"Eldest son of Pharaoh"

I've had the luxory (pun intended) of taking in a number of TV documentaries over the Holidays. Last night I watched "Rameses: Wrath of God or Man?"

Egyptologist Kent Weeks has been excavating KV5 in the Valley of the Kings for a decade. This tomb is the largest in Egypt and was for Ramses the Great's sons. In the entranceway Weeks found the name of Amenhirkhepeshef the eldest son of Ramses. This apparently triggered an interest in finding a link between this prince and the Exodus story. The resulting two-hour program is a refreshing bit of speculative folly from the normally stuffy and conservative Egyptologist crowd.

It was, as should be expected, poo-pooed by the archaeological establishment. Here's a review by Archaeology Magazine which shows the facial reconstructions of Ramses II and the KV 5 skull developed for the documentary.

I have to agree that it is a real mystery why Weeks chose one particular skull out of all the human remains in KV5 and singled it out as the candidate for Amenhirkhepeshef. The age of this particular skull at death was estimated to be between 30 and 40 years, so a theory was hatched that Amenhirkhepeshef was killed shortly after Ramses' 30-year Heb-Sed (Jubilee) Festival.

Investigative and Mid-East religion reporter Charles Sennott of the Boston Globe was called upon to fill in the details. He concluded that Amenhirkhepeshef must have set out after the departing Hebrews from the new city of Pi-Ramses. A virtual reconstruction of the city was shown, but the actual archaeology site was not named. (Various sites for this city have been proposed by others.) Although an experienced military commander, the pharaoh-elect charged hastily into the marshy eastern Delta with a large chariot force after the Israelites. They naturally bogged down and became easy pickings for armed Hebrews.

The theorized reason for the Exodus is a revival of Atenist religion by Moses! The program claims that it was Ramses II and not Ramses I, Horemheb, Aye, or Tutankhamun who was the greatest suppressor of Akhenaten and his faith. Metallurgist Robert Feather (author of a books which explore a possible link between Amarna and the Dead Sea Copper Scroll and the Essenes) was brought in to lend credence to this idea.

The show implies that there is hard evidence that Amenhirkhepeshef was alive and participating in the Jubilee of Year 30. However, the name of Amenhirkhepeshef is not known after Year 20 of Ramses II. Joyce Tyldesley in her book "Ramesses" (p 148-150) concluded that he changed his name after Year 20 to Seth-hirkhepeshef and that this prince lived at least until Year 25 of his father. But I suppose this type of explanation is too complex for a made-for-TV docu-drama.

You can learn about the real-life story of Amen/Seth-hirkhepshef starting in Chapter 32 of my on-line book. It is shown there that Amen/Seth-hirkhepeshef was the "firstborn" son of Nefertari, but that his true father was not Ramses but Nakhtmin, a leading figure in the Amarna Age. Ramses and his so-called "eldest son" where of about the same age and also died within a year of each other. What's more, the New Kingdom Exodus was associated with the first Ramses and not Ramses the Great.

To learn more about the discovery of KV 5 and the Theban Mapping Project:

To buy Kent Week's "Atlas of the Valley of the Kings"

Here's a review by the Boston Globe:

Another review from a Christian perspective: