Djedkare Isesi

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

Djedkare Isesi (known in Greek as Tancherês), was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the eighth and penultimate ruler of the Fifth Dynasty in the late 25th century BCE to mid 24th century BCE, during the Old Kingdom period. He is assigned a reign of twenty-eight years by the Turin Canon although some[who?] Egyptologists believe this is an error and should rather be thirty-eight years. Manetho ascribes to him a reign of forty-four years while the archaeological evidence suggests that his reign is likely to have exceeded thirty-two years. Djedkare's prenomen or royal name means "The Soul of Ra Endureth."


Historical sources

Djedkare is attested in three ancient Egyptian king lists, all dating to the New Kingdom.[16] Djedkare's prenomen occupies the 32nd entry of the Abydos King List, which was written during the reign of Seti I (1290–1279 BCE). Djedkare is also present on the Saqqara Tablet (31st entry)[15] where he is listed under the name "Maatkare", probably because of a scribal error.[17] Djedkare's prenomen is given as "Djed" on the Turin canon (third column, 24th row),[16] likely owing to a lacuna affecting the original document from which the canon was copied during the reign of Ramses II (1279–1213 BCE).[17] The Turin canon credits Djedkare with 28 years of reign.[2][17][18] These sources all place Djedkare as the eighth and penultimate ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, succeeding Menkauhor Kaiu and preceding Unas on the throne.[19]

In addition to these sources, Djedkare is mentioned on the Prisse Papyrus dating to the 12th Dynasty (c. 1990–1800 BCE).[20] The papyrus records the The Maxims of Ptahhotep and gives Djedkare's nomen "Isesi" to name the pharaoh whom the authors of the maxims, vizier Ptahhotep, served.[21] Djedkare was also likely mentioned in the Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt written in the 3rd century BCE during the reign of Ptolemy II (283–246 BCE) by the Egyptian priest Manetho. No copies of the Aegyptiaca have survived to this day and it is known to us only through later writings by Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius. Africanus relates that a pharaoh "Tancherês" reigned for 44 years as the eighth and penultimate king of the Fifth Dynasty.[22] Given its position within the dynasty, Tancherês is believed to be the Hellenized name of Djedkare Isesi.[16]



False door stela of Isesi-ankh, a son of Djedkare Isesi.[23]

Djedkare's parentage is unknown, in particular his relation with his predecessors Menkauhor Kaiu and Niuserre Ini cannot be ascertained.[24] Djedkare is generally thought to have been the son of Menkauhor Kaiu but the two might instead have been brothers and sons of Niuserre Ini.[25] In yet another hypothesis, Djedkare and Menkauhor could have been cousins,[25] being sons of Niuserre and Neferefre, respectively.[26] The identity of Djedkare's mother is similarly unknown.[27]


The name of Djedkare Isesi's principal wife is not known. An important queen consort was very likely the owner of the pyramid complex located to the northeast of Djedkare's pyramid in Saqqara. The queen's pyramid had an associated temple and it had its own satellite pyramid. Baer suggested that the reworking of some of the reliefs may point to this queen ruling after the death of Djedkare. It is possible that this queen was the mother of Unas, but no conclusive evidence exists to support this theory.[27] The Egyptologists Wilfried Seipel has proposed that this pyramid was initially intended for queen Meresankh IV, whom he and Verner see as a wife of Djedkare.[27] Seipel contend that Meresankh was finally buried in a smaller mastaba in Saqqara North after she fell into disgrace.[28] Alternatively, Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton have proposed that she was a wife of the preceding king, Menkauhor Kaiu.[29]


Djedkare's sons were:[30]

There is indirect evidence that princes Raemka[note 2] and Kaemtjenent[note 3][32] are sons of Djedkare[33] based on the dating and general location of their tombs in Saqqara. For example, the tomb of Kaemtjenent mentions vizier Rashepses who served during the reign of Djedkare.[34][35] Similar arguments have led Egyptologists to believe that both princes are sons of queen Meresankh IV buried nearby, who would thus be one of Djedkare's wives. By the same reasoning however, they could instead be sons of Menkauhor Kaiu and Meresankh IV one of his consorts.

A high official named Isesi-ankh could also have been a son of Djedkare Isesi as suggested by his name,[29] however similarities in the titles and locations of the tombs[note 4] of Isesi-ankh and Kaemtjenent have led Egyptologists to propose that they either were brothers, sons of Meresankh IV,[37] or that the former was a son of the latter.[38] Even though Isesi-ankh bore the title of "son of the king", the Egyptologists Michel Baud and Bettina Schmitz have shown that this filiation was fictive, being used as a title.[39][40]

The successor of Djedkare, Unas, is thought to have been his son as well,[2] in spite of the complete lack of evidence bearing on the question.[41] The main argument in favor of this filiation is that the succession from Djedkare Isesi to Unas seems to have been smooth.[42] In particular reliefs from Unas' causeway show many officials bearing basilophorous names incorporating "Isesi", suggesting at the very least that Unas did not perceive Djedkare as an antagonist.

His daughters include:[30]

  • Kekheretnebti, King's Daughter of his Body, buried in Abusir. She had a daughter named Tisethor.
  • Meret-Isesi, King's Daughter of his Body, buried in Abusir.
  • Hedjetnebu, King's Daughter of his Body, buried in Abusir.
  • Nebtyemneferes, King's Daughter, buried in Abusir.
  • Kentkhaus, King's daughter of his Body, wife of Vizier Senedjemib Mehi, was likely a daughter of Djedkare Isesi.[43]


Djedkare Isesi did not, as was customary for his dynasty, build his own sun temple, but did build his pyramid at Saqqara instead of Abusir. This is possibly a manifestation of the consolidation of the cult of Osiris during the late Fifth Dynasty. The importance of this cult becomes manifest when the pyramid texts of the pyramid of Unas are inscribed a few decades later.[44] For the Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley, the reign of Djedkare Isesi marks the beginning of a decline in the importance of the king, in conjunction with the gradual rise of the power wielded by the administration and priesthood.[45] Concurrent with this trend is a process of decentralization, with local loyalties slowly superseding allegiance to the central state.[45]

Activities in Egypt

There is evidence that Djedkare Isesi effected a reform in the organization of the priesthood at the royal pyramid, changing the titles and functions of the priests from "priest of king" to "priest of the pyramid".[46]

Several people from the reign of Djedkare Isesi are known through their tombs in Giza. Cemetery 2000 contains several tombs of overseers and inspectors of the Palace attendants.[47] These people are thought to have held functions in the royal palace. The inspectors of the palace attendants include Redi (G 2086), Kapi (G 2091), and Pehenptah (G 2088). Some of these individuals attested in Giza held further position within the royal court.

A courtier named Saib (G 2092+2093) was also a companion and held the positions of director of the palace. Saib was also secretary of the House of Morning. Saib was buried in a double mastaba. He may have shared this tomb with his wife Tjentet, who was a priestess of Neith. Nimaatre (G 2097) was another palace attendant of the Great House. Nimaatre may have been related to Saib, but this is not certain. Nimaatre also served as secretary of the Great House (i.e. the Palace).

A man named Nefermesdjerkhufu (G 2240) was companion of the house, overseer of the department of palace attendants of the Great House, he who is in the heart of his lord, and secretary. He also held the positions of overseer of the two canals of the Great House, and he held a porition related to the royal documents.[48]

A nobleman by the name of Kaemankh (G 4561) was royal acquaintance and was associated with the royal treasury. Kaemwankh was an inspector of administrators of the treasury, and secretary of the king's treasure.[49][50]

Possibly one of the best known nobles from the time of Djedkare is his vizier Ptahhotep who was buried in Saqqara.

Djedkare had another vizier by the name of Rashepses. A letter directed to Rashepses has been preserved. This decree is inscribed in his tomb in Saqqara.

Another well attested vizier was Senedjemib Inti. Senedjemib Inti was buried in Giza; in mastaba G 2370. He is described as true count Inti, chief justice and vizier Senedjemib, and the royal chamberlain Inti. Letters from Djedkare to his Vizier have been preserved because Senedjemib Inti had them inscribed in his tomb. One royal decree is addressed to the chief justice overseer of all works of the king and overseer of scribes of royal documents, Senedjemib. This decree mentions the planning of a court in the pool area(?) of the jubilee palace called "Lotus-of-Isesi". This decree is dated to either the 6th or 16th count, 4th month of the 3rd season, day 28. A second letter concerns a draft of the inscriptions of a structure called the "Sacred Marriage Chapel of Isesi". The third decree recorded in Inti's tomb mentions the construction of a lake.[51]

Senedjemib Inti died during the reign of Djedkare Isesi. Inscriptions in the tomb of Inti describe how his son, Senedjemib Mehi, asks and receives permission to bring a sarcophagus from Tura. Senedjemib Mehi would later follow in his father's footsteps and become vizier during the reign of one of Djedkare's successors.[52]

Evidence of activity outside Egypt

Relief of Djedkare Isesi, Wadi Maghara.[53]

Inscriptions in the Sinai – in Wadi Maghareh – shows a continued presence during the reign of Djedkare Isesi. Expeditions were sent to find and bring back semi-precious stones such as turqoise. Inscriptions can be dated to the 3rd (or 4th) and 9th cattle count.[54]

Djedkare is known to sent expeditions to Byblos and Punt.[55] The expedition to Punt is referred to in the letter from Pepi II to Harkuf some 100 years later. Harkuf had reported that he would bring back a "dwarf of the god's dancers from the land of the horizon dwellers". Pepi mentions that the god's sealbearer Werdjededkhnum had returned from Punt with a dwarf during the reign of Djedkare Isesi and had been richly rewarded. The decree mentions that "My Majesty will do for you something greater than what was done for the god's sealbearer Werdjededkhnum in the reign of Isesi, reflecting my majesty's yearning to see this dwarf".[56]

Recent excavations in Ain Sukhna, a port on the western shore of the Red Sea's Gulf of Suez, have revealed the activities of Djedkare Isesi in this area. The site is situated 55 km south of Suez.

Large galleries carved into the sandstone mountain were found. They served as living and storage places. In one of them, a wall inscription from the time of Djedkare Isesi has been found. The inscription gives details on a large expedition in the area, looking for various minerals.

Ain Sukhna served as a staging area for expeditions to Wadi Maghareh and other parts of the Sinai.[57]

Length of Reign

Alabaster vase bearing an inscription celebrating Djedkare's first Sed festival, Musée du Louvre.

An entire series of dated administrative papyri from Djedkare's reign was discovered in king Neferirkare's mortuary temple. According to Miroslav Verner, Djedkare Isesi's highest known date is a Year of the 22nd Count, IV Akhet day 12 papyrus.[58] Verner writes that Paule Posener-Kriéger transcribed the year date numeral in the papyrus here as the 'year of the 21st count' in P. Posener-Kriéger, J.L de Cenival, The Abusir Papyri, London 1968, Plates 41 & 41A; however; Verner notes that in "the damaged place where the numeral still is, one can see a tiny black trace of another vertical stroke just visible. Therefore, the numeral can probably be reconstructed as 22."[58] This date would belong anywhere from Year 32 to Year 44 of Djedkare's reign depending on whether the cattle count was biennial (once every 2 years) or once evey year and a half. Djedkare Isesi's reign is well documented by the Abusir Papyri, numerous royal seals and contemporary inscriptions; taken together, they indicate a fairly long reign for this king.[59] Another element in favor of a long reign is an alabster vase E5323 on display at the Louvre museum celebrating Djedkare's first Sed festival, an event occurring on the 30th year on the throne of a king. An examination of the king's skeletal remains, found in the king's pyramid in the mid-1940s by Abdel Salam Hussein and A. Varille, by A. Batrawi suggest that Djedkare died at the age of 50 to 60 years old.[60]


The pyramid of Djedkare in Saqqara.

Djedkare moved from Abusir to South Saqqara to construct his pyramid complex. His pyramid was called "Beautiful is Djedkare". Today it is called Haram el-Shawaf El-Kably which means "the Southern Sentinel pyramid". The pyramid tomb at Saqqara was constructed with six steps, which were then covered with white limestone. The top three levels of the pyramid are now missing and most of the limestone casing has been removed.[27]

In the interior of the pyramid three rooms would have contained Djedkare's burial. The burial chamber contained the dark grey basalt sarcophagus which held the body of the king. The canopic jars were buried in the floor of the burial chamber, to the north-east of the sarcophagus. An antechamber and a storage chamber completed the set of interior rooms. Djedkare's almost complete mummy, along with a badly broken basalt sarcophagus and a niche for the canopic chest, was discovered in the pyramid.[27] Djedkare died at ca 50–60 years of age.[61]

To the east of the pyramid Djedkare's mortuary temple was laid out. The east facade of the mortuary temple featured to massive stone structures which resemble the later pylons. The mortuary temple is connected via a causeway to a valley temple. An interesting structure associated with Djedkare's pyramid is the so-called "Pyramid of the Unknown Queen". This pyramid complex lies at the south-east corner of Djedkare's complex.[27]


  1. Proposed dates for Djedkare Isesi's reign: 2436–2404 BCE,[1][2][3] 2414–2375 BCE[4][5][6][7][8] 2405–2367 BCE,[9] 2380–2342 BCE,[10] 2365–2322 BCE.[11]
  2. Prince Raemka was buried in the mastaba tomb S80 in Saqqara.[31]
  3. Prince Kaemtjenent was buried in the mastaba tomb S84 in Saqqara.[31]
  4. Isesi-ankh was buried in mastaba D8, north of the pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara.[36]


  1. Verner 2001b, p. 589.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Altenmüller 2001, p. 600.
  3. Hawass & Senussi 2008, p. 10.
  4. Malek 2000, p. 100.
  5. Rice 1999, pp. 46–47.
  6. Clayton 1994, pp. 60.
  7. Sowada & Grave 2009, p. 3.
  8. Lloyd 2010, p. xxxiv.
  9. Strudwick 2005, p. xxx.
  10. von Beckerath 1999, pp. 60–61 & 283.
  11. Hornung 2012, p. 491.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Leprohon 2013, p. 40.
  13. Clayton 1994, p. 61.
  14. Leprohon 2013, p. 40, Footnote 63.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Mariette 1864, p. 15.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Baker 2008, p. 84.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Baker 2008, p. 85.
  18. Gardiner 1959.
  19. von Beckerath 1999, pp. 60–61, king no. 8.
  20. Stevenson Smith 1971, p. 159.
  21. Horne 1917, pp. 62–78.
  22. Waddell 1971, p. 51.
  23. Mariette 1885, p. 191.
  24. Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 64.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Tyldesley 2005, p. 241.
  26. Verner 2002, p. 324.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 27.5 M. Verner, The Pyramids, 1997
  28. Baud 1999, p. 464.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 68.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Dodson, Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, 2004
  31. 31.0 31.1 Dodson & Hilton 2004, p. 69.
  32. Brovarski 2001, p. 15.
  33. Dodson & Hilton 2004, pp. 68–69.
  34. Schott 1977, pp. 443–461.
  35. Sethe 1903, pp. 181–186.
  36. Baud 1999, p. 421.
  37. Stevenson Smith 1971, pp. 187–188.
  38. Strudwick 1985, pp. 71–72.
  39. Schmitz 1976, p. 88 & 90.
  40. Baud 1999, p. 422.
  41. Grimal 1992, p. 80.
  42. Baud 1999, p. 563.
  43. Edward Brovarski, The Senedjemib Complex, Retrieved from the Giza digital library Giza Mastabas 7
  44. Tyldesley 2005, p. 240.
  45. 45.0 45.1 Tyldesley 2005, p. 238.
  46. Baer 1960, p. 297.
  47. Ann Macy Roth, Giza Mastabas Volume 6, A Cemetery of Palace Attendants: Including G 2084–2099, G 2230+2231, and G 2240
  48. Ann Macy Roth, Giza Mastabas Volume 6
  50. Porter and Moss, Volume III: Memphis
  51. E. Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt, 1990, pg 18-20
  52. Edward Brovarski, Giza Mastabas Vol. 7: The Senedjemib Complex
  53. Karl Richard Lepsius: Denkmaler Abtheilung II Band III Available online see p. 2, p. 39
  54. Nigel Strudwick, Ronald J. Leprohon, Texts from the pyramid age, [retrieved from google books]
  55. Grimal, A history of ancient Egypt, 1992, pg 79 [retrieved from google books]
  56. E. Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt, 1990, pg 20-21
  57. Pierre Tallet, Ayn Sukhna and Wadi el-Jarf: Two newly discovered pharaonic harbours on the Suez Gulf. (PDF file) British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 18 (2012): 147–68
  58. 58.0 58.1 Verner, p.406
  59. Verner, p.410
  60. ASAE, 47 (1947), p.98
  61. Miroslav Verner, 2001, pp. 410


Altenmüller, Hartwig (2001). "Old Kingdom: Fifth Dynasty". In Redford, Donald B. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2. Oxford University Press. pp. 597–601. ISBN 978-0-19-510234-5. 
Baer, Klaus (1960). Rank and Title in the Old Kingdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-22-603412-6. 
Baker, Darrell (2008). The Encyclopedia of the Pharaohs: Volume I – Predynastic to the Twentieth Dynasty 3300–1069 BC. Stacey International. ISBN 978-1-905299-37-9. 
Baud, Michel (1999). Famille Royale et pouvoir sous l'Ancien Empire égyptien. Tome 2 (PDF). Bibliothèque d'étude 126/2 (in French). Cairo: Institut français d'archéologie orientale. ISBN 978-2-7247-0250-7. 
Brovarski, Edward (2001). Der Manuelian, Peter; Simpson, William Kelly, eds. The Senedjemib Complex, Part 1. The Mastabas of Senedjemib Inti (G 2370), Khnumenti (G 2374), and Senedjemib Mehi (G 2378). Giza Mastabas. 7. Boston: Art of the Ancient World, Museum of Fine Arts. ISBN 978-0-87846-479-1. 
Clayton, Peter (1994). Chronicle of the Pharaohs. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-05074-3. 
Dodson, Aidan; Hilton, Dyan (2004). The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. ISBN 978-0-500-05128-3. 
Gardiner, Alan (1959). The Royal Canon of Turin. Griffith Institute. OCLC 21484338. 
Grimal, Nicolas (1992). A History of Ancient Egypt. Translated by Ian Shaw. Oxford: Blackwell publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-19396-8. 
Hawass, Zahi; Senussi, Ashraf (2008). Old Kingdom Pottery from Giza. American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 978-977-305-986-6. 
Horne, Charles Francis (1917). The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East: with historical surveys of the chief writings of each nation. Vol. II: Egypt. New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb. OCLC 557745. 
Hornung, Erik; Krauss, Rolf; Warburton, David, eds. (2012). Ancient Egyptian Chronology. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Leiden, Boston: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-11385-5. ISSN 0169-9423. 
Leprohon, Ronald J. (2013). The great name: ancient Egyptian royal titulary. Writings from the ancient world, no. 33. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 978-1-58983-736-2. 
Lloyd, Alan (2010). Lloyd, Alan, ed. A Companion to Ancient Egypt. Volume I. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-5598-4. 
Malek, Jaromir (2000). "The Old Kingdom (c.2160-2055 BC)". In Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-815034-3. 
Mariette, Auguste (1864). "La table de Saqqarah". Revue Archeologique (in French). Paris. 10: 168–186 & Pl. 17. 
Mariette, Auguste (1885). Maspero, Gaston, ed. Les mastabas de l'ancien empire : fragment du dernier ouvrage de Auguste Édouard Mariette (PDF). Paris: F. Vieweg. pp. 189–191. OCLC 722498663. 
Rice, Michael (1999). Who is who in Ancient Egypt. Routledge London & New York. ISBN 978-0-203-44328-6. 
Schmitz, Bettina (1976). Untersuchungen zum Titel s3-njśwt "Königssohn". Habelts Dissertationsdrucke: Reihe Ägyptologie (in German). 2. Bonn: Habelt. ISBN 978-3-77-491370-7. 
Schott, E. (1977). "Die Biographie des Ka-em-tenenet". In Otto, Eberhard; Assmann, Jan; Feucht, Erika; Grieshammer, Reinhard. Fragen an die altägyptische Literatur : Studien zum Gedenken an Eberhard Otto (in German). Wiesbaden: Reichert. pp. 443–461. ISBN 978-3-88226-002-1. 
Sethe, Kurt Heinrich (1903). Urkunden des Alten Reichs (in German). wikipedia entry: Urkunden des Alten Reichs. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs. OCLC 846318602. 
Sowada, Karin N.; Grave, Peter (2009). Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Old Kingdom: an archaeological perspective. Orbis biblicus et orientalis, 237. Fribourg: Academic Press; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 
Stevenson Smith, William (1971). "The Old Kingdom in Egypt". In Edwards, I. E. S.; Gadd, C. J.; Hammond, N. G. L. The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 2, Part 2: Early History of the Middle East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 145–207. ISBN 978-0-521-07791-0. 
Strudwick, Nigel (1985). The administration of Egypt in the Old Kingdom: the highest titles and their holders (PDF). Studies in Egyptology. London, Boston: KPI. ISBN 978-0-71-030107-9. 
Strudwick, Nigel C. (2005). Texts from the Pyramid Age. Writings from the Ancient World (book 16). Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 978-1-58983-680-8. 
Tyldesley, Joyce (2005). À la découverte des pyramides d'Égypte. Champollion (in French). Translated by Nathalie Baum. Monaco: Éditions du Rocher. ISBN 978-2-26-805326-4. 
Verner, Miroslav (2001b). "Old Kingdom: An Overview". In Redford, Donald B. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2. Oxford University Press. pp. 585–591. ISBN 978-0-19-510234-5. 
Verner, Miroslav (2002). The Pyramids: their Archaeology and History. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-903809-45-7. 
von Beckerath, Jürgen (1999). Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen (in German). Münchner ägyptologische Studien, Heft 49, Mainz : Philip von Zabern. ISBN 978-3-8053-2591-2. 
Waddell, William Gillan (1971). Manetho. Loeb classical library, 350. Cambridge, Massachusetts; London: Harvard University Press; W. Heinemann. OCLC 6246102. 
Preceded by
Menkauhor Kaiu
Pharaoh of Egypt
Fifth Dynasty
Succeeded by