Last updated

Userkhaure-setepenre Setnakhte (or Setnakht, Sethnakht) was the first pharaoh (1189 BC 1186 BC) of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt and the father of Ramesses III.

Pharaoh Title of Ancient Egyptian rulers

Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE, although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.

The 1180s BC is a decade which lasted from 1189 BC to 1180 BC.

The Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt is the third and last dynasty of the Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom period, lasting from 1189 BC to 1077 BC. The 19th and 20th Dynasties furthermore together constitute an era known as the Ramesside period.



Setnakhte was not the son, brother or a direct descendant of either Twosret or Merneptah Siptah—the immediately preceding two pharaohs—nor that of Siptah's predecessor Seti II,[ citation needed ] whom Setnakht formally considered the last legitimate ruler.[ citation needed ] It is possible that he was a usurper who seized the throne during a time of crisis and political unrest, or he could have been a member of a minor line of the Ramesside royal family who emerged as pharaoh. Senakhte married Tiy-Merenese, perhaps a daughter of Merneptah.

Twosret final pharaoh of the 19th dynasty

Twosret was the last known ruler and the final Pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt.

Siptah Penultimate Pharaoh of the 19th dynasty

Akhenre Setepenre Siptah or Merenptah Siptah was the penultimate ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. His father's identity is currently unknown. Both Seti II and Amenmesse have been suggested although the fact that Siptah later changed his royal name or nomen to Merneptah Siptah after his Year 2 suggests rather that his father was Merneptah. If correct, this would make Siptah and Seti II half-brothers since both of them were sons of Merneptah.

Seti II Egyptian pharaoh, fifth ruler of the Nineteenth dynasty

Seti II was the fifth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt and reigned from c. 1200 BC to 1194 BC. His throne name, Userkheperure Setepenre, means "Powerful are the manifestations of Re, the chosen one of Re." He was the son of Merneptah and Isetnofret II and sat on the throne during a period known for dynastic intrigue and short reigns, and his rule was no different. Seti II had to deal with many serious plots, most significantly the accession of a rival king named Amenmesse, possibly a half brother, who seized control over Thebes and Nubia in Upper Egypt during his second to fourth regnal years.

A connection between Setnakhte's successors and the preceding Nineteenth Dynasty is suggested by the fact that one of Ramesses II's children also bore this name and that similar names are shared by Setnakhte's descendants such as Ramesses, Amun-her-khepshef, Seth-her-khepshef and Monthu-her-khepshef. [2]

Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt Egyptian dynasty from -1295 to -1186

The Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt is classified as the second Dynasty of the Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom period, lasting from 1292 BC to 1189 BC. The 19th Dynasty and the 20th Dynasty furthermore together constitute an era known as the Ramesside period. This Dynasty was founded by Vizier Ramesses I, whom Pharaoh Horemheb chose as his successor to the throne.

Ramesses II Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt

Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. His successors and later Egyptians called him the "Great Ancestor".

Reign length

Setnakhte was originally believed to have enjoyed a reign of only two years based upon his Year 2 Elephantine stela but his third regnal year is now attested in Inscription No. 271 on Mount Sinai. [3] If his theoretical accession date is assumed to be II Shemu 10, based on the date of his Elephantine stela, Setnakhte would have ruled Egypt for at least two years and 11 months before he died, or nearly three full years. This date is only three months removed from Twosret's highest known date of Year 8, III Peret 5, and is based upon a calculation of Ramesses III's known accession date of I Shemu 26. [4] Peter Clayton also assigned Setnakhte a reign of three years in his 1994 book on the Egyptian pharaohs. [5]

Year 4 quartz stela of Bakenkhunsu The Setnakhte stele.jpg
Year 4 quartz stela of Bakenkhunsu

In a mid-January 2007 issue of the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram, however, Egyptian antiquity officials announced that a recently discovered and well-preserved quartz stela belonging to the High Priest of Amun Bakenkhunsu was explicitly dated to Year 4 of Setnakhte's reign. The Al-Ahram article notes that this data:

<i>Al-Ahram</i> newspaper

Al-Ahram, founded on 5 August 1875, is the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper, and the second oldest after al-Waqa'i`al-Masriya. It is majority owned by the Egyptian government.

"contradicts...the official record, which says Setnakhte ruled Egypt for only three years. According to the new information provided by the stela, Setnakhte's reign certainly lasted for four years, and may have continued for [a little] longer." [6]

Zahi Hawass, the former Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, declared the discovery to be one of the most important finds of 2006 because "it adjusts the history of the 20th Dynasty and reveals more about the life of Bakenkhunsu." [6] As Setnakhte's reign was short, he may have come to the throne fairly late in life.

Zahi Hawass egyptologist, archaeologist

Zahi Hawass is an Egyptian archaeologist, Egyptologist, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs. He has also worked at archaeological sites in the Nile Delta, the Western Desert, and the Upper Nile Valley.

Supreme Council of Antiquities branch of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture

The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) was a department within the Egyptian Ministry of Culture from 1994 until January 2011, when it became an independent ministry, the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA). It was the government body responsible for the conservation, protection and regulation of all antiquities and archaeological excavations in Egypt.

However, the Al-Ahram figure does not change the fact that Setnakhte likely truly ruled Egypt for only 3, rather than 4, full years since there are no Year 1 dates attested for him and his famous Year 2 Elephantine stela states that Setnakhte finally secured his kingship after defeating all his opponents and challengers to the throne in his second year. The date of the Elephantine stela in Year 2 II Shemu day 10 of Setnakhte's reign [7] —the date of which is mentioned only halfway in the stela rather than at its start—is immediately followed by this proclamation: "There were no opponents against His Majesty, l.p.h., in all the lands." [8]

This reference to the defeat of Setnakhte's enemies implies that this specific date marked the termination of a conflict—presumably Setnakhte's struggle for the throne—which extended partly into his second year and means that Setnakhte's first year would have overlapped with Twosret's final year, if Twosret was his opponent. Therefore, he likely did not even rule Egypt in his theoretical first year and could only properly administer the country from sometime during his second year. In any event, there was an interregnum lasting at least a year in which no ruler controlled all of Egypt and Setnakhte's effective reign length should be reduced by a year from 4 to 3 years.

Setnakhte's Elephantine stela touches on this chaotic period and refers explicitly to the expulsion of certain Asiatics, who fled Egypt, abandoning the gold which they had looted from Egyptian temples. It is uncertain the degree to which this inscription referred to contemporary events or rather repeated anti-Asiatic sentiment from the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I. Setnakhte identified with the God Atum or Temu, and built a temple to this God at Per-Atum (Biblical Pithom).[ citation needed ]

The "mummy in the boat" from KV35, before its destruction Setnacht Mummy.jpg
The "mummy in the boat" from KV35, before its destruction

After his death, Setnakhte was buried in KV14 which was originally designed to be Twosret's royal tomb. His mummy has never been identified with certainty, although the so–called "mummy in the boat" found in KV35 was sometimes identified with him, an attribution rejected by Aidan Dodson who rather believes the body belonged to a royal family member of Amenhotep II of the 18th Dynasty. In any case the mummy was destroyed in a looting in 1901, thus preventing any analysis on it. [9]


Reliefs of Horus and Geb from tomb KV14 Relief of Horus and Geb from KV14 (Kairoinfo4u).jpg
Reliefs of Horus and Geb from tomb KV14

While Setnakhte's reign was still comparatively brief, it was just long enough for him to stabilize the political situation in Egypt and establish his son, Rameses III, as his successor to the throne of Egypt. The Bakenkhunsu stela reveals that it was Setnakhte who began the construction of a Temple of Amun-Re in Karnak which was eventually completed by his son, Ramesses III. Setnakhte also started work on a tomb, KV11, in the Valley of the Kings, but stopped it when the tombcarvers accidentally broke into the tomb of the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Amenmesse. Setnakhte then appropriated the tomb of Queen Twosret (KV14), his predecessor, for his own use. Setnakhte's origins are unknown, and he may have been a commoner, although many Egyptologists believe he was related to the previous dynasty, the Nineteenth, through his mother and may thus have been a grandson of Ramesses II. Setnakhte's son and successor, Ramesses III, is regarded as the last great king of the New Kingdom.

Papyrus Harris

The beginning of the Great Harris Papyrus or Papyrus Harris I, which documents the reign of Ramesses III, provides some details about Setnakhte's rise to power. An excerpt of James Henry Breasted's 1906 translation of this document is provided below:

"The land of Egypt was overthrown from without, and every man was thrown out of his right; they had no "chief mouth" for many years formerly until other times. The land of Egypt was in the hands of chiefs and of rulers of towns; one slew his neighbour, great and small. Other times having come after it, with empty years, Irsu ('a self-made man'), a certain Syrian (Kharu) was with them as chief (wr). He set plundering their (i.e., the people's) possessions. They made gods like men, and no offerings were presented in the temples.
"But when the gods inclined themselves to peace, to set the land in its rights according to its accustomed manner, they established their son, who came forth from their limbs, to be ruler, LPH, of every land, upon their great throne, Userkhaure-setepenre-meryamun, LPH, the son of Re, Setnakht-merire-meryamun, LPH. He was Khepri-Set, when he is enraged; he set in order the entire land which had been rebellious; he slew the rebels who were in the land of Egypt; he cleansed the great throne of Egypt; he was ruler of the Two Lands, on the throne of Atum. He gave ready faces to those who had been turned away. Every man knew his brother who had been walled in. He established the temples in possession of divine offerings, to offer to the gods according to their customary stipulations." [10]

Until 2000, Chancellor Bay was considered the only plausible candidate for this Irsu. However, an IFAO Ostracon no. 1864 found at Deir el-Medina dated to Year 5 records that 'Pharaoh (Siptah) LPH has killed the great enemy, Bay'. [11] Because Chancellor Bay died at least 3 years before this 'Irsu', he can no longer be considered a plausible candidate for this historical figure.

Related Research Articles

Ramesses IV The third pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt

Heqamaatre Ramesses IV was the third pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. His name prior to assuming the crown was Amonhirkhopshef. He was the fifth son of Ramesses III and was appointed to the position of crown prince by the twenty-second year of his father's reign when all four of his elder brothers predeceased him. His promotion to crown prince:

is suggested by his appearance in a scene of the festival of Min at the Ramesses III temple at Karnak, which may have been completed by Year 22 [of his father's reign].

Ramesses VIII Egyptian pharaoh

Usermare Akhenamun Ramesses VIII or Ramesses Sethherkhepshef Meryamun, was the seventh Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt and was one of the last surviving sons of Ramesses III.

Ramesses V pharaoh in the ancient Egypt

Usermaatre Sekheperenre Ramesses V was the fourth pharaoh of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt and was the son of Ramesses IV and Queen Duatentopet.

Merneptah Fourth pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt

Merneptah or Merenptah was the fourth pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records. He was the thirteenth son of Ramesses II and only came to power because all his older brothers, including his full brother Khaemwaset or Khaemwase, had died. By the time he ascended to the throne, he was probably around seventy years old. His throne name was Ba-en-re Mery-netjeru, which means "The Soul of Ra, Beloved of the Gods".

Ramesses VI fifth ruler of the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt

Ramesses VI Nebmaatre-Meryamun was the fifth pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt. He reigned for about eight years in the mid-to-late 12th century BC and was a son of Ramesses III and queen Iset Ta-Hemdjert. As a prince, he was known as Ramesses Amunherkhepeshef and held the titles of royal scribe and cavalry general. He was succeeded by his son, Ramesses VII Itamun, whom he had fathered with queen Nubkhesbed.

Ramesses VII Ancient Egyptian sixth pharaoh of the 20th dynasty

Usermaatre Setepenre Meryamun Ramesses VII was the sixth pharaoh of the 20th dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He reigned from about 1136 to 1129 BC and was the son of Ramesses VI. Other dates for his reign are 1138-1131 BC. The Turin Accounting Papyrus 1907+1908 is dated to Year 7 III Shemu day 26 of his reign and has been reconstructed to show that 11 full years passed from Year 5 of Ramesses VI to Year 7 of his reign.

Gods Wife of Amun

God's Wife of Amun was the highest-ranking priestess of the Amun cult, an important religious institution in ancient Egypt. The cult was centered in Thebes in Upper Egypt during the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth dynasties. The office had political importance as well as religious, since the two were closely related in ancient Egypt.

Bay (chancellor) Ancient Egyptian treasurer

Bay, also called Ramesse Khamenteru, was an important Asiatic official in ancient Egypt, who rose to prominence and high office under Seti II Userkheperure Setepenre and later became an influential powerbroker in the closing stages of the 19th Dynasty. He was generally identified with Irsu mentioned in the Great Harris Papyrus, although no contemporary source connects Bay with Irsu.

Psusennes I Egyptian pharaoh

Psusennes I was the third pharaoh of the 21st Dynasty who ruled from Tanis between 1047–1001 BC. Psusennes is the Greek version of his original name Pasibkhanu or Pasebakhaenniut, which means "The Star Appearing in the City" while his throne name, Akheperre Setepenamun, translates as "Great are the Manifestations of Ra, chosen of Amun." He was the son of Pinedjem I and Henuttawy, Ramesses XI's daughter by Tentamun. He married his sister Mutnedjmet.

KV15 ancient Egyptian tomb

Tomb KV15, located in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, was used for the burial of Pharaoh Seti II of the Nineteenth Dynasty. The tomb was dug into the base of a near-vertical cliff face at the head of a wadi running south-west from the main part of the Valley of the Kings. It runs along a northwest-to-southeast axis, comprising a short entry corridor followed by three corridor segments which terminate in a well room that lacks a well, which was never dug. This then connects with a four-pillared hall and another stretch of corridor that was converted into a burial chamber.

Siamun Egyptian Pharaoh

Neterkheperre or Netjerkheperre-Setepenamun Siamun was the sixth pharaoh of Egypt during the Twenty-first dynasty. He built extensively in Lower Egypt for a king of the Third Intermediate Period and is regarded as one of the most powerful rulers of the 21st Dynasty after Psusennes I. Siamun's prenomen, Netjerkheperre-Setepenamun, means "Divine is The Manifestation of Ra, Chosen of Amun" while his name means 'son of Amun.'

Amun-her-khepeshef Kings son

Amun-her-khepeshef was the firstborn son of Pharaoh Ramesses II and Queen Nefertari.


Irsu is the name used in Papyrus Harris I to designate a Khasu who became overlord of a group of local rulers nominally under Egyptian control, at a time of unrest between the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties. The reading of the name is contested and the man may instead have simply been called Su. The events in which Irsu participated likely took place outside of the Nile Valley, in the Asiatic territories of Egypt's empire.

Hori II (Vizier) Egyptian vizier

Hori was a Vizier of Ancient Egypt. He served during the reign of pharaohs Sethi II, Siptah, Tawosret, Setnakhte and Ramesses III.

Yuny (viceroy of Kush) Viceroy of Kush

Yuni served as Head of the-stable-of-Seti-I, Charioteer of His Majesty, and Chief of the Medjay before becoming Viceroy during the reign of Seti I. He would use some of these titles simultaneously. On a stela from Abydos -now in the Cairo Museum - the inscription reads:


  1. Setnakht
  2. Nos ancêtres de l'Antiquité 1991. Christian Settipani, p.153, 173 & 175
  3. Von Beckerath, Chronologie des Pharaonischen Ägypten, 1997, p. 201-202
  4. E.F. Wente & C.C. Van Siclen, "A Chronology of the New Kingdom" in Studies in Honor of George R. Hughes, (SAOC 39) 1976, pp.236-237
  5. Peter Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1994, p.160
  6. 1 2 El-Aref, Nevine (11–17 January 2007). "Dynasty revealed". Al-Ahram Weekly (827). Archived from the original on 3 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
  7. Dino Bidoli, "Stadt und Temple von Elephantine. Dritter Grabungsbericht." MDAIK 28 (1972): 192 ff., pl. 49.
  8. KRI V: 671, §251 (13)
  9. Schneider, Thomas (2010). "Contributions to the Chronology of the New Kingdom and the Third Intermediate Period". Ägypten & Levante. 20., pp. 386–387
  10. James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol No.4,(1906), pp.198-199
  11. Pierre Grandet, "L'execution du chancelier Bay O. IFAO 1864," BIFAO 100 (2000), pp.339-356