SHESHONQ I, FOUNDER OF EGYPT'S 22ND DYNASTY
BY JIMMY DUNN -
For rather obvious reasons, the 22nd Dynasty is known as the Libyan or Bubastite dynasty. All the kings of this period are listed by Manetho as being
from Bubastis, a city located in the eastern Nile Delta, and their Libyan origin is evident in the founder's name, Sheshonq I (Shoshenq I). They
ruled Egypt for about 200 years, beginning in 945 BC.
It was a rare occurrence for an outside military power to simply conquer Egypt, and the Libyan takeover of the country was no exception. When foreign
rule of Egypt took place, it was almost always by elements who had settled in the country and it was Bubastis that the Libyans eventually dominated,
creating a seat of power that would rise up to control the Two Lands. Sheshonq I was not the first Libyan to at least rule a part of Egypt, and in
fact, many other Libyan names appear in official capacities before him. By the end of the New Kingdom, Libyans may have made up a majority of the
Egyptian army, and by this time, Libyans constituted a substantial and influential presence in Egypt
To a certain extent, referring to the Libyans as foreign rulers of Egypt must be put into some prospective. For example, hardly anyone would say
that, during the 1960s, the Irish took control of the United States, even though John Kennedy, who was of Irish decent with an obvious Irish name
became president. His family had lived in the United States for many years, just as Sheshonq I's family had lived in Egypt for generations. It is
likely that Sheshonq I considered himself just as much Egyptian as John Kennedy considered himself American, though perhaps both recognized their
Sheshonq was actually the son-in-law of his predecessor, Psusennes II (though some references provide that it was his son, Osorkon I, who married
Psusennes II's daughter named Maatkara), and a nephew of Osorkon the elder. He had, prior to ascending the throne, the strength of the Egyptian
military behind him as commander-in-chief of all the armies and was also a trusted adviser to Psusennes II. He was noted in the Theban records as
"Great Chief of the Meshwesh", who originally were recruited from Libyan tribes as essentially an internal police force.
Like his predecessors, and even the Greeks who would follow him in the not so distant future, he adopted the royal Egyptian titles as his own. He
choose to associate himself with the king named Smendes I from the previous dynasty, basing his titles on those of that former ruler. His birth name,
Sheshonq I, and epithet (meryamun) translate as "Sheshonq, Beloved of Amun. His throne name was Hedj-kheper-re Setep-en-re, meaning "Bright is the
Manifestation of Re, Chosen of Re".
Sheshonq I was known as a strong ruler who once again brought together a divided Egypt, which had been fragmented between Thebes in the South and
Tanis in the north. Hence, his reign is seen as a highpoint in the otherwise bleak Third Intermediate Period. He was responsible for incorporating
his sons into various high offices that allowed him to exercise specific control over important regions of the country. His son, Iuput, became
Governor of Upper Egypt, High Priest of Amun and commander-in-chief of the armies, which had the effect of uniting secular and religious elements
within the empire. At the same time another son named Djedptahaufankh was able to support his brother as Third Prophet of Amun, while yet another
son, Nimlot, became military commander at Herakleopolis. Herakleoplis was near Thebes and this military base could keep that important region in
check. He also appointed a chief of an allied Libyan tribe named Nesy as fourth prophet of Amun. Loyalty to the throne was also encouraged by
allowing powerful locals to marry the daughters of the royal court. Hence, Shjeshonq I created a stable power base at home, which allowed him, after
having put down a small disturbance in the Dakhla Oasis, to turn his attention towards the old Egyptian Near Eastern holdings.
After the death of Solomon in 930 BC, Judah was under the control of Rehoboam (Solomon's son), while Israel was ruled by Jeroboam I, and both of
these kingdoms were attractive prospects for the new Egyptian ruler. Apparently, Jeroboam I had led an open rebellion against Solomon before his
death, weakening both kingdoms. Sheshonq, known in the Hebrew Bible as Shishak, defeated both in 925 BC during a very successful campaign. In fact,
one would have to look back to the reign of Ramesses III in Egypt's 20th Dynasty to find an equal to this victorious expedition. The expedition
opened with an engagement in the area of Bitter Lakes against Bedouins. Afterwards, he went first against Judah, setting out from Gaza with 1,200
chariots and an army that included Libyans and Nubians. He penetrated some distance into the Negev, capturing the principal towns of Judah before he
arriving at the walls of Jerusalem. He surrounded the city but was bought off by being given, according to 1 Kings 14:26, "the treasures of the house
of the Lord, and the treasures of the King's house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made".
Apparently, the only treasure that Rehoboam was able to retain was the most sacred Ark of the Covenant. Now, Sheshonq I turned his attention to
Israel, forcing Jeroboam, who had once been under Sheshonq I's protection, to flee over the Jordan River. He was nevertheless captured by an Egyptian
patrol. Sheshonq finally halted at Megiddo, which had been conquered by Tuthmosis III 500 years before.
There, he erected a victory stele in the manner of his predecessors before marching southwards over Mount Carmel and returning to Egypt by way of
Ashkelon and Gaza. He likewise inscribed his success on the walls of the Temple of Amun at Thebes (modern Luxor). He reopened the sandstone quarries
at Gebel el-Silsila for building material so that Iuput, as High Priest of Amun could build a great new court (the Babastite Portal) before the
Second Pylon at Karnak. Its south outer wall was decorated with a huge relief of Sheshonq I's victories, provided through the grace of Amun. From his
inscriptions at Karnak, we find at a list of cities effected by his military campaign in the Levant. Those that can be somewhat identified
From a statue of Sheshonq I discovered in the sanctuary of the goddess Baalat-Gebal at Byblos, it also appears that this pharaoh also had a good
relationship with King Abibaal. Most scholars believe that this was due to economic trade, rather than any military actions, and apparently he also
established trade relationships with others in the Levant. Notably, it was during the reign of Sheshonq I, while his son Iuput was at Thebes, that
many of the royal mummies in the Valley of the Kings were moved to a cache in a arge gallery just south of Deir el-Bahari, which had a few years
earlier been adapted as the tomb of the late High Priest Pinudjem II
Unfortunately for Sheshonq I, his life ended in about 924 BC, soon after the Palestinian campaigns, and with it, Egypt's new found success in the
Levant. Most scholars believe that he was buried with his ancestors in the group of royal tombs at Tanis, though no specific grave has ever been
discovered. He may have even been buried in his native town of Bubastis. His mummy was encased in a cartonnage and a sliver coffin, both having Horus
falcon heads to identify the king with Osiris-Sokar. The only item of Sheshonq I's funerary equipment that has been unearthed is a canopic Chest,
which seemed to have been modeled on an earlier 18th or 19th Dynasty type. Regrettably, this artifact first appeared on the antiquities market and
there was no information on the location where it was discovered.
He was succeed by a son named Osorkon I, but he was honored by four other kings of the 22nd and 23rd Dynasty who also took his name.
Hedjkheperre Setepenre Shoshenq I (Egyptian ššnq), also known as Sheshonk or Sheshonq I (for discussion of the
spelling, see Shoshenq), was a Meshwesh Berber king of Egypt-of Libyan ancestry-and the founder of the Twenty-
second Dynasty. Shoshenq I was the son of Nimlot A, Great Chief of the Ma, and his wife Tentshepeh A, a daughter of
a Great Chief of the Ma herself. He is perhaps mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as Shishaq.
The conventional dates for his reign as established by Kenneth Kitchen are 945 – 924 BC but his time-line has
recently been revised downwards by a few years to 943–922 BC since he may well have lived for up to 2 to 3 years
after his successful campaign in Canaan, conventionally dated to 925 BC. As Edward Wente of the University of
Chicago noted on page 276 of his JNES 35(1976) Book Review of Kitchen's study of the Third Intermediate Period,
there is "no certainty" that Shoshenq's 925 BC campaign terminated just prior to this king's death a year later in
924 BC. The English Egyptologist, Morris Bierbrier also dated Shoshenq I's accession "between 945-940 BC" in his
seminal 1975 book concerning the genealogies of Egyptian officials who served during the late New Kingdom and Third
Intermediate Period. Bierbrier based his opinion on Biblical evidence collated by W. Albright in a BASOR 130
paper. This development would also account for the mostly unfinished state of decorations of Shoshenq's building
projects at the Great Temple of Karnak where only scenes of the king's Palestinian military campaign are fully
carved. Building materials would first have had to be extracted and architectural planning performed for his great
monumental projects here. Such activities usually took up to a year to complete before work was even begun. This
would imply that Shoshenq I likely lived for a period in excess of one year after his 925 BC campaign. On the other
hand, if the Karnak inscription was concurrent with Shoshenq's campaign into Canaan, the fact that it was left
unfinished would suggest this campaign occurred in the last year of Shoshenq's reign. This possibility would also
permit his 945 BC accession date to be slightly lowered to 943 BC.
The most recent and comprehensive study of Ancient Egyptian chronology affirms the theory that Sheshonq I came to
power in 943 BC rather than 945 BC as is conventionally assumed based on epigraphic evidence from the Great Dakhla
stela, which dates to Year 5 of his reign. The editors of the 2006 book 'Ancient Egyptian Chronology' write:
"The chronology of early Dyn. 22 depends on dead reckoning. The sum of the highest attested regnal dates for Osorkon
II, Takelot I, Osorkon I, and Shoshenq I, added to 841 BC as year 1 of Shoshenq III, yields 938 BC at the latest for
year 1 of Shoshenq I...[However] The large Dakhla stela provides a lunar date in the form of a wrš feast in year 5
of Shoshenq [I], yielding 943 BC as his year 1."
Sheshonk I is frequently identified, at least in popular works, with the Egyptian king "Shishaq" (שׁישׁק Šîšaq,
transliterated), who, according to the Book of Kings, invaded Judah in the time of king Jeroboam. While the names
are similar, the campaigns of the historical Sheshonk in Canaan do not match the outline of events in the Book of
Origins and family -
Shoshenq I was the son of Nimlot A and Tentsepeh A. His paternal grandparents were the Chief of the MA Shoshenk (A)
and his wife Mehytenweskhet A. Prior to his reign, Shoshenq I had been the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Army,
and chief advisor to his predecessor Psusennes II, as well as the father-in-law of Psusennes' daughter Maatkare. He
also held his father's title of Great Chief of the Ma or Meshwesh, which is an Egyptian word for Berbers of Libya.
His ancestors were Libyans who had settled in Egypt during the late New Kingdom, probably at Herakleopolis Magna,
though Manetho claims Shoshenq himself came from Bubastis, a claim for which no supporting physical evidence has yet
been discovered. Significantly, his Libyan uncle Osorkon the Elder had already served on the throne for at least six
years in the preceding 21st Dynasty; hence, Shoshenq I's rise to power was not wholly unexpected. As king, Shoshenq
chose his eldest son, Osorkon I, as his successor and consolidated his authority over Egypt through marriage
alliances and appointments. He assigned his second son, Iuput A, the prominent position of High Priest of Amun at
Thebes as well as the title of Governor of Upper Egypt and Commander of the Army to consolidate his authority over
the Thebaid. Finally, Shoshenq I designated his third son, Nimlot B, as the "Leader of the Army" at Herakleopolis
in Middle Egypt.
This Karnak temple wall depicts a list of city states conquered by Shoshenq I in his Near Eastern military
He pursued an aggressive foreign policy in the adjacent territories of the Middle East, towards the end of his
reign. This is attested, in part, by the discovery of a statue base bearing his name from the Lebanese city of
Byblos, part of a monumental stela from Megiddo bearing his name, and a list of cities in the region comprising
Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, the Negev and the Kingdom of Israel, among various topographical lists inscribed on the
walls of temples of Amun at al-Hibah and Karnak. Unfortunately there is no mention of either an attack nor tribute
from Jerusalem, which has led some to suggest that Sheshonk was not the Biblical Shishak. The fragment of a stela
bearing his cartouche from Megiddo has been interpreted as a monument Shoshenq erected there to commemorate his
victory. Some of these conquered cities include Ancient Israelite fortresses such as Megiddo, Taanach and
He was succeeded by his son Osorkon I after a reign of 21 Years. According to the British Egyptologist Aidan Dodson,
no trace has yet been found of the tomb of Shoshenq I; the sole funerary object linked to Shoshenq I is a canopic
chest of unknown provenance that was donated to the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin (ÄMB 11000) by Julius Isaac in
1891. This may indicate his tomb was looted in antiquity, but this hypothesis is unproven. Egyptologists differ
over the location of Sheshonq I's burial and speculate that he may have been buried somewhere in Tanis-perhaps in
one of the Anonymous royal tombs here-or in Bubastis. However, Troy Sagrillo in a GM 205 (2005) paper observes that
"there are only a bare handful of inscribed blocks from Tanis that might name the king (i.e., Shoshenq I) and none
of these come from an in situ building complex contemporary with his reign." Hence, it is more probable that
Shoshenq was buried in another city in the Egyptian Delta. Sagrillo offers a specific location for Shoshenq's burial
-the Ptah temple enclosure of Memphis-and notes that this king built:
"fairly widely in the area, undoubtedly including a pylon and forecourt at the Ptah temple (Kitchen, TIPE 1996,
pp.149-150)...It is, therefore, not completely improbable that he (ie: Shoshenq I) built his tomb in the region. The
funerary cult surrounding his 'House of Millions of Years of Shoshenq, Beloved of Amun' was functioning several
generations after its establishment at the temple (Ibrahem Aly Sayed 1996, p.14). The 'House of Millions of Years of
Shoshenq, Beloved of Amun' was probably the forecourt and pylon of the Ptah temple, which, if the royal necropoleis
at Tanis, Saïs, and Mendes are taken as models, could very well have contained a royal burial within it or the
Sagrillo concludes by observing that if Shoshenq I's burial place was located at Memphis, "it would go far in
explaining why this king's funerary cult lasted for some time at the site after his death."
While Shoshenq's tomb is currently unknown, the burial of one of his prominent state officials at Thebes, the Third
Prophet of Amun Djedptahiufankh, was discovered intact in Tomb DB320 in the 19th Century. Inscriptions on
Djedptahiufankh's Mummy bandages show that he died in or after Year 11 of this king. His Mummy was discovered to
contain various gold bracellets, amulets and precious carnelian objects and give a small hint of the vast treasures
that would have adorned Shoshenq I's tomb.
Modern Culture -
Raiders of the Lost Ark, a 1981 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, Written by George Lucas
and Philip Kaufman. It is the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise, and pits Indiana Jones against the Nazis,
who search for the Ark of the Covenant, in an attempt to make their army invincible.
'Sheshonk' was mentioned as 'Shishak' in the dialogue near 00:17:28 :
Indiana: "The Hebrews put the broken pieces in the Ark. When they settled in Canaan, they put it in the Temple of
Colonel Musgrove: "ln Jerusalem."
Indiana: "Where it stayed for many years, until, whoosh, it's gone."
Major Eaton: "Where?"
Indiana: "Nobody knows where or when. An Egyptian Pharaoh, Shishak,invaded Jerusalem about 980 BC, and may have
taken the Ark to the city of Tanis and hidden it in a secret chamber called the Well of Souls. About a year after
the Pharaoh returned to Egypt, the city of Tanis was consumed by the desert in a year-long sandstorm. Wiped clean by
the wrath of God."