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WHO WAS PRINCE KHAEMWESE?

A son of Ramesses II and Queen Isisnofret (Ramesses II's second wife), who held the position of High Priest of Memphis (other titles include "King's Son of His Body", "His Beloved", the Divine Essence Issuing from Kha-nakht (Ramesses II).

He was at the time a very respected individual in his own right (this reverence continued long after his death and several stories were written about him - he had travels into the Netherworld and the Stories of Setne Khaemwase relates how he tries to possess a book spells written by Thoth). - You can read two of these stories in the Wisdom section of ancient Egypt of this website HERE

Under Ramesses II, the position of High Priest of Memphis held as much power as that of the High Priest of Amun at Thebes - Khaemwese was responsible for all sculptors, jewelers and artists working on royal commissions, he oversaw all royal architectural projects, he was in charge of religious ceremonies for Ptah, Sokar, Osiris, Re, Apis and many other deities and he was also responsible for Ramesses II's Sed-Festivals.

Khaemwese oversaw the building of the Ramesseum at Thebes, construction in the Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak as well as temple constructions at Pi-Ramesses.

Building at the Serapeum.

In Year 30 of Ramesses II's reign, Khaemwese decided the change the burial pattern of the Apis Bulls - instead of each bull being buried in a separate tomb, Khaemwese built a great corridor with a series of burial crypts. When a bull died it's huge sarcophagus was walled up in one of the crypts and the next bull to die was placed in the next and so on, more rooms were carved out of the rock and the corridor extended when more space was needed.

In his dedicatory inscription at the site, Khaemwese wrote:

"The Sem-Priest and Kings's Son, Khaemwaset, he (also) says: 'O you Sem-priests, High Priests ('Chief directing artisans'), and worthies of the Temple of Ptah, God's fathers, priests in charge of sacred domains, prophets, rector-priests of this Temple, all who are [.....], and every scribe proficient in knowledge through the great god [who open the door-leaves of] heaven, who are before the god, and who shall enter into this Temple which I have made for the living Apis - and who shall see these things which I have done, engraved upon the stone walls as great and unique benefactions:

Never has the like been done, set down in writing in the Great Festival Court before this Temple....

It will indeed (seem) to you a benefaction, when (by contrast) you look upon what the ancestors have done, in poor and ignorant work(s); there is none who should act [against] what is made for the repose of another....

Remember my name, when decreeing [future such works ... ] "

Khaemwese and his burial at the Serapeum

Whilst first exploring the Serapeum, and in particular the 19th/20th dynasty gallery, Mariette was confronted by a huge rock, which could only move by the use of explosives. Once the shattered remenants of the rock were removed an intact coffin was discovered which contained the mummy of a man. A gold mask covered his face, and amulets gave his name as Prince Khaemwase, son of Ramesses II and builder of this section of the Serapeum. However these remains have been lost, Egyptologists believe that this was not the grave of Khaemwese but were the remains of an Apis Bull made into a human form to resemble the Prince.

 

Mask of sheet gold, thought at the time to indicate the burial of Khaemwaset