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Part IV: Japheth/Put and the Old Kingdom

For the transition between the 4th and 5th Dynasties we have the colorful "Tale of King Cheops' Court". In this folk tale Cheops (Khufu) witnesses the birth of his three successors. They are the sons of a single woman named Rud-djetet, wife User-Re, High Priest of Re. The firstborn of Ruddjetet is called User-Ref. However, one gets the impression that neither the disheveled User-Re nor the paranoid Khufu are the father of any of these princes. Instead, Ruddjedet appears to take the role of the polyandrous goddess. Her second son is called Sahure and the third Keku.

In the 5th Dynasty king-list, the first three kings are listed as Userkaf, Sahure, and Kakai (a.k.a. Neferirkare). The mother of Neferirkare is known from archaeology to be Khentkaues, so Reddjetet seems to be an alternate but otherwise unattested name for this queen. The wife of the youngest son Neferirkare is also called Khentkaues. Since he gained the succession it stands to reason that he did so by siring his two sons, Nefer-ef-re/Ranefer and Ny-user-re upon his mother. In the time of the gods, Re was not succeeded by a true son but by Geb the "bull of his mother".

There is no further anecdotal material from Egypt covering the transition from the fifth dynasty to the sixth. Likewise their is a scarcity of legend from Mesopotamia in the early dyanstic period. The Sumerian king-lists provide us with dozens of king names but almost nothing of their reigns. Fortunately, we begin to know more about events in Mesopotamia just when the trail begins to go cold in Egypt. One of the early kings of dynastic Sumer was called Mesilim, an epithet of Ninurta-Geb, and therefore a reasonable alterego of Nefer-ir-kare in Egypt. He is followed by a prominent son Ur-Nanshe.

Two generations later a truly outstanding king emerges in Lagash named E-anna-tum. E-anna-tum begins his rule seemingly only as the provincial king of Lagash, but after a series of successful wars extending as far as Elam he found himself lord of Erech, Ur, and even Kish. E-anna-tum has been associated with Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty in Egypt. His dynasty endured several generations until the rise of Sargon the Great, who has been equated in Egypt to Inyotef, founder of the 11th Dynasty.

But is this how the New Kingdom pharaohs understood the history of the Old Kingdom and transition to the Middle? We have seen clear signs that the New Kingdom royal family deliberately patterned themselves after the Old Kingdom and traced the progression up to pharaoh Seti I in the role of Narmer/Huni. Upon his succession a dispute arose as to who would play the role of Khufu. Sety was reserving the part for his own son Ramses II. Nakhtmin, a surviving son of Aye had been granted a share of the Libyan throne under the name Pedubastet (See Chapters 30 and 31). He was however not content to rule alongside Sety as Snofru accommodated Huni in the Old Kingdom. Nakhtmin/Pedubastet challenged Sety/Sheshonq III to a battle but was soundly defeated and lost his life.

Surprisingly, the New Kingdom line of Judah was still far from done. When Ramses II succeeded his father Sety in the throne he made Nefertari his Chief Wife. Her firstborn child, Amenhirkhepeshef, was none other than the son of Nakhtmin/Pedubastet. By popular demand he was crowned as Libyan pharaoh Osorkon III on the throne of his forefather Sheshonq I/Aye.

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