first king of the twenty-second Bubastite or Libyan dynasty, Third Intermediate Period. Ramesses III settled Libyan prisoners as conscripted troops in the eastern Nile Delta around 1180–1174 BCE, and one family eventually emerged at Bubastis, as a local chiefdom of the Meshwesh, five generations before Sheshonq I. Bubastis was midway along the route between Memphis and Tanis, Egypt's capitals in the twenty-first dynasty, and Sheshonq's forebears forged family links with both the high priests of Ptah at Memphis and the royal family in Tanis. Thus, his uncle Osorkon (the Elder) ruled briefly as fifth king (“Osochor,” r. 990–984 BCE) of the twenty-first dynasty. Sheshonq became the right-hand man of Psusennes II, whose daughter, Maatkare B, married Sheshonq's eldest son Osorkon (I). When Psusennes II died without an heir, Sheshonq I took the throne, beginning the twenty-second dynasty (c.945–725 BCE).

Sheshonq I tightened royal rule in Upper Egypt: he appointed his second son Iuput as high priest of Amun in Thebes and military governor of Upper Egypt, and he encouraged intermarriage of his family with those of Theban notables. To divide political power south of Memphis, he installed his third son Nimlot B as commander at Herakleopolis near the Faiyum. This king carried out modest construction at various temples: traces are known from Tanis, Bubastis, Tell el-Maskhuta (Pitham), and Memphis itself; his son Iuput built a tomb-chapel at Abydos. Much later, to celebrate his war in Palestine, Sheshonq I founded two great structures in Thebes and Memphis and a temple at el-Hiba. The structure in Thebes was the great colonnaded forecourt fronting Amun's Karnak temple, accompanied by the Bubastite Gate and triumphal victory scene. In Memphis, there was a parallel court and gateway at the temple of Ptah, seen by the Greek historian Herodotus (Kitchen 1988, 1991). El-Hiba produced parts of another finely carved triumph scene, but no place-names are preserved.

Abroad, Sheshonq I made an alliance with Abibaal, king of Byblos in Phoenicia, by sending a statue to which Abibaal added his name. Sheshonq I probably desired to secure timber through this relationship. In the twentieth or twenty-first year of his reign, he invaded Palestine, officially because of a border incident (noted on the Karnak Stela), and he left a triumphal monument at Megiddo. The success of his campaign is admitted in 1 Kings 14.25–26. He had earlier used the fugitive Jeroboam to help break Solomon's realm into two factional kingdoms that would be more easily conquered (1 Kings 11.40, 12.16). On his return, Sheshonq I ordered the major works at Karnak (Silsila Stela of Year 21), at Memphis, and at el-Hiba (temple with triumph scene), but these great works lay unfinished after his sudden death in Year 22.


  • Edwards, I.E.S. “Egypt: From the Twenty-second to the Twenty-fourth Dynasty.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by John Boardman et al. Vol. 3, pt. 1, The Prehistory of the Bolkons, The Middle East and the Aegean World, Tenth to Eighth Centuries B.C., pp. 534–549. Cambridge, 1982.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A. “A Note on Asychis.” In Pyramid Studies and Other Essays Presented to I.E.S. Edwards. London, 1988.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 BC). 2d ed. with suppl. Warminster, 1986. Standard work for its entire period, full documention for the reign of Sheshonq I and discussion of varying views.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A. “Towards a Reconstruction of Ramesside Memphis.” In Fragments of a Shattered Visage. London, 1991.
  • Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton, 1992. A different approach from those of Edwards and Kitchen.
  • University of Chicago, Oriental Institute. Epigraphic Survey. Reliefs and Inscriptions at Karnak III: The Bubastite Portal. 4 vols. Chicago, 1953. The definitive publication (drawings and photographs) of the Karnak triumph scene of Sheshonq I.

Kenneth A. Kitchen