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Sacrificed Bulls of Ramses II Excavated in Abydos Temple

Sacrificed Bulls of Ramses II Excavated in Abydos Temple


Ramses II, or the Great (c. 1303– 1213 BC), was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt and is often regarded as the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. During recent excavation work carried out at the southwest corner of the Temple of Ramses II in Abydos, archaeologists from the New York University-ISAW, led by Sameh Iskander, discovered the temple’s foundation deposits in niches cut into the walls of the storerooms, including twelve sacrificial votive bulls’ heads and bones dated to the Ptolemaic period.

A November 2019 Ancient Origins article described Abydos as having a “special place” in the sacred landscape of ancient Egypt, and it was an important cult center for Osiris where myths say the supreme god was buried. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the new archaeological finds were buried in 1279 BC at the time of the construction ceremony and besides the bulls’ heads a complete skeleton of a bull was found carefully buried under the floor of the temple palace.

The Sacred Abydos Landscape Has Changed Forever

According to a report in Ahram, the researchers found 10 large mud-brick storerooms attached to the temple palace, which were originally roofed with vaulted brick ceilings and served the population as granaries (grain stores) and to keep other temple provisions and offerings. They also recovered small copper construction tool models, pottery vessels decorated with hieratic inscriptions, oval shaped quartzite grindstones, food offerings and plaques inscribed with Ramses II's throne name painted in blue or green.

Ramses II temple foundation deposit. (Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities)

Ramses II temple foundation deposit. (Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities)

Iskander believes that the numerous votive sacrificial bulls found in the walls of the temple dated to the Ptolemaic period revealing that the temple was regarded as a “sacred place” and that the foundation deposits bearing the throne name of Ramses II, buried under his first temple built in Egypt, confirm that the temple was constructed during his reign and not during his father’s.

“This is testimony to the vivid memory of Ramses II in the Egyptian mind 1,000 of years after his reign,” Iskander said, and he thinks this discovery has “changed the physical appearance of the Abydos landscape” having shed considerable light on the origins of the temple and its economy during the 13th century BC.

A Prolific Builder and Highly-Committed to Procreation!

This discovery comes two weeks after secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, announced that archaeologists pieced together 70 broken shards of a statue of Ramses II near the city of Akhmim, in the Sohag region of Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile, about 390 km (242 miles) south of Cairo. More than 50 mummified mice, cats and falcons and even a child’s remains were unearthed in the tomb of Tutu, discovered in the city of Akhmim, believed to have belonged to a senior official named Tutu and his wife.

What was it about Ramses II that made him ‘Great’? According to May 2019 National Geographic, Ramses II recognized that diplomacy and an exhaustive public relations campaign could mitigate any military shortcomings. To establish himself as the ‘ruler of rulers’, Ramses created architectural marvels at Karnak and Abu Simbel reflecting his vision of a great nation and in total, he erected more monuments and statues than any other pharaoh, and fathered more children.

The Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, Egypt. (inigolaitxu / Adobe stock)

The Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, Egypt. (inigolaitxu / Adobe stock)

According to a May 16 1995 article in the New York Times, Ramses fathered more than “100 children, including 52 sons.” Dr. Kent R. Weeks, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, directed a project mapping of the monuments at the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes, 300 miles (483 km) south of Cairo and his team of archaeologists discovered an enormous mausoleum with at least 67 chambers, the largest tomb ever explored in the Valley of the Kings.

This vast chamber is thought to have been the resting place for most of Ramses’ royal sons and having had so many offspring Ramses is regarded by Egyptians as “Ramses the Great” and his 66-year long reign is considered to be the height of Egypt’s power and glory. Amen.

Top image:  Left: Excavations at the temple of Ramses II in Abydos discovered the temple’s foundation deposits at its southwest corner, which was buried in 1279 BC. (Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities).           Right: Ramses II statue at Abu Simbel, Egypt. (Gianluca / Adobe stock)

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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