KING RAMESSES I, FOUNDER OF THE 19TH DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN -
Ramesses I was the founder of the 19th Dynasty (though there is some evidence to suggest that they themselves saw Horemheb
as he dynastic founder) and the grandfather of the great and famous pharaoh, Ramesses II. Though he began a Dynasty that
would actually see several powerful kings, his reign was really somewhat of a low point during the New Kingdom. A vizier
under the last king of the 18th Dynasty, Horemheb, Ramesses I appears to have come to the throne as an appointment of his
predecessor, who seems to have produced no heir.
Ramesses had been a colleague of Horemheb while the earlier king was still serving as an army commander, and he may even be
depicted in Horemheb's Saqqara tomb being rewarded by the King's Deputy. Ramesses rose in army rank, holding a number of
military titles including that of commander of the fortress of Sile, an important stronghold on the land-bridge connecting
the Egyptian Delta with Syria-Palestine, before ultimately receiving the civil title of (presumably Northern) vizier. His
high status was further confirmed by the office of Overseer of Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt, thus placing him at the
head of the civil and religious communities. Ramesses I, who may have even served as a co-regent of Horemheb, took the
throne rather late during Ramesses I's life, when he was perhaps around fifty years of age.
His birth name, Ramesses (Ramses, Paramessu) means "Re has Fashioned him". His throne name was Menpehtyre, which means
"Eternal is the Strength of Re". Horemheb's selection of Ramesses as his successor seems to have been well thought out, for
Ramesses I chose the Golden Horus name of "He who confirms Ma'at throughout the Two Lands", indicating his desire to carry
on the work of Horemheb in re-establishing religious order after the heretic rule of Akhenaten. His names and titles also
stresses the privileged nature of his relationship with Re, the sun god.
Ramesses was not of royal blood, but rather a career army officer who was the son of a troop commander and judge named Seti.
His mother is unknown. His family came from the north-eastern Delta area of Avaris (probably modern Tell el-Dab'a), which
had been the capital of the Hyksos invaders some 400 years earlier. We do know of one of his wives named Sitre, who's
parentage is unknown but who was probably the daughter of another army officer. Together, Ramesses I and Sitre had one son,
Seti I, who held the titles vizier and Troop Commander under his father prior to succeeding him. He also may have served as
a co-regent with his father.
During the last few months of Ramesses I's life, Seti may have led an expedition to Palestine, which would be the only
military action we are aware of during his father's reign. Early on in the reign of Ramesses I, Seti was appointed vizier
and commander of Sile, but also held a number of priestly titles linking him with various gods worshipped in the Delta,
including that of high priest of Seth.
Ramesses I probably only ruled Egypt for about two years, which hardly gave him the time needed to make his mark in Egyptian
history. This is evidenced by the fact that Ramesses I's son, and perhaps even his grandson had been borne before his
accession. However, there were a few reliefs added to the Second Pylon in the Temple of Amun at Karnak that was completed by
Ramesses I during his reign, and a stele dated early in his second regnal year found at Wadi Halfa. Otherwise, he focused
mot of his building efforts on the construction of a chapel and a temple at Abydos, which had to be finished by Seti I after
Ramesses I's death.
After his death, Ramesses I was buried in his small tomb (KV 16) in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Thebes
(modern Luxor). Around October 10th of 1817, the strongman of Egyptology, Belzoni, discovered his tomb, which showed to have
been a hasty interment. In fact, the burial chamber was unfinished, and had been intended to be merely an antechamber in a
much larger tomb. The decorative theme of this tomb was modeled on that of Horemheb, and featured the Book of Gates. Though
some of the burial provisions were left behind, including a large granite sarcophagus, a pair of almost two meter high
wooden statues of the king once covered with gold foil and a number of wooden statuettes of underworld deities and curious
animal heads, the tomb had been robbed during antiquity. However, these funerary goods seem stylistically similar to those
at the beginning of the 18th Dynasty.
Though the mummy of Ramesses I has remained unidentified from many years, some scientists now believe that a mummy
discovered in the Niagra Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame is none other then that of Ramesses I. In 1999, this
facility closed its doors and sold off its antiquities, which were purchased by the Carlos Museum. After careful analysis of
a number of different factors related to this mummy, such as the care with which the mummification took place, its general
appearance in relationship to others of the 19th Dynasty kings, and other factors, these scientists have concluded that this
must have been Ramesses I. In light of all this evidence, Egyptian authorities have accepted the return of the mummy in a
spirit of cooperation.
The burial of Queen Sitre broke with earlier tradition where the queen was apparently buried in her husband's tomb at a
later date if she outlived him. Sitre's tomb set a new precedent by being situated in the Valley of the Queens on the West
Bank. However, her tomb was also unfinished, with only a few paintings on the walls of the first chamber.
Menpehtyre Ramesses I (traditional English: Ramesses or Ramses) was the founding Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's 19th dynasty.
The dates for his short reign are not completely known but the time-line of late 1292-1290 BC is frequently cited as
well as 1295-1294 BC. While Ramesses I was the founder of the 19th Dynasty, in reality his brief reign marked the
transition between the reign of Horemheb who had stabilised Egypt and the rule of the powerful Pharaohs of this dynasty, in
particular his son Seti I and grandson Ramesses II, who would bring Egypt up to new heights of imperial power.
Originally called Pa-ra-mes-su, Ramesses I was of non-royal birth, being born into a noble military family from the Nile
delta region, perhaps near the former Hyksos capital of Avaris, or from Tanis. He was a son of a troop commander called
Seti. His uncle Khaemwaset, an army officer married Tamwadjesy, the matron of the Harem of Amun, who was a relative of Huy,
the Viceroy of Kush, an important state post. This shows the high status of Ramesses' family. Ramesses I found favor
with Horemheb, the last pharaoh of the tumultuous Eighteenth dynasty, who appointed the former as his Vizier. Ramesses also
served as the High Priest of Amun – as such, he would have played an important role in the restoration of
the old religion following the Amarna heresy of a generation earlier, under Akhenaten.
Horemheb himself had been a nobleman from outside the immediate royal family, who rose through the ranks of the Egyptian
army to serve as the royal advisor to Tutankhamun and Ay and, ultimately, Pharaoh. Since Horemheb was childless, he
ultimately chose Ramesses to be his heir in the final years of his reign presumably because Ramesses I was both an able
administrator and had a son (Seti I) and a grandson (the future Ramesses II) to succeed him and thus avoid any succession
Upon his accession, Ramesses assumed a prenomen, or royal name, which is written in Egyptian hieroglyphs to the right. When
transliterated, the name is mn-pḥty-r‘, which is usually interpreted as Menpehtyre, meaning "Established by the strength of
Ra". However, he is better known by his nomen, or personal name. This is transliterated as r‘-ms-sw, and is usually
realised as Ramessu or Ramesses, meaning 'Ra bore him'. Already an old man when he was crowned, Ramesses appointed his son,
the later pharaoh Seti I, to serve as the Crown Prince and chosen successor. Seti was charged with undertaking several
military operations during this time– in particular, an attempt to recoup some of Egypt's lost possessions in Syria.
Ramesses appears to have taken charge of domestic matters: most memorably, he completed the second pylon at Karnak Temple,
begun under Horemheb.
Ramesses I enjoyed a very brief reign, as evidenced by the general paucity of contemporary monuments mentioning him: the
king had little time to build any major buildings in his reign and was hurriedly buried in a small and hastily finished
tomb. The Egyptian priest Manetho assigns him a reign of 16 months but this pharaoh certainly ruled Egypt for a minimum
of 17 months based on his highest known date which is a Year 2 II Peret day 20 (Louvre C57) stela which ordered the
provision of new endowments of food and priests for the Temple of Ptah within the Egyptian fortress of Buhen. Jürgen von
Beckerath observes that Ramesses I died just 5 months later-in June 1290 BC-since his son Seti I succeeded to power on III
Shemu day 24. Ramesses I's only known action was to order the provision of endowments for the aforementioned Nubian
temple at Buhen and "the construction of a chapel and a temple (which was to be finished by his son) at Abydos." The
aged Ramesses was buried in the Valley of the Kings. His tomb, discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817 and designated KV16,
is small in size and gives the impression of having been completed with haste. Joyce Tyldesley states that Ramesses I's
tomb consisted of a single corridor and one unfinished room whose
" walls, after a hurried coat of plaster, were painted to show the king with his gods, with Osiris allowed a
prominent position. The red granite sarcophagus too was painted rather than carved with inscriptions which, due to their
hasty preparation, included a number of unfortunate errors." "
Seti I, his son, and successor, later built a small chapel (or temple) with fine reliefs in memory of his deceased father
Ramesses I at Abydos. In 1911, John Pierpont Morgan donated several exquisite reliefs from this chapel to the Metropolitan
Museum of Art in New York.
Rediscovery and repatriation
According to current theory, his mummy was stolen by the Abu-Rassul family of grave robbers and brought to North America
around 1860 by Dr. James Douglas. It was then placed in the Niagara Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame in Ontario, Canada.
Ramesses I remained there, his identity unknown, next to other curiosities and so-called freaks of nature for more than 130
years. When the owner of the museum decided to sell his property, Canadian businessman William Jamieson purchased the
contents of the museum. In 1999, Jamieson sold the Egyptian artifacts in the collection, including the various mummies, to
the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia for US $2 million. His identity cannot be conclusively
determined, but is persuasively deduced from CT scans, X-rays, skull measurements and radio-carbon dating tests by
researchers at the University, as well as aesthetic interpretations of family resemblance. Moreover, the mummy's arms were
found crossed high across his chest which was a position reserved solely for Egyptian royalty until 600 BC. His mummy
was returned to Egypt on October 24, 2003 with full official honors and is on display at the Luxor Museum.