Amenhotep I (/ˌæmɛnˈhoʊtɛp/) (Ancient Egyptian: jmn-ḥtp(w) /jaˌmanuwˈħatpaw/ “Amun is satisfied”; Amarna cuneiform a-ma-an-ha-at-pe or -at-pa), Amenôthes I, or Amenophis I, (/əˈmɛnoʊfɪs/,) from Ancient Greek Ἀμένωφις, additionally King Djeserkere (transliteration: Ḏsr-k3-R`), was the second Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. His reign is generally dated from 1526 to 1506 BC. He was a son of Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari, but had at least two elder brothers, Ahmose-ankh and Ahmose Sapair, and was not expected to inherit the throne. However, sometime in the eight years between Ahmose I’s 17th regnal year and his death, his heir apparent died, and Amenhotep became crown prince. He then acceded to the throne and ruled for about 21 years. Although his reign is poorly documented, it is possible to piece together a basic history from the available evidence. He inherited the kingdom formed by his father’s military conquests and maintained dominance over Nubia and the Nile Delta but probably did not attempt to keep Egyptian power in the Levant. He continued the rebuilding of temples in Upper Egypt. He revolutionized mortuary complex design by separating his tomb from his mortuary temple, setting the trend in royal funerary monuments which would persist throughout the New Kingdom. After his death, he was deified as a patron god of Deir el-Medina.
Amenhotep I was the son of Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari. His elder brothers, the crown prince Ahmose Sapair and Ahmose-ankh, died before him, thus clearing the way for his ascension to the throne. Amenhotep probably came to power while still young, and his mother, Ahmose-Nefertari, appears to have been regent for him for at least a short time. The evidence for this regency is that he and his mother are credited with founding a settlement for workers in the Theban Necropolis at Deir el-Medina. Amenhotep took his older sister, Ahmose-Meritamon, as his Great Royal Wife. Another wife’s name, Sitkamose, is attested on a nineteenth-dynasty stele.
Beyond this, the relationships between Amenhotep I and other possible family members are unclear. Ahhotep II is usually called his wife and sister, despite an alternative theory that she was his grandmother. He is thought to have had one son by Ahhotep II, Amenemhat, who died while still very young. This remains the consensus, although there are arguments against that relationship. With no living heirs, Amenhotep was succeeded by king Thutmose I, who he married to his “sister”, Ahmose. Since Ahmose is never given the title “King’s Daughter” in any inscription, some scholars doubt whether she was a sibling of Amenhotep I.
Dates and length of reign
In Amenhotep I’s ninth regnal year, a heliacal rise of Sothis was observed on the ninth day of the third month of summer. Modern astronomers have calculated that if the observation was made from Memphis or Heliopolis, such an observation could only have been made on that day in 1537 BC. However, if the observation was made in Thebes, it could only have occurred in 1517 BC. The latter choice is usually accepted as correct since Thebes was the capital during the early 18th dynasty: hence, Amenhotep I is generally given an accession date in 1526 BC. However, the possibility of 1546 BC is not entirely dismissed.
Manetho’s Epitome states that king Amenhotep I ruled Egypt for twenty years and seven months or twenty-one years, depending on the source. While Amenhotep I’s highest attested regnal year is only his Year 10, Manetho’s statement is confirmed by a passage in the tomb autobiography of a magician named Amenemhet. This explicitly states that he served under Amenhotep I for 21 years. Thus, in the high chronology, Amenhotep I is given a reign from around 1546 to 1526 BC and, in the low chronology, from about 1526 to 1506 BC or 1525 to 1504 BC, though individual scholars may ascribe dates to his reign that vary from these by a few years.
Amenhotep I’s Horus and Two Ladies names, “Bull who conquers the lands” and “He who inspires great terror,” is generally interpreted to mean that king Amenhotep I intended to dominate the surrounding nations. Amenhotep built a temple at Saï, showing that he had established Egyptian settlements near the Third Cataract. Two tomb texts indicate that he led campaigns into Nubia. According to the tomb texts of Ahmose, son of Ebana, Amenhotep sought to expand Egypt’s border southward into Nubia and led an invasion force that defeated the Nubian army. The tomb biography of Ahmose Pen-Nekhebet says he also fought in a campaign in Kush. However, it may refer to the same campaign as Ahmose, son of Ebana.
A single reference in the tomb of Ahmose Pen-Nekhebet indicates another campaign in Iamu in the land of Kehek. Unfortunately, the location of Kehek is unknown. It was long believed that Kehek was a reference to the Libyan tribe, Qeheq. Thus it was postulated that invaders from Libya took advantage of the death of Ahmose to move into the western Nile Delta. Unfortunately for this theory, the Qeheq people only appeared in later times, and Kehek’s identity remains unknown. Nubia is a possibility since Amenhotep did campaign there. The western desert and the oases have also been suggested since these seem to have fallen under Egyptian control again.
During the Second Intermediate Period, Egypt had lost the Western Desert and the oases, and during the revolt against the Hyksos, Kamose thought it necessary to garrison them. It is uncertain when they were fully retaken, but on one stele, the title “Prince-Governor of the oases” was used, which means that Amenhotep’s reign forms the terminus ante quem for the return of Egyptian rule.
There are no recorded campaigns in Syro-Palestine during Amenhotep I’s reign. However, according to the Tombos Stela of his successor, Thutmose I, when Thutmose led a campaign into Asia to the Euphrates, he found no one who fought against him. If Thutmose did not lead a campaign which has not been recorded in Asia before this recorded one, it would mean that the preceding pharaoh would have had to pacify Syria instead, which would indicate a possible Asiatic campaign of Amenhotep I. Two references to the Levant potentially written during his reign might be contemporary witnesses to such a campaign. One of the candidates for Amenhotep’s tomb contains a reference to Qedmi, somewhere in Canaan or the Transjordan, and Amenemhet’s tomb has a hostile reference to Mitanni. However, neither of these references necessarily refer to campaigning, nor do they even necessarily date to Amenhotep’s reign. The location of Amenhotep’s tomb is not specific, and Amenemhet lived to serve under multiple kings who are known to have attacked Mitanni. Records from Amenhotep’s reign are too scant and vague to conclude any Syrian campaign.
Cultural and intellectual developments
Giant statues of Amenhotep have been found, but they are mainly from the Ramesside period and relate to his continuing funerary cult, made for his posthumous funerary cult. This makes the study of the art of his reign difficult. Based on his few authentic statues, it appears that Amenhotep continued the practice of copying Middle Kingdom styles. Art in the early 18th dynasty was remarkably similar to the early Middle Kingdom. The statues produced by king Amenhotep I copied those of Mentuhotep II and Senusret I. The two types are so identical that modern Egyptologists have had trouble telling the two apart.
The earliest name found there is that of Thutmose I. It was probably Amenhotep I who founded the artisans’ village at Deir el-Medina, whose inhabitants were responsible for much of the art which filled the tombs in the Theban Necropolis for the following generations of New Kingdom rulers and nobles. However, Amenhotep was an important figure to the city’s workers since he and his mother were both its patron deities.
Amenhotep’s reign saw literary developments. The Book of What is in the Underworld (the Egyptian Book of the Dead), an important funerary text used in the New Kingdom, is believed to have reached its final form during Amenhotep’s reign since it first appeared in the decoration of the tomb of his successor Thutmose I. The Ebers papyrus, the leading source for information on ancient Egyptian medicine, also seems to date to this time (the mention of the Heliacal rise of Sothis by which the early New Kingdom chronology is usually calculated was found on the back of this document).
The first water clock was invented during pharaoh Amenhotep I’s reign. Amenhotep’s court astronomer Amenemheb took credit for creating this device in his tomb biography, although the oldest surviving mechanism dates to the power of Amenhotep III. This invention was incredibly beneficial for timekeeping because the Egyptian hour was not a fixed amount of time but measured 1/12 of the night. When the nights were shorter in the summer, these waterclocks could be adjusted to measure the shorter hours accurately.
Amenhotep began or continued several building projects at temple sites in Upper Egypt, but most of the structures he built were later dismantled or obliterated by his successors. From written sources, it is known that he commissioned the architect Ineni to expand the Temple of Karnak. Ineni’s tomb biography indicates that he created a 20-cubit gate of limestone on the south side of Karnak. He constructed a sacred barque chapel of Amun out of alabaster and a copy of the White Chapel of Senusret III. Sculpted material from these structures has been recovered from the fill of Amenhotep III’s third pylon allowing some of these structures to be rebuilt at Karnak. Amenhotep also built structures at Karnak for his Sed festival, a festival by which a pharaoh’s strength and vigour were renewed after 30 years, but it seems likely that he died before he could use them. A temple was constructed in Nubia at Saï, and he built temple structures in Upper Egypt at Elephantine, Kom Ombo, Abydos, and the Temple of Nekhbet. As far as is known, Amenhotep did not create anything of significance in Lower Egypt like his father.
Amenhotep I was the first king of Egypt to separate his mortuary temple from his tomb, probably in an attempt to keep his burial safe from robbers. This temple was sited at the north end of Deir el-Bahri. Deir el-Bahri appears to have had some funerary significance for Amenhotep since Theban Tomb 358, the tomb of his queen Ahmose-Meritamon, was also found nearby. Amenhotep’s mortuary temple was primarily demolished to make way for the lower terrace of the mortuary temple constructed approximately 50 years later by Queen Hatshepsut. Only a few bricks were inscribed with Amenhotep’s name remain. The royal statues inside the temple were moved to the nearby funerary temple of Mentuhotep II.
Tomb and burial
The original location of Amenhotep’s tomb has not been securely identified. A report on the security of royal tombs in the Theban Necropolis commissioned during the troubled reign of Ramesses IX noted that it was then intact, but its location was not specified. Two sites for Amenhotep I’s tomb have been proposed, one high up in the Valley of the Kings, KV39 and the other at Dra’ Abu el-Naga’, Tomb ANB. Excavations at KV 39 suggest it was used or reused to store the Deir el-Bahri Cache, which included the king’s well-preserved mummy, before its final reburial. However, Tomb ANB is considered the more likely possibility because it contains objects bearing his name and the names of some family members.
During the 20th or 21st Dynasty, Amenhotep’s original tomb was either robbed or deemed insecure and emptied, and his body was moved for safety, probably more than once. It was found in the Deir el-Bahri Cache, hidden with the mummies of numerous New Kingdom kings and nobles in or after the late 22nd Dynasty above the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and was kept in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The 21st Dynasty had not looted his mummy, and the priests who moved the mummy took care to keep the cartonnage face-mask intact. Amenhotep’s mummy is the only royal one which has not been unwrapped and examined by modern Egyptologists. His body was x-rayed in 1932; his age at death was estimated at 40–50 years. He was x-rayed again in 1967, resulting in a much lower age estimate of 25 years at the end based on the excellent condition of his teeth.
In 1980, James Harris and Edward F. Wente conducted X-ray examinations of the New Kingdom Pharaoh’s crania and skeletal remains, which included the mummified remains of Amenhotep I. The authors determined that the royal mummies of the 18th Dynasty bore strong similarities to contemporary Nubians with slight differences.
In April 2021, his mummy was moved to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization along with those of 17 other kings and four queens in an event termed the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade.
His mummy was investigated using non-invasive CT scanning on 4 May 2019 to gain insights into his physical appearance, health, cause of death, and mummification style. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of the mask, bandages, and mummy were generated using this technique. This study estimates his age at death as 35 years, based on the fusion of his epiphyses and condition of the pubic symphysis. His organs were removed through a vertical embalming incision, and the body cavity was stuffed with linen; the heart is in the chest cavity. No attempt was made to remove the brain. No packing was inserted into the orbits, and no subcutaneous padding was seen anywhere on the body. Each nostril was plugged with rolls of resin-treated linen. Amulets and jewellery items are inside the wrappings; a beaded girdle, likely of gold, is present across the back of his hips. The body had suffered post-mortem damage at the hands of robbers, with his head, left arm, right hand, and right foot detached; there is also a large hole in the front of his torso. Efforts were made to restore the body during his rewrap and cache. His head and limbs were reattached, and a board supported his foot.
Succession and legacy
Amenhotep I was succeeded by king Thutmose I, apparently a senior military figure. It is unclear if there was any blood relationship between the two, although it has been suggested that pharaoh Thutmose I was a son of Amenhotep’s elder brother Ahmose Sipairi. Amenhotep I is thought to have had only one child, a son who died in infancy, although some sources indicate he had no children. Amenhotep may have appointed Thutmose I as coregent before his death as Thutmose I’s name appears next to Amenhotep’s on a divine barque found by archaeologists in the fill of the third pylon at Karnak. However, most scholars consider this only evidence of Thutmose associating himself with his royal predecessor. One text has also been interpreted to mean that Amenhotep appointed his infant son as coregent, who then predeceased him. However, the scholarly consensus is that there is too little evidence for either coregency.
Amenhotep was deified upon his death and made the patron deity of the village which he opened at Deir el-Medina. His mother, who lived at least one year longer than he did, was also revered upon her death and became part of his litany. As previously mentioned, most of Amenhotep’s sculpture comes from funerary idol from this cult during later periods. When being worshipped, he had three deific manifestations: “Amenhotep of the Town,” “Amenhotep Beloved of Amun,” and “Amenhotep of the Forecourt,” and was known as a god who produced oracles. Some of the questions asked of him have been preserved on ostraca from Deir el-Medina, and appear to have been phrased in such a way that the idol of the king could nod (or be caused to nod) the answer. He also had several feasts dedicated to him, which were held throughout the year. During the first month, a festival was celebrated in honour of the appearance of Amenhotep to the necropolis workers, which probably means his idol was taken to Deir el-Medina. Another feast was held on the thirtieth of the fourth month, and two more were held in the seventh month. The first was the “spreading of the funeral couch for king Amenhotep,” which probably commemorated the day of his death. The second, celebrated for four days at the very end of the month, was the “great festival of king Amenhotep, lord of the town.” Later in Egyptian history, the seventh month, “Phamenoth”, was named after this festival. Another festival was held on the 27th of the ninth month, and the last known festival was held for several days between at least the eleventh and thirteenth days of the eleventh month, which in all probability commemorated the date of Amenhotep’s accession to the throne.
Further light is shed upon Amenhotep’s funerary cult by multiple documents detailing the rituals dedicated to Amenhotep. Three papyri from the time of Ramesses II record the liturgy used by the priests, and reliefs at Karnak and Medinet Habu illustrate special rites and spells. The bulk of the rituals concern preparing for and conducting the daily offerings of libations for the idol, including a recitation of a ḥtp-dỉ-nsw formula and purifying and sealing the shrine at the end of the day. The remainder of the rites concerns how to conduct various feasts throughout the year. In these cases, Amenhotep’s idol or a priest representing him is officiating the worship of Amun instead of being worshipped himself, which was not a typical cultic practice in ancient Egypt.