Thursday, September 10, 2009

Prince Khaemwaset, the World’s First Archaeologist

Prince Khaemwaset was a son of the Egyptian King Ramesses II and Queen Isetneferet[1]. He acquired a reputation as a scholar that lasted until Greco-Roman times, when he was made the hero of a cycle of stories[2].

Ramesses II took Khaemwaset on a military campaign in Nubia early in his reign[3]. The Prince later became the High Priest of Ptah and was crown prince at the time of his death.

As High Priest of Ptah, Khaemwaset was responsible for the burial of the sacred Apis bulls in the Serapeum at Saqqara[4]. At Saqqara, the Prince restored a number of Old Kingdom monuments, including the Pyramid of Unas[5].

Mariette, the famous French archaeologist, found a chamber in the Serapeum that held two huge coffins, four canopic jars and a tall wooden statue of the god Osiris. It also contained two wooden shrines with scenes of Ramesses Ii and Khaemwaset making offerings to an Apis bull (the Serapeum is the burial place of the Apis bulls). Two large ushabtis of Khaemwaset were found in a niche in the South wall[6]. Some archeologists believe that the burial of Khaemwaset has been found in the Serapeum, but most archaeologists no longer accept this idea.

Khaemwaset’s work in restoring the monuments of the Old Kingdom have led to some referring to him as the world’s first archaeologist.

[1] Shaw, Ian. Ed., The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

[2] Dodson, Aiden and Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, London: Thames and Hudson, 2004, p. 171.

[3] Shaw, p. 302

[4] Shaw, p. 302

[5] Dodson, Aiden and Salima Ikram, The Tomb in Ancient Egypt, London: Thames and Hudson, 2008, p. 56.

[6] Reeve, Nicholas, Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries, London: Thames and Hudson, 2000, p. 43

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