Kings in Thebes – links & further reading

Many thanks to all of you who came along to my ‘Kings in Thebes’ talk, whether in person, in Reading, Horsham or Chesterfield, or online in July and August 2022. What follows is the usual guide to resources online, further reading etc.

First of all, for anyone who missed the talk and would like to see it, a recording is available for the £6 fee which you can pay via PayPal. Please include a private message / note including a reference to the talk e.g. ‘For access to Kings in Thebes talk’. Any questions, please let me know via this page.

During the First Millennium BCE (Dynasties 21-30), what it meant to be ‘king’ or ‘pharaoh’ seems to have changed. This was a time when Egypt was often split into south and north – or even more fragmented than that – and it was subject to influence from various groups of foreigners. While the kings who were recognised by Manetho were generally based in the north, Thebes, in the south, repeatedly produced powerful local individuals who claimed the kingship, or wielded equivalent authority. Some who claimed kingship barely left a trace in the records and were perhaps not so influential; others who didn’t claim kingship seem to have been far more influential and wealthy, causing us to ask what it really meant to be ‘king’ during this era. This is the story of the powerful Chief Priests of Dynasty 21, Theban kings, Libyan Chiefs, and the owners of the three largest and most spectacular tombs anywhere in the country – Harwa, Montuemhat and Padiamunope of Dynasties 25 and 26.

I began my talk with an image of the Rassam Cylinder which is in the collections of the British Museum. More info on this is available here. The translation of the text comes from Pritchard, J B (Ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament.


Rassam Cylinder © The Trustees of the British Museum.

For a more in-depth look at the historical background you might find my talks on the Twenty-first to Twenty-fifth dynasties (see here), the Kingdom of Kush (here) and Herihor (here) of interest.

For single-volume overviews of the history of the period I would recommend:

Dodson, A, Afterglow of Empire: Egypt from the Fall of the New Kingdom to the Saite Renaissance

On the Twenty-fifth Dynasty in particular: Morkot, R G, The Black Pharaohs: Egypt’s Nubian Rulers

The catalogue of the recent exhibition at the Louvre, Paris on the Twenty-fifth Dynasty kings and the period of their rule in Egypt includes short essays written by many of the leading specialists (in French) and is lavishly illustrated with photos of, among other things, many of the most important objects for the study of the period: Pharaon des Deux Terres – L’Epopée africaine des rois de Napata

For translations of the texts of the ‘Chronicle of Prince Osorkon’ the ‘Piye Stela’, ‘Dream Stela’ of Tantamani and the ‘Nitocris Adoption Stela’ I recommend Ritner, R K, The Libyan Anarchy: Inscriptions from Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period (which I notice is very reasonably priced at the moment!).


The ‘Dream Stela’ of Tantamani in the Nubia Museum, Aswan. Tantamani (in the middle) stands before ram-headed Amun of Gebel Barkal with his queen, Qalhata, behind him.

The detailed plan of the tombs of the Asasif is taken from Eigner, D, Die Monumentalen Grabbauten Der Spatzeit in Der Thebanischen Nekropole.


My slide showing the archaeology beneath the ground which is based on Dieter Eigner’s plan of the area.

The individual plan of the tomb of Padiamunope (TT 33) is taken from https://tombett33.hypotheses.org/plans-tt-33; this is one of several websites dedicated to the tomb and the current research project which is led by Professor Claude Traunecker – see also here and here.

The plan of the tomb of Harwa (TT 37) was taken from  ‘Porter and Moss’ volume I/1.

The Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor, directed by Dr Francesco Tiradritti, has been investigating the tomb of Harwa since 1995 and was also among the first to make use of the internet to disseminate information about archaeological fieldwork in Egypt. The project’s website is here.


General view of the Asasif with the ‘lichthof’ of TT 37 in the foreground and the larger mudbrick pylon of TT 34 at top left.

Research projects in all three tombs discussed in this talk – TTs 33 (Padiamunope), 34 (Montuemhat) and 37 (Harwa) – are ongoing. In addition to the resources mentioned above, excellent summaries of the work in TT 33 and TT 34 appeared in the following volumes:

Gestermann, L and Gomaa, F, ‘The Tomb of Montuemhat (TT 34) in the Theban Necropolis: a New Approach’
and
Traunecker, C, ‘The “Funeral Palace” of Padiamenope (TT 33): Tomb, Place of Pilgrimage, and Library. Current research’

…in Pischikova, E et al (eds.), Thebes in the First Millennium BC

Traunecker, C, ‘Abydenian Pilgrimage, Immortal Stars and Theban Liturgies in the Tomb of Padimenope (TT 33)
and
Gestermann, L and Gomaa, F, ‘Remarks on the Decoration and Conception of the Theban Tomb of Montuemhat (TT 34)’

…in (a volume which ha a very similar title to the one mentioned above but which is different!): Pischikova, E et al (eds.), Thebes in the First Millennium BC. Art and Archaeology of the Kushite Period and Beyond

Both these volumes also include numerous other articles dealing with various aspects of these tombs and others of the same period, and other aspects of the archaeology and history of the period.

A monograph arising from the current work in TT 34 has recently appeared: Gestermann, L et al, Die Grabanlage Des Monthemhet (Tt 34) I: Der Weg Zur Sargkammer (R 44.1 Bis R 53).


The larger mudbrick pylon of the tomb of Montuemhat.

Much of our knowledge about Harwa, Montuemhat and Padiamunope comes from their statues and I posted photos and a little bit of information about each of three fine examples in the run-up to the talk, here (Padiamunope), here (Montuemhat) and here (Harwa).


Statue of Harwa, JE 37386 now in the Nubia Museum, Aswan.

Many such statues come from the Karnak ‘cachette’, an incredible stash of hundreds of statues which been deliberately buried beneath the floor of a court within the temple, and which were discovered by George Legrain from 1903 onwards. The French Archaeological Institute in Cairo (IFAO) has made an enormous amount of information about the discovery and the statues available online, here.

On the statues of Harwa, the following articles published by Battiscombe Gunn in the journal BIFAO are a little old now but are nonetheless useful and feely available online:

The Statues of Harwa
The Berlin statue of Harwa and some notes on other Harwa statues

A fuller bibliography of Harwa and his tomb appears on the website of the Italian Archaeological Mission, here.

Incidentally, all volumes of BIFAO from the first, published in 1901, to the most recent (2022) are also freely available (here) – an absolutely incredible resource for which we must all be very grateful to IFAO!

They also include this article, from which I took the drawings of the rock massif at the centre of the ‘cenotaph’ in TT 33: ‘Les grandes compositions religieuses dans la tombe de Pédéménope

Images of the ‘Brooklyn Oracle Papyrus’ or ‘Saite Oracle Papyrus’ which dates to 651 BCE (=year 14, Psamtek I) in which Montuemhat appears as the leading official in Thebes are taken from the Brooklyn Museum’s online collections database, here.


Fragment of the vignette of the ‘Saite Oracle Papyrus’ with Montuemhat at left, his son Nesptah (B) in the centre, and the chief Priest of Amun, Harkhebi, grandson of the Kushite pharaoh, Shabaqo, at right.

The most recent article in which Dr Francesco Tiradritti argues that Harwa may have been a ‘king’ of Thebes is ‘Le rôle de Haroua, grand majordome de la divine adoratrice, dans la gestion du pouvoir à Thèbes entre la fin du VIIIe et le début du VII siècle av. J.-C.’ in Cultes et Clergés à Thèbes des Libyens aux Saïtes. Actes du colloque du musée de Grenoble 11-12 janvier 2019, 1 (= BSFE 203 (2020)).

Francesco’s article ‘Three years of research in the tomb of Harwa’, published in 1998, deals with similar themes including in particular the highly unusual stone shabti holding the crook and flail, and this one is freely available online, here (go to p. 3).

Translations of some of the inscriptions of Montuemhat from the complex of Mut at Karnak are included in the above-mentioned Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy.

Is there anything I’ve missed? Please let me know via this page.

Lastly, I must say a big thank you to Dr Meg Gundlach, whose doctoral thesis focussed on the shabtis of Padiamunope, for her thoughts on what we can say about the political status of the select bunch of individuals to have had stone shabtis during the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Dynasties. Thanks Meg!

Stone shabti of Padiamunope (BM EA 35043) now in the British Museum (see the this entry from the collections online database, here). © The Trustees of the British Museum