indeed was a child of Sheshenq II, became king of Thebes.

Bracelet of Sheshonq II, Click for more information

Egyptologists are divided on whether Sheshonq II ever became an independent ruler. Most English references will advocate that he never became an independent ruler, but this brings up an interesting point about Egyptology. It was Kenneth Kitchen, the English Egyptologist who asserts that Sheshonq II was never anindependent ruler, based on evidence from mummy bandages. He relies on the bandages found on the mummy of Nakhtefmut that relate Year 33 of Osorkon's rule with Year 3 of an unknown ruler. Kitchen believed that the unknown ruler was none other than Sheshonq II. However, these two dates were not written on a single piece of bandage, but on two separate ones, and there is no particular evidence that the two bandages were actually from the same period of time. Other examples exist where bandages were used that did in fact date to different periods.

Gold Pectoral with solar Boat of Sheshonq II, Click for more info

On the other hand, several non English Egyptologists appear to believe that Sheshonq II in fact did have an independent reign of at least several years. For example the German Egyptologist, Von Beckerath, makes this claim in his 1997 German language book, Chronology of the Egyptian Pharaohs, based upon the absence of dated monuments from his reign. However, because it is a German book, this theory has not much been introduced into the English press. It should also be noted that Manetho states that there were three kings within the interval between the reigns of Osorkon I and Takelot I.

The Golden Mask of Sheshonq II

There is also some disagreement as to whether Sheshonq II was the son of Osorkon I. Some have argued, based on the lack of inscribed items bearing the name of Osorkon I in the funerary equipment of Sheshonq II, and the presence of items bearing the name of Sheshonq I, that it was the latter who fathered Sheshonq II. Indeed, if Sheshonq II was not the son of Osorkon I, he may probably also not have been a High Priest of Amun, nor would he have had a child named Harsiese who became king of Thebes.

The Golden Sandals of Sheshonq II

In the end, not much is as clear about Sheshonq II as Kitchen makes it seem. There are many ongoing disagreements amongst Egyptologists.

After the mummy's discovery, it was sent to Douglas Derry in the Anatomy Department of the Cairo University's Facility of Medicine. He noted that water had entered the coffin, since the bones of the mummy's legs were covered with tiny rootlets that had penetrated the coffin where it was broken at the foot. All of the soft tissue was gone. The examination revealed that the brain had been removed from the skull and the roof of the nose had probably been broken for that purpose. An analysis of his mummy revealed that the cause of death was probably an injury to the head which developed into a massive infection. Sheshonq II died of septic infection.

Regrettably, dampness destroyed almost everything that wasn't metal or bone in the tomb where Sheshonq II was discovered. However, we are left with a few priceless relics, including his silver coffin, jewelry, including some very fine pectorals and a few other items. The coffin was similar in style to that of Tutankhamun's gold one, but had a falcon's head rather than the face of the king. Beneath the coffin, the mummy wore a gold mask. There were also four miniature silver coffins used to hold the king's internal organs, a considerable variation from most previous canopic equipment.

Editor's note: I would like to thank Fabian Boudville of Canada for considerable help in sorting out the ongoing research into this king. His references and analysis were a very important part of the story.






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