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Ancient Egypt - Pharaoh Ahmose I


The war against the Hyksos had not been without cost. Ahmose I came to the throne at a young age after both his father and older brother were killed in the war. His mother, Queen Ahhotep, was a powerful figure and may have acted as co-regent with him in the early years of his reign. Women in Egypt were always more important than in any other ancient civilization. However, the 18th Dynasty really set the standard for their power. Pharaoh Ahmose's wife, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari, was the first to be named 'God's Wife' and 'Heiress', legitimizing matrilineal succession of pharaohs. Although the record isn't clear, one apparently became pharaoh by marrying the right woman – the one who had the most royal blood flowing through her veins, usually the daughter of the king and queen.

There is no Egyptian word for queen. What we define as queen, they defined as 'Great Wife'. A pharaoh could have many 'queens' but only one 'Great Wife', one who was considered the chief wife of the pharaoh. Their children were always next in line for the throne. Beneath the 'Great Wife' were other wives who were married to the king. They had full rights and their children sometimes became king based on the circumstances. Beneath them were the concubines. Their sons could also become king, but only on rare occasions.

After expelling the Hyksos, Ahmose I initiated a series of rapid campaigns that restored Egyptian power in Syria and Nubia. He then reorganized the administration of the country, reopened quarries, mines, and trade routes and began massive construction projects of a type not seen since the time of the Middle Kingdom. Excavations at the site of Avaris by Manfred Bietak have shown that Ahmose had a palace constructed on the site of the former Hyksos capital city's fortifications. Bietak found fragmentary Minoan-style remains of the frescoes that once covered the walls of the palace; there has subsequently been much speculation as to what role this Aegean civilization may have played in terms of trade and in the arts.

Under Ahmose's reign, the city of Thebes became the capital for the whole of Egypt, as it had been under the 11th Dynasty in the early Middle Kingdom. It also became the center for a newly established professional civil service, where there was a greater demand for scribes and the literate as the royal archives began to fill with accounts and reports. Having Thebes as the capital was probably a strategic choice as it was located at the center of the country, the logical conclusion from having had to fight the Hyksos in the north as well as the Nubians to the south. Any future opposition at either border could be met easily from this location.

Perhaps the most important shift was a religious one: Thebes effectively became the religious as well as the political center of the country, its local god Amun credited with inspiring Ahmose in his victories over the Hyksos. The importance of the temple complex at Karnak (on the east bank of the Nile north of Thebes) grew and the importance of the previous cult of Ra (based in Heliopolis) diminished.

Pyramid of Ahmose I

Ahmose I's building program culminated in the construction of the last pyramid built by native Egyptian rulers. Located at Abydos, this pyramid was constructed from sand and rubble and only the usual limestone casing kept the building in shape. It had a base length of 172 ft and was about 130 ft high. The inclination of the sides was a steep 60°. It did not feature any chambers for burial. Around the pyramid were a number of temples and also a small cenotaph pyramid for his grandmother


Ahmose I was most likely buried with his predecessors at Dra Abu el-Naga. Although his mummy has been found, his tomb location remains unknown. The pyramid complex would be abandoned by subsequent pharaohs of the New Kingdom. The pyramid form was associated with the god Ra, who had been overshadowed by Amun in importance. One of the meanings of Amun's name was the 'hidden one', which meant that it was theologically permissible to hide the Pharaoh's tomb by fully separating his mortuary temple from the actual burial place. This provided the added advantage that the resting place could be kept hidden from tomb robbers. All subsequent Pharaoh