The couple formed by the Pharaoh Amenophis I and his mother, queen Ahmes-Nefertari, together or separately, were the object in the Theban region of both extraordinary active official and popular worship, whose evolution is astonishing. It only began about one century after their death, in the 19th Dynasty, and continued for about four centuries, until the end of the 21st Dynasty, before disappearing completely in the Ptolemaic period, when there is no trace of the two characters.
About 130 tombs of individuals had been decorated at the beginning of the Ramesside period, amongst which 37% include in their decoration at least one royal representation; among these, 78% concern Amenhotep I and/or his mother and queen Ahmes-Nefertari. In only 22% of the cases do they represent another Pharaoh: Thutmosis I, Thutmosis III, Montuhotep-Nebhepetre, Sethy I and Ramesses II, all founders of a Dynasty, liberators or great soldiers.
The historic circumstances, the personality of the participants, their action in the restoration of the cults, the creation of the worker "gangs" of Deir el-Medineh, the creation of the institution of the God's wife, the formatting of the Daily Divine Ritual of the temples, the raising of a Temple of Millions of Years situated at a strategic place on the west bank are the many facts which can explain the success of this royal couple.
The examination of this couple will start with the king, for whom less documentation is available. This will then be followed by that of his mother and the possible associations.
"the Ka of Ra is powerful"), Amenhotep (
"Amon is satisfied") was the second king of the 18th Dynasty, son of Ahmosis and queen Ahmes-Nefertari, grandson of queen Ahhotep I. His reign of nearly 21 years extends according to different authors as beginning between 1483/1528 and ending between 1504/1550 B.C.
The historic events of the reign are not well known. Globally, the new sovereign followed his father's politics, consolidating and extending the inheritance, notably by ending the clean up of the Delta after the invading Hyksos had been expelled from there, and by sending some expeditions into Nubia and maybe into Asia.
Like his father, he dedicated the main part of his architectural efforts to the Theban region, which does not prevent from finding traces of this activity elsewhere. The continuing clearance of the Theban temples established one of the main themes of his politics: restoration of the ruined buildings, reconstitution of a clergy, relaunching of the cults, and probably creation of the "Daily" Divine Ritual which would be thereafter required in the temples.
In all these activities, he is assisted effectively by his mother Ahmes-Nefertari who, very influential already during the reign of her husband Ahmosis, sees this influence lasting under her son's reign.
The wife of Amenophis I, queen Merytamon, didn't give him an heir. At his death, the change of lineage came about very smoothly, probably by the combined action of the king and his mother.
The very positive image which was left to the Egyptians by the Pharaoh Amenophis I, as well as the family of the liberators, notably Kamosis and Ahmosis, is extensively due to two outstanding women, being the queens Ahhotep and Ahmes-Nefertari.
The alabaster (calcite) chapel called
"Amon whose monuments are lasting", which is within the temple of Karnak (see ), being a sacred barque chapel of Amon. Other works were also achieved in Karnak, but little has survived (see ).
Very little is known about this, other than the funerary destination of which is testified by its proximity to the temple of Montuhotep: the aspect of the building, its name and its function remain hypothetical; nevertheless it can be reached by a long rail edged with giant osirises. But this construction was on the site chosen by queen Hatshepsut to build her funerary temple. The architect Senenmut therefore made savings, and reused some blocks in the middle terrace.
This had been built by Amenophis I for his mother; the king himself is mentioned there, notably on blocks mentioning a jubilee (heb sed), of which the reality is doubtful since the sovereign didn't reach the required thirty years of theoretically necessary reign (but several cases are known where this period has not been respected).
The cult of Amenophis I is the longest of all royal cults. It is nearly exclusively Theban, although some other traces have been found, notably in Abydos. It is especially developed in the workers village at Deir el-Medineh.
On the image to the left can be seen the arched stela dedicated by craftsman Parahotep to the Amon-Ra triad, Meretseger and Amenophis I.
On the right is another stela, from the Turin museum, dedicated by Amenemipet and his father Amennakht to the royal couple (by clicking on the image the whole stela is enlarged, by clicking just the upper curved area is enlarged).
Amenophis I appears to the eyes of the craftsmen as their first benefactor, the one who created the "gang" of the workers for the digging and the decoration of the royal burials at the foot of the Theban mountain. However, he was not the founder of the village itself, that was in fact his successor, Thutmosis I.
For reasons which remain poorly understood, it is only in the post-Amarnian period that Amenophis I is celebrated as a god and the head of the the whole royal necropolis, and becomes more specifically THE protective divinity of the village of Deir el-Medineh and its occupants (Valbelle).
The greatest number of representations of the sovereign is on stelae or in the form of private statuettes like the one which is at the , but also on lintels or the uprights of doors, columns or pillars, on furniture, and, of course, on the walls of tombs. The foremost are those of the tomb of Khabekhnet (the son of Sennedjem) and dates from the reign of Ramesses II. There are various examples of him in these two pages, and his tomb, in its entirety, will be soon be on OsirisNet. Another magnificent example comes from a fragment of a certain (courtesy of the British Museum).
Amenophis I benefits from a sanctuary close to the village, which shelters one of his statues. It is on a terrace above the Ptolemaic temple dedicated to Hathor (see ). The initial sanctuary was of a small size, and it is difficult to determine its present limits. Lenka Peacock found some of its levelled walls (see and ).
The sovereign's cult was assured by the workers themselves, of least certain of them. These responsibilities were passed on within some families, who gave them a degree of special prestige. This priesthood was the most abundant and the most varied of the village. It included (according to Valbelle) some prophets or first prophets, many wab-priests, a lector-priest, an "aAna" (?), a fan-bearer and two (elders (Smsw).
At the time of the processions, the statue was carried on the shoulders of eight priests, and followed by an ensemble of equipment (see image opposite, coming from the tomb TT2, of Khabekhnet).
The priests also served as intermediaries during the oracles consultations, which especially concerned litigations of property, of career problems, and the degree of power which this conferred on them in a restricted community it can be imagined. The procedure is known: the consultation is carried out during the procession, or at a stop point of the statue, and the question is asked with the introduction:
"Come to me my good master". The god answers whilst exercising on the porters an invincible strength, obliging them to advance, to rest or to lean the statue. The request could also be written on an ostracon or on pieces of reed (or papyrus), the god showing his choice by heading towards one of them. This oracle, who didn't only appear on the days of festival, was exceptionally popular, confirmed by the confidence which the people had in civil authority. It is likely that, in the great majority of the cases, the porters were persuaded to have felt something and acted in all honesty. But the opinions returned were more or less arbitrary (when they were not malevolent) ; but the suppleness of the Egyptian religion mustn't be forgotten. If a plaintiff was unhappy with the answer of the god Amenophis (or of any other), he could ask for a further consultation, or be willing to go to see another god!
The festivals in honour of Amenophis I took place at least four times the year, and his name was even given to one month:
Pa-em-Amenhotep ("the one of Amenhotep") , Phamenoth in Greek. The festival of his coronation would be celebrated until the end of the Ramesside period.
These ceremonies took place in front of certain buildings, or from one building to another. A reminder that there existed a rich network of canals at that time, and that every temple or funerary foundation was joined to the Nile and had a landing pier.
The representations in the tombs suggest that the king's statue was taken - with or without that of his mother - at the time of different festivals, distributed throughout the year. A good example is provided by the image to the left, a painting of Nina de Garies Davies, according to tomb TT19, that of Amenmes. It can be seen that the king's statue had arrived in front of the pylon of a temple.
There are several different sanctuaries in the Theban region, which each possess their own statue of the sovereign. Small statuettes in the effigy of the king can also be found in the main room of the houses of private individuals.
By contrast, queen Ahmes-Nefertari does not benefit either from a priesthood, or from a sanctuary in the village; she had to be content with one of the "corporate chapels" dedicated to the local divinities. Craftsmen associate her much more with festivals of their holy protector Amenophis than they pay her a personal hommage.
Amenophis I could be invoked in three forms:
Amenophis "of the Village", in the form of the specific deceased king in DEM, where his statue was located;
Amenophis "beloved of Amon";
Amenophis "of the court". This last form is more specific with his relationship with Ahmes-Nefertari.
The sovereign is represented in two main forms, which probably correspond to two aspects of his cult statue: with the blue crown or with a headband.
The last case is the most frequent (). The headband continues towards the rear where it forms two stiff ribbons. It is usually decorated with an uraeus. Sometimes it is surmounted by horns of a ram surrounding a solar disk, with two feathers and an uraeus in the front.
There are rare occurrences where king is the one who offers and not the one who receives, as for example in the tomb of Neferabet, TT5 (see ). Sometimes, as in tomb TT2 of Khabeknet, different representations of the sovereign are found in the same place (see the two above images, right and left).
Paradoxically, there are only a very few documents dating from the 18th dynasty, the greater number dating from the Ramesside period. Thus, thanks to stylistic criteria and epigraphic details, it can be established that the magnificent seated statue of Amenophis, in painted limestone, in the Turin museum doesn't date from the 18th dynasty as was thought, but that it is a Ramesside replica of the original statue ().
Amenophis I was the first Egyptian sovereign of the New Kingdom to have, in a vain effort to prevent plunder, separated his Temple of Millions of years from his burial place.
The references to article pages, indicated below, have direct links in the bibliography section on page 2.
The site of the tomb has been the subject of discussions in Egyptology since the end of the 19th century. Its precise location is still uncertain today. Of the three suspected tombs
(see the very complete article by Sjef Willockx, in pdf format) , two remain in the run.
This is on a plateau, above the Valley of the Kings, at the foot of the Theban summit.
This is located, with also two other non-decorated large tombs, on the crest of the hill of Dra' Abu el-Naga, therefore close to the ancient necropolis of the Theban sovereigns of the 17th dynasty. Daniel Polz, who studied again the monument between 1993 and 2000 is convinced than it represents the common tomb of the king and queen Ahmes-Nefertari
(see the two German Archaeological Institute pages) .
The mummy of Amenophis I has been recovered in a reused sarcophagus, deposited in the 21st dynasty by the priests of Amon, in the famous "hiding place" of Deir el Bahari (DB 320). It is the only royal remains on which was inscribed
"Jt n Kmt",
" (the) father of Egypt". It is now in the Cairo museum, always in its bandages, the face covered with a wooden mask decorated with an uraeus and a wig (see ).