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Hello, mummy!

Following on from last week’s installment on Ramesses II, this week’s post will take a look at his father, Seti I.

The mummy of Seti I (Source: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis).

Seti I was the second pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, and the son of Ramesses I. Seti I reigned Egypt for between 11 and 15 years, although the exact length of his reign is uncertain. His Great Royal Wife, Queen Tuya, bore him two sons,  Amennefernebes and Ramesses, who succeeded his father as Ramesses II (due to Amennefernebes’ early death). Seti I and Queen Tuya also had a daughter, Tia. They may also have had a second daughter, Henutmire.

Seti I attacks the town of Qadesh in Syria (Source: The Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project).

There are many scenes of Seti I’s military ventures decorating the walls of the hypostyle hall at Karnak. The pharaoh is well-known for his attack on the Syrian town of Qadesh (above). He recaptured the town, and neighbouring Amurru, from the Hittites – these regions had been absent from Egyptian territory since the Amarna Period. This was a military feat that he shared with his son, Ramesses II, attested by a victory stela that they set up at Qadesh. Unfortunately, Qadesh was soon lost to the Hittites, once more.

Seti I’s building programme was quite extensive. He opened new rock quarries in Aswan to enable him to build colossal statues and obelisks, although most of these were incomplete at the time of his death, and were finished during the reign of his son, Ramesses II.

View of remaining buildings in the Mortuary Temple of Seti I (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

His mortuary temple in the Theban Necropolis is also believed to have been completed by Ramesses II. A shrine dedicated to Seti I’s father, Ramesses I, was created within one of the chambers – Ramesses I only ruled for approximately two years, and did not have his own mortuary temple. Unfortunately, the court and its pylons have been destroyed and lie under the modern eastern town.

Seti I also started a beautiful white marble temple at Abydos that was completed by his son.

KV17, the tomb of Seti I, was discovered in 1817 by Giovanni Belzoni. It was well-preserved and was the first tomb to display colourful painting and bas-relief decoration on every passageway and chamber – this example was followed by later New Kingdom kings. The tomb decoration also included the Book of the Heavenly Cow, also known as ‘The Destruction of Mankind“.

The mummy of Seti I in the coffin (Source: Egyptians).

The mummy of Seti I was not discovered in KV17, but in the royal mummy cache (tomb DB320) at Deir el-Bahri in 1881, nearly 70 years after the discovery of the tomb.

His original sarcophagus now resides in the Sir John Soanes Museum in London, England. It is a mammoth object, carved in one piece out of alabaster, and inlaid with blue copper sulphate.

It is believed, from examination of his mummy, that Seti I died before he reached his forties. The reason for his early death is unknown, although suggestions include heart disease. The heart was found wrapped and replaced in the left side of the chest cavity – the usual practice was to replace it in the right side. It is unknown if this was intentional or an error.

The mummy was found decapitated. This occurred in antiquity, after death, and is believed to be the work of tomb robbers. Priests had carefully reattached the head to the body using linen cloths.

The mummy of Seti I now resides in the Royal Mummy Room of the Cairo Museum.

Further reading:

Dodson, A., and Hilton D. 2004. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson.

Clayton, P. 1994. Chronicle of the Pharaohs. Thames & Hudson.

Brand, P. J. 1998. The Monuments of Seti I and their Historical Significance. [PDF] Retrieved 29 08 2012.

Murnane. W. 1990. The road to Kadesh: A Historical interpretation of the battle reliefs of King Seti I at Karnak. SAOC 42. The Oriental Institute. Available to download: http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/saoc/saoc42.html


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