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Scarab in the Dust:

Egypt in the Time of the Twenty-First Dynasty

© Martin Sieff 1984, 1986

In Peoples of the Sea Immanuel Velikovsky paints a vivid picture of Egypt during the time of the twenty-first—"Priestly"—dynasty that cannot be bettered:[1]

Under this dynasty Egypt was a picture of decay and wretchedness. The main occupation of the population priesthood and administration was looking for ancient tombs and their contents. The population plagues by "foreigners," called also "barbarians," waited for nightfall to embark on illicit digging…. The land had no industry, no foreign commerce. The miserable errad of Wenamon in an effort to purchase cedar wood in Byblos for a single barque of Amon … is that all that the Twenty-First Dynasty's papyri can report of relations with Syria or Palestine….
When did this dynasty really rule? Conventional history places it at 1100-945 B.C., the time of David and Solomon. Velikovsky himself recognized that the Twenty-first Dynasty follows directly after the Twentieth. Since he placed Ramses III at c.400 B.C., it was a natural consequence to place the Twenty-first immediately afterward, in the 400-275 period.[2]

An abundance of evidence, however, confirms the links between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth, as well as Twentieth and Twenty-first Dynasties.[3] On the "naturally stretched out" biblical chronology of Martin Anstey, which I have used as a "baseline" for the eighth century B.C.,[4] Arzu the Asiatic adventurer who ruled in Egypt after the fall of the Nighteenth Dynasty is identified as Uzziah/Azariah, King of Judah, c.770-760 B.C., with Ramses III of the Twentieth Dynasty ruling 750-720 and Ramses IV, his son—being the pharaoh in Jewish tradition who was captured by Sennacherib but then freed at the destruction of the Assyrian army outside Jerusalem—at 710 on this model. This conclusion is dramatically supported by the Ramesside star table on the tomb roofs of Ramses IV and IX, which can be identified with this catastrophic event.[5]

In a further article[6] I then developed dates of 780-660 B.C. for the Twenty-second (Libyan) Dynasty within this model. Shoshenq I of the Libyan Dynasty would then have received his northern Palestine tribute from the Kingdom of Israel as reconstructed under King Menahem, c.758 B.C. After the death of Sheshonq the power of the Libyan rulers at Bubastic was rolled back in a series of conflicts with Ramses III of the Twentieth Dynasty ruling at Thebes. But in the closing years of Ramses III his power waned before he was murdered in an extremely widespread harem conspiracy.

Osorkon II of the Libyan Dynasty was the Pharaoh So to whom Hoshea, the last king of Israel, 727-718 B.C., turned, in his disastrous intrigues against the Assyrian Empire.[7] He was also the Shilkanni who, himself, was later forced to pay tribute to Sargon, King of Assyria, c.716.

A Beginning in Anarchy

With the Twentieth Dynasty fading out to obscurity in the decades after 710 B.C., this year emerges as a convincing date for the emergence of the Twenty-first Dynasty. As we have seen, it was a period of anarchy in Egypt, when the land was overrun by foreigners. Significantly, the term used is different from those used to describe Libyans or Ethiopians. Who, then, was meant?

The James-Rohl revisionists start the Twenty-first Dynasty at c.800 B.C. Their model lacks any convincing correlation between Egyptian and biblical history, and posits the identification of Ramses II as Shishak, who sacked the Temple of Solomon in the time of his son Rehoboam—an identification tenuous in the extreme. But it also faces the problem that, at the 800 B.C. period, there is no candidate for a foreign invader of Egypt.

After the year 700, however, we have abundant evidence of precisely such an invading power—Assyria, under its terrifying warrior kings Esarhaddon and Asshur-bani-pal. And three other pieces of evidence firmly anchor the start of the Twenty-first Dynasty to this time:

  1. The 750-720 B.C. time of Ramses III correlates precisely with the Late Bronze-Iron interchange as revealed by John Bimson[8] and by Donovan Courville,[9] followed by Stan Vaninger,[10] who have cogently argued for this pariod as the fall of the Israelite northern kingdom. I have linked the destruction layers attributed to the "Sea Peoples" at the end of Late Bronze to the conquering campaigns of Assyria in the time of the Mars catastrophies.[11] Given the Twentieth – Twenty-first Dynasty links,[12] the beginning of the priestly line at Tanis must belong at this point.
  2. As mentioned above, the c.720-700 B.C. date for Ramses IV and his immediate successors is confirmed by Michael Reade's work on the Ramesside star tables, identifying them with the cosmic event when the sun returned 10 steps on the sundial of Hezekiah, when the Assyrian army at Jerusalem was destroyed in 710 B.C.
  3. Wen-Amon, the famous and hapless priest of the Twenty0first Dynasty, has a namesake—surely the same man—among the native princes of Egypt who made the mistake of rebelling against Assur-bani-pal after his accession, paying for it with their lives. Given a 710 B.C. starting date for the Twenty-first Dynasty, this fits perfectly, whereas James-Rohl would have to posit a second Wen-Amon living a century earlier. (On Velikovsky's model, the "ghost" Wen-Amon would have to live 300 years later.)
Four years ago, in my study "The Road to Iron,"[13] I had already concluded: "The ineffectual priestly 21st dynasty … presided over an Egypt torn apart by civil war. Isaiah had predicted[14] 'And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.'

"The priest Wenamon, [at that time] visiting the Phoenician port of Byblos, could lament the miserable state to which Egyptian prestige—so high such a short time before…—had fallen. It was a period of anarchy when descendants of the workment who had carved the sumptuous tombs of the New Kingdom in the Valley of the Kings could use that still-remembered knowledge to sack those same tombs."[15]

When writing those words I was under the infludence of Philip Clapham's pioneering study of the Third Intermediate Period[16] which I now take to be erroneous,[17] based as it was on the biblical chronology of Edwin Thiele. I then assumed the Twenty-first Dynasty to start in the 680's, whereas it may now be placed 25-30 years before, and Ramses III fought the Philistines 20-30 years before Hezekiah faced Sennacherib. Indeed, Sargon's 710 B.C. campaign against Ashdod and the cities of the Philistines may be taken, on this model, as the final rechoning with the warrior "peoples of the Sea" whom Ramses III had driven back 25 years earlier.

Let us now see how evidence argued for other chronological models fits this placement. I have no quarrel with the internal chronology of the Twenty-first Dynasty, so that a c.710 B.C. starting date would require it to be contemporaneous with the Twenty-fifth Ethiopian Dynasty, the Assyrian conquests of Egypt, and the Twenty-sixth Dynasty ruling at Sais.


As has been remarked, the priest Wen-Amon had a humiliating and difficult time on his diplomatic mission:[18]

The misfortunes that befell him on the way, the intolerance and disdain he encountered in the Syrian cities because of his Egyptian origin and citizenship, the lack of protection when on the high seas, are vividly described in the diary of his journey.
Held in contempt at Byblos, Wen-Amon was nevertheless a man of consequence at Thebes:[19]

As an emissary of the high priest Herihor, Wenamon must have had some prominence in the priestly hierarchy and, possibly, it would have been worthwhile to look for traces of him in Karnak.
The traces exist, but they are recorded in Nineveh—Assur-bani-pal included a Wen-amon among the princes of Egypt who had risen against him, to pay with their lives. It would be natural for Wen-Amon, dedicated servant of the warrior-nationalist cult of Amon-Ra to have taken a leading part in such a rising. His disastrous fate would be in keeping with the lickless sufferer of the Byblos mission.


From early in the Twenty-first Dynasty the Laments of Ourmai paint another picture of unrelieved humiliation and suffering:[20]

…One learns that Egypt was on all sides surrounded by foreign troops, and that an army of occupation was oppressing the population, children were sold into slavery, sacred places were violated, tombs were opened; the narrator, a member of the former aristocracy of the land, wandered afoot and begged bread from the soldiers of occupation.
On the conventional scheme, however, "The Twenty-first Dynasty was suppsoed to have taken over the reins of government without any foreign intervention."[21] In the 1100 B.C. period there are no candidates for this function. The same objection applies to James-Rohl's 800 B.C. date. And Velikovsky's own identification with the Perians is ruled out, as the Twentieth Dynasty, inextricably linked with the Twenty-first, belongs most definitely to the Late Bronze-Iron interchange period.

(We should also note here Israel Isaacson's unpublished observations[22] that the Twentieth Dynasty buildings of Ramses III belong explicitly before the time of the Twenty-fifth Ethiopian Dynasty—which negates Velikovsky's 400 B.C. placement for Ramses III, over 250 years after Ramses III's time, and also throws doubt on Clapham's (and Courville's) c.715-685 B.C. dates for him, contemporaneous with the Libyans. On my 750-720 dates, however, there is no problem. Isaacson has also observed that the Greek letters on the back of the Ramses III tiles, adduced by Velikovsky as evidence of the pharaoh's 400 B.C. date, in fact belong to Ptolemaic times, c.150 B.C., and would therefore have been put there when the tiles were "recycled" in a building renovation for a high priest of Judaea in exile in Egypt. It is to be hoped that Isaacson will publish his detailed conclusions on these valuable points in the near future.)

By contrast, with Ramses III at 750-720 B.C. the Ethiopian period followed smoothly, c.720-670. And the Twenty-first Dynasty at 710-656 B.C. would begin with dark decades of Ethiopian and Assyrian occupation of the Land of the Nile.

How perfectly Ourmai's chilling account fits this time! His colleagues "are torn away from me; their wives are killed; their children are dispersed. Some thrown into prison, others seized as prey.

"I am thrown out of my yesterday's domicile, compelled to roam in harsh wanderings. The land is engulfed by enemy's fire. South, north, west, and east belong to him."

How reminiscent of Isaiah's prophecy that the Lord God would give Egypt up to a "cruel lord"![23] As I noted in "The Road to Iron": "Then came the total conquests of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal. The boots of conquerors rang upon the ruins of Karnak."[24]

Isaiah had foreseen: "So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoner and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt."[25]

It could have been an extract from Ourmai's eye-witness account.

The Barbarians

The Papyrus Mayer A, now in the Liverpool Museum, records the seizure of the Temple of Amon in Karnak by "barbarians," and the suppression of its high priest Amenhotep, who has been linked by inscriptional evidence to Ramses IX of the Twentieth Dynasty. Velikovsky remarks:[26]

The seizure of the temple was carried out by barbarians "who appear to have been organized at least to the point that they had hryw-pdt—troop captains. These barbarians were neither Arabs nor Libyans: those neighbors of the Egyptians were usually designated as "tent dwellers"; neither were the Ethiopians, the southern neighbors, ever called "barbarians."
Velikovsky concludes: "Who were these 'barbarians' who collected taxes, removed the high priest from his office and appointed another, a man of military upbringing; who punished offenders and were responseible for maintaining order and were organized in troops under captains; who kept the population in fear of search or seizure; and who occasionally collected semiprecious stones for an unmentioned king in the unidentified Residence City?"

Velikovsky's answer was the Persians. But in c.710 B.C., as opposed to c.408 for the beginnings of the Twenty-first Dynasty, it is the Assyrians who fill the bill—perfectly. Even the name Pinhasi/Pin, the commander of the offending occupying unit, would appear Semitic, and therefore more likely to be Asyrian than Persian, as Velisovsky claimed. We may also note that the James-Rohl model has no candidate for a foreign occupation of Egypt in the 800-750 B.C. period, where its authors would place early decades of this dynasty.

By contrast, let us note Esarhaddon's laconic, lucid, and extremely-to-the-point record:[27]

I conquered Egypt, Upper Egypt and Ethiopia. Tirhakah its king five times I fought with him … and I brought all the land under my sway, I ruled.

Memphis, his royal city, in half a day, with mines, tunnels, assaults, I beseiged, I captured, I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire.

It was a situation Ourmai in nearby Heliopolis would have found all too familiar.

The Libyan Connection

A royal cache of mummies was sealed at the end of the Twenty-first Dynasty by the priest Si-Amon. "It could not, on the accepted time scale, contain the mummy of a person who lived under the Twenty-second [Libyan] Dynasty. But the mummy of a priest of Amon, Djetptah-efonkh, of the Twenty-second Dynasty, was among the mummies in the cache."[28]

As Velikovsky remarks, this "confronts the accepted timetable (whereby the 22nd Dynasty ruled after the 21st) with a disturbing fact."[29] Yet, it is equally unsettling for his own position. For, if the Twenty-second Dynasty reigned in the eighth century, and Si-Amon lived almost 500 years later, in early Ptolemaic times, why were not the Twenty-sixth Saite Dynasty, and later local rulers, also included, as Joshua Korbach has pointed out?[30]

But with Si-Amon active in the 580-565 B.C. period, in the waning decades of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, we can understand why a mummy from the Twenty-second Dynasty (780-560 B.C.) should be included with Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasty rulers, while the Twenty-sixth, still ruling, had no need of antiquarian operations for the upkeep of its tombs.

Tjetkheperre Psusennes of the monuments was father-in-law to a Libyan king Osorkon. On this model, as a Psusennes of the Twenty-first Dynasty, he must have been father-in-law to Osorkon III, c 670 B.C. This is in striking contrast to the conventional model, where Tjetkheperre-Psusennes must have been the last king of the Twenty-first Dynasty, with Osorkon I-Sekhemkheperre being his son-in-law.

On my placement, however, Osorkon I belongs to 755 B.C. and was the Libyan ruler at Bubastis on the receiving end of Ramses III's Theban revival. The Twenty-first Dynasty did not even begin to rule for another 45-50 years, c.710 B.C. We would certainly expect Akheperre-Psusennes too, therefore, to come after Osorkon II, son of the Nesubanebded who figures in the travels of Wen-Amon, and, indeed, he does.

Velikovsky[31] remarks: "Apparently Osorkon's tomb was pillaged before Psusennes was put to rest, and possibly by Psusennes himself." Furthermore, "Psusennes himself appropriated the tomb of one Sosenk [sic], a Libyan Dynasty prince."[32] And both Shoshenq (from 770 B.C.) I and Shoshenq II (from c.695 B.C.) reigned before the time of our Psusennes.

The Coming of the Greeks

The "Greek style" of Si-Amon at the end of the Twenty-first Dynasty should also be noted. Velikovsky[33] describes how, in his own tomb, Si-Amon has himself portrayed occasionally in Greek attire—with a mane of black hair and a black curly beard, his younger son in one scene wearing a short coat of Greek style, according to archaeologist Ahmed Fakhri.[34]

In the conventional chronology, with Si-Amon dated at c.950 B.C., wuch influence poses animpossible problem. For James-Rohl too, a 745-740 date for Si-Amon leaves this Greek influence a myster. Especially as both Herodotus and Diodorus of Sicily unequivocally state that it was Psammetich I of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, ruling after 660 B.C., who was the very first Egyptian monarch to welcome Greeks[35] who were "the first men of alien speech to settle in that country."

By contrast, on my model for the Twenty-first Dynasty, Si-Amon belongs down in the 580-565 B.C. period, right at the end of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.

In "The Road to Iron" I had already noted: "Even at its height, the 26th dynasty was dependent on Greek metalsmiths in Daphnae and—later—Naucratis to manufacture iron tools which were then largely confined to use in Greek settlements anyway."[36] I further concluded:[37]

This dependence by the 26th dynasty on Greek technology throws a most important light on thewarm welcome accorded Greek travelers and scholars in Egypt at that time. It was in the era of Necho II (610-588 B.C.E.) that the Athenian law-giver Solon received from the priests of Sais the traditions that have come to us through Plato as the legend of Atlantis.
Indeed, I concluded, "by Solon's time, Egypt had already become a technological dependent of the Hellenic World—just as the "fighting Britain" of Workd War II was already dependent on American industry and financial aid."[38]

The great influx of U.S. servicemen to Britain during the war—"over-paid, over-sexed, and over hear," as a contemporaneous saying put it—had a masive efect on British culture. From chewing gum and nylons to dances and slang, the American cultural impact was strongly felt.

And in the tomb of Si-Amon at the Siwa Oasis, we see another example of just such cultureal impact. Greek styles of clothing and hair were following the manifest superiority of their technology.

Back in the time of Tjetkheperre-Psusennes, father-in-law to Osorkon III, we find a reference to the goddess Mut as "mistress of the Hellenic coast." For James-Rohl, placing Tjetkheperre-Psusennes at 800-750 B.C., such a reference is another embarrassing anacrhonism. But if his long 50-year reign began c.670, as it would on my model, then he would have lived through Psammetich's welcome to Greek colonists along Egypt's Mediterranean shore. Indeed, according to Diodorus,[39] Psammetichus was such an admirer of the Hellenes he gave his son a Greek education.

Links of Continuity

Velikovsky placed Si-Amon down in the Hellenistic times of Ptolemy II, some 40 years after the death of Alexander the Great. But when the tomb of Si-Amon was discovered in the Oasis of Siwa in 1940 Ahmed Fakhri noted that "it rivals any work of the period in the tombs of the Nile Valley."[40] And Velikovsky himself admitted: "the appearance of the tomb is in many respects comparable to the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings near Thebes."[41] In other words, some continuity of cultural tradition would appear to be required, alongside the evident Greek influence.

On Velikovsky's dantes, the Twenty-first Dynasty only began to rule c.420 B.C., after over a century of oppressive Persian occupations. But on my model the Twenty-first Dynasty followed directly from the Twentieth, around 710 B.C., and the Twentieth was separated by only a decade from the end of the Nineteenth.

Velikovsky's dates for the Twenty-first Dynasty are too late. Those of James-Rohl are too early. On their model the evident Greek influence in the tomb of Si-Amon remains unaccountable. I will also note James-Rohl's point[42] that in the Serapeum at Sakkara the Apis bulls buried in the reign of Ramses XI were followed by an Apis bull from year twenty-three of Osorkon II (Twenty-second Dynasty) with no interments from the Twenty-first and early Twenty second Dynasties.

On my model the Twenty-first Dynasty only began at—or shortly before—the time of Ramses XI, and Egypt would have been in such a disordered state that no Apis bull ceremony might have been immediately practicable. And with Osorkon II being identified as Pharaoh So,[43] clearly the most powerful ruler in Egypt, we may note James-Rohl's conclusion that Osorkon II "was the first Libyan monarch to be recognized in the ancient capital of Memphis."[44]

With Osorkon II starting to reign c.725 B.C., his twenty-third year (c.700) could follow immediately after Ramses XI, given my 710 date for the end of Ramses IV's rule and the brief, obscure, and probably overlapping reign of his successors.[45] The eclipse of the later Twentieth Dynasty Ramessids may well have allowed the Libyan ruler Osorkon II in Bubastis, remaining allied, as he did, to Assyria, to insist on a recognition in Memphis that his predecessors had been denied while Ramses III ruled in Thebes. (750-720).

And there is no need to reverse Osorkon II before Shoshenq I and Osorkon I, as James-Rohl feel the need to do.[46] Life is complicated enough without traling fresh red herrings! Let us also remember the Alcameira (Spain) cemetery finds which clearly anchor Osorkon II to the 725-700 B.C. period.[47] Within my model this is where he already belongs!


My dates for the Twenty-first Dynasty stand at c.710-565 B.C. The period therefore briefly overlaps with the end of the Twentieth Dynasty (a "luxury" James-Rohl also assume for their model).[48] It runs contemporaneous with the Twenty-fifth Ethiopian and Twenty-sixth Saite Dynasties. The abundant evidence for foreign invasion, occupation, and cruel repression in the first decades of the dynasty fit well with the invations of Egypt by Esarhaddon and Assur-bani-pal, rulers of Assyria. And the records of Assur-bani-pal also depict such Twenty-first Dynasty personalities as Hori-her, Psusennes, and Wen-Amon from this time.

The evidence that the Twenty-first Dynasty came after—indeed, immediately after—half the rulers of the Twenty-second Dynasty, and to a degree overlapped with it, also fits naturally into this model and is consistent with a 780-660 B.C. dating for the Twenty-second Dynasty. The relative prominence of the priests of the Twenty-first Dynasty is explained by the "time of troubles" that afflicted Egypt between the murder of Ramses III (720 B.C.) and the death of his son, Ramses IV, a decade later, and the accession of Psammetich of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty 50 years on.

The intriguing Greek influence in Si-Amon's tomb admirably fits the situation in Egypt after the Twenty-sixth Saite Dynasty period. And, indeed, we may now see Si-Amon's entire mummy rewrapping exercises for the pharaohs of the Eighteenth, Nineeenth, and Twentieth Dynasties in the context of Necho II's "cultural imperialism"—his determined effort to revive the splendors and the cultural heritage of the great Egyptian past.

The Twenty-first Dynasty, therefore, ended with all too feeble attempts to revive the dying embers of a brilliant past. It had begun with unparalleled catastrophe—civil war, foreign incursion and occupation, social and religious breakdown. The prophecies of Isaiah were fulfilled, as the testimonies of Wen-Amon and Ourmai demonstrated.

Even later, under the revival of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, the unique splendor of Egypt could not be revived. The Greek affectations of High Priest Si-Amon, even in the remote oasis of Siwa spoke as eloquently as the iron furnaces of the Greeks at Naucratis and Daphnae, of the new state of things. In the time of the last Twenty-sixth Dynasty pharaohs another Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel, in far-off Babylon, could foresee a future for Egypt only as the "basest of the nations" (Ezekiel 29:15).

The phoenix would not rise again. There would be no resurrection for the "Scarab in the Dust."