Sunday, 2 June 2013

In Search of the Historical Prince Dhutmose

The Aten Sequence Books are set in Ancient Egypt and although many of the characters are purely fictional, I have ‘borrowed’ some real historical characters and woven them into my stories.

One of these characters is Prince Dhutmose; Crown Prince and eldest son of Pharaoh Amenophis III.  In the books he is a young prince undergoing his military training in the Kap, a training school for the young boys of royal and noble blood.  At the beginning of the story line he is just a young prince having a good time hunting, racing his chariot, wrestling and having fun with his friends before Aten shows up and embroils him in his schemes to steal the gold from the vaults of the temple of Karnak.  In the second book, ‘Hall of the Golden Crocodiles’, we also meet Dhutmose’s beloved pet, the cat Ta-miu who, being a royal cat, can talk, do magic and is much more than she seems. So what can history tell us about the real Prince Dhutmose?

Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose's cat Ta-miu - Egyptian Museum Cairo
Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose's cat Ta-miu

Although we do not know a great deal about the historical Prince Dhutmose, isn’t it amazing that we do know that just over 3,000 years ago a young prince loved his cat?

For all our knowledge of ancient civilisations, we rarely catch even the faintest whispers of the personal, intimate lives that these people once led.  Even for royalty, beyond the formal inscriptions that rulers used to trumpet their achievements or show their reverence to their gods, we usually know very little about the real characters beneath the glittering regalia and formality of court life.

But just occasionally we do get a small glimpse into these past lives and loves, and one of these rare glimpses comes from a young boy’s love for his cat. Prince Dhutmose was so fond of his cat that he had a fine limestone sarcophagus carved for her, had her body mummified and then carefully buried. The limestone sarcophagus is now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and shows the cat sitting before an offering table heaped with goodies for the afterlife.  It seems that her owner wanted her to enjoy her time after death as much as she had appreciated being a cosseted royal pet in life.  We know from the inscriptions that she was called Ta-miu, which literally meant ‘she-cat’ and that her owner was Crown Prince Dhutmose, or Thutmose, the eldest son of the mighty Pharaoh Amenophis III and his great royal wife, Queen Tiye.

Living in the 21st century, where Prince William and Prince Harry have practically every moment of their lives captured on film and the details of their day-to-day lives endlessly scrutinised and pored over, it may seem strange to us that back in Ancient Egypt it was actually very rare for there to be any mention of royal children or even their queens, on a Pharaoh’s monuments. What we do know about the Egyptian royal families over the thousands of years of Egyptian history tends to have been pieced together from titles and inscriptions found in tombs or on statues or funerary equipment. Even today there is much speculation about some of the relationships in the Egyptian royal family and how they fitted together. However, this started to change towards the end of the 18th dynasty and Amenophis III had his wife Queen Tiye shown alongside him on statues and had the names and titles of his children carved onto some of his monuments.  However, it was still usually only the royal princesses who were mentioned and during the ensuing Amarna period the famous heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten and his beautiful wife Queen Nefertiti were often shown with their six daughters.

So the fact that we know that Prince Dhutmose even existed is a miracle, as he did not outlive his father and become Pharaoh.  Although we do not know many details of his life, he seems to have been born between years 16-19 of his father’s reign and have died young sometime between years 25-30.  His titles were listed on Ta-miu’s sarcophagus as ‘Crown Prince, Overseer of the Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt, High Priest of Ptah in Memphis and Sm-Priest (of Ptah)’, so he could well have spent much of his short life in Egypt’s ancient capital Memphis.  As he was young, we also do not know whether these titles were purely honorary or whether he did undertake priestly duties in the temple of Ptah.  However, there is evidence that he officiated at the burial of one of the first Apis bulls at Saqqara, the large royal necropolis over on the west bank of the Nile from Memphis.  He may also have had connections to the military as an ivory whip found in the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun is inscribed with the titles ‘The King’s son, the troop commander, Thutmose, repeating of births’, although again we cannot really be sure that the whip’s owner was our Dhutmose and not another royal prince with the same name.

How Prince Dhutmose died or his exact age at death is unknown, but his demise paved the way for the emergence of his younger brother Prince Amenophis onto the political scene.  It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if the young prince had lived and had succeeded to his father’s throne.  Would he have led Egypt away from the worship of Amen and the traditional gods as his brother was to do, or did he share Akhenaten’s beliefs in the pre-eminence of the Aten?  Prince Dhutmose’s tomb has never been discovered, but there is a mummy that was discovered in the KV35 cache in the tomb of Amenophis II that has been identified by some as his remains, although others think that it may be Prince Webensenu, a son of Amenophis II, as some of his canopic jars were also found in the tomb.  The mummy is of a young boy of around 11 years of age, who still wears the sidelock of youth, and his identification as Prince Dhutmose comes from the proximity of the remains to another mummy known as the ‘elder lady’ who has been identified through DNA analysis as being Queen Tiye, his mother.

Maybe there is more evidence of Prince Dhutmose still to be excavated from beneath the shifting sands off Egypt and we will be able to piece together some more of the details of his life?  Maybe even his tomb is still out there somewhere in the hills of Thebes or in the necropolis of Saqqara waiting to be found?  But the one thing we do know is that the young prince dearly loved his cat.

Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose's cat Ta-miu image, Larazoni Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving a comment and your interest in 'The Aten Sequence' books. Please be aware that all comments are moderated before posting and any containing abusive language, deemed to be spam or linking to adult/illegal content will be deleted