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Sheshi

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Maaibre Sheshi
Sheshy, Shesha, Mayebre
Scarab seal inscribed with"the son of Ra, Sheshi, given life"[1]
Scarab seal inscribed with
"the son of Ra, Sheshi, given life"[1]
Pharaoh
Reign duration highly uncertain: three years,[note 1] 19 years,[note 2] c. 40
years.[note 3] (14th dynasty or 15th dynasty)
Coregency Conjectural coregency with Nehesy (Ryholt)
Predecessor uncertain, Ammu Aahotepre[5]
Successor uncertain, Nehesy Aasehre,[5] Yaqub-Har[6]
Royal titulary
Consort uncertain, Tati (Ryholt)
Children uncertain, Nehesy ?, Ipqu ? (Ryholt)

Maaibre Sheshi (also Sheshy) was a ruler of areas of Egypt during the Second
Intermediate Period. The dynasty, chronological position, duration and extent of
his reign are uncertain and subject to ongoing debate. The difficulty of
identification is mirrored by problems in determining events from the end of the
Middle Kingdom to the arrival of the Hyksos in Egypt. Nonetheless, Sheshi is, in
terms of the number of artifacts attributed to him, the best-attested king of the
period spanning the end of the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate period;
roughly from c. 1800 BC until 1550 BC. Hundreds of scaraboid seals bearing his name
have been found throughout Canaan, Egypt, Nubia, and as far away as Carthage where
some were still in use 1500 years after his death.

Three competing hypotheses have been put forth for the dynasty to which Sheshi
belonged. Egyptologists such as Nicolas Grimal, William C. Hayes, and Donald B.
Redford believe he should be identified with Salitis, founder of the 15th Dynasty
according to historical sources and king of the Hyksos during their invasion of
Egypt. Salitis is credited with 19 years of reign and would have lived sometime
between c. 1720 BC and 1650 BC. The Egyptologist William Ayres Ward and the
archaeologist Daphna Ben-Tor propose that Sheshi was a Hyksos king and belongs to
the second half of the 15th Dynasty, reigning between Khyan and Apophis.
Alternatively, Manfred Bietak has proposed that Sheshi was a vassal of the Hyksos,
ruling over some part of Egypt or Canaan. The very existence of such vassals is
debated. Finally, Sheshi could be a ruler of the early 14th Dynasty, a line of
kings of Canaanite descent ruling over of the Eastern Nile Delta immediately before
the arrival of the Hyksos. Proponents of this theory, such as Kim Ryholt and
Darrell Baker, credit Sheshi with 40 years of reign starting c. 1745 BC.

Ryholt proposed that Sheshi allied his kingdom with the Kushites in Nubia via a
dynastic marriage with the Nubian princess Tati. Ryholt further posits that the son
of Sheshi and Tati was Nehesy, whose name means "The Nubian", whom he believes
succeeded Sheshi to the throne as the pharaoh Nehesy Aasehre.

Contents

1 Attestations
1.1 Nomen and prenomen on seals
1.2 Location of the finds
1.3 Historical sources
2 Dynasty
2.1 Hyksos ruler
2.2 Vassal of the Hyksos
2.3 King of the 14th Dynasty
3 Dating
3.1 Mid 18th century BC
3.2 Mid to late 17th-century BC
3.3 Reign length
4 Family
5 Notes, references and sources
5.1 Notes
5.2 References
5.3 Sources
6 External links

Attestations
Nomen and prenomen on seals

The nomen of Sheshi[note 4] is inscribed on over two hundred scarab seals, which
constitute the sole attestations of his reign. The number of scarabs attributed to
Sheshi is paralleled in number only by those bearing the prenomen Maaibre,[9]
meaning "The righteous one is the heart of Ra".[7] Based on the close stylistic
similarities between both groups of scarabs as well as their otherwise unmatched
numbers,[10] The consensus among Egyptologists is that Maaibre was the prenomen of
Sheshi.[8][9][11]
Provenance of some of the scarabs of Maaibre Sheshi[12]

Consequently, Maaibre Sheshi is the best attested ruler of the Second Intermediate
Period in terms of the number of artefacts attributed to him, with 396 seals and
two seal impressions showing his nomen or prenomen.[13] This figure is three times
higher than the 123 seals attributed to the next best attested king of the period,
Yakbim Sekhaenre.[note 5][14]

In addition to these seals, Manfred Bietak has suggested that a scarab discovered
in Avaris and inscribed with the name of a king "Shenshek" should probably be
attributed to Sheshi.[15] This conclusion is rejected by Kim Ryholt and Darrell
Baker, who believe that Shenshek was a separate king.[16][17]
Location of the finds

Over 80 percent of the seals attributed to Maaibre Sheshi are of unknown


provenance,[note 6] but the remaining 20 percent have been found throughout Egypt,
Nubia and Canaan, indicating widespread trade and diplomatic contacts during
Sheshi's reign.[19]

Important finds include seals from Lachish, Gezer, Jericho, Tel Michal[20], Amman
and Tell el-Ajjul[21] in Canaan. In Lower Egypt, three seals have been unearthed in
Tell el-Yahudiya and Tell el-Mashkuta and a further eight are from the wider Delta
region.[22] Four seals originate from Saqqara[23] and a further five from the
Middle Egyptian sites of Abusir el-Melek, Kom Medinet Ghurab, Kom el-Ahmar and Deir
Rifa. To the south, in Upper Egypt, a total of twenty seals are known from Abydos,
Hu, Thebes, Elephantine, Esna and Edfu,[24] In Nubia, seals of Sheshi have been
found in the Egyptian fortresses of Uronarti and Mirgissa and otherwise in Dakka,
Kerma, Sayala, Aniba, Masmas, Faras, Ukma, Akasha and Sai.[18] Finally, two seal
impressions of Sheshi have been found in Carthage,[25][26] in a context dated
archeologically to the 2nd-century BC.[27]

The seals of Sheshi are now scattered in many different museums, including the
Israel Museum,[28] Petrie Museum,[note 7][30] Ashmolean, British Museum, Louvre,
Walters Art Museum,[31] Metropolitan Museum of Art[32] and the Egyptian Museum of
Cairo.[33]
Historical sources

No historical attestation of Sheshi is known for certain. Sheshi is absent from the
Turin canon, a list of kings written on papyrus during the Ramesside period and
which serves as the primary historical source for the second intermediate period.
[34] This is because the section of the papyrus covering the 13th to 17th Dynasties
is heavily damaged[35] and the problem of Sheshi's chronological position cannot be
resolved from the document.

It is unclear whether Sheshi is mentioned in the Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt


written in the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II (283�246 BC) by the
Egyptian priest Manetho. Indeed, the Aegyptiaca only reports Hellenized names for
Egyptian pharaohs and the identification of Sheshi with any particular name remains
controversial.[36]

Finally, Aharon Kempinski and Donald B. Redford have proposed that Sheshi is the
historical figure that gave rise to the Biblical Sheshai, one of the Anakim living
in Hebron at the time of the conquest of Canaan by the Hebrews according to Numbers
13:22.[37][38] David Rohl goes even further and explicitly equates Sheshi with
Sheshai.[39]
Dynasty
Seal reading "the Son of Ra, Sheshi, living for ever", Walters Art Museum[40]

Three competing hypotheses have been proposed regarding the dynasty to which Sheshi
belonged.
Hyksos ruler

William C. Hayes, Nicolas Grimal, Redford, and Peter Clayton identify Sheshi with
Salitis (also known as Saites).[3][41][42][43][44] According to the Aegyptiaca,
Salitis was the founder of the Hyksos 15th Dynasty.[45] Alternatively, Bietak and
Janine Bourriau have proposed that Salitis should be identified with Sakir-Har,[46]
a poorly known ruler of the second intermediate period who, in contrast to Sheshi,
[47] is known to have borne the title of "Hyksos".[48]

If Sheshi is to be equated with Salitis, then the seals of Sheshi discovered in


Nubia suggest that the Hyksos allied themselves with the Nubians against the native
Egyptian 13th Dynasty as soon as they arrived in the Nile Delta,[42] an event which
Grimal places c. 1720 BC.[42] Grimal envisions Sheshi's kingdom as comprising the
entire Nile Delta and the Nile valley north of Gebelein. According to Manetho as
reported by Josephus in Against Apion,[49] Salitis reigned from Memphis,[8][50] and
fortified the existing town of Avaris,[51] which was to become the Hyksos' seat of
power.[43]

Grimal and Hayes further equate Sheshi with Sharek,[42] a king whose sole
attestation is found on a stone slab detailing the genealogy of Ankhefensekhmet, a
priest who lived at the end of the 22nd Dynasty c. 750 BC, some 900 years after
Sheshi's estimated lifetime.[note 8][52]

William Ayres Ward and the archaeologist Daphna Ben-Tor rely on seriations of the
seals of Sheshi and other kings of the second intermediate period to date Sheshi to
the second half of the 15th Dynasty, between the great Hyksos pharaohs Khyan and
Apophis.[53][54]
Vassal of the Hyksos

J�rgen von Beckerath is less assertive about Sheshi's identity and assigns him to
his combined 15th/16th Dynasty, where he regroups Hyksos rulers whose chronological
position is uncertain together with kings whom he sees as vassals of the Hyksos.
[55] Von Beckerath's analysis relies on the hypothesis that Manetho's 16th Dynasty
comprised minor rulers of the Nile Delta region, called lesser Hyksos, who served
the great Hyksos kings of the 15th Dynasty such as Khyan and Apophis.[56]

For Manfred Bietak, the large number of attestations of Sheshi suggests that he was
an important Hyksos ruler,[8] yet his inclusion in the 15th Dynasty may be doubtful
given the total absence of monuments attributable to him.[57] Thus, Bietak
concludes that Sheshi should be placed in a group of West Semitic rulers who
coexisted with the 15th Dynasty, possibly as vassals or partly independently from
it, and some of whom even bore the title of "Hyksos".[58]

The existence of lesser Hyksos kings in Egypt is currently debated.[59] Ryholt has
shown that a statement in Eusebius' epitome of the Aegyptiaca indicating that the
Hyksos had vassals contains a corruption of Manetho's original text.[59][60] Thus,
he rejects the hypothesis that the 16th Dynasty comprised vassals of the Hyksos and
maintains instead that it was a native Egyptian dynasty independently reigning over
the Theban region between the fall of the 13th Dynasty and the advent of the 17th
Dynasty.[61] These conclusions on the 16th Dynasty have been accepted by many
scholars, including Ben-Tor, James Peter Allen, Susan Allen,[62] Baker and Redford.
[63] Yet, for both Redford[64] and Bietak "without doubt, there were, under the
umbrella of the fifteenth dynasty rulers, a series of vassals in southern and
coastal Palestine, in Middle Egypt, and in Thebes. ... Such was the political
system of the Hyksos, and typical of the Amorite kingdoms in Syria and the city-
states in Palestine".[58]
King of the 14th Dynasty
Seal reading "the son of Ra, Sheshi, living forever", Walters Art Museum.[65]

Ryholt and Baker reject the identification of Sheshi as a 15th Dynasty ruler.[66]
[67] Ryholt observes that early Hyksos kings, such as Sakir-Har and Khyan, are
known to have adopted the title Heqa khasewet meaning "ruler of the foreign
countries",[note 9] a title which Sheshi did not bear.[47] In addition, the later
of these two kings, Khyan, only adopted an Egyptian prenomen during the second half
of his reign�a practice that was followed by subsequent Hyksos kings.[47] In
contrast, if Sheshi is to be identified with Maaibre, then Sheshi bore a prenomen.
This implies either that he was a Hyksos king reigning after Khyan, in
contradiction with Khyan's known successors Apophis and Khamudi;[69] or that he
belonged to another dynasty.[47]

Consequently, Ryholt suggests that Sheshi was actually a 14th Dynasty ruler,[5] the
14th Dynasty being a line of kings of Canaanite descent possibly ruling over the
Eastern Nile Delta immediately before the arrival of the Hyksos 15th Dynasty. Many
Egyptologists accept the existence of the 14th Dynasty based on archaeological
evidence[70][71] and on the fact that circa 50 kings are recorded in the Turin
canon between the 13th Dynasty and the later Hyksos rulers.[71][72] At the
opposite, Redford proposed that these 50 kings constitute the genealogy of the
Hyksos rulers and that the 14th Dynasty is chimerical.[73]

Based on a seriation of the scarab seals of the Second Intermediate Period


available in 1900, George Willoughby Fraser was able to date Sheshi's reign to "a
short dynasty before the Hyksos invasion". More recently, Ryholt obtained a similar
result using his own seriation[74] and places Sheshi before Yaqub-Har and the great
Hyksos rulers Khyan and Apophis and after Yakbim Sekhaenre, Ya'ammu Nubwoserre,
Qareh Khawoserre and 'Ammu Ahotepre.[75] Rolf Krauss independently reached the same
conclusion.[76] Given that the earliest 14th Dynasty ruler mentioned on the Turin
canon is Nehesy, a king who left several attestations of his reign in the Delta
region, and that there is only space for one predecessor for Nehesy on the canon,
Ryholt concludes that the earlier document from which the canon was copied had a
lacuna preceding Nehesy.[77] Such lacunae are noted as wsf on the canon and could
cover any number of kings.[note 10][79] Thus, Ryholt sees no obstacle with having
Sheshi succeed 'Ammu Ahotepre and immediately precede Nehesy.[5]
Dating
Scarab of Sheshi reading "The good god Maaibre, given life".[80]
Mid 18th century BC

Ryholt dates Sheshi's reign to the mid 18th century BC. His main argument is the
presence of seals of Sheshi and of two kings of the mid 13th Dynasty
Sekhemrekhutawy Khabaw and Djedkheperew in the Egyptian fort of Uronarti in Nubia.
The fort of Uronarti was abandoned at some point in the 13th Dynasty, an event
which Ryholt dates to the reign of Djedkheperew given the lack of seals
attributable to subsequent kings. Ryholt thus proposes that Sheshi reigned from c.
1745 BC until 1705 BC and was a contemporary of Khabaw and Djedkheperew.[5]

Ryholt's hypothesis regarding Sheshi comes with his dating the start of the 14th
Dynasty around 1805 BC,[5] over 90 years earlier than accepted by most
Egyptologists.[note 11][82] They propose instead that the 14th Dynasty emerged
during the two decades of Merneferre Ay's reign,[83] which is dated to between 1700
BC[5] and 1660 BC, depending on the scholar.[84] Ay is the last 13th Dynasty
pharaoh to be attested in Lower Egypt, and most scholars, therefore, contend that
he abandoned Itjtawy, the capital of Egypt since the reign of Amenemhat I (c. 1980
BC), in favor of Thebes as he lost control of the Delta region to the 14th Dynasty.
[note 12][83][87]
Mid to late 17th-century BC

If Sheshi is to be identified with Salitis, the founder of the 15th Dynasty after
Manetho, then he would have lived around 1650 BC, the date agreed upon by most
Egyptologists, including Ryholt, for the arrival of the Hyksos in Egypt.[88][89]
[90][91][92] If Sheshi lived during the second half of the 15th Dynasty between the
reigns of Khyan and Apophis as Ben-Tor and Ward favor[53][93] then Sheshi would
have reigned c. 1600 BC.[88]
Reign length

The Egyptologists identifying Sheshi with Salitis follow Josephus, Sextus Julius
Africanus and Eusebius who report that Manetho credited Salitis with 19 years of
reign in his Aegyptiaca.[4][45] Ryholt relies instead on a statistical method and
estimates the duration of Sheshi's reign to have been between 20 and 53 years. The
method consists in tallying the seals of Yakbim Sekhaenre, Ya'ammu Nubwoserre,
Qareh Khawoserre and 'Ammu Ahotepre with those of Sheshi. Then, knowing that the
first four of these kings reigned for at least c. 30 years,[note 13][96] implies
that they have left between 7.5 and 20 seals per year on throne. Consequently,
Sheshi's nearly 400 scarabs would correspond to 20 to 53 years,[96] which Ryholt
gives as c. 40 years.[97]
Family

Ryholt proposes that Sheshi had at least two consorts; Tati with whom he fathered
his successor pharaoh Nehesy, and an unknown queen with whom he fathered a prince
Ipqu.[98] Ryholt reached this conclusion on noting that scarabs of queen Tati and
Princes Ipqu and Nehesy bear stylistic markers which are found on those of Sheshi
and thus that they must have been contemporaries.[99] In addition, "Tati" is
attested as a feminine Nubian name in earlier execration texts,[98] which would
explain the peculiar name of Nehesy meaning "the Nubian". For Ryholt, Sheshi's
motivation behind a dynastic marriage with a Kushite princess was to ally his
kingdom with the Nubians.[100] Ryholt's hypothesis concerning Nehesy may be
vindicated by a number of scarabs giving Nehesy the titles of "king's son" and of
"eldest king son", indicating that Nehesy's father was a king as well. In addition,
both Nehesy and Ipqu bore the titles of "king's son of Ra", a conflation of the
titles "son of Ra" and "king's son", which could indicate that were appointed
junior coregents by Sheshi.[101]

These conclusions are shared by Baker[102] but rejected by Ben-Tor, who argues not
only that Nehesy reigned before Sheshi but also that the Nehesy referred to as
"king's son" was a later Hyksos prince. In 2005 a stele of Nehesy was discovered in
the fortress city of Tjaru, the starting point of the Way of Horus, the major road
leading out of Egypt into Canaan. The stele shows a "king's son Nehesy" offering
oil to the god Banebdjedet and also bears an inscription mentioning the "king's
sister Tany". A woman with this name and title is known from other sources around
the time of the Hyksos pharaoh Apophis c. 1570 BC.[103] This suggests that the
"king's son Nehesy" of the stela lived c. 1570 BC as well, over 100 years after
King Nehesy's estimated lifetime. This could be confirmed by Ben-Tor's observation
that the scarabs referring to the "king's son Nehesy" are different in style from
those referring to king Nehesy. In this situation, the "king's son Nehesy" would be
a Hyksos prince different from the better-known king Nehesy.[104]
Notes, references and sources
Notes

William C. Hayes gives the reign of Sheshi as three years c. 1675 BC.[2]
Identifying Sheshi with Salitis/Saites,[3] founder of the 15th Dynasty according to
the Aegyptiaca.[4]
Ryholt dates the reign of Sheshi to 1745�1705 BC.[5]
The meaning of Sheshi is uncertain, it could be the diminutive of another name.[8]
The dynasty and chronological position of Yakbim Sekhaenre are highly uncertain.
[14]
On the 396 seals of Sheshi catalogued by Ryholt, 325 are of unknown
provenance�having possibly been dug up illegally.[18]
The Petrie Museum houses over 25 seals with catalog numbers UC 11682, 11683, 11684,
11685, 11986, 11687, 11688, 11689, 11690, 11692, 11693, 11694, 11695, 11696, 11697,
11698, 11699, 11700, 11701, 11702, 11703, 11704, 11705, 11706, 11825 and 16595.[29]
Sharek's existence is doubted by Ryholt.[52]
This title is also often rendered as Heka-chasut, from the Egyptian ?q3-?3swt.[68]
Ryholt's theory concerning the meaning of wsf on the Turin canon has been accepted
by other scholars including Allen and Ben-Tor.[78]
The 14th dynasty is traditionally dated to 1710�1650 BC.[81]
Most Egyptologists consider Nehesy to have been either the founder[85] or the
second king of this dynasty.[86]

This 30 years figure is strongly dependent on Ryholt's controversial


reconstruction of the early 14th Dynasty. First, Ryholt uses a seriation of the
seals of Yakbim, Ya'ammu, Qareh and 'Ammu to posit that they were Sheshi's
predecessors,[94] a conclusion rejected by S. and J. Allen and Ben-Tor.[95] Then,
Ryholt observes that the abandonment of the Egyptian fortress at Uronarti suggests
that Sheshi and Djedkheperew were contemporaries, something which is also contested
by Allen, Allen and Ben-Tor.[95] Finally, Ryholt uses his reconstruction of the
13th Dynasty to date Djedkheperew's reign to c. 1770, leaving around 30 years for
Sheshi's four predecessors.[96]

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