The Alternative Lifestyle and Loves of Pinudjem II
Pinudjem II was one of the most famous rulers of southern Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period. He gave the world an important pharaoh and also a scandalous love story.
He was a High Priest of Amun from 990 BC – 969 BC and married to two women – Isetemkheb D and Neskhons. The first one was his sister, the second his niece and the daughter of his brother Smendes II, who didn’t rule for very long and was succeeded by Pinudjem.
Egypt was full of problems during the lifetime of Pinudjem II. It was not uncommon for there to be two different rulers – one in southern and one in northern Egypt. Many pharaohs didn't respect the old ways, and put the country in crisis. In comparison to other rulers, Pinudjem didn't use the title of king. He didn't put his name on cartouches either- something that pharaohs would normally do. But these are not the most important things about Pinudjem, he is known mostly for his decision to arrange reburials of the rulers of the 20th dynasty from their own tombs to one which he believed would be the safest for his ancestors.
In modern Egyptology, Pinudjem is famous for his love affairs as well. He appears as one of the most scandalous people of the Third Intermediate Period. Hints of his story were discovered with the mummies of Pinudjem II, Isetemkheb D, and Neskhons. All of these mummies were found in the mummy cache DB320 - the famous tomb that held many royal mummies from Ancient Egypt.
The First Wife of the High Priest of Amun
It is possible that Isetemkheb D lived from about 990 – 969 BC. (Corresponding to the reign of Pinudjem II.) Isetemkheb D gave Pinudjem II at least three children. The most famous of them is Psusennes II, who became the last ruler of the 21st dynasty. They also had two daughters: Harweben, who was a Chantress of Amun (her tomb was discovered at Bab el-Gasus), and Henuttawy, known as God's Wife of Amun. Details about the life of Isetemkheb D are unknown, but she appears to have been a very important person in society. She may have been a noblewoman before she married Pinudjem.
As mentioned, her mummy was found in DB320, which was perhaps her original tomb. This idea is supported by the number of the artifacts connected with her funeral that were discovered in the tomb. (A leather shrine, a stand with four copper vessels, various provisions, an Osiris figure, a papyrus, broken shabti boxes, and a canopic jar).
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Mummy of Isetemkheb D found in DB320. (Public Domain)
Gaston Maspero decided that her mummy should never be unwrapped. He decided not to disturb her peace because her mummy was in such a remarkable state of preservation. However, he reported that her mummy had been plundered in antiquity.
Information about the mummy was discovered through the use of X-rays. The scans taken by James E. Harris and Kent Weeks reveal a small number of artifacts still hidden under the bandages of the queen. The scans showed that there were amulets on her neck, right arm, and forehead.
The x-ray also showed that she suffered from tooth decay and arthritis of the knees. She died as an older woman, but it is hard to say how old she was. From different resources connected with the reign of her son, it is known that she was highly respected in his kingdom.
The Priest of Amun Falls in Love
When Pinudjem was older, he fell in love with his beautiful niece Neskhons. It is known that he divorced his wife Isetemkheb D - a practice that was not common for rulers in Ancient Egypt. Their relationship lasted for many years and brought at least four children: two sons - Tjanefer and Masaharata, and two daughters - Itawy and Nesitanebetashru.
The Priest of Amun’s first family didn't want to have anything to do with him following this act. His children with Isetemkheb D didn't write about him in their inscriptions either. Even Psusennes II, who followed the old fashioned style of more ancient texts, seemed to only be a son of a woman.
Funerary tablet depicting Neskhons with Osiris. (Public Domain)
Neskhons died very young. Some theories suggest that she was murdered, whilst others say that she died during childbirth. After her death, the oracle of Amun published an official statement that she was a loyal wife of Pinudjem and that the rights of her children must be protected. Her mummy was found very well-preserved but partly unwrapped in 1886 by Gaston Maspero.
Gaston Camille Charles Maspero. (Public Domain)
Her big toes, left ankle, and left foot were wrapped with flowers. Her age of death is uncertain but she was likely a young woman because she had no gray hairs. The swollen appearance of her stomach confirmed that she was pregnant or died in the process of giving birth. Her mummy was covered with an Osiris-type shroud.
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The mummy may have been looted by the villagers who discovered the tomb DB320 and explored it before they informed the state of their discovery. This could explain why the mummy of Neskhons has no amulets. However, the grave goods connected with her burial, including copper vessels, fiance vessels, a shabti box, a papyrus, a basket of glass, an Osiris figure, and four complete canopic jars were still present.
Canopic jars of Neskhons in the British Museum. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Neskhons appears to have been a beauty during her life. Her very well preserved hair, attractive body shape, and the finely chiseled features of her face may suggest how she stole the heart of the old Priest of Amun.
The Sunset of the Pinudjem's life
When Pinudjem II died, his mummy may have been buried in DB320. There is no information about a tomb of Pinudjem or Neskhons. It seems that the tomb behind the Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut became the last destination for both his wives and himself.
The artifacts found in the tomb, including the grave goods and sarcophagi, tell a story of love, divorce and the desires of Pinudjem II. He wanted to be remembered as a great ruler, but he survives in the memory of many people as a man who divorced his wife to marry a woman who was younger and more beautiful.
Mummy of Pinudjem II, High Priest of Amun in Thebes. (Public Domain)
Featured image: Pinudjem II as Theban High Priest of Amun. From his Book of the Dead. Source: (Public Domain)
Bogusław Kwiatkowski, Poczet Faraonów, 2002.
Aidan Dodson, Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, 2004.
Kenneth A. Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC), 1986.
G. E. Smith, The Royal Mummies, 1912.