Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Burial of King Sobekemsaf of Dynasty Seventeen

Fig. 1 - Canopic Chest of Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef
     Sekhemre Shedtowi Sobekemsaf was a Pharaoh of the Seventeenth Egyptian Dynasty. His rule was localized to the southern portion of Egypt (the northern part was under the rule of the foreign "Hyksos"). Little is known of his reign other than the fact that it was at least sixteen years long and that he built at Karnak and Medamud. He may have also sent an expedition to the Wadi Hammamat.

     We do know a little about this king's burial, however. The exact location of his tomb has never been positively identified, but his canopic chest is in Leiden and the papyrus Amherst gives a striking description of the looting of his tomb.

     The tomb robbery in question took place during the Twentieth Dynasty. The thieves who entered the tomb were captured and confessed (no doubt after some "persuasion" was applied) to the crime. They said that the Pharaoh's mummy had "...a numerous list of amulets and ornaments of gold at its throat; its head had a [mask] of gold upon it..." (James Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, vol. 4, (New York: Russel & Russel, 1962), p. 265).  After removing these valuable objects, the thieves set fire to the bodies of Sobekemsaf and his wife.

     The canopic chest of this ruler is typical of the Seventeenth Dynasty. If is made of wood, and bears simple painted inscriptions and decorations. The lid is semi-curved with an upright rectangular "head and foot board". The underside of the lid has painted representations of four human-headed canopic jars. Anubis is shown on all four sides of the box and the inscriptions tell us that the king is beloved of each of the four sons of Horus, and of Isis and Nephthys (see: Gianluca Miniaci, Rishi Coffins and the Funerary Culture of Second Internediate Period Egypt. (London: Golden House Publications), 2011), p. 73 for drawings of this object).

     The accompanying photo is of the canopic chest of another Seventeenth Dynasty Pharaoh, Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef. Stylistically it is very similar to Sobekemsaf's.

Photo copyright 2013 by John Freed

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