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The Ramesseum is an ancient egyptian mortuary temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great), located in the Theban Necropolis in Upper Egypt, on the west of the River Nile, across from the modern city of Luxor. In the antiquity the mortuary temple was originally called the "House of millions of years" of Usermaatra-setepenra (prenomen of Ramesses II) that unites with Thebes-the-city in the domain of Amon.


The modern name of the ancient temple of Ramesseum, originally from its French form Rhamesséion, was coined by Jean-François Champollion, who visited the ruins of the site in 1829 CE and first identified the hieroglyphs making up Ramesses's names and titles on the walls.



Western Kitchens, Bakeries and the Steward Office
Opening on both sides of the 130 meters long western corridor, the kitchens were fitted with inscribed stone gates and wooden door leaves. These kitchens were paved, vaulted and contained from two to six fireplaces (inspect) installed in the back of the each room. Most were divided in two separate spaces by a mud brick partition. The head and smoke produced by the stoves made it necessary to install rather large openings inthe mud brick vaulted roofs or an open air area set at the back of each chamber. The stone courts were built with blocks reused from a building erected during the joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmes III (1479-1457 BCE) and dismantled during the reign of Ramesses II. Its previous location remains to be identified but a number of architectural elements like hieroglyphic carvings from these structures have been discovered and displayed in the open air museum or lapidarium inside the Ramesseum complex.

The systematic exploration and archaeological study of the area revealed, to the west of the complex, a separate space that could have served as the steward office. It was accessed through a gate adorned with inscriptions praising the king as the "great of provisions". It opened on a court shadowed by a back portico which protected the entrance leading to three contiguous halls. These rooms preserved the remnants of accounting documents for provisions, as well as an interesting grounp of plates collected in a jar, adjacent to a stove.

Most importantly, the intense activity of these kitchens and bakeries didn't end brutally with the death of Ramesses II. They were still fully functional during the reign of Ramesses III, almost a century later, as at least one of the stone gates was inscribed with his name rings (cartouche). AS with the other sections of the temple complex, these utilitarian spaces suffered from the funerary reuse of the whole precinct during the Third Intermediate Period (after 1000 BCE).


First Pylon
This enormous pylon is the surviving one from the two that once stood in front of the Mortuary temple of Ramesses. In accordance with tradition, the pylons and outer walls were adorned with depictions commemorating the military triumphs of the pharaoh, serving as a lasting testament to his dedication to and association with the gods. In the case of Ramesses, particular emphasis is placed on the Battle of Kadesh around 1274 BCE. Notably, a block positioned on the first pylon recounts an incident from the eighth year of his reign when he plundered a city named "Shalem," possibly identified as Jerusalem. The reliefs illustrating the majestic pharaoh and his army prevailing over the Hittite forces retreating from Kadesh, as described in the "epic poem of Pentaur," are still visible on the pylon.

On southern section of the western facade of the Rhamesséion pylon, pharoah Ramesses the Great is depicted as engaged in a ritual or ceremonial race. The upper register of the northern section of the western facade, the capture of cities of Upper Galilee, dated to the 8th year of Ramesses' reign, is carved.


The mortuary temple complex was surrounded by large number of storerooms, granaries, workshops, and other ancillary buildings, some built as late as Roman times.


Second Court


Ozymandias Colossus


Holy of Holies
The holy of holies once stood to the west of the second smaller hypostyle hall. It was, albeit a vacant space today once housed the most important part of the temple precinct. From the fourth century BCE in to the Coptic period the temple of Ramesses II was systematically dismantled and turned in to a stone quarry. Most of its masonry blocks resued in structures erected at Medinet Habu, another ancient Egyptian sacred temple precinct situated to the south-west of the Ramesseum, during the Roman period.

The foundation trenches of another hall with eight columns that once led in to the axial sactuary with its four pillar can be see in the foreground. Flanking this, a couple of smaller chapels must have housed the specific pantheon of the "Million Years Mansion" of Ramesses II. A number of terracotta statues belonging to different deities were discovered here in fragmentary state. On the north side of the sanctuary a solar complex stood, of which only the foundations of its pillars and a few vestigial pavement slabs can still be seen. To the south, a rectangular space was dedicated to the gods of the afterlife.

Although, the area had already been explored in the past by Lepsius and Quibell, the systematic archaeological study of the section was conducted by the MAFTO between the years of 1997 and 2002 CE. The foundation trenches dug in to the local limestone conglomerate still hold a few original limestone blocks and made it possible to reconstruct a plausible plan for the sanctuary. The sandstone cornerstones are still preserved in situ, covering cavities that originally contained foundation deposits. Their inferior face is inscribed with the name rings (cartouches) of Ramesses II, whose specific writing proves that the temple construction site was inaugurated before year 2 of his reign.

During the Third Intermediate Period (circa 1070-712 BCE) thirteen funerary shafts were dug in to the ground of some of the chapels. Each one of these shafts provided access to one or two underground burial vaults (crypts).


Main Hypostyle Hall and the Recreation of the Cosmos
The large colonnadedhall once housed liturgies that bore witness to the close relationship between Pharaoh and the gods. A symbolic microcosm, it transcribes in to the primeval marshes awakening to the very first sunrays, an inextricable swamp protecting the child Horus (the king in this case) fromhis enemies. Rooted inthesoil of Egypt, vegetal columns are seen in full bloom or still in bud depending on whether they received direct sunlight .They bear heavy stone ceiling slabs adorned with flying protective divine birds and yellow stars shining in blue heavens. This stone forest is also a monumental calendar where the twelve central columns symbolize the months, while thesmaller pillars are related to the thirty six "decans", stars that control human destinies during ten days.

The disappearance ofthehypostyle's lateral walls makes it very difficult task to define its decorative theme in its entirety. To the left of the entrance, queen-mother Tuy and queen Nefertari welcome the divine processions with the shaking of their systrums. On the south-east wall, the representation of the battle of Dapur is a rare military offering in the very heart of the ancient Egyptian temple of Ramesses II. Here Ramesses the Great is depicted in his chariot personally vanquishing his enemies, while the fortress surrenders under duress of the Egyptian army's assault.

To the south-west, the king Ramesses II is welcomed by a goddess who pours fresh, pure water on his hands. He is then introduced into the presence of Amun and Mut who offer him the insignia of earthly kingship. To the north-west thelion headed goddess Great of Magic, imposes the regenerating blue crown on his brow, in front f Amun-Ra and Khonsu. The filial piety of the king is thus rewarded, while the gods confirm his prerogative for eternity. The lower register of the walls depict part of of the royal descent which accompanied the king in his ritual dealings.


Sacred Workshops
In the south-west corner of the temple complex, covering an area of appoximately twenty five hundred meters, was occupied by a set of mud brick construction, accessible during the ramesside period from the paved causeway which surrounded the temple on three of its sides. This section of the archaeological site consists of a large hallway which opens tothe west on a corridor serving ten rooms distributed to the north and the south. At its western extermity, it gave access to a vast open area of about thirty square meters. According to the artifacts discovered here during recent excavation (flint moon-shaped borers, fragments of diorite, calcite, granite, and schists), this place seems to have been dedicated to the carving and polishing of stone items.

The floor of the corridor was covered with whitewashed mud bricks, while the hallway and the rooms, with vaulted roofs, had stone pavements. Stone thresholds and jambs also brought majesty to the entrances of these chambers, some of which were provided with raised orthostates (stone plaques) protecting the lower parts of the walls. The somewhat extraordinary care brought to the their arrangement shows that they were intended for specific activities; it is possible that the spinning and weaving workshops were installed in these chambers. A depiction of such workshops can be found in the ancient Egyptian tomb (Theban Tomb TT133) of Neferrenpet, who served as a foreman the Ramesseum weavers.

This section of the Ramesseum has been identified as the industrial heart of the temple complex. Its main entrance was condemned during theerection of late funerary chapels installed behild the temple by a thick mud brick wall believed to have been erected some time during the Third Intermediate Period.


Pillared Treasury Hall


Royal Palace

Notable Reliefs


Dapur Siege Relief

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See Also

External Resources


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