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Colossal Statue of Ramses II in Memphis. Ramses II and his prisoners, Memphis relief

Ruins of Ramses II Temple Unearthed in Giza's Abusir

An Egyptian-Czech archaeological mission has unearthed the ruins of a King Ramses II temple during excavation works taking place in the Abusir necropolis in the governorate of Giza. Ramses II was one of the most powerful and celebrated Egyptian kings and was revered as a god in his own lifetime. The absence of evidence of his building in this important area was an anomaly which this discovery now corrects. The archaeologists also uncovered telling reliefs of solar deities.  

Temple Stretches an Impressive 1768 Square Meters

Deputy Head of the mission, Mohamed Megahed, told Ahram Online that the temple is positioned in an area that forms a natural transition between a terrace of the Nile and the floodplain in Abusir. He also added that the temple stretches over 1768 square meters (18700 sq. ft.) and consists of a mud brick foundation for one of its pylons, a large forecourt that leads to the hypostyle hall, parts of which are painted blue.

View of the entrance pylon of the temple (Image: Czech Institute of Egyptology)

View of the entrance pylon of the temple (Image: Czech Institute of Egyptology)

At the rear end of the court, the team of archaeologists discovered a staircase or a ramp to a sanctuary, the back of which is divided into three parallel chambers. The ruins of this building were lying under sand and rubble, which also contain ancient remnants which are of archaeological interest.

“The remains of this building, which constitutes the very core of the complex, were covered with huge deposits of sand and chips of stone of which many bore fragments of polychrome reliefs,” Dr. Mirsolave Barta, director of the Czech mission, told Ahram Online .

View of the excavated temple looking south (Image: Czech Institute of Egyptology)

Temple is the First Evidence of King Ramses II Building in Memphis Necropolis

King Ramses II, (also spelt Ramesses or Rameses and given the title Ramses the Great) had the second longest known reign in Egypt, as the third king of the 19 th dynasty of Egypt, 13 th century BC). He was well known for extensive building programs but until now this had not been in evidence at the Memphis necropolis where so many other temples are found. Although the presence of Ramses is known here not least from a huge statue that was recovered from the Great Temple of Ptah in 1820 but that long missing evidence of construction has now been found.

Dr. Barta went on to explain that the different titles of King Ramses II were found inscribed on a relief fragment connected to the cult of the solar deities. Furthermore, the head of the Czech mission said that relief fragments portraying scenes of the solar gods Amun, Ra and Nekhbet were also discovered. The find thus verifies the uninterrupted worship of the sun god Ra in the region of Abusir, which began in the 5th dynasty and continued until the era of the New Kingdom. However, the most important thing about this discovery likely remains that this temple is the first evidence so far of King Ramses II’s construction in the Memphis necropolis.

Cartouche of Ramses II, (Image: Czech Institute of Egyptology)

Cartouche of Ramses II, (Image: Czech Institute of Egyptology)

“The discovery of the Ramses II temple provides unique evidence on building and religious activities of the king in Memphis area and at the same time shows the permanent status of the cult of sun god Re who was venerated in Abusir since the 5th Dynasty and onwards to the New Kingdom,” Barta tells Ahram Online .

The Life and Death of Ramses II

As we have previously reported at Ancient Origins , Ramses II is arguably one of the greatest pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Being the third pharaoh of the 19 th Dynasty, Ramses II ascended the throne of Egypt during his late teens in 1279 BC following the death of his father – Seti I. He is known to have ruled ancient Egypt for a total of 66 years, outliving many of his sons in the process – although he is believed to have fathered more than 100 children. As a result of his long and prosperous reign, Ramses II was able to undertake numerous military campaigns against neighboring regions, as well as build monuments to the gods, and of course, to himself.

Ramses II colossal statue in the Memphis open air museum in Egypt.

Ramses II colossal statue in the Memphis open air museum in Egypt. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Despite being the one of the most powerful men on earth during his life, Ramses II did not have much control over his physical remains after his death. While his mummified body was originally buried in the tomb KV7 in the Valley of the Kings, looting by grave robbers prompted the Egyptian priests to move his body to a safer resting place. The actions of these priests have rescued the mummy of Ramses II from the looters, only to have it fall into the hands of archaeologists.

In 1881, the mummy of Ramses II, along with those of more than fifty other rulers and nobles were discovered in a secret royal cache at Dier el-Bahri. Ramses II’s mummy was identified based on the hieroglyphics, which detailed the relocation of his mummy by the priests, on the linen covering the body of the pharaoh. About a hundred years after his mummy was discovered, archaeologists noticed the deteriorating condition of Ramses II’s mummy and decided to fly it to Paris to be treated for a fungal infection. Interestingly, the pharaoh was issued an Egyptian passport, in which his occupation was listed as ‘King (deceased)’. Today, the mummy of this great pharaoh rests in the Cairo Museum in Egypt.

Top image: Colossal Statue of Ramses II in Memphis. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 ) Ramses II and his prisoners, Memphis relief ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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